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old wordy scores to settle, and surely lasting pain to others who cherish the memory of a sensitive, idealistic, poetic man forced by circumstance to bear silently many blows. It will be necessary again to take the word of us who know, that Bierce never, as has been said of him, "enjoyed whetting public curiosity" nor "assumed an exaggerated pose of mystery".

A bystander, hearing an order given a mail clerk at a desk in a hotel, hurried across the lobby. "I heard the name 'Bierce'", he said, catching up at last with the man he was following. "Do you know Ambrose Bierce?" Ambrose turned and looked down at him for a steady solemn instant; and in a gentle voice replied, "No." When he told me this, he lifted one eyebrow and chuckled. "You ought", I said, "to be ashamed of yourself!" "Well", he answered, "I don't know me, do I?"

There were as many Bierces as there were people to be acquainted with him. This is true of any of us, since we all have paradoxical qualities, but the extremes in Bierce were farther separated, his arc being so much larger than that of other people: out of the very grandeur and glory of his being, distance was established and contradictions were made. One Ambrose Bierce I knew. There are some Ambrose Bierces that I do not recognize. It has not been my way to deny the existence of these strangers evidence has come to me from too many sources. It would be a foolish mistake to attempt to contradict such evidence, or to ignore the possibility of likeness in such portraits as have been drawn for me by others. I am willing to leave untouched whatever mental record or picture any of Ambrose Bierce's other acquaintances, his friends or his enemies, may have preserved through association with him. He himself said of me that I "had the

best truth" of him. Whether any person can grasp the whole truth of another is a question. Those who knew Bierce as cruel, intemperate, blasphemous I have heard him called all these things could hardly have known him as gentle, pitying, and reverent; yet I so knew him. I knew even a childlike Bierce, who had great pathos, unguessed by himself. On many days when men took time to fear and hate him, he was probably on a park bench with squirrels running into his sleeves and pockets, or birds standing on his wrists, gripping his cuffs with their thin little feet, turning their perky heads to look at him, and now and then uttering an inquiring friendly cheep. I used to feel as if I were strolling with Francis of Assisi. One of my dear possessions is a snapshot of Bitter Bierce (who has been limned unsheathing his sword-pen in more than one drawing) sitting on the grass, smiling, his splendid massive head outlined against the curve of a flowering bush, with a fussy and impatient but flirty squirrel on his knee, arguing with him a little about the nuts in his hand. . . .


There is in "Bleak House" many a passage about Lawrence Boythorn in which it is amusing to read "Bierce" for "Boythorn": I wonder if such substitution has ever given other friends of Bierce's that larkish joy that it gives



He showed himself exactly as he was incapable of . . anything on a limited scale, and firing away with those great guns because he carried no small arms whatever. "You have brought your bird with you, I suppose?" said Mr. Jarndyce. "By heaven, he is the most astonishing bird in Europe!" replied the other. "I have left an annuity for his sole support, in case he should outlive me. He is, in sense and attachment, a phenomenon and his father before him was one of the most astonishing birds that ever lived!". . . The subject of this laudation was a very little canary. To hear Mr. Boythorn presently express the most implacable and passionate

sentiments, with this fragile mite of a creature perched on his forehead, was to have a good illustration of his character, I thought.

"By my soul, Jarndyce," he said, gently holding up a piece of bread for the bird to pick at, "if I were in your place I should seize every Master in Chancery by the throat tomorrow morning and shake him until the money rolled out of his pockets and his bones rattled in his skin... there never was such an infernal cauldron as that Chancery on the face of the earth", said Mr. Boythorn. "Nothing but a mine below it on a busy day... with all its records, rules, and precedents collected in it, and every functionary belonging to it also, high and low, upward and downward, from its son the Accountant-General to its father the Devil, and the whole blown to atoms with ten thousand hundred-weight of gunpowder, would reform it in the least!"


hear him say all this with unimaginable energy, one might have thought him the angriest of mankind. To see him at the same time, looking at the bird, one might have thought him the gentlest. . . .

I first knew Bierce many years ago. I sent some youthful manuscripts to him in care of a New York magazine, under the impression that he was connected with that publication. After several weeks the envelope was returned to me, bearing the Washington postmark. Slipped among my noble masterpieces was this note:

Dear Madame:

I am not an editor, thank God. If I were one, however, I should print some of this material which you have submitted. If you will send me more of your manuscripts, I shall be glad to make up for the. lack of cold type with cold criticism, which you need. You will be justified in inferring from this suggestion on my part that I consider your work worth it.

Sincerely yours


Much of the "cold criticism" that followed during the years approached the border line of the North Pole area; now and again it would shift south. In these years he wrote me delightful letters and came to see me and the members of my family. One day he said quite suddenly, looking up from a manuscript, "You are a born poet!" Then he added quickly, with mischief in his

eyes, "I hope we can find some other damn fool to admit it!"

So far as I know, I am the only person whose verse manuscripts were ever carried around by Ambrose Bierce to editors. (He knew few; and truth impels me to assert that he succeeded in battering down only a meagre number of these.) Mr. Mencken he did not know; but once he said, "Send that man Mencken this poem: a mean cuss like Mencken or me likes tears in lyric verse!" It was not until much later, when Bierce had been a long time gone, that I did send that poem to Mencken: and he took it for "Smart Set". But after that one acceptance Mr. Mencken, most unfortunately for me, must have become less mean, or something; or perhaps I ceased to weep convincingly before him by post. I have always regretted that he did fire back at me my succeeding lachrymose offerings (thus failing to admit "the born poet"), for he cheated me out of a fine old chance to gay somewhere among the raffish intelligentsia that Ambrose Bierce had called H. L. Mencken a damn fool in my presence. (Is it not by having such esoteric bits to hand out in a careless manner that one is invited around Sunday evenings by the literati?)

One day Major Bierce and I were crossing Main Street in Paterson when a car bore down on us at terrific speed, in charge of a motorman apparently suffering from a Paul Revere complex. I squealed and made for the curb. Turning to clutch my companion, I beheld him standing in the middle of the trolley track, with hand upraised under the very nose of the motorman, who had brought the car to a dead stop and was leaning out and looking at Bierce with the dazed expression and the droop of one suddenly roused from

a dream of kingdoms and principalities. To him, then, Ambrose bowed, with a beautiful dip from the waist, to the great joy of several other pedestrians who, like me, had fled at sound of the gong and at first swoosh of a high wind from between the wheels. As we walked on, I cast a furtive eye toward that motorman. He seemed to be crushed beyond gesture or expletive; he just stood there and waited for a heap of prominent citizens of Paterson to get up off the car floor, and take their hats out of their eyes, and collect their belongings.


In the mail, on a certain morning, I received a photograph of Bierce. On the back he had written: "Butchered to make a Roman nose." He was brimming with things like that; he was always sending me detached penciled bits. At another time I had a note from him, with a newspaper clipping attached to the sheet. (I had until that moment forgotten that I had earlier told him of somebody who had tracked him to Guernsey County, Ohio, instead of Meigs.) The priggish clipping: "In Guernsey County, Ohio, more than half a century ago, there is said to have been a heavy shower of stones that caused many to believe the world was coming to an end." The note below: "I fancy that this is what gave your friend the impression that I once lived in Guernsey County, Ohio. He assumed that when God was throwing stones I would be the natural target. A. B."

There was a newspaper man from Passaic named Bremner, who had an enthusiastic admiration for Bierce's work as a journalist. When Bremner was elected to Congress from our district, the first thing he did after being settled in Washington was to write Bierce and ask for an interview. Now

Bierce was never one to grant interviews; and an interview, one pet aver

sion, combined with a Congressman, another pet aversion, would strike any friend of his as having sulphurous possibilities from the very first suggestion. (It was a good thing that nobody had deemed it expedient to invite a "minister of the gospel" to sit in at the conference.) On a visit here, he remarked ominously that Bremner had approached him. I said quietly that Bremner had been making a game fight with death; that for some time he had had cancer of the throat and had known frightful agony, but had gone right on pluckily to accomplish what he had planned in the way of work and had never flinched under pressure of that which was closing in on him. Bierce said nothing further. It was not until long afterward that he let it slip that Bremner had been asked to his apartment immediately on his return to Washington. "A nice chap", he said, "and I was grateful to him for liking me."

He was paying a few Boythornish tributes to asthma in one conversation. He told me that in California he had an acquaintance who lived far up in the hills. Whenever this man was laid low by asthma he had to come down, while Bierce himself under a like seizure had to go up. It seems that on one occasion asthma swooped down on them both at the same time. According to Bierce's tale, his friend loaded a mule by the rays of the moon and started down the mountain, to visit his misery on Bierce, at about the hour when Bierce, also with a mule, started to ascend, to claim his friend's hospitality. "We met", said he, in that lovely drawling voice, "about halfway, along toward morning, in a trail deserted for miles, and recognized each other. Neither spoke; but the mules turned their heads in passing, and my mule pointed down the mountain with one ear and

his mule pointed up the mountain; and we all kept right on going."

In 1911, after an illness of mine, Bierce wrote me the letter from which I take here a few paragraphs:

I like what you say of character; it [character] is almost everything in the way of equipment for literature, as for life. Of character comes style, and style is characterin-letters, and in art.

I wish you had mentioned me to the Markhams. I've been pretty hard on M., but it has not apparently altered their regard for me, nor their admiration of my poor work. He's a magnanimous soul the only one, among writers, that I have ever met.


some part of them [dark moments] is the thought that, ill or well, I am unable to help you. My only serious disease, age, is at least painless. Doubtless you would prefer yours, but I am sorry for you nevertheless. My sole philosophy: "Nothing matters", seems to break down here and disclose a limitation. It is disquieting to find a weak place in one's armor.

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I'm going to work till next June; then it is California. It is doubtful if I ever return. Why should I? I think that at my age a fellow should go to his room and begin dressing for death. My room is Yosemite Valley. I should like to go to Paterson to say goodbye to you, but God knows

In this letter can be felt that restlessness and weariness, and the elegiac note, so marked in the letters written two years later to Mrs. Josephine Clifford McCrackin, just before Bierce went to Mexico. Those letters are given by Mr. Starrett in his sympathetic sketch of Bierce's life and work.

Many people have believed that Bierce's attack on "The Man with the Hoe" represented his attitude toward Edwin Markham as a poet. This is not true. He did not wish to see Edwin Markham, whom he believed to be a great lyric poet, turn tractarian and what he called "candle-light socialist". He read immediately in that later famous poem an indication that this was what might happen; so Mr. Boythorn spoke to Mr. Jarndyce the Public about a matter calling for a thousand hundred

weight of gunpowder. But the canary perched on his forehead; I think Mr. Markham has always known this. Bierce used to say to me, "I would have you and all young poets know well the lyrics of Markham; work of a geniune singer." On my last afternoon with Bierce, he said, "Sometime, when you attend a meeting of that scoundrelly Poetry Society (which you have joined like a perfect idiot), please tell the Markhams that I left goodbye for them both and a God-bless-you."

In September, 1913 Bierce made a trip to Illinois to see his daughter; on his way home he went to East Orange to visit his friends Mr. and Mrs. Milton Franklin. This is the absence from Washington to which he refers in that moving and tender letter given by Mrs. McCrackin for publication. I motored to East Orange with my little daughter to bring him to my house; and toward evening of that beautiful day, Mr. Harding and I took him again to East Orange. On the way, sitting with me and little Jean, he fell into that pensive and shadowed mood that his closest friends knew to be as characteristic of him as were the sharp, witty, sparkling moments when he was all fire and force and magnetism. He had spoken to some length of his planned long journey. He had come to tell us all goodbye. He was going, he said, "to Mexico, to look about, then on to the country of the Incas". "What on earth", said I, "do you want to go cavorting around in South America for?" "Chiefly, my child," he replied, "because there isn't any East or West America for me to cavort in. North America is entirely too cosy!" I laughed, and we went on to speak of several matters; but I came back to the thing that I was mostly thinking of that day. "How about writing? How shall we know that you're all right?"

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He was silent for a moment, then he said, "If I write, I'll write to you; be sure of that.' 'When you come back", I went on, "come first to us and rest." He did not answer; but after a little he said softly, "When I come back. . ." and I saw him turn his face quite quickly away.

He had just had his seventy first birthday, that summer; in that last moment, I think, chances loomed dark and sombre in his thoughts. I mention this, for not long ago I saw in print the most assured opinion that "Bierce only waits to return and laugh at his friends for their anxiety"; and even an assertion that he went probably intending to tempt death; perhaps even to take his own life. These statements or speculations are cruel and wide of the mark, the work of people not acquainted with his character or his mind. There has never been anything to justify reckless conclusions; and no friend of his has ever, so far as is known to me, considered it even possible that this explains his not having returned. I agree with Mr. Starrett that he well knew he probably would not return; and that this is not the same thing as planning not to return. It is unthinkable that a man of his tender heart, and his steadfast devotion to the people whom he cared for, would willingly have brought upon them suffering such as they have known in these twelve years of silence. His secretary, Miss Christiansen, died in 1920, worn out by her long worry and grief. Those persons who attribute to Ambrose Bierce that vanity and conceit that would give him enjoyment in the tragic results of a large playfulness, must be those to whom Mr. McWilliams referred in "The Argonaut", the "friends. . . who report knowing little about the man"

and found him "an eternal enigma who defied study".

We left Bierce, that September afternoon, standing on the steps of the Franklins' house. I looked back and waved to him, regardless of passersby, until we turned the corner of the maple lined street. He put his hand above his eyes to shield them from the late afternoon sun, and with his other hand he answered my waving. I could not have believed that I should never see him again. It has seemed to me that last glimpses must be tiresome things to remember; usually one must go back to some special cherished moment to fix the symbolic or the imperishable impression. But I am content to think of Ambrose Bierce facing the last glory of the afternoon sun on an autumn day, standing with his head high and a hand lifted gallantly to give farewell. . . .

Many months after he had gone and since he had been last heard from in Mexico, Miss Christiansen came with Mr. and Mrs. Franklin to see me. I had it then from Miss Christiansen that he had arranged with her that drafts be sent him from time to time on his travels. At his request from Chihuahua, she sent him there a draft for several hundred dollars on a named date. This draft came back, delayed, with his signature. That is all that is known. That is as far as trustworthy information about Bierce's disappearance goes. Writers for newspapers still tell us every so often that he has been heard from or seen; or we learn from them the details of his death. He went, according to some reports, to Mexico on a secret errand having to do with copper mines; he was killed in Mexican warfare while commanding troops for Pancho Villa; he was murdered by outriders from the Villa forces; he was killed in France at the beginning of the war; he was seen with Lord Kitchener; he was recognized while training English soldiers at Salisbury Field in Lincolnshire. My own

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