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Chapter 18

  • The next thing was to see what could be done with the other art dealers an_he paintings that were left. There were quite a number of them. If he coul_et any reasonable price at all he ought to be able to live quite awhile—lon_nough anyhow to get on his feet again. When they came to his quiet room an_ere unpacked by him in a rather shamefaced and disturbed manner an_istributed about, they seemed wonderful things. Why, if the critics had rave_ver them and M. Charles had thought they were so fine, could they not b_old? Art dealers would surely buy them! Still, now that he was on the groun_gain and could see the distinctive art shops from the sidewalks his courag_ailed him. They were not running after pictures. Exceptional as he might be,
  • there were artists in plenty—good ones. He could not run to other well know_rt dealers very well for his work had become identified with the house o_ellner and Son. Some of the small dealers might buy them but they would no_uy them all—probably one or two at the most, and that at a sacrifice. What _ass to come to!—he, Eugene Witla, who three years before had been in th_eyday of his approaching prosperity, wondering as he stood in the room of _loomy side-street house how he was going to raise money to live through th_ummer, and how he was going to sell the paintings which had seemed th_ubstance of his fortune but two years before. He decided that he would as_everal of the middle class dealers whether they would not come and look a_hat he had to show. To a number of the smaller dealers in Fourth, Sixth,
  • Eighth Avenues and elsewhere he would offer to sell several outright whe_ecessity pinched. Still he had to raise money soon. Angela could not be lef_t Blackwood indefinitely.
  • He went to Jacob Bergman, Henry LaRue, Pottle Frères and asked if they woul_e interested to see what he had. Henry Bergman, who was his own manager,
  • recalled his name at once. He had seen the exhibition but was not eager. H_sked curiously how the pictures of the first and second exhibitions had sold,
  • how many there were of them, what prices they brought. Eugene told him.
  • "You might bring one or two here and leave them on sale. You know how that is.
  • Someone might take a fancy to them. You never can tell."
  • He explained that his commission was twenty-five per cent, and that he woul_eport when a sale was made. He was not interested to come and see them.
  • Eugene could select any two pictures he pleased. It was the same with Henr_aRue and Pottle Frères, though the latter had never heard of him. They aske_im to show them one of his pictures. Eugene's pride was touched the least bi_y this lack of knowledge on their part, though seeing how things were goin_ith him he felt as though he might expect as much and more.
  • Other art dealers he did not care to trust with his paintings on sale, and h_as now ashamed to start carrying them about to the magazines, where at leas_ne hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty per picture might b_xpected for them, if they were sold at all. He did not want the magazine ar_orld to think that he had come to this. His best friend was Hudson Dula, an_e might no longer be Art Director of _Truth_. As a matter of fact Dula was n_onger there. Then there were Jan Jansen and several others, but they were n_oubt thinking of him now as a successful painter. It seemed as though hi_atural pride were building insurmountable barriers for him. How was he t_ive if he could not do this and could not paint? He decided on trying th_mall art dealers with a single picture, offering to sell it outright. The_ight not recognize him and so might buy it direct. He could accept, in suc_ases, without much shock to his pride, anything which they might offer, if i_ere not too little.
  • He tried this one bright morning in May, and though it was not without resul_t spoiled the beautiful day for him. He took one picture, a New York scene,
  • and carried it to a third rate art dealer whose place he had seen in uppe_ixth Avenue, and without saying anything about himself asked if he would lik_o buy it. The proprietor, a small, dark individual of Semitic extraction,
  • looked at him curiously and at his picture. He could tell from a single loo_hat Eugene was in trouble, that he needed money and that he was anxious t_ell his picture. He thought of course that he would take anything for it an_e was not sure that he wanted the picture at that. It was not very popular i_heme, a view of a famous Sixth Avenue restaurant showing behind the track o_he L road, with a driving rain pouring in between the interstices of light.
  • Years after this picture was picked up by a collector from Kansas City at a_ld furniture sale and hung among his gems, but this morning its merits wer_ot very much in evidence.
  • "I see that you occasionally exhibit a painting in your window for sale. D_ou buy originals?"
  • "Now and again," said the man indifferently—"not often. What have you?"
  • "I have an oil here that I painted not so long ago. I occasionally do thes_hings. I thought maybe you would like to buy it."
  • The proprietor stood by indifferently while Eugene untied the string, took of_he paper and stood the picture up for inspection. It was striking enough i_ts way but it did not appeal to him as being popular. "I don't think it'_nything that I could sell here," he remarked, shrugging his shoulders. "It'_ood, but we don't have much call for pictures of any kind. If it were _traight landscape or a marine or a figure of some kind—. Figures sell best.
  • But this—I doubt if I could get rid of it. You might leave it on sale if yo_ant to. Somebody might like it. I don't think I'd care to buy it."
  • "I don't care to leave it on sale," replied Eugene irritably. Leave one of hi_ictures in a cheap side-street art store—and that on sale! He would not. H_anted to say something cutting in reply but he curbed his welling wrath t_sk,
  • "How much do you think it would be worth if you did want it?"
  • "Oh," replied the proprietor, pursing his lips reflectively, "not more tha_en dollars. We can't ask much for anything we have on view here. The Fift_venue stores take all the good trade."
  • Eugene winced. Ten dollars! Why, what a ridiculous sum! What was the use o_oming to a place like this anyhow? He could do better dealing with the ar_irectors or the better stores. But where were they? Whom could he deal with?
  • Where were there any stores much better than this outside the large ones whic_e had already canvassed. He had better keep his pictures and go to work no_t something else. He only had thirty-five of them all told and at this rat_e would have just three hundred and fifty dollars when they were all gone.
  • What good would that do him? His mood and this preliminary experienc_onvinced him that they could not be sold for any much greater sum. Fiftee_ollars or less would probably be offered and he would be no better off at th_nd. His pictures would be gone and he would have nothing. He ought to ge_omething to do and save his pictures. But what?
  • To a man in Eugene's position—he was now thirty-one years of age, with n_raining outside what he had acquired in developing his artistic judgment an_bility—this proposition of finding something else which he could do was ver_ifficult. His mental sickness was, of course, the first great bar. It mad_im appear nervous and discouraged and so more or less objectionable to anyon_ho was looking for vigorous healthy manhood in the shape of an employee. I_he next place, his look and manner had become decidedly that of th_rtist—refined, retiring, subtle. He also had an air at times of finick_tandoffishness, particularly in the presence of those who appeared to hi_ommonplace or who by their look or manner appeared to be attempting to se_hemselves over him. In the last place, he could think of nothing that h_eally wanted to do—the idea that his art ability would come back to him o_hat it ought to serve him in this crisis, haunting him all the time. Once h_ad thought he might like to be an art director; he was convinced that h_ould be a good one. And another time he had thought he would like to write,
  • but that was long ago. He had never written anything since the Chicag_ewspaper specials, and several efforts at concentrating his mind for thi_uickly proved to him that writing was not for him now. It was hard for him t_ormulate an intelligent consecutive-idea'd letter to Angela. He harked bac_o his old Chicago days and remembering that he had been a collector and _river of a laundry wagon, he decided that he might do something of that sort.
  • Getting a position as a street-car conductor or a drygoods clerk appealed t_im as possibilities. The necessity of doing something within regular hour_nd in a routine way appealed to him as having curative properties. How shoul_e get such a thing?
  • If it had not been for the bedeviled state of his mind this would not hav_een such a difficult matter, for he was physically active enough to hold an_rdinary position. He might have appealed frankly and simply to M. Charles o_saac Wertheim and through influence obtained something which would have tide_im over, but he was too sensitive to begin with and his present weakness mad_im all the more fearful and retiring. He had but one desire when he though_f doing anything outside his creative gift, and that was to slink away fro_he gaze of men. How could he, with his appearance, his reputation, his taste_nd refinement, hobnob with conductors, drygoods clerks, railroad hands o_rivers? It wasn't possible—he hadn't the strength. Besides all that was _hing of the past, or he thought it was. He had put it behind him in his ar_tudent days. Now to have to get out and look for a job! How could he? H_alked the streets for days and days, coming back to his room to see if by an_hance he could paint yet, writing long, rambling, emotional letters t_ngela. It was pitiful. In fits of gloom he would take out an occasiona_icture and sell it, parting with it for ten or fifteen dollars after he ha_arried it sometimes for miles. His one refuge was in walking, for somehow h_ould not walk and feel very, very bad. The beauty of nature, the activity o_eople entertained and diverted his mind. He would come back to his room som_venings feeling as though a great change had come over him, as though he wer_oing to do better now; but this did not last long. A little while and h_ould be back in his old mood again. He spent three months this way, drifting,
  • before he realized that he must do something—that fall and winter would b_oming on again in a little while and he would have nothing at all.
  • In his desperation he first attempted to get an art directorship, but two o_hree interviews with publishers of magazines proved to him pretty quickl_hat positions of this character were not handed out to the inexperienced. I_equired an apprenticeship, just as anything else did, and those who ha_ositions in this field elsewhere had the first call. His name or appearanc_id not appear to strike any of these gentlemen as either familiar o_mportant in any way. They had heard of him as an illustrator and a painter,
  • but his present appearance indicated that this was a refuge in ill healt_hich he was seeking, not a vigorous, constructive position, and so they woul_ave none of him. He next tried at three of the principal publishing houses,
  • but they did not require anyone in that capacity. Truth to tell he knew ver_ittle of the details and responsibilities of the position, though he though_e did. After that there was nothing save drygoods stores, street-ca_egistration offices, the employment offices of the great railroads an_actories. He looked at sugar refineries, tobacco factories, express offices,
  • railroad freight offices, wondering whether in any of these it would b_ossible for him to obtain a position which would give him a salary of te_ollars a week. If he could get that, and any of the pictures now on show wit_acob Bergman, Henry LaRue and Pottle Frères should be sold, he could ge_long. He might even live on this with Angela if he could sell an occasiona_icture for ten or fifteen dollars. But he was paying seven dollars a week fo_othing save food and room, and scarcely managing to cling to the one hundre_ollars which had remained of his original traveling fund after he had pai_ll his opening expenses here in New York. He was afraid to part with all hi_ictures in this way for fear he would be sorry for it after a while.
  • Work is hard to get under the most favorable conditions of health and yout_nd ambition, and the difficulties of obtaining it under unfavorable ones nee_ot be insisted on. Imagine if you can the crowds of men, forty, fifty, on_undred strong, that wait at the door of every drygoods employment office,
  • every street-car registration bureau, on the special days set aside fo_onsidering applications, at every factory, shop or office where a_dvertisement calling for a certain type of man or woman was inserted in th_ewspapers. On a few occasions that Eugene tried or attempted to try, he foun_imself preceded by peculiar groups of individuals who eyed him curiously a_e approached, wondering, as he thought, whether a man of his type could b_oming to apply for a job. They seemed radically different from himself to hi_ind, men with little education and a grim consciousness of the difficultie_f life; young men, vapid looking men, shabby, stale, discouraged types—me_ho, like himself, looked as though they had seen something very much better,
  • and men who looked as though they had seen things a great deal worse. Th_vidence which frightened him was the presence of a group of bright, healthy,
  • eager looking boys of nineteen, twenty, twenty-one and twenty-two who, lik_imself when he first went to Chicago years before, were everywhere he went.
  • When he drew near he invariably found it impossible to indicate in any wa_hat he was looking for anything. He couldn't. His courage failed him; he fel_hat he looked too superior; self-consciousness and shame overcame him.
  • He learned now that men rose as early as four o'clock in the morning to buy _ewspaper and ran quickly to the address mentioned in order to get the plac_t the head of the line, thus getting the first consideration as an applicant.
  • He learned that some other men, such as waiters, cooks, hotel employees and s_n, frequently stayed up all night in order to buy a paper at two in th_orning, winter or summer, rain or snow, heat or cold, and hurry to th_romising addresses they might find. He learned that the crowds of applicant_ere apt to become surly or sarcastic or contentious as their individua_hances were jeopardized by ever-increasing numbers. And all this was going o_ll the time, in winter or summer, heat or cold, rain or snow. Pretendin_nterest as a spectator, he would sometimes stand and watch, hearing th_ibald jests, the slurs cast upon life, fortune, individuals in particular an_n general by those who were wearily or hopelessly waiting. It was a horribl_icture to him in his present condition. It was like the grinding of th_illstones, upper and nether. These were the chaff. He was a part of the chaf_t present, or in danger of becoming so. Life was winnowing him out. He migh_o down, down, and there might never be an opportunity for him to rise an_ore.
  • Few, if any of us, understand thoroughly the nature of the unconsciou_tratification which takes place in life, the layers and types and classe_nto which it assorts itself and the barriers which these offer to a fre_igration of individuals from one class to another. We take on so naturall_he material habiliments of our temperaments, necessities and opportunities.
  • Priests, doctors, lawyers, merchants, appear to be born with their particula_ental attitude and likewise the clerk, the ditch-digger, the janitor. The_ave their codes, their guilds and their class feelings. And while they may b_piritually closely related, they are physically far apart. Eugene, afte_unting for a place for a month, knew a great deal more about thi_tratification than he had ever dreamed of knowing. He found that he wa_aturally barred by temperament from some things, from others by strength an_eight, or rather the lack of them; from others, by inexperience; from others,
  • by age; and so on. And those who were different from him in any or all o_hese respects were inclined to look at him askance. "You are not as we are,"
  • their eyes seemed to say; "why do you come here?"
  • One day he approached a gang of men who were waiting outside a car barn an_ought to find out where the registration office was. He did not lay off hi_atural manner of superiority—could not, but asked a man near him if he knew.
  • It had taken all his courage to do this.
  • "He wouldn't be after lookin' fer a place as a conductor now, would he?" h_eard someone say within his hearing. For some reason this remark took all hi_ourage away. He went up the wooden stairs to the little office where th_pplication blanks were handed out, but did not even have the courage to appl_or one. He pretended to be looking for someone and went out again. Later,
  • before a drygoods superintendent's office, he heard a youth remark, "Look wha_ants to be a clerk." It froze him.
  • It is a question how long this aimless, nervous wandering would have continue_f it had not been for the accidental recollection of an experience which _ellow artist once related to him of a writer who had found himself nervousl_epressed and who, by application to the president of a railroad, had secure_s a courtesy to the profession which he represented so ably a position as a_pprentice in a surveying corps, being given transportation to a distan_ection of the country and employed at a laborer's wages until he was well.
  • Eugene now thought of this as quite an idea for himself. Why it had no_ccurred to him before he did not know. He could apply as an artist—hi_ppearance would bear him out, and being able to speak from the vantage poin_f personal ability temporarily embarrassed by ill health, his chances o_etting something would be so much better. It would not be the same as _osition which he had secured for himself without fear or favor, but it woul_e a position, different from farming with Angela's father because it woul_ommand a salary.