As we left the banker's office someone else was ushered in. "Here's another gentleman to open an account," said the assistant. "We hope he knows what he had for lunch," we said to the banker.
ON VISITING BOOKSHOPS
It Is a curious thing that so many people only go into a bookshop when they happen to need some particular book. Do they never drop in for a little innocent carouse and refreshment? There are some knightly souls who even go so far as to make their visits to bookshops a kind of chivalrous errantry at large. They go in not because they need any certain volume, but because they feel that there may be some book that needs them. Some wistful, little forgotten sheaf of loveliness, long pining away on an upper shelf—why not ride up, fling her across your charger (or your charge account), and gallop away. Be a little knightly, you book-lovers!
The lack of intelligence with which people use bookshops is, one supposes, no more flagrant than the lack of intelligence with which we use all the rest of the machinery of civilization. In this age, and particularly in this city, we haven't time to be intelligent.
A queer thing about books, if you open your heart to them, is the instant and irresistible way they follow you with their appeal. You know at once, if you are clairvoyant in these matters (libre-voyant, one might say), when you have met your book. You may dally and evade, you may go on about your affairs, but the paragraph of prose your eye fell upon, or the snatch of verses, or perhaps only the spirit and flavour of the volume, more divined than reasonably noted, will follow you. A few lines glimpsed on a page may alter your whole trend of thought for the day, reverse the currents of the mind, change the profile of the city. The other evening, on a subway car, we were reading Walter de la Mare's interesting little essay about Rupert Brooke. His discussion of children, their dreaming ways, their exalted simplicity and absorption, changed the whole tenor of our voyage by some magical chemistry of thought. It was no longer a wild, barbaric struggle with our fellowmen, but a venture of faith and recompense, taking us home to the bedtime of a child.
The moment when one meets a book and knows, beyond shadow of doubt, that that book must be his—not necessarily now, but some time—is among the happiest excitements of the spirit. An indescribable virtue effuses from some books. One can feel the radiations of an honest book long before one sees it, if one has a sensitive pulse for such affairs. Its honour and truth will speak through the advertising. Its mind and heart will cry out even underneath the extravagance of jacket-blurbings. Some shrewd soul, who understands books, remarked some time ago on the editorial page of the Sun's book review that no superlative on a jacket had ever done the book an atom of good. He was right, as far as the true bookster is concerned. We choose our dinner not by the wrappers, but by the veining and gristle of the meat within. The other day, prowling about a bookshop, we came upon two paper-bound copies of a little book of poems by Alice Meynell. They had been there for at least two years. We had seen them before, a year or more ago, but had not looked into them fearing to be tempted. This time we ventured. We came upon two poems—"To O, Of Her Dark Eyes," and "A Wind of Clear Weather in England." The book was ours—or rather, we were its, though we did not yield at once. We came back the next day and got it. We are still wondering how a book like that could stay in the shop so long. Once we had it, the day was different. The sky was sluiced with a clearer blue, air and sunlight blended for a keener intake of the lungs, faces seen along the street moved us with a livelier shock of interest and surprise. The wind that moved over Sussex and blew Mrs. Meynell's heart into her lines was still flowing across the ribs and ledges of our distant scene.
There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love, and like that colossal adventure it is an experience of great social import. Even as the tranced swain, the book-lover yearns to tell others of his bliss. He writes letters about it, adds it to the postscript of all manner of communications, intrudes it into telephone messages, and insists on his friends writing down the title of the find. Like the simple-hearted betrothed, once certain of his conquest, "I want you to love her, too!" It is a jealous passion also. He feels a little indignant if he finds that any one else has discovered the book, too. He sees an enthusiastic review—very likely in The New Republic—and says, with great scorn, "I read the book three months ago." There are even some perversions of passion by which a book-lover loses much of his affection for his pet if he sees it too highly commended by some rival critic.
This sharp ecstasy of discovering books for one's self is not always widespread. There are many who, for one reason or another, prefer to have their books found out for them. But for the complete zealot nothing transcends the zest of pioneering for himself. And therefore working for a publisher is, to a certain type of mind, a never-failing fascination. As H. M. Tomlinson says in "Old Junk," that fascinating collection of sensitive and beautifully poised sketches which came to us recently with a shock of thrilling delight:
To come upon a craft rigged so, though at her moorings and with sails furled, her slender poles upspringing from the bright plane of a brimming harbour, is to me as rare and sensational a delight as the rediscovery, when idling with a book, of a favourite lyric.
To read just that passage, and the phrase the bright plane of a brimming harbour, is one of those "rare and sensational delights" that set the mind moving on lovely journeys of its own, and mark off visits to a bookshop not as casual errands of reason, but as necessary acts of devotion. We visit bookshops not so often to buy any one special book, but rather to rediscover, in the happier and more expressive words of others, our own encumbered soul.
We are going to tell the truth. It has been on our mind for some time. We are going to tell it exactly, without any balancing or trimming or crimped edges. We are weary of talking about trivialities and are going to come plump and plain to the adventures of our own mind. These are real adventures, just as real as the things we see. The green frog that took refuge on our porch last night was no more real. Perhaps frogs don't care so much for wet as they are supposed to, for when that excellent thunderstorm came along and the ceiling of the night was sheeted with lilac brightness, through which ran quivering threads of naked fire (not just the soft, tame, flabby fire of the domestic hearth, but the real core and marrow of flame, its hungry, terrible, destroying self), our friend the frog came hopping up on the porch where we stood, apparently to take shelter. How brilliant was his black and silver eye when we picked him up! His direct and honourable regard somehow made us feel ashamed, we know not why. And yet we have plenty to be ashamed about—but how did he know? He was still on the porch this morning. Equally real was the catbird on the hedge as we came down toward the station. She—we call her so, for there was unmistakable ladyhood in her delicately tailored trimness—she bickered at us in a cheerful way, on top of those bushes which were so loaded with the night's rainfall that they shone a blurred cobweb gray in the lifting light. Her eye was also dark and polished and lucid, like a bead of ink. It also had the same effect of tribulation on our spirit. Neither the catbird nor the frog, we said to ourself, would have tormented their souls trying to "invent" something to write about. They would have told what happened to them, and let it go at that. So, as we walked along under an arcade of maple trees, admiring the little green seed-biplanes brought down by the thrash of the rain—they look rather as though they would make good coathangers for fairies—we asked ourself why we could not be as straightforward as the bird and the frog, and talk about what was in our mind.
The most exciting thing that happened to us when we got to New York last February was finding a book in a yellow wrapper. Its title was "Old Junk," which appealed to us. The name of the author was H. M. Tomlinson, which immediately became to us a name of honour and great meaning. All day and every day intelligent men find themselves surrounded by oceans of what is quaintly called "reading matter." Most of it is turgid, lumpy, fuzzy in texture, squalid in intellect. The rewards of the literary world—that is, the tangible, potable, spendable rewards—go mostly to the cheapjack and the mountebank. And yet here was a man who in every paragraph spoke to the keenest intellectual sense—who, ten times a page, enchanted the reader with the surprising and delicious pang given by the critically chosen word. We sat up late at night reading that book, marvelling at our good fortune. We wanted to cry aloud (to such as cared to understand), "Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for here is born a man who knows how to write!" In our exuberance we seized a pen and wrote in the stern of our copy: "Here speaks the Lord God of prose; here is the clear eye, the ironic mind, the compassionate heart; the thrilling honesty and (apparent) simplicity of great work." Then we set about making the book known to our friends. We propelled them into bookshops and made them buy it. We took our own copy down to William McFee on S.S. Turrialba and a glad heart was ours when he, too, said it was "the real thing." This is a small matter, you say? When the discovery of an honest pen becomes a small matter life will lose something of its savour. Those who understand will understand; let the others spend their time in the smoker playing pinochle. Those who care about these things can get the book for themselves.
Of Mr. Tomlinson in person: he is a London newspaperman, we understand, and now on the staff of the London Nation. (Trust Mr. Massingham, the editor of that journal, to know an honest writer when he sees him.) Mr. Tomlinson says of himself:
My life is like my portrait. It won't bear investigation. I am not conscious of having done anything that would interest either a policeman or the young lady of the kind who dotes on Daddy Long Legs; worse luck. It's about time I got down to business and did something interesting either to one or the other. That is why it won't bear investigation, this record of mine. I am about as entertaining as one of the crowd coming out of the factory gates with his full dinner pail. All my adventures have been no more than keeping that pail moderately full. I've been doing that since I was twelve, in all sorts of ways. I was an office boy and a clerk among London's ships, in the last days of the clippers. And I am forced to recall some of the things—such as bookkeeping in a jam factory and stoking on a tramp steamer—I can understand why I and my fellows, without wanting to, drifted about in indecision till we drifted into war and drifted into peace. And of course, I've been a journalist. I am still; and so have seen much of Africa, America, and Europe, without knowing exactly why. I was in France in 1914—the August, too, of that year, and woke up from that nightmare in 1917, after the Vimy Ridge attack, when I returned to England to sit with my wife and children in a cellar whenever it was a fine night and listened to the guns and bombs. God, who knows all, might make something of this sort of inconsequential drift of one day into the next, but I give it up.
But now we pass to the phase of the matter that puzzles us. How is it that there are some books which can never have abiding life until they perish and are born again? We have noticed it so often. There is a book of a certain sort to which this process seems inevitable. One need only mention Leonard Merrick or Samuel Butler as examples. The book, we will suppose, has some peculiar subtlety or flavour of appeal. (We are thinking at the moment of William McFee's "Letters From an Ocean Tramp.") It is published and falls dead. Later on—usually about ten years later—it is taken up with vigour by some other publisher, the stone is rolled away from the sepulchre, and it begins to move among its destined lovers.
This remark is caused by our delighted discovery of a previous book by the author of "Old Junk." "The Sea and the Jungle" is the title of it, the tale of a voyage on the tramp steamer Capella, from Swansea to Para in the Brazils, and thence 2,000 miles along the forests of the Amazon and Madeira rivers. It is the kind of book whose readers will never forget it; the kind of book that happens to some happy writers once in a lifetime (and to many never at all) when the moving hand seems gloriously in gear with the tremulous and busy mind, and all the spinning earth stands hearkeningly still waiting for the perfect expression of the thought. It is the work of a hand trained in laborious task-work and then set magnificently free, for a few blessed months, under no burden save that of putting its captaining spirit truthfully on paper. And this book—in which there is a sea passage that not even Mr. Conrad has ever bettered—this book, which makes the utmost self-satisfied heroics of the Prominent Writers of our market place shrivel uncomfortably in remembrance—this book, we repeat, though published in this country in 1913, has been long out of print; and the copy which we were lucky enough to lay hand on through the courtesy of the State Librarian of Pennsylvania had not previously been borrowed since November 18, 1913. Someone asks us if this man can really write. Let us choose a paragraph for example. This deals with the first day at sea of the tramp steamer Capella:
It was December, but by luck we found a halcyon morning which had got lost in the year's procession. It was a Sunday morning, and it had not been ashore. It was still virgin, bearing a vestal light. It had not been soiled yet by any suspicion of this trampled planet, this muddy star, which its innocent and tenuous rays had discovered in the region of night. I thought it still was regarding us as a lucky find there. Its light was tremulous, as if with joy and eagerness. I met this discovering morning as your ambassador while you still slept, and betrayed not, I hope, any grayness and bleared satiety of ours to its pure, frail, and lucid regard. That was the last good service I did before leaving you quite. I was glad to see how well your old earth did meet such a light, as though it had no difficulty in looking day in the face. The world was miraculously renewed. It rose, and received the newborn of Aurora in its arms. There were clouds of pearl above hills of chrysoprase. The sea ran in volatile flames. The shadows on the bright deck shot to and fro as we rolled. The breakfast bell rang not too soon. This was a right beginning.
The above is a paragraph that we have chosen from Mr. Tomlinson's book almost at random. We could spend the whole afternoon (and a happy afternoon it would be for us) copying out for you passages from "The Sea and the Jungle" that would give you the extremity of pleasure, O high-spirited reader! It is an odd thing, it is a quaint thing, it is a thing that would seem inconceivable (were we not tolerably acquainted with the vagaries of the reading public) that a book of this sort should lie perdu on the shelves of a few libraries. Yet one must not leap too heartily to the wrong conclusion. The reading public is avid of good books, but it does not hear about them. Now we would venture to say that we know fifty people—nay, two hundred and fifty—who would never have done thanking us if we could lay a copy of a book of this sort in their hand. They would think it the greatest favour we could do them if we could tell them where they could go and lay down honest money and buy it. And we have to retort that it is out of print, not procurable. Is it the fault of publishers? We do not think so—or not very often. For every publisher has experience of this sort of thing—books that he knows to be of extraordinary quality and fascination which simply lie like lead in his stockroom, and people will not listen to what he says about them. Whose fault is it, then? Heaven knows.
 Since this was written, a new edition has been published by E. P. Dutton & Co.
SILAS ORRIN HOWES
There died in New York, on February 11, 1918, one who perhaps as worthily as any man in any age represented the peculiar traits and charms of the book-lover, a man whose personal loveliness was only equalled by his unassuming modesty, a man who was an honour to the fine old profession of bookselling.
There will be some who frequent Brentano's bookstore in New York who will long remember the quiet little gentleman who held the post nearest the front door, whose face lit with such a gentle and gracious smile when he saw a friend approach, who endured with patience and courtesy the thousand small annoyances that every salesman knows. There were encounters with the bourgeois customer, there were the exhausting fatigues of the rush season, there were the day-long calls on the slender and none too robust frame. But through it all he kept the perfect and unassuming grace of the high-born gentleman he was. An old-fashioned courtesy and gallantry moved in his blood.
It was an honour to know Silas Orrin Howes, and some have been fortunate to have disclosed to them the richness and simple bravery of that lover of truth and beauty. The present writer was one of the least and latest of these. Twice, during the last months of his life, it was my very good fortune to spend an evening with him at his room on Lexington Avenue, to drink the delicious coffee he brewed in his percolator given him by William Marion Reedy, to mull with him over the remarkable scrap-books he had compiled out of the richness of his varied reading, and to hear him talk about books and life.
Silas Orrin Howes was born in Macon, Georgia, October 15, 1867. He attended school in Macon and Atlanta, and then in Franklin, Indiana. He never went to college.
When he was born, a passion for books was born with him. His niece tells me that by the time he was twenty-one he had collected a considerable library. He began life as a newspaper man, on the Macon Telegraph. About the age of twenty-four he went to Galveston where he was first a copy-reader, and then for seven years telegraph editor of the Galveston News.
I do not know all the details of his life in Galveston, where he lived for about twenty years. He told me that at the time of the disastrous storm and flood he was working in a drug store near the Gulf front. He gave me a thrilling description of the night he spent standing on the prescription counter with the water swirling about his waist. He slept in a little room at the back of the store, where he had a shelf of books which were particularly dear to him. Among them was a volume of Henley's poems. When the flood subsided all the books were gone, but the next day as he was looking over the wreckage of neighbouring houses he found his Henley washed up on a doorstep—covered with slime and filth but still intact. He sent it to Brentano's in New York to be rebound in vellum, instructing them not to clean it in any way. He wrote to Henley about the incident, who sent him a very friendly autographed card which he pasted in the volume. That was one of the books which he held most dear, and rightly.
I do not know just when he came to New York; about 1910, I believe. He took a position as salesman at Brentano's. After a couple of years there he became anxious to try the book business on his own account. He and his nephew opened a shop in San Antonio. Neither of them had much real business experience. Certainly Howes himself was far too devoted a book-lover to be a good business man! After a few months the venture ended in failure, and all the personal library which he had collected through patient years was swallowed up in the disaster. After this he returned to Brentano's, where he remained until his death. About a year before his death he was run over by a taxicab, which shook his nerves a great deal.
At some time during his career he came into intimate friendly contact with Ambrose Bierce, and used to tell many entertaining anecdotes about that erratic venturer in letters. He edited one of Bierce's volumes, adding a pleasant and scholarly little introduction. He was an occasional contributor to Reedy's Mirror, where he enjoyed indulging in his original vein of satire and shrewd comment. He was a great lover of quaint and exotic restaurants, and was particularly fond of the Turkish cafe, the Constantinople, just off Madison Square. It was a treat to go there with him, see him summon the waiter by clapping his hands (in the eastern fashion), and enjoy the strangely compounded dishes of that queer menu. He had sampled every Bulgar, Turkish, Balkan, French, and Scandinavian restaurant on Lexington Avenue. His taste in unusual and savoury dishes was as characteristic as his love for the finer flavours of literature. I remember last November I elicited from him that he had never tasted gooseberry jam, and had a jolly time hunting for a jar, which I found at last at Park and Tilford's, although the sales-girl protested there was no such thing. I took it to him and made him promise to eat it at his breakfasts.
He had the true passions of the book-lover, which are not allotted to many. He had read hungrily, enjoying chiefly those magical draughts of prose which linger in the mind: Bacon, Sir Thomas Browne, Pater, Thoreau, Conrad. He was much of a recluse, a little saddened and sharpened perhaps by some of his experiences; and he loved, above all, those writers who can present truth with a faint tang of acid flavour, the gooseberry jam of literature as it were. One of my last satisfactions was to convert him (in some measure) to an enthusiasm for Pearsall Smith's "Trivia."
As one looks back at that quiet, honourable life, one is aware of a high, noble spirit shining through it: a spirit that sought but little for itself, welcomed love and comradeship that came its way, and was content with a modest round of routine duty because it afforded inner contact with what was beautiful and true. One remembers an innate gentleness, and a loyalty to a high and chivalrous ideal.
Such a life might be a lesson, if anything could, to the bumptious and "efficient" and smug. Time after time I have watched him serving some furred and jewelled customer who was not fit to exchange words with him; I have seen him jostled in a crowded aisle by some parvenu ignoramus who knew not that this quiet little man was one of the immortal spirits of gentleness and breeding who associate in quiet hours with the unburied dead of English letters. That corner of the store, near the front door, can never be the same.
Such a life could only fittingly be described by the gentle, inseeing pen of an E. V. Lucas.
My greatest regret and disappointment, when I heard of his sudden death, was that he would never know of a little tribute I had paid him in a forthcoming book. I had been saving it as a surprise for him, for I knew it would please him. And now he will never know.
I wonder if there is any other country where the death of a young poet is double-column front-page news?
And if poets were able to proofread their own obits, I wonder if any two lines would have given Joyce Kilmer more honest pride than these:
JOYCE KILMER, POET, IS KILLED IN ACTION
which gave many hearts a pang when they picked up the newspaper last Sunday morning.
Joyce Kilmer died as he lived—"in action." He found life intensely amusing, unspeakably interesting; his energy was unlimited, his courage stout. He attacked life at all points, rapidly gathered its complexities about him, and the more intricate it became the more zestful he found it. Nothing bewildered him, nothing terrified. By the time he was thirty he had attained an almost unique position in literary circles. He lectured on poetry, he interviewed famous men of letters, he was poet, editor, essayist, critic, anthologist. He was endlessly active, full of delightful mirth and a thousand schemes for outwitting the devil of necessity that hunts all brainworkers. Nothing could quench him. He was ready to turn out a poem, an essay, a critical article, a lecture, at a few minutes' notice. He had been along all the pavements of Grub Street, perhaps the most exciting place of breadwinning known to the civilized man. From his beginning as a sales clerk in a New York bookstore (where, so the tale goes, by misreading the price cipher he sold a $150 volume for $1.50) down to the time when he was run over by an Erie train and dictated his weekly article for the New York Times in hospital with three broken ribs, no difficulties or perplexities daunted him.
But beneath this whirling activity which amused and amazed his friends there lay a deeper and quieter vein which was rich in its own passion. It is not becoming to prate of what lies in other men's souls; we all have our secrecies and sanctuaries, rarely acknowledged even to ourselves. But no one can read Joyce Kilmer's poems without grasping his vigorous idealism, his keen sense of beauty, his devout and simple religion, his clutch on the preciousness of common things. He loved the precarious bustle on Grub Street; he was of that adventurous, buoyant stuff that rejects hum-drum security and a pelfed and padded life. He always insisted that America is the very shrine and fountain of poetry, and this country (which is indeed pathetically eager to take poets to its bosom) stirred his vivid imagination. The romance of the commuter's train and the suburban street, of the delicatessen shop and the circus and the snowman in the yard—these were the familiar themes where he was rich and felicitous. Many a commuter will remember his beautiful poem "The 12:45," bespeaking the thrill we have all felt in the shabby midnight train that takes us home, yearning and weary, to the well-beloved hearth:
What love commands, the train fulfills And beautiful upon the hills Are these our feet of burnished steel. Subtly and certainly, I feel That Glen Rock welcomes us to her. And silent Ridgewood seems to stir And smile, because she knows the train Has brought her children back again. We carry people home—and so God speeds us, wheresoe'er we go. The midnight train is slow and old, But of it let this thing be told, To its high honour be it said, It carries weary folk to bed.
To a man such as this, whose whole fervent and busy adventure was lit within by the lamplight and firelight of domestic passion, the war, with its broken homes and defiled sanctities, came as a personal affront. Both to his craving for the glamour of such a colossal drama, and to his sense of what was most worshipful in human life, the call was irresistible. Counsels of prudence and comfort were as nothing; the heart-shaking poetry of this nation's entry into an utterly unselfish war burned away all barriers. His life had been a fury of writing, but those who thought he had entered the war merely to make journalism about it were mistaken. Only a few weeks before his death he wrote:
To tell the truth, I am not interested in writing nowadays, except in so far as writing is the expression of something beautiful. And I see daily and nightly the expression of beauty in action instead of words, and I find it more satisfactory. I am a sergeant in the regimental intelligence section—the most fascinating work possible—more thrills in it than in any other branch, except, possibly, aviation. Wonderful life! But I don't know what I'll be able to do in civilian life—unless I become a fireman!
As journalist and lecturer Kilmer was copious and enthusiastic rather than deep. He found—a good deal to his own secret mirth—women's clubs and poetry societies sitting earnestly at his feet, expectant to hear ultimate truth on deep matters. His humour prompted him to give them the ultimate truth they craved. If his critical judgments were not always heavily documented or long pondered, they were entertaining and pleasantly put. The earnest world of literary societies and blue-hosed salons lay about his feet; he flashed in it merrily, chuckling inwardly as he found hundreds of worthy people hanging breathless on his words. A kind of Kilmer cult grew apace; he had his followers and his devotees. I mention these things because he would have been the first to chuckle over them. I do not think he would want to be remembered as having taken all that sort of thing too seriously. It was all a delicious game—part of the grand joke of living. Sometimes, among his friends, he would begin to pontificate in his platform manner. Then he would recall himself, and his characteristic grin would flood his face.
As a journalist, I say, he was copious; but as a poet his song was always prompted by a genuine gush of emotion. "A poet is only a glorified reporter," he used to say; he took as his favourite assignment the happier precincts of the human heart. As he said of Belloc, a true poet will never write to order—not even to his own order. He sang because he heard life singing all about him. His three little books of poems have always been dear to lovers of honest simplicity. And now their words will be lit henceforward by an inner and tender brightness—the memory of a gallant boy who flung himself finely against the walls of life. Where they breached he broke through and waved his sword laughing. Where they hurled him back he turned away, laughing still.
Kilmer wrote from France, in answer to an inquiry as to his ideas about poetry, "All that poetry can be expected to do is to give pleasure of a noble sort to its readers." He might have said "pleasure or pain of a noble sort."
It is both pleasure and pain, of a very noble sort, that the reader will find in Robert Cortes Holliday's memoir, which introduces the two volumes of Kilmer's poems, essays, and letters. The ultimate and eloquent tribute to Kilmer's rich, brave, and jocund personality is that it has raised up so moving a testament of friendship. Mr. Holliday's lively and tender essay is worthy to stand among the great memorials of brotherly affection that have enriched our speech. To say that Kilmer was not a Keats is not to say that the friendship that irradiates Mr. Holliday's memoir was less lovely than that of Keats and Severn, for instance. The beauty of any human intercourse is not measured by the plane on which it moves.
Pleasure and pain of a noble sort are woven in every fibre of this sparkling casting-up of the blithe years. Pleasure indeed of the fullest, for the chronicle abounds in the surcharged hilarity and affectionate humour that we have grown to expect in any matters connected with Joyce Kilmer. The biographer dwells with loving and smiling particularity on the elvish phases of the young knight-errant. It is by the very likeness of his tender and glowing portrait that we find pleasure overflowing into pain—into a wincing recognition of destiny's unriddled ways with men. This memory was written out of a full heart, with the poignance that lies in every backward human gaze. It is only in the backward look that the landscape's contours lie revealed in their true form and perspective. It is only when we have lost what was most dear that we know fully what it meant. That is Fate's way with us: it cannot be amended.
There will be no need for the most querulous appraiser to find fault with Mr. Holliday on the score of over-eulogy. He does not try to push sound carpentry or ready wit into genius. Fortune and his own impetuous onslaught upon life cast Kilmer into the role of hack journalist: he would have claimed no other title. Yet he adorned Grub Street (that most fascinating of all thorny ways) with gestures and music of his own. Out of his glowing and busy brain he drew matter that was never dull, never bitter or petty or slovenly. In the fervent attack and counter-attack, shock and counter-shock of his strenuous days he never forgot his secret loyalty to fine craftsmanship. He kept half a dozen brightly coloured balls spinning in air at all times—verses, essays, reviews, lectures, introductions, interviews, anthologies, and what-not; yet each of these was deftly done. When he went to France and his days of hack work were over, when the necessities of life no longer threatened him, the journalistic habit fell away. It was never more than a garment, worn gracefully, but still only what the tailors call a business suit.
In France, Kilmer wrote but a handful of pieces intended for publication, but at least one of them—the prose sketch "Holy Ireland"—showed his essential fibre. The comparative silence of his pen when he found himself face to face with war was a true expression. It bespoke the decent idealism that underlay the combats of a journalist wringing a living out of the tissues of a busy brain. The tender humour and quaint austerity of his homeward letters exhibit the man at his inmost. What could better the imaginative genius of the phrase in which he speaks of friendship developed by common dangers and hardships as "a fine, hearty, roaring, mirthful sort of thing, like an open fire of whole pine trees in a giant's castle?"
The memoir and Kilmer's own letters admit us to see something of the spiritual phases of this man's life, whose soul found "happiness and quiet kind" in the Roman Catholic faith. The most secret strengths and weaknesses that govern men's lives are strangely unknown to many of their intimates: one wonders how many of Kilmer's associates on the Times staff knew of his habit of stopping daily at the Church of the Holy Innocents, near the newspaper office, to pray. It was the sorrow of personal affliction that brought Kilmer to the Catholic Church. Shortly after being received into that communion he wrote:
Just off Broadway on the way from the Hudson Tube Station to the Times Building, there is a church called the Church of the Holy Innocents. Since it is in the heart of the Tenderloin, this name is strangely appropriate—for there surely is need of youth and innocence. Well, every morning for months I stopped on my way to the office and prayed in this church for faith. When faith did come, it came, I think, by way of my little paralyzed daughter. Her lifeless hands led me; I think her tiny feet still know beautiful paths.
Mr. Holliday does well to point out that Kilmer was almost unique in this country as a representative of the Bellocian School of Catholic journalism, in which piety and mirth dwell so comfortably together; though he might have mentioned T. A. Daly as an older and subtler master of devout merriment, dipping in his own inkwell rather than in any imported bottles. It is to Belloc, of course, and to Gilbert Chesterton, that one must go to learn the secret of Kilmer's literary manner. Yet, as Holliday affirms, the similarity is due as much to an affinity of mind with these Englishmen as to any eagerness to imitate. Kilmer was like them in being essentially a humorist. One glance at his face, with its glowing red-brown eyes (the colour of port wine), and the twitching in-drawn corners of the mouth, gave the observer an impression of benignant drollery. Mr. Holliday well says: "People have made very creditable reputations as humorists who never wrote anything like as humorous essays as those of Joyce Kilmer. They fairly reek with the joy of life."
"He that lives by the pen shall perish by the pen," the biographer tells us, quoting James Huneker. "For a sapling poet, within a few short years and by the hard business of words, to attain to a secretary and a butler and a family of, at length, four children, is a modern Arabian Nights Tale." Aye, indeed! But Joyce Kilmer will have as genuine a claim on remembrance by reason of his friends' love as in anything his own hand penned. And what an encircling, almost paternal, gentleness there is in the picture of the young poet as a salesman at Scribner's bookstore:
His smile, never far away, when it came was winning, charming. It broke like spring sunshine, it was so fresh and warm and clear. And there was noticeable then in his eyes a light, a quiet glow, which marked him as a spirit not to be forgotten. So tenderly boyish was he in effect that his confreres among the book clerks accepted with difficulty the story that he was married. When it was told that he had a son they gasped their incredulity. And when one day this extraordinary elfin sprite remarked that at the time of his honeymoon he had had a beard they felt (I remember) that the world was without power to astonish them further.
And even more striking is what is implied in the narrative: that when this "elfin sprite," this gently nurtured young man of bookish pursuits, took up the art of war, he gloried in his association with a rip-roaring regiment recruited mainly from hard-handed fellows of the type we may call (with no atom of disrespect) roughnecks. Hardships and exertions familiar to them were new to him, but he set himself to win their love and respect, and did so. He was not content until he had found his way into the most exhausting and hazardous branch of the whole job. He said, again and again, that he would rather be a sergeant with the 69th than a lieutenant with any other outfit. There was a heart of heroism in the "elfin sprite." The same dashing insouciance that dictated the weekly article for his paper when in hospital with three broken ribs after being run down by a train was hardened and steeled in the sergeant who nightly tore his uniform into ribbons by crawling out through the barbed wire.
Laughter and comradeship and hearty meals clustered about Kilmer: wherever he touched the grindstone of life there flew up a merry shower of sparks. There is convincing testimony to the courage and beauty that lay quiet at the heart of this singer who said that the poet is only a glorified reporter, and wished he had written "Casey at the Bat."
Let us spare his memory the glib and customary dishonesty that says "He died as he would have wished to." No man wishes to die—at least, no poet does. To part with the exhilarating bustle and tumult, the blueness of the sky, the sunlight that tingles on well-known street corners, the plumber's bills and the editor's checks, the mirths of fellowship and the joys of homecoming when lamps are lit—all this is too close a fibre to be stripped easily from the naked heart. But the poet must go where the greatest songs are singing. Perhaps he finds, after all, that life and death are part of the same rhyme.
TALES OF TWO CITIES
AN EARLY TRAIN
The course of events has compelled me for several months to catch an early train at Broad Street three times a week. I call it an "early" train, but, of course, these matters are merely relative; 7:45 are the figures illuminated over the gateway—not so very precocious, perhaps; but quite rathe enough for one of Haroun-al-Raschid temper, who seldom seeks the "oblivion of repose" (Boswell's phrase) before 1 A. M.
Nothing is more pathetic in human nature than its faculty of self-deception. Winding up the alarm clock (the night before) I meditate as to the exact time to elect for its disturbing buzz. If I set it at 6:30 that will give me plenty of time to shave and reach the station with leisure for a pleasurable cup of coffee. But (so frail is the human will) when I wake at 6:30 I will think to myself, "There is plenty of time," and probably turn over for "another five minutes." This will mean a hideous spasm of awakening conscience about 7:10—an unbathed and unshaven tumult of preparation, malisons on the shoe manufacturers who invented boots with eyelets all the way up, a frantic sprint to Sixteenth Street and one of those horrid intervals that shake the very citadel of human reason when I ponder whether it is safer to wait for a possible car or must start hotfoot for the station at once. All this is generally decided by setting the clock for 6:50. Then, if I am spry, I can be under way by 7:20 and have a little time to be philosophical at the corner of Sixteenth and Pine. Of the vile seizures of passion that shake the bosom when a car comes along, seems about to halt, and then passes without stopping—of the spiritual scars these crises leave on the soul of the victim, I cannot trust myself to speak. It does not always happen, thank goodness. One does not always have to throb madly up Sixteenth, with head retorted over one's shoulder to see if a car may still be coming, while the legs make what speed they may on sliddery paving. Sometimes the car does actually appear and one buffets aboard and is buried in a brawny human mass. There is a stop, and one wonders fiercely whether a horse is down ahead, and one had better get out at once and run for it. Tightly wedged in the heart of the car, nothing can be seen. It is all very nerve-racking, and I study, for quietness of mind, the familiar advertising card of the white-bearded old man announcing "It is really very remarkable that a cigar of this quality can be had for seven cents."
Suppose, however, that fortune is with me. I descend at Market Street, and the City Hall dial, shining softly in the fast paling blue of morning, marks 7:30. Now I begin to enjoy myself. I reflect on the curious way in which time seems to stand still during the last minutes before the departure of a train. The half-hour between 7 and 7:30 has vanished in a gruesome flash. Now follow fifteen minutes of exquisite dalliance. Every few moments I look suddenly and savagely at the clock to see if it can be playing some saturnine trick. No, even now it is only 7:32. In the lively alertness of the morning mind a whole wealth of thought and accurate observation can be crammed into a few seconds. I halt for a moment at the window of that little lunchroom on Market Street (between Sixteenth and Fifteenth) where the food comes swiftly speeding from the kitchen on a moving belt. I wonder whether to have breakfast there. It is such fun to see a platter of pale yellow scrambled eggs sliding demurely beside the porcelain counter and whipped dextrously off in front of you by the presiding waiter. But the superlative coffee of the Broad Street Station lunch counter generally lures me on.
What mundane joy can surpass the pleasure of approaching the station lunch counter, with full ten minutes to satisfy a morning appetite! "Morning, colonel," says the waiter, recognizing a steady customer. "Wheatcakes and coffee," you cry. With one deft gesture, it seems, he has handed you a glass brimming with ice water and spread out a snowy napkin. In another moment here is the coffee, with the generous jug of cream. You splash in a large lump of ice to make it cool enough to drink. Perhaps the seat next you is empty, and you put your books and papers on it, thus not having to balance them gingerly on your knees. All round you is a lusty savour of satisfaction, the tinkle of cash registers, napkins fluttering and flashing across the counters, coloured waiters darting to and fro, great clouds of steam rising where the big dish covers are raised on the cooking tables. You see the dark-brown coffee gently quivering in the glass gauge of the nickel boiler. Then here come the wheatcakes. Nowhere else on earth, I firmly believe, are they cooked to just that correct delicacy of golden brown colour; nowhere else are they so soft and light of texture, so hot, so beautifully overlaid with a smooth, almost intangible suggestion of crispness. Two golden butter pats salute the eye, and a jug of syrup. It is now 7:38.
As everyone knows, the correct thing is to start immediately on the first cake, using only syrup. The method of dealing with the other two is classic. One lifts the upper one and places a whole pat of butter on the lower cake. Then one replaces the upper cake upon the lower, leaving the butter to its fate. In that hot and enviable embrace the butter liquefies and spreads itself, gently anointing the field of coming action. Upon the upper shield one smilingly distributes the second butter pat, knifed off into small slices for greater speed of melting. By the time the first cake has been eaten, with the syrup, the other two will be ready for manifest destiny. The butter will be docile and submissive. Now, after again making sure of the time (7:40) the syrup is brought into play and the palate has the congenial task of determining whether the added delight of melting butter outweighs the greater hotness and primal thrill of the first cake which was glossed with the syrup only. You drain your coffee to the dregs; gaze pityingly on those rushing in to snap up a breakfast before the 8 o'clock leaves for New York, pay your check, and saunter out to the train. It is 7:43.
This, to be sure, is only the curtain-raiser to the pleasures to follow. This has been a physical and carnal pleasure. Now follow delights of the mind. In the great gloomy shed wafts and twists of thick steam are jetting upward, heavily coiled in the cold air. In the train you smoke two pipes and read the morning paper. Then you are set down at Haverford. It is like a fairyland of unbelief. Trees and shrubbery are crusted and sheathed in crystal, lucid like chandeliers in the flat, thin light. Along the fence, as you go up the hill, you marvel at the scarlet berries in the hedge, gleaming through the glassy ribs of the bushes. The old willow tree by the Conklin gate is etched against the sky like a Japanese drawing—it has a curious greenish colour beneath that gray sky. There is some mystery in all this. It seems more beautiful than a merely mortal earth vexed by sinful men has any right to be. There is some ice palace in Hans Andersen which is something like it. In a little grove, the boughs, bent down with their shining glaziery, creak softly as they sway in the moving air. The evergreens are clotted with lumps and bags of transparent icing, their fronds sag to the ground. A pale twinkling blueness sifts over distant vistas. The sky whitens in the south and points of light leap up to the eye as the wind turns a loaded branch.
A certain seriousness of demeanour is noticeable on the generally unfurrowed brows of student friends. Midyears are on and one sees them walking, freighted with precious and perishable erudition, toward the halls of trial. They seem a little oppressed with care, too preoccupied to relish the entrancing pallor of this crystallized Eden. One carries, gravely, a cushion and an alarm clock. Not such a bad theory of life, perhaps—to carry in the crises of existence a cushion of philosophy and an alarum of resolution.
One of the odd things about human beings is, that wherever they happen to live they accept it as a matter of course. In various foreign cities I have often been amused (as every traveller has) to see people going about their affairs just as though it were natural and unquestionable for them to be there. It is just the same at home. Everyone I see on the streets seems to be not at all amazed at living here instead of (let us say) Indianapolis or Nashville. I envy my small Urchin his sense of the extreme improbability of everything. When he gets on a trolley car he draws a long breath and looks around in ecstasy at the human scenery. I am teaching him to say in a loud, clear tone, as he gets on the car, "Look at all the human beings!" in the same accent of amazement that he uses when he goes to the Zoo. Perhaps in this way he will preserve the happy faculty of being surprised.
It is an agreeable thing to keep the same sense of surprise in one's home town that one would have in a strange city. You will find much to startle you if you keep your eyes open. Yesterday, for instance, I was lucky enough to meet a gentleman who had stood only a few feet away from Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Speech. Then I found that in a certain cafeteria which I frequent the price you pay for your lunch is always just one cent less than that punched on the check. The cashier explained that this always gives a pleasant surprise to the customers, and has proved such a good advertising dodge that the proprietor made it a habit. And I saw, in a clothing dealer's window on Ninth Street, some fuzzy caps for men, mottled purple and ochre, that proved that the adventurous spirit has not died in the breast of the male sex.
There is much to exercise the eye in a voyage along Ridge Avenue. Approaching by way of Ninth Street, one sees in the window of a barber shop the new contract that the employing barbers have drawn up with their journeymen. This agreement shows a sound sense of human equities, proclaiming as it does that "the owner must not do no act to injure the barber personal earnings." It suddenly occurred to me, what I had not thought of before, how the barbers of Great Britain must have grieved when a London newspaper got up (some years ago) an agitation in favour of every man in England raising a beard in memory of King Edward. The plan was that the money thus saved was to be devoted to building—I had almost said "growing"—a battleship, to be named after the Merry Monarch. Of course, one should not speak of raising a beard, but of lowering it. However——
Ridge Avenue begins at Ninth and Vine, in a mood of depression. Perhaps the fact that it runs out toward the city's greatest collection of cemeteries has made it morbidly conscious of human perishability. At any rate, it starts among pawnshops, old clothing and furniture, and bottles of Old Virginia Bitters, the Great Man Restorer. The famous National Theatre at Callowhill Street has become a garage; it is queer to see the old proscenium arch and gilded ceiling dustily vaulted over a fleet of motortrucks. After a wilderness of railway yards one comes to a curious bit in the 1100 block; a little brick tunnel that bends around into a huddle of backyards and small houses, where a large green parrot was stooping and nodding on a pile of old boxes. This little scene is overlooked by the tall brown spires of the Church of the Assumption on Spring Garden Street.
There is matter for tarrying at the Spring Garden Street crossing. Here is an ambitious fountain built by the bequest of Mary Rebecca Darby Smith, with the carving by J. J. Boyle picturing another Rebecca (she of Genesis xxiv, 14) giving a drink to Abraham's servant and his camels. It is carved in the bronze that the donor gave the fountain "To refresh the weary and thirsty, both man and beast," so it is disconcerting to find it dry, as dry as the inns along the way. The horse trough is boarded over and thirsting equines go up to Broad Street for a draught. The seat by the fountain was occupied by a man reading the New York Journal, always a depressing sight.
Across from the fountain is one of the best magazine and stationery shops in the city. Here I overheard a conversation which I reproduce textually. "What you doing, reading?" said one to another. "Yes, reading about the biggest four-flusher in the Yew-nited States," said he, looking over an afternoon paper which had just come in. "Who do you mean?" "Penrose. Say if it was a Republican in the White House, theyda passed the treaty long ago." The proprietor of this shop is a humorist. Someone came in asking for a certain brand of cigarettes. He does not sell tobacco. "Next door," he said, and added: "And you'll find some over on the fountain."
Ridge Avenue specializes in tobacco shops, where you will find many brands that require a strong head. Red Snapper, Panhandle Scrap, Pinch Hit, Red Horse, Brown's Mule, Jolly Tar, Penn Statue Cuttings, Nickel Cross Cut, Cotton Ball Twist. In the shop windows you will see those photographs illustrating current events, the two favourites just now being a picture of Mike Gilhooley, the famous stowaway, gazing plaintively at the profile of New York, and "Jack Dempsey Goes the Limit," where Jack signs up for a $1,000 war-savings certificate. One wonders if Jack's kind of warfare is really so profitable after all.
There are a number of little side excursions from the avenue that repay scrutiny. Lemon Street, for instance, where in a lane of old brown wooden houses some children were playing in an empty wagon, with the rounded tower of the Rodef Shalom synagogue looming in the background. Best of all is Melon Street and its modest tributary, Park Avenue—stretches of quiet little brick homes with green and yellow shutters and mottled gray marble steps. These little houses have the serene and sunny air so typical of Philadelphia byways. Through their narrow side entrances one sees glimpses of green in backyards. In the front windows move the gently swaying faces of grandmothers, lulled in the to and fro of a rocking chair. There are shining brass knobs and bell-pulls; rubber plants on the sills, or perhaps a small bowl of goldfish with a white china swan floating. In one window was a sign "Vacancies." Over it hung a faded service flag with a golden star. Who could phrase the pathos of these two things, side by side?
At Broad Street, Ridge Avenue leaps up with a spurt of high life. In the window of a hotel dining room a gentleman sat eating his lunch, stevedoring a buttered roll with such gusto that one felt tempted to applaud. There are the white pillars of a bank and the battleship gray of the Salvation Army headquarters. Beyond Broad, the avenue spruces up a bit and enters upon a vivacious phase. Dogs are frequent: white bull terriers lie sunning in the shop windows. Offers to lend money are enticing. There is a fascinating slate yard at 1525, where great gray slabs lie in the sun, a temptation to urchins with a bit of chalk. In the warm bask of the afternoon there rises a pleasing aroma of fruits and vegetables piled up in baskets and crates on the pavement. Grapes give off a delectable savour in the golden air. Elderly ladies are out in force to do the marketing, and their eyes are bright with the bargaining passion. Round the windows of a ten-cent store, most fascinating of all human spectacles, they congregate and compare notes. A fruit dealer has an ingenious stunt to attract attention. On his cash register lies a weird-looking rotund little fish—a butter fish, he calls it—which has a face not unlike that of Fatty Arbuckle. Either this fish inflates itself or he has blown it full of air in some ingenious manner, for it presents a grotesque appearance, and many ladies stop to inquire. Then he spoofs them gently. "Sure," he says, "it's a jitney fish. It lives on the cash register. It can fly, it can bite, it can talk, and it likes money."
At the corner of Wylie Street stands an old gray house with a mansard roof and gable windows. Against it is a vivid store of fruit glowing in the sun, red and purple and yellow. Here, or on Vineyard Street, one turns off to enter the quaint triangular settlement of Francisville.
THE UNIVERSITY AND THE URCHIN
Sunday afternoon is by old tradition dedicated to the taking of Urchins out to taste the air, and indeed there is no more agreeable pastime. And so, as the Urchin sat in his high chair and thoughtfully shovelled his spoon through meat chopped remarkably small and potatoes mashed in that curious fashion that produces a mass of soft, curly tendrils, his curators discussed the question of where he should be taken.
It was the first Sunday in March—mild and soft and tinctured with spring. "There's the botanic garden at the University," I suggested. The Urchin settled it by rattling his spoon on the plate and sliding several inches of potato into his lap. "Go see garden!" he cried. With the generous tastes of twenty-seven months he cares very little where he is taken; he can find fascination in anything; but something about the word "garden" seemed to allure him. So a little later when he had been duly habited in brown leggings, his minute brown overcoat, and white hat with ribbons behind it, he and his curators set out. The Urchin was in excellent spirits, for he had been promised a ride on a trolley car—a glorious adventure. In one pocket he carried his private collection of talismans, including a horse-chestnut and a picture of a mouse. Also, against emergencies, a miniature handkerchief with a teddy bear embroidered in one corner and a safety pin. The expedition may be deemed to have been a success, as none of these properties were called upon or even remembered.
The car we boarded did not take us just where we expected to go, but that made little difference to the Urchin, who gazed steadfastly out of the window at a panorama of shabby streets, and offered no comment except one of extreme exultation when we passed a large poster of a cow. Admirably docile, he felt confident that the unusual conjunction of both arbiters of destiny and an impressive trolley car would in the end produce something extremely worth while. We sped across Gray's Ferry bridge—it seems strange to think that region was once so quiet, green, and rustic—transferred to another car on Woodland Avenue, past the white medley of tombstones in Woodland Cemetery, and got off at the entrance to the dormitory quadrangles at Thirty-seventh Street. We entered through the archway—the Urchin's first introduction to an academic atmosphere. "This is the University," I said to him severely, and he was much impressed. As is his way, he conducted himself with extreme sobriety until he should get the hang of this new experience and see what it was all about. I knew from the serene gold sparkle of his brown eyes that there was plenty of larking spirit in him, waiting until he knew whether it was safe to give it play. He held my hand punctiliously while waiting to see what manner of place this University was.
A college quadrangle on a Sunday afternoon has a feeling all its own. Thin tinklings of mandolins eddy from open windows, in which young men may be seen propped up against bright-coloured cushions, always smoking, and sometimes reading with an apparent zeal which might deceive a few onlookers. But the slightest sound of footfalls on the pavement outside their rooms causes these heads to turn and scan the passers. There is always a vague hope in these youthful breasts that some damsel of notable fairness may have strayed within the bastions. Groups of ladies of youth and beauty do often walk demurely through the courts, and may be sure of hearing admiring whistles shrilled through the sunny air. When a lady walks through a college quadrangle and hears no sibilation, let her know sadly that first youth is past. Even the sedate guardianship of Scribe and Urchin did not forfeit one Lady of Destiny her proper homage of tuneful testimonial. So be it ever!
One who inhabited college quadrangles not so immeasurably long ago, and remembers with secret pain how massively old, experienced, and worldly wise he then thought himself, can never resist a throb of amazement at the entertaining youthfulness of these young monks. How quaintly juvenile they are, and how oddly that assumption of grave superiority sits upon their golden brows! With what an inimitable air of wisdom, cynicism, ancientry, learned aloofness and desire to be observed do they stroll to and fro across the quads, so keenly aware in their inmost bosoms of the presence of visitors and determined to grant an appearance of mingled wisdom, great age, and sad doggishness! What a devil-may-care swing to the stride, what a nonchalance in the perpetual wreath of cigarette smoke, what a carefully assumed bearing of one carrying great wisdom lightly and easily casting it aside for the moment in the pursuit of some waggish trifle. "Here," those very self-conscious young visages seem to betray, "is one who might tell you all about the Holy Roman Empire, and yet is, for the moment, diverting himself with a mere mandolin." And yet, as the Lady of Destiny shrewdly observed, it is a pity they should mar their beautiful quadrangles with orange peel and scraps of paper.
We walked for some time through those stately courts of Tudor brick and then passed down the little inclined path to the botanic garden, where irises and fresh green spikes are already pushing up through the damp earth. A pale mellow sunlight lay upon the gravel walks and the Urchin resumed his customary zeal. He ran here and there along the byways, examined the rock borders with an air of scientific questioning, and watched the other children playing by the muddy pond. We found shrubbery swelling with buds, also flappers walking hatless and blanched with talcum, accompanied by Urchins of a larger growth. Both these phenomena we took to be a sign of the coming equinox.
Returning to the dormitory quadrangles, we sat down on a wooden bench to rest, while the Urchin, now convinced that a university is nothing to be awed by, scampered about on the turf. His eye was a bright jewel of roguishness, for he thought that in trotting about the grass he was doing something supremely wicked. He has been carefully trained not to err on the grass of the city square to which he is best accustomed, so this surprising and unchecked revelry quite went to his head. Across and about those wide plots of sodden turf he trotted and chuckled, a small, quaint mortal with his hat ribbons fluttering. Cheering whistles hailed him from open windows above, and he smiled to himself with grave dignity. Apparently, like a distinguished statesman, he regarded these tributes not as meant for himself, but for the great body of childhood he innocently represents, and indeed from which his applauders are not so inextricably severed. With the placid and unconscious happiness of a puppy he careered and meandered, without motive or method. Perhaps his underlying thought of a university, if he has any, is that it is a place where no one says "Keep Off the Grass," and, intellectually speaking, that would not be such a bad motto for an institution of learning.
I don't know whether Doctor Tait McKenzie so intended it, but his appealing and beautiful statue of Young Franklin in front of the University gymnasium is admirably devised for the delight of small Urchins. While their curators take pleasure in the bronze itself, the Urchin may clamber on the different levels of the base, which is nicely adapted for the mountaineering capacity of twenty-seven months. The low brick walls before the gymnasium and the University museum are also just right for an Urchin who has recently learned the fascination of walking on something raised above the ground, provided there is a curator near by to hold his hand. And then, as one walks away toward the South Street bridge an observant Urchin may spy the delightful spectacle of a freight train travelling apparently in midair. Some day, one hopes, all that fine tract of open space leading from the museum down to the railroad tracks may perhaps be beautified as a park or an addition to the University's quadrangle system. I don't know who owns it, but its architectural possibilities must surely make the city-planner's mouth water.
By this time the Urchin was beginning to feel a bit weary, and was glad of a lift on a parental shoulder. Then a Lombard Street car came along and took us up halfway across the bridge. So ended the Urchin's first introduction to a university education.
Our neighbourhood is very genteel. I doubt if any one who has not lived in Philadelphia can imagine how genteel it is. Visitors from out of town are wont to sigh with rapture when they see our trim blocks of tall brick dwellings—that even cornice running in a smooth line for several hundred yards really is quite a sight—and exclaim, "Oh, I wish we had something like this in New York!" But our gentility is a little self-conscious, for we live on the very frontier of a region, darker in complexion, which is far from scrupulous in deportment. Uproarious and naive are the humours of South Street, lying just behind us. Stanleys have gone exploring thither and come back with merry tales. South Street on a bright evening, its myriad barber shops gleaming with lathered dusky cheeks, wafting the essence of innumerable pomades and lotions, that were a Travel indeed. On South Street the veins of life run close to the surface.
We are no less human on our street, but it takes a bit more study to get at the secret. There is a certain reticence about us. It would take an earthquake to cause much fraternization along Pine Street. Perhaps it is because three houses out of every four bear the tablets of doctors. The average layman fears to stop and speak to his neighbour for fear it will develop into a professional matter. We board up our front windows at night with heavy wooden shutters. We have no druggists, only "apothecaries." These apothecaries are closed on Sundays. They sell stamps in little isinglass capsules, to be quite sanitary, two twos in a capsule for five cents. In their shops you can still get soda water with "plain cream" and shaved ice, such as was customary twenty-five years ago. When our doctors go away for the summer, someone comes twice a week from June to October to polish up the little silver name plate. It is the custom in our neighbourhood (so one observes through drawing room windows) to have reading lamps with rosy pink shades and at least two beautiful daughters of debutante age. I hope I am not unjust, but our street looks to me like the kind of place where people take warm baths, in a roomy old china tub, on Sunday afternoons. After that, they go downstairs and play a hymn on the piano, at twilight.
There are a number of very odd features about our neighbourhood. There is a large schoolhouse at the next corner, but as far as I can see, it is not used as a school, not for children, at any rate. Sometimes, about 8 o'clock in the evening, I see the building gloriously illuminated, and a lonely lady stooped and assiduous at a table. She seems quite solitary. Perhaps her researches are so poignant that the school board has prescribed entire silence. But midway down the block is a very jolly little private school, to which very genteel children may be seen approaching early in the morning. The little girls come with a bustle of starch, on foot, accompanied by governesses; the small boys arrive in limousines. They are small boys dressed very much in the English manner, with heavy woollen stockings ending just below the knee. They probably do not realize that their tailor has carefully planned them to look like dear little English boys. Then there is a very mysterious small theatre near by. If it were a movie theatre, what a boon it would be! But no, it is devoted to a strange cult called the Religion of Business, which meets there on Sundays. Before that, there was a Korean congress there. There is a lovely green room in this theatre, but not much long green in the box office. Philadelphia prefers Al Jolson to Hank Ibsen.
We have our tincture of vie de Boheme, though, in our little French table d'hote, a thoroughly atmospheric place. Delightful Madame B., with her racy philosophy of life, what delicious soups and salads she serves! Happy indeed are those who have learned the way to her little tables, and heard her cheerful cry "A la cuisine!" when one of her small dogs prowls into the dining room. Equally unique is the old curiosity shop near by, one of the few genuine "notion" shops left in the city (though there is a delightful one on Market Street near Seventeenth, to enter which is to step into a country village). This is just the kind of shop bought by the old gentleman in one of Frank Stockton's agreeable tales, "Mr. Tolman," in the volume called "The Magic Egg". The proprietress, charming and conversable lady, will sell you anything in the "notions" line, from a paper of pins to garter elastic. Then there is the laundry, whose patrons carry on a jovial game known as "Looking for Your Own." Every week, by some cheery habit of confusion, the lists are lost, and one hunts through shelves of neatly piled and crisply laundered garments to pick out one's own collars, pyjamas, or whatever it may be. The amusing humour of this pastime must be experienced to be understood.
The little cigar and magazine shop on the corner is the political and social focus of the neighbourhood. I shall never forget the pallid and ghastly countenance of the newsdealer when the rumour first went the rounds that "Hampy" was elected. Every evening a little gathering of local sages meets in the shop; on tilted chairs, in a haze of tobacco, they while the hours away. In tobacco the host adheres to the standard blends, but in literature he is enterprising. Until recently this was the only place I know in Philadelphia where one could get the Illustrated London News every week.
There are twinges of modernity going on along our street. Some of the old houses have been remodeled into apartments. There is an "electric shoe repairer" just round the corner. But the antique dealers and plumbers for which the street is famous still hold sway; the fine old brick pavement still collects rain water in its numerous dimpled hollows, and the yellowish marble horse-blocks adorn the curb. The nice shabby stables in the little side streets have not yet been turned into studios by artists, and the neighbourhood's youngest urchins set sail for Rittenhouse Square every morning on their fleet of "kiddie-cars." Their small stout legs, twinkling along the pavements in white gaiters on a wintry day, are a pleasant sight. Even our urchins are notably genteel. Surrounded on all sides by the medical profession, they are reared on registered milk and educator crackers. If Philadelphia ever betrays its soul, it does so on this delightful, bland, and genteel highway.
PERSHING IN PHILADELPHIA
The pavement in front of Independence Hall was a gorgeous jumble of colours. The great silken flags of the Allies, carried by vividly costumed ladies, burned and flapped in the wind. On a pedestal stood the Goddess of Liberty, in rich white draperies that seemed fortunately of sufficient texture to afford some warmth, for the air was cool. She graciously turned round for Walter Crail, the photographer of our contemporary, the Evening Public Ledger, to take a shot at her.
Down Chestnut Street came a rising tide of cheers. A squadron of mounted police galloped by. Then the First City Troop, with shining swords. Fred Eckersburg, the State House engineer, was fidgeting excitedly inside the hall, in a new uniform. This was Fred's greatest day, but we saw that he was worried about Martha Washington, the Independence Hall cat. He was apprehensive lest the excitement should give her a fit or a palsy. Independence Hall is no longer the quiet old place Martha used to enjoy before the war.
The Police Band struck up "Hail to the Chief." Yells and cheers burst upward from the ground like an explosion. Here he was, standing in the car. There was the famous chin, the Sam Browne belt, the high laced boots with spurs. Even the tan gloves carried in the left hand. There was the smile, without which no famous man is properly equipped for public life. There was Governor Sproul's placid smile, too, but the Mayor seemed too excited to smile. Rattle, rattle, rattle went the shutters of the photographers. Up the scarlet lane of carpet came the general. His manner has a charming, easy grace. He saluted each one of the fair ladies garbed in costumes of our Allies, but taking care not to linger too long in front of any one of them lest any embracing should get started. A pattering of tiger lilies or some such things came dropping down from above. He passed into the hall, which was cool and smelt like a wedding with a musk of flowers.
While the Big Chief was having a medal presented to him inside the hall we managed to scuttle round underneath the grand stand and take up a pencil of vantage just below the little pulpit where the general was to speak. Here the crowd groaned against a bulwark of stout policemen. Philadelphia cops, bless them, are the best tempered in the world. (How Boston must envy us.) Genially two gigantic bluecoats made room against the straining hawser for young John Fisher, aged eleven, of 332 Greenwich Street. John is a small, freckle-faced urchin. It was amusing to see him thrusting his eager little beezer between the vast, soft, plushy flanks of two patrolmen. He had been there over two hours waiting for just this adventure. Then, to assert the equality of the sexes, Mildred Dubivitch, aged eleven, and Eva Ciplet, aged nine, managed to insert themselves between the chinks in the line of cops. An old lady more than eighty years old was sitting placidly in a small chair just inside the ropes. She had been in the square more than five hours, and the police had found her a seat. "Are you going to put Pershing's name in, too?" asked John as we noted his address.
Independence Square never knew a more thrilling fifteen minutes. The trees were tossing and bending in the thrilling blue air. There was a bronzy tint in their foliage, as though they were putting on olive drab in honour of the general. Great balloons of silver clouds scoured across the cobalt sky. At one minute to 11 Pershing appeared at the top of the stand. The whole square, massed with people, shook with cheers.
Had it been any other man we would have said the general was frightened. He came down the aisle of the stand with his delightful, easy, smiling swing; but he looked shrewdly about, with a narrow-eyed, puckered gaze. He was plainly a little flabbergasted. He seemed taken aback by the greatness of Philadelphia's voice. He said something to himself. On his lips it looked like "What the deuce," or something of similar purport. He sat down on a chair beside Governor Sproul. Not more than four feet away, amazed at our own audacity, we peered over the floor of the stand.
He was paler than we expected. He looked a bit tired. Speaking as a father, we were pleased to note the absence of Warren, who was (we hope) getting a good sleep somewhere. We had a good look at the renowned chin, which is well worth study. It must be a hard chin to shave. It juts upward, reaching a line exactly below the brim of his cap. Below his crescent moustache there is no lower lip visible: it is tucked and folded in by the rising thrust of the jaw. It is this which gives him the "grim" aspect which every reader of the papers hears about. He is grim, there's no doubt about it, with the grimness of a man going through a tough ordeal. "I can see him all right," squeaked little John Fisher, "but he doesn't see me." The first two rows of seats at the right of the aisle were crammed with generals, two-star and three-star. From our lowly station we could see a grand panorama of mahogany leather boots and the flaring curves of riding breeches. It was a great day for Sam Browne. The thought came to us that has reached us before. The higher you go in the A. E. F. the more the officers are tailored after the English manner. It is the finest proof of international cousinship. When England and America wear the same kind of clothes, alliance is knit solid.
Pershing sat with his palms on his knees. He looked worried. There was a wavering crease down his lean cheeks. The plumply genial countenance of Governor Sproul next to him was an odd contrast to that dry, hard face. The bell in the tower tolled eleven times. He stood up for the photographers. Walter Crail, appearing from somewhere, sprang up on the parapet facing the general. "Look this way!" he shouted as the general turned toward some movie men. That will be Walter's first cry when he gets to heaven, or wherever. Mayor Smith's face was pallid with excitement. His nicely draped trouserings, which were only six inches from our notebook, quivered slightly as he said fifteen words of introduction.
As Pershing stood up to speak the crowd surged forward. The general was worried. "Don't, don't! Somebody will get hurt!" he called sharply. Then Mayor Smith surged forward also and said something to the police about watching the crowd.
The general took off his cap. Holding it in his left hand (with the gloves) he patted his close-cropped hair nervously. He frowned. He began to speak.
The speech has already been covered by our hated rivals. We will not repeat it, save to say that it was as crisp, clean-cut, and pointed as his chin. He was nervous, as we could see by the clenching and unclenching of his hands. His voice is rather high. We liked him for not being a suave and polished speaker. He gestured briskly with a pointing forefinger, and pronounced the word patriotic with a short A—"pattriotic." Later he stumbled over it again and got it out as patterotism. We liked him again for that. He doesn't have to pronounce it, anyway. We liked him best of all for the unconscious slip he made. "This reception," he said, "I understand is for the splendid soldiery of America that played such an important part in the war with our Allies." A respectful ripple of laughter passed over the stand at this, but he did not notice it. He was fighting too hard to think what to say next. We liked him, too, for saying "such an important part." A man who had been further away from the fighting would have said that it was America, alone and unaided, that won the war. He is just as we have hoped he would be: a plain, blunt man. We have heard that he is going to enter the banking business. We'd like to have an account at that bank.
About this time of year, when the mellow air swoons (as the poets say) with golden languor and the landscape is tinged a soft brown like a piece of toast, we feel the onset and soft impeachment of fall fever.
Fall fever is (in our case at any rate) more insidious than the familiar disease of spring. Spring fever impels us to get out in the country; to seize a knotted cudgel and a pouchful of tobacco and agitate our limbs over the landscape. But the drowsiness of autumn is a lethargy in the true sense of that word—a forgetfulness. A forgetfulness of past discontents and future joys; a forgetfulness of toil that is gone and leisure to come; a mere breathing existence in which one stands vacantly eyeing the human scene, living in a gentle simmer of the faculties like a boiling kettle when the gas is turned low.
Fall fever, one supposes, is our inheritance from the cave man, who (like the bear and the—well, some other animal, whatever it is) went into hibernation about the first of November. Autumn with its soft inertia lulled him to sleep. He ate a hearty meal, raked together some dry leaves, curled up and slid off until the alarm clock of April.
This agreeable disease does not last very long with the modern man. He fights bravely against it; then the frost comes along, or the coal bill, and stings him into activity. But for a few days its genial torpor may be seen (by the observant) even in our bustling modern career. When we read yesterday that Judge Audenried's court clerks had fallen asleep during ballot-counting proceedings we knew that the microbe was among us again. Keats, in his lovely Ode, describes the figure of Autumn as stretched out "on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep." Unhappily the conventions forbid city dwellers from curling up on the pavements for a cheerful nap. If one were brave enough to do so, unquestionably many would follow his example. But the urbanite has taught himself to doze upright. You may see many of us, standing dreamily before Chestnut Street show windows in the lunch hour, to all intents and purposes in a state of slumber. Yesterday, in that lucid shimmer of warmth and light, a group stood in front of a doughnut window near Ninth Street: not one of them was more than half awake. Similarly a gathering watched the three small birds who have become a traditional window ornament on Chestnut Street (they have recently moved from an oculist to a correspondence course office) and a faint whisper of snoring arose on the sultry air. The customs of city life permit a man to stand still as long as he likes if he will only pretend to be watching something. We saw a substantial burgher pivoted by the window of Mr. Albert, the violin maker, on Ninth Street. Apparently he was studying the fine autographed photo of Patti there displayed; but when we sidled near we saw that his eyes were closed; this admirable person, who seemed to be what is known as a "busy executive," and whose desk undoubtedly carries a plate-glass sheet with the orisons of Swett Marden under it, was in a blissful doze.
Modern life (as we say) struggles against this sweet enchantment of autumn, but Nature is too strong for us. Why is it that all these strikes occur just at this time of year? The old hibernating instinct again, perhaps. The workman has a subconscious yearning to scratch together a nice soft heap of manila envelopes and lie down on that couch for a six months' ear-pounding. There are all sorts of excuses that one can make to one's self for waving farewell to toil. Only last Sunday we saw this ad in a paper:
HEIRS WANTED. The war is over and has made many new heirs. You may be one of them. Investigate. Many now living in poverty are rich, but don't know it.
Now what could be simpler (we said to ourself as we stood contemplating those doughnuts) than to forsake our jolly old typewriter and spend a few months in "investigating" whether any one had made us his heir? It might be. Odd things have happened. Down in Washington Square, for instance (we thought), are a number of sun-warmed benches, very reposeful to the sedentary parts, on which we might recline and think over the possibility of our being rich unawares. We hastened thither, but apparently many had had the same idea. There was not a bench vacant. The same was true in Independence Square and in Franklin Square. We will never make a good loafer. There is too much competition.
So we came back, sadly, to our rolltop and fell to musing. We picked up a magazine and found some pictures showing how Mary Pickford washes her hair. "If I am sun-drying my hair," said Mary (under a photo showing her reclining in a lovely garden doing just that), "I usually have the opportunity to read a scenario or do some other duty which requires concentration." And it occurred to us that if a strain like that is put upon a weak woman we surely ought to be able to go on moiling for a while, Indian summer or not. And then we found some pictures by our favourite artist, Coles Phillips, with that lovely shimmer around the ankles, and we resolved to be strong and brave and have pointed finger-nails. But still, in the back of our mind, the debilitating influence of fall fever was at work. We said to ourself, without the slightest thought of printing it (for it seemed to put us in a false light), that the one triumphant and unanswerable epigram of mankind, the grandest and most resolute utterance in the face of implacable fate, is the snore.
TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Will the hand-organ man please call? Our wife has dug up our old overcoat and insists on giving it to him. We intended to give it to the Honolulu Girls around at the Walnut Theatre, they looked a bit goose-fleshed last week, but we always have hay fever when we get near those grass skirts. Grass widows is what the profession calls the Hawaiian ladies. Hope the temperature isn't going up again. We love the old-fashioned Christmas and all that sort of thing. Nipping air makes cheeks pink; we love to see them nestled in fur coats on Chestnut Street. This is the time of year to do unexpected kindnesses. We know one man who stands in line for hours in front of movie theatres just in order to shout Merry Christmas through the little hole in the glass. Shaving seems less of a bore. Newspapers are supposed to be heartless, but they all take a hand in trying to help poor children. Find ourselves humming hymn tunes. Very odd, haven't been to a church for years. Great fun surprising people. We've been reading the new phone book; noticed several ways in which people might surprise each other by calling up and wishing many happy returns of the day. Why doesn't Beulah R. Wine ring up Mrs. Louis F. Beer, for instance? Or, A. D. Smoker and Burton J. Puffer might go around to W. C. Matchett, tobacconist, at 1635 South Second Street, and buy their Christmas cigars. George Wharton Pepper might give Mayme Salt a ring (on the phone, that is). What a pleasant voice that telephone operatrix has. Here's to you, child, and many of them. Grand time, Christmas.
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Fine old Anglo-Saxon festival, Christmas. A time of jovial cheer and bracing mirth. Must be so, because Doctor Frank Crane and Ralph Waldo Trine have often said so. Christmas hard on people like that, however: they are bursting with the Christmas spirit all the year round; very trying when the real occasion comes. That's the beauty of having a peevish and surly disposition: when one softens up at Christmas everybody notices it and is pleased. Chaucer, fine old English poet, first English humorist, gave good picture of Christmas cheer more than five hundred years ago. Never quoted on Christmas cards, why not copy it here? Chaucer's spelling very like Ring Lardner's, but good sort just the same. Says he:
And this was, as thise bookes me remembre, The colde, frosty sesoun of Decembre.... The bittre frostes with the sleet and reyn Destroyed hath the grene in every yard; Janus sit by the fyre with double beard, And drynketh of his bugle horn the wyn; Biforn hym stant brawn of the tusked swyn, And "Nowel" crieth every lusty man.
Janus, god of doors, what we call nowadays a janitor. Had two faces so he could watch the front and back door at once and get a double tip at Christmas time. Also, that was why he wore a beard; too much trouble to shave. We don't cry Nowel any more; instead we petition the janitor to send up a little more steam. But what a jolly picture Chaucer gives of Christmas! Wine to drink (fine ruddy wine, as red as the holly berries), crackling flitch of pig to eat, and a merry cry of welcome sounding at the threshold as your friends come stamping in through the snow.
Grand time, Christmas! No one is really a Philadelphian until he has waited for a Pine Street car on a snowy night. Please have my seat, madam, there's plenty of room on the strap. Wonder why the pavement on Chestnut Street is the slipperiest in the world? Always fall down just in front of our bank; most embarrassing; hope the paying teller doesn't see us. Very annoying to lose our balance just there. Awfully nice little girl in there who balances the books. Has a kind heart. The countless gold of a merry heart, as William Blake said. She looks awfully downcast when our balance gets the way it is now. Hate to disappoint her. Won't have our book balanced again for a devil of a while. Even the most surly is full of smiles nowadays. Most of us when we fall on the pavement (did you ever try it on Chestnut between Sixth and Seventh on a slippery day?) curse the granolithic trust and wamble there groaning. But not nowadays. Make the best of things. Fine panorama of spats.
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Association of ideas. Everybody wears silk stockings at Christmas time. Excessive geniality of the ad-writers. Uproarious good cheer. Makes one almost ashamed to notice the high price of everything. Radicals being deported. Why not deport Santa Claus, too? Very radical notion that, love your neighbour better than yourself. Easy to do; very few of us such dam fools as to love ourselves, but so often when you love your neighbour she doesn't return it. Nice little boxes they have at the ten-cent stores, all covered with poinsettia flowers, to put presents in. Wonder when poinsettia began to be used as a Christmas decoration and why? Everyone in ten-cent store calls them "poinsettias," but named after J. R. Poinsett. Encyclopedia very handy at times; makes a good Christmas present, one dollar down and a dollar a month for life. Nobody can tell the difference between real pearls and imitation; somebody ought to put the oysters wise. Save them a lot of trouble and anxiety. Don't know just what duvetyne is, but there seems to be a lot of it drunk nowadays. Hope that clockwork train for the Urchin will arrive soon; we were hoping to have three happy evenings playing with it before he sees it. Fine to have children; lots of fun playing with their presents. We are sure that life after death is really so, because children always kick the blankets off at night. Fine bit of symbolism that; put it in a sermon, unless Doctor Conwell gets there first.
Grand time, Christmas! We vowed to try to take down our weight this winter, and then they put sugar back on the menu, and doughnut shops spring up on every street, and Charles F. Jenkins sent us a big sack of Pocono buckwheat flour and we're eating a basketful of griddle cakes every morning for breakfast. Terrible to be a coward; we always turn on the hot water first in the shower bath, except the first morning we used it. The plumber got the indicator on the wrong way round, and when you turn to the place marked HOT it comes down like ice. Our idea of a really happy man is the fellow driving a wagonload of truck just in front of a trolley car, holding it back all the way downtown; when he hears the motorman clanging away he pretends he thinks it's the Christmas chimes and sings "Hark the Herald Angels."