The Man Who Was Marked for Death

The afternoon I met Ernest Walsh, the poet, in Ezra's studio, he was with two girls in long mink coats and there was a long, shiny, hired car from Claridge's outside in the street with a uniformed chauffeur. The girls were blondes and they had crossed on the same ship with Walsh. The ship had arrived the day before and he had brought them with him to visit Ezra.

Ernest Walsh was dark, intense, faultlessly Irish, poetic and clearly marked for death as a character is marked for death in a motion picture. He was talking to The Man Who Was Marked for Death Ezra and I talked with the girls, who asked me if I had read Mr Walsh's poems. I had not and one of them brought out a green-covered copy of Harriet Monroe's Poetry, A. Magazine of Verse and showed me poems by Walsh in it.

'He gets twelve hundred dollars apiece,' she said.

'For each poem,' the other girl said.

My recollection was that I received twelve dollars a page, if that, from the same

magazine. 'He must be a very great poet,' I said.

'It's more than Eddie Guest gets,' the first girl told me The Man Who Was Marked for Death.

'It's more than who's that other poet gets. You know.'

'Kipling,' her friend said.

'It's more than anybody gets ever,' the first girl said.

'Are you staying in Paris very long?' I asked them.

'Well no. Not really. We're with a group of friends.'

'We came over on this boat, you know. But there wasn't anyone on it really. Mr.

Walsh was on it of course.'

'Doesn't he play cards?' I asked.

She looked at me in a disappointed but understanding way.

'No. He doesn't have to. Not writing poetry the way The Man Who Was Marked for Death he can write it.'

'What ship are you going back on?'

'Well that depends. It depends on the boats and on a lot of things. Are you going


'No. I'm getting by all right.'

'This is sort of the poor quarter over here, isn't it?'

'Yes. But it's pretty good. I work the cafes and I'm out at the track.'

'Can you go out to the track in those clothes?'

'No. This is my cafe outfit.'

'It's kind of cute,' one of the girls said. 'I'd like to see some of that cafe life. Wouldn The Man Who Was Marked for Death't you, dear?'

'I would,' the other girl said. I wrote their names down in my address book and

promised to call them at Claridge's. They were nice girls and I said goodbye to them and to Walsh and to Ezra. Walsh was still talking to Ezra with great intensity.

'Don't forget,' the taller one of the girls said.

'How could I?' I told her and shook hands with them both again.

The next I heard from Ezra about Walsh was that he had been bailed out of

Claridge's by some lady admirers of poetry and of young The Man Who Was Marked for Death poets who were marked for

death, and the next thing, some time after that, was that he had financial backing from another source and was going to start a new magazine in the quarter as a co-editor.

At the time the Dial, an American literary magazine edited by Scofield Thayer, gave an annual award of, I believe, a thousand dollars for excellence in the practice of letters by a contributor. This was a huge sum for any straight writer to receive in those days, in addition to the prestige, and the award had gone to various people, all The Man Who Was Marked for Death deserving, naturally. Two people, then, could live comfortably and well in Europe on five dollars a day and could travel.

This quarterly, of which Walsh was one of the editors, was alleged to be going to

award a very substantial sum to the contributor whose work should be judged the best at the end of the first four issues.

If the news was passed around by gossip or rumour, or if it was a matter of personal confidence, cannot be said. Let us hope and believe always that it was completely

honourable in every way. Certainly nothing could ever be The Man Who Was Marked for Death said or imputed against

Walsh's co-editor.

It was not long after I heard rumours of this alleged award that Walsh asked me to lunch one day at a restaurant that was the best and the most expensive in the Boulevard St-Michel quarter and after the oysters, expensive flat faintly coppery marennes, not the familiar, deep, inexpensive portugaises, and a bottle of Pouilly-Fuisse, began to lead up to it delicately. He appeared to be conning me as he had conned the shills from the boat -

if they were shills and if he had conned them, of course The Man Who Was Marked for Death - and when he asked me if I would like another dozen of the flat oysters, as he called them, I said I would like them very much. He did not bother to look marked for death with me and this was a relief. He knew I knew he had the con, not the kind you con with but the kind you died of then and how bad it was, and he did not bother to have to cough, and I was grateful for this at the table. I was wondering if he ate the flat oysters in the same way The Man Who Was Marked for Death the whores in Kansas City, who were marked for death and practically everything else, always wished to

swallow semen as a sovereign remedy against the con; but I did not ask him. I began my second dozen of the flat oysters, picking them from their bed of crushed ice on the silver plate, watching their unbelievably delicate brown edges react and cringe as I squeezed lemon juice on them and separated the holding muscle from the shell and lifted them to chew them carefully.

'Ezra's a great, great poet,' Walsh said, looking at me with his own dark poet's eyes The Man Who Was Marked for Death.

'Yes,' I said. 'And a fine man.'

'Noble,' Walsh said. 'Truly noble.' We ate and drank in silence as a tribute to Ezra's nobility. I missed Ezra and wished he were there. He could not afford marennes either.

'Joyce is great,' Walsh said. 'Great, Great.'

'Great,' I said. 'And a good friend.' We had become friends in his wonderful period after the finishing of Ulysses and before starting what was called for a long time Work in Progress. I thought of Joyce and remembered many things.

'I wish his eyes were better,' Walsh said.

'So does The Man Who Was Marked for Death he,' I said.

'It is the tragedy of our time,' Walsh told me.

'Everybody has something wrong with them,' I said, trying to cheer up the lunch.

'You haven't.' He gave me all his charm and more, and then he marked himself for


'You mean I am not marked for death?' I asked. I could not help it.

'No. You're marked for Life.' He capitalized the word.

'Give me time,' I said.

He wanted a good steak, rare, and I ordered two tournedos with sauce Bearnaise. I figured the butter would be good for him.

'What about The Man Who Was Marked for Death a red wine?' he asked. The sommelier came and I ordered a Chateauneuf du Pape. I would walk it off afterwards along the quais. He could sleep it off, or do what he wanted to. I might take mine some place, I thought.

It came as we finished the steak and french-fried potatoes and were two-thirds

through the Chateauneuf du Pape which is not a luncheon wine.

'There's no use beating around the bush,' he said. 'You know you're to get the award, don't you?'

'Am I?' I said. 'Why?'

'You're to get it,' he The Man Who Was Marked for Death said. He started to talk about my writing and I stopped listening.

It made me feel sick for people to talk about my writing to my face, and I looked at him and his marked-for-death look and I thought, you con man conning me with your con.

I've seen a battalion in the dust on the road, a third of them for" death or worse and no special marks on them, the dust for all, and you and your marked-for-death look, you con man, making a living out of your death. Now you will The Man Who Was Marked for Death con me. Con not, that thou be not conned. Death was not conning with him. It was coming all right.

'I don't think I deserve it, Ernest,' I said, enjoying using my own name, that I hated, to him. 'Besides, Ernest, it would not be ethical, Ernest.'

'It's strange we have the same name, isn't it?'

'Yes, Ernest,' I said. 'It's a name we must both live up to. You see what I mean, don't you, Ernest?'

'Yes, Ernest,' he said. He gave me complete, sad Irish understanding and the charm.

So The Man Who Was Marked for Death I was always very nice to him and to his magazine and when he had his

haemorrhages and left Paris, asking me to see his magazine through the printers, who did not read English, I did that. I had seen one of the haemorrhages, it was very legitimate, and I knew that he would die all right, and it pleased me at that time, which was a difficult time in my life, to be extremely nice to him, as it pleased me to call him Ernest.

Also, I liked and admired his co-editor. She had not promised me any award. She only The Man Who Was Marked for Death wished to build a good magazine and pay her contributors well.

One day, much later, I met Joyce who was walking along the Boulevard St-Germain

after having been to a matinee alone. He liked to listen to the actors, although he could not see them. He asked me to have a drink with him and we went to the Deux-Magots

and ordered dry sherry although you will always read that he drank only Swiss white wine.

'How about Walsh?' Joyce said.

'A such and such alive is a such and such dead,' I said.

'Did he promise you The Man Who Was Marked for Death that award?' Joyce asked.


'I thought so,' Joyce said.

'Did he promise it to you?'

'Yes,' Joyce said. After a time he asked, 'Do you think he promised it to Pound?'

'I don't know.'

'Best not to ask him,' Joyce said. We left it at that. I told Joyce of my first meeting with him in Ezra's studio with the girls in the long fur coats and it made him happy to hear the story.

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