Chapter VII
 

Langdon Masters arrived in San Francisco during Madeleine's third winter. He did not come unheralded, for Travers bragged about him constantly and asserted that San Francisco could thank him for an editorial writer second to none in the United States of America. As a matter of fact it was on Masters' achievement alone that the editor of the Alta California had invited him to become a member of his staff.

Masters was also a cousin of Alexander Groome, and arrived in San Francisco as a guest at the house on Ballinger Hill, a lonely outpost in the wastes of rock and sand in the west.

There was no excitement in the female breast over his arrival for young men were abundant; but Society was prepared to welcome him not only on account of his distinguished connections but because his deliberate choice of San Francisco for his future career was a compliment they were quick to appreciate.

He came gaily to his fate filled with high hopes of owning his own newspaper before long and ranking as the leading journalist in the great little city made famous by gold and Bret Harte. He was one of many in New York; he knew that with his brilliant gifts and the immediate prominence his new position would give him the future was his to mould. No man, then or since, has brought so rare an assortment of talents to the erratic journalism of San Francisco; not even James King of William, the murdered editor of the Evening Bulletin. Perhaps he too would have been murdered had he remained long enough to own and edit the newspaper of his dreams, for he had a merciless irony, a fearless spirit, and an utter contempt for the prejudices of small men. But for a time at least it looked as if the history of journalism in San Francisco was to be one of California's proudest boasts.

Masters was a practical visionary, a dreamer whose dreams never confused his metallic intellect, a stylist who fascinated even the poor mind forced to express itself in colloquialisms, a man of immense erudition for his years (he was only thirty); and he was insatiably interested in the affairs of the world and in every phase of life. He was a poet by nature, and a journalist by profession because he believed the press was destined to become the greatest power in the country, and he craved not only power but the utmost opportunity for self-expression.

His character possessed as many antitheses. He was a natural lover of women and avoided them not only because he feared entanglements and enervations but because he had little respect for their brains. He was, by his Virginian inheritance, if for no simpler reason, a bon vivant, but the preoccupations and ordinary conversational subjects of men irritated him, and he cultivated their society and that of women only in so far as they were essential to his deeper understanding of life. His code was noblesse oblige and he privately damned it as a superstition foisted upon him by his ancestors. He was sentimental and ironic, passionate and indifferent, frank and subtle, proud and democratic, with a warm capacity for friendship and none whatever for intimacy, a hard worker with a strong taste for loafing-- in the open country, book in hand. He prided himself upon his iron will and turned uneasily from the weeds growing among the fine flowers of his nature.

Such was Langdon Masters when he came to San Francisco and Madeleine Talbot.