Posie Van Dusen

I have a remarkable memory for faces, and though it was ten good years ago that I first saw Posie Van Dusen, and I had never seen him, and had scarcely heard of him since, I recognized him instantly when I saw him again last fall.

I don’t know why he is entitled “Posie.” There is nothing about him suggesting the exhalation of flowers. His nose is the only blossoming feature about him, but I have no reason to think he derived his fragrant sobriquet from that. It must have been in the summer of 1863 or 1864 that I first saw Posie. It was the occasion of my first visit to New York. I was a boy then, in a New England office, with a very slight knowledge of dashes and dots, and having rendered a railroad superintendent a service, he offered me a pass to New York. My sensations on debarking in the wonderful metropolis were much, I fancy, as were yours, my reader. I was captivated with everything I saw, and was astounded with the length and breadth of the swarming island. To me at that time the poet’s bitter denunciation—

‘False land of promise, paved with gold
That turns to iron ’neath the blistering feet,
Lured by that rustic lie to pace her streets!
That loadstone rock whereon adventure splits
And wrecked ambition starves;”

to me, I say, this had no unusual significance. I saw only the bright side of the picture, and I tripped gaily along the route of the telegraph poles, vainly expecting to reach the office by that means. When I had tired of this I used my tongue, and ere long I stood before the great “No. 145,” of which I had heard and thought so much. My cousin was an operator, and, in due time, I was ushered into the operating- room of the American Company. He was in good standing; he has since risen to a position of trust; his name is identified now with the invention of “duplex” and “quads” innumerable, and I find him, moreover, despite his great modesty, a man whose knowledge of electrical science is generally respected. He introduced me to the manager, Mr. J. C. Hinchman, to Mr. M. S. Roberts, general assistant, to Mr. William Clum, chief operator, and to Mr. Dixon F. Marks, night manager, also to operators in considerable number; and finally prefacing my presentation with the remark, “Of course you want to know all the celebrites,” he brought me to where two young men, apparently cast in the Swivellerian mold, were standing, and said: “This is Tip McClosky, Mr. Oakum, and this, Posie Van Dusen. You have heard of them both.” Indeed, I had, and I felt much the same in their presence as I remember to have felt several years later, when I stood face to face with Charles Dickens, and tried to comprehend that he was the man who had created Cuttle, Copperfield, Agnes, Dame Durden, and the host whose hopes and experiences are a part of my own life—the sunniest part of it, need I add?

The next morning, as I stood waiting for the arrival of my chaperone and relative, who was not due until 8:30, I saw the little army of operators file into the side door. I was a little shaver, with a round, rosy face, like hundreds of other boys, and, I dare say, they did not recognize me. Certainly none of them honored me with a bow—not even with the ghost of a wink to betoken they had ever seen me before. I had not learned then how slight a claim a boy’s introduction to a busy New Yorker entails. At the end of the list, as invariably happened, came Tip McClosky. His appearance, even in the distance, was dishevelled, but there was a devil-may-care air about him as he strutted along, which was not without its element of smartness. I turned my face away; I had been snubbed by everybody, and I would not give this man a chance to wound my foolish sensibilities. But Tip accosted me with a kindness in his tones that I have never forgotten. He shook hands with me and called me his dear boy, and, leaning up against the little iron railing with as much nonchalance as if he had been fifteen minutes ahead of time, instead of fifteen behind, he proceeded to inquire how old I was, how long I had been learning, and assured me I was doing first rate.

“Stick to it, Oakey,” said he, “it can’t be accomplished with a lep, it requires patience and practice. Don’t get discouraged, the war is creating a big demand for operators, and before it is over I shall expect to hear of you as one of the best operators around. And let me give you a little advice, my boy,” he continued, quite seriously, “don’t go too much on your reputation. I have got a big reputation myself, and I must sustain it. There is no such thing for me as starting anew, but you can learn wisdom from my experience. Try to become a good, reliable operator, steer clear of liquor, and you will win. And remember, above everything, that it is as impossible to do telegraphic work correctly, without occasional interrogation in

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