Mind, he did this while his own hat sat offensively near our noses, on the table--an ancient extinguisher of the "slouch" pattern, limp and shapeless with age, discolored by vicissitudes of the weather, and banded by an equator of bear's grease that had stewed through.
Another time he examined my coat. I had no terrors, for over my tailor's door was the legend, "By Special Appointment Tailor to H. R. H. the Prince of Wales," etc. I did not know at the time that the most of the tailor shops had the same sign out, and that whereas it takes nine tailors to make an ordinary man, it takes a hundred and fifty to make a prince. He was full of compassion for my coat. Wrote down the address of his tailor for me. Did not tell me to mention my nom de plume and the tailor would put his best work on my garment, as complimentary people sometimes do, but said his tailor would hardly trouble himself for an unknown person (unknown person, when I thought I was so celebrated in England!--that was the cruelest cut), but cautioned me to mention his name, and it would be all right. Thinking to be facetious, I said:
"But he might sit up all night and injure his health."
"Well, let him," said Rogers; "I've done enough for him, for him to show some appreciation of it."
I might as well have tried to disconcert a mummy with my facetiousness. Said Rogers: "I get all my coats there--they're the only coats fit to be seen in."
I made one more attempt. I said, "I wish you had brought one with you-- I would like to look at it."
"Bless your heart, haven't I got one on?--this article is Morgan's make."
I examined it. The coat had been bought ready-made, of a Chatham Street Jew, without any question--about 1848. It probably cost four dollars when it was new. It was ripped, it was frayed, it was napless and greasy. I could not resist showing him where it was ripped. It so affected him that I was almost sorry I had done it. First he seemed plunged into a bottomless abyss of grief. Then he roused himself, made a feint with his hands as if waving off the pity of a nation, and said-- with what seemed to me a manufactured emotion--"No matter; no matter; don't mind me; do not bother about it. I can get another."
When he was thoroughly restored, so that he could examine the rip and command his feelings, he said, ah, now he understood it--his servant must have done it while dressing him that morning.
His servant! There was something awe-inspiring in effrontery like this.
Nearly every day he interested himself in some article of my clothing. One would hardly have expected this sort of infatuation in a man who always wore the same suit, and it a suit that seemed coeval with the Conquest.
It was an unworthy ambition, perhaps, but I did wish I could make this man admire something about me or something I did--you would have felt the same way. I saw my opportunity: I was about to return to London, and had "listed" my soiled linen for the, wash. It made quite au imposing mountain in the corner of the room--fifty-four pieces. I hoped he would fancy it was the accumulation of a single week. I took up the wash-list, as if to see that it was all right, and then tossed it on the table, with pretended forgetfulness. Sure enough, he took it. up and ran his eye along down to the grand total. Then he said, "You get off easy," and laid it down again.
His gloves were the saddest ruin, but he told me where I could get some like them. His shoes would hardly hold walnuts without leaking, but he liked to put his feet up on the mantelpiece and contemplate them. He wore a dim glass breastpin, which he called a "morphylitic diamond"-- whatever that may mean--and said only two of them had ever been found --the Emperor of China had the other one.
Afterward, in London, it was a pleasure to me to see this fantastic vagabond come marching into the lobby of the hotel in his grand-ducal way, for he always had some new imaginary grandeur to develop--there was nothing stale about him but his clothes.