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.