GOING TO PHILADELPHIA
Every intelligent New Yorker should be compelled, once in so often, to run over to Philadelphia and spend a few days quietly and observantly prowling.
Any lover of America is poor indeed unless he has savoured and meditated the delicious contrast of these two cities, separated by so few miles and yet by a whole world of philosophy and metaphysics. But he is a mere tyro of the two who has only made the voyage by the P.R.R. The correct way to go is by the Reading, which makes none of those annoying intermediate stops at Newark, Trenton, and so on, none of that long detour through West Philadelphia, starts you off with a ferry ride and a background of imperial campaniles and lilac-hazed cliffs and summits in the superb morning light. And the Reading route, also, takes you through a green Shakespearean land of beauty, oddly different from the flat scrubby plains traversed by the Pennsy. Consider, if you will, the hills of the idyllic Huntington Valley as you near Philadelphia; or the little white town of Hopewell, N.J., with its pointing church spire. We have often been struck by the fact that the foreign traveller between New York and Washington on the P.R.R. must think America the most flat, dreary, and uninteresting countryside in the world. Whereas if he would go from Jersey City by the joint Reading-Central New Jersey-B.&O. route, how different he would find it. No, we are not a Reading stockholder.
We went over to Philly, after having been unfaithful to her for too many months. Now we have had from time to time, most menacing letters from indignant clients, protesting that we have been unfaithful to all the tenets and duties of a Manhattan journalist because we have with indecent candour confessed an affection for both Brooklyn and Philadelphia. We lay our cards on the table. We can't help it. Philadelphia was the first large city we ever knew, and how she speaks to us! And there's a queer thing about Philadelphia, hardly believable to the New Yorker who has never conned her with an understanding eye. You emerge from the Reading Terminal (or, if you will, from Broad Street Station) with just a little superbness of mood, just a tinge of worldly disdain, as feeling yourself fresh from the grandeur of Manhattan and showing perhaps (you fondly dream) some pride of metropolitan bearing. Very well. Within half an hour you will be apologizing for New York. In their quiet, serene, contented way those happy Philadelphians will be making you a little shame-faced of the bustling madness of our heaven-touching Babel. Of course, your secret adoration of Manhattan, the greatest wild poem ever begotten by the heart of man, is not readily transmissible. You will stammer something of what it means to climb upward from the subway on a spring morning and see that golden figure over Fulton Street spreading its shining wings above the new day. And they will smile gently, that knowing, amiable Philadelphia smile.
We were false to our credo in that we went via the P.R.R., but we were compensated by a man who was just behind us at the ticket window. He asked for a ticket to Asbury Park. "Single, or return?" asked the clerk. "I don't believe I'll ever come back," he said, but with so unconsciously droll an accent that the ticket seller screamed with mirth.
There was something very thrilling in strolling again along Chestnut Street, watching all those delightful people who are so unconscious of their characteristic qualities. New York has outgrown that stage entirely: New Yorkers are conscious of being New Yorkers, but Philadelphians are Philadelphians without knowing it; and hence their unique delightfulness to the observer. Nothing seemed to us at all changed—except that the trolleys have raised their fare from five cents to seven. The Liberty Toggery Shop down on Chestnut Street was still "Going Out of Business," just as it was a couple of years ago. Philip Warner, the famous book salesman at Leary's Old Book Store, was out having lunch, as usual. The first book our eye fell upon was "The Experiences of an Irish R.M.," which we had hunted in vain in these parts. The only other book that caught our eye particularly was a copy of "Patrins," by Louise Guiney, which we saw a lady carrying on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
But perhaps New York exerts its own fascination upon Philadelphians, too. For when we returned we selfishly persuaded a friend of ours to ride with us on the train so that we might imbibe some of his ripe orotund philosophy, which we had long been deprived of. He is a merciless Celt, and all the way over he preached us a cogent sermon on our shortcomings and backslidings. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, and it was nice to know that there was still someone who cared enough for us to give us a sound cursing. Between times, while we were catching breath, he expatiated upon the fact that New York is death and damnation to the soul; but when we got to Manhattan Transfer he suddenly abandoned his intended plan of there catching the next train back to the land of Penn. A curious light began to gleam in his mild eyes; he settled his hat firmly upon his head and strode out into the Penn Station. "I think I'll go out and look round a bit," he said. We wonder whether he has gone back yet?
The other day we had a chance to go to Philadelphia in the right way—by the Reading, the P. and R., the Peaceful and Rapid. As one of our missions in life is to persuade New York and Philadelphia to love one another, we will tell you about it.
Ah, the jolly old Reading! Take the 10 o'clock ferry from Liberty Street, and as the Plainfield kicks herself away from the slip with a churning of cream and silver, study Manhattan's profile in the downpour of morning sun. That winged figure on the Tel and Tel Building (the loveliest thing in New York, we insist) is like a huge and queerly erect golden butterfly perched momently in the blue. The 10:12 train from Jersey City we call the Max Beerbohm Special because there are Seven Men in the smoker. No, the Reading is never crowded. (Two more men did get on at Elizabeth.) You can make yourself comfortable, put your coat, hat, and pipecleaners on one seat, your books, papers, and matches on another. Here is the stout conductor whom we used to know so well by sight, with his gold insignia. He has forgotten that we once travelled with him regularly, and very likely he wonders why we beam so cheerfully. We flash down the Bayonne peninsula, with a glimpse of the harbour, Staten Island in the distance, a schooner lying at anchor. Then we cross Newark Bay, pure opaline in a clear, pale blue light. H.G. Dwight is the only other chap who really enjoys Newark Bay the way it deserves to be. He wrote a fine poem about it once.
But we had one great disappointment. For an hour or so we read a rubbishy novel, thinking to ourself that when the Max Beerbohm Express reached that lovely Huntington Valley neighbourhood, we would lay down the book and study the scenery, which we know by heart. When we came to the Neshaminy, that blithe little green river, we were all ready to be thrilled. And then the train swung away to the left along the cut-off to Wayne Junction and we missed our bright Arcadia. We had wanted to see again the little cottage at Meadowbrook (so like the hunting lodge in the forest in "The Prisoner of Zenda") which a suasive real-estate man once tried to rent to us. (Philadelphia realtors are no less ingenious than the New York species.) We wanted to see again the old barn, rebuilt by an artist, at Bethayres, which he also tried to rent to us. We wanted to see again the queer "desirable residence" (near the gas tanks at Marathon) which he did rent us. But we had to content ourself with the scenery along the cut-off, which is pleasant enough in its way—there is a brown-green brook along a valley where a buggy was crawling down a lane among willow trees in a wealth of sunlight. And the dandelions are all out in those parts. Yes, it was a lovely morning. We found ourself pierced by the kind of mysterious placid melancholy that we only enjoy to the full in a Reading smoker, when, for some unknown reason, hymn tunes come humming into our head and we are alarmed to notice ourself falling in love with humanity as a whole.
We could write a whole newspaper page about travelling to Philly on the Reading. Consider those little back gardens near Wayne Junction, how delightfully clean, neat, domestic, demure. Compare entering New York toward the Grand Central, down that narrow frowning alleyway of apartment house backs, with imprisoned children leaning from barred windows. But as you spin toward Wayne Junction you see acres and acres of trim little houses, each with a bright patch of turf. Here is a woman in a blue dress and white cap, busily belabouring a rug on the grass. The bank of the cutting by Wayne Junction is thick with a tangle of rosebushes which will presently be in blossom; we know them well. Spring Garden Street: if you know where to look you can catch a blink of Edgar Allan Poe's little house. Through a jumble of queer old brick chimneys and dormers, and here we are at the Reading Terminal, with its familiar bitter smell of coal gas.
Of course we stop to have a look at the engine, one of those splendid Reading locos with the three great driving wheels. Splendid things, the big Reading locos; when they halt they pant so cheerfully and noisily, like huge dogs, much louder than any other engines. We always expect to see an enormous red tongue running in and out over the cowcatcher. Vast thick pants, as the poet said in "Khubla Khan." We can't remember if he wore them, or breathed them, but there it is in the poem; look it up. Reading engineers, too, always give us a sense of security. They have gray hair, cropped very close. They have a benign look, rather like Walt Whitman if he were shaved. We wrote a poem about one of them once, Tom Hartzell, who used to take the 5:12 express out of Jersey City.
Philadelphia, incidentally, is the only large city where the Dime Museum business still flourishes. For the first thing we see on leaving the Terminal is that the old Bingham Hotel is now The World's Museum, given over to Ursa the Bear Girl and similar excitements. But where is the beautiful girl with slick dark hair who used to be at the Reading terminal news-stand?
How much more we could tell you about travelling on the Reading! We would like to tell you about the queer assortment of books we brought back with us. (There were twelve men in the smoker, coming home.) We could tell how we tried to buy, without being observed, a magazine which we will call Foamy Fiction, in order to see what the new editor (a friend of ours) is printing. Also, we always buy a volume of Gissing when we go to Philly, and this time we found "In the Year of Jubilee" in the shop of Jerry Cullen, the delightful bookseller who used to be so redheaded, but is getting over it now in the most logical way. We could tell you about the lovely old whitewashed stone farmhouses (with barns painted red on behalf of Schenk's Mandrake Pills) and about the famous curve near Roelofs, so called because the soup rolls off the table in the dining car when they take the curve at full speed; and about Bound Brook, which has a prodigious dump of tin cans that catches the setting sunlight——
It makes us sad to think that a hundred years hence people will be travelling along that road and never know how much we loved it. They will be doing so to-morrow, too; but it seems more mournful to think about the people a hundred years hence.
When we got back to Jersey City, and stood on the front end of the ferryboat, Manhattan was piling up all her jewels into the cold green dusk. There were a few stars, just about as many as there are passengers in a Reading smoker. There was one big star directly over Brooklyn, and another that seemed to be just above Plainfield. We pondered, as the ferry slid toward its hutch at Liberty Street, that there were no stars above Manhattan. Just at that moment—five minutes after seven—the pinnacle of the Woolworth blossomed a ruby red. New York makes her own.
You never know when an adventure is going to begin. But on a train is a good place to lie in wait for them. So we sat down in the smoker of the 10 A.M. Eastern Standard Time P.R.R. express to Philadelphia, in a receptive mood.
At Manhattan Transfer the brakeman went through the train, crying in a loud, clear, emphatic barytone: "Next stop for this train is North Philadelphia!"
We sat comfortably, and in that mood of secretly exhilarated mental activity which is induced by riding on a fast train. We were looking over the June Atlantic. We smiled gently to ourself at that unconscious breath of New England hauteur expressed in the publisher's announcement, "The edition of the Atlantic is carefully restricted." Then, meditating also on the admirable sense and skill with which the magazine is edited, and getting deep into William Archer's magnificent article "The Great Stupidity" (which we hope all our clients will read) we became aware of outcries of anguish and suffering in the aisle near by.
At Manhattan Transfer a stout little man with a fine domy forehead and a derby hat tilted rather far aft had entered the smoker. He suddenly learned that the train did not stop at Newark. He uttered lamentation, and attacked the brakeman with grievous protest. "I heard you say, This train stops at Newark and Philadelphia," he insisted. His cigar revolved wildly in the corner of his mouth; crystal beads burst out upon the opulent curve of his forehead. "I've got to meet a man in Newark and sell him a bill of goods."
The brakeman was gentle but firm. "Here's the conductor," he said. "You'll have to talk to him."
Now this is a tribute of admiration and respect to that conductor. He came along the aisle punching tickets, holding his record slip gracefully folded round the middle finger of his punch hand, as conductors do. Like all experienced conductors he was alert, watchful, ready for any kind of human guile and stupidity, but courteous the while. The man bound for Newark ran to him and began his harangue. The frustrated merchant was angry and felt himself a man with a grievance. His voice rose in shrill tones, he waved his hands.
Then began a scene that was delightful to watch. The conductor was magnificently tactful. He ought to have been an ambassador (in fact, he reminded us of one ambassador, for his trim and slender figure, his tawny, drooping moustache, the gentle and serene tact of his bearing, were very like Mr. Henry van Dyke). He allowed the protestant to exhaust himself with reproaches, and then he began an affectionate little sermon, tender, sympathetic, but firm.
"I thought this train stopped at Newark," the fat man kept on saying.
"You mustn't think, you must know," said the conductor, gazing shrewdly at him above the rims of his demi-lune spectacles. "Now, why did you get on a train without making sure where it stopped? You heard the brakeman say: 'Newark and Philadelphia'? No; he said 'North Philadelphia.' Yes, I know you were in a hurry, but that wasn't our fault, was it? Now, let me tell you something: I've been working for this company for twenty-five years...."
Unhappily the noise of the train prevented us from hearing the remark that followed. We were remembering a Chinese translation that we made once. It went something like this:
A SUSPICIOUS NATURE
Whenever I travel I ask at least three train-men If this is the right train For where I am going, Even then I hardly believe them.
But as we watched the two, the conductor gently convincing the irate passenger that he would have to abide by his mistake, and the truculent fat man gradually realizing that he was hopelessly in the wrong, a new aspect subtly came over the dialogue. We saw the stout man wither and droop. We thought he was going to die. His hat slid farther and farther upward on his dewy brow. His hands fluttered. His cigar, grievously chewed, trembled in its corner of his mouth. His fine dark eyes filled with tears.
The conductor, you see, was explaining that he would have to pay the fare to North Philadelphia and then take the first train back from there to Newark.
We feared, for a few minutes, that it really would be a case for a chirurgeon, with cupping and leeching and smelling salts. Our rotund friend was in a bad way. His heart, plainly, was broken. From his right-hand trouser emerged a green roll. With delicate speed and tact the conductor hastened this tragic part of the performance. His silver punch flashed in his hand as he made change, issued a cash slip, and noted the name and address of the victim, for some possible future restitution, we surmised, or perhaps only as a generous anaesthetic.
The stout man sat down a few seats in front of us and we studied his back. We have never seen a more convincing display of chagrin. With a sombre introspective stare he gazed glassily before him. We never saw any one show less enthusiasm for the scenery. The train flashed busily along through the level green meadows, which blended exactly with the green plush of the seats, but our friend was lost in a gruesome trance. Even his cigar (long since gone out) was still, save for an occasional quiver.
The conductor came to our seat, looking, good man, faintly stern and sad, like a good parent who has had, regretfully, to chastise an erring urchin.
"Well," we said, "the next time that chap gets on a train he'll take care to find out where it stops."
The conductor smiled, but a humane, understanding smile. "I try to be fair with 'em," he said.
"I think you were a wonder," we said.
By the time we reached North Philadelphia the soothing hand of Time had exerted some of its consolation. The stout man wore a faintly sheepish smile as he rose to escape. The brakeman was in the vestibule. He, younger than the conductor, was no less kind, but we would hazard that he is not quite as resigned to mortal error and distress. He spoke genially, but there was a note of honest rebuke in his farewell.
"The next time you get on a train," he said, "watch your stop."
OUR TRICOLOUR TIE
We went up to the composing room just now to consult our privy counsellor, Peter Augsberger, the make-up man, and after Peter had told us about his corn——
It is really astonishing, by the way, how many gardeners there are in a newspaper office. We once worked in a place where a horticultural magazine and a beautiful journal of rustic life were published, and the delightful people who edited those magazines were really men about town; but here in the teeming city and in the very node of urban affairs, to wit, the composing room, one hears nought but merry gossip about gardens, and the great and good men by whom we are surrounded begin their day by gazing tenderly upon jars full of white iris. And has not our friend Charley Sawyer of the dramatic department given us a lot of vegetable marrow seeds from his own garden and greatly embarrassed us by so doing, for he has put them in two packets marked "Male" and "Female," and to tell the truth we had no idea that the matter of sex extended even as far as the apparently placid and unperturbed vegetable marrow. Mr. Sawyer explained carefully to us just how the seeds ought to be planted, the males and females in properly wedded couples, we think he said; but we are not quite sure, and we are too modest to ask him to explain again; but if we should make a mistake in planting those seeds, if we were to—— Come, we are getting away from our topic. Peter had told us about his corn, in his garden, that is, out in Nutley (and that reminds us of the difficulties of reading poetry aloud. Mr. Chesterton tells somewhere a story about a poem of Browning's that he heard read aloud when he was a child, and understood the poem to say "John scorns ale."
Now Mr. Chesterton—you understand, of course, we are referring to Gilbert Keith Chesterton—being from his very earliest youth an avowed partisan of malt liquor, this heresy made an impression upon his tender cortex, and he never forgot about John, in Browning's poem, scorning ale. But many years afterward, reading Browning, he found that the words really were: "John's corns ail," meaning apparently that John was troubled by pedal callouses.) Peter, we repeat, and to avoid any further misunderstanding and press diligently toward our theme, having mentioned his garden, who should come up to us but Pete Corcoran, also of the composing room force, and a waggish friend of ours, and gazing on us in a manner calculated to make us feel ill at ease he said, "I suppose you are going to write something about that tie of yours."
Now we were wearing a scarf that we are very fond of, the kind of tie, we believe, that is spoken of as "regimental stripes"; at any rate, it is designated with broad diagonal bands of colour: claret, gold, and blue. It was obvious to us that Pete Corcoran, or, to give him his proper name, Mr. Corcoran, had said what he did merely in a humorous way, or possibly satiric, implying that we are generally so hard up for something to write about that we would even undertake so trifling a subject as haberdashery; but as we went downstairs again to our kennel, au dixieme, as Mr. Wanamaker would call it, we thought seriously about this and decided that we would cause Pete's light-hearted suggestion to recoil violently upon his friendly brow, and that we would write a little essay about this tie and tell its story, which, to be honest, is very interesting to us. And this essay we are now endeavouring to write, even if it has to run in several instalments.
It was curious, incidentally (but not really more curious than most human affairs), that Pete (or Mr. Corcoran) whether he was merely chaffing us, or whether he was really curious about a scarf of such wanton colour scheme, should have mentioned it just when he did, for as a matter of fact that tie had been on our mind all morning. You see to-day being warm (and please remember that what we call to-day, is now, when you are reading this, yesterday) we did not wear our waistcoat, or, if you prefer, our vest; but by the time we had decided not to wear our waistcoat we had already tied our scarf in the usual way we tie that particular scarf when we wear it, viz., so as to conceal a certain spot on it which got there we know not how. We do not know what kind of a spot it is; perhaps it is a soup stain, perhaps it is due to a shrimp salad we had with Endymion at that amusing place that calls itself the Crystal Palace; we will not attempt to trace the origin of that swarthy blemish on the soft silk of our tie; but we have cunningly taught ourself to knot the thing so that the spot does not show. (Good, we have made that plain: we are getting along famously.)
Since the above was written we have been uptown and had lunch with Alf Harcourt and Will Howe and other merry gentlemen; and Will Howe, who used to be a professor of English and is now a publisher, says we ought to break up our essays into shorter paragraphs. We are fain and teachable, as someone once said in a very pretty poem; we will start a new paragraph right away.
But when our tie is tied in the manner described above, it leaves one end very much longer than the other. This is not noticeable when we wear our waistcoat; but having left off our waistcoat, we were fearful that the manner in which our tie was disposed would attract attention; and everyone would suspect just why it was tied in that way.
And we did not have time to take it off and put on another one, because we had to catch the 8:06.
So when Pete Corcoran spoke about our tie, was that what was in his mind, we wondered? Did he infer the existence of that spot, even though he did not see it? And did he therefore look down upon, or otherwise feel inclined to belittle our tie? If that were the case, we felt that we really owed it to ourself to tell the story of the tie, how we bought it, and why; and just why that tie is to us not merely a strip of rather gaudy neckwear, but a symbol of an enchanting experience, a memory and token of an epoch in our life, the sign and expression of a certain feeling that can never come again—and, indeed (as the sequel will show), that should not have come when it did.
It was a bright morning, last November, in Gloversville, New York, when we bought that tie. Now an explanation of just why we bought that tie, and what we were doing in Gloversville, cannot possibly be put into a paragraph, at any rate the kind of paragraph that Will Howe (who used to be a professor of English) would approve. On the whole, rather than rewrite the entire narrative, tersely, we will have to postpone the denouement (of the story, not the tie) until to-morrow. This is an exhibition of the difficulty of telling anything exactly. There are so many subsidiary considerations that beg for explanation. Please be patient, Pete, and to-morrow we will explain that tie in detail.
It was a bright and transparent cold morning in Gloversville, N.Y., November, 1919, and passing out of the Kingsborough Hotel we set off to have a look at the town. And if we must be honest, we were in passable good humour. To tell the truth, as Gloversville began its daily tasks in that clear lusty air and in a white dazzling sunshine, we believed, simpleton that we were, that we were on the road toward making our fortune. Now, we will have to be brief in explanation of the reason why we felt so, for it is a matter not easy to discuss with the requisite delicacy. Shortly, we were on the road—"trouping," they call it in the odd and glorious world of the theatre—with a little play in which we were partially incriminated, on a try-out voyage of one-night stands. The night before, the company had played Johnstown (a few miles from Gloversville), and if we do have to say it, the good-natured citizens of that admirable town had given them an enthusiastic reception. So friendly indeed had been our houses on the road and so genially did the company manager smile upon us that any secret doubts and qualms we had entertained were now set at rest. Lo! had not the company manager himself condescended to share a two-room suite with us in the Kingsborough Hotel that night? And we, a novice in this large and exhilarating tract of life, thought to ourself that this was the ultimate honour that could be conferred upon a lowly co-author. Yes, we said to ourself, as we beamed upon the excellent town of Gloversville, admiring the Carnegie Library and the shops and the numerous motor cars and the bright shop windows and munching some very fine doughnuts we had seen in a bakery. Yes, we repeated, this is the beginning of fame and fortune. Ah! Pete Corcoran may scoff, but that was a bright and golden morning, and we would not have missed it. We did not know then the prompt and painful end destined for that innocent piece when it reached the Alba Via Maxima. All we knew was that Saratoga and Newburgh and Johnstown had taken us to their bosoms.
At this moment, and our thoughts running thus, we happened to pass by the window of a very alluring haberdasher's shop. In that window we saw displayed a number of very brilliant neckties, all rich and glowing with bright diagonal stripes. The early sunlight fell upon them and they were brave to behold. And we said to ourself that it would be a proper thing for one who was connected with the triumphal onward march of a play that was knocking them cold on the one-night circuit to flourish a little and show some sign of worldly vanity. (We were still young, that November, and our mind was still subject to some harmless frailties.) We entered the shop and bought that tie, the very same one that struck Pete Corcoran with a palsy when he saw it the other day. We put it in our pocket and walked back to the hotel.
Now comes a portion of the narrative that exhibits to the full the deceits and stratagems of the human being. This tie, which we liked so much, thinking it the kind of thing that would add a certain dash and zip to our bearing, was eminently a metropolitan-looking kind of scarf. No one would think to look at it that it had been bought in Gloversville. And we said to ourself that if we went quietly back to the hotel and slipped unobtrusively into the washroom and put on that tie, no one would know that we had just bought it in Gloversville, but would think it was a part of our elaborate wardrobe that we had brought from New York. Very well. (We would not reveal these shameful subterfuges to any one but Pete Corcoran.) No sooner said than done; and behold us taking the trolley from Gloversville to Fonda, with the rest of the company, wearing that tie that flared and burned in the keen wintry light like a great banner, like an oriflamme of youthful defiance.
And what a day that was! We shall never forget it; we will never forget it! Was that the Mohawk Valley that glittered in the morning? (A sunshine so bright that sitting on the sunward side of the smoker and lighting our pipe, the small flame of our match paled shamefully into a tiny and scarce visible ghost.) Our tie strengthened and sustained us in our zest for a world so coloured and contoured. We even thought that it was a bit of a pity that our waistcoat was cut with so shallow and conservative a V that the casual passerby would see but little of that triumphant silk beacon. The fellow members of our company were too polite to remark upon it, but we saw that they had noticed it and took it as a joyful omen.
We had two and a half hours in Albany that day and we remember that we had set our heart on buying a certain book. Half an hour we allotted to lunch and the other two hours was spent in visiting the bookshops of Albany, which are many and good. We wonder if any Albany booksellers chance to recall a sudden flash of colour that came, moved along the shelves, and was gone? We remember half a dozen book stores that we visited; we remember them just as well as if it were yesterday, and we remember the great gusto and bright cheer of the crowds of shoppers, already doing their Christmas pioneering. We remember also that three of the books we bought (to give away) were McFee's "Aliens" and Frank Adams's "Tobogganing on Parnassus," yes, and Stevenson's "Lay Morals." Oh, a great day! And we remember the ride from Albany to Kingston, with the darkening profile of the Catskills on the western side of the train, the tawny colours of the fields (like a lion's hide), the blue shadows of the glens, the sparkling Hudson in quick blinks of brightness, the lilac line of the hills when we reached Kingston in the dusk. We remember the old and dilapidated theatre at Kingston, the big shabby dressing rooms of the men, with the scribbled autographs of former mummers on the walls. And that night we said good-bye to our little play, whose very imperfections we had grown to love by this time, and took the 3:45 A.M. milk train to New York. We slept on two seats in the smoker, and got to Weehawken in the brumous chill of a winter dawn—still wearing our tie. Now can Pete Corcoran wonder why we are fond of it, and why, ever and anon, we get it out and wear it in remembrance?
THE CLUB OF ABANDONED HUSBANDS
AJAX: Hullo, Socrates, what are you doing patrolling the streets at this late hour? Surely it would be more seemly to be at home?
SOCRATES: You speak sooth, Ajax, but I have no home to repair to.
AJAX: What do you mean by that?
SOCRATES: In the sense of a place of habitation, a dormitory, of course I still have a home; but it is merely an abandoned shell, a dark and silent place devoid of allure. I have sent my family to the seashore, good Ajax, and the lonely apartment, with all the blinds pulled down and nothing in the icebox, is a dismal haunt. That is why I wander upon the highway.
AJAX: I, too, have known that condition, Socrates. Two years ago Cassandra took the children to the mountains for July and August; and upon my word I had a doleful time of it. What do you say, shall we have recourse to a beaker of ginger ale and discuss this matter? It is still only the shank of the evening.
SOCRATES: It is well thought of.
AJAX: As I was saying, the quaint part of it was that before my wife left I had secretly thought that a period of bachelorhood would be an interesting change. I rather liked the idea of strolling about in the evenings, observing the pageant of human nature in my quiet way, dropping in at the club or the library, and mingling with my fellow men in a fashion that the husband and father does not often have opportunity to do.
SOCRATES: And when Cassandra went away you found yourself desolate?
AJAX: Even so. Of course matters were rather different in those days, before the archons had taken away certain stimulants, but the principle is still the same. You know, the inconsistency of man is rather entertaining. I had often complained about having to help put the children to bed when I got home from the office. I grudged the time it took to get them all safely bestowed. And then, when the children were away, I found myself spending infinitely more time and trouble in getting some of my bachelor friends to bed.
SOCRATES: As that merry cartoonist Briggs observes in some of his frescoes, Oh Man!
AJAX: I wonder if your experience is the same as mine was? I found that about six o'clock in the evening, the hour when I would normally have been hastening home to wife and babes, was the most poignant time. I was horribly homesick. If I did go back to my forlorn apartment, the mere sight of little Priam's crib was enough to reduce me to tears. I seriously thought of writing a poem about it.
SOCRATES: What is needed is a Club of Abandoned Husbands, for the consolation of those whose families are out of town.
AJAX: I have never found a club of much assistance at such a time. It is always full of rather elderly men who talk a great deal and in a manner both doleful and ill-informed.
SOCRATES: But this would be a club of quite a different sort. It would be devised to offer a truly domestic atmosphere to those who have sent their wives and juveniles to the country for the benefit of the fresh air, and have to stay in the city themselves to earn what is vulgarly known as kale.
AJAX: How would you work out the plan?
SOCRATES: It would not be difficult. In the first place, there would be a large nursery, with a number of rented children of various ages. Each member of the club, hastening thither from his office at the conclusion of the day's work, would be privileged to pick out some child as nearly as possible similar in age and sex to his own absent offspring. He would then deal with this child according to the necessities of its condition. If it were an extremely young infant, a bottle properly prepared would be ready in the club kitchen, and he could administer it. The club bathroom would be filled with hilarious members on their knees beside small tubs, bathing such urchins as needed it. Others would be playing games on the floor, or tucking the children in bed. It ought to be quite feasible to hire a number of children for this purpose. During the day they would be cared for by a competent matron. Baby carriages would be provided, and if any of the club members were compelled to remain in town over the week-end they could take the children for an airing in the park.
AJAX: This is a brave idea, Socrates. And then, when all the children were bedded for the night, how would the domestic atmosphere be simulated?
SOCRATES: Nothing simpler. After dinner such husbands as are accustomed to washing the dishes would be allowed to do so in the club kitchen. During the day it would be the function of the matron to think up a number of odd jobs to be performed in the course of the evening. Pictures would be hung, clocks wound, a number of tin cans would be waiting to be opened with refractory can openers, and there would always be several window blinds that had gone wrong. A really resourceful matron could devise any number of ways of making the club seem just like home. One night she would discern a smell of gas, the next there might be a hole in the fly-screens, or a little carpentering to do, or a caster broken under the piano. Husbands with a turn for plumbing would find the club basement a perpetual place of solace, with a fresh leak or a rumbling pipe every few days.
AJAX: Admirable! And if the matron really wanted to make the members feel at home she would take a turn through the building every now and then, to issue a gentle rebuke for cigar ashes dropped on the rugs or feet elevated on chairs.
SOCRATES: The really crowning touch, I think, would lie in the ice-box raids. A large ice-box would be kept well stocked with remainders of apple pie, macaroni, stewed prunes, and chocolate pudding. Any husband, making a cautious inroad upon these about midnight, would surely have the authentic emotion of being in his own home.
AJAX: An occasional request to empty the ice-box pan would also be an artful echo of domesticity.
SOCRATES: Of course the success of the scheme would depend greatly on finding the right person for matron. If she were to strew a few hairpins about and perhaps misplace a latch key now and then——
AJAX: Socrates, you have hit upon a great idea. But you ought to extend the membership of the club to include young men not yet married. Think what an admirable training school for husbands it would make!
SOCRATES: My dear fellow, let us not discuss it any further. It makes me too homesick. I am going back to my lonely apartment to write a letter to dear Xanthippe.
Did you ever hear of Finn Square? No? Very well, then, we shall have to inflict upon you some paragraphs from our unpublished work: "A Scenic Guidebook to the Sixth Avenue L." The itinerary is a frugal one: you do not have to take the L, but walk along under it.
Streets where an L runs have a fascination of their own. They have a shadowy gloom, speckled and striped with the sunlight that slips through the trestles. West Broadway, which along most of its length is straddled by the L, is a channel of odd humours. Its real name, you know, is South Fifth Avenue; but the Avenue got so snobbish it insisted on its humbler brother changing its name. Let us take it from Spring Street southward.
Ribbons, purple, red, and green, were the first thing to catch our eye. Not the ribbons of the milliner, however, but the carbon tapes of the typewriter, big cans of them being loaded on a junk wagon. "Purple Ribbons" we have often thought, would be a neat title for a volume of verses written on a typewriter. What happens to the used ribbons of modern poets? Mr. Hilaire Belloc, or Mr. Chesterton, for instance. Give me but what these ribbons type and all the rest is merely tripe, as Edmund Waller might have said. Near the ribbons we saw a paper-box factory, where a number of high-spirited young women were busy at their machines. A broad strip of thick green paint was laid across the lower half of the windows so that these immured damsels might not waste their employers' time in watching goings on along the pavement.
Broome and Watts streets diverge from West Broadway in a V. At the corner of Watts is one of West Broadway's many saloons, which by courageous readjustments still manage to play their useful part. What used to be called the "Business Men's Lunch" now has a tendency to name itself "Luncheonette" or "Milk Bar." But the old decorations remain. In this one you will see the electric fixtures wrapped in heavy lead foil, the kind of sheeting that is used in packages of tea. At the corner of Grand Street is the Sapphire Cafe, and what could be a more appealing name than that? "Delicious Chocolate with Whipped Cream," says a sign outside the Sapphire. And some way farther down (at the corner of White Street) is a jolly old tavern which looked so antique and inviting that we went inside. Little tables piled high with hunks of bread betokened the approaching lunch hour. A shimmering black cat winked a drowsy topaz eye from her lounge in the corner. We asked for cider. There was none, but our gaze fell upon a bottle marked "Irish Moss." We asked for some, and the barkeep pushed the bottle forward with a tiny glass. Irish Moss, it seems, is the kind of drink which the customer pours out for himself, so we decanted a generous slug. It proved to be a kind of essence of horehound, of notable tartness and pungency, very like a powerful cough syrup. We wrote it off on our ledger as experience. Beside us stood a sturdy citizen with a freight hook round his neck, deducing a foaming crock of the legitimate percentage.
The chief landmark of that stretch of West Broadway is the tall spire of St. Alphonsus' Church, near Canal Street. Up the steps and through plain brown doors we went into the church, which was cool, quiet, and empty, save for a busy charwoman with humorous Irish face. Under the altar canopy wavered a small candle spark, and high overhead, in the dimness, were orange and scarlet gleams from a stained window. A crystal chandelier hanging in the aisle caught pale yellow tinctures of light. No Catholic church, wherever you find it, is long empty; a man and a girl entered just as we went out. At each side of the front steps the words Copiosa apud eum redemtio are carved in the stone. The mason must have forgotten the p in the last word. A silver plate on the brick house next door says Redemptorist Fathers.
York Street, running off to the west, gives a glimpse of the old Hudson River Railroad freight depot. St. John's Lane, running across York Street, skirts the ruins of old St. John's Church, demolished when the Seventh Avenue subway was built. On the old brown house at the corner some urchin has chalked the word CRAZY. Perhaps this is an indictment of adult civilization as a whole. If one strolls thoughtfully about some of these streets—say Thompson Street—on a hot day, and sees the children struggling to grow up, he feels like going back to that word CRAZY and italicizing it. The tiny triangle of park at Beach Street is carefully locked up, you will notice—the only plot of grass in that neighbourhood—so that bare feet cannot get at it. Superb irony of circumstance: on the near corner stands the Castoria factory, Castoria being (if we remember the ads) what Mr. Fletcher gave baby when she was sick.
Where Varick Street runs in there is a wide triangular spread, and this, gentle friends, is Finn Park, named for a New York boy who was killed in France. The name reminded us also of Elfin Finn, the somewhat complacent stage child who poses for chic costumes in Vogue. We were wondering which was a more hazardous bringing up for a small girl, living on Thompson Street or posing for a fashion magazine. From Finn Square there is a stirring view of the Woolworth Tower. Also of Claflin's packing cases on their way off to Selma, Ala., and Kalamazoo, Mich., and to Nathan Povich, Bath, Me. That conjunction of Finn and Bath, Me., suggested to us that the empty space there would be a good place to put in a municipal swimming pool for the urchins of the district.
Drawn from the wood, which legend still stands on the pub at the corner of Duane Street, sounds a bit ominous these wood alcohol days. John Barleycorn may be down, but he's never out, as someone has remarked. For near Murray Street you will find one of those malt-and-hops places which are getting numerous. They contain all the necessary equipment for—well, as the signs suggest, for making malt bread and coffee cake—bottle-capping apparatus and rubber tubing and densimeters, and all such things used in breadmaking. As the signs say: "Malt syrup for making malt bread, coffee, cake, and medicinal purposes."
To conclude the scenic pleasures of the Sixth Avenue L route, we walk through the cool, dark, low-roofed tunnel of Church Street in those interesting blocks just north of Vesey. We hark to the merry crowing of the roosters in the Barclay Street poultry stores; and we look past the tall gray pillars of St. Peter's Church at the flicker of scarlet and gold lights near the altar. The black-robed nuns one often sees along Church Street, with their pale, austere, hooded faces, bring a curious touch of medievalism into the roaring tide that flows under the Hudson Terminal Building. They always walk in twos, which seems to indicate an even greater apprehension of the World. And we always notice, as we go by the pipe shop at the corner of Barclay Street, that this worthy merchant has painted some inducements on one side of his shop; which reminds us of the same device used by the famous tobacconist Bacon, in Cambridge, England. Why, we wonder, doesn't our friend fill the remaining blank panel on his side wall by painting there some stanzas from Calverley's "Ode to Tobacco?" We will gladly give him the text to copy if he wants it.
THE RUDENESS OF POETS
The poet who has not learned how to be rude has not learned his first duty to himself. By "poet" I mean, of course, any imaginative creator—novelist, mathematician, editor, or a man like Herbert Hoover. And by "rude" I mean the strict and definite limitation which, sooner or later, he must impose upon his sociable instincts. He must refuse to fritter away priceless time and energy in the random genialities of the world. Friendly, well-meaning, and fumbling hands will stretch out to bind the poet's heart in the maddening pack-thread of Lilliput. It will always be so. Life, for most, is so empty of consecrated purpose, so full of palaver, that they cannot understand the trouble of one who carries a flame in his heart, and whose salvation depends on his strength to nourish that flame unsuffocated by crowding and scrutiny.
The poet lives in an alien world. That is not his pride; it is his humility. It is often his joy, but often also his misery: he must dree his weird. His necessary solitude of spirit is not luxury, nor the gesture of a churl: it is his sacrifice, it is the condition on which he lives. He must be content to seem boorish to the general in order to be tender to his duty. He has invisible guests at the table of his heart: those places are reserved against all comers. He must be their host first of all, or he is damned. He serves the world by cutting it when they meet inopportunely. There are times (as Keats said and Christ implied) when the wind and the stars are his wife and children.
There will be a thousand pressures to bare his bosom to the lunacy of public dinners, lecture platforms, and what not pleasant folderol. He must be privileged apparent ruffian discourtesy. He has his own heart-burn to consider. One thinks of Rudyard Kipling in this connection. Mr. Kipling stands above all other men of letters to-day in the brave clearness with which he has made it plain that he consorts first of all with his own imagination.
As the poet sees the world, and studies, the more he realizes that men are sharply cut in two classes: those who understand, those who do not. With the latter he speaks a foreign language and with effort, trying shamefacedly to conceal his strangeness. With these, perhaps, every moment spent is for ever lost. With the others he can never commune enough, seeking clumsily to share and impart those moments of rare intuition when truth came near. There is rarely any doubt as to this human division: the heart knows its kin.
The world, as he sees it around him, is almost unconscious of its unspeakable loveliness and mystery; and it is largely regimented and organized for absurdity. The greater part of the movement he sees is (by his standard) not merely stupid (which is pardonable and appealing), but meaningless altogether. He views it between anger and tenderness. Where there might have been the exquisite and delicious simplicity of a Japanese print, he sees the flicker and cruel garishness of a speeding film. And so, for refreshment, he crosses through the invisible doorway into his own dear land of lucidity. He cons over that passport of his unsociability, words of J.B. Yeats which should be unforgotten in every poet's mind:
Poetry is the voice of the solitary man. The poet is always a solitary; and yet he speaks to others—he would win their attention. Thus it follows that every poem is a social act done by a solitary man. And being an alien from the strange land of the solitary, he cannot be expected to admonish or to sermonize, or uplift, as it is called; and so take part in the cabals and intrigues in other lands of which he knows nothing, being himself a stranger from a strange land, the land of the solitary. People listen to him as they would to any other traveller come from distant countries, and all he asks for is courtesy even as he himself is courteous.
Inferior poets are those who forget their dignity—and, indeed, their only chance of being permitted to live—and to make friends try to enter into the lives of the people whom they would propitiate, and so become teachers and moralists and preachers. And soon for penalty of their rashness and folly they forget their own land of the solitary, and its speech perishes from their lips. The traveller's tales are of all the most precious, because he comes from a land—the poet's solitude—which no other feet have trodden and which no other feet will tread.
So, briefly and awkwardly, he justifies himself, being given (as Mrs. Quickly apologized) to "allicholy and musing." Oh, it is not easy! As Gilbert Chesterton said, in a noble poem:
The way is all so very plain That we may lose the way.
The managing editor, the city editor, the production manager, the foreman of the composing room, and the leading editorial writer having all said to us with a great deal of sternness, "Your copy for Saturday has got to be upstairs by such and such a time, because we are going to make up the page at so and so A.M.," we got rather nervous.
If we may say so, we did not like the way they said it. They spoke—and we are thinking particularly of the production manager—with a kind of paternal severity that was deeply distressing to our spirit. They are all, in off hours, men of delightfully easy disposition. They are men with whom it would be a pleasure and a privilege to be cast away on a desert island or in a crowded subway train. It is only just to say that they are men whom we admire greatly. When we meet them in the elevator, or see them at Frank's having lunch, how full of jolly intercourse they are. But in the conduct of their passionate and perilous business, that is, of getting the paper out on time, a holy anguish shines upon their brows. The stern daughter of the voice of God has whispered to them, and they pass on the whisper to us through a mega-phone.
That means to say that within the hour we have got to show up something in the neighbourhood of 1100 words to these magistrates and overseers. With these keys—typewriter keys, of course—we have got to unlock our heart. Milton, thou shouldst be living at this hour. Speaking of Milton, the damp that fell round his path (in Wordsworth's sonnet) was nothing to the damp that fell round our alert vestiges as we hastened to the Salamis station in that drench this morning. (We ask you to observe our self-restraint. We might have said "drenching downpour of silver Long Island rain," or something of that sort, and thus got several words nearer our necessary total of 1100. But we scorn, even when writing against time, to take petty advantages. Let us be brief, crisp, packed with thought. Let it stand as drench, while you admire our proud conscience.)
Eleven hundred words—what a lot could be said in 1100 words! We stood at the front door of the baggage car (there is an odd irony in this: the leading editorial writer, one of the most implacable of our taskmasters, is spending the summer at Sea Cliff, and he gets the last empty seat left in the smoker. So we, getting on at Salamis, have to stand in the baggage car) watching the engine rock and roar along the rails, while the rain sheeted the level green fields. It is very agreeable to ride on a train in the rain. We have never known just why, but it conduces to thought. The clear trickles of water are drawn slantwise across the window panes, and one watches, absently, the curious behaviour of the drops. They hang bulging and pendulous, in one spot for some seconds. Then, as they swell, suddenly they break loose and zigzag swiftly down the pane, following the slippery pathway that previous drops have made. It is like a little puzzle game where you manoeuvre a weighted capsule among pegs toward a narrow opening. "Pigs in clover," they sometimes call it, but who knows why? The conduct of raindrops on a smoking-car window is capricious and odd, but we must pass on. That topic alone would serve for several hundred words, but we will not be opportunist.
We stood at the front door of the baggage car, and in a pleasant haze of the faculties we thought of a number of things. We thought of some books we had seen up on East Fifty-ninth Street, in that admirable row of old bookshops, particularly Mowry Saben's volume of essays, "The Spirit of Life," which we are going back to buy one of these days; so please let it alone. We then got out a small note-book in which we keep memoranda of books we intend to read and pored over it zealously. Just for fun, we will tell you three of the titles we have noted there:
"The Voyage of the Hoppergrass," by E.L. Pearson. "People and Problems," by Fabian Franklin. "Broken Stowage," by David W. Bone.
But most of all we thought, in a vague sentimental way, about that pleasant Long Island country through which the engine was haling and hallooing all those carloads of audacious commuters.
Only the other day we heard a wise man say that he did not care for Long Island, because one has to travel through a number of half-built suburbs before getting into real country. We felt, when he said it, that it would be impossible for us to tell him how much some of those growing suburbs mean to us, for we have lived in them. There is not one of those little frame dwellings that doesn't give us a thrill as we buzz past them. If you voyage from Brooklyn, as we do, you will have noticed two stations (near Jamaica) called Clarenceville and Morris Park. Now we have never got off at those stations, though we intend to some day. But in those rows of small houses and in sudden glimpses of modest tree-lined streets and corner drug stores we can see something that we are not subtle enough to express. We see it again in the scrap of green park by the station at Queens, and in the brave little public library near the same station—which we cannot see from the train, though we often try to; but we know it is there, and probably the same kindly lady librarian and the children borrowing books. We see it again—or we did the other day—in a field at Mineola where a number of small boys were flying kites in the warm, clean, softly perfumed air of a July afternoon. We see it in the vivid rows of colour in the florist's meadow at Floral Park. We don't know just what it is, but over all that broad tract of hardworking suburbs there is a secret spirit of practical and persevering decency that we somehow associate with the soul of America.
We see it with the eye of a lover, and we know that it is good.
Having got as far as this, we took the trouble to count all the words up to this point. The total is exactly 1100.
The other evening we went with Titania to a ramshackle country hotel which calls itself The Mansion House, looking forward to a fine robust meal. It was a transparent, sunny, cool evening, and when we saw on the bill of fare half broiled chicken, we innocently supposed that the word half was an adjective modifying the compound noun, broiled-chicken. Instead, to our sorrow and disappointment, it proved to be an adverb modifying broiled (we hope we parse the matter correctly). At any rate, the wretched fowl was blue and pallid, a little smoked on the exterior, raw and sinewy within, and an affront to the whole profession of innkeeping. Whereupon, in the days that followed, looking back at our fine mood of expectancy as we entered that hostelry, and its pitiable collapse when the miserable travesty of victuals was laid before us, we fell to thinking about some of the inns we had known of old time where we had feasted not without good heart.
To speak merely by sudden memory, for instance, there was the fine old hotel in Burlington, Vermont—is it called the Van Ness House?—where we remember a line of cane-bottomed chairs on a long shady veranda, where one could look out and see the town simmering in that waft of hot and dazzling sunshine that pours across Lake Champlain in the late afternoon: and The Black Lion, Lavenham, Suffolk; where (unless we confuse it with a pub in Bury St. Edmunds where we had lunch), there was, in the hallway, a very fine old engraving called "Pirates Decoying a Merchantman," in which one pirate, dressed in woman's clothes, stood up above the bulwarks waving for assistance, while the cutlassed ruffians crouched below ready to do their bloody work when the other ship came near enough. Nor have we forgotten The Saracen's Head, at Ware, whence we went exploring down the little river Lea on Izaak Walton's trail; nor The Swan at Bibury in Gloucestershire, hard by that clear green water the Colne; nor another Swan at Tetsworth in Oxfordshire, which one reaches after bicycling over the beechy slope of the Chilterns, and where, in the narrow taproom, occurred the fabled encounter between a Texas Rhodes Scholar logged with port wine and seven Oxfordshire yokels who made merry over his power of carrying the red blood of the grape.
Our friend C.F.B., while we were meditating these golden matters, wrote to us that he is going on a walking or bicycling trip in England next summer, and asks for suggestions. We advise him to get a copy of Muirhead's "England" (the best general guidebook we have seen) and look up his favourite authors in the index. That will refer him to the places associated with them, and he can have rare sport in hunting them out. There is no way of pilgrimage so pleasant as to follow the spoor of a well-loved writer. Referring to our black note-book, in which we keep memoranda of a modest pilgrimage we once made to places mentioned by two of our heroes, viz., Boswell and R.L.S., we think that if we were in C.F.B.'s shoes, one of the regions we would be most anxious to revisit would be Dove Dale, in Derbyshire. This exquisite little valley is reached from Ashbourne, where we commend the Green Man Inn (visited more than once by Doctor Johnson and Boswell). This neighbourhood also has memories of George Eliot, and of Izaak Walton, who used to go fishing in the little river Dove; his fishing house is still there. Unfortunately, when we were in those parts we did not have sense enough to see the Manyfold, a curious stream (a tributary of the Dove) which by its habit of running underground caused Johnson and Boswell to argue about miracles.
Muirhead's book will give C.F.B. sound counsel about the inns of that district, which are many and good. The whole region of the Derbyshire Peak is rarely visited by the foreign tourist. Of it, Doctor Johnson, with his sturdy prejudice, said: "He who has seen Dove Dale has no need to visit the Highlands." The metropolis of this moorland is Buxton: unhappily we did not make a note of the inn we visited in that town; but we have a clear recollection of claret, candlelight, and reading "Weir of Hermiston" in bed; also a bathroom with hot water, not too common in the cheap hostelries we frequented.
We can only wish for the good C.F.B. as happy an evening as we spent (with our eccentric friend Mifflin McGill) bicycling from the Newhaven Inn in a July twilight. The Newhaven Inn, which is only a vile kind of meagre roadhouse at a lonely fork in the way (where one arm of the signpost carries the romantic legend "To Haddon Hall"), lies between Ashbourne and Buxton. But it is marked on all the maps, so perhaps it has an honourable history. The sun was dying in red embers over the Derbyshire hills as we pedalled along. Life, liquor, and literature lay all before us; certes, we had no thought of ever writing a daily column! And finally, after our small lanterns were lit and cast their little fans of brightness along the flowing road, we ascended a rise and saw Buxton in the valley below, twinkling with lights—
"And when even dies, the million-tinted, And the night has come, and planets glinted Lo, the valley hollow Lamp-bestarred!"
Nor were all these ancient inns (to which our heart wistfully returns) on British soil. There was the Hotel de la Tour, in Montjoie, a quaint small town somewhere in that hilly region of the Ardennes along the border between Luxemburg and Belgium. Our memory is rather vague as to Montjoie, for we got there late one evening, after more than seventy up-and-down miles on a bicycle, hypnotic with weariness and the smell of pine trees and a great warm wind that had buffeted us all day. But we have a dim, comfortable remembrance of a large clean bedroom, unlighted, in which we duskily groped and found no less than three huge beds among which we had to choose; and we can see also a dining room brilliantly papered in scarlet, with good old prints on the walls and great wooden beams overhead. Two bottles of ice-cold beer linger in our thought: and there was some excellent work done on a large pancake, one of those durable fleshy German Pfannkuchen. For the odd part of it was (unless our memory is wholly amiss) Montjoie was then (1912) supposed to be part of Germany, and they pronounced it Mon-yowey. But the Reich must have felt that this was not permanent, for they had not Germanized either the name of the town or of the hostelry.
And let us add, in this affectionate summary, The Lion—(Hotel zum Loewen)—at Sigmaringen, that delicious little haunt on the upper Danube, where the castle sits on a stony jut overlooking the river. Algernon Blackwood, in one of his superb tales of fantasy (in the volume called "The Listener") has told a fascinating gruesome story of the Danube, describing a sedgy, sandy, desolate region below the Hungarian border where malevolent inhuman forces were apparent and resented mortal intrusion. But we cannot testify to anything sinister in the bright water of the Danube in the flow of its lovely youth, above Sigmaringen. And if there were any evil influences, surely at Sigmaringen (the ancient home and origin of the Hohenzollerns, we believe) they would have shown themselves. In those exhilarating miles of valley, bicycled in company with a blithe vagabond who is now a professor at Cornell, we learned why the waltz was called "The Blue Danube." So heavenly a tint of transparent blue-green we have never seen elsewhere, the hurrying current sliding under steep crags of gray and yellow stone, whitened upon sudden shallows into long terraces of broken water. There was a wayside chapel with painted frescoes and Latin inscriptions (why didn't we make a note of them, we wonder?) and before it a cold gush sluicing from a lion's mouth into a stone basin. A blue crockery mug stood on the rim, and the bowl was spotted with floating petals from pink and white rose-bushes. We can still see our companion, tilting a thirsty bearded face as he drank, outlined on such a backdrop of pure romantic beauty as only enriches irresponsible youth in its commerce with the world. The river bends sharply to the left under a prodigious cliff, where is some ancient castle or religious house. There he stands, excellent fellow, forever (in our memory) holding that blue mug against a Maxfield Parrish scene.
Just around that bend, if you are discreet, a bathe can be accomplished, and you will reach the Lion by supper time, vowing the Danube the loveliest of all streams.
Of the Lion itself, now that we compress the gland of memory more closely, we have little to report save a general sensation of cheerful comfort. That in itself is favourable: the bad inns are always accurately tabled in mind. But stay—here is a picture that unexpectedly presents itself. On that evening (it was July 15, 1912) there was a glorious little girl, about ten years old, taking supper at the Lion with her parents. Through the yellow shine of the lamps she suddenly reappears to us, across the dining room—rather a more luxurious dining room than the two wayfarers were accustomed to visit. We can see her straight white frock, her plump brown legs in socks (not reaching the floor as she sat), her tawny golden hair with a red ribbon. The two dusty vagabonds watched her, and her important-looking adults, from afar. We have only the vaguest impression of her father: he was erect and handsome and not untouched with pride. (Heavens, were they some minor offshoot of the Hohenzollern tribe?) We can see the head waiter smirking near their table. Across nine years and thousands of miles they still radiate to us a faint sense of prosperity and breeding; and the child was like a princess in a fairy-tale. Ah, if only it had all been a fairy-tale. Could we but turn back the clock to that summer evening when the dim pine-alleys smelled so resinous on the Muehlberg, turn back the flow of that quick blue river, turn back history itself and rewrite it in chapters fit for the clear eyes of that child we saw.
Well, we are growing grievous: it is time to go out and have some cider. There are many other admirable inns we might soliloquize—The Seven Stars in Rotterdam (Molensteeg 19, "nabij het Postkantoor"); Gibson's Hotel, Rutland Square, Edinburgh ("Well adapted for Marriages," says its card); the Hotel Davenport, Stamford, Connecticut, where so many palpitating playwrights have sat nervously waiting for the opening performance; the Tannhaeuser Hotel in Heidelberg, notable for the affability of the chambermaids. Perhaps you will permit us to close by quoting a description of an old Irish tavern, from that queer book "The Life of John Buncle, Esq." (1756). This inn bore the curious name The Conniving House:
The Conniving-House (as the gentlemen of Trinity called it in my time, and long after) was a little public house, kept by Jack Macklean, about a quarter of a mile beyond Rings-end, on the top of the beach, within a few yards of the sea. Here we used to have the finest fish at all times; and in the season, green peas, and all the most excellent vegetables. The ale here was always extraordinary, and everything the best; which, with its delightful situation, rendered it a delightful place of a summer's evening. Many a delightful evening have I passed in this pretty thatched house with the famous Larrey Grogan, who played on the bagpipes extreme well; dear Jack Lattin, matchless on the fiddle, and the most agreeable of companions; that ever charming young fellow, Jack Wall ... and many other delightful fellows; who went in the days of their youth to the shades of eternity. When I think of them and their evening songs—We will go to Johnny Macklean's—to try if his ale be good or no, etc., and that years and infirmities begin to oppress me—What is life!
There is a fine, easy, mellow manner of writing, worthy the subject. And we—we conclude with honest regret. Even to write down the names of all the inns where we have been happy would be the pleasantest possible way of spending an afternoon. But we advise you to be cautious in adopting our favourites as stopping places. Some of them are very humble.
THE CLUB IN HOBOKEN
The advertisement ran as follows:
Schooner Hauppauge FOR SALE By U.S. Marshal, April 26, 1 P.M., Pier G, Erie R.R., Weehawken, N.J. Built at Wilmington, N.C., 1918; net tonnage 1,295; length 228; equipped with sails, tackle, etc.
This had taken the eye of the Three Hours for Lunch Club. The club's interest in nautical matters is well known and it is always looking forward to the day when it will be able to command a vessel of its own. Now it would be too much to say that the club expected to be able to buy the Hauppauge (the first thing it would have done, in that case, would have been to rename her). For it was in the slack and hollow of the week—shall we say, the bight of the week?—just midway between pay-days. But at any rate, thought the club, we can look her over, which will be an adventure in itself; and we can see just how people behave when they are buying a schooner, and how prices are running, so that when the time comes we will be more experienced. Besides, the club remembered the ship auction scene in "The Wrecker" and felt that the occasion might be one of most romantic excitement.
It is hard, it is very hard, to have to admit that the club was foiled. It had been told that at Cortlandt Street a ferry bound for Weehawken might be found; but when Endymion and the Secretary arrived there, at 12:20 o'clock, they learned that the traffic to Weehawken is somewhat sparse. Next boat at 2:40, said a sign. They hastened to the Lackawanna ferry at Barclay Street, thinking that by voyaging to Hoboken and then taking a car they might still be in time. But it was not to be. When the Ithaca docked, just south of the huge red-blotched profile of the rusty rotting Leviathan, it was already 1 o'clock. The Hauppauge, they said to themselves, is already on the block, and if we went up there now to study her, we would be regarded as impostors.
But the club is philosophic. One Adventure is very nearly as good as another, and they trod ashore at Hoboken with light hearts. It was a day of tender and untroubled sunshine. They had a queer sensation of being in foreign lands. Indeed, the tall tragic funnels of the Leviathan and her motionless derelict masts cast a curious shadow of feeling over that region. For the great ship, though blameless herself, seems a thing of shame, a remembrance of days and deeds that soiled the simple creed of the sea. Her great shape and her majestic hull, pitiably dingy and stark, are yet plainly conscious of sin. You see it in every line of her as she lies there, with the attitude of a great dog beaten and crouching. You wonder how she would behave if she were towed out on the open bright water of the river, under that clear sky, under the eyes of other ships going about their affairs with the self-conscious rectitude and pride that ships have. For ships are creatures of intense caste and self-conscious righteousness. They rarely forgive a fallen sister—even when she has fallen through no fault of her own. Observe the Nieuw Amsterdam as she lies, very solid and spick, a few piers above. Her funnel is gay with bright green stripes; her glazed promenade deck is white and immaculate. But, is there not just a faint suggestion of smugness in her mien? She seems thanking the good old Dutch Deity of cleanliness and respectability that she herself is not like this poor trolloping giantess, degraded from the embrace of ocean and the unblemished circle of the sea.
That section of Hoboken waterfront, along toward the green promontory crowned by Stevens Institute, still has a war-time flavour. The old Hamburg-American line piers are used by the Army Transport Service, and in the sunshine a number of soldiers, off duty, were happily drowsing on a row of two-tiered beds set outdoors in the April pleasantness. There was a racket of bugles, and a squad seemed to be drilling in the courtyard. Endymion and the Secretary, after sitting on a pier-end watching some barges, and airing their nautical views in a way they would never have done had any pukka seafaring men been along, were stricken with the very crisis of spring fever and lassitude. They considered the possibility of hiring one of the soldiers' two-tiered beds for the afternoon. Perhaps it is the first two syllables of Hoboken's name that make it so desperately debilitating to the wayfarer in an April noonshine. Perhaps it was a kind of old nostalgia, for the Secretary remembered that sailormen's street as it had been some years ago, when he had been along there in search of schooners of another sort.
But anatomizing their anguish, these creatures finally decided that it might not be spring fever, but merely hunger. They saw the statue of the late Mr. Sloan of the Lackawanna Railroad—Sam Sloan, the bronze calls him, with friendly familiarity. The aspiring forelock of that statue, and the upraised finger of Samuel Sullivan Cox ("The Letter Carriers' Friend") in Astor Place, the club considers two of the most striking things in New York statuary. Mr. Pappanicholas, who has a candy shop in the high-spirited building called Duke's House, near the ferry terminal, must be (Endymion thought) some relative of Santa Claus. Perhaps he is Santa Claus, and the club pondered on the quite new idea that Santa Claus has lived in Hoboken all these years and no one had guessed it. The club asked a friendly policeman if there were a second-hand bookstore anywhere near. "Not that I know of," he said. But they did find a stationery store where there were a number of popular reprints in the window, notably "The Innocence of Father Brown," and Andrew Lang's "My Own Fairy Book."
But lunch was still to be considered. The club is happy to add The American Hotel, Hoboken, to its private list of places where it has been serenely happy. Consider corned beef hash, with fried egg, excellent, for 25 cents. Consider rhubarb pie, quite adequate, for 10 cents. Consider the courteous and urbane waiter. In one corner of the dining room was the hotel office, with a large array of push buttons communicating with the bedrooms. The club, its imagination busy, conceived that these were for the purpose of awakening seafaring guests early in the morning, so as not to miss their ship. If we were, for instance, second mate of the Hauppauge, and came to port in Hoboken, The American Hotel would be just the place where we would want to put up.
That brings us back to the Hauppauge. We wonder who bought her, and how much he paid; and why she carries the odd name of that Long Island village? If he would only invite us over to see her—and tell us how to get there!
THE CLUB AT ITS WORST
A barbecue and burgoo of the Three Hours for Lunch Club was held, the club's medical adviser acting as burgoomaster and Mr. Lawton Mackall, the managing director, as jest of honour. The news that Lawton was at large spread rapidly through the city, and the club was trailed for some distance by an infuriated agent of the Society for the Deracination of Puns. But Lawton managed to kick over his traces, and the club safely gained the quiet haven of a Cedar Street chophouse. Here, when the members were duly squeezed into a stall, the Doctor gazed cheerfully upon Endymion and the Secretary who held the inward places. "Now is my chance," he cried, "to kill two bards with one stone."
Lawton, says the stenographic report, was in excellent form, and committed a good deal of unforgivable syntax. He was somewhat apprehensive when he saw the bill of fare inscribed "Ye Olde Chop House," for he asserts that the use of the word "Ye" always involves extra overhead expense—and a quotation from Shakespeare on the back of the menu, he doubted, might mean a couvert charge. But he was distinctly cheered when the kidneys and bacon arrived—a long strip of bacon gloriously balanced on four very spherical and well-lubricated kidneys. Smiling demurely, even blandly, Lawton rolled his sheave of bacon to and fro upon its kidneys. "This is the first time I ever saw bacon with ball bearings," he ejaculated. He gazed with the eye of a connoisseur upon the rather candid works of art hanging over the club's corner. He said they reminded him of Mr. Coles Phillips's calf-tones. The Doctor was speaking of having read an interesting dispatch by Mr. Grasty in the Times. "I understand," said Lawton, "that he is going to collect some of his articles in a book, to be called 'Leaves of Grasty'."
Duly ambered with strict and cloudy cider, the meal progressed, served with humorous comments by the waitress whom the club calls the Venus of Mealo. The motto of the club is Tres Horas Non Numero Nisi Serenas, and as the afternoon was still juvenile the gathering was transferred to the waterfront. Passing onto the pier, Lawton gazed about him with admirable naivete. Among the piles of freight were some agricultural machines. "Ha," cried the managing director, "this, evidently, is where the Piers Plowman works!" The club's private yacht, white and lovely, lay at her berth, and in the Doctor's cabin the members proceeded to the serious discussion of literature. Lawton, however, seemed nervous. Cargo was being put aboard the ship, and ever and anon there rose a loud rumbling of donkey engines. The occasional hurrying roar of machinery seemed to make Lawton nervous, for he said apprehensively that he feared someone was rushing the growler. In the corridor outside the Doctor's quarters a group of stewardesses were violently altercating, and Lawton remarked that a wench can make almost as much noise as a winch. On the whole, however, he admired the ship greatly, and was taken with the club's plans for going cruising. He said he felt safer after noting that the lifeboats were guaranteed to hold forty persons with cubic feet.
By this time, all sense of verbal restraint had been lost, and the club (if we must be candid) concluded its session by chanting, not without enjoyment, its own sea chantey, which runs as follows:—
I shipped aboard a galleass In a brig whereof men brag, But lying on my palliass My spirits began to sag.
I heard the starboard steward Singing abaft the poop; He lewdly sang to looard And sleep fled from the sloop.
"The grog slops over the fiddles With the violins of the gale: Two bitts are on the quarterdeck, The seamen grouse and quail.
"The anchor has been catted, The timid ratlines flee, Careening and carousing She yaws upon the sea.
"The skipper lies in the scupper, The barque is lost in the bight; The bosun calls for a basin— This is a terrible night.
"The wenches man the winches, The donkey men all bray—" ... I hankered to be anchored In safety in the bay!
A SUBURBAN SENTIMENTALIST
That wild and engaging region known as the Salamis Estates has surprising enchantments for the wanderer. Strolling bushrangers, if they escape being pelleted with lead by the enthusiastic rabbit hunters who bang suddenly among thickets, will find many vistas of loveliness. All summer long we are imprisoned in foliage, locked up in a leafy embrace. But when the leaves have shredded away and the solid barriers of green stand revealed as only thin fringes of easily penetrable woodland, the eye moves with surprise over these wide reaches of colour and freedom. Beyond the old ruined farmhouse past the gnarled and rheumatic apple tree is that dimpled path that runs across fields, the short cut down to the harbour. The stiff frozen plumes of ghostly goldenrod stand up pale and powdery along the way. How many tints of brown and fawn and buff in the withered grasses—some as feathery and translucent as a gauze scarf, as nebulous as those veilings Robin Herrick was so fond of—his mention of them gives an odd connotation to a modern reader—
So looks Anthea, when in bed she lyes, Orecome, or halfe betray'd by Tiffanies.
Our fields now have the rich, tawny colour of a panther's hide. Along the little path are scattered sumac leaves, dark scarlet. It is as though Summer had been wounded by the hunter Jack Frost, and had crept away down that secret track, leaving a trail of bloodstains behind her.
This tract of placid and enchanted woodland, field, brake, glen, and coppice, has always seemed to us so amazingly like the magical Forest of Arden that we believe Shakespeare must have written "As You Like It" somewhere near here. One visitor, who was here when the woods were whispering blackly in autumn moonlight, thought them akin to George Meredith's "The Woods of Westermain"—
Enter these enchanted woods, You who dare. Nothing harms beneath the leaves More than waves a swimmer cleaves, Toss your heart up with the lark, Foot at peace with mouse and worm. Fair you fare. Only at a dread of dark Quaver, and they quit their form: Thousand eyeballs under hoods Have you by the hair. Enter these enchanted woods, You who dare.
But in winter, and in such a noonday of clear sunshine as the present, when all the naked grace of trunks and hillsides lies open to eyeshot, the woodland has less of that secrecy and brooding horror that Meredith found in "Westermain." It has the very breath of that golden-bathed magic that moved in Shakespeare's tenderest haunt of comedy. Momently, looking out toward the gray ruin on the hill (which was once, most likely, the very "sheepcote fenced about with olive trees" where Aliena dwelt and Ganymede found hose and doublet give such pleasing freedom to her limbs and her wit) one expects to hear the merry note of a horn; the moralizing Duke would come striding thoughtfully through the thicket down by the tiny pool (or shall we call it a mere?). He would sit under those two knotty old oaks and begin to pluck the burrs from his jerkin. Then would come his cheerful tanned followers, carrying the dappled burgher they had ambushed; and, last, the pensive Jacques (so very like Mr. Joseph Pennell in bearing and humour) distilling his meridian melancholy into pentameter paragraphs, like any colyumist. A bonfire is quickly kindled, and the hiss and fume of venison collops whiff to us across the blue air. Against that stump—is it a real stump, or only a painted canvas affair from the property man's warehouse?—surely that is a demijohn of cider? And we can hear, presently, that most piercingly tremulous of all songs rising in rich chorus, with the plenitude of pathos that masculines best compass after a full meal—
Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind As man's ingratitude—
We hum the air over to ourself, and are stricken with the most perfect iridescent sorrow. We even ransack our memory to try to think of someone who has been ungrateful to us, so that we can throw a little vigorous bitterness into our tone.
Yes, the sunshine that gilds our Salamis thickets seems to us to have very much the amber glow of footlights.
In another part of this our "forest"—it is so truly a forest in the Shakespearean sense, as all Long Island forests are (e.g., Forest Hills), where even the lioness and the green and gilded snake have their suburban analogues, which we will not be laborious to explain—we see Time standing still while Ganymede and Aliena are out foraging with the burly Touchstone (so very like that well-loved sage Mr. Don Marquis, we protest!). And, to consider, what a place for a colyumist was the Forest of Arden. See how zealous contributors hung their poems round on trees so that he could not miss them. Is it not all the very core and heartbeat of what we call "romance," that endearing convention that submits the harsh realities and interruptions of life to a golden purge of fancy? How, we sometimes wonder, can any one grow old as long as he can still read "As You Like It," and feel the magic of that best-loved and most magical of stage directions—The Forest of Arden.
And now, while we are still in the soft Shakespearean mood, comes "Twelfth Night"—traditionally devoted to dismantling the Christmas Tree; and indeed there is no task so replete with luxurious and gentle melancholy. For by that time the toys which erst were so splendid are battered and bashed; the cornucopias empty of candy (save one or two striped sticky shards of peppermint which elude the thrusting index, and will be found again next December); the dining-room floor is thick with fallen needles; the gay little candles are burnt down to a small gutter of wax in the tin holders. The floor sparkles here and there with the fragments of tinsel balls or popcorn chains that were injudiciously hung within leap of puppy or grasp of urchin. And so you see him, the diligent parent, brooding with a tender mournfulness and sniffing the faint whiff of that fine Christmas tree odour—balsam and burning candles and fist-warmed peppermint—as he undresses the prickly boughs. Here they go into the boxes, red, green, and golden balls, tinkling glass bells, stars, paper angels, cotton-wool Santa Claus, blue birds, celluloid goldfish, mosquito netting, counterfeit stockings, nickel-plated horns, and all the comical accumulation of oddities that gathers from year to year in the box labelled CHRISTMAS TREE THINGS, FRAGILE. The box goes up to the attic, and the parent blows a faint diminuendo, achingly prolonged, on a toy horn. Titania is almost reduced to tears as he explains it is the halloo of Santa Claus fading away into the distance.
Our subject, for the moment, is Gissing—and when we say Gissing we mean not the author of that name, but the dog. He was called Gissing because he arrived, in the furnace man's poke, on the same day on which, after long desideration, we were united in holy booklock with a copy of "By the Ionian Sea."
Gissing needs (as the man said who wrote the preface to Sir Kenelm Digby's Closet) no Rhetoricating Floscules to set him off. He is (as the man said who wrote a poem about New York) vulgar of manner, underbred. He is young: his behaviour lacks restraint. Yet there is in him some lively prescription of that innocent and indivisible virtue that Nature omitted from men and gave only to Dogs. This is something that has been the cause of much vile verse in bad poets, of such gruesome twaddle as Senator Vest's dreadful outbark. But it is a true thing.
How absurd, we will interject, is the saying: "Love me, love my dog." If he really is my dog, he won't let you love him. Again, one man's dog is another man's mongrel. Mr. Robert Cortes Holliday, that quaint philosopher frequently doggishly nicknamed Owd Bob, went to Washington lately to see President Harding. His eye fell upon the White House Airedale. Now Owd Bob is himself something of an Airedale trifler, and cherishes the memory of a certain Tristram Shandy, an animal that frequently appeared in the lighter editorials of the Bookman when Mr. Holliday (then the editor) could think of nothing else to write about. And of Mr. Harding's dog Mr. Holliday reports, with grave sorrow: "I don't think he is a good Airedale. He has too much black on him. Now Shandy had only a small saddle of black...."
But such are matters concerning only students of full-bred dogs, of whom we are not who.
As to Gissing: we were trying to think, while writing the preceding excursion, how to give you his colour. Yellow is a word too violent, too vulgarly connotative. Brown is a muddy word. Sandy is too pale. Gamboge is a word used by artists, who are often immoral and excitable. Shall we say, the colour of a corncob pipe, singed and tawnied by much smoking? Or a pigskin tobacco pouch while it is still rather new? Or the colour of the Atlantic Monthly in the old days, when it lay longer on the stands than it does now, and got faintly bleached? And in this colour, whatever it is, you must discern a dimly ruddy tinge. On his forehead, which is not really a forehead, but a continuation of a long and very vulpine nose, there is a small white stripe. It runs upward from between his eyes, but cants slightly to one side (like a great many journalists). There is a small white patch on his chin. There is a white waistcoat on his chest, or bosom if you consider that a more affectionate word. White also are the last twelve bristles (we have counted them) on his tail (which is much too long). His front ankles bend inward rather lopsidedly, as though he had fallen downstairs when very young. When we stoke the furnace, he extends his forward legs on the floor (standing erect the while in his rearward edifice) and lays his head sideways on his paws, and considers us in a manner not devoid of humour.
Not far from our house, in that desirable but not very residential region which we have erst described as the Forest of Arden, there is a pond. It is a very romantic spot, it is not unlike the pond by which a man smoking a Trichinopoly cigar was murdered in one of the Sherlock Holmes stories. (The Boscombe Valley Mystery!) It is a shallow little pond, but the water is very clear; last winter when it was frozen it always reminded us of the cheerful advertising of one of the ice companies, it was so delightfully transparent. This pond is a kind of Union League Club for the frogs at this time of year; all night long you can hear them reclining in their armchairs of congenial mud and uttering their opinions, which vary very little from generation to generation. Most of those frogs are Republicans, we feel sure, but we love them no less.
In this pond Gissing had his first swim one warm Sunday recently. The party set out soon after breakfast. Gissing was in the van, his topaz eyes wild with ambition. Followed a little red express-wagon, in which sat the Urchiness, wearing her best furry hat which has, in front, a small imitation mouse-head with glass eyes. The Urchin, wearing a small Scotch bonnet with ribbons, assisted in hauling the wagon. Gissing had not yet been tested in the matter of swimming: this was a sober moment. Would he take gladly to the ocean? (So the Urchin innocently calls our small sheet of water, having by a harmless ratiocination concluded that this term applies to any body of water not surrounded by domestic porcelain.)
Now Gissing is passionate in the matter of chasing sticks hurled abroad. On seeing a billet seized and held aloft with that sibilant sound which stirs his ingenuous spirit to prodigies of pursuit, his eyes were flame, his heart was apoplexy. The stick flew aloft and curved into the pond, and he rushed to the water's edge. But there, like the recreant knight in the Arthurian idyl, he paused and doubted. There was Excalibur, floating ten feet from shore. This was a new experience. Was it written that sticks should be pursued in this strange and alien element? He barked querulously, and returned, his intellect clouded with hesitation. What was this etiquette? He was embarrassed.
Another stick was flung into the trembling mere. This time there was no question. When the gods give the same sign twice, the only answer is obey. A tawny streak crossed the small meadow, and leaped unquestioningly into the pond. There was a plunging and a spattery scuffle, and borne up by a million years of heredity he pursued the floating enemy. It was seized, and a large gulp of water also, but backward he came bearing it merrily. Then, also unknowing that he was fulfilling old tradition, he came as near as possible to the little group of presbyters and dehydrated himself upon them. Thus was a new experience added to this young creature. The frogs grew more and more pensive as he spent the rest of the morning churning the pond hither and thither.
That will be all about Gissing for the present.
It was our good fortune to overhear a dialogue between Gissing (our dog) and Mike, the dog who lives next door. Mike, or Crowgill Mike II, to give him his full entitles, is a very sagacious old person, in the fifteenth year of his disillusionment, and of excellent family. If our humble Gissing is to have a three-barrelled name, it can only be Haphazard Gissing I, for his ancestry is plainly miscellaneous and impromptu. He is, we like to say, a synthetic dog. He is young: six months; we fear that some of the errors now frequently urged against the rising generation are plainly discernible in him. And Mike, who is grizzled and grown somewhat dour, shows toward our Gissing much the attitude of Dr. Eliot toward the younger litter of humans.
In public, and when any one is watching, Mike, who is the Dog Emeritus of the Salamis Estates, pays no heed to Gissing at all: ignores him, and prowls austerely about his elderly business. But secretly spying from a window, we have seen him, unaware of notice, stroll (a little heavily and stiffly, for an old dog's legs grow gouty) over to Gissing's kennel. With his tail slightly vibrant, he conducts a dignified causerie. Unhappily, these talks are always concluded by some breach of manners on Gissing's part. At first he is respectful; but presently his enthusiasm grows too much for him; he begins to leap and frolic and utter uncouth praises of things in general. Then Mike turns soberly and moves away.
On such an occasion, the chat went like this:
GISSING: Do you believe in God?
MIKE: I acknowledge Him. I don't believe in Him.
GISSING: Oh, I think He's splendid. Hurrah! Hullabaloo! When He puts on those old khaki trousers and smokes that curve-stem pipe I always know there's a good time coming.
MIKE: You have made a mistake. That is not God. God is a tall, placid, slender man, who wears puttees when He works in the garden and smokes only cigarettes.
GISSING: Not at all. God is quite stout, and of uncertain temper, but I adore Him.
MIKE: No one knows God at your age. There is but one God, and I have described Him. There is no doubt about it, because He sometimes stays away from the office on Saturdays. Only God can do that.
GISSING: What a glorious day this is. What ho! Halleluiah! I don't suppose you know what fun it is to run round in circles. How ignorant of life the older generation is.
GISSING: Do you believe in Right and Wrong? I mean, are they absolute, or only relative?
MIKE: When I was in my prime Right was Right, and Wrong was Wrong. A bone, buried on someone else's ground, was sacred. I would not have dreamed of digging it up——
GISSING (hastily): But I am genuinely puzzled. Suppose a motor truck goes down the road. My instinct tells me that I ought to chase it and bark loudly. But if God is around He calls me back and rebukes me, sometimes painfully. Yet I am convinced that there is nothing essentially wrong in my action.
MIKE: The question of morals is not involved. If you were not so young and foolish you would know that your God (if you so call Him, though He is not a patch on mine) knows what is good for you better than you do yourself. He forbids your chasing cars because you might get hurt.
GISSING: Then instinct is not to be obeyed?
MIKE: Not when God is around.
GISSING: Yet He encourages me to chase sticks, which my instinct strongly impels me to do. Prosit! Waes hael! Excuse my enthusiasm, but you really know very little of the world or you would not take things so calmly.
MIKE: My dear boy, rheumatism is a great sedative. You will learn by and by. What are you making such a racket about?
GISSING: I have just learned that there is no such thing as free will. I don't suppose you ever meditated on these things, you are such an old stick-in-the-mud. But in my generation we scrutinize everything.
MIKE: There is plenty of free will when you have learned to will the right things. But there's no use willing yourself to destroy a motor truck, because it can't be done. I have been young, and now am old, but never have I seen an honest dog homeless, nor his pups begging their bones. You will go to the devil if you don't learn to restrain yourself.
GISSING: Last night there was a white cat in the sky. Yoicks, yoicks! I ran thirty times round the house, yelling.
MIKE: Only the moon, nothing to bark about.
GISSING: You are very old, and I do not think you have ever really felt the excitement of life. Excuse me, but have you seen me jump up and pull the baby's clothes from the line? It is glorious fun.
MIKE: My good lad, I think life will deal hardly with you.
(Exit, shaking his head.)
AT THE GASTHOF ZUM OCHSEN
Looking over some several-days-old papers we observe that the truant Mr. Bergdoll was discovered at Eberbach in Baden. Well, well, we meditate, Herr Bergdoll is not wholly devoid of sense, if he is rambling about that delicious valley of the Neckar. And if we were a foreign correspondent, anxious to send home to the papers a complete story of Herr Bergdoll's doings in those parts, we would know exactly what to do. We would go straight to the excellent Herr Leutz, proprietor of the Gasthof zum Ochsen in Eberbach, and listen to his prattle. Herr Leutz, whom we have never forgotten (since we once spent a night in his inn, companioned by another vagabond who is now Prof. W.L.G. Williams of Cornell University, so our clients in Ithaca, if any, can check us up on this fact), is the most innocently talkative person we have ever met.
A great many Americans have been to Alt Heidelberg, but not so many have continued their exploration up the Neckarthal. You leave Heidelberg by the Philosophers' Way (Philosophenweg), which looks over the river and the hills—in this case, lit by a warm July sunset—and follow (on your bicycle, of course) the road which skirts the stream. There are many springs of cold water tinkling down the steep banks on your left, and in the mediaeval-looking village of Hirschhorn you can also sample the excellent beer. The evening smell of sun-warmed grass and a view of one of those odd boats grinding its way up-current by hauling a chain from the river-bed and dropping it again over-stern will do nothing to mar your exhilaration. It will be getting dark when you reach Eberbach, and if you find your way to the Ox, Herr Leutz will be waiting (we hope) in his white coat and gold pince-nez, just as he was in 1912. And then, as you sit down to a cold supper, he will, deliberately and in the kindest way, proceed to talk your head off. He will sit down with you at the table, and every time you think a pause is coming he will seize a mug, rise to his feet (at which you also will sadly lay down your tools and rise, too, bowing stiffly from your hips), and cry: "Also! ich trinke auf Ihr Wohl!" Presently, becoming more assured, the admirable creature abbreviates his formula to the more companionable "zum Wohl!" And as he talks, and his excitement becomes more and more intense, he edges closer and closer to you, and leans forward, talking hard, until his dark beaming phiz quite interposes between your food and its destination. So that to avoid combing his baldish pate with your fork you must pass the items of your meal in quite a sideways trajectory. And if, as happened to our companion (the present Cornell don), you have no special taste for a plump landlord breathing passionately and genially upon your very cheek while you strive to satisfy a legitimate appetite, you may burst into a sudden unpremeditate but uncontrollable screech of mingled laughter and dismay, meanwhile almost falling backward in your chair in an effort to evade the steady pant and roar of those innumerable gutturals.