Wyndham, the celebrated English actor, was playing one night in New York. He saw me in the audience and sent a messenger inviting me to meet him at supper at the Hoffman House. After the theatre I went to the hotel, asked at the desk in what room the theatrical supper was, and found there Bronson Howard, the playwright, and some others. I told them the object of my search, and Mr. Howard said: "You are just in the right place."
The English actor came later, and also a large number of other guests. I was very much surprised and flattered at being made practically the guest of honor. In the usual and inevitable after-dinner speeches I joined enthusiastically in the prospects of American contributions to drama and especially the genius of Bronson Howard.
It developed afterwards that the actors' dinner was set for several nights later, and that I was not invited or expected to this entertainment, which was given by Mr. Howard to my actor friend, but by concert of action between the playwright and the actor, the whole affair was turned into a dinner to me. Broadway was delighted at the joke, but did not have a better time over it than I did.
The supper parties after the play which Wyndham gave were among the most enjoyable entertainments in London. His guests represented the best in society, government, art, literature, and drama. His dining-room was built and furnished like the cabin of a yacht and the illusion was so complete that sensitive guests said they felt the rolling of the sea.
One evening he said to me: "I expect a countryman of yours, a charming fellow, but, poor devil, he has only one hundred and fifty thousand pounds a year. He is still young, and all the managing mothers are after him for their daughters."
When the prosperous American with an income of three-quarters of a million arrived, I needed no introduction. I knew him very well and about his affairs. He had culture, was widely travelled, was both musical and artistic, and his fad was intimacy with prominent people. His dinners were perfection and invitations were eagerly sought. On the plea of delicate health he remained a brief period in the height of the season in London and Paris. But during those few weeks he gave all that could be done by lavish wealth and perfect taste, and did it on an income of twenty thousand dollars a year.
Most of the year he lived modestly in the mountains of Switzerland or in Eastern travel, but was a welcome guest of the most important people in many lands. The only deceit about it, if it was a deceit, was that he never went out of his way to deny his vast wealth, and as he never asked for anything there was no occasion to publish his inventory. The pursuing mothers and daughters never succeeded, before his flight, in leading him far enough to ask for a show-down.
Many times during my visits to Europe I have been besieged to know the income of a countryman. On account of the belief over there in the generality of enormous American fortunes, it is not difficult to create the impression of immense wealth. While the man would have to make a statement and give references, the lady's story is seldom questioned. I have known some hundreds and thousands of dollars become in the credulous eyes of suitors as many millions, and a few millions become multimillions. In several instances the statements of the lady were accepted as she achieved her ambition.