HotFreeBooks.com
A Labrador Doctor - The Autobiography of Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

We were Church of England people, and I always attended service with my mother at an Episcopal church of the evangelical type. At her suggestion I asked the minister if I could in any way help. He offered me a class of small boys in his Sunday School, which I accepted with much hesitation. The boys, derived from houses in the neighbourhood, were as smart as any I have known. With every faculty sharpened by the competition of the street, they so tried my patience with their pranks that I often wondered what strange attraction induced them to come at all. The school and church were the property of a society known by the uninviting title of the "Episcopal Society for the promotion of Christianity among the Jews." It owned a large court, shut off from the road by high gates, around which stood about a dozen houses—with the church facing the gates at one end of a pretty avenue of trees. It was an oasis in the desert of that dismal region. It possessed also an industrial institution for helping its converts to make a living, when driven out of their own homes; and its main work was carried on for the most part by superannuated missionaries. One was from Bagdad, I remember, and one from Palestine, both themselves Jews by extraction. These missionaries were paid such miserable salaries that in their old age they were always left very poor.

One instance of a baptism I have never forgotten. I was then living in the court, having hired a nice separate house under the trees after my father had died and my mother had moved to Hampstead. In such a district the house was a Godsend. One Sunday I was strolling in the court when the clergyman came rushing out of the church and called to me in great excitement, "The church is full of Jews. They are going to carry off Abraham. Can't you go in and help while I fetch the police?" My friend and I therefore rushed in as directed to a narrow alleyway between high box pews which led into the vestry, into which "Abraham" had been spirited. The door being shut and our backs put to it, it was a very easy matter to hold back the crowd, who probably supposed at first that we were leading the abduction party. There being only room for two to come on at once, "those behind cried forward, and those in front back," till after very little blood spilt, we heard the police in the church, and the crowd at once took to flight. I regret to say that we expedited the rear-guard by football rather than strictly Christian methods. His friends then charged Abraham with theft, expecting to get him out of his place of refuge and then trap him, as we were told they had a previous convert. We therefore accompanied him personally through the mean streets, both to and fro, spoiling for more fun. But they displayed more discretion than valour, and to the best of my belief he escaped their machinations.

My Sunday-School efforts did not satisfy me. The boys were few, and I failed to see any progress. But I had resolved that I would do no work on Sundays except for others, so I joined a young Australian of my class in hospital in holding services on Sunday nights in half a dozen of the underground lodging-houses along the Radcliffe Highway. He was a good musician, so he purchased a fine little portable harmonium, and whatever else the lodgers thought of us, they always liked the music. We used to meet for evening tea at a place in the famous Highway known as "The Stranger's Rest," outside of which an open-air service was always held for the sailors wandering up and down the docks. At these a number of ladies would sing; and after the meetings a certain number of the sailors were asked to come in and have refreshments. There were always some who had spent their money on drink, or been robbed, or were out of ships, and many of them were very fine men. Some were foreigners—so much so that a bit farther down the road a Norwegian lady carried on another similar work, especially for Scandinavians.

A single story will illustrate the good points which some of these men displayed. My hospital chief, Sir Frederick Treves, had operated on a great big Norwegian, and the man had left the hospital cured. As a rule such patients do not even know the name of their surgeon. Some three weeks later, however, this man called at Sir Frederick Treves's house late one dark night. Having asked if he were the surgeon who had operated on him and getting a reply in the affirmative, he said he had come to return thanks, that since he left hospital he had been wandering about without a penny to his name, waiting for a ship, but had secured a place on that day. He proceeded to cut out from the upper edge of his trousers a gold Norwegian five-kronen piece which his wife had sewed in there to be his stand-by in case of absolute need. He had been so hungry that he had been tempted to use it, but now had come to present it as a token of gratitude—upon which he bowed and disappeared. Sir Frederick said that he was so utterly taken aback that he found himself standing in the hall, holding the coin, and bowing his visitor out. He said he could no more return it than you could offer your teacher a "tip," and he has preserved it as a much-prized possession.

The underground lodging-house work did me lots of good. It brought me into touch with real poverty—a very graveyard of life I had never surmised. The denizens of those miserable haunts were men from almost every rank of life. They were shipwrecks from the ocean of humanity, drifted up on the last beach. There were large open fireplaces in the dens, over which those who had any food cooked it. Often while the other doctor or I was holding services, one of us would have to sit down on some drunken man to keep him from making the proceedings impossible; but there was always a modicum who gathered around and really enjoyed the singing.

We soon found that there were no depths of contemptible treachery which some among these new acquaintances would not attempt. We became gradually hardened to the piteous tales of ill luck, of malignant persecution, and of purely temporary embarrassments, and learned soon to leave behind us purses, and watches, and anything else of value, and to keep some specially worn clothing for this service.

There was always a narrow passage from the front door to the staircase which led down into those huge underground basements. The guardians had a room inside the door, with a ticket window, where they took five or possibly eight cents from the boarders for their night's lodging. At about eleven o'clock a "chucker out" would go down and clear out all the gentlemen who had not paid in advance for the night. This was always a very melancholy period of the evening, and in spite of our hardened hearts, we always had a score against us there. That, however, had to be given in person, for there were plenty among our audiences who had taken special courses in imitative calligraphy. I.O.U.'s on odd bits of paper were a menace to our banking accounts till we sorrowfully abandoned that convenient way of helping often a really deserving case.

In those houses, somewhat to my astonishment, we never once received any physical opposition. We knew that some considered us harmless and gullible imbeciles; but the great majority were still able to see that it was an attempt, however poor, to help them. Drink, of course, was the chief cause of the downfall of most; but as I have already said, there were cases of genuine, undeserved poverty—like our sailor friend, overtaken with sickness in a foreign port. We induced some to sign the pledge and to keep it, if only temporarily, but I think that we ourselves got most out of the work, both in pleasure and uplift. I recall one clergyman, one doctor, and many men from the business world and clerk's life in the flotsam and jetsam.

One poor creature, in the last stage of poverty and dirt, proved to be an honours man in Oxford. We looked up his record in the University. He assured us that he intended to begin again a new life, and we agreed to help start him. We took him to a respectable, temperance lodging-house, paid for a bed, a bath, and a supper, and purchased a good second-hand outfit of clothing for him. We were wise enough only to give this to him after we had taken away his own while he was having a bath in the tub. We did not give him a penny of money, fearing his lack of control. Next morning, however, when we went for him, he was gone—no one knew where. We had the neighbouring saloons searched, and soon got track of him. Some "friend" in the temperance house had given him sixpence. The barman offered him the whiskey; his hands trembled so that he could not lift the glass to his mouth, and the barman kindly poured it down his throat. We never saw him again.

In this lodging-house work a friend, now a well-known artist and successful business man, often joined us two doctors.

My growing experience had shown me that there was a better way to the hearts of my Sunday-School boys than merely talking to them. Like myself, they worshipped the athlete, whether he were a prize-fighter or a big football player. There were no Y.M.C.A.'s or other places for them to get any physical culture, so we arranged to clear our dining-room every Saturday evening, and give boxing lessons and parallel-bar work: the ceiling was too low for the horizontal. The transformation of the room was easily accomplished. The furniture was very primitive, largely our own construction, and we could throw out through the window every scrap of it except the table, which was soon "adapted." We also put up a quoit pitch in our garden.

This is no place to discuss the spiritual influences of the "noble art of boxing." Personally I have always believed in its value; and my Sunday-School class soon learned the graces of fair play, how to take defeat and to be generous in victory. They began at once bringing "pals" whom my exegesis on Scripture would never have lured within my reach. We ourselves began to look forward to Saturday night and Sunday afternoon with an entirely new joy. We all learned to respect and so to love one another more—indeed, lifelong friendships were developed and that irrespective of our hereditary credal affiliations. The well-meaning clergyman, however, could not see the situation in that light, and declining all invitations to come and sample an evening's fun instead of condemning it unheard, or I should say, unseen, he delivered an ultimatum which I accepted—and resigned from his school.

My Australian friend was at that time wrestling with a real ragged school on the Highway on Sunday afternoons. The poor children there were street waifs and as wild as untamed animals. So, being temporarily out of a Sunday job, I consented to join him.

Our school-room this time owed no allegiance to any one but ourselves, and the work certainly proved a real labour of love. If the boys were allowed in a minute before there was a force to cope with them, the room would be wrecked. Everything movable was stolen immediately opportunity arose. Boys turned out or locked out during session would climb to the windows, and triumphantly wave stolen articles. On one occasion when I had "chucked out" a specially obstreperous youth, I was met with a shower of mud and stones as I passed through a narrow alley on my return home. The police were always at war with the boys, who annoyed them in similar and many other ways. I remember two scholars whose eyes were blacked and badly beaten by a "cop" who happened to catch them in our doorway, as they declared, "only waiting for Sunday School to open." Old scores were paid off by both parties whenever possible. My own boys did not stay in the old school long after I left, but came and asked me to keep a class on Sunday in our dining-room—an arrangement in which I gladly acquiesced, though it involved my eventually abandoning the ragged school, which was at least two miles distant.

With the night work at the lodging-houses, we used to combine a very aggressive total abstinence campaign. The saloon-keepers as a rule looked upon us as harmless cranks, and I have no doubt were grateful for the leaflets we used to distribute to their customers. These served admirably for kindling purposes. At times, however, they got ugly, and once my friend, who was in a saloon talking to a customer, was trapped and whiskey poured into his mouth. On another occasion I noticed that the outer doors were shut and a couple of men backed up against them while I was talking to the bartender over the counter, and that a few other customers were closing in to repeat the same experiment on me. However, they greatly overrated their own stock of fitness and equally underrated my good training, for the scrimmage went all my own way in a very short time.

If ever I told my football chums (for in those days I was playing hard) of these adventures in a nether world, they always wanted to come and cooperate; but I have always felt that reliance on physical strength alone is only a menace when the odds are so universally in favour of our friend the enemy. At this time also at St. Andrew's Church, just across the Whitechapel Road from the hospital, the clergyman was a fine athlete and good boxer. He was a brother of Lord Wenlock, and was one night returning from a mission service in the Highway when he was set upon by footpads and robbed of everything, including the boots off his feet. Meantime "Jack the Ripper" was also giving our residential section a most unsavoury reputation.

My long vacations at this time were always taken on the sea. My brother and I used to hire an old fishing smack called the "Oyster," which we rechristened the "Roysterer." This we fitted out, provisioned, and put to sea in with an entirely untrained crew, and without even the convention of caring where we were bound so long as the winds bore us cheerily along. My brother was always cook—and never was there a better. We believed that he would have made a mark in the world as a chef, from his ability to satisfy our appetites and cater to our desires out of so ill-supplied a galley. We always took our departure from the north coast of Anglesea—a beautiful spot, and to us especially attractive as being so entirely out of the run of traffic that we could do exactly as we pleased. We invariably took our fishing gear with us, and thus never wanted for fresh food. We could replenish our bread, milk, butter, and egg supply at the numerous small ports at which we called. The first year the crew consisted of my brother and me—skipper, mate, and cook between us—and an Oxford boating friend as second mate. For a deckhand we had a young East London parson, whom we always knew as "the Puffin," because he so closely resembled that particular bird when he had his vestments on. We sailed first for Ireland, but the wind coming ahead we ran instead for the Isle of Man. The first night at sea the very tall undergraduate as second mate had the 12 P.M. to 4 A.M. night watch. The tiller handle was very low, and when I gave him his course at midnight before turning in myself, he asked me if it would be a breach of nautical etiquette to sit down to steer, as that was the only alternative to directing the ship's course with his ankles. No land was in sight, and the wind had died out when I came on deck for my 4 A.M. to 8 A.M. watch. I found the second mate sitting up rubbing his eyes as I emerged from the companion hatch.

"Well, where are we now? How is her head? What's my course?"

"Don't worry about such commonplace details," he replied. "I have made an original discovery about these parts that I have never seen mentioned before."

"What's that?" I asked innocently.

"Well," he replied, "when I sat down to steer the course you gave brought a bright star right over the topmast head and that's what I started to steer by. It's a perfect marvel what a game these heavenly bodies play. We must be in some place like Alice in Wonderland. I just shut my eyes for a second and when next I opened them the sun was exactly where I had left that star—" and he fled for shelter.

It is a wonder that we ever got anywhere, for we had not so much as a chronometer watch, and so in spite of a decrepit sextant even our latitude was often an uncertain quantity. However, we made the port of Douglas, whence we visited quite a part of the historic island. As our parson was called home from there, we wired for and secured another chum to share our labours. Our generally unconventional attire in fashionable summer resorts was at times quite embarrassing. Barelegged, bareheaded, and "tanned to a chip," I was carrying my friend's bag along the fashionable pier to see him off on his homeward journey, when a lady stopped me and asked me if I were an Eskimo, offering me a job if I needed one. I have wondered sometimes if it were a seat in a sideshow which she had designed for me.

We spent that holiday cruising around the island. It included getting ashore off the north point of land and nearly losing the craft; and also in Ramsey Harbour a fracas with the harbour authorities. We had run that night on top of the full spring tide. Not knowing the harbour, we had tied up to the first bollard, and gone incontinently to sleep. We were awakened by the sound of water thundering on top of us, and rushing up found to our dismay that we were lying in the mud, and a large sewer was discharging right on to our decks. Before we had time to get away or clean up, the harbour master, coming alongside, called on us to pay harbour duties. We stoutly protested that as a pleasure yacht we were not liable and intended to resist to the death any such insult being put upon us. He was really able to see at once that we were just young fellows out for a holiday, but he had the last word before a crowd of sight-seers who had gathered on the quay above us.

"Pleasure yacht, pleasure yacht, indeed!" he shouted as he rode away, "I can prove to any man with half an eye that you are nothing but one of them old coal or mud barges."

The following year the wind suited better the other way. We were practically all young doctors this time, the cook being a very athletic chum in whose rooms were collected as trophies, in almost every branch of athletics, over seventy of what we called silver "pots." As a cook he proved a failure except in zeal. It didn't really interest him, especially when the weather was lively. On one occasion I reported to the galley, though I was the skipper that year, in search of the rice-pudding for dinner—Dennis, our cook, being temporarily indisposed. Such a sight as met my view! Had I been superstitious I should have fled. A great black column the circumference of the boiler had risen not less than a foot above the top rim, and was wearing the iron cover jauntily on one side as a helmet. It proved to be rice. He had filled the saucepan with dry rice, crowded in a little water, forced the lid on very tight and left it to its own devices!

Nor, in his subsequent capacity as deckhand, did he redeem in our eyes the high qualities of seamanship which we had anticipated from him.

Our tour took us this time through the Menai Straits, via Carnarvon and the Welsh coast, down the Irish Channel to Milford Haven. In the region of very heavy tides and dangerous rocks near the south Welsh coast, we doubled our watch at night. One night the wind fell very light, and we had stood close inshore in order to pass inside the Bishop Rocks. The wind died out at that very moment, and the heavy current driving us down on the rocky islands threatened prematurely to terminate our cruise. The cook was asleep, as usual when called, and at last aroused to the nature of the alarm, was found leaning forward over the ship's bows with a lighted candle. When asked what he was doing, he explained, "Why, looking for those bishops, of course."

No holiday anywhere could be better sport than those cruises. There was responsibility, yet rest, mutual dependence, and a charming, unconventional way of getting acquainted with one's own country. We visited Carnarvon, Harlech, and other castles, lost our boat in a breeze of wind off Dynllyn, climbed Snowden from Pwllheli Harbour, and visited a dozen little out-of-the-world harbours that one would otherwise never see. Fishing and shooting for the pot, bathing and rowing, and every kind of healthy out-of-doors pleasure was indulged in along the road of travel. Moreover, it was all made to cost just as much or as little as you liked.

Another amusing memory which still remains with me was at one little seaport where a very small man not over five feet high had married a woman considerably over six. He was an idle, drunken little rascal, and I met her one day striding down the street with her intoxicated little spouse wrapped up in her apron and feebly protesting.

One result of these holidays was that I told my London boys about them, using one's experiences as illustrations; till suddenly it struck me that this was shabby Christianity. Why shouldn't these town cagelings share our holidays? Thirteen accompanied me the following summer. We had three tents, an old deserted factory, and an uninhabited gorge by the sea, all to ourselves on the Anglesea coast, among people who spoke only Welsh. Thus we had all the joys of foreign travel at very little cost.

Among the many tricks the boys "got away with" was one at the big railway junction at Bangor, where we had an hour to wait. They apparently got into the baggage-room and stole a varied assortment of labels, which they industriously pasted over those on a large pile of luggage stacked on the platform. The subsequent tangle of destinations can better be imagined than described.

Camp rules were simple—no clothing allowed except short blue knickers and gray flannel shirts, no shoes, stockings, or caps except on Sundays. The uniform was provided and was as a rule the amateur production of numerous friends, for our finances were strictly limited. The knickers were not particularly successful, the legs frequently being carried so high up that there was no space into which the body could be inserted. Every one had to bathe in the sea before he got any breakfast. I can still see ravenous boys staving off the evil hour till as near midday as possible. No one was allowed in the boats who couldn't swim, an art which they all quickly acquired. There was, of course, a regular fatigue party each day for the household duties. We had no beds—sleeping on long, burlap bags stuffed with hay. A very favourite pastime was afforded by our big lifeboat, an old one hired from the National Lifeboat Society. The tides flowed very strongly alongshore, east on the flood tide and west on the ebb. Food, fishing lines, and a skipper for the day being provided, the old boat would go off with the tide in the morning, the boys had a picnic somewhere during the slack-water interim, and came back with the return tide.

When our numbers grew, as they did to thirty the second year, and nearly a hundred in subsequent seasons, thirty or more boys would be packed off daily in that way—and yet we never lost one of them. If they had not had as many lives as cats it would have been quite another story. The boat had sufficient sails to give the appearance to their unfamiliar eyes of being a sailing vessel, but the real work was done with twelve huge oars, two boys to an oar being the rule. At nights they used to come drifting homeward on the returning tides singing their dirges, like some historic barge of old. There was one familiar hymn called "Bringing in the Sheaves," which like everything else these rascals adapted for the use of the moment; and many a time the returning barge would be announced to us cooking supper in the old factory or in the silent gorge, by the ringing echoes of many voices beating with their oars as they came on to the words:

"Pulling at the sweeps, Pulling at the sweeps; Here we come rejoicing, Pulling at the sweeps."

As soon as the old boat's keel slid up upon the beach, there would be a rush of as appreciative a supper party as ever a cook had the pleasure of catering for.

An annual expedition was to the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest in England or Wales. It was attempted by land and water. Half of us tramped overland in forced marches to the beautiful Menai Straits, crossed the suspension bridge, and were given splendid hospitality and good beds on the straw of the large stables at the beautiful country seat of a friend at Treborth. Here the boat section who came around the island were to meet us, anchoring their craft on the south side of the Straits. Our second year the naval division did not turn up, and some had qualms of conscience that evil might have overtaken them. Nor did they arrive until we by land had conquered the summit, travelling by Bethesda and the famous slate quarries, and returning for the second evening at Treborth. We then found that they had been stranded on the sands in Red Wharf Bay, so far from shore that they could neither go forward nor back; had thus spent their first night in a somewhat chilly manner in old bathing machines by the land wash, and supped off the superfluous hard biscuit which they had been reserving for the return voyage. They were none the worse, however, our genial host making it up to them in an extra generous provision and a special evening entertainment. One of my smartest boys (a Jew by nationality, for we made no distinctions in election to our class), in recounting his adventures to me next day, said: "My! Doctor, I did have some fun kidding that waiter in the white choker. He took a liking to me so I let him pal up. I told him my name was Lord Shaftesbury when I was home, but I asked him not to let it out, and the old bloke promised he wouldn't." The "old bloke" happened to be our host, who was always in dress-clothes in the evening, the only time we were at his house.

These holidays were the best lessons of love I could show my boys. It drew us very closely together; and to make the boys feel it less a charitable affair, every one was encouraged to save up his railway fare and as much more as possible. By special arrangement with the railway and other friends, and by very simple living, the per caput charges were so much reduced that many of the boys not only paid their own expenses, but even helped their friends. The start was always attended by a crowd of relatives, all helping with the baggage. The father of one of my boys was a costermonger, and had a horse that he had obtained very cheap because it had a disease of the legs. He always kept it in the downstairs portion of his house, which it entered by the front door. It was a great pleasure to him to come and cart our things free to the station. The boys used to load his cart at our house, and I remember one time that they made him haul unconsciously all the way to the big London terminal at Euston half our furniture, including our coal boxes. His son, a most charming boy, made good in life in Australia and bought a nice house in one of the suburbs for his father and mother. I had the pleasure one night of meeting them all there. The father was terribly uneasy, for he said he just could not get accustomed to it. All his old "pals" were gone, and his neighbours' tastes and interests were a great gulf between them. I heard later that as soon as his son left England again the old man sold the house, and returned to the more congenial associations of a costermonger's life, where I believe he died in harness.

The last two years of my stay in London being occupied with resident work at hospital, I could not find time for such far-off holidays, and at the suggestion of my chief, Sir Frederick Treves, himself a Dorsetshire man, we camped by permission of our friends, the owners, in the grounds of Lulworth Castle, close by the sea. The class had now developed into a semi-military organization. We had acquired real rifles—old-timers from the Tower of London—and our athletic clubs were portions of the Anglesey Boys' Brigade, which antedated the Boys' Brigade of Glasgow, forerunner of the Church Lads' Brigade, and the Boy Scouts.

One of the great attractions of the new camping-ground was the exquisite country and the splendid coast, with chalk cliffs over which almost any one could fall with impunity. Lulworth Cove, one of the most picturesque in England, was the summer resort of my chief, and he being an expert mariner and swimmer used not only very often to join us at camp, but always gave the boys a fine regatta and picnic at his cottage. Our water polo games were also a great feature here, the water being warm and enabling us easily to play out the games. There are also numerous beautiful castles and country houses all the way between Swanage and Weymouth, and we had such kindness extended to us wherever we went that every day was a dream of joy to the lads. Without any question they acquired new visions and ideals through these experiences.

We always struck camp at the end of a fortnight, having sometimes arranged with other friends with classes of their own to step into our shoes. The present head master of Shrewsbury and many other distinguished persons shared with us some of the educative joys of those days. Among the many other more selfish portions of the holidays none stand out more clearly in my memory than the August days when partridge and grouse shooting used to open. Most of my shooting was done over the delightful highlands around Bishop's Castle in Shropshire, on the outskirts of the Welsh hills, in Clun Forest, and on the heather-covered Longmynds. How I loved those days, and the friends who made them possible—the sound of the beaters, the intelligent setters and retrievers, the keepers in velveteens, the lunches under the shade of the great hedges or in lovely cottages, where the ladies used to meet us at midday, and every one used to jolly you about not shooting straight, and you had to take refuge in a thousand "ifs."

As one looks back on it all from Labrador, it breathes the aroma of an old civilization and ancient customs. Much of the shooting was over the old lands of the Walcotts of Walcott Hall, a family estate that had been bought up by Earl Clive on his return from India, and was now in the hands of his descendant, an old bachelor who shot very little, riding from one good stand to another on a steady old pony. There were many such estates, another close by being that of the Oakovers of Oakover, a family that has since sold their heritage.

A thousand time-honoured old customs, only made acceptable by their hoary age, added, and still continue to add in the pleasures of memory, to the joys of those days, with which golf and tennis and all the wonderful luxury of the modern summer hotel seem never able to compete. It is right, however, that such eras should pass.

The beautiful forest of Savernake, that in my school days I had loved so well, and which meant so much to us boys, spoke only too loudly of the evil heirloom of the laws of entail. Spendthrift and dissolute heirs had made it impossible for the land to be utilized for the benefit of the people, and yet kept it in the hands of utterly undeserving persons. Being of royal descent they still bore a royal name even in my day; but it was told of them that the last, who had been asked to withdraw from the school, on one occasion when, half drunk, he was defending himself from the gibes and jeers of grooms and 'ostlers whom he had made his companions, rose with ill-assumed dignity and with an oath declared that he was their king by divine right if only he had his dues. Looking back it seems to me that the germs of democratic tendencies were sown in me by just those very incidents.



CHAPTER IV

AT THE LONDON HOSPITAL

I have never ceased to regret that there was not more corporate life in our medical school, but I believe that conditions have been greatly improved since my day. Here and there two or three classmates would "dig" together, but otherwise, except at lectures or in hospitals, we seldom met unless it was on the athletic teams. We had no playground of our own, and so, unable to get other hospitals to combine, when a now famous St. Thomas man and myself hired part of the justly celebrated London Rowing Club Headquarters at Putney for a united hospitals' headquarters, we used to take our blazers and more cherished possessions home with us at night for fear of distraint of rent.

They were great days. Rowing on the Thames about Putney is not like that at Oxford on a mill-pond, or as at Cambridge on what we nicknamed a drain that should be roofed over. Its turgid waters were often rough enough to sink a rowing shell, and its busy traffic was a thing with which to reckon. But it offered associations with all kinds of interesting places, historical and otherwise, from the Star and Garter at Richmond and the famous Park away to Boulter's Lock and Cleveden Woods, to the bathing pools about Taplow Court, the seat of the senior branch of our family, and to Marlow and Goring where our annual club outings were held. Twice I rowed in the inter-hospital race from Putney to Mortlake, once as bow and again as stroke. During those early days the "London" frequently had the best boat on the river.

Having now finished my second year at hospital and taken my preliminary examinations, including the scientific preliminary, and my first bachelor of medicine for the University of London degree, I had advanced to the dignity of "walking the hospitals," carried a large shining stethoscope, and spent much time following the famous physicians and surgeons around the wards.

Our first appointment was clerking in the medical wards. We had each so many beds allotted to us, and it was our business to know everything about the patients who occupied them, to keep accurate "histories" of all developments, and to be ready to be quizzed and queried by our resident house physician, or our visiting consultant on the afternoon when he made his rounds, followed by larger or smaller crowds of students according to the value which was placed upon his teaching. I was lucky enough to work under the famous Sir Andrew Clark, Mr. Gladstone's great physician. He was a Scotchman greatly beloved, and always with a huge following to whom he imparted far more valuable truths than even the medical science of thirty years ago afforded. His constant message, repeated and repeated at the risk of wearying, was: "Gentlemen, you must observe for yourselves. It is your observation and not your memory which counts. It is the patient and not the disease whom you are treating."

Compared with the methods of diagnosis to-day those then were very limited, but Sir Andrew's message was the more important, showing the greatness of the man, who, though at the very top of the tree, never for a moment tried to convey to his followers that his knowledge was final, but that any moment he stood ready to abandon his position for a better one. On one occasion, to illustrate this point, while he was in one of the largest of our wards (one with four divisions and twenty beds each) he was examining a lung case, while a huge class of fifty young doctors stood around.

"What about the sputum, Mr. Jones?" he asked. "What have you observed coming from these lungs?"

"There is not much quantity, sir. It is greenish in colour."

"But what about the microscope, Mr. Jones? What does that show?"

"No examination has been made, sir."

"Gentlemen," he said, "I will now go to the other ward, and you shall choose a specimen of the sputum of some of these cases. When I return we will examine it and see what we can learn."

When he returned, four specimens awaited him, the history and diagnoses of the cases being known only to the class. The class never forgot how by dissolving and boiling, and with the microscope, he told us almost more from his examination of each case than we knew from all our other information. His was real teaching, and reminds one of the Glasgow professor who, in order to emphasize the same point of the value of observation, prepared a little cupful of kerosene, mustard, and castor oil, and calling the attention of his class to it, dipped a finger into the atrocious compound and then sucked his finger. He then passed the mixture around to the students who all did the same with most dire results. When the cup returned and he observed the faces of his students, he remarked: "Gentlemen, I am afraid you did not use your powers of obsairvation. The finger that I put into the cup was no the same one that I stuck in my mouth afterwards."

Sir Stephen Mackenzie, who operated on the Emperor Frederick, was another excellent teacher under whom we had the good fortune to study. Indeed, whatever could be said against the teaching of our college, in this much more important field of learning, the London Hospital was most signally fortunate, and, moreover, was famed not only in London, but all the world over. Our "walking class" used to number men from the United States to Australia, insomuch that the crowds became so large that the teachers could not get room to pass along. It was this fact which led to the practice, now almost universal, of carrying the patient in his bed with a nurse in attendance into the theatre for observation as more comfortable and profitable for all concerned.

On changing over to the surgical side in the hospital, we were employed in a very similar manner, only we were called "dressers," and under the house surgeon had all the care of a number of surgical patients. My good fortune now brought me under the chieftaincy of Sir Frederick Treves, the doyen of teachers. His great message was self-reliance. He taught dogmatically as one having authority, and always insisted that we should make up our minds, have a clear idea of what we were doing, and then do it. His ritual was always thought out, no detail being omitted, and each person had exactly his share of work and his share of responsibility. It used greatly to impress patients, and he never underestimated the psychical value of having their complete confidence. Thus, on one occasion asking a dresser for his diagnosis, the student replied:

"It might be a fracture, sir, or it might be only sprained."

"The patient is not interested to know that it might be measles, or it might be toothache. The patient wants to know what is the matter, and it is your business to tell it to him or he will go to a quack who will inform him at once."

All his teachings were, like Mark Twain's, enhanced by such over-emphasis or exaggeration. He could make an article in the "British Medical Journal" on Cholecystenterostomy amusing to a general reader, and make an ordinary remark as cutting as an amputation knife. He never permitted laxity of any kind in personal appearance or dress, or any imposing on the patients. His habit of saying openly exactly what he meant made many people fear, as much as they respected, him. However, he was always, in spite of it, the most popular of all the chiefs because he was so worth while.

One incident recurs to my mind which I must recount as an example when psychology failed. A Whitechapel "lady," suffering with a very violent form of delirium tremens, was lying screeching in a strait-jacket on the cushioned floor of the padded room. With the usual huge queue of students following, he had gone in to see her, as I had been unable to get the results desired with a reasonable quantity of sedatives and soporifics. It was a very rare occasion, for cases which did not involve active surgery he left strictly alone. After giving a talk on psychical influence he had the jacket removed as "a relic of barbarism," and in a very impressive way looking into her glaring eyes and shaking his forefinger at her, he said: "Now, you are comfortable, my good woman, and will sleep. You will make no more disturbance whatever." There was an unusual silence. The woman remained absolutely passive, and we all turned to follow the chief out. Suddenly the "lady" called out, "Hi, hi,"—and some perverse spirit induced Sir Frederick to return. Looking back with defiant eyes she screamed out, "You! You with a faice! You do think yerself —— —— clever, don't yer?" The strange situation was only relieved by his bursting into a genuine fit of laughter.

Among other celebrated men who were admired and revered was Mr. Harry Fenwick on the surgical side, for whom I had the honour of illustrating in colours his prize Jacksonian essay. Any talent for sketching, especially in colours, is of great value to the student of medicine. Once you have sketched a case from nature, with the object of showing the peculiarity of the abnormality, it remains permanently in your mind. Besides this, it forces you to note small differences; in other words, it teaches you to "obsairve." Thus, in the skin department I was sent to reproduce a case of anthrax of the neck, a rare disease in England, though all men handling raw hides are liable to contract it. The area had to be immediately excised; yet one never could forget the picture on one's mind. On another occasion a case of genuine leprosy was brought in, with all the dreadful signs of the disease. The macula rash was entirely unique so far as I knew, but a sketch greatly helped to fix it on one's memory. The poor patient proved to be one of the men who was handling the meat in London's greatest market at Smithfield. A tremendous hue and cry spread over London when somehow the news got into the paper, and vegetarianism received a temporary boost which in my opinion it still badly needs for the benefit of the popular welfare.

Among the prophets of that day certainly should be numbered another of our teachers, Dr. Sutton, an author, and very much of a personality. For while being one of the consulting physicians of the largest of London hospitals, he was naturally scientific and strictly professional. He was very far, however, from being the conventionalist of those days, and the younger students used to look greatly askance at him. His message always was: "Drugs are very little use whatever. Nature is the source of healing. Give her a chance." Thus, a careful history would be read over to him; all the certain signs of typhoid would be noted—and his comment almost always was: "This case won't benefit by drugs. We will have the bed wheeled out into the sunshine." The next case would be acute lobar pneumonia and the same treatment would be adopted. "This patient needs air, gentlemen. We must wheel him out into the sunshine"—and so on. How near we are coming to his teaching in these days is already impressing itself upon our minds. Unfortunately the fact that the doctors realize that medicines are not so potent as our forbears thought has not left the public with the increased confidence in the profession which the infinitely more rational treatment of to-day justifies, and valuable time is wasted and fatal delays incurred, by a return of the more impressionable public to quacks with high-sounding titles, or to cults where faith is almost credulity.

Truly one has lived through wonderful days in the history of the healing art. The first operations which I saw performed at our hospitals were before Lord Lister's teaching was practised; though even in my boyhood I remember getting leave to run up from Marlborough to London to see my brother, on whom Sir Joseph Lister had operated for osteomyelitis of the leg. Our most famous surgeon in 1880 was Sir Walter Rivington; and to-day there rises in memory the picture of him removing a leg at the thigh, clad in a blood-stained, black velvet coat, and without any attempt at or idea of asepsis. The main thing was speed, although the patient was under ether, and in quickly turning round the tip of the sword-like amputation knife, he made a gash in the patient's other leg. The whole thing seemed horrible enough to us students, but the surgeon smiled, saying, "Fortunately it is of no importance, gentlemen. The man will not live."

The day came when every one worked under clouds of carbolic steam which fizzed and spouted from large brass boilers over everything; and then the time when every one was criticizing the new, young surgeon, Treves, who was daring to discard it, and getting as good results by scrupulous cleanliness. His aphorism was, "Gentlemen, the secret of surgery is the nailbrush." Now with blood examinations, germ cultures, sera tests, X-rays, and a hundred added improvements, one can say to a fisherman in far-off Labrador arriving on a mail steamer, and to whom every hour lost in the fishing season spells calamity, "Yes, brother, you can be operated on and the wound will be healed and you will be ready to go back by the next steamer, unless some utterly unforeseen circumstance arises."

The fallibility of diagnosis was at this very impressionable time fixed upon my mind—a fact that has since served me in good stead. For what can be more reactionary in human life than the man who thinks he knows it all, whether it be in science, philosophy, or religion?

During my Christmas vacation I was asked to go north and visit my father's brother, a well-known captain in Her Majesty's Navy, who was also an inventor in gun machinery and sighting apparatus, and who had been appointed the naval head of Lord Armstrong's great works at Yarrow-on-the-Tyne. All that I was told was that he had been taken with such severe pains in the back that he needed some one with him, and my new-fledged dignity of "walking the hospitals" was supposed to qualify me especially for the post. Already my uncle had seen many doctors in London and had been ordered to the Continent for rest. After some months, not a bit improved, he had again returned to London. This time the doctor told his wife that it was a mental trouble, and that he should be sent to an asylum. This she most indignantly denied, and yet desired my company as the only medical Grenfell, who at such a crisis could stay in the house without being looked upon as a warder or keeper. Meantime they had consulted Sir C.P., who had told my uncle that he had an aneurism of his aorta, and that he must be prepared to have it break and kill him any minute. His preparations were accordingly all made, and personally I fully anticipated that he would fall dead before I left. He put up a wonderful fight against excruciating pain, of which I was frequently a witness. But the days went by and nothing happened, so I returned to town and another young doctor took my place. He also got tired of waiting and suggested it might be some spinal trouble. He induced them once more to visit London and see Sir Victor Horsley, whose work on the brains of animals and men had marked an epoch in our knowledge of the central nervous system. Some new symptoms had now supervened, and the famous neurologist at once diagnosed a tumour in the spinal canal. Such a case had never previously been operated on successfully, but there was no alternative. The operation was brilliantly performed and a wonderful success obtained. The case was quoted in the next edition of our surgical textbooks.

A little later my father's health began to fail in London, the worries and troubles of a clergyman's work among the poor creatures who were constantly passing under his care utterly overwhelming him. We had agreed that a long change of thought was necessary and he and I started for a fishing and sight-seeing tour in Norway. Our steamer was to sail from the Tyne, and we went up to Newcastle to catch it. There some evil fiend persuaded my father to go and consult a doctor about his illness, for Newcastle has produced some well-known names in medicine. Thus, while I waited at the hotel to start, my father became persuaded that he had some occult disease of the liver, and must remain in Newcastle for treatment. I, however, happened to be treasurer of the voyage, and for the first time asserting my professional powers, insisted that I was family physician for the time, and turned up in the evening with all our round-trip tickets and reservations taken and paid for. In the morning I had the trunks packed and conveyed aboard, and we sailed together for one of the most enjoyable holidays I ever spent. We travelled much afoot and in the little native carriages called "stolkjaerre," just jogging along, staying anywhere, fishing in streams, and living an open-air life which the increasing flood of tourists in after years have made much less possible. We both came back fitter in body and soul for our winter's work.

My father's death a year later made a great difference to me, my mother removing to live with my grandmother at Hampstead, it being too lonely and not safe for her to live alone in East London. Twice our house had been broken into by burglars, though both times fruitlessly. The second occasion was in open daylight during the hour of evening service on a Sunday. Only a couple of maids would have been in the house had I not been suffering from two black eyes contracted during the Saturday's football game. Though I had accompanied the others out, decidedly my appearance might have led to misinterpretations in church, and I had returned unnoticed. The men escaped by some method which they had discovered of scaling a high fence, but I was close behind following them through the window by which they had entered. Shortly afterward I happened to be giving evidence at the Old Bailey on one of the many cases of assault and even murder where the victims were brought into hospital as patients. London was ringing with the tale of a barefaced murder at Murray Hill in North London, where an exceedingly clever piece of detective work, an old lantern discovered in a pawnbroker's shop in Whitechapel—miles away from the scene of the crime—was the means of bringing to trial four of the most rascally looking villains I ever saw. The trial preceded ours and we had to witness it. One of the gang had turned "Queen's evidence" to save his own neck. So great was the hatred of the others for him and the desire for revenge that even in the court they were hand-cuffed and in separate stands. Fresh from my own little fracas I learned what a fool I had been, for in this case also the deed was done in open daylight, and the lawn had tight wires stretched across it. The young son, giving chase as I did, had been tripped up and shot through his abdomen for his pains. He had, however, crawled back, made his will, and was subsequently only saved by a big operation. He looked in terrible shape when giving evidence at the trial.

The giving of expert evidence on such occasions was the only opportunity which the young sawbones had of earning money. True we only got a guinea a day and expenses, but there were no other movie shows in those days, and we learned a lot about medical jurisprudence, a subject which always greatly interested me. It was no uncommon sight either at the "London" or the "Poplar," at both of which I did interne work, to see a policeman always sitting behind the screen at the foot of the patient's bed. One man, quite a nice fellow when not occupied in crime, had when furiously drunk killed his wife and cut his own throat. By the curious custom of society all the skill and money that the hospital could offer to save a most valuable life was as usual devoted to restoring this man to health. He was weaned slowly back from the grave by special nurses and treatment, till it began to dawn upon him that he might have to stand his trial. He would ask me if I thought he would have to undergo a long term, for he had not been conscious of what he was doing. As he grew better, and the policeman arrived to watch him, he decided that it would probably be quite a long time. He had a little place of his own somewhere, and he used to have chickens and other presents sent up to fellow patients, and would have done so to the nurses, only they could not receive them. I was not personally present at his trial, but I felt really sorry to hear that they hanged him.

Many of these poor fellows were only prevented from ending their own lives by our using extreme care. The case of one wretched man, driven to desperation, I still remember. "Patient male; age forty-five; domestic trouble—fired revolver into his mouth. Finding no phenomena of interest develop, fired a second chamber into his right ear. Still no symptoms worthy of notice. Patient threw away pistol and walked to hospital." Both bullets had lodged in the thick parts of his skull, and doing no damage were left there. A subsequent note read: "Patient to-day tried to cut his throat with a dinner-knife which he had hidden in his bed. Patient met with no success." Another of my cases which interested me considerably was that of a professional burglar who had been operated upon in almost every part of the kingdom, and was inclined to be communicative, as the job which had brought him to hospital had cost him a broken spine. Very little hope was held out to him that he would ever walk again. He was clear of murder, for he said it was never his practice to carry firearms, being a nervous man and apt to use them if he had them and got alarmed when busy burglaring. He relied chiefly on his extraordinary agility and steady head to escape. His only yarn, however, was his last. He and a friend had been detailed by the gang to the job of plundering one of a row of houses. The plans of the house and of the enterprise were all in order, but some unexpected alarm was given and he fled upstairs, climbed through a skylight onto the roof, and ran along the gables of the tiles, not far ahead of the police, who were armed and firing at him. He could easily have gotten away, as he could run along the coping of the brick parapet without turning a hair, but he was brought up by a narrow side street on which he had not counted, not having anticipated, like cats, a battle on the tiles. It was only some twelve or fifteen feet across the gap, and the landing on the other side was a flat roof. Taking it all at a rush he cleared the street successfully, but the flat roof, black with ages of soot, proved to be a glass skylight, and he entered a house in a way new even to him. His falling on a stone floor many feet below accounted for his "unfortunate accident"! After many months in bed, the man took an unexpected turn, his back mended, and with only a slight leg paralysis he was able to return to the outside world. His long suffering and incarceration in hospital were accepted by the law as his punishment, and he assured me by all that he held sacred that he intended to retire into private life. Oddly enough, however, while on another case, I saw him again in the prisoner's dock and at once went over and spoke to him.

"Drink this time, Doctor," he said. "I was down on my luck and the barkeeper went out and left his till open. I climbed over and got the cash, but there was so little space between the bar and the wall that with my stiff back I couldn't for the life of me get back. I was jammed like a stopper in a bottle."

Among many interesting experiences, one especially I shall never forget. Like the others, it occurred during my service for Sir Frederick Treves as house-surgeon, and I believe he told the story. A very badly burned woman had been brought into hospital. Her dress had somehow got soaked in paraffin and had then taken fire. Her terribly extensive burns left no hope whatever of her recovery, and only the conventions of society kept us from giving the poor creature the relief of euthanasia, or some cup of laudanum negus. But the law was interested. A magistrate was brought to the bedside and the husband sent for. The nature of the evidence, the meaning of an oath, the importance of the poor creature acknowledging that her words were spoken "in hopeless fear of immediate death," were all duly impressed upon what remained of her mind. The police then brought in the savage, degraded-looking husband, and made him stand between two policemen at the foot of the bed, facing his mangled wife. The magistrate, after preliminary questions, asked her to make her dying statement as to how she came by her death. There was a terrible moment of silence. It seemed as if her spirit were no longer able to respond to the stimuli of life on earth. Then a sudden rebound appeared to take place, her eyes lit up with a flash of light, and even endeavouring to raise her piteous body, she said, "It was an accident, Judge. I upset the lamp myself, so help me God"; and just for one moment her eyes met those of her miserable husband. It was the last time she spoke.

Tragedy and comedy ran hand in hand even in this work. St. Patrick's Day always made the hospital busy, just as Christmas was the season for burned children. Beer in an East London "pub" was generally served in pewter pots, as they were not easily broken. A common head injury was a circular scalp cut made by the heavy bottom rim, a wound which bled horribly. A woman was brought in on one St. Patrick's Day, her scalp turned forward over her face and her long hair a mass of clotted blood from such a stroke, made while she was on the ground. When the necessary readjustments had been made and she was leaving hospital cured, we asked her what had been the cause of the trouble. "'Twas just an accidint, yer know. Sure, me an' another loidy was just havin' a few words."

On another occasion late at night, we were called out of bed by a cantankerous, half-drunken fellow whom the night porter could not pacify. "I'm a regular subscriber to this hospital, and I have never had my dues yet," he kept protesting. A new drug to produce immediate vomiting had just been put on the market, and as it was exactly the treatment he required, we gave him an injection. To our dismay, though the medicine is in common use to-day, either the poison which he had been drinking or the drug itself caused a collapse followed by head symptoms. He was admitted, his head shaved and icebags applied, with the result that next day he was quite well again. But when he left he had, instead of a superabundance of curly, auburn hair, a polished white knob oiled and shining like a State House at night. We debated whether his subscription would be as regular in future, though he professed to be profoundly grateful.

I have digressed, but the intimacy which grew up between some of my patients and myself seemed worth while recounting, for they showed me what I never in any other way could have understood about the seamy side of life in great cities, of its terrible tragedies and pathos, of how much good there is in the worst, and how much need of courage, and what vast opportunities lie before those who accept the service of man as their service to God. It proved to me how infinitely more needed are unselfish deeds than orthodox words, and how much the churches must learn from the Labour Party, the Socialist Party, the Trades-Union, before tens of thousands of our fellow beings, with all their hopes and fears, loves and aspirations, have a fair chance to make good. I learned also to hate the liquor traffic with a loathing of my soul. I met peers of the realm honoured with titles because they had grown rich on the degradation of my friends. I saw lives damned, cruelties of every kind perpetrated, jails and hospitals filled, misery, want, starvation, murder, all caused by men who fattened off the profits and posed as gentlemen and great people. I have seen men's mouths closed whose business in life it was to speak out against this accursed trade. I have seen men driven from the profession of priests of God, making the Church a stench in the nostrils of men who knew values just as well as those trained in the universities do, all through alcohol, alcohol, alcohol. This awful war has been dragging its weary course for over four years now, and yet England has not tackled this curse which is throttling her. We sing "God save the King," and pretend to believe in the prayer, and yet we will not face this glaring demon in our midst. Words may clothe ideas, but it takes deeds to realize them.

* * * * *

My parents having gone, it became necessary for me to find lodgings—which I did, "unfurnished," in the house of a Portuguese widow. Her husband, who had a good family name, had gone down in the world, and had disappeared with another "lady." The eldest son, a mathematical genius, had been able to pay his way through Cambridge University by the scholarships and prizes which he had won. One beautiful little dark-eyed daughter of seven was playing in a West End Theatre as the dormouse in "Alice in Wonderland." She was second fiddle to Alice herself, also, and could sing all her songs. Her pay was some five pounds a week, poor enough for the attraction she proved, but more than all the rest of the family put together earned. At that time I never went to theatres. Acquaintances had persuaded me that so many of the girls were ruined on the stage that for a man taking any interest in Christian work whatever, it was wrong to attend. Moreover, among my acquaintances there were not a few theatre fans, and I had nothing in common with them. The "dormouse," however, used to come up and say her parts for my benefit, and that of occasional friends, and was so modest and winsome, and her earnings so invaluable to the family, that I entirely altered my opinion. Then and there I came to the conclusion that the drama was an essential part of art, and that those who were trying to elevate and cleanse it, like Sir Henry Irving, whose son I had met at Marlborough, must have the support of a public who demanded clean plays and good conditions both in front and behind the screen. When I came to London my father had asked me not to go to anything but Shakespearian or equally well-recognized plays until I was twenty-one. Only once did I enter a music hall and I had plenty to satisfy me in a very few minutes. Vaudevilles are better than in those days. The censor does good work, but it is still the demand which creates the supply, and whatever improvement has occurred has been largely due to the taste of the patrons. Medical students need all the open air they can get in order to keep body and soul fit, and our contempt for the theatre fan was justifiable.

My new lodgings being close to Victoria Park afforded the opportunity for training if one were unconventional. To practise throwing the sixteen-pound hammer requires rough ground and plenty of space, and as I was scheduled for that at the inter-hospital sports, it was necessary to work when not too many disinterested parties were around. Even an East-Ender's skull is not hammer-proof, as I had seen when a poor woman was brought into hospital with five circular holes in her head, the result of blows inflicted by her husband with a hammer. The only excuse which the ruffian offered for the murder was that she had forgotten to wake him, he had been late, and lost his job.

A number of the boys in my class were learning to swim. There was only one bathing lake and once the waters were troubled we drew the line at going in to give lessons. So we used to meet at the gate at the hour of opening in the morning, and thus be going back before most folks were moving. Nor did we always wait for the park keeper, but often scaled the gates and so obtained an even more exclusive dip. Many an evening we would also "flannel," and train round and round the park, or Hackney Common, to improve one's wind before some big event. For diet at that time I used oatmeal, milk, and eggs, and very little or no meat. It was cheaper and seemed to give me more endurance; and the real value of money was dawning on me.

Victoria Park is one of those open forums where every man with a sore spot goes out to air his grievance. On Sundays there were little groups around the trees where orators debated on everything from a patent medicine to the nature of God. Charles Bradlaugh and Mrs. Annie Besant were associated together in iconoclastic efforts against orthodox religion, and there was so much truth in some of their contentions that they were making no little disturbance. Hanging on their skirts were a whole crowd of ignorant, dogmatic atheists, who published a paper called "The Freethinker," which, while it was a villainous and contemptible rag, appealed to the passions and prejudices of the partially educated. To answer the specious arguments of their propaganda an association known as the Christian Evidence Society used to send out lecturers. One of them became quite famous for his clever arguments and answers, his ready wit, and really extensive reading. He was an Antiguan, a black man named Edwards, and had been a sailor before the mast. I met him at the parish house of an Episcopal clergyman of a near-by church, who, under the caption of Christian socialism, ran all kinds of social agencies that really found their way to the hearts of the people. His messages were so much more in deeds than in words that he greatly appealed to me, and I transferred my allegiance to his church, which was always well filled. I particularly remember among his efforts the weekly parish dance. My religious acquaintances were apt to class all such simple amusements in a sort of general category as "works of the Devil," and turn deaf ears to every invitation to point out any evil results, being satisfied with their own statement that it was the "thin edge of the wedge." This good man, however, was very obviously driving a wedge into the hearts of many of his poor neighbours who in those days found no opportunity for relief in innocent pleasures from the sordid round of life in the drab purlieus of Bethnal Green. This clergyman was a forerunner of his neighbour, the famous Samuel Barnett of Mile End, who thought out, started, and for many years presided over Toynbee House, the first big university settlement in East London. His workers preached their gospel through phrases and creeds which they accepted with mental reservations, but just exactly in such ways as they believed in absolutely. At first it used to send a shiver down my spine to find a church worker who didn't believe in the Creed, and stumbled over all our fundamentals. At first it amazed me that such men would pay their own expenses to live in a place like Whitechapel, only to work on drain committees, as delinquent landlord mentors, or just to give special educational chances to promising minds, or physical training to unfit bodies. Yet one saw in their efforts undeniable messages of real love. Personally I could only occasionally run up there to meet friends in residence or attend an art exhibition, but they taught me many lessons.

Exactly opposite the hospital was Oxford House, only two minutes distant, which combined definite doctrinal religion with social work. Being an Oxford effort it had great attractions for me. Moreover, right alongside it in the middle of a disused sugar refinery I had hired the yard, converted it into a couple of lawn-tennis courts, and ran a small club. There I first met the famous Dr. Hensley Henson, now Bishop of Hereford, and also the present Bishop of London, Dr. Winnington-Ingram—a good all-round athlete. He used to visit in our wards, and as we had a couple of fives courts, a game which takes little tune and gives much exercise, we used to have an afternoon off together, once a week, when he came over to hospital. Neither of these splendid men were dignitaries in those days, or I am afraid they would have found us medicals much more stand-offish. I may as well admit that we had not then learned to have any respect for bishops or church magnates generally. We liked both of these men because they were unconventional and good sports, and especially in that they were not afraid to tackle the atheist's propaganda in the open. I have seen Dr. Henson in Whitechapel debating alone against a hall full of opponents and with a fairness and infinite restraint, convincing those open to reason that they were mistaken. Moreover, I have seen Dr. Ingram doing just the same thing standing on a stone in the open park. It may all sound very silly when one knows that by human minds, or to the human mind, the Infinite can never be demonstrated as a mathematical proposition. But the point was that these clergy were proving that they were real men—men who had courage as well as faith, who believed in themselves and their message, who deserved the living which they were supposed to make out of orthodoxy. This the audience knew was more than could be said of many of the opponents. Christ himself showed his superb manhood in just such speaking out.

Indelibly impressed on my mind still is an occasion when one of the most blatant and vicious of these opponents of religion fell ill. A Salvation Army lass found him deserted and in poverty, nursed and looked after him and eventually made a new man of him.

Far and away the most popular of the Park speakers was the Antiguan. His arguments were so clever it was obvious that he was well and widely read. His absolute understanding of the crowd and his witty repartee used frequently to cause his opponents to lose their tempers, and that was always their undoing. The crowd as a rule was very fair and could easily distinguish arguments from abuse. Thus, on one Sunday the debate was as to whether nature was God. The atheist representative was a very loud-voiced demagogue, who when angry betrayed his Hibernian origin very markedly. Having been completely worsted and the laugh turned against him by a clever correction of some one's, he used the few minutes given him to reply in violent abuse, ending up that "ladies and gentlemen did not come out on holidays to spend their time being taught English by a damned nigger."

"Sir," Edwards answered from the crowd, "I am a British subject, born on the island of Antigua, and as much an Englishman as any Irishman in the country."

Edwards possessed an inexhaustible stock of good-humour and his laugh could be heard halfway across the Park. As soon as his turn came to mount the stone, he got the crowd so good-natured that they became angry at the interruptions of the enemy, and when some one suggested that if nature were that man's God, the near-by duckpond was the natural place for him, there was a rush for him, and for several subsequent Sundays he was not in evidence. Edwards was a poor man, his small salary and incessant generosity left him nothing for holidays, and he was killing himself with overwork. So we asked him to join us in the new house which we were fitting up in Palestine Place. He most gladly did so and added enormously to our fun. Unfortunately tuberculosis long ago got its grip upon him, and removed a valuable life from East London.

It was a queer little beehive in which we lived in those days, and a more cosmopolitan crowd could hardly have been found: one young doctor who has since made his name and fortune in Australia; another in whose rooms were nearly a hundred cups for prowess in nearly every form of athletics, and who also has "made good" in professional life, besides several others who for shorter or longer periods were allotted rooms in our house. Among the more unusual was the "C.M.," a Brahmin from India, a priest in his youth, who had been brought back to England by some society to be educated in medical missionary work, but whom for some reason they had dropped. For a short time a clever young Russian of Hebrew extraction who was studying for the Church helped to render our common-room social engagements almost international affairs.

As I write this I am at Charleston, South Carolina, and I see how hard it will be for an American to understand the possibility of such a motley assembly being reasonable or even proper. It seems to me down here that there must have been odd feelings sometimes in those days. I can only say, however, that I never personally even thought of it. East London is so democratic that one's standards are simply those of the value of the man's soul as we saw it. If he had been yellow with pink stripes it honestly would not have mattered one iota to most of us.

It so happened that there was at that time in hospital under my care a patient known as "the elephant man." He had been starring under that title in a cheap vaudeville, had been seen by some of the students, and invited over to be shown to and studied by our best physicians. The poor fellow was really exceedingly sensitive about his most extraordinary appearance. The disease was called "leontiasis," and consisted of an enormous over-development of bone and skin on one side. His head and face were so deformed as really to resemble a big animal's head with a trunk. My arms would not reach around his hat. A special room in a yard was allotted to him, and several famous people came to see him—among them Queen Alexandra, then the Princess of Wales, who afterward sent him an autographed photograph of herself. He kept it in his room, which was known as the "elephant house," and it always suggested beauty and the beast. Only at night could the man venture out of doors, and it was no unusual thing in the dusk of nightfall to meet him walking up and down in the little courtyard. He used to talk freely of how he would look in a huge bottle of alcohol—an end to which in his imagination he was fated to come. He was of a very cheerful disposition and pathetically proud of his left side which was normal. Very suddenly one day he died—the reason assigned being that his head fell forward and choked him, being too heavy for him to lift up.

In 1886 I passed my examinations and duly became a member of the College of Physicians and of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; and sought some field for change and rest, where also I could use my newly acquired license to my own, if to no one else's, benefit. Among the patients who came to the London Hospital, there were now and again fishermen from the large fishing fleets of the North Sea. They lived out, as it were, on floating villages, sending their fish to market every day by fast cutters. Every two or three months, as their turn came round, a vessel would leave for the home port on the east coast, being permitted, or supposed to be permitted, a day at home for each full week at sea. As the fleets kept the sea summer and winter and the boats were small, not averaging over sixty tons, it was a hazardous calling. The North Sea is nowhere deeper than thirty fathoms, much of it being under twenty, and in some places only five. Indeed, it is a recently sunken and still sinking portion of Europe, so much so that the coasts on both sides are constantly receding, and when Heligoland was handed over by the English to the Kaiser, it was said that he would have to keep jacking it up or soon there would be none left. Shallow waters exposed to the fierce gales which sweep the German Ocean make deep and dangerous seas, which readily break and wash the decks of craft with low freeboard, such as the North Sea vessels are obliged to have in order to get boats in and out to ferry their fish to the cutter.

There being no skilled aid at hand, the quickest way to get help used to be to send an injured man to market with the fish. Often it was a long journey of many days, simple fractures became compound, and limbs and faculties were often thus lost. It so happened that Sir Frederick Treves had himself a love for navigating in small sailing craft. He had made it a practice to cross the English Channel to Calais in a sailing lugger every Boxing Day—that is, the day after Christmas. He was especially interested in those "that go down to the sea in ships" and had recently made a trip among the fishing fleets. He told me that a small body of men, interested in the religious and social welfare of the deep-sea fishermen, had chartered a small fishing smack, sent her out among the fishermen to hold religious services of a simple, unconventional type, in order to afford the men an alternative to the grog vessels when fishing was slack, and to carry first aid, the skipper of the vessel being taught ambulance work. They wanted, however, very much to get a young doctor to go out, who cared also for the spiritual side of the work, to see if they could use the additional attraction of proper medical aid to gain the men's sympathies. His advice to me was to go and have a look at it. "If you go in January you will see some fine seascapes, anyhow. Don't go in summer when all of the old ladies go for a rest."

I therefore applied to go out the following January, and that fall, while working near the Great London docks, I used often to look at the tall East Indiamen, thinking that I soon should be aboard just such a vessel in the North Sea. It was dark and raining when my train ran into Yarmouth, and a dripping, stout fisherman in a blue uniform met me at that then unattractive and ill-lighted terminus. He had brought a forlorn "growler" or four-wheeled cab. Climbing in we drove a mile or more along a deserted road, and drew up at last apparently at the back of beyond.

"Where is the ship?" I asked.

"Why, those are her topmasts," replied my guide, pointing to two posts projecting from the sand. "The tide is low and she is hidden by the quay."

"Heavens!" I thought; "she's no tea clipper, anyhow."

I climbed up the bank and peered down in the darkness at the hull of a small craft, a little larger than our old Roysterer. She was just discernible by the dim rays of the anchor light. I was hesitating as to whether I shouldn't drive back to Yarmouth and return to London when a cheery voice on deck called out a hearty welcome. What big things hang on a smile and a cheery word no man can ever say. But it broke the spell this time and I had my cabby unload my bags on the bank and bade him good-night. As his wheels rumbled away into the rain and dark, I felt that my cables were cut beyond recall. Too late to save me, the cheery voice shouted, "Mind the rigging, it's just tarred and greased." I was already sliding down and sticking to it as I went. Small as the vessel was she was absolutely spotless. Her steward, who cooked for all hands, was smart and in a snow-white suit. The contrast between-decks and that above was very comforting, though my quarters were small. The crew were all stocky, good-humoured, and independent. Democratic as East London had made me, they impressed me very favourably, and I began to look forward to the venture with real pleasure.

Drink was the worst enemy of these men. The quaysides of the fisherman's quarters teemed with low saloons. Wages were even paid off in them or their annexes, and grog vessels, luring the men aboard with cheap tobacco and low literature, plied their nefarious calling with the fleets, and were the death, body and soul, of many of these fine specimens of manhood.

There was never any question as to the real object of the Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen. The words "Heal the sick" carved in large letters adorned the starboard bow. "Preach the Word" was on the port, and around the brass rim of the wheel ran the legend, "Jesus said, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Thirty years ago we were more conventional than to-day, and I was much surprised to learn from our skipper that we were bound to Ostend to ship four tons of tobacco, sent over from England for us in bond, as he might not take it out consigned to the high seas. In Belgium, however, no duty was paid. The only trouble was that our vessel, to help pay its expenses, carried fishing gear, and as a fishing vessel could not get a clearance in Belgium. Our nets and beams, therefore, had to go out to the fishing grounds in a friendly trawler while we passed as a mercantile marine during the time we took on our cargo.

So bitter was the cold that in the harbour we got frozen in and were able to skate up the canals. We had eventually to get a steamer to go around us and smash our ice bonds when we were again ready for sea. During the next two months we saw no land except Heligoland and Terschelling—or Skilling, as the fishermen called it—far away in the offing. Nor was our deck once clear of ice and snow during all the time.

Our duty was to visit as many fleets as we could, and arrange with some reliable vessel to take a stock of tobacco for the use of their special fleet. The ship was to carry about six feet of blue bunting on her foretopmast stay, a couple of fathoms above her bowsprit end, so that all the fleet might know her. She was to sell the tobacco at a fixed price that just covered the cost, and undersold the "coper" by fifty per cent. She was to hoist her flag for business every morning, while the small boats were out boarding fish on the carrier, and was to lie as far to leeward of the coper as possible so that the men could not go to both. Nineteen such floating depots were eventually arranged for, with the precaution that if any one of them had to return to port, he should bring no tobacco home, but hand over his stock and accounts to a reliable friend.

These deep-sea fisheries were a revelation to me, and every hour of the long trip I enjoyed. It was amazing to me to find over twenty thousand men and boys afloat—the merriest, cheerfullest lot which I had ever met. They were hail-fellow-well-met with every one, and never thought of deprivation or danger. Clothing, food, customs, were all subordinated to utility. They were the nearest possible thing to a community of big boys, only needing a leader. In efficiency and for their daring resourcefulness in physical difficulties and dangers, they were absolutely in a class by themselves, embodying all the traits of character which make men love to read the stories of the buccaneers and other seamen of the sixteenth-century period.

Each fleet had its admiral and vice-admiral, appointed partly by the owner, and partly by the skippers of the vessels. The devil-may-care spirit was always a great factor with the men. The admiral directed operations by flags in the daytime and by rockets at night, thus indicating what the fleet was to do and where they were to fish. Generally he had the fastest boat, and the cutters, hunting for the fleet always lay just astern of the admiral, the morning after their arrival. Hundreds of men would come for letters, packages, to load fish, to get the news of what their last assignment fetched in market. Moreover, a kind of Parliament was held aboard to consider policies and hear complaints.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse