BERTHA, deeply engrossed in the conceptions called up by this visit, did not feel like calling upon the Mosses, even though they were almost next door. She was troubled, too, with a feeling of helplessness in the use of a pen. She wanted to write to Fordyce, but was afraid to do so, knowing that a letter would disclose her ignorance of polite forms; but this, instead of discouraging her, roused her to a determination to learn. This was the saving clause in her character. She acknowledged shortcomings, but not defeats. Here again she was of the spirit that lifts the self-made man.
The Congdons had been most generous of letters of introduction, and in addition to those to Mrs. Brent and the Mosses, Bertha was in possession of two or three envelopes addressed to people in New York City, presumably artists also, as they bore the names of certain studios. The note to Moss was unaffected and simple in itself, quite innocent of any qualification, but the letter which had privately preceded it was in the true Congdon vein, and Moss, like Mrs. Brent, did not delay his call. His card was in the Haney box when they returned. "Sorry to miss you. Come into my studio at five if you can," he had pencilled on the back.
"Your artistic bunch," Congdon had written, "won't mind meeting one of the most successful and picturesque of our gamblers, Marshall Haney, especially as the walls of his big house are bare and his wife is pretty. They are ripping types, old man; not in the 'best society' you understand, but I know you'll like 'em. Be as good to 'em as you can without involving anybody. Little Mrs. Haney is a corker. Good start on a self-made career. They're both unsophisticated in a way, and a little real sympathy will drag their secret history to the light. Do a sketch of her for me. She's likely to be famous. Haney is rolling in dough these days—(miner)—and she's bound for some whooping big thing, I don't know what, but she's like a country boy with a stirring ambition. It wouldn't surprise me to see her on Fifth Avenue one of these days. With these few burning words I commend them into your plastic hands. Don't let Sammy paint her, for God's sake. Oh yes, I worked 'em for a couple of canvases. What do you think. In this buoyant climate we all move. Yours in the velvet."
With such a letter before him Joe Moss awaited his amazing guests with impatience, cautioning the few who were in the secret not to dodge when the Captain reached for his pocket-handkerchief. "And, above all, you are to praise Colorado and condemn the East as a place of residence." Joe prided himself on his savoir faire and on his apparel, which had nothing about it to distinguish the sculptor. "In fact," he often said, "there are people who say I'm not a sculptor. Be that as it may, I manage by daily care to look like a clerk in a hardware store."
And he did. He customarily wore a suit of pepper and salt, neat and trig, a "bowler hat" (as they say in London), a ready-made four-in-hand tie, and a small pearl scarf-pin. "No more fuzzy hair for me, no red tie, no dandruff," he had said on his return from Paris. "Right here we melt into the undistinguishable ocean of the millions, unless we can be distinguished by reason of our sculpture." He always included Julia, his wife, in this way (although she never "modelled a lick"), for she wrote all his letters, made out all his checks, and took charge of him generally. Some said his success was due to her management. She was a dark-eyed, smiling little woman, exquisite in her dress and brisk in her manner.
Their studio occupied the whole north side of the attic of a big office building in the heart of the city's traffic. " We want to be in the midst of trade, but above it," Moss explained to those who wondered at his choice of location. "Sculpture, as I see it, is a part of architecture. I'm not above modelling a door-knocker if they'll only let me do it my way. Sculpture was a part of life in the old days, and we don't want to make it a thing too 'precious' now. I want to get close to the business men, not to avoid them. I like the roar of trade."
The Haneys, therefore, led by the sagacious Lucius, soon found themselves in the Wisconsin Block, and shooting aloft in a bronze elevator that seemed fired from a cannon ("express to the ioth floor"), with nothing to suggest art in the men or in the signs about them. On the thirteenth story they alighted, and, walking up one flight of stairs, found themselves at the end of a bright hall, before a door which bore, in simple gold letters, "Jos. Moss, Sculptor." Bertha heard laughter within, and her heart misgave her. It was not easy for her to meet these artist folk. Of business men, miners, railway managers she was unafraid, but these people who joke and bully-rag each other and talk high philosophy one minute and gossip the next, like the Congdons, were "pretty swift" for her. After a moment's pause she said to the Captain, "They can't kill us; here goes!" and knocked gently.
Moss himself opened the door, and his cordial, "How de do, Mrs. Haney," established him in her mind at once as a good fellow. He was quite as direct as Congdon. "I'm glad to see you," he said to the Captain. "Come in." He looked keenly at Lucius, who composedly explained himself. "The Captain is a little lame, and I just came along to see that he got here all right. I'll be back at 5.30."
The door opened into a big room, which was darkened at the windows and lighted by shaded electric globes. It was cool and bare in effect. Around a small table in a far corner a half-dozen people were sitting. Mrs. Moss, who was pouring tea, rose in her place at the tea-urn as her husband approached, and cordially shook hands with her guests. "I'm very glad you came. Please tell me how you'll have your tea," she said.
Bertha was accustomed to take her tea "any old way," and said so, being influenced by Mrs. Moss' candid eyes and merry smile. Haney, with a queer feeling of being on the stage as a character in a play, sank heavily into the chair at his hostess' right hand and said: "I never took tea in my life, but I'm not dodgin' anything you mix."