by Christopher Morley
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And so I never feared to see You wander down the street, Or come across the fields to me On ordinary feet. For what they'd never told me of, And what I never knew; It was that all the time, my love, Love would be merely you.

We come then to the five sonnets inspired by the War. Let us be sparing of clumsy comment. They are the living heart of young England; the throbbing soul of all that gracious manhood torn from its happy quest of Beauty and Certainty, flung unheated into the absurdities of War, and yet finding in this supreme sacrifice an answer to all its pangs of doubt. All the hot yearnings of "1905-08" and "1908-11" are gone; here is no Shropshire Lad enlisting for spite, but a joyous surrender to England of all that she had given. See his favourite metaphor (that of the swimmer) recur—what pictures it brings of "Parson's Pleasure" on the Cher and the willowy bathing pool on the Cam. How one recalls those white Greek bodies against the green!

Now, God be thanked who has matched us with His hour, And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping, With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power, To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping.

To those who tell us England is grown old and fat and soft, there is the answer. It is no hymn of hate that England's youth has sung, but the farewell of those who, loving life with infinite zest, have yet found in surrendering it to her the Beauty, the Certainty, yes and the Quiet, which they had sought. On those five pages are packed in simple words all the love of life, the love of woman, the love of England that make Brooke's memory sweet. Never did the sonnet speak to finer purpose. "In his hands the thing became a trumpet"—


Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead! There's none of these so lonely and poor of old, But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold. These laid the world away; poured out the red Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene, That men call age; and those who would have been, Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain. Honour has come back, as a King, to earth, And paid his subjects with a royal wage; And Nobleness walks in our ways again; And we have come into our heritage.

It would be misleading, perhaps, to leave Brooke's poetry with the echo of this solemn note. No understanding of the man would be complete without mentioning the vehement gladness and merriment he found in all the commonplaces of life. Poignant to all cherishers of the precious details of existence must be his poem The Great Lover where he catalogues a sort of trade order list of his stock in life. The lines speak with the very accent of Keats. These are some of the things he holds dear—

White plates and cups, clean-gleaming, Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust; Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust Of friendly bread; and many tasting food; Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood; And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers; And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours, Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon; Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon Smoothe away trouble; and the rough male kiss Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen Unpassioned beauty of a great machine; The benison of hot water; furs to touch; The good smell of old clothes; and other such— ...All these have been my loves.

Of his humour only those who knew him personally have a right to speak; but where does one find a more perfect bit of gentle satire than Heaven where he gives us a Tennysonian fish pondering the problem of a future life.

This life cannot be All, they swear, For how unpleasant, if it were! One may not doubt that, somehow, Good Shall come of Water and of Mud; And, sure, the reverent eye must see A Purpose in Liquidity. We darkly know, by Faith we cry The future is not Wholly Dry.... But somewhere, beyond Space and Time, Is wetter water, slimier slime!

No future anthology of English wit can be complete without that exquisite bit of fooling.

Of such a sort, to use Mr. Mosher's phrase, was Rupert Chawner Brooke, "the latest and greatest of young Englishmen."


The big room was very still. Outside, beneath a thin, cold drizzle, the first tinge of green showed on the broad lawn. The crocuses were beginning to thrust their spears through the sodden mold. One of the long French windows stood ajar, and in the air that slipped through was a clean, moist whiff of coming spring. It was the end of March.

In the leather armchair by the wide, flat desk sat a man. His chin was on his chest; the lowered head and the droop of the broad, spare shoulders showed the impact of some heavy burden. His clothes were gray—a trim, neatly cut business suit; his hair was gray; his gray-blue eyes were sombre. In the gathering dusk he seemed only a darker shadow in the padded chair. His right hand—the long, firm, nervous hand of a scholar—rested on the blotting pad. A silver pen had slipped from his fingers as he sat in thought. On the desk lay some typed sheets which he was revising.

Sitting there, his mind had been traversing the memories of the past two and a half years. Every line of his lean, strong figure showed some trace of the responsibilities he had borne. In the greatest crisis of modern times he had steadfastly pursued an ideal, regardless of the bitterness of criticism and the sting of ridicule. The difficulties had been tremendous. Every kind of influence had been brought upon him to do certain things, none of which he had done. A scholar, a dreamer, a lifelong student of history, he had surprised his associates by the clearness of his vision, the tenacity of his will. Never, perhaps, in the history of the nation had a man been more brutally reviled than he—save one! And his eyes turned to the wall where, over the chimney piece, hung the portrait of one of his predecessors who had stood for his ideals in a time of fiery trial. It was too dark now to see the picture but he knew well the rugged, homely face, the tender, pain-wrenched mouth.

This man had dreamed a dream. Climbing from the humble youth of a poor student, nourished in classroom and library with the burning visions of great teachers, he had hoped in this highest of positions to guide his country in the difficult path of a higher patriotism. Philosopher, idealist, keen student of men, he had been able to keep his eyes steadfast on his goal despite the intolerable cloud of unjust criticism that had rolled round him. Venomous and shameful attacks had hurt him, but had never abated his purpose. In a world reeling and smoking with the insane fury of war, one nation should stand unshaken for the message of the spirit, for the glory of humanity; for the settlement of disputes by other means than gunpowder and women's tears. That was his dream. To that he had clung.

He shifted grimly in his chair, and took up the pen.

What a long, heart-rending strain it had been! His mind went back to the golden August day when the telegram was laid on his desk announcing that the old civilization of Europe had fallen into fragments. He remembered the first meeting thereafter, when his associates, with grave, anxious faces, debated the proper stand for them to take. He remembered how, in the swinging relaxation of an afternoon of golf, he had thoughtfully planned the wording of his first neutrality proclamation.

In those dim, far-off days, who had dreamed what would come? Who could have believed that great nations would discard without compunction all the carefully built-up conventions of international law? That murder in the air, on land, on the sea, under the sea, would be rewarded by the highest military honours? That a supposedly friendly nation would fill another land with spies—even among the accredited envoys of diplomacy?

Sadly this man thought of the long painful fight he had made to keep one nation at least out of the tragic, barbaric struggle. Giving due honour to convinced militarist and sincere pacifist, his own course was still different. That his country, disregarding the old fetishes of honour and insult, should stand solidly for humanity; should endure all things, suffer all things, for humanity's sake; should seek to bind up the wounds and fill the starving mouths. That one nation—not because she was weak, but because she was strong—should, with God's help, make a firm stand for peace and show to all mankind that force can never conquer force.

"A nation can be so right that it should be too proud to fight." Magnificent words, true words, which one day would re-echo in history as the utterance of a man years in advance of his time—but what rolling thunders of vituperation they had cost him! Too proud to fight!... If only it had been possible to carry through to the end this message from Judea!

But, little by little, and with growing anguish, he had seen that the nation must take another step. Little by little, as the inhuman frenzies of warfare had grown in savagery, inflicting unspeakable horror on non-combatants, women and children, he had realized that his cherished dream must be laid aside. For the first time in human history a great nation had dared to waive pride, honour, and—with bleeding heart—even the lives of its own for the hope of humanity and civilization. With face buried in his hands he reviewed the long catalogue of atrocities on the seas. He could feel his cheeks grow hot against his palms. Arabic, Lusitania, Persia, Laconia, Falaba, Gulflight, Sussex, California—the names were etched in his brain in letters of grief. And now, since the "barred-zone" decree ...

He straightened in his chair. Like a garment the mood of anguish slipped from him. He snapped on the green desk light and turned to his personal typewriter. As he did so, from some old student day a phrase flashed into his mind—the words of Martin Luther, the Thuringian peasant and university professor, who four hundred years before had nailed his theses on the church door at Wittenberg:

"Gott helfe mir, ich kann nicht anders."

They chimed a solemn refrain in his heart as he inserted a fresh sheet of paper behind the roller and resumed his writing....

"With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves.... I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the Government and people of the United States...."

The typewriter clicked industriously. The face bent intently over the keys was grave and quiet, but as the paper unrolled before him some of his sadness seemed to pass away. A vision of his country, no longer divided in petty schisms, engrossed in material pursuits, but massed in one by the force and fury of a valiant ideal, came into his mind.

"It is for humanity," he whispered to himself. "Ich kann nicht anders...."

"We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling toward them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval.... Self-governed nations do not fill their neighbour states with spies, or set the course of intrigue to bring about some critical posture of affairs which will give them an opportunity to strike and make conquest.... A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic nations....

"Only free peoples can hold their purpose and their honour steady to a common end and prefer the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of their own."

With the gathering of the dusk the rain had stopped. He rose from his chair and walked to the window. The sky had cleared; in the west shone a faint band of clear apple green in which burned one lucent star. Distantly he could hear the murmur of the city like the pulsing heartbeat of the nation. As often, in moments of tension, he seemed to feel the whole vast stretch of the continent throbbing; the yearning breast of the land trembling with energy; the great arch of sky, spanning from coast to coast, quiver with power unused. The murmur of little children in their cradles, the tender words of mothers, the footbeat of men on the pavements of ten thousand cities, the flags leaping in air from high buildings, ships putting out to sea with gunners at their sterns—in one aching synthesis the vastness and dearness and might of his land came to him. A mingled nation, indeed, of various and clashing breeds; but oh, with what a tradition to uphold!

Words were forming in his mind as he watched the fading sky, and he returned quietly to the typewriter:

"We are glad to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included.... The world must be made safe for democracy."

The world must be made safe for democracy! As the wires leaped and the little typewriter spoke under the pressure of his strong fingers, scenes passed in his mind of the happy, happy Europe he had known in old wander days, years before.

He could see the sun setting down dark aisles of the Black Forest; the German peasants at work in the fields; the simple, cordial friendliness of that lovely land. He remembered French villages beside slow-moving rivers; white roads in a hot shimmer of sun; apple orchards of the Moselle. And England—dear green England, fairest of all—the rich blue line of the Chiltern Hills, and Buckinghamshire beech woods bronze and yellow in the autumn. He remembered thatched cottages where he had bicycled for tea, and the naive rustic folk who had made him welcome.

What deviltry had taken all these peaceful people, gripped them and maddened them, set them at one another's throats? Millions of children, millions of mothers, millions of humble workers, happy in the richness of life—where were they now? Life, innocent human life—the most precious thing we know or dream of, freedom to work for a living and win our own joys of home and love and food—what Black Death had maddened the world with its damnable seeds of hate? Would life ever be free and sweet again?

The detestable sultry horror of it all broke upon him anew in a tide of anguish. No, the world could never be the same again in the lives of men now living. But for the sake of the generations to come—he thought of his own tiny grandchildren—for the love of God and the mercy of mankind, let this madness be crushed. If his country must enter the war let it be only for the love and service of humanity. "It is a fearful thing," he thought, "but the right is more precious than peace."

Sad at heart he turned again to the typewriter, and the keys clicked off the closing words:

"To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured."

He leaned back in his chair, stiff and weary. His head ached hotly. With elbows on the desk he covered his forehead and eyes with his hands. All the agony, the bitterness, the burden of preceding days swept over him, but behind it was a cool and cleansing current of peace. "Ich kann nicht anders," he whispered.

Then, turning swiftly to the machine, he typed rapidly:

"God helping her, she can do no other."


He always lost his temper when the foreign mail came in. Sitting in his private room, which overlooked a space of gardens where bright red and yellow flowers were planted in rhomboids, triangles, parallelograms, and other stiff and ugly figures, he would glance hastily through the papers and magazines. He was familiar with several foreign languages, and would skim through the text. Then he would pound the table with his fist, walk angrily about the floor, and tear the offensive journals into strips. For very often he found in these papers from abroad articles or cartoons that were most annoying to him, and very detrimental to the business of his firm.

His assistants tried to keep foreign publications away from him, but he was plucky in his own harsh way. He insisted on seeing them. Always the same thing happened. His face would grow grim, the seam-worn forehead would corrugate, the muscles of his jaw throb nervously. His gray eyes would flash—and the fist come down heavily on the mahogany desk.

When a man is nearly sixty and of a full-blooded physique, it is not well for him to have these frequent pulsations of rage. But he had always found it hard to control his temper. He sometimes remembered what a schoolmaster had said to him at Cassel, forty-five years before: "He who loses his temper will lose everything."

But he must be granted great provocation. He had always had difficulties to contend with. His father was an invalid, and he himself was puny in childhood; infantile paralysis withered his left arm when he was an infant; but in spite of these handicaps he had made himself a vigorous swimmer, rider, and yachtsman; he could shoot better with one arm than most sportsmen with two. After leaving the university he served in the army, but at his father's death the management of the vast family business came into his hands. He was then twenty-eight.

No one can question the energy with which he set himself to carry on the affairs of the firm. Generous, impetuous, indiscreet, stubborn, pugnacious, his blend of qualities held many of the elements of a successful man of business. His first act was to dismiss the confidential and honoured assistant who had guided both his father and grandfather in the difficult years of the firm's growth. But the new executive was determined to run the business his own way. Disregarding criticism, ridicule, or flattery, he declared it his mission to spread the influence of the business to the ends of the earth. "We must have our place in the sun," he said; and announced himself as the divine instrument through whom this would be accomplished. He made it perfectly plain that no man's opposition would balk him in the management of the firm's affairs. One of his most famous remarks was: "Considering myself as the instrument of the Lord, without heeding the views and opinions of the day, I go my way." The board of directors censured him for this, but he paid little heed.

The growth of the business was enormous; nothing like it had been seen in the world's history. Branch offices were opened all over the globe. Vessels bearing the insignia of the company were seen on every ocean. He himself with his accustomed energy travelled everywhere to advance the interests of trade. In England, Russia, Denmark, Italy, Austria, Turkey, the Holy Land, he made personal visits to the firm's best customers. He sent his brother to America to spread the goodwill of the business; and other members of the firm to France, Holland, China, and Japan. Telegram after telegram kept the world's cables busy as he distributed congratulations, condolences, messages of one kind and another to foreign merchants. His publicity department never rested. He employed famous scientists and inventors to improve the products of his factories. He reared six sons to carry on the business after him.

This is no place to record minutely the million activities of thirty years that made his business one of the greatest on earth. It is all written down in history. Suffice it to say that those years did not go by without sorrows. He was afflicted with an incurable disease. His temperament, like high tension steel, was of a brittle quality; it had the tendency to snap under great strains, living always at fever pitch, sparing himself no fatigue of body or soul, the whirring dynamo of energy in him often showed signs of overstress.

It is hard to conceive what he must have gone through in those last months. You must remember the extraordinary conditions in his line of business caused by the events of recent years. He had lived to see his old friends, merchants with whom he had dealt for decades, some of them the foreign representatives of his own firm, out of a job and hunted from their homes by creditors. He had lived to realize that the commodity he and his family had been manufacturing for generations was out of date, a thing no longer needed or wanted by the modern world. The strain which his mind was enduring is shown by the febrile and unbalanced tone of one of his letters, sent to a member of his own family who ran one of the company's branch offices but was forced to resign by bankruptcy:

"I have heard with wrath of the infamous outrage committed by our common enemies upon you and upon your business. I assure you that your deprivation can be only temporary. The mailed fist, with further aid from Almighty God, will restore you to your office, of which no man by right can rob you. The company will wreak vengeance on those who have dared so insolently to lay their criminal hands on you. We hope to welcome you at the earliest opportunity."

The failure of his business was the great drama of the century; and it is worth while to remember what it was that killed it—and him. While the struggle was still on there were many arguments as to what would bring matters to an end; some cunning invention, some new patent that would outwit the methods of his firm. But after all it was nothing more startling than the printing press and the moral of the whole matter may be put in those fine old words, "But above all things, truth beareth away the victory." Little by little, the immense power of the printed word became too strong for him. Rave and fume as he might, and hammer the mahogany desk, the rolling thunders of a world massed against him cracked even his stiff will. Little by little the plain truth sifted into the minds and hearts of the thousands working in his huge organization. In Russia, in Greece, in Spain, in Austria, in China, in Mexico, he saw men bursting the shells of age and custom that had cramped them. One by one his competitors adopted the new ideas, or had them forced upon them; profit-sharing, workmen's insurance, the right of free communities to live their own lives.

Deep in his heart he must have known he was doomed to fail, but that perverse demon of strong-headed pugnacity was trenched deep within him. He was always a fighter, but his face, though angry, obstinate, proud, was still not an evil face. He broke down while there was still some of the business to save and some of the goodwill intact.

It was the printing press that decided it: the greatest engine in the world, to which submarines and howitzers and airplanes are but wasteful toys. For when the printing presses are united the planet may buck and yaw, but she comes into line at last. A million inky cylinders, roaring in chorus, were telling him the truth. When his assistants found him, on his desk lay a half-ripped magazine where he had tried to tear up a mocking cartoon.

I think that as he sat at his table in those last days, staring with embittered eyes at the savage words and pictures that came to him from over the seven seas, he must have had some vision of the shadowy might of the press, of the vast irresistible urge of public opinion, that hung like dark wings above his head. For little by little the printed word incarnates itself in power, and in ways undreamed of makes itself felt. Little by little the wills of common men, coalescing, running together like beads of mercury on a plate, quivering into rhythm and concord, become a mighty force that may be ever so impalpable, but grinds empires to powder. Mankind suffers hideous wrongs and cruel setbacks, but when once the collective purpose of humanity is summoned to a righteous end, it moves onward like the tide up a harbour.

The struggle was long and bitter. His superb organization, with such colossal resources for human good, lavished in the fight every energy known to man. For a time it seemed as though he would pull through. His managers had foreseen every phase of this unprecedented competition, and his warehouses were stocked. But slowly the forces of his opponents began to focus themselves.

Then even his own employees suspected the truth. His agents, solicitors, and salesmen, scattered all over the globe, realized that one company cannot twist the destiny of mankind. He felt the huge fabric of his power quiver and creak. The business is now in the hands of the executors, pending a reorganization.


There is a small black notebook into which I look once or twice a year to refresh my memory of a carnal and spiritual pilgrimage to Edinburgh, made with Mifflin McGill (upon whose head be peace) in the summer of 1911. It is a testament of light-hearted youth, savoury with the unindentured joys of twenty-one and the grand literary passion. Would that one might again steer Shotover (dearest of pushbikes) along the Banbury Road, and see Mifflin's lean shanks twirl up the dust on the way to Stratford! Never was more innocent merriment spread upon English landscape. When I die, bury the black notebook with me.

That notebook is memorable also in a statistical way, and perchance may serve future historians as a document proving the moderate cost of wayfaring in those halcyon days. Nothing in Mr. Pepys' diary is more interesting than his meticulous record of what his amusements cost him. Mayhap some future economist will pore upon these guileless confessions. For in the black memorandum book I succeeded, for almost the only time in my life, in keeping an accurate record of the lapse of coin during nine whole days. I shall deposit the document with the Congressional Library in Washington for future annalists; in the meantime I make no excuse for recounting the items of the first sixty hours. Let no one take amiss the frequent entries marked "cider." July, 1911, was a hot month and a dusty, and we were biking fifty miles the day. Please reckon exchange at two cents per penny.

L s. d

July 16 pint cider 4 1/2 pint cider 11/2 lunch at Banbury 2 2 pint cider at Ettington 3 supper at Stratford 1 3 stamp and postcard 2 _ __ __ 4 31/2

July 17 Postcards and stamps 9 pencil 1 Warwick Castle 2 - cider at the _Bear and Baculus_ (which Mifflin _would_ call the _Bear and Bacillus) _ 21/2 _Bowling Green Inn, _bed and breakfast 3 2 Puncture 1 - Lunch, Kenilworth 1 6 Kenilworth Castle 6 Postcards 4 Lemonade, Coventry 4 Cider 21/2 Supper, Tamworth, _The Castle Hotel_ 2 1 _ __ __ 16 51/2

July 18 Johnson house, Lichfield 3 cider at _The Three Crowns_ 4 postcard and shave 4 _The King's Head_, bed and breakfast 3 7 cider 2 tip on road[A] 11/2 lunch, Uttoxeter 1 3 cider, Ashbourne, _The Green Man_ 3 landlord's drink, Ashbourne[B] 1 supper, _Newhaven House_, 1 - lemonade, Buxton 3 _ __ __

TOTAL L1 4 1 ($5.78)

[Footnote A: As far as I can remember, this was a gratuity to a rather tarnished subject who directed us at a fork in the road, near a railway crossing.]

[Footnote B: This was a copper well lavished; for the publican, a ventripotent person with a liquid and glamorous brown eye, told us excellent gossip about Dr. Johnson and George Eliot, both heroes in that neighbourhood. "Yes," we said, "that man Eliot was a great writer," and he agreed.]

That is to say, 24 bob for two and a half days. We used to reckon that ten shillings a day would do us very nicely, barring luxuries and emergencies. We attained a zealous proficiency in reckoning shillings and pence, and our fervour in posting our ledgers would have gladdened a firm of auditors. I remember lying on the coping of a stone bridge over the water of Teviot near Hawick, admiring the green-brown tint of the swift stream bickering over the stones. Mifflin was writing busily in his notebook on the other side of the bridge. I thought to myself, "Bless the lad, he's jotting down some picturesque notes of something that has struck his romantic eye." And just then he spoke—"Four and eleven pence half-penny so far to-day!"

Would I could retrogress over the devious and enchanting itinerary. The McGill route from Oxford to Auld Reekie is 417 miles; it was the afternoon of the ninth day when with thumping hearts we saw Arthur's Seat from a dozen miles away. Our goal was in sight!

There was a reason for all this pedalling madness. Ever since the days when we had wandered by Darby Creek, reading R.L.S. aloud to one another, we had planned this trip to the gray metropolis of the north. A score of sacred names had beckoned us, the haunts of the master. We knew them better than any other syllables in the world. Heriot Row, Princes Street, the Calton Hill, Duddingston Loch, Antigua Street, the Water of Leith, Colinton, Swanston, the Pentland Hills—O my friends, do those names mean to you what they did to us? Then you are one of the brotherhood—what was to us then the sweetest brotherhood in the world!

In a quiet little hotel in Rutland Square we found decent lodging, in a large chamber which was really the smoking room of the house. The city was crowded with tourists on account of an expected visit of the King and Queen; every other room in the hotel was occupied. Greatly to our satisfaction we were known as "the smoking-room gentlemen" throughout our stay. Our windows opened upon ranks of corridor-cars tying on the Caledonian Railway sidings, and the clink and jar of buffers and coupling irons were heard all night long. I seem to remember that somewhere in his letters R.L.S. speaks of that same sound. He knew Rutland Square well, for his boyhood friend Charles Baxter lived there. Writing from Samoa in later years he says that one memory stands out above all others of his youth—Rutland Square. And while that was of course only the imaginative fervour of the moment, yet we were glad to know that in that quiet little cul de sac behind the railway terminal we were on ground well loved by Tusitala.

The first evening, and almost every twilight while we were in Auld Reekie, we found our way to 17 Heriot Row—famous address, which had long been as familiar to us as our own. I think we expected to find a tablet on the house commemorating the beloved occupant; but no; to our surprise it was dark, dusty, and tenantless. A sign TO SELL was prominent. To take the name of the agent was easy. A great thought struck us. Could we not go over the house in the character of prospective purchasers? Mifflin and I went back to our smoking room and concocted a genteel letter to Messrs. Guild and Shepherd, Writers to the Signet.

Promptly came a reply (Scots business men answer at once).

16 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

26th July, 1911



We have received your letter regarding this house. The house can be seen at any time, and if you will let us know when you wish to view it we shall arrange to have it opened.

We are,

Yours faithfully,


Our hearts were uplifted, but now we were mightily embarrassed as to the figure we would cut before the Writers to the Signet. You must remember that we were two young vagabonds in the earliest twenties, travelling with slim knapsacks, and much soiled by a fortnight on the road. I was in knickerbockers and khaki shirt; Mifflin in greasy gray flannels and subfusc Norfolk. Our only claims to gentility were our monocles. Always take a monocle on a vagabond tour: it is a never-failing source of amusement and passport of gentility. No matter how ragged you are, if you can screw a pane in your eye you can awe the yokel or the tradesman.

The private records of the firm of Guild and Shepherd doubtless show that on Friday, July 28, 1911, one of their polite young attaches, appearing as per appointment at 17 Heriot Row, was met by two eccentric young gentlemen, clad in dirty white flannel hats, waterproof capes, each with an impressive monocle. Let it be said to the honour of the attache in question that he showed no symptoms of surprise or alarm. We explained, I think, that we were scouting for my father, who (it was alleged) greatly desired to settle down in Edinburgh. And we had presence of mind enough to enquire about plumbing, stationary wash-tubs, and the condition of the flues. I wish I could remember what rent was quoted.

He showed us all through the house; and you may imagine that we stepped softly and with beating hearts. Here we were on the very track of the Magician himself: his spirit whispered in the lonely rooms. We imagined R.L.S. as a little child, peering from the windows at dusk to see Leerie light the street-lamps outside—a quaint, thin, elvish face with shining brown eyes; or held up in illness by Cummie to see the gracious dawn heralded by oblongs of light in the windows across the Queen Street gardens. We saw the college lad, tall, with tweed coat and cigarette, returning to Heriot Row with an armful of books, in sad or sparkling mood. The house was dim and dusty: a fine entrance hall, large dining room facing the street—and we imagined Louis and his parents at breakfast. Above this, the drawing room, floored with parquet oak, a spacious and attractive chamber. Above this again, the nursery, and opening off it the little room where faithful Cummie slept. But in vain we looked for some sign or souvenir of the entrancing spirit. The room that echoed to his childish glee, that heard his smothered sobs in the endless nights of childish pain, the room where he scribbled and brooded and burst into gusts of youth's passionate outcry, is now silent and forlorn.

With what subtly mingled feelings we peered from room to room, seeing everything, and yet not daring to give ourselves away to the courteous young agent. And what was it he said?—"This was the house of Lord So-and-so" (I forget the name)—"and incidentally, Robert Louis Stevenson lived here once. His signature occurs once or twice in the deeds."


Like many houses in Auld Reekie, 17 Heriot Row is built on a steep slant of ground, so that the rear of the house is a storey or more higher than the face. We explored the kitchens, laundries, store-rooms, and other "offices" with care, imagining that little "Smoutie" may have run here and there in search of tid-bits from the cook. Visions of that childhood, fifty years before, were almost as real as our own. We seemed to hear the young treble of his voice. That house was the home of the Stevensons for thirty years (1857-1887)—surely even the thirty years that have gone by since Thomas Stevenson died cannot have laid all those dear ghosts we conjured up!

We thanked our guide and took leave of him. If the firm of Guild and Shepherd should ever see this, surely they will forgive our innocent deception, for the honour of R.L.S. I wonder if any one has yet put a tablet on the house? If not, Mifflin and I will do so, some day.

In the evenings we used to wander up to Heriot Row in the long Northern dusk, to sit on the front steps of number 17 waiting for Leerie to come and light the famous lamp which still stands on the pavement in front of the dining-room windows:

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door, And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more; And O! before you hurry by with ladder and with light, O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!

But no longer does Leerie "with lantern and with ladder come posting up the street." Nowadays he carries a long pole bearing a flame cunningly sheltered in a brass socket. But the Leerie of 1911 ("Leerie-light-the-lamps" is a generic nickname for all lamplighters in Scotland) was a pleasant fellow even if ladderless, and we used to have a cigar ready for him when he reached 17. We told him of R.L.S., of whom he had vaguely heard, and explained the sanctity of that particular lamp. He in turn talked freely of his craft, and learning that we were Americans he told us of his two sisters "in Pennsylvania, at 21 Thorn Street." He seemed to think Pennsylvania a town, but finally we learned that the Misses Leerie lived in Sewickley where they were doing well, and sending back money to the "kiddies." Good Leerie, I wonder do you still light the lamps on Heriot Row, or have you too seen redder beacons on Flanders fields?

One evening I remember we fell into discussion whether the lamp-post was still the same one that R.L.S. had known. We were down on hands and knees on the pavement, examining the base of the pillar by match-light in search of possible dates. A very seedy and disreputable looking man passed, evidently regarding us with apprehension as detectives. Mifflin, never at a loss, remarked loudly "No, I see no footprints here," and as the ragged one passed hastily on with head twisted over his shoulder, we followed him. At the corner of Howe Street he broke into an uneasy shuffle, and Mifflin turned a great laugh into a Scotland Yard sneeze.

Howe Street crosses Heriot Row at right angles, only a few paces prom No. 17. It dips sharply downhill toward the Water of Leith, and Mifflin and I used to stand at the corner and wonder just where took place the adventure with the lame boy which R.L.S. once described when setting down some recollections of childhood.

In Howe street, round the corner from our house, I often saw a lame boy of rather a rough and poor appearance. He had one leg much shorter than the other, and wallowed in his walk, in consequence, like a ship in a seaway. I had read more than enough, in tracts and goody story books, of the isolation of the infirm; and after many days of bashfulness and hours of consideration, I finally accosted him, sheepishly enough I daresay, in these words: "Would you like to play with me?" I remember the expression, which sounds exactly like a speech from one of the goody books that had nerved me to the venture. But the answer was not one I had anticipated, for it was a blast of oaths. I need not say how fast I fled. This incident was the more to my credit as I had, when I was young, a desperate aversion to addressing strangers, though when once we had got into talk I was pretty certain to assume the lead. The last particular may still be recognized. About four years ago I saw my lame lad, and knew him again at once. He was then a man of great strength, rolling along, with an inch of cutty in his mouth and a butcher's basket on his arm. Our meeting had been nothing to him, but it was a great affair to me.

We strolled up the esplanade below the Castle, pausing in Ramsay's Gardens to admire the lighted city from above. In the valley between the Castle and Princes Street the pale blue mist rises at night like an exhalation from the old gray stones. The lamps shining through it blend in a delicate opalescent sheen, shot here and there with brighter flares. As the sky darkens the castle looms in silhouette, with one yellow square below the Half Moon Battery. "There are no stars like the Edinburgh street lamps," says R.L.S. Aye, and the brightest of them all shines on Heriot Row.

The vision of that child face still comes to me, peering down from the dining-room window. R.L.S. may never have gratified his boyish wish to go round with Leerie and light the lamps, but he lit many and more enduring flames even in the hearts of those who never saw him.


[Denis Dulcet, brother of the well-known poet Dunraven Dulcet and the extremely well-known literary agent Dove Dulcet, was for many years the head reader for a large publishing house. It was my good fortune to know him intimately, and when he could be severed from his innumerable manuscripts, which accompanied him everywhere, even in bed, he was very good company. His premature death from reader's cramp and mental hernia was a sad loss to the world of polite letters. Thousands of mediocre books would have been loaded upon the public but for his incisive and unerring judgment. When he lay on his deathbed, surrounded by half-read MSS., he sent for me, and with an air of extreme solemnity laid a packet in my hand. It contained the following confession, and it was his last wish that it should be published without alteration. I include it here in memory of my very dear friend.]

In my youth I was wont to forecast various occupations for myself. Engine driver, tugboat captain, actor, statesman, and wild animal trainer—such were the visions with which I put myself to sleep. Never did the merry life of a manuscript reader swim into my ken. But here I am, buried elbow deep in the literary output of a commercial democracy. My only excuse for setting down these paragraphs is the hope that other more worthy members of the ancient and honorable craft may be induced to speak out in meeting. In these days when every type of man is interviewed, his modes of thinking conned and commented upon, why not a symposium of manuscript readers? Also I realized the other day, while reading a manuscript by Harold Bell Wright, that my powers are failing. My old trouble is gaining on me, and I may not be long for this world. Before I go to face the greatest of all Rejection Slips, I want to utter my message without fear or favour.

As a class, publishers' readers are not vocal. They spend their days and nights assiduously (in the literal sense) bent over mediocre stuff, poking and poring in the unending hope of finding something rich and strange. A gradual stultitia seizes them. They take to drink; they beat their wives; they despair of literature. Worst, and most preposterous, they one and all nourish secret hopes of successful authorship. You might think that the interminable flow of turgid blockish fiction that passes beneath their weary eyes would justly sicken them of the abominable gymnastic of writing. But no: the venom is in the blood.

Great men have graced the job—and got out of it as soon as possible. George Meredith was a reader once; so was Frank Norris; also E.V. Lucas and Gilbert Chesterton. One of the latter's comments on a manuscript is still preserved. Writing of a novel by a lady who was the author of many unpublished stories, all marked by perseverance rather than talent, he said, "Age cannot wither nor custom stale her infinite lack of variety." But alas, we hear too little of these gentlemen in their capacity as publishers' pursuivants. Patrolling the porches of literature, why did they not bequeath us some pandect of their experience, some rich garniture of commentary on the adventures that befell? But they, and younger men such as Coningsby Dawson and Sinclair Lewis, have gone on into the sunny hayfields of popular authorship and said nothing.

But these brilliant swallow-tailed migrants are not typical. Your true specimen of manuscript reader is the faithful old percheron who is content to go on, year after year, sorting over the literary pemmican that comes before him, inexhaustible in his love for the delicacies of good writing, happy if once or twice a twelve-month he chance upon some winged thing. He is not the pettifogging pilgarlic of popular conception: he is a devoted servant of letters, willing to take his thirty or forty dollars a week, willing to suffer the peine forte et dure of his profession in the knowledge of honest duty done, writing terse and marrowy little essays on manuscripts, which are buried in the publishers' files. This man is an honour to the profession, and I believe there are many such. Certainly there are many who sigh wistfully when they must lay aside some cherished writing of their own to devote an evening to illiterate twaddle. Five book manuscripts a day, thirty a week, close to fifteen hundred a year—that is a fair showing for the head reader of a large publishing house.

One can hardly blame him if he sometimes grow skeptic or acid about the profession of letters. Of each hundred manuscripts turned in there will rarely be more than three or four that merit any serious consideration; only about one in a hundred will be acceptable for publication. And the others—alas that human beings should have invented ink to steal away their brains! "Only a Lady Barber" is the title of a novel in manuscript which I read the other day. Written in the most atrocious dialect, it betrayed an ignorance of composition that would have been discreditable to a polyp. It described the experiences of a female tonsor somewhere in Idaho, and closed with her Machiavellian manoeuvres to entice into her shaving chair a man who had bilked her, so that she might slice his ear. No need to harrow you with more of the same kind. I read almost a score every week. Often I think of a poem which was submitted to me once, containing this immortal couplet:

She damped a pen in the ooze of her brain and wrote a verse on the air, A verse that had shone on the disc of the sun, had she chosen to set it there.

Let me beg you, my dears, leave the pen undamped unless your cerebral ooze really has something to impart. And then, once a year or so, when one is thinking that the hooves of Pegasus have turned into pigs' trotters, comes some Joseph Conrad, some Walter de la Mare, some Rupert Brooke or Pearsall Smith, to restore one's sanity.

Or else—what is indeed more frequent—the reader's fainting spirits are repaired not by the excellence of the manuscript before him, but by its absolute literary nonentity, a kind of intellectual Absolute Zero. Lack of merit may be so complete, so grotesque, that the composition affords to the sophistic eye a high order of comedy. A lady submits a poem in many cantos, beginning

Our heart is but a bundle of muscle In which our passions tumble and tussle.

Another lady begins her novel with the following psychanalysis:

"Thus doth the ever-changing course of things run a perpetual circle." ... She read the phrase and then reflected, the cause being a continued prognostication, beginning and ending as it had done the day before, to-morrow and forever, maybe, of her own ailment, a paradoxical malady, being nothing more nor less than a pronounced case of malnutrition of the soul, a broken heart-cord, aggravated by a total collapse of that portion of the mentalities which had been bolstered up by undue pride, fallacious arguments, modern foibles and follies peculiar to the human species, both male and female, under favorable social conditions, found in provincial towns as well as in large cities and fashionable watering places.

But as a fitting anodyne to this regrettable case of soul malnutrition, let me append a description of a robuster female, taken verbatim from a manuscript (penned by masculine hand) which became a by-word in one publisher's office.

She was a beautiful young lady. She was a medium, sized, elegant figure, wearing a neatly-fitted travelling dress of black alpaca. Her raven-black hair, copious both in length and volume and figured like a deep river, rippled by the wind, was parted in the centre and combed smoothly down, ornamenting her pink temples with a flowing tracery that passed round to its modillion windings on a graceful crown. Her mouth was set with pearls adorned with elastic rubies and tuned with minstrel lays, while her nose gracefully concealed its own umbrage, and her eyes imparted a radiant glow to the azure of the sky. Jewels of plain gold were about her ears and her tapering strawberry hands, and a golden chain, attached to a time-keeper of the same material, sparkled on an elegantly-rounded bosom that was destined to be pushed forward by sighs.

Let it not be thought that only the gracious sex can inspire such plenitude of meticulous portraiture! Here is a description of the hero in a novel by a man which appeared on my desk recently:

For some time past there had been appearing at the home of Sarah Ellenton, a man not over fifty years of age, well groomed and of the appearances of being on good terms with prosperity in many phases. His complexion was reddish. His hazel eyes deepset and close together were small and shifting. His nose ran down to a point in many lines, and from the point back to where it joined above his lip, the course was seen to swerve slightly to one side. His upper lip assumed almost any form and at all times. His mouth ran across his face in a thin line, curved by waves according to the smiles and expressions he employed. Below those features was a chin of fine proportions, showing nothing to require study, but in his jaw hinges there was a device that worked splendidly, when he wished to show unction and charity, by sending out his chin on such occasions in the kindest advances one would wish to see.

It was not long before Sarah became Mrs. John R. Quinley.

I hear that the authors are going to unionize themselves and join the A.F. of L. The word "author" carries no sanctity with me: I have read too many of them. If their forming a trade union will better the output of American literature I am keen for it. I know that the professional reader has a jaundiced eye; insensibly he acquires a parallax which distorts his vision. Reading incessantly, now fiction, now history, poetry, essays, philosophy, science, exegetics, and what not, he becomes a kind of pantechnicon of slovenly knowledge; a knower of thousands of things that aren't so. Every crank's whim, every cretin's philosophy, is fired at him first of all. Every six months comes in the inevitable treatise on the fourth dimension or on making gold from sea-water, or on using moonlight to run dynamos, or on Pope Joan or Prester John. And with it all he must retain his simple-hearted faith in the great art of writing and in the beneficence of Gutenberg.

Manuscript readers need a trade union far worse than authors. There is all too little clannishness among us. We who are the helpless target for the slings and arrows of every writer who chooses to put pen on foolscap—might we not meet now and then for the humour of exchanging anecdotes? No class of beings is more in need of the consolations of intercourse. Perpend, brothers! Let us order a tierce of malmsey and talk it over! Perchance, too, a trade union among readers might be of substantial advantage. Is it not sad that a man should read manuscripts all the sweet years of his maturity, and be paid forty dollars a week? Let us make sixty the minimum—or let there be a pogrom among the authors!


M'Phee is the most tidy of chief engineers. If the leg of a cockroach gets into one of his slide-valves the whole ship knows it, and half the ship has to clean up the mess.


The next time the Cunard Company commissions a new liner I wish they would sign on Joseph Conrad as captain, Rudyard Kipling as purser, and William McFee as chief engineer. They might add Don Marquis as deck steward and Hall Caine as chief-stewardess. Then I would like to be at Raymond and Whitcomb's and watch the clerks booking passages!

William McFee does not spell his name quite as does the Scotch engineer in Mr. Kipling's Brugglesmith, but I feel sure that his attitude toward cockroaches in the slide-valve is the same. Unhappily I do not know Mr. McFee in his capacity as engineer; but I know and respect his feelings as a writer, his love of honourable and honest work, his disdain for blurb and blat. And by an author's attitude toward the purveyors of publicity, you may know him.

One evening about the beginning of December, 1915, I was sitting by the open fire in Hempstead, Long Island, a comparatively inoffensive young man, reading the new edition of Flecker's "The Golden Journey to Samarkand" issued that October by Martin Secker in London. Mr. Secker, like many other wise publishers, inserts in the back of his books the titles of other volumes issued by him. Little did I think, as I turned to look over Mr. Secker's announcements, that a train of events was about to begin which would render me, during the succeeding twelve months, a monomaniac in the eyes of my associates; so much so that when I was blessed with a son and heir just a year later I received a telegram signed by a dozen of them: "Congratulations. Name him Casuals!"

It was in that list of Mr. Secker's titles for the winter of 1915-16 that my eyes first rested, with a premonitory lust, upon the not-to-be-forgotten words.


Who could fail to be stirred by so brave a title? At once I wrote for a copy.

My pocket memorandum book for Sunday, January 9, 1916, contains this note:

"Finished reading Casuals of the Sea, a good book. H—— still laid up with bad ankle. In the P.M. we sat and read Bible aloud to Celia before the open fire."

My first impressions of "Casuals of the Sea, a good book" are interwoven with memories of Celia, a pious Polish serving maid from Pike County, Pennsylvania, who could only be kept in the house by nightly readings of another Good Book. She was horribly homesick (that was her first voyage away from home) and in spite of persistent Bible readings she fled after two weeks, back to her home in Parker's Glen, Pa. She was our first servant, and we had prepared a beautiful room in the attic for her. However, that has nothing to do with Mr. McFee.

Casuals of the Sea is a novel whose sale of ten thousand copies in America is more important as a forecast of literary weather than many a popular distribution of a quarter million. Be it known by these presents that there are at least ten thousand librivora in this country who regard literature not merely as an emulsion. This remarkable novel, the seven years' study of a busy engineer occupied with boiler inspections, indicator cards and other responsibilities of the Lord of Below, was the first really public appearance of a pen that will henceforth be listened to with respect.

Mr. McFee had written two books before "Casuals" was published, but at that time it was not easy to find any one who had read them. They were Letters from an Ocean Tramp (1908) and Aliens (1914); the latter has been rewritten since then and issued in a revised edition. It is a very singular experiment in the art of narrative, and a rich commentary on human folly by a man who has made it his hobby to think things out for himself. And the new version is headlighted by a preface which may well take its place among the most interesting literary confessions of this generation, where Mr. McFee shows himself as that happiest of men, the artist who also has other and more urgent concerns than the whittling of a paragraph:—

Of art I never grow weary, but she calls me over the world. I suspect the sedentary art worker. Most of all I suspect the sedentary writer. I divide authors into two classes—genuine artists, and educated men who wish to earn enough to let them live like country gentlemen. With the latter I have no concern. But the artist knows when his time has come. In the same way I turned with irresistible longing to the sea, whereon I had been wont to earn my living. It is a good life and I love it. I love the men and their ships. I find in them a never-ending panorama which illustrates my theme, the problem of human folly.

Mr. McFee, you see, has some excuse for being a good writer because he has never had to write for a living. He has been writing for the fun of it ever since he was an apprentice in a big engineering shop in London twenty years ago. His profession deals with exacting and beautiful machinery, and he could no more do hack writing than hack engineering. And unlike the other English realists of his generation who have cultivated a cheap flippancy, McFee finds no exhilaration in easy sneers at middle-class morality. He has a dirk up his sleeve for Gentility (how delightfully he flays it in Aliens) but he loves the middle classes for just what they are: the great fly-wheel of the world. His attitude toward his creations is that of a "benevolent marbleheart" (his own phrase). He has seen some of the seams of life, and like McAndrew he has hammered his own philosophy. It is a manly, just, and gentle creed, but not a soft one. Since the war began he has been on sea service, first on a beef-ship and transport in the Mediterranean, now as sub-lieutenant in the British Navy. When the war is over, and if he feels the call of the desk, Mr. McFee's brawny shoulder will sit in at the literary feast and a big handful of scribblers will have to drop down the dumb-waiter shaft to make room for him. It is a disconcerting figure in Grub Street, the man who really has something to say.

Publishers are always busy casting horoscopes for their new finds. How the benign planets must have twirled in happy curves when Harold Bell Wright was born, if one may credit his familiar mage, Elsbury W. Reynolds! But the fame that is built merely on publishers' press sheets does not dig very deep in the iron soil of time. We are all only raft-builders, as Lord Dunsany tells us in his little parable; even the raft that Homer made for Helen must break up some day. Who in these States knows the works of Nat Gould? Twelve million of his dashing paddock novels have been sold in England, but he is as unknown here as is Preacher Wright in England. What is so dead as a dead best seller? Sometimes it is the worst sellers that come to life, roll away the stone, and an angel is found sitting laughing in the sepulchre. Let me quote Mr. McFee once more: "I have no taste for blurb, but I cannot refuse facts."

William M.P. McFee was born at sea in 1881. His father, an English skipper, was bringing his vessel toward the English coast after a long voyage. His mother was a native of Nova Scotia. They settled in New Southgate, a northern middle-class suburb of London, and here McFee was educated in the city schools of which the first pages of Casuals of the Sea give a pleasant description. Then he went to a well-known grammar school at Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk—what we would call over here a high school. He was a quiet, sturdy boy, and a first-rate cricketer.

At sixteen he was apprenticed to a big engineering firm in Aldersgate. This is one of the oldest streets in London, near the Charterhouse, Smithfield Market, and the famous "Bart's" Hospital. In fact, the office of the firm was built over one of the old plague pits of 1665. His father had died several years before; and for the boy to become an apprentice in this well-known firm Mrs. McFee had to pay three hundred pounds sterling. McFee has often wondered just what he got for the money. However, the privilege of paying to be better than someone else is an established way of working out one's destiny in England, and at the time the mother and son knew no better than to conform. You will find this problem, and the whole matter of gentility, cuttingly set out in Aliens.

After three years as an apprentice, McFee was sent out by the firm on various important engineering jobs, notably a pumping installation at Tring, which he celebrated in a pamphlet of very creditable juvenile verses, for which he borrowed Mr. Kipling's mantle. This was at the time of the Boer War, when everybody in trousers who wrote verses was either imitating Kipling or reacting from him.

His engineering work gave young McFee a powerful interest in the lives and thoughts of the working classes. He was strongly influenced by socialism, and all his spare moments were spent with books. He came to live in Chelsea with an artist friend, but he had already tasted life at first hand, and the rather hazy atmosphere of that literary and artistic Utopia made him uneasy. His afternoons were spent at the British Museum reading room, his evenings at the Northampton Institute, where he attended classes, and even did a little lecturing of his own. Competent engineer as he was, that was never sufficient to occupy his mind. As early as 1902 he was writing short stories and trying to sell them.

In 1905 his uncle, a shipmaster, offered him a berth in the engine room of one of his steamers, bound for Trieste. He jumped at the chance. Since then he has been at sea almost continuously, save for one year (1912-13) when he settled down in Nutley, New Jersey, to write. The reader of Aliens will be pretty familiar with Nutley by the time he reaches page 416. "Netley" is but a thin disguise. I suspect a certain liveliness in the ozone of Nutley. Did not Frank Stockton write some of his best tales there? Some day some literary meteorologist will explain how these intellectual anticyclones originate in such places as Nutley (N.J.), Galesburg (Ill.), Port Washington (N.Y.), and Bryn Mawr (Pa.)

The life of a merchantman engineer would not seem, to open a fair prospect into literature. The work is gruelling and at the same time monotonous. Constant change of scene and absence of home ties are (I speak subject to correction) demoralizing; after the coveted chief's certificate is won, ambition has little further to look forward to. A small and stuffy cabin in the belly of the ship is not an inviting study. The works of Miss Corelli and Messrs. Haig and Haig are the only diversions of most of the profession. Art, literature, and politics do not interest them. Picture postcards, waterside saloons, and the ladies of the port are the glamour of his that they delight to honour.

I imagine that Mr. Carville's remarkable account (in Aliens) of his induction into the profession of marine engineering has no faint colour of reminiscence in Mr. McFee's mind. The filth, the intolerable weariness, the instant necessity of the tasks, stagger the easygoing suburban reader. And only the other day, speaking of his work on a seaplane ship in the British Navy, Mr. McFee said some illuminating things about the life of an engineer:

It is Sunday, and I have been working. Oh, yes, there is plenty of work to do in the world, I find, wherever I go. But I cannot help wondering why Fate so often offers me the dirty end of the stick. Here I am, awaiting my commission as an engineer-officer of the R.N.R., and I am in the thick of it day after day. I don't mean, when I say "work," what you mean by work. I don't mean work such as my friend the Censor does, or my friend the N.E.O. does, nor my friends and shipmates, the navigating officer, the flying men, or the officers of the watch. I mean work, hard, sweating, nasty toil, coupled with responsibility. I am not alone. Most ships of the naval auxiliary are the same.

I am anxious for you, a landsman, to grasp this particular fragment of the sorry scheme of things entire, that in no other profession have the officers responsible for the carrying out of the work to toil as do the engineers in merchantmen, in transports, in fleet auxiliaries. You do not expect the major to clear the waste-pipe of his regimental latrines. You do not expect the surgeon to superintend the purging of his bandages. You do not expect the navigators of a ship to paint her hull. You do not expect an architect to make bricks (sometimes without straw). You do not expect the barrister to go and repair the lock on the law courts door, or oil the fans that ventilate the halls of justice. Yet you do, collectively, tolerate a tradition by which the marine engineer has to assist, overlook, and very often perform work corresponding precisely to the irrelevant chores mentioned above, which are in other professions relegated to the humblest and roughest of mankind. I blame no one. It is tradition, a most terrible windmill at which to tilt; but I conceive it my duty to set down once at least the peculiar nature of an engineer's destiny. I have had some years of it, and I know what I am talking about.

The point to distinguish is that the engineer not only has the responsibility, but he has, in nine cases out of ten, to do it. He, the officer, must befoul his person and derange his hours of rest and recreation, that others may enjoy. He must be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, at sea or in port. Whether chief or the lowest junior, he must be ready to plunge instantly to the succour of the vilest piece of mechanism on board. When coaling, his lot is easier imagined than described.

The remarkable thing to note is that Mr. McFee imposed upon these laborious years of physical toil a strenuous discipline of intellect as well. He is a born worker: patient, dogged, purposeful. His years at sea have been to him a more fruitful curriculum than that of any university. The patient sarcasm with which he speaks of certain Oxford youths of his acquaintance does not escape me. His sarcasm is just and on the target. He has stood as Senior Wrangler in a far more exacting viva voce—the University of the Seven Seas.

If I were a college president, out hunting for a faculty, I would deem that no salary would be too big to pay for the privilege of getting a man like McFee on my staff. He would not come, of course! But how he has worked for his mastery of the art of life and the theory thereof! When his colleagues at sea were dozing in their deck chairs or rattling the bones along the mahogany, he was sweating in his bunk, writing or reading. He has always been deeply interested in painting, and no gallery in any port he visited ever escaped him. These extracts from some of his letters will show whether his avocations were those of most engineers:

As I crossed the swing-bridge of the docks at Garston (Liverpool) the other day, and saw the tapering spars silhouetted against the pale sky, and the zinc-coloured river with its vague Cheshire shores dissolving in mist, it occurred to me that if an indulgent genie were to appear and make me an offer I would cheerfully give up writing for painting. As it is, I see things in pictures and I spend more time in the Walker Gallery than in the library next door.

I've got about all I can get out of books, and now I don't relish them save as memories. The reason for my wish, I suppose, is that character, not incident, is my metier. And you can draw character, paint character, but you can't very well blat about it, can you?

I am afraid Balzac's job is too big for anybody nowadays. The worst of writing men nowadays is their horrible ignorance of how people live, of ordinary human possibilities.

A——. is always pitching into me for my insane ideas about "cheap stuff." He says I'm on the wrong tack and I'll be a failure if I don't do what the public wants. I said I didn't care a blue curse what the public wanted, nor did I worry much if I never made a big name. All I want is to do some fine and honourable work, to do it as well as I possibly could, and there my responsibility ended.... To hell with writing, I want to feel and see!

I am laying in a gallon of ink and a couple of cwt. of paper, to the amusement of the others, who imagine I am a merchant of some sort who has to transact business at sea because Scotland yard are alter him!

His kit for every voyage, besides the gallon of ink and the hundredweight of foolscap, always included a score of books, ranging from Livy or Chaucer to Gorky and histories of Italian art. Happening to be in New York at the time of the first exhibition in this country of "futurist" pictures, he entered eagerly into the current discussion in the newspaper correspondence columns. He wrote for a leading London journal an article on "The Conditions of Labour at Sea." He finds time to contribute to the Atlantic Monthly pieces of styptic prose that make zigzags on the sphygmograph of the editor. His letters written weekly to the artist friend he once lived with in Chelsea show a humorous and ironical mind ranging over all topics that concern cultivated men. I fancy he could out-argue many a university professor on Russian fiction, or Michelangelo, or steam turbines.

When one says that McFee found little intellectually in common with his engineering colleagues, that is not to say that he was a prig. He was interested in everything that they were, but in a great deal more, too. And after obtaining his extra chief's certificate from the London Board of Trade, with a grade of ninety-eight per cent., he was not inclined to rest on his gauges.

In 1912 he took a walking trip from Glasgow to London, to gather local colour for a book he had long meditated; then he took ship for the United States, where he lived for over a year writing hard. Neither Aliens nor Casuals of the Sea, which he had been at work on for years, met with the favour of New York publishers. He carried his manuscripts around the town until weary of that amusement; and when the United Fruit Company asked him to do some engineering work for them he was not loath to get back into the old harness. And then came the war.

Alas, it is too much to hope that the Cunard Company will ever officer a vessel as I have suggested at the outset of these remarks. But I made my proposal not wholly at random, for in Conrad, Kipling, and McFee, all three, there is something of the same artistic creed. In those two magnificent prefaces—to A Personal Record and to The Nigger of the Narcissus—Conrad has set down, in words that should be memorable to every trafficker in ink, his conception of the duty of the man of letters. They can never be quoted too often:

"All ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.... The sight of human affairs deserves admiration and pity. And he is not insensible who pays them the undemonstrative tribute of a sigh which is not a sob, and of a smile which is not a grin."

That is the kind of tribute that Mr. McPee has paid to the Gooderich family in Casuals of the Sea. Somewhere in that book he has uttered the immortal remark that "The world belongs to the Enthusiast who keeps cool." I think there is much of himself in that aphorism, and that the cool enthusiast, the benevolent marbleheart, has many fine things in store for us.

And there is one other sentence in Casuals of the Sea that lingers with me, and gives a just trace of the author's mind. It is worth remembering, and I leave it with you:

"She considered a trouble was a trouble and to be treated as such, instead of snatching the knotted cord from the hand of God and dealing murderous blows."


We used to call him Rhubarb, by reason of his long russet beard, which we imagined trailing in the prescriptions as he compounded them, imparting a special potency. He was a little German druggist—Deutsche Apotheker—and his real name was Friedrich Wilhelm Maximilian Schulz.

The village of Kings is tucked away in Long Island, in the Debatable Land where the generous boundary of New York City zigzags in a sporting way just to permit horse racing at Belmont Park. It is the most rustic corner of the City. To most New Yorkers it is as remote as Helgoland and as little known. It has no movie theatre, no news-stand, no cigar store, no village atheist. The railroad station, where one hundred and fifty trains a day do not stop, might well be mistaken for a Buddhist shrine, so steeped in discreet melancholy is it. The Fire Department consists of an old hose wagon first used to extinguish fires kindled by the Republicans when Rutherford B. Hayes was elected. In the weather-beaten Kings Lyceum "East Lynne" is still performed once a year. People who find Quoguc and Cohasset too exciting, move to Kings to cool off. The only way one can keep servants out there is by having the works of Harold Bell Wright in the kitchen for the cook to read.

Stout-hearted Mr. Schulz came to Kings long ago. There is quite a little German colony there. With a delicatessen store on one side of him and a man who played the flute on the other, he felt hardly at all expatriated. The public house on the corner serves excellent Rheingold, and on winter evenings Friedrich and Minna would sit by the stove at the back of the drugstore with a jug of amber on the table and dream of Stuttgart.

It did not take me long to find out that apothecary Schulz was an educated man. At the rear of the store hung two diplomas of which he was very proud. One was a certificate from the Stuttgart Oberrealschule; the other his license to practise homicidal pharmacy in the German Empire, dated 1880. He had read the "Kritik der reinen Vernunft", and found it more interesting than Henry James, he told me. Julia and I used to drop into his shop of an evening for a mug of hot chocolate, and always fell into talk. His Minna, a frail little woman with a shawl round her shoulders, would come out into the store and talk to us, too, and their pet dachshund would frolic at our feet. They were a quaint couple, she so white and shy and fragile; he ruddy, sturdy, and positive.

It was not till I told him of my years spent at a German University that he really showed me the life that lay behind his shopman activity. We sometimes talked German together, and he took me into their little sitting room to see his photographs of home scenes at Stuttgart. It was over thirty years since he had seen German soil, but still his eyes would sparkle at the thought. He and Minna, being childless, dreamed of a return to the Fatherland as their great end in life.

What an alluring place the little drugstore was! I was fascinated by the rows and rows of gleaming bottles labelled with mysterious Latin abbreviations. There were cases of patent remedies—Mexican Mustang Liniment, Swamp Root, Danderine, Conway's Cobalt Pills, Father Finch's Febrifuge, Spencer's Spanish Specific. Soap, talcum, cold cream, marshmallows, tobacco, jars of rock candy, what a medley of paternostrums! And old Rhubarb himself, in his enormous baggy trousers—infinite breeches in a little room, as Julia used to say.

I wish I could set him down in all his rich human flavour. The first impression he gave was one of cleanness and good humour. He was always in shirtsleeves, with suspenders forming an X across his broad back; his shirt was fresh laundered, his glowing beard served as cravat. He had a slow, rather ponderous speech, with deep gurgling gutturals and a decrescendo laugh, slipping farther and farther down into his larynx. Once, when we got to know each other fairly well, I ventured some harmless jest about Barbarossa. He chuckled; then his face grew grave. "I wish Minna could have the beard," he said. "Her chest is not strong. It would be a fine breast-protector for her. But me, because I am strong like a horse, I have it all!" He thumped his chest ruefully with his broad, thick hand.

Despite his thirty years in America, good Schulz was still the Deutsche Apotheker and not at all the American druggist. He had installed a soda fountain as a concession, but it puzzled him sorely, and if he was asked for anything more complex than chocolate ice cream soda he would shake his head solemnly and say: "That I have not got." Motorists sometimes turned off the Jericho turnpike and stopped at his shop asking for banana splits or grape juice highballs, or frosted pineapple fizz. But they had to take chocolate ice cream soda or nothing. Sometimes in a fit of absent-mindedness he would turn his taps too hard and the charged water would spout across the imitation marble counter. He would wag his beard deprecatingly and mutter a shamefaced apology, smiling again when the little black dachshund came trotting to sniff at the spilt soda and rasp the wet floor with her bright tongue.

At the end of September he shut up the soda fountain gladly, piling it high with bars of castile soap or cartons of cod liver oil. Then Minna entered into her glory as the dispenser of hot chocolate which seethed and sang in a tall silvery tank with a blue gas burner underneath. This she served in thick china mugs with a clot of whipped cream swimming on top. Julia would buy a box of the cheese crackers that Schulz kept in stock specially for her, and give several to the sleek little black bitch that stood pleading with her quaint turned-out fore-feet placed on Julia's slippers. Schulz, beaming serenely behind a pyramid of "intense carnation" bottles on his perfume counter, would chuckle at the antics of his pet. "Ah, he is a wise little dog!" he would exclaim with naive pride. "He knows who is friendly!" He always called the little dog "he," which amused us.

On Sunday afternoon the drugstore was closed from one to five, and during those hours Schulz took his weekly walk, accompanied by the dog which plodded desperately after him on her short legs. Sometimes we met him swinging along the by-roads, flourishing a cudgel and humming to himself. Whenever he saw a motor coming he halted, the little black dachshund would look up at him, and he would stoop ponderously down, pick her up and carry her in his arms until all danger was past.

As the time went on he and I used to talk a good deal about the war. Minna, pale and weary, would stand behind her steaming urn, keeping the shawl tight round her shoulders; Rhubarb and I would argue without heat upon the latest news from the war zone. I had no zeal for converting the old fellow from his views; I understood his sympathies and respected them. Reports of atrocities troubled him as much as they did me; but the spine of his contention was that the German army was unbeatable. He got out his faded discharge ticket from the Wuertemberger Landsturm to show the perfect system of the Imperial military organization. In his desk at the back of the shop he kept a war map cut from a Sunday supplement and over this we would argue, Schulz breathing hard and holding his beard aside in one hand as he bent over the paper. When other customers came in, he would put the map away with a twinkle, and the topic was dropped. But often the glass top of the perfume counter was requisitioned as a large-scale battleground, and the pink bottle of rose water set to represent Von Hindenburg while the green phial of smelling salts was Joffre or Brussilov. We fought out the battle of the Marne pretty completely on the perfume counter. "Warte doch!" he would cry. "Just wait! You will see! All the world is against her, but Germany will win!"

Poor Minna was always afraid her husband and I would quarrel. She knew well how opposite our sympathies were; she could not understand that our arguments were wholly lacking in personal animus. When I told him of the Allies' growing superiority in aircraft Rhubarb would retort by showing me clippings about the German trench fortifications, the "pill boxes" made of solid cement. I would speak of the deadly curtain fire of the British; he would counter with mysterious allusions to Krupp. And his conclusions were always the same. "Just wait! Germany will win!" And he would stroke his beard placidly. "But, Fritz!" Minna used to cry in a panic, "The gentleman might think differently!" Rhubarb and I would grin at each other, I would buy a tin of tobacco, and we would say good night.

How dear is the plain, unvarnished human being when one sees him in a true light! Schulz's honest, kindly face seemed to me to typify all that I knew of the finer qualities of the Germans; the frugal simplicity, the tenderness, the proud, stiff rectitude. He and I felt for each other, I think, something of the humorous friendliness of the men in the opposing trenches. Chance had cast us on different sides of the matter. But when I felt tempted to see red, to condemn the Germans en masse, to chant litanies of hate, I used to go down to the drugstore for tobacco or a mug of chocolate. Rhubarb and I would argue it out.

But that was a hard winter for him. The growing anti-German sentiment in the neighbourhood reduced his business considerably. Then he was worried over Minna. Often she did not appear in the evenings, and he would explain that she had gone to bed. I was all the more surprised to meet her one very snowy Sunday afternoon, sloshing along the road in the liquid mire, the little dog squattering sadly behind, her small black paws sliding on the ice-crusted paving. "What on earth are you doing outdoors on a day like this?" I said.

"Fritz had to go to Brooklyn, and I thought he would be angry if Lischen didn't get her airing."

"You take my advice and go home and get into some dry clothes," I said severely.

Soon after that I had to go away for three weeks. I was snowbound in Massachusetts for several days; then I had to go to Montreal on urgent business. Julia went to the city to visit her mother while I was away, so we had no news from Kings.

We got back late one Sunday evening. The plumbing had frozen in our absence; when I lit the furnace again, pipes began to thaw and for an hour or so we had a lively time. In the course of a battle with a pipe and a monkey wrench I sprained a thumb, and the next morning I stopped at the drugstore on my way to the train to get some iodine.

Rhubarb was at his prescription counter weighing a little cone of white powder in his apothecary's scales. He looked far from well. There were great pouches under his eyes; his beard was unkempt; his waistcoat spotted with food stains. The lady waiting received her package, and went out. Rhubarb and I grasped hands.

"Well," I said, "what do you think now about the war? Did you see that the Canadians took a mile of trenches five hundred yards deep last week? Do you still think Germany will win?" To my surprise he turned on his heel and began apparently rummaging along a row of glass jars. His gaze seemed to be fastened upon a tall bottle containing ethyl alcohol. At last he turned round. His broad, naive face was quivering like blanc-mange.

"What do I care who wins?" he said. "What does it matter to me any more? Minna is dead. She died two weeks ago of pneumonia."

As I stood, not knowing what to say, there was a patter along the floor. The little dachshund came scampering into the shop and frisked about my feet.



Slowly, reluctantly (rather like a vers libre poem) the quaint little train comes to a stand. Along the station platform each of the fiacre drivers seizes a large dinner-bell and tries to outring the others. You step from the railway carriage—and instantly the hellish din of those droschky bells faints into a dim, far-away tolling. Your eye has caught the superb sweep of the Casa Grande beetling on its crag. Over the sapphire canal where the old men are fishing for sprats, above the rugged scarp where the blue-bloused ouvriers are quarrying the famous champagne cheese, you see the Gothic transept of the Palazzio Ginricci, dour against a nacre sky. An involuntary tremolo eddies down your spinal marrow. The Gin Palace, you murmur.... At last you are in Strychnine.

Unnoted by Baedeker, unsung by poets, unrhapsodied by press agents—there lurks the little town of Strychnine in that far and untravelled corner where France, Russia, and Liberia meet in an unedifying Zollverein. The strychnine baths have long been famous among physicians, but the usual ruddy tourist knows them not. The sorrowful ennui of a ten-hour journey on the B.V.D. Chemise de fer (with innumerable examinations of luggage), while it has kept out the contraband Swiss cheese which is so strictly interdicted, has also kept away the rich and garrulous tourist. But he who will endure to the end that tortuous journey among flat fields of rye and parsimony, will find himself well rewarded. The long tunnel through Mondragone ends at length, and you find yourself on the platform with the droschky bells clanging in your ears and the ineffable majesty of the Casa Grande crag soaring behind the jade canal.

The air was chill, and I buttoned my surtout tightly as I stepped into the curious seven-wheeled sforza lettered Hotel Decameron. We rumbled andante espressivo over the hexagonal cobbles of the Chaussee d'Arsenic, crossed the mauve canal and bent under the hanging cliffs of the cheese quarries. I could see the fishwives carrying great trays of lampreys and lambrequins toward the fish market. It is curious what quaintly assorted impressions one receives in the first few minutes in a strange place. I remember noticing a sausage kiosk in the markt-platz where a man in a white coat was busily selling hot icons. They are delivered fresh every hour from the Casa Grande (the great cheese cathedral) on the cliff.

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