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 In spite of this little , which did me no great harm, there was a marked improvement in my affairs in every way. I had a better room, various friends—Wood, McCord, Rodenberger, Hazard, Bellairs, a new reporter by the name of Johnson, another by the name of Walden Root, a nephew of the senator—and the growing consideration if not of many of the newspaper men of the city. Among them I was beginning to be looked upon as a man of some importance, and the proof of it was that from time to time I found myself being discussed in no mild way. From now on I noticed that my noble Wood, whom I had so much looked up to at first, began to take me about with him to one or more Chinese restaurants of the most beggarly description in the environs of the downtown section, which same he had discovered and with the of which he was on the best of terms. They were really hang-outs for and thieves and disreputable tenderloin characters generally (such was the beginning of the Chinese restaurant in America), but not so to Wood. He had the happy of persuading himself that there was something vastly mysterious and superior about the entire Chinese race, and after introducing me to many of his new laundry friends he proceeded to assure me of the existence of some huge Chinese organization known as the Six Companies which, so far as I could make out from hearing him talk, was slowly but surely (and secretly, of course) getting control of the entire habitable globe. It had complete control of great financial and ventures here, there and everywhere, and supplied on order thousands of Chinese to any one who desired them, anywhere. And this organization ruled them with a rod of iron, cutting their throats and burying them head down in a bucket of rice when they failed to perform their bounden duties and transferring their quietly to China, in made in China and brought here for that purpose. The Chinese who had worked for the builders of the union Pacific had been supplied by this company, so he said.  
Again, there were the Chinese Free Masons, a society so old and so powerful and so mysterious that one might speak of it only in whispers for fear of getting into trouble. This indeed was the great organization of the world, in China and everywhere else. Kings and knew of it and trembled before its power. If it wished it could sweep the Chinese Emperor and all European off their thrones tomorrow. There were , mysteries, within sanctuaries in this great organization. He himself was as yet a outsider, snooping about, but by degrees, slowly and surely, as I was given to understand, was worming its secrets out of these Chinese restaurant-keepers and laundrymen, its deepest mysteries, whereby he hoped to profit in this way: he was going to study Chinese, then go to China. There he would get into this marvelous organization through the influence of some of his Chinese friends here. Then he was going to get next to some of the officials of the Chinese Government, and being thus highly recommended and thought of would come back here eventually as an official Chinese interpreter, attached perhaps to the Chinese Legation at Washington. How he was to profit so vastly by this I could not see, but he seemed to think that he would.
Again, there was his literary world which he was always dreaming about and slaving over, his art ambitions, into which I was now by degrees permitted to look. He was forging ahead in that realm, and since I was doing fairly well as a daily scribbler it might be that I would be able to perceive a little of all he was hoping to do. His great dream or scheme was to study the underworld life of St. Louis at first hand, those horrible, grisly, waterfront saloons and lowest tenderloin dives and brothels south of Market and east of Eighth where, listening to the of thieves and pimps and lechers and drug-fiends and murderers and generally, he was to extract from them, aside from their stories, some bizarre of phrase and scene that was to stand him in good stead in the composition of his tales. Just now, so he told me, he was content with making notes, down of conversation heard at bars, in urinals, cheap dance-halls, and I know not what. With a little more time and a little more of that slowly arriving which comes to most of us eventually, I am inclined to think that he might have made something out of all this; he was so much in earnest, so patient; only, as I saw it, he was filled with an almost impossible idealism and romance which threw nearly everything out of proportion. He naturally inclined to the and the , but in no balanced way. His dreams were too wild, his mood at nearly all times too romantic, his far beyond what a contemplation of the facts warranted.
And relative to this period I could other tales unfold. He and Peter, long before I had arrived on the scene, had surrounded themselves with a company of of their own: down-and-out English army officers and younger sons of good families, a Frenchman or two, one of whom was a poet, several struggling artists who on them, and a few and disreputable characters so degraded and nondescript that I could never make out just what their charm was. At least two of these had suitable rooms, where, in addition to Dick’s and mine, we were accustomed to meet. There were parties, Sunday and evening walks or trips, dinners. Poems, on occasion, were read, original, first-hand compositions; Dick’s stories, as Peter invariably insisted, were “inflicted,” the “growler” or “duck” (a tin bucket of good size) was “rushed” for beer, and cheese and and hot crawfish, sold by old negroes on the streets after midnight, were bought and consumed with gusto. Captain Simons, Captain Seller, Toussaint, Benèt—these are names of figures that are now so dim as to be mere , ranged about a smoky, dimly lighted room in some downtown rooming-house. Both Dick and Peter had reached that state where they were the center of attraction as well as supports and to these others, and between them got up weird entertainments, knockabout Dutch acts, which they took down to some wretched dance-hall and staged, each “doing a turn.” The glee over the memory of these things as they now them to me!
Wood was so thin and so vigorous mentally that he was fascinating to look at. He had an idea that this bohemianism and his story work were of the utmost importance; and so they were if they had been but a to something more serious, or if his dreams could only have been reduced to paper and print. There was something that lay in his eye, a ray. There was an to his spirit which was delicious. As I get him now, he was a rather underdone Poe or de Maupassant or Manet, and assuredly a portion of the makings was certainly there. For at times the moods he could in me were , and he saw beauty and romance in many and strange ways and places. I have seen him enter a dirty, horrible saloon in one of St. Louis’s lowest dive regions with the air of a Prince Charming and there seat himself at some sloppy table, his patent leather low-quarters scraping the sanded or sawdusted floor, order beer and then, smiling upon all, begin to
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