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The Log of the Jolly Polly   By: (1864-1916)

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By Richard Harding Davis

Temptation came to me when I was in the worst possible position to resist it.

It is a way temptation has. Whenever I swear off drinking invariably I am invited to an ushers' dinner. Whenever I am rich, only the highbrow publications that pay the least, want my work. But the moment I am poverty stricken the MANICURE GIRL'S MAGAZINE and the ROT AND SPOT WEEKLY spring at me with offers of a dollar a word. Temptation always is on the job. When I am down and out temptation always is up and at me.

When first the Farrells tempted me my vogue had departed. On my name and "past performances" I could still dispose of what I wrote, but only to magazines that were just starting. The others knew I no longer was a best seller. All the real editors knew it. So did the theatrical managers.

My books and plays had flourished in the dark age of the historical romantic novel. My heroes wore gauntlets and long swords. They fought for the Cardinal or the King, and each loved a high born demoiselle who was a ward of the King or the Cardinal, and with feminine perversity, always of whichever one her young man was fighting. With people who had never read Guizot's "History of France," my books were popular, and for me made a great deal of money. This was fortunate, for my parents had left me nothing save expensive tastes. When the tastes became habits, the public left me. It turned to white slave and crook plays, and to novels true to life; so true to life that one felt the author must at one time have been a masseur in a Turkish bath.

So, my heroines in black velvet, and my heroes with long swords were "scrapped." As one book reviewer put it, "To expect the public of to day to read the novels of Fletcher Farrell is like asking people to give up the bunny hug and go back to the lancers."

And, to make it harder, I was only thirty years old.

It was at this depressing period in my career that I received a letter from Fairharbor, Massachusetts, signed Fletcher Farrell. The letter was written on the business paper of the Farrell Cotton Mills, and asked if I were related to the Farrells of Duncannon, of the County Wexford, who emigrated to Massachusetts in 1860. The writer added that he had a grandfather named Fletcher and suggested we might be related. From the handwriting of Fletcher Farrell and from the way he ill treated the King's English I did not feel the ties of kinship calling me very loud. I replied briefly that my people originally came from Youghal, in County Cork, that as early as 1730 they had settled in New York, and that all my relations on the Farrell side either were still at Youghal, or dead. Mine was not an encouraging letter; nor did I mean it to be; and I was greatly surprised two days later to receive a telegram reading, "Something to your advantage to communicate; wife and self calling on you Thursday at noon. Fletcher Farrell." I was annoyed, but also interested. The words "something to your advantage" always possess a certain charm. So, when the elevator boy telephoned that Mr. and Mrs. Farrell were calling, I told him to bring them up.

My first glance at the Farrells convinced me the interview was a waste of time. I was satisfied that from two such persons, nothing to my advantage could possibly emanate. On the contrary, from their lack of ease, it looked as though they had come to beg or borrow. They resembled only a butler and housekeeper applying for a new place under the disadvantage of knowing they had no reference from the last one. Of the two, I better liked the man. He was an elderly, pleasant faced Irishman, smooth shaven, red cheeked, and with white hair. Although it was July, he wore a frock coat, and carried a new high hat that glistened. As though he thought at any moment it might explode, he held it from him, and eyed it fearfully. Mrs. Farrell was of a more sophisticated type. The lines in her face and hands showed that for years she might have known hard physical work... Continue reading book >>

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