The Maker of Moons

by Robert W. Chambers

Et pis, doucett'ment on s'endort,
On fait sa carne, on fait sa sorgue.
On ronfle, et, comme un tuyan d'orgue,
L'tuyan s'met à ronfler pus fort. . . .
Aristide Bruant


As I stepped upon the platform of a Broadway cable-cat at Forty-second Street, some body said: 

"Hello, Hilton, Jamison's looking for you." 

"Hello, Curtis," I replied, 'what does Jamison want?" 

"He wants to know what you've been doing all the week," said Curtis, hanging desperately to the railing as the car lurched forward; "he says you seem to think that the Manhattan Illustrated Weekly was created for the sole purpose of providing salary and vacations for you." 

"The shifty old tom-cat!" I said, indignantly, "he knows well enough where I've been. 

Vacation! Does he think the State Camp in June is a snap?" 

"Oh," said Curtis, you've been to Peekskill?" 

"I should say so," I replied, my wrath rising as I thought of my assignment. 

"Hot?" inquired Curtis, dreamily. 

"One hundred and three in the shade," I answered. "Jamison wanted three full pages and three half pages, all for process work, and a lot of line drawings into the bargain. I could have faked them—I wish I had. I was fool enough to hustle and break my neck to get some honest drawings, and that's the thanks I get!" 

"Did you have a camera?" 

"No. I will next time—I'll waste no more conscientious work on Jamison," I said sulkily. 

"It doesn't pay," said Curtis. "When I have military work assigned me, I don't do the dashing sketch-artist act, you bet; I go to my studio, light my pipe, pull out a lot of old Illustrated London News, select several suitable battle scenes by Caton Woodville—and use 'em too." 

The car shot around the neck-breaking curve at Fourteenth Street. 

"Yes," continued Curtis, as the car stopped in front of the Morton House for a moment, then plunged forward again amid a furious clanging of gongs, "it doesn't pay to do decent work for the fat-headed men who run the Manhattan Illustrated. They don't appreciate it." 

"I think the public does," I said, 'but I'm sure Jamison doesn't. It would serve him right if I did what most of you fellows do—take a lot of Caton Woodville's and Thulstrup's drawings, change the uniforms, 'chic' a figure or two, and turn in a drawing labelled 'from life.' I'm sick of this sort of thing anyway. Almost every day this week I've been chasing myself over that tropical camp, or galloping in the wake of those batteries. I've got a full page of the 'camp by moonlight,' full pages of 'artillery drill' and 'light battery in action,' and a dozen smaller drawings that cost me more groans and perspiration than Jamison ever knew in all his lymphatic life!" 

"Jamison's got wheels," said Curtis,—"more wheels than there are bicycles in Harlem. He wants you to do a full page by Saturday." 

"A what?" I exclaimed, aghast. 

"Yes he does he was going to send Jim Crawford, but Jim expects to go to California for the winter fair, and you've got to do it." 

"What is it?" I demanded savagely. 

"The animals in Central Park," chuckled Curtis. 

I was furious. The animals! Indeed! I'd show Jamison that I was entitled to some consideration! This was Thursday; that gave me a day and a half to finish a full-page drawing for the paper, and, after my work at the State Camp I felt that I was entitled to a little rest. Anyway I objected to the subject. I intended to tell Jamison so—I intended to tell him firmly. However, many of the things that we often intended to tell Jamison were never told. He was a peculiar man, fat-faced, thin-lipped, gentle-voiced, mild-mannered, and soft in his movements as a pussy-cat. 

Just why our firmness should give way when we were actually in his presence, I have never quite been able to determine. He said very little—so did we, although we often entered his presence with other intentions. 

The truth was that the Manhattan Illustrated Weekly was the best paying, best illustrated paper in America, and we young fellows were not anxious to be cast adrift. Jamison's knowledge of art was probably as extensive as the knowledge of any 'Art editor' in the city. Of course that was saying nothing, but the fact merited careful consideration on our part, and we gave it much consideration. 

This time, however, I decided to let Jamison know that drawings are not produced by the yard, and that I was neither a floor-walker nor a hand-me-down. I would stand up for my rights; I'd tell old Jamison a few things to set the wheels under his silk hat spinning, and if he attempted any of his pussy-cat ways on me, I'd give him a few plain facts that would curl what hair he had left. 

Glowing with a splendid indignation I jumped off the car at the City Hall, followed by Curtis, and a few minutes later entered the office of the Manhattan Illustrated News. 

"Mr. Jamison would like to see you, sir," said one of the compositors as I passed into the long hallway. I threw my drawings on the table and passed a handkerchief over my forehead. 

"Mr. Jamison would like to see you, sir," said a small freckle-faced boy with a smudge of ink on his nose. 

"I know it," I said, and started to remove my gloves. 

"Mr. Jamison would like to see you, sir," said a lank messenger who was carrying a bundle of proofs to the floor below. 

"The deuce take Jamison," I said to myself I started toward the dark passage that leads to the abode of Jamison, running over in my mind the neat and sarcastic speech which I had been composing during the last ten minutes. 

Jamison looked up and nodded softly as I entered the room. I forgot my speech. 

"Mr. Hilton," he said, "we want a full page of the Zoo before it is removed to Bronx Park. 

Saturday afternoon at three o'clock the drawing must be in the engraver's hands. Did you have a pleasant week in camp?" 

"It was hot," I muttered, furious to find that I could not remember my little speech. 

"The weather," said Jamison, with soft courtesy, "is oppressive everywhere. Are your drawings in, Mr. Hilton?" 

"Yes. It was infernally hot and I worked like a nigger—" 

"I suppose you were quite overcome. Is that why you took a two days' trip to the Catskills? I trust the mountain air restored you—but—was it prudent to go to Cranston's for the cotillion Tuesday? Dancing in such uncomfortable weather is really unwise. Good-morning, Mr. Hilton, remember the engraver should have your drawings on Saturday by three." 

I walked out, half hypnotized, half enraged. Curtis grinned at me as I passed—I could have boxed his ears. 

"Why the mischief should I lose my tongue whenever that old tom-cat purrs!" I asked myself as I entered the elevator and was shot down to the first floor. "I'll not put up with this sort of thing much longer—how in the name of all that's foxy did he know that I went to the mountains?p 

I suppose he thinks I'm lazy because I don't wish to be boiled to death. How did he know about the dance at Cranston's? Old cat!" 

The roar and turmoil of machinery and busy men filled my ears as I crossed the avenue and turned into the City Hall Park. 

From the staff on the tower the flag drooped in the warm sunshine with scarcely a breeze to lift its crimson bars. Overhead stretched a splendid cloudless sky, deep, deep blue, thrilling, scintillating in the gemmed rays of the sun. 

Pigeons wheeled and circled about the roof of the grey Post Office or dropped out of the blue above to flutter around the fountain in the square. 

On the steps of the City Hall the unlovely politician lounged, exploring his heavy under jaw with wooden toothpick, twisting his drooping black moustache, or distributing tobacco juice over marble steps and close-clipped grass. 

My eyes wandered from these human vermin to the calm scornful face of Nathan Hale, on his pedestal, and then to the grey-coated Park policeman whose occupation was to keep little children from the cool grass. 

A young man with thin hands and blue circles under his eyes was slumbering on a bench by the fountain, and the policeman walked over to him and struck him on the soles of his shoes with a short club. 

The young man rose mechanically, stared about, dazed by the sun, shivered, and limped away. 

I saw him sit down on the steps of the white marble building, and I went over and spoke to him. 

He neither looked at me, nor did he notice the coin I offered. 

"You're sick," I said, "you had better go to the hospital." 

"Where?" he asked vacantly—"I've been, but they wouldn't receive me." 

He stooped and tied the bit of string that held what remained of his shoe to his foot. 

"You are French," I said. 


"Have you no friends? Have you been to the French Consul?" 

"The Consul!" he replied; "no, I haven't been to the French Consul." 

After a moment I said, "You speak like a gentleman." 

He rose to his feet and stood very straight, looking me, for the first time, directly in the eyes. 

"Who are you?" I asked abruptly. 

"An outcast," he said, without emotion, and limped off thrusting his hands into his ragged pockets. 

"Huh!" said the Park policeman who had come up behind me in time to hear my question and the vagabond's answer; "don't you know who that hobo is?—An' you a newspaper man!" 

"Who is he, Cusick?" I demanded, watching the thin shabby figure moving across Broadway toward the river. 

"On the level you don't know, Mr. Hilton?" repeated Cusick, suspiciously. 

"No, I don't; I never before laid eyes on him." 

"Why," said the sparrow policeman, "that's 'Soger Charlie' ;—you remember—that French officer what sold secrets to the Dutch Emperor." 

"And was to have been shot? I remember now, four years ago—and he escaped—you mean to say that is the man?" 

"Everybody knows it," sniffed Cusick, "I'd a-thought you newspaper gents would have knowed it first." 

"What was his name?" I asked after a moment's thought. 

"Soger Charlie—" 

"I mean his name at home." 

"Oh, some French dago name. No Frenchman will speak to him here; sometimes they curse him and kick him. I guess he's dyin' by inches." 

I remembered the case now. Two young French cavalry officers were arrested, charged with selling plans of fortifications and other military secrets to the Germans. On the eve of their conviction, one of them, Heaven only knows how, escaped and turned up in New York. The other was duly shot. The affair had made some noise, because both young men were of good families. It was a painful episode, and I had hastened to forget it. Now that it was recalled to my mind, I remembered the newspaper accounts of the case, but I had forgotten the names of the miserable young men. 

"Sold his country," observed Cusick, watching a group of children out of the corner of his eyes—"you can't trust no Frenchman nor dagoes nor Dutchmen either. I guess Yankees are about the only white men." 

I looked at the noble face of Nathan Hale and nodded. 

"NoThin' sneaky about us, eh, Mr. Hilton?" 

I thought of Benedict Arnold and looked at my boots. 

Then the policeman said, "Well, solong, Mr. Hilton," and went away to frighten a pasty-faced little girl who had climbed upon the railing and was leaning down to sniff the fragrant grass. 

"Cheese it, de cop!" cried her shrill-voiced friends, and the whole bevy of small ragamuffins scuttled away across the square. 

With a feeling of depression I turned and walked toward Broadway, where the long yellow cable-cars swept up and down, and the din of gongs and the deafening rumble of heavy trucks echoed from the marble walls of the Court House to the granite mass of the Post Office. 

Throngs of hurrying busy people passed up town and down town, slim sober-faced clerks, trim cold-eyed brokers, here and there a red-necked politician linking arms with some favourite heeler, here and there a City Hall lawyer, sallow-faced and saturnine. Sometimes a fireman, in his severe blue uniform, passed through the crowd, sometimes a blue-coated policeman, mopping his clipped hair, holding his helmet in his white-gloved hand. There were women too, pale-faced shop girls with pretty eyes, tall blonde girls who might be typewriters and might not, and many, many older women whose business in that part of the city no human being could venture to guess, but who hurried up town and down town, all occupied with something that gave to the whole restless throng a common likeness—the expression of one who hastens toward a hopeless goal. 

I knew some of those who passed me. There was little Jocelyn of the Mail and Express; there was Hood, who had more money than he wanted and was going to have less than he wanted when he left Wall Street; there was Colonel Tidmouse of the 45th Infantry, N.G.S.N.Y, probably.coming from the office of the Army and Navy Journal, and there was Dick Harding who wrote the best stories of New York life that have been printed. People said his hat no longer fitted,— especially people who also wrote stories of New York life and whose hats threatened to fit as long as they lived. 

I looked at the statue of Nathan Hale, then at the human stream that flowed around his pedestal. 

"Quand même," I muttered and walked out into Broadway, signalling to the gripman of an uptown cable-car.

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