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Title: Pieces of Hate - And Other Enthusiams
Author: Broun, Heywood, 1888-1939
Language: English
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PIECES OF HATE

HEYWOOD BROUN



PIECES OF HATE

_And Other Enthusiasms_

BY HEYWOOD BROUN

[Illustration: colophon]

GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
PUBLISHERS 1922 NEW YORK

COPYRIGHT, 1922
BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

[Illustration: colophon]

PIECES OF HATE.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


TO MY FATHER
HEYWOOD C. BROUN



PREFACE


The trouble with prefaces is that they are partial and so we have
decided to offer instead an unbiased review of "Pieces of Hate." The
publishers have kindly furnished us advance proofs for this purpose.

We wish we could speak with unreserved enthusiasm about this book. It
would be pleasant to make out a list of three essential volumes for
humanity and suggest the complete works of William Shakespeare, the
Bible and "Pieces of Hate," but Mr. Broun's book does not deserve any
such ranking. Speaking as a critic of books, we are not at all sure that
we care to recommend it. It seems to us that the author is honest, but
the value of that quality has been vastly overstressed in present-day
reviewing. We are inclined to say "What of it?" There would be nothing
particularly persuasive if a man should approach a poker game and say,
"Won't you let Broun in; I can assure he's honest." Why should a
recommendation which is taken for granted among common gamblers be
considered flattering when applied to a writer?

Anyhow, it does not seem to us that Broun carries honesty to excess.
There is every indication that most of the work in "Pieces of Hate" has
been done so hurriedly that there has been no opportunity for a recount.
If it balances at any given point luck must be with him as well as
virtue. All the vices of haste are in this book of stories, critical
essays and what not. The author is not content to stalk down an idea and
salt it. Whenever he sees what he believes to be a notion he leaves his
feet and tries to bring it down with a flying tackle. Occasionally there
actually is an exciting and interesting crash of flying bodies coming
into contact. But just as often Mr. Broun misses his mark and falls on
his face. At other times he gets the object of his dive only to find
that it was not a genuine idea after all, but only a straw man, a sort
of tackling dummy set up to fool and educate novices.

And Broun does not learn fast. Like most newspaper persons he is an
extraordinary mixture of sophistication and naïveté. At one moment he
will be found belaboring a novelist or a dramatist for sentimentality
and on the next page there will be distinct traces of treacle in his own
creative work. Seemingly, what he means when he says that he does not
like sentimentality is that he doesn't like the sentimentality of
anybody else. He would restrict the quality to the same narrow field as
charity.

The various forms introduced into the book are a little confusing.
Seemingly there has been no plan as to the sequence of stories, essays,
dramatic criticism and the rest. Possibly the author regards this as
versatility, but here is another vastly overrated quality. We once had a
close friend who was a magician and after we had watched him take an
omelet out of his high hat, and two white rabbits, and a bowl of
goldfish, it always made us a little uneasy when he said, "Wait a
minute until I put on my hat and I'll walk home with you."

The fear constantly lurked in our mind that he might suddenly remember,
in the middle of Times Square, that he had forgotten a trick and be
compelled to pause and take a boa-constrictor from under the sweat-band.
We suggest to Mr. Broun that he make up his mind as to just what he
intends to do and then stick to it to the exclusion of all sidelines.

Perhaps he has promised, but we are prepared to wager nothing on him
until we are convinced that he has begun to drive for something. He may
be a young man but he is not so young that he can afford to traffic any
further with flipness under the impression that it is something just as
good as humor. And we wish he wouldn't pun. George H. Doran, the
publisher, informs us that he had to plead with Broun to make him leave
out a chapter on the ugliness of heirlooms and particularly old sofas.
Apparently the piece was written for no other purpose than to carry the
title "The Chintz of the Fathers."

We also find Mr. Broun's pose as the professional Harvard man a little
bit trying, particularly as expressed in his essay "The Bigger the
Year." We suppose he may be expected to outgrow this in time but he has
been long enough about it.

HEYWOOD BROUN.

     Some of these articles have appeared in the _New York World_, the
     _New York Tribune_, _Vanity Fair_, _Collier's Weekly_, _The
     Bookman_ and _Judge_, and acknowledgment is made to these
     publications for permission to reprint.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                PAGE

      I THE NOT IMPOSSIBLE SHEIK                                    17

     II JOHN ROACH STRATON                                          23

    III PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF OFFSPRING                      26

     IV G. K. C.                                                 30

      V ON BEING A GOD                                            35

     VI CHIVALRY IS BORN                                         40

    VII RUTH VS. ROTH                                           45

   VIII THE BIGGER THE YEAR                                    49

     IX FOR OLD NASSAU                                           54

      X MR. DEMPSEY'S FIVE-FOOT SHELF                            58

     XI SPORT FOR ART'S SAKE                                      64

    XII JACK THE GIANT KILLER                                    70

   XIII JUDGE KRINK                                             76

    XIV FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH                                   79

     XV THE EXCELSIOR MOVEMENT                                     82

    XVI THE DOG STAR                                            86

   XVII ALTRUISTIC POKER                                        90

  XVIII THE WELL MADE REVUE                                    92

    XIX AN ADJECTIVE A DAY                                        96

     XX THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER                                        99

    XXI A TORTOISE SHELL HOME                                    101

   XXII I'D DIE FOR DEAR OLD RUTGERS                           106

  XXIII ARE EDITORS PEOPLE?                                    111

   XXIV WE HAVE WITH US THIS EVENING--                      116

    XXV THE YOUNG PESSIMISTS                                   124

   XXVI GLASS SLIPPERS BY THE GROSS                          180

  XXVII A MODERN BEANSTALK                                   134

 XXVIII VOLSTEAD AND CONVERSATION                             137

   XXIX LIFE, THE COPY CAT                                      143

    XXX THE ORTHODOX CHAMPION                                    149

   XXXI WITH A STEIN ON THE TABLE                               153

  XXXII ART FOR ARGUMENT'S SAKE                                159

 XXXIII NO RAHS FOR RAY                                       165

  XXXIV "AT ABOY!"                                             170

   XXXV HOW TO WIN MONEY AT THE RACES                          174

  XXXVI ONE TOUCH OF SLAPSTICK                                178

 XXXVII DANGER SIGNALS FOR READERS                           183

XXXVIII ADVENTURE MADE PAINLESS                             188

  XXXIX THE TALL VILLA                                      197

     XL PROFESSOR GEORGE PIERCE BAKER                        202

    XLI WHAT SHAKESPEARE MISSED                                   207

   XLII CENSORING THE CENSOR                                    222



PIECES OF HATE



I

THE NOT IMPOSSIBLE SHEIK


Women must be peculiar people, if that. We have just finished "The
Sheik," which is described on the jacket as possessing "ALL the intense
passion and tender feeling of the most vivid love stories, almost brutal
in its revelations."

Naturally, we read it. The author is English and named E. M. Hull. The
publishers expand the "E" to Ethel, but we have a theory of our own. At
any rate the novelist displays an extraordinary knowledge of feminine
psychology. It is profound. It is also a little disturbing because it
sounds so silly. After all, whether peculiar or not women are round
about us almost everywhere, and we must make the best of them.
Accordingly, it terrifies us to learn that if by any chance whatsoever
we happen to hit one of them and knock her down she will become devoted
to us forever. The man who knows this will think twice before he strikes
a woman no matter what the provocation. He will be inclined to count ten
before letting a blow go instead of after. Miss Hull's book deserves the
widest possible circulation because of its persuasive propaganda for
forebearance on the part of men in their dealings with women.

Seemingly, there are no exceptions to the rules about women laid down by
Miss Hull. To state her theory concisely, the quickest way to reach a
woman's heart is a right hook to the jaw. To take a specific instance,
there was Miss Diana Mayo. She seemed an exception to the rule if ever a
woman did. "My God, Diana! Beauty like yours drives a man mad!" said
Arbuthnot, the young British lieutenant, in the moonlight at Biskra.
More than that, "He whispered ardently, his hands closing over the slim
ones lying in her lap." Those were her own.

Still, Diana was no miss to take a hint. With a strength that seemed
impossible for their slimness she disengaged her hands from his grasp.
"Please stop. I am sorry. We have been good friends, and it has never
occurred to me that there could be anything beyond that. I never thought
that you might love me. I never thought of you in that way at all. I
don't understand it. When God made me he omitted to give me a heart. I
have never loved any one in my life."

That was before Miss Diana Mayo went into the desert and met the Sheik
Ahmed Ben Hassan. The meeting was unconventional. Ahmed sacked the
caravan and kidnapped Diana, seizing her off her horse's back at full
gallop. "His movement had been so quick she was unprepared and unable to
resist. For a moment she was stunned, then her senses came back to her
and she struggled wildly, but stifled in the thick folds of the Arab's
robes, against which her face was crushed, and held in a grip that
seemed to be slowly suffocating her, her struggles were futile. The
hard, muscular arm around her hurt her acutely, her ribs seemed to be
almost breaking under its weight and strength, it was nearly impossible
to breathe with the close contact of his body."

But Diana did not love him yet. She seems to have been less susceptible
than most girls. Even when "her whole body was one agonized ache from
the brutal hands" she persisted in not caring for Ahmed Ben Hassan. It
almost seemed as if she had taken a dislike to the man. Up to this time
she had not learned to make allowances for him. It was much later than
this that "She looked at the marks of his fingers on the delicate skin
with a twist of the lips, then shut her eyes with a little gasp and hid
her bruised arm hastily, her mouth quivering. But she did not blame him;
she had brought it on herself; she knew his mood and he did not know his
own strength."

Diana's realization that she loved the Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan and had
loved him for some time came under sudden and dramatic circumstances.
She was running away from him at the time and he was riding after her.
Standing up in the stirrups, the Sheik shot the horse from under her and
"Diana was flung far forward and landed on some soft sand." But even yet
her blindness to the whispering of love persisted. She thought she hated
Ahmed, but dawn was about to break in her starved heart. "He caught her
wrist and flung her out of the way," yet it was not until he had lifted
her up on the saddle in front of him, using his favorite hold--a half
nelson and body scissors--that the punishing nature of the familiar grip
roused Diana to an understanding of her great good fortune. "Quite
suddenly she knew--knew that she loved him, that she had loved him for a
long time, even when she thought that she hated him and when she had
fled from him. She knew now why his face had haunted her in the little
oasis at midday--that it was love calling to her sub-consciously." And
all the time poor, foolish Diana had imagined that it was arnica which
she wanted.

Even after Ben Hassan had succeeded in impressing Diana with his
affection, we feared that the story would not end happily. While riding
some miles away from their own carefully restricted oasis Diana was
captured by another Arab chief named Ibraheim Omair. It seemed to us
that he was in his way just as persuasive a wooer as Ben Hassan. We
read, "He forced her to her knees, and, with his hand twined brutally in
her curls, thrust her head back," and later, "She realized that he was
squeezing the life out of her." Worst of all from the point of view of a
Ben Hassan partisan (and by this time we too had learned to love him)
was the moment in which Omair dashed his hand against Diana's mouth, for
the author records that "She caught it in her teeth, biting it to the
bone." We feared, then, that Diana's heart was turning to this new and
wondrously rowdy Arab. Already it was quite evident that she was not
indifferent to him. Fortunately Ahmed came in time to shoot Omair before
Diana's Unconscious could flash to her any realization of a new love.

And the book does end happily, even more happily than anybody has a
right to expect. Ahmed is badly wounded but only in the head, and
recovers without any impairment of his punching power. The greatest
surprise of all is reserved for the last chapter, when Diana and the
reader learn that Ben isn't really an Arab at all, but the eldest son of
Lord Glencaryll, and of Lady Glencaryll, too, for that matter. It seems
Lord Glencaryll drank excessively, although his title was one of the
oldest in England. Lady Glencaryll left him on account of his alcoholism
and went to the Sahara desert for rest and contrast. A courtly sheik
gave her shelter in his oasis. Here her son was born, and when he heard
about his father's disgraceful conduct he turned Arab and stayed that
way. Of course, if he had intended nothing more than a protest against
overindulgence in alcoholic liquors he could have turned American. We
suppose such a device would not have seemed altogether plausible. No
Englishman could pass for an American. Nor can we say that we are
altogether satisfied with the ending even as it stands. For all we know
E. M. Hull may decide to take a shot at Uncle Tom's Cabin and add a
chapter revealing the fact that Uncle Tom was not actually a colored man
but the child of a couple of Caucasians who had happened to get a little
sunburned. We are not even sure that E. M. Hull is a woman. Publishers
do get fooled about such things. According to our theory, the E stands
for Egbert. He is, we think, at least five feet four inches tall and
lives in Bloomsbury, in very respectable bachelor diggings. He has never
been to the desert or near it, but if "The Sheik" continues to run
through new editions he plans to take a jaunt to the East. He thinks it
might help his hay fever.



II

JOHN ROACH STRATON


In the course of his Sabbath day talk at Calvary Baptist Church the
other day the Rev. Dr. John Roach Straton spoke of "miserable Charlie
Chaplin," or words to that effect. This seems to us an expression of the
more or less natural antipathy of a man who regards life trivially for a
serious artist. It is the venom of the clown confronted by the comedian.

Dr. Straton is, of course, an utter materialist. He is concerned with
such temporal and evanescent things as hellfire, and a heaven which he
has pictured in one of his sermons as a sort of glorified Coney Island.
Moreover, he has created a deity in his own image and has presented the
invisible king as merely a somewhat more mannerly John Roach Straton.
And while Dr. Straton has been thus engaged in debasing the ideals of
mankind, Charlie Chaplin has brought to great masses of people some
glint of things which are eternal. He has managed to show us beauty and,
better than that, he has contrived to put us at ease in this presence.
We belong to a Nation which is timorous of beauty, but Charlie has
managed to soothe our fears by proving to us that it may also be merry.

While Straton has been talking about jazz, debauchery, modesty,
vengeance and other ugly things, Chaplin has given us the story of a
child. "The Kid" captured a little of that curiously exalted something
which belongs to paternity. All spiritual things must have in them a
childlike quality. The belief in immortality rests not very much on the
hope of going on. Few of us want to do that, but we would like very much
to begin again.

Naturally, we are under no delusions as to the innate goodness even of
very small children. They are bad a great deal of the time, but before
it has been knocked out of them they see no limit to the potentialities
of the human will. Theirs is the faith to move mountains, because they
do not yet know the fearful heft of them. The world is merely a rather
big sandpile and much may be done to it with a tin pail and shovel. We
would capture such confidence again.

As a matter of fact, a great deal could be done with a pail and shovel.
We do not try because we have lost our nerve. Nobody will ever get it
back again by listening to Dr. Straton. He seems solely intent upon
detailing the limitations and the frailties of man. We think he has
outgrown his soul a little. He has sold his birthright for a mess of
potterism.

But Charlie Chaplin moves through the world which he pictures on the
screen like a mischievous child. He confounds all the gross villains who
come against him. His smile is a token and a symbol that man is too
merry to die utterly. Fearful things menace us, but they will flee
before the audacious one who has the fervor to draw back his foot and
let it fly.

Of course, we are not advocating any suppression of Dr. Straton by
censorship. We regard him and his sermons as a bad influence. But after
all, the man or woman who strays into Dr. Straton's church knows what to
expect. In justice to the clergyman it must be said that he has never
made any secret of his methods or his message. There is no deception.
Sentimentally, we think it rather shocking that these talks of his
should occur on Sunday. There really ought to be one day of the week
upon which the citizens of New York turn away from frivolity. And still
we do not urge that the Sunday Law be amended to include the
performances of John Roach Straton. He is not one whit worse than some
of the sensational Sunday magazines.



III

PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF OFFSPRING


Fannie Hurst gurgles with joy over the fact that her heroine in "Star
Dust" is able to look over the whole tray of babies which is brought to
her in the hospital and pick out her own. Miss Hurst attributes Lily's
feat to "her mother instinct." A friend of ours, more practically minded
than the novelist, suggests that she might have been aided by the fact
that hospitals invariably place an identification tag around the neck of
each child. For our part we have never been able to understand the fear
of some parents about babies getting mixed up in the hospital. What
difference does it make so long as you get a good one? Another's may be
better than your own and Lily, with a whole tray from which to choose,
should not have made an instinctive clutch immediately for her own. It
would have been rational for the lady in the story to have looked at
them all before coming to any decision.

Of course, to tell the truth, there isn't much choice in the little
ones. They need much more than necklaces with names on them to be
persons. There really ought to be some system whereby small children
after being born could be kept in the shop for a considerable period,
like puppies, and not turned over to parents or guardians until in a
condition more disciplined than usual. None of them amounts to much
during the first year. We can't see, for the life of us, why your own
should be any more interesting or precious to you during this time than
the child of anybody else.

After two, of course, they are persons, but a parent must have a good
deal of imagination if he can see much of himself in a child. Oh, yes, a
nose or the eyes or the color of the hair or something like that, but
the world is full of snub noses and brown eyes. To us it never seemed
much more than a coincidence. And if it were something more, what of it?
How can a man work up any inspiring sentimental gratification over the
fact that after he is gone his nose will persist in the world? The hope
of immortality through offspring offers no solace to us. The joys of
being an ancestor are exaggerated.

Mind you, we do not mean for a moment to cry down the undeniable
pleasure which arises from the privilege of being associated with a
child of more than two years of age. For a person in rugged health who
is not particularly dressed up and does not want to write a letter or
read the newspaper, we can imagine few diversions more enjoyable than to
have a child turned loose upon him. His own, if you wish, but only in
the sense that it is the one to which he has become accustomed. The
sense of paternity has nothing on earth to do with the fun. Only a
person extraordinarily satisfied with himself can derive pleasure if
this child in his house is a little person who gives him back nothing
but a reflection. You want a new story and not the old one, which wasn't
particularly satisfactory in the first place. We want Heywood Broun,
3rd, to start from scratch without having to lug along anything we have
left him. As a matter of fact, we like him just as well as if he were no
relation at all, because he seems to be a person quite different from
what we might have expected. When he says he doesn't want to take a bath
we feel abashed and wish we had been a cleaner child, but for the most
part we find him leading his own life altogether. When he bends over the
Victrola and plays the Siegfried Funeral March over and over again we
have no feeling of guilt. We know we can't be blamed for that. He never
got it from us.

And again, he is a person utterly strange, and therefore twice as
interesting, when we find him standing up to people, us for instance,
and saying that he won't do this or that because he doesn't want to.
Much sharper than a serpent's tooth is the pleasure of an abject parent
who finds himself the father of a stubborn child. If the people from the
hospital should suddenly call up to-morrow and say, "We find we've made
a mistake. We sent the wrong child to you three years ago, but now we
can exchange him and rectify everything," we would say, "No, this one's
been around quite a while now and is giving approximate satisfaction,
and if you don't mind you can keep the real one."

Plays and novels which picture meetings between fathers and sons parted
from birth or before have always seemed singularly unconvincing to us.
The old man says "My boy! My boy!" and weeps, and the young man looks
him warmly in the eye and says, "There, there." Not a bit like it is our
guess. If we had never seen H, 3rd, and had then met him at the end of
twenty years, we wouldn't be particularly interested. Strangers always
embarrass us. It would not even shock us much to find that they had sent
him to Yale or that he brushed his hair straight back or wore spats.
There are to us no ties at all just in being a father. A son is
distinctly an acquired taste. It's the practice of parenthood that makes
you feel that, after all, there may be something in it. And anybody's
child will do for practice.



IV

G. K. C.


The ship news man said that Gilbert K. Chesterton was staying at the
Commodore and the telephone girl said he wasn't, but we'd trust even a
ship news man before a hotel central and so we persisted.

In fact, we almost persuaded her.

"Maybe he's connected with one of the automobile companies that are
exhibiting here," she suggested, helpfully. For a moment we wondered if
by any chance the hotel authorities had made an error and placed him in
the lobby with the ten-ton trucks. It seemed too fantastic.

"He's not with any automobile company," we said severely. "Didn't you
ever hear of 'The Man Who Was Thursday'?"

"He may have been here Thursday, but he's not registered now," she
answered with some assurance. We didn't seem to be getting on. "It's a
book," we shouted. "He wrote it."

"Not in this hotel," said central with an air of finality and rang off
before we could try her out on "Man Alive" or "The Ball and the Cross."
Still, it turned out eventually that she was right for it was the
Biltmore which at last acknowledged Mr. Chesterton somewhat reluctantly
after we had spelled out the name.

"Not in his room, but somewhere about the hotel," was the message.

"You can find him," said the city editor with confidence. "Just take
this picture with you. He's sort of fat and he speaks with an English
accent."

We had a more helpful description than that in our mind, because we
remembered Chesterton's answer when a sweet girl admirer once remarked,
"It must be wonderful to walk along the streets when everybody knows who
you are."

"Yes," said Chesterton; "and if they don't know they ask."

He wasn't in the bar, but we found him in the smoking room. He was
giving somebody an interview without much enthusiasm. It seemed to be
the last round. Chesterton was beginning to droop. Every paradox, we
feared, had been hammered out of him. He rose a little wearily and
started for the elevator. We chased him. At last we had the satisfaction
of finding some one we could outrun. He paused, and now we know the look
which the Wedding Guest must have given to the Ancient Mariner.

"It's for the New York _Tribune_," we said.

"How about next week?" suggested Mr. Chesterton.

"It's a daily newspaper," we remonstrated. "You know--Grantland Rice and
The Conning Tower and When a Feller Needs a Friend."

Something in the title of the Briggs series must have touched him.
"To-morrow, perhaps," he answered. Feeling that the mountain was about
to come through we stood our ground like another Mahomet. Better than
that we rose to one of the few superb moments in our life. Looking at
Mr. Chesterton coldly we said slowly, "It must be now or never." And we
used a gesture. The nature of it escapes us, but it was something
appropriate. Later we wondered just what reply would have been possible
if he had answered, "Never." After the danger had passed we realized
that we had been holding up the visitor with an empty gun. It must have
been our manner which awed him and he stopped walking and almost turned
around.

"The press men have been here since two o'clock," he complained more in
sorrow than in anger. "What is it you want to know?"

At that stage of the interview the advantage passed to him. The whole
world lay before us. Dimly we could hear the problems of a great and
unhappy universe flapping in our ears and urging us with unintelligible,
hoarse caws to present their cases for solution. And still we stood
there unable to think of a single thing which we wanted to know.

Mostly we had read Chesterton on rum and religion, but there were too
many people passing to give the proper atmosphere for any such
confidential questions. Moreover, if he should question us in turn we
realized that we would be unable to give him any information as to when
to boil and when to skim, nor did we feel sufficiently well disposed to
let him in on the name of the drug store where you say "I'm a patient of
Dr. Brown's" and are forthwith allowed to buy gin.

All the questions we had ever asked anybody in our life passed rapidly
before us. "What do you think of our tall buildings?" "Have you ever
thought of playing Hamlet?" "Why are you called the woman with the most
beautiful legs in Paris?" We remembered that the last had seemed silly
even when we first used it on Mistinguett. On second thought we had told
the interpreter to let it drop because the photographers were anxious to
begin. There seemed to be even less sense to it now. Indeed none of our
familiar inquiries struck us as appropriate.

"What American authors do you read?" we ventured timidly, and added
"living ones" hoping to get something about "Main Street" for
Wednesday's book column.

"I don't read any," he answered.

That seemed to us a possible handicap in pursuing that line of inquiry.

"I don't read any living English authors, either," Mr. Chesterton added
hastily, as if he feared that he had trod upon our patriotism. "Nothing
but dead authors and detective stories."

That we had expected. In the march up to the heights of fame there comes
a spot close to the summit in which man reads "nothing but detective
stories." It is the Antæan touch which distinguishes all Olympians. As
you remember, Antæus was the demigod who had to touch the earth every
once and so often to preserve his immortality. Probably he did it by
reading a good murder story.

"Can you tell me what 'Mary Rose' is all about?" we suggested, still
fumbling for a literary theme.

"I haven't seen 'Mary Rose,'" said Mr. Chesterton, although he did go on
to tell us that Barrie had done several excellent plays. Probably there
was a long pause then while we tried to think up something provocative
about the Irish question.

"If you really will excuse me, I must go to my room," he burst out. "The
press men have been here ever since two o'clock."

This, of course, is no land in which to stand between a man and his
room, where heaven knows what solace may await the distinguished visitor
who has been spending two and a half hours with the press men. We
stepped aside willingly enough. Still, we must confess a slight
disappointment in Gilbert K. Chesterton. He's not as fat as we had
heard.



V

ON BEING A GOD


We have found a way to feel very close kin to the high gods. The notion
that we too leaned out from the gold bar of heaven came to us suddenly
as we sat in the right field bleachers of one of the big theaters which
provide a combination bill of vaudeville and motion pictures. The
process of deification occurred during the vaudeville portion of the
program.

The stage was several miles away. We could see perfectly and hear
nothing as it was said. Curious little, insect-like people moved about
the stage aimlessly. And yet there was every evidence that they took
themselves seriously. You would be surprised if you watched ants
conducting a performance and calling for light cues and such things. It
would puzzle you to know why one particular ant took care to provide
himself with a flood of red and another just as arbitrarily chose green.

Still, these were not ants but potentially men and women. They had
names--Kerrigan and Vane, the Kaufman Trio, Miss Minstrel Co. and many
others. From where we sat they were insects. It seemed to us that it
would be no trouble at all to flip the three strong men and the pony
ballet into oblivion with one finger. The little finger would be the
most suitable.

And there were times when we wanted to do it. Only, the feeling that we
were too new a god to impose a doom restrained us. No divine patience
was in us, but we felt that if we could wait a while it might come. The
agitated atoms annoyed us. The audacity of "pony ballet" was almost
insufferable. Why, as in Gulliver's land, the biggest of the strong men
towered above the smallest of the ballet girls by at least the thickness
of a fingernail. And these performing ants were forever working to
entertain. They ran on and off the stage without apparent reason and
waved their antennæ about furiously. Two of the ants would stand close
together as if in conversation, and every now and then one of them would
hit the other brutally in the face.

We did not know why and our sympathies went entirely to the one who was
struck. It was difficult not to interfere. We rather think that some of
the seemingly extraordinary judgments of the high gods between mortals
must be explained on the ground of a somewhat similar imperfect
knowledge. They too see us, but they cannot hear. Time is required for
sound to reach Olympus. When we get into warfare they observe only the
carnage and the turmoil. The preliminary explanations arrive several
years after the peace treaties have been signed, and then they sound
silly and entirely irrelevant.

Accordingly, the high gods are rather loath to interfere in the wars of
earth. They are too far removed to understand causes, and even
trumpet-like shouts about national honor merely amble up to their ears
through long lanes of retarding ether. Indeed, the period of transit is
so long that national honor invariably arrives at Olympus in poor
condition. Only when strictly fresh is it in the least inspiring. Little
old last century's national honor is quite unpalatable. It is food
neither for gods nor men.

It was just as well that we waited before taking blind vengeance on the
vaudeville insects, because half an hour or so after the blows were
struck by the seemingly aggressive ant the conversation which preceded
the violence began to drift back to us. It came to our ears during the
turn of the strong men and created a rather uncanny effect. At first we
were puzzled because we had never known strong men to exchange any words
at all except the traditional "alleyup." Almost immediately we realized
that it was merely the tardiness of sound waves which caused the delay
of the dialogue in reaching us in our bleacher seat.

Fortunately, in spite of our illusion of omnipotence, the distance from
the stage was not truly Olympian. The jokes came in time to be
appreciated. It seems that one of the ants, whom we shall immediately
christen A, told his friend and companion, B for convenience, that he
was taking two ladies to dinner and that he would like to have B in the
party, but that he, A, did not have sufficient funds to defray any
expense which he might incur. B admitted promptly that he himself had
nothing. Accordingly, A suggested a scheme for sociability's sake. He
urged B to come, but impressed upon him that when asked as to what he
wished to eat or drink he should reply, "I don't care for anything."

In order to guard against a slip-up the friendly ants rehearsed the
scene in advance. It ran something like this:

A--August! August!

B--You're a little wrong on your months. This is January.

A (punching him)--You fool! August is the name of the waiter.

The delay which retarded the progress of this joke to our ears impaired
its effectiveness a little. The rest was more sprightly.

A--August, bring some chicken en casserole and combination salad for
myself and the two ladies. Oh, I've forgotten my friend. What will you
have?

B--Bring me some pigs' knuckles.

At this point A hit B for the second time and again called him a fool.

A--Why did you say, "Bring me some pigs' knuckles?"

B--Why did you ask me so pretty?

Thereupon they rehearsed the situation again.

A--Oh, I've forgotten my friend. Won't you have something? You must join
us.

B--Sure, bring me a dish of ham and eggs.

Again blows were struck and again A inquired ferociously as to the cause
of the slip-up.

A--What made you say, "Bring me a dish of ham and eggs?"

B--Well, why did you go and coax me?

Earlier in the evening we had observed that other blows were struck and
there must have been further dialogue to go with them, but we could not
wait for it to arrive. We rather hoped that the jokes would follow us
home, but they must have become lost on the way.

Perhaps you don't think there was much sense to this talk anyway.

Maybe the real gods on high Olympus feel the same way about us when our
words limp home.



VI

CHIVALRY IS BORN


Every now and then we hear parents commenting on the fearful things
which motion pictures may do to the minds of children. They seem to
think that a little child is full of sweetness and of light. We had the
same notion until we had a chance to listen intently to the prattle of a
three-year-old. Now we know that no picture can possibly outdo him in
his own fictionized frightfulness.

Of course, we had heard testimony to this effect from Freudians, but we
had supposed that all these horrible blood lusts and such like were
suppressed. Unfortunately, our own son is without reticence. We have a
notion that each individual goes through approximately the same stages
of progress as the race. Heywood Broun, 3d, seemed not yet quite as high
as the cavemen in his concepts. For the last few months he has been
harping continuously, and chiefly during meal times, about cutting off
people's noses and gouging out eyes. In his range of speculative
depredations he has invariably seemed liberal.

There seemed to us, then, no reason to fear that new notions of horror
would come to Heywood Broun, 3d, from any of the pictures being licensed
at present in this State. As a matter of fact, he has received from the
films his first notions of chivalry. Of course, we are not at all sure
that this is beneficial. We like his sentimentalism a little worse than
his sadism.

After seeing "Tol'able David," for instance, we had a long argument.
Since our experience with motion pictures is longer than his we often
feel reasonably certain that our interpretation of the happenings is
correct and we do not hesitate to contradict H. 3d, although he is so
positive that sometimes our confidence is shaken. We knew that he was
all wrong about "Tol'able David" because it was quite evident that he
had become mixed in his mind concerning the hero and the villain. He
kept insisting that David was a bad man because he fought. Pacifism has
always seemed to us an appealing philosophy, but it came with bad grace
from such a swashbuckling disciple of frightfulness as H. 3d.

However, we did not develop that line of reasoning but contended that
David had to fight in order to protect himself. Woodie considered this
for a while and then answered triumphantly, "David hit a woman."

Our disgust was unbounded. Film life had seared the child after all.
Actually, it was not David who hit the woman but the villainous Luke
Hatburn, the terrible mountaineer. That error in observation was not the
cause of our worry. The thing that bothered us was that here was a young
individual, not yet four years of age, who was already beginning to talk
in terms of "the weaker vessel" and all the other phrases of a romantic
school we believed to be dying. It could not have shocked us more if he
had said, "Woman's place is in the home."

"David hit a woman," he piped again, seeming to sense our consternation.
"What of it?" we cried, but there was no bullying him out of his point
of view. The fault belongs entirely to the motion pictures. H. 3d cannot
truthfully say that he has had the slightest hint from us as to any sex
inferiority of women. By word and deed we have tried to set him quite
the opposite example. We have never allowed him to detect us for an
instant in any chivalrous act or piece of partial sex politeness. Toasts
such as "The ladies, God bless 'em" are not drunk in our house, nor has
Woodie ever heard "Shall we join the ladies," "the fair sex," "the
weaker sex," or any other piece of patronizing masculine poppycock.
Susan B. Anthony's picture hangs in his bedroom side by side with
Abraham Lincoln and the big elephant. He has led a sheltered life and
has never been allowed to play with nice children.

But, somehow or other, chivalry and romanticism creep into each life
even through barred windows. We have no intention of being too hard upon
the motion pictures. Something else would have introduced it. These
phases belong in the development of the race. H. 3d must serve his time
as gentle knight just as he did his stint in the rôle of sadistic
caveman. Presently, we fear, he will get to the crusades and we shall
suffer during a period in which he will try to improve our manners.
History will then be our only consolation. We shall try to bear up
secure in the knowledge that the dark ages are still ahead of him.

We hoped that the motion pictures might be used as an antidote against
the damage which they had done. We took H. 3d to see Nazimova in "A
Doll's House." There was a chance, we thought, that he might be moved by
the eloquent presentation of the fact that before all else a woman is a
human being and just as eligible to be hit as anybody else. We read him
the caption embodying Nora's defiance, but at the moment it flashed upon
the screen he had crawled under his seat to pick up an old program and
the words seemed to have no effect. Indeed when Nora went out into the
night, slamming the door behind her, he merely hazarded that she was
"going to Mr. Butler's." Mr. Butler happens to be our grocer.

The misapprehension was not the fault of Nazimova. She flung herself out
of the house magnificently, but Heywood Broun, 3d, insisted on believing
that she had gone around the corner for a dozen eggs.

In discussing the picture later, we found that he had quite missed the
point of Mr. Ibsen's play. Of Nora, the human being, he remembered
nothing. It was only Nora, the mother, who had impressed him. All he
could tell us about the great and stimulating play was that the lady had
crawled on the floor with her little boy and her little girl. And yet it
seems to us that Ibsen has told his story with singular clarity.

D'Artagnan Woodie likes very much. He is fond of recalling to our mind
the fact that D'Artagnan "walked on the roof in his nightshirt." H. 3d
is not allowed on the roof nor is he permitted to wander about in his
nightshirt.

Perhaps the child's introduction to the films has been somewhat too
haphazard. As we remember, the first picture which we saw together was
called "Is Life Worth Living?" The worst of it is that circumstances
made it necessary for us to leave before the end and so neither of us
found out the answer.



VII

RUTH VS. ROTH


We picked up "Who's Who in America" yesterday to get some vital
statistics about Babe Ruth, and found to our surprise that he was not in
the book. Even as George Herman Ruth there is no mention of him. The
nearest name we could find was: "Roth, Filibert, forestry expert; b.
Wurttemberg, Germany, April 20, 1858; s. Paul Raphael and Amalie (Volz)
R., early edn. in Württemberg----"

There is in our heart not an atom of malice against Prof. Roth (since
September, 1903, he has been "prof. forestry, U. Mich."), and yet we
question the justice of his admission to a list of national celebrities
while Ruth stands without. We know, of course, that Prof. Roth is the
author of "Forest Conditions in Wisconsin" and of "The Uses of Wood,"
but we wonder whether he has been able to describe in words uses of wood
more sensational and vital than those which Ruth has shown in deeds.
Hereby we challenge the editor of "Who's Who in America" to debate the
affirmative side of the question: Resolved, That Prof. Roth's volume
called "Timber Physics" has exerted a more profound influence in the
life of America than Babe Ruth's 1921 home-run record.

The question is, of course, merely a continuation of the ancient
controversy as to the relative importance of the theorist and the
practitioner; should history prefer in honor the man who first developed
the hypothesis that the world was round or the other who went out and
circumnavigated it? What do we owe to Ben Franklin and what to the
lightning? Shall we celebrate Newton or the apple?

Personally, our sympathies go out to the performer rather than the
fellow in the study or the laboratory. Many scientists staked their
reputations on the fact that the world was round before Magellan set
sail in the _Vittoria_. He did not lack written assurances that there
was no truth in the old tale of a flat earth with dragons and monsters
lurking just beyond the edges.

But suppose, in spite of all this, Magellan had gone on sailing, sailing
until his ship did topple over into the void of dragons and big snakes.
The professors would have been abashed. Undoubtedly they would have
tried to laugh the misfortune off, and they might even have been good
enough sports to say, "That's a fine joke on us." But at worst they
could lose nothing but their reputations, which can be made over again.
Magellan would not live to profit by his experience. Being one of those
foreigners, he had no sense of humor, and if the dragons bit him as he
fell, it is ten to one he could not even manage to smile.

By this time we have rather traveled away from Roth's "Timber Physics"
and Ruth's home-run record, but we hope that you get what we mean.
Without knowing the exact nature of "Timber Physics," we assume that the
professor discusses the most efficient manner in which to bring about
the greatest possible impact between any wooden substance and a given
object. But mind you, he merely discusses it. If the professor chances
to be wrong, even if he is wrong three times, nobody in the classroom is
likely to poke a sudden finger high in the air and shout, "You're out!"

The professor remains at bat during good behavior. He is not subject to
any such sudden vicissitudes as Ruth. Moreover, timber physics is to Mr.
Roth a matter of cool and calm deliberation. No adversary seeks to fool
him with speed or spitballs. "Hit it out" never rings in his ears. And
after all, just what difference does it make if Mr. Roth errs in his
timber physics? It merely means that a certain number of students leave
Michigan knowing a little less than they should--and nobody expects
anything else from students.

On the other hand, a miscalculation by Ruth in the uses of wood affects
much more important matters. A strike-out on his part may bring about
complete tragedy and the direst misfortune. There have been occasions,
and we fear that there will still be occasions, when Ruth's bat will be
the only thing which stands between us and the loss of the American
League pennant. In times like these who cares about "Forest Conditions
in Wisconsin"?

Coming to the final summing up for our side of the question at debate,
we shall try to lift the whole affair above any mere Ruth versus Roth
issue. It will be our endeavor to show that not only has Babe Ruth been
a profound interest and influence in America, but that on the whole he
has been a power for progress. Ruth has helped to make life a little
more gallant. He has set before us an example of a man who tries each
minute for all or nothing. When he is not knocking home runs he is
generally striking out, and isn't there more glory in fanning in an
effort to put the ball over the fence than in prolonging a little life
by playing safe?



VIII

THE BIGGER THE YEAR


As soon as we heard that "The Big Year--A College Story" by Meade
Minnigerode was about Yale we knew that we just had to read it. Tales of
travel and curious native customs have always fascinated us. According
to Mr. Minnigerode the men of Yale walk about their campus in big blue
sweaters with "Y's" on them, smoking pipes and singing college songs
under the windows of one another. The seniors, he informs us, come out
on summer afternoons on roller skates.

Of course, we are disposed to believe that Mr. Minnigerode, like all
travelers in strange lands, is prone to color things a little more
highly than exact accuracy would sanction. We felt this particularly
when he began to write about Yale football. There was, for instance,
Curly Corliss, the captain of the eleven, who is described as "starting
off after a punt to tear back through a broken field, thirty and forty
yards at a clip, tackling an opposing back with a deadliness which was
final--never hurt, always smiling--a blond head of curly hair (he never
wore a headguard) flashing in and out across the field, the hands
clapping together, the plaintive voice calling 'All right, all right,
give me the ball!' when a game was going badly, and then carrying it
alone to touchdown after touchdown."

Although we have seen all of Yale's recent big games we recognized none
of that except "the plaintive voice" and even that would have been more
familiar if it had been used to say "Moral victory!" We waited to find
Mr. Minnigerode explaining that of course he was referring to the annual
contest with the Springfield Training School, but he did no such thing
and went straight ahead with the pretense that football at Yale is
romantic. To be sure, he attempts to justify this attitude by letting us
see a good deal of the gridiron doings through the eyes of a bull
terrier who could not well be expected to be captious. Champ, named
after the Yale chess team, came by accident to the field just as Curly
Corliss was off on one of his long runs. Yes, it was a game against the
scrubs. "Some one came tearing along and lunged at Curly as he went by,
apparently trying to grab him about the legs. Champ cast all caution to
the winds. Interfere with Curly, would he? Well, Champ guessed not! Like
an arrow from a bow Champ hurled himself through the air and fastened
his jaws firmly in the seat of the offender's pants, in a desperate
effort to prevent him from further molesting Curly."

Champ was immediately adopted by the team as mascot. It seems to us he
deserved more, for this was the first decent piece of interference seen
on Yale field in years. The associate mascot was Jimmy, a little
newsboy, who also took football at New Haven seriously. His romanticism,
like that of Champ, was understandable. Hadn't Curly Corliss once saved
his life? We need not tell you that he had. "Jimmy," as Mr. Minnigerode
tells the story, "started to run across the street, without noticing the
street-car lumbering around the corner... and then before he knew it
Jimmy tripped and fell, and the car was almost on top of him grinding
its brakes. Jimmy never knew exactly what happened in the next few
seconds, but he heard people shouting, and then something struck him and
he was dragged violently away by the seat of the pants. When he could
think connectedly again he was sitting on the curb considerably
battered--and Curly was sitting beside him, with his trousers torn,
nursing a badly cut hand."

We remember there was an incident like that in Cambridge once, only the
man who rescued the newsboy was not the football captain but a
substitute on the second team. We have forgotten his name. Unlike
Corliss of Yale, the Harvard man did not bother to pick up the newsboy.
Instead he seized the street car and threw it for a loss.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first half was over and Princeton led by a score of 10 to 0. Things
looked blue for Yale. Neither mascot was on hand. Yale was trying to win
with nothing but students. Where was little Jimmy the newsboy? If you
must know he was in the hospital, for he had been run over again. The
boy could not seem to break himself of the habit. Unfortunately he had
picked out the afternoon of the Princeton game when all the Yale players
were much too busy trying to stop Tigers to have any time to interfere
with traffic. It was only an automobile this time and Jimmy escaped with
a mere gash over one eye. Champ, the bull terrier who caused the mixup,
was uninjured. "I'm all right now," Jimmy told the doctor, "honest I
am--can I go--I gotta take Champ out to the game--he's the mascot and
they can't win without him--please, Mister, let me go--I guess they need
us bad out there."

Apparently the crying need of Yale football is not so much a coaching
system as a good leash to keep the mascots from getting run over. Champ
and Jimmy rushed into the locker room just as the big Blue team was
about to trot out for the second half. After that there was nothing to
it. Yale won by a score of 12 to 10. "Curly clapped his hands together,"
writes Mr. Minnigerode in describing the rally, "and kept calling out
'Never mind the signal! Give me the ball' in his plaintive voice"----

This sounds more like Yale football than anything else in the book.
However, it sufficed. Curly made two touchdowns and all the Yale men
went to Mory's and sang "Curly Corliss, Curly Corliss, he will leave old
Harvard scoreless." It is said that a legend is now gaining ground in
New Haven that Yale will not defeat Harvard again until it is led by
some other captain whose name rhymes with "scoreless." The current
captain of the Elis is named Jordan. The only thing that rhymes with is
"scored on."

Still, as Professor Billy Phelps has taught his students to say,
football isn't everything. Perhaps something of Sparta has gone from
Yale, for a few years or forever, but just look at the Yale poets and
novelists all over the place. There is a new kindliness at New Haven.
Take for instance the testimony of the same "Big Year" when it describes
a touching little scene between Curly Corliss, the captain of the Yale
football team, and his room mate as they are revealed in the act of
retiring for the night:

"'Angel!'

"'Yeah,' very sleepily.

"'They all seem to get over it!'

"'Over what?'

"'The fellows who have graduated,' Curly explained. 'I guess they all
feel pretty poor when they leave, but they get over it right away. It's
just like changing into a new suit, I expect.'

"'Yeah, I guess so'....

"'Well, goo' night, little feller'....

"'Goo' night, Teddy.'"

But we do wish Mr. Minnigerode had been a little more explicit and had
told us who tucked them in.



IX

FOR OLD NASSAU


Wadsworth Camp, we find, has done almost as much for Princeton in his
novel, "The Guarded Heights," as Meade Minnigerode has accomplished for
Yale in "The Big Year."

George Morton might never have gone to any college if it had not been
for Sylvia Planter. He was enamored of her from the very beginning when
old Planter engaged him to accompany his daughter on rides, but his
admiration did not become articulate until she fell off her horse. She
seems to have done it extremely well. "He saw her horse refuse," writes
Mr. Camp, "straightening his knees and sliding in the marshy ground. He
watched Sylvia, with an ease and grace nearly unbelievable, somersault
across the hedge and out of sight in the meadow beyond."

It seemed to us that the horse should have received some of the credit
for the ease with which Sylvia shot across the hedge, but young Morton
was much too intent upon the fate of his goddess to have eyes for
anything else. When he found her lying on the ground she was
unconscious, and so he told her of his love. That brought her to and she
called him "You--you--stable boy." And so George decided to go to
college.

His high school preparation had been scant and irregular. He went to
Princeton, and after two months' cramming passed all his examinations.
Football attracted him from the first as a means to the advancement
which he desired. "With surprised eyes," writes our author, "he saw
estates as extravagant as Oakmont, and frequently in better taste.
Little by little he picked up the names of the families that owned them.
He told himself that some day he would enter those places as a guest,
bowed to by such servants as he had been. It was possible, he promised
himself bravely, if only he could win a Yale or a Harvard game."

Perhaps this explains why one meets so few Princeton men socially. Some,
we have found, are occasionally invited to drop in after dinner. These,
we assume, are recruited from the ranks of those Princetonians who have
tied Yale or Harvard or at least held the score down.

Like Mr. Minnigerode, Mr. Camp employs symbolism in his story. In the
Yale novel we had Corliss evidently standing for Coy. Just which
Princeton hero George Morton represents we are not prepared to say. In
fact, the only Princeton name which comes to mind at the moment is that
of Big Bill Edwards who used to sit in the Customs House and throw them
all for a loss. Morton can hardly be intended for Edwards because it
seems unlikely that anybody would ever have engaged Big Bill to ride
horses; no, not even to break them. A little further on, however, we are
introduced to the Princeton coach, a certain Mr. Stringham. Here, to be
sure, identification is easy. Stringham, we haven't a doubt, is Roper.
We could wish Mr. Camp had been more subtle. He might, for instance,
have called him Cordier.

In some respects Morton proved an even better football player than
Corliss. He did not score any greater number of touchdowns, but he had
more of an air with him. Thus, in the account of the Harvard game it is
recorded: "Then, with his interference blocked and tumbling, George
yielded to his old habit and slipped off to one side at a hazard. The
enemy's secondary defense had been drawing in, there was no one near
enough to stop him within those ten yards and he went over for a
touchdown and casually kicked the goal."

Eventually, George Morton did get asked to all the better houses, but
still Sylvia spurned him. "Go away and don't bother me," was the usual
form of her replies to his ardent words of wooing. Naturally he knew
that he had her on the run. A man who had taken more than one straight
arm squarely in the face during the course of his football career was
not to be rebuffed by a slip of a girl.

The war delayed matters for a time, and George went and was good at that
too. He was a major before he left Plattsburgh. For a time we feared
that he was in danger of becoming a snob, but the great democratizing
forces of the conflict carried him into the current. One of the most
thrilling chapters in the book tells how he exposed his life under very
heavy fire to go forward and rescue an American who turned out to be a
Yale man.

There was no stopping George Morton. In the end he wore Sylvia down.
Nothing else could be expected from such a man. German machine guns and
heavy artillery had failed to stop him and he had even hit the Harvard
line, upon occasion, without losing a yard.

His head was hard and he could not take a hint. In the end Sylvia just
had to marry him. Her right hand swing was not good enough. "As in a
dream he went to her, and her curved lips moved beneath his, but he
pressed them closer so that she couldn't speak; for he felt encircling
them in a breathless embrace, as his arms held her, something thrilling
and rudimentary that neither of them had experienced before----"

And as we read the further details of the love scene it seemed to us
that George Morton had made a most fortunate choice when he decided to
go to Princeton. His football experience stood him in good stead in his
love-making, for he had been trained with an eleven which tackled around
the neck.



X

MR. DEMPSEY'S FIVE-FOOT SHELF


It is hardly fair to expect Jack Dempsey to take literature very
seriously. How, for instance, can he afford to pay much attention to
George Bernard Shaw who declared just before the fight that Carpentier
could not lose and ought to be quoted at odds of fifty to one? From the
point of view of Dempsey, then, creative evolution, the superman and all
the rest, are the merest moonshine. He might well take the position that
since Mr. Shaw was so palpably wrong about the outcome of the fight two
days before it happened, it scarcely behooves anybody to pay much
attention to his predictions as to the fate of the world and mankind two
thousand years hence.

Whatever the reason, Jack Dempsey does not read George Bernard Shaw
much. But he has heard of him. When some reporter came to Dempsey a day
or so before the fight and told him that Shaw had fixed fifty to one as
the proper odds on Carpentier, the champion made no comment. The
newspaper gossiper, disappointed of his sensation, asked if Dempsey had
ever heard of Shaw and the fighter stoutly maintained that he had. The
examination went no further but it is fair to assume that Dempsey did
know the great British sporting writer. It was not remarkable that he
paid no attention to his prediction. Dempsey would not even be moved
much by a prediction from Hughie Fullerton.

In other words literature and life are things divorced in Dempsey's
mind. He does read. The first time we ever saw Dempsey he discussed
books with not a little interest. He was not at his training quarters
when we arrived but his press agent showed us about--a singularly
reverential man this press agent. "This," he said, and he seemed to
lower his voice, "is the bed where Jack Dempsey sleeps." All the Louises
knew better beds and so did Lafayette even when a stranger in a strange
land. Washington himself fared better in the midst of war. Nor can it be
said that there was anything very compelling about the room in which
Dempsey slept. It had air but not much distinction. There were just two
pictures on the wall. One represented a heavy surf upon an indeterminate
but rather rockbound coast and the other showed a lady asleep with
cupids hovering about her bed. Although the thought is erotic the artist
had removed all that in the execution.

Much more striking was the fact that upon a chair beside the bed of
Dempsey lay a couple of books and a magazine. It was not _The Bookman_
but _Photo Play_. The books were "The Czar's Spy" by William Le Queux,
"The Spoilers" by Rex Beach, and at least one other Western novel which
we have unfortunately forgotten. It was, as we remember it, the Luck of
the Lazy Something or Other. The press agent said that Jack read quite a
little and pointed to the reading light which had been strung over his
bed. He then went on to show us the clothes closet and the bureau of
the champion to prove that he was no slave to fashion. We can testify
that only one pair of shoes in the room had gray suede tops. Then we saw
the kitchen and were done.

There had been awe in the tones of the conductor from the beginning.
"Jack's going to have roast lamb for dinner to-night," he announced in
an awful hush. Even as we went out he could not resist lowering his
voice a little as he said, "This is the hat rack. This is where the
champion puts his hat." We had gone only fifty yards away from the house
when a big brown limousine drew up. "That," said the press agent, and
this time we feared he was going to die, "is Jack Dempsey himself."

The preparation had been so similar to the first act of "Enter Madame"
that we expected temperament and gesture from the star. He put us wholly
at ease by being much more frightened than any one in the visiting
party. As somebody has said somewhere, "Any mouse can make this elephant
squeal." Jack Dempsey is decidedly a timid man and we found later that
he was a gentle one. He answered, "Yes, sir," and "No, sir," at first.
If we had his back and shoulders we'd have a civil word for no man. By
and by he grew a little more at ease and somebody asked him what he
read. He was not particularly strong on the names of books and he always
forgot the author, which detracts somewhat from this article as a guide
for readers. There were almost three hundred books at his disposal,
since his training quarters had once been an aviation camp. These were
the books of the fliers. Practically all the popular novelists and short
story writers were represented. We remember seeing several titles by
Mary Roberts Rinehart, Irvin Cobb, Zane Grey, Rupert Hughes, and Rex
Beach. Older books were scarce. The only one we noticed was "A Tale of
Two Cities." This Dempsey had not read. Perhaps Jack Kearns advised
against it on account of the possible disturbing psychological effects
of the chapter with all the counting.

Dempsey said he had devoted most of his time to Western novels. When
questioned he admitted that he did not altogether surrender himself to
them. "I was a cowboy once for a while," he said. "There's a lot of
hokum in those books." But when pressed as to what he really liked his
face did light up and he even remembered the name of the book. "There
was one book I've been reading," he burst out; "it's a fine book. It's
called 'The Czar's Spy.'"

"Perhaps," suggested Ruth Hale of the visiting party, "a grand duke
would say there was a lot of hokum in that."

Dempsey was not to be deterred by any such higher criticism. Never
having been a grand duke, he did not worry about the accuracy of the
story. It was in a field far apart from life. That we gathered was his
idea of the proper field for fiction. In life Dempsey is a stern
realist. It is only in reading that he is romantic. A more
impressionable man would have been disturbed by the air of secrecy which
surrounded the camp of Carpentier. That never worried Dempsey. He
prepared himself and never thought up contingencies. He did not even
like to talk fight. None of us drew him out much about boxing. Somebody
told him that Jim Corbett had reported that when he first met Carpentier
he had been vastly tempted to make a feint at the Frenchman to see
whether or not he would fall into a proper attitude of defense.

"Yes," giggled Dempsey, "and it would have been funny if Carp had busted
him one on the chin." This seemed to him an extraordinary humorous
conceit and he kept chuckling over it every now and then. While he was
in this good humor somebody sounded him out as to what he would do if he
lost; or rather the comment was made that an old time fighter, once a
champion, was now coming back to the ring and had declared that he was
as good as he ever was.

"Why shouldn't he?" said Dempsey just a little sharply. "Nobody wants to
see a man that says he isn't as good as he used to be."

"Would you say that?" he was asked.

"Well," said Dempsey, and this time he reflected a little, "it would all
depend on how I was fixed. If I needed the money I would. I'd use all
the old alibis."

We liked that frankness and we liked Dempsey again when somebody wanted
to know how he could possibly say anything in the ring during the fight
to "get the goat of Carpentier." "We ain't nearly well enough acquainted
for that," said Dempsey and we gathered that he was of the opinion that
you must know a man pretty well before you can insult him. The champion
is not a man to whom one would look for telling rejoinders, though he
has needed them often enough in the last year and a half. Criticism has
hurt him, for he is not insensitive. He is merely inarticulate. This
must have been the reason which prompted some sporting writers to feel
that he would come into the ring whipped and down from the fact that he
had been able to make no reply to all the charges brought against him.
It did not work out that way. Dempsey did have a means of expression and
he used it. There is no logic in force and yet a man can exclaim "Is
that so!" with his fists. Dempsey said it. If we may be allowed to
stretch a point it might even be hazarded that the champion's motto is
"Say it with cauliflowers."

As the Freudians have it, fighting is his "escape." Decidedly, he is a
man with an inferiority complex. But for his boxing skill he would need
literature badly. As it is, he does not need to read about hair-breadth
escapes. He has them, such as in the second round of the fight on
Boyle's Thirty Acres.

In summing up, we can only add that as yet literature has had no large
effect upon the life of Jack Dempsey.



XI

SPORT FOR ART'S SAKE


For years we had been hearing about moral victories and at last we saw
one. This is not intended as an excuse for the fact that we said before
the fight that Carpentier would beat Dempsey. We erred with Bernard
Shaw. The surprising revelation which came to us on this July afternoon
was that a thing may be done well enough to make victory entirely
secondary. We have all heard, of course, of sport for sport's sake but
Georges Carpentier established a still more glamorous ideal. Sport for
art's sake was what he showed us in the big wooden saucer over on
Boyle's dirty acres.

It was the finest tragic performance in the lives of ninety thousand
persons. We hope that Professor George Pierce Baker sent his class in
dramatic composition. We will be disappointed if Eugene O'Neill, the
white hope of the American drama, was not there. Here for once was a
laboratory demonstration of life. None of the crowds in Greece who went
to somewhat more beautiful stadiums in search of Euripides ever saw the
spirit of tragedy more truly presented. And we will wager that Euripides
was not able to lift his crowd up upon its hind legs into a concerted
shout of "Medea! Medea! Medea!" as Carpentier moved the fight fans over
in Jersey City in the second round. In fact it is our contention that
the fight between Dempsey and Carpentier was the most inspiring
spectacle which America has seen in a generation.

Personally we would go further back than that. We would not accept a
ticket for David and Goliath as a substitute. We remember that in that
instance the little man won, but it was a spectacle less fine in
artistry from the fact that it was less true to life. The tradition that
Jack goes up the beanstalk and kills his giant, and that Little Red
Ridinghood has the better of the wolf, and many other stories are
limited in their inspirational quality by the fact that they are not
true. They are stories that man has invented to console himself on
winter's evenings for the fact that he is small and the universe is
large. Carpentier showed us something far more thrilling. All of us who
watched him know now that man cannot beat down fate, no matter how much
his will may flame, but he can rock it back upon its heels when he puts
all his heart and his shoulders into a blow.

That is what happened in the second round. Carpentier landed his
straight right upon Dempsey's jaw and the champion, who was edging in
toward him, shot back and then swayed forward. Dempsey's hands dropped
to his side. He was an open target. Carpentier swung a terrific right
hand uppercut and missed. Dempsey fell into a clinch and held on until
his head cleared. He kept close to Carpentier during the rest of the
fight and wore him down with body blows during the infighting. We know
of course that when the first prehistoric creature crawled out of the
ooze up to the beaches (see "The Outline of History" by H. G. Wells,
some place in the first volume, just a couple of pages after that
picture of the big lizard) it was already settled that Carpentier was
going to miss that uppercut. And naturally it was inevitable that he
should have the worst of it at infighting. Fate gets us all in the
clinches, but Eugene O'Neill and all our young writers of tragedy make a
great mistake if they think that the poignancy of the fate of man lies
in the fact that he is weak, pitiful and helpless. The tragedy of life
is not that man loses but that he almost wins. Or, if you are intent on
pointing out that his downfall is inevitable, that at least he completes
the gesture of being on the eve of victory.

For just eleven seconds on the afternoon of July 2 we felt that we were
at the threshold of a miracle. There was such flash and power in the
right hand thrust of Carpentier's that we believed Dempsey would go
down, and that fate would go with him and all the plans laid out in the
days of the oozy friends of Mr. Wells. No sooner were the men in the
ring together than it seemed just as certain that Dempsey would win as
that the sun would come up on the morning of July 3. By and by we were
not so sure about the sun. It might be down, we thought, and also out.
It was included in the scope of Carpentier's punch, we feared. No, we
did not exactly fear it. We respect the regularity of the universe by
which we live, but we do not love it. If the blow had been as
devastating as we first believed, we should have counted the world well
lost.

Great circumstances produce great actors. History is largely concerned
with arranging good entrances for people; and later exits not always
quite so good. Carpentier played his part perfectly down to the last
side. People who saw him just as he came before the crowd reported that
he was pitifully nervous, drawn, haggard. It was the traditional and
becoming nervousness of the actor just before a great performance. It
was gone the instant Carpentier came in sight of his ninety thousand.
His head was back and his eyes and his smile flamed as he crawled
through the ropes. And he gave some curious flick to his bathrobe as he
turned to meet the applause. Until that very moment we had been for
Dempsey, but suddenly we found ourself up on our feet making silly
noises. We shouted "Carpentier! Carpentier! Carpentier!" and forgot even
to be ashamed of our pronunciation. He held his hands up over his head
and turned until the whole arena, including the five-dollar seats, had
come within the scope of his smile.

Dempsey came in a minute later and we could not cheer, although we liked
him. It would have been like cheering for Niagara Falls at the moment
somebody was about to go over in a barrel. Actually there is a
difference of sixteen pounds between the two men, which is large enough,
but it seemed that afternoon as if it might have been a hundred. And we
knew for the first time that a man may smile and smile and be an
underdog.

We resented at once the law of gravity, the Malthusian theory and the
fact that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.
Everything scientific, exact, and inevitable was distasteful. We wanted
the man with the curves to win. It seemed impossible throughout the
first round. Carpentier was first out of his corner and landed the first
blow, a light but stinging left to the face. Then Dempsey closed in and
even the people who paid only thirty dollars for their seats could hear
the thump, thump of his short hooks as they beat upon the narrow stomach
of Carpentier. The challenger was only too evidently tired when the
round ended.

Then came the second and, after a moment of fiddling about, he shot his
right hand to the jaw. Carpentier did it again, a second time, and this
was the blow perfected by a life time of training. The time was perfect,
the aim was perfect, every ounce of strength was in it. It was the blow
which had downed Bombardier Wells, and Joe Beckett. It rocked Dempsey to
his heels, but it broke Carpentier's hand. His best was not enough.
There was an earthquake in Philistia but then out came the signs
"Business as usual!" and Dempsey began to pound Carpentier in the
stomach.

The challenger faded quickly in the third round, and in the fourth the
end came. We all suffered when he went down the first time, but he was
up again, and the second time was much worse. It was in this knockdown
that his head sagged suddenly, after he struck the floor, and fell back
upon the canvas. He was conscious and his legs moved a little, but they
would not obey him. A gorgeous human will had been beaten down to a
point where it would no longer function.

If you choose, that can stand as the last moment in a completed piece
of art. We are sentimental enough to wish to add the tag that after a
few minutes Carpentier came out to the center of the ring and shook
hands with Dempsey and at that moment he smiled again the same smile
which we had seen at the beginning of the fight when he stood with his
hands above his head. Nor is it altogether sentimental. We feel that one
of the elements of tragedy lies in the fact that Fate gets nothing but
the victories and the championships. Gesture and glamour remain with
Man. No infighting can take that away from him. Jack Dempsey won fairly
and squarely. He is a great fighter, perhaps the most efficient the
world has ever known, but everybody came away from the arena talking
about Carpentier. He wasn't every efficient. The experts say he fought
an ill considered fight and should not have forced it. In using such a
plan, they say, he might have lasted the whole twelve rounds. That was
not the idea. As somebody has said, "Better four rounds of----" but we
can't remember the rest of the quotation.

Dempsey won and Carpentier got all the glory. Perhaps we will have to
enlarge our conception of tragedy, for that too is tragic.



XII

JACK THE GIANT KILLER


All the giants and most of the dragons were happy and contented folk.
Neither fear nor shame was in them. They faced life squarely and liked
it. And so they left no literature.

The business of writing was left to the dwarfs, who felt impelled to
distort real values in order to make their own pitiful existence
endurable. In their stories the little people earned ease of mind for
themselves by making up yarns in which they killed giants, dragons and
all the best people of the community who were too big and strong for
them. Naturally, the giants and dragons merely laughed at such times as
these highly drawn accounts of imaginary happenings were called to their
attention.

But they laughed not only too soon but too long. Giants and dragons have
died and the stories remain. The world believes to-day that St. George
slew the dragon, and that Jack killed all those giants. The little man
has imposed himself upon the world. Strength and size have come to be
reproaches. The world has been won by the weak.

Undoubtedly, it is too late to do anything about this now. But there is
a little dim and distant dragon blood in our veins. It boils when we
hear the fairy stories and we remember the true version of Jack the
Giant Killer, as it has been handed down by word of mouth in our family
for a great many centuries. We can produce no tangible proofs, and we
are willing to admit that the tale may have grown a little distorted
here and there in the telling through the ages. Even so it sounds much
more plausible to us than the one which has crept into the story books.

Jack was a Celt, a liar and a meager man. He had great green eyes and
much practice in being pathetic. He could sing tenor and often did. But
it was not in this manner that he lived. By trade he was a newspaper man
though he called himself a journalist. In his shop there was a printing
press and every afternoon he issued a newspaper which he called _Jack's
Journal_. Under this name there ran the caption, "If you see it in
_Jack's Journal_ you may be sure that it actually occurred." Jack had no
talent for brevity and little taste for truth. All in all he was a
pretty poor newspaper man. We forgot to say that in addition to this he
was exceedingly lazy. But he was a good liar.

This was the only thing which saved him. Day after day he would come to
the office without a single item of local interest, and upon such
occasions he made a practice of sitting down and making up something.
Generally, it was far more thrilling than any of the real news of the
community which clustered around one great highroad known as Main
Street.

The town lay in a valley cupped between towering hills. On the hills,
and beyond, lived the giants and the dragons, but there was little
interchange between these fine people and the dwarfs of the village.
Occasionally, a sliced drive from the giants' golf course would fall
into the fields of the little people, who would ignorantly set down the
great round object as a meteor from heaven. The giants were considerate
as well as kindly and they made the territory of the little people out
of bounds. Otherwise, an erratic golfer might easily have uprooted the
first national bank, the Second Baptist Church, which stood next door,
and _Jack's Journal_ with one sweep of his niblick. If by any chance he
failed to get out in one, the total destruction of mankind would have
been imminent.

Once upon a time, a charitable dowager dragon sought to bring about a
closer relationship between the peoples of the hills and the valley in
spite of their difference in size. Hearing of a poor neglected family in
the village, which was freezing to death because of want of coal, she
leaned down from her mountain and breathed gently against the roof of
the thatched cottage. Her intentions were excellent but the damage was
$152,694, little of which was covered by insurance. After that the
dragons and the giants decided to stop trying to do favors for the
little people.

Being short of news one afternoon, Jack thought of the great gulf which
existed between his reading public and the big fellows on the hill and
decided that it would be safe to romance a little. Accordingly, he wrote
a highly circumstantial story of the manner in which he had gone to the
hills and killed a large giant with nothing more than his good broad
sword. The story was not accepted as gospel by all the subscribers, but
it was well told, and it argued an undreamed of power in the arm of man.
People wanted to believe and accordingly they did. Encouraged, Jack
began to kill dragons and giants with greater frequency in his
newspaper. In fact, he called his last evening edition _The Five Star
Giant Final_ and never failed to feature a killing in it under great red
block type.

The news of the Jack's doings came finally to the hill people and they
were much amused, that is all but one giant called Fee Fi Fo Fum. The Fo
Fums (pronounced Fohum) were one of the oldest families in the hills.
Jack supposed that all the names he was using were fictitious, but by
some mischance or other he happened one afternoon to use Fee Fi Fo Fum
as the name of his current victim. The name was common enough and
undoubtedly the thing was an accident, but Mr. Fo Fum did not see it in
that light. To make it worse, Jack had gone on in his story with some
stuff about captive princesses just for the sake of sex appeal. Not only
was Mr. Fo Fum an ardent Methodist, but his wife was jealous. There was
a row in the Fo Fum home (see encyclopedia for Great Earthquake of 1007)
and Fee swore revenge upon Jack.

"Make him print a retraction," said Mrs. Fo Fum.

"Retraction, nothing," roared Fee, "I'm going to eat up the presses."

Over the hills he went with giant strides and arrived at the office of
_Jack's Journal_ just at press time. Mr. Fo Fum was a little calmer by
now, but still revengeful. He spoke to Jack in a whisper which shook the
building, and told him that he purposed to step on him and bite his
press in two.

"Wait until I have this last page made up," said Jack.

"Killing more giants, I presume?" said Fee with heavy satire.

"Bagged three this afternoon," said Jack. "Hero Slaughters Trio of
Titans."

"My name is Fo Fum," said the giant. Jack did not recognize it because
of the trick pronunciation and the visitor had to explain.

"I'm sorry," said Jack, "but if you've come for extra copies of the
paper in which your name figures I can't give you any. The edition is
exhausted."

Fo Fum spluttered and blew a bale of paper out of the window.

"Cut that out," said Jack severely. "All complaints must be made in
writing. And while I'm about it you forgot to put your name down on one
of those slips at the desk in the reception room. Don't forget to fill
in that space about what business you want to discuss with the editor."

Fo Fum started to roar, but Jack's high and pathetic tenor cut through
the great bass like a ship's siren in a storm.

"If you don't quit shaking this building I'll call Julius the office boy
and have him throw you out."

"Take the air," added Jack severely, disregarding the fact that Fo Fum
before entering the office had found it necessary to remove the roof.
But now the giant was beginning to stoop a little. His face grew purple
and he was swaying unsteadily on his feet.

"Hold on a minute," said Jack briskly, "don't go just yet. Stick around
a second."

He turned to his secretary and dictated two letters of congratulation to
distant emperors and another to a cardinal. "Tell the Pope," he said in
conclusion, "that his conduct is admirable. Tell him I said so."

"Now, Mr. Fo Fum," said Jack turning back to the giant, "what I want
from you is a picture. There is still plenty of light. I'll call up the
staff photographer. The north meadow will give us room. Of course, you
will have to be taken lying down because as far as the _Journal_ goes
you're dead. And just one thing more. Could you by any chance let me
have one of your ears for our reception room?"

Fo Fum had been growing more and more purple, but now he toppled over
with a crash, carrying part of the building with him. Almost two years
before he had been warned by a doctor of apoplexy and sudden anger. Jack
did not wait for the verdict of any medical examiner. He seized the
speaking tube and shouted down to the composing room, "Jim, take out
that old head. Make it read, 'Hero Finishes Four Ferocious Foemen.' And
say, Jim, I want you to be ready to replate for a special extra with an
eight column cut. I'll have the photographer here in a second. I killed
that last giant right here in the office. Yes, and say, Jim, you'd
better use that stock cut of me at the bottom of the page. A caption,
let me see, put it in twenty-four point cheltenham bold and make it read
'Jack--the Giant Killer.'"



XIII

JUDGE KRINK


H. 3d, our three-year-old son, has created for himself out of thin air
somebody whom he can respect. The name of this character is Judge Krink,
but generally he is more casually referred to as "the Judge." He lives,
so we are informed, at some remote place called Fourace Hill. H. 3d says
Judge Krink is his best friend. He told us yesterday that he had written
a letter to Judge Krink and had received one in reply.

"What did you say?" we asked.

"I said I was writing him a letter."

"What did he say?"

"Nothing."

This interchange of courtesies did not seem epoch-making even in the
life of a child, but we learned later just how extraordinarily important
and useful Judge Krink had become to H. 3d. Cross-examination revealed
the fact that Judge Krink has dirty hands which he never allows to be
washed. Under no compulsion does he go to bed. Apparently he sits all
day long in a garden, more democratically administered than any city
park, digging dirt and putting it in a pail.

Candy Judge Krink eats very freely and without let or hindrance. In fact
there is nothing forbidden to H. 3d which Judge Krink does not do with
great gusto. Rules and prohibitions melt before the iron will and
determination of the Judge. We suppose that when the artificial
restrictions of a grown-up world bear too heavily upon H. 3d he finds
consolation in the thought that somewhere in the world Judge Krink is
doing all these things. We cannot get at Judge Krink and put him to bed
or take away his trumpet. The Judge makes monkeys of all of us who seek
to administer harsh laws in an unduly restricted world. The sound of his
shovel beating against his tin pail echoes revolution all over the
world.

And vicariously the will of H. 3d triumphs with him, no matter how
complete may be any mere corporeal defeat which he himself suffers. The
more we hear about the Judge the more strongly do we feel drawn to him.
We would like to have one of our own. Some day we hope to win sufficient
favor with H. 3d to prevail upon him to introduce us to Judge Krink.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are never to meet Judge Krink after all. He has passed back into the
nowhere from whence he came. It was only to-day that we learned the
news, although we had suspected that the Judge's popularity was waning.
Some visitor undertook to cross-question H. 3d about his relations with
Krink and it was plain to see that the child resented it, but we were
not prepared for the direction which his revenge took. When we asked
about the Judge to-day there was no response at first and it was only
after a long pause that H. 3d answered, "I don't have Judge Krink any
more. He's got table manners."



XIV

FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH


Once there were three kings in the East and they were wise men. They
read the heavens and they saw a certain strange star by which they knew
that in a distant land the King of the world was to be born. The star
beckoned to them and they made preparations for a long journey.

From their palaces they gathered rich gifts, gold and frankincense and
myrrh. Great sacks of precious stuffs were loaded upon the backs of the
camels which were to bear them on their journey. Everything was in
readiness, but one of the wise men seemed perplexed and would not come
at once to join his two companions who were eager and impatient to be on
their way in the direction indicated by the star.

They were old, these two kings, and the other wise man was young. When
they asked him he could not tell why he waited. He knew that his
treasuries had been ransacked for rich gifts for the King of Kings. It
seemed that there was nothing more which he could give, and yet he was
not content.

He made no answer to the old men who shouted to him that the time had
come. The camels were impatient and swayed and snarled. The shadows
across the desert grew longer. And still the young king sat and thought
deeply.

At length he smiled, and he ordered his servants to open the great
treasure sack upon the back of the first of his camels. Then he went
into a high chamber to which he had not been since he was a child. He
rummaged about and presently came out and approached the caravan. In his
hand he carried something which glinted in the sun.

The kings thought that he bore some new gift more rare and precious than
any which they had been able to find in all their treasure rooms. They
bent down to see, and even the camel drivers peered from the backs of
the great beasts to find out what it was which gleamed in the sun. They
were curious about this last gift for which all the caravan had waited.

And the young king took a toy from his hand and placed it upon the sand.
It was a dog of tin, painted white and speckled with black spots. Great
patches of paint had worn away and left the metal clear, and that was
why the toy shone in the sun as if it had been silver.

The youngest of the wise men turned a key in the side of the little
black and white dog and then he stepped aside so that the kings and the
camel drivers could see. The dog leaped high in the air and turned a
somersault. He turned another and another and then fell over upon his
side and lay there with a set and painted grin upon his face.

A child, the son of a camel driver, laughed and clapped his hands, but
the kings were stern. They rebuked the youngest of the wise men and he
paid no attention but called to his chief servant to make the first of
all the camels kneel. Then he picked up the toy of tin and, opening the
treasure sack, placed his last gift with his own hands in the mouth of
the sack so that it rested safely upon the soft bags of incense.

"What folly has seized you?" cried the eldest of the wise men. "Is this
a gift to bear to the King of Kings in the far country?"

And the young man answered and said: "For the King of Kings there are
gifts of great richness, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

"But this," he said, "is for the child in Bethlehem!"



XV

THE EXCELSIOR MOVEMENT


The fun of most of the criticism of George Jean Nathan's lies in the
fact that he has been an irreconcilable in the theater. Rules and
theories have been disclaimed by him. Each play has been a problem to be
considered separately without relation to anything else except, of
course, the current dramatic activities in Vienna, Budapest and Moscow.
Most of his themes have been variations of the two important aspects of
all criticism, "I like" and "I don't like." Masking his thrusts under a
screen of indifference, he has generally afforded stirring comment by
the sudden revelation of the fact that his enthusiasms and his hates are
lively and personal. Being among the unclassified, the element of
surprise has entered largely into his expression of opinion.

But of late it is evident that Mr. Nathan has grown a little lonely in
functioning as a guerilla in the field of dramatic reviewing. He is
envious of the cults and his scorn of Clayton Hamilton, George Pierce
Baker and William Archer seems to have been nothing more than what the
Freudians call a defensive mechanism. He too would ally himself with a
school--to be called the George Jean Nathan School of Criticism.

His latest volume of collected essays, entitled "The Critic and the
Drama," is designed as a prospectus for pupils. It undertakes to codify
and describe in part the theater of to-day and to analyze and explain
much more fully George Jean Nathan. He insists on our knowing how the
trick is done. To us there is something disturbing in all this. We have
always been among those who did not care to go behind the scenes at the
playhouse for fear that we might be forced to learn how thunder is
contrived and the manner of making lightning. Still more we have feared
that somebody would impel us into a corner and point out the real David
Belasco. We much prefer our own romantic impression gathered wholly from
his curtain speeches at first nights.

It is painful, then, to have the new book insist upon our meeting the
real Mr. Nathan. It was not our desire ever to know how his mind worked.
We much preferred to believe that the charming little pieces in the
_Smart Set_ had no father and no mother except spontaneous combustion.
To find this antic author burdened with theories is almost as
disillusioning as to hear of Pegasus winning the 2.20 trot or one of the
muses contracting to give a culture course at the Woman's Study Club of
New Rochelle.

And the worst of it is that the theories of Mr. Nathan, when exposed in
detail, seem to be much like those of other men. Even those who have
never had the privilege of attending a performance of Micklefluden's
"Arbeit" at Das Hochhaus in Prague early in the spring of 1905 have much
the same philosophy of the critic and the playhouse as Mr. Nathan. Thus
we find him explaining that Shakespeare was "the greatest dramatist who
ever lived, because he alone of all dramatists most accurately sensed
the mongrel nature of his art." Mr. Nathan also insists sternly that
criticism must be personal, and in discussing the relation between the
printed and the acted drama he ingeniously makes a comparison with
music.

"If drama is not meant for actors," he cries, "may we not also argue
that music is not meant for instruments?" We see no reason on earth why
Mr. Nathan should not argue in this manner, since so many hundreds in
the past have raised the same point. It is also interesting to learn
that Mr. Nathan thinks that the drama can never approximate nature. "It
holds the mirror not up to nature but to the spectator's individual
nature." He has also discovered that "great drama, like great men and
women, is always just a little sad."

"The Critic and the Drama" is probably the most profound book which Mr.
Nathan has ever published and it is by far the dullest. His pages are
alive with echoes even at such times as they are not directly evoked and
called upon by name. One of the difficulties of profundity is
overcrowding. A man may remain pretty much to himself as long as he
chooses to keep his touch light and avoid research. Taking a suggestion
from Mr. Nathan, it may be said that all great masses of men are a
little serious. In the plains and the rolling country there is room for
an individual to skip and frolic, but all the peaks are pre-empted.

It may not be generally known that the young man who carried the banner
with the strange device was lucky to die when he did. Had he eventually
reached the summit which he sought he would have discovered to his great
dismay that he merely constituted the 29th division in the annual outing
of the Excelsior Marching and Chowder Club.

Criticism gives the lie to an ancient adage. In this field of endeavor
"The higher the fewer" may be recognized as an exquisite piece of
irony.



XVI

THE DOG STAR


_The Silent Call_ presents the most beautiful of all male stars now
appearing in the films. In intelligence, also, his rank seems high. The
picture is built around Strongheart, a magnificent police dog. There
are, to be sure, minor two-legged persons in his support, but
practically all the heavy emotional scenes are reserved for Strongheart.

The dog star has virtues which are all his own. Any man of such glorious
physique could hardly fail to betray self-consciousness. His virility
would obsess him to such an extent that there certainly would be moments
of posturing and swagger. Strongheart is above all this. He never trades
upon the fact of being a "he dog" or even emphasizes that he is
red-blooded and 100 per cent police.

Unlike all the other handsome devils of the screen, he goes about his
business without smirking. His smile is broad, unaffected and filled
with teeth and tongue. And above all, Strongheart does not slick down
his hair with water or with wax.

Fine mountain country has been selected for _The Silent Call_ and we see
Strongheart galloping like a racing snow plow through white meadows
which foam at his progress. He fights villains with great intensity and
sincerity, devastates great herds of cattle and brings the picture to a
fitting climax by leaping from a jutting cliff to drown a miscreant in a
whirlpool. We have seen no photography as beautiful nor any picture so
vivid and live in action.

The story itself is good enough, but somewhat less than masterly.
Repetition dulls the edge of rescue. The heroine, for instance, never
should have been allowed to visit God's own country without a chaperon.
Her propensity for predicament seems unlimited. Let her be lost in a
virgin forest, if only for a moment, and out of the nowhere some villain
arises to buffet her with odious and violent attentions.

She keeps Strongheart as busy as if he had been a traffic police dog. He
is forever engaged in indicating "Stop" and "Go" to the stream of
miscreants who bear down upon Miss Betty Houston. Villainicular traffic
in the Northwest woods seems to be in need of constant regulation.

Strongheart bit some bad men and barked at others. Both measures were
effective, for this is an unusual dog in that his bark is just as bad as
his bite. He never questioned the character or the intentions of the
heroine. After all, he was only a dumb animal and his loyalty was tinged
with no suspicions.

We must admit that the human frailty of doubt sometimes led us to carp a
little at the rectitude of Miss Houston. Her plights were so numerous
that we were mean enough to wonder whether all were accidental. There
was one particular villain, for instance, who attempted to abduct her no
less than four times. We could not dismiss the thought that perhaps she
had given him some encouragement. Indeed we would not have been
surprised if at last there has come a caption quoting the heroine as
saying: "Get along with you, dog, and mind your own business." This,
however, did not prove to be within the scheme of the scenario writers.

In all justice to Miss Houston, it must be said that, though she owed
Strongheart much, he was also in her debt. It took the love of a good
woman to drag him back from degradation. He was a nice dog until his
master left the ranch and went East to correct the proofs of a new book.
Strongheart could not understand that and neither could we. It seemed to
us as if the publisher might have sent the galleys on by mail.

Deprived of the care of his owner, Strongheart began to revert to type.
He had been a wolf and he took to long hikes away from home. When he
grew hungry he killed a cow. The cattle men put a price upon his head
and Strongheart became an outcast.

His return to civilization was effected by the first attack upon Miss
Houston. Even a wolf knows that it is only a coward who would strike a
woman. The police instinct proved stronger than the call of the wild and
the great beast bounded out of the thicket and seized Ash Brent by the
trousers. This was the first of many meetings between Ash and
Strongheart. The last and decisive encounter was in the whirlpool. The
dog swam to the bank alone and sat upon the bank to howl the piercing
death cry of the wolf.

There is a suggestion of a happy ending in _The Silent Call_ because
Strongheart's original master falls in love with Miss Houston and
marries her. It was probably the only union for the heroine which the
dog would have sanctioned, and yet we cannot imagine that it left him
entirely happy. Once the much beset young woman was given over into the
care of a good man, Strongheart must have realized that his vocation was
gone. Ash Brent was dead and all the other villains had been captured by
the Sheriff. Placidity stared Strongheart in the face.

To be sure, he bit people only because they were bad, but, like most
reformers, he had learned to love his work. It was to him more than a
duty. We doubt whether he remained long with the honeymooners. It is our
notion that on the first dark night he took to the wilds again. We can
imagine him stalking a contented cow in the moonlight. The poor beast
lowers her head for grass and Strongheart, seeking to convince himself
that the horns have been employed in an overt act, mutters: "You would,
would you!" Then comes the leap and the crashing of the great wolf jaws.
It is the invariable tragedy of the reformer that, though his work has
been accomplished, he cannot retire. First come the giants and then the
windmills.



XVII

ALTRUISTIC POKER


Although Ella Wheeler Wilcox's autobiography is a human document
throughout, nothing in it has interested us quite so much as her
description of her husband's poker system in the chapter called "The
Compelling Lover."

"In my early married life," writes Mrs. Wilcox, "he was much in demand
for the game of poker," but a little later she explains, "Even in his
love of cards and in his monotonous life of travel for the first seven
years after our marriage, when card games were his only recreation, he
introduced his idea of altruism. This, too, was a matter known only to
me. He played games of chance only with men he knew; whatever money he
made was kept in a separate purse, and when he came home he asked me to
help him distribute it among deserving people."

Any new system is worth trying when your luck is bad, and yet it seems
to us that there are fundamental objections to the scheme suggested by
Mrs. Wilcox. At least, we don't think it would work well for us. If we
drew a club to four hearts we might bravely push all our chips forward
and say "Raise it," provided the risk was ours alone. We couldn't do
that if we were playing for Uncle Albert. Our anxiety would betray us.
Even if Aunt Hattie had been mentally selected as the beneficiary of the
evening we should feel compelled to play the cards close to our chest.
She is a dear old lady and not a bit prudish, but we're sure she would
never approve of whooping the pot on a king and an ace and a seven spot.

Then take the debatable question of two pairs. Personally we have always
believed in raising on them before the draw. Such a procedure is
dangerous, perhaps, but profitable in the long run. Under the Wilcox
system it might be difficult to take the larger viewpoint. It is more
than possible that we would grow timorous if Cousin Susie's hope of a
comfortable old age rested upon eights and deuces.

Some years ago we used to encounter, every now and again, a kindly
middle-aged gentleman who was playing to send his brother to Harvard. It
weighed on him. Whenever he looked at his cards he had his brother's
chance of an education in mind. In fact, he grew so excessively cautious
that anybody could bluff him out of quite large pots merely by reaching
for a white chip. Some of the players, we fear, used to take advantage
of this fact. As we remember it, the young man finally went to the C. C.
N. Y.

Of course, Ella Wheeler Wilcox makes no claim that the system is a
winning one. The implication is quite the other way. After all, she
writes of her husband, "He was much in demand for the game of poker."



XVIII

THE WELL MADE REVIEW


One of the simplest ways in which a critic can put a play in its place
is to refer to it as "well made." The phrase has come to be a reproach.
It suggests a third act in which the friend of the family tells the
husband, "Take her out and buy her a good dinner," and the lover decides
that he will go back to Mesopotamia----"Alone!"

George Bernard Shaw changed the style, and taught playgoers to refuse to
accept technic as something just as good as spiritual significance. We
now await the revolt against the well-made revue. Each of the Ziegfeld
Follies is perfect of its kind, but just as in the plays of Pinero, form
has triumphed over substance. The name Ziegfeld on the label means a
magnificent product perfect in every detail with complete satisfaction
guaranteed, but it is a standardized product. You know just what you are
going to get. Ziegfeld scenery, Ziegfeld costumes mean something
definite. Even "a Ziegfeld chorus girl" suggests an unvarying type. The
hood is as unmistakable as that of a Ford automobile.

At times one is struck with a longing to find a single homely girl among
all the merry marchers. And there is at least a shadow of a wish to
encounter, likewise, something in a song or a set or a costume rough,
unfinished and ungainly. Alexander sighed and so might Ziegfeld. His
supremacy in the field of musical revue is unquestioned. Even the shows
with which he has no connection follow his modes as best they can,
though sometimes at a great distance. He really owes it to himself and
to his public to put on, in the near future, a very bad revue so that in
the ensuing year that most precious element in
entertainment--surprise--may again come to the theater through him. The
first of all the Ziegfeld Follies must have furnished its audience with
a night of startled rapture. The rest have produced a pleasant evening.

Burdened by years of success, Mr. Ziegfeld must be hampered by
innumerable rules about revue making. He has created tradition and
probably it rises up in front of him now and again to bark his shins.
The Follies is still an entertainment, but now it is also an
institution. Plan, premeditation and the note of service must all have
won their places in the making of each new show in the succession. The
critic will not depart in peace until he has seen somehow, somewhere an
altogether irresponsible revue. It will be produced not by Edward Royce
but by spontaneous combustion. Some of it will be terrible. Few of the
costumes will fit and many of them will be in bad taste. None of the
tunes will be hummed by the audience as it leaves the theater. But,
nevertheless and notwithstanding, this irresponsible revue of which I
speak is going to contain two good jokes.

I had at least a glimmer of hope that _Shuffle Along_ might be the first
blow of the revolution against the well-made revue. Early explorers in
the Sixty-Second Street Music Hall came back glowing with discovery.
And yet after seeing the negro revue it seems to me that stout Cortes
and all his men were duped. In book and music and dancing _Shuffle
Along_ follows Broadway tradition just as closely as it can. It is rough
with old things which have crumbled and not with new things which are
unfinished. And yet it is easy to understand the thrill which swept
through some of the pioneers who were the first to see _Shuffle Along_.
In it there is one quality possessed by no other show which has been
seen in New York this year. Most musical comedy performers seem to be
altruists who are putting themselves out to a great extent in order to
please you and the other paying customers. _Shuffle Along_ is entirely
selfish. No matter how enthusiastic the audience, it cannot possibly get
as much fun out of the show as the performers. Not since the last trip
to New York of the Triangle Club have I seen the amateur spirit more
fully realized in the theater. Perhaps the performers get paid, but it
does not seem fitting. The more engaging theory is that each member of
the chorus of _Shuffle Along_ who keeps his work up at top pitch until
the end of the season receives a large blue sweater with a white "S. A."
on the front and is then allowed to break training. The ten best
performers, in addition, are tapped on the shoulder. There is a rumor
that social distinction as well as merit enters into this selection, but
it has never, to my knowledge, been confirmed.

Of course, nothing in the remarks above is to be construed as implying
that people in the Ziegfeld choruses do not have a good time. Such a
statement would certainly be far from the facts. As somebody or other
has so aptly said, "It's great to be young and a Ziegfeld chorus girl."
The difference is that no Caucasian chorister, including the
Scandinavian, has the faculty of enjoying herself with the same
frankness and abandon as the African. Centuries of civilization and
weeks of training make it impossible. The Follies girl knows what she
likes, but she has been taught not to point. A certain reserve and
reticence is part of the Ziegfeld tradition. Even the most daring of Mr.
Ziegfeld's experiments in summer costuming are more esthetic than
erotic. Though the legs of the longest showgirl may be bare, one feels
that she is clothed in reverence. When the lights begin to dim, and the
soft music sounds to indicate that the current Ben Ali Haggin tableau is
about to be disclosed, I am always a little nervous. So solemn and
dignified is the entire atmosphere of the affair that I feel a little
like a Peeping Tom in the presence of Godiva and generally I cover my
eyes in order that they may be preserved for the final processional in
which one girl will be Coal, another Aviation and a third the Monroe
Doctrine.

The parade is one of the traditions of the Follies. "When in doubt make
them march," is the way the rule reads in Mr. Ziegfeld's notebook. All
of which opens the way to the suggestion that Mr. Ziegfeld should try
the experiment some year of cutting about $100,000 out of his bill for
costumes and using the money to buy a joke. In that case the marching
chorus girls could pass a given point.



XIX

AN ADJECTIVE A DAY


It was a child in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale who finally told
the truth by crying out, "He hasn't got anything on," as the king
marched through the streets clad only in the magic cloth woven and cut
by the swindling tailor. You may remember that everybody else kept
silent because the tailor had given out that the cloth was visible only
to such as were worthy of their position in life. The child knew nothing
of this and anyway he didn't have any position in life, so he piped up
and cried, "He hasn't got anything on." And though he was but a child
others took up the cry, and finally even the king was convinced and ran
to get his bathrobe. The tailor, as we remember the story, was executed.

In course of time that child grew up, and married, and died leaving
heirs behind him. And they in turn were not so barren, so that to-day
vast numbers of his descendants are in the world. Nearly all of them are
critics of one sort or another, but mostly young critics. Like their
great ancestor they are frank and shrill, and either valiant or
foolhardy as you choose to look at it. Certainly they seldom hesitate to
rush in. No, there is no doubt at all that they are just a wee bit
hasty, these descendants of the child. It is rather useful that every
now and then one of them should point a finger of scorn at some falsely
great figure in the arts and cry out his nakedness at top voice. But
sometimes they make mistakes. It has happened not infrequently that
worthy and respectable artists and authors in great coats, close-fitting
sack suits, and heavy woolen underwear, have been greeted by some member
of the clan with the traditional cry, "He hasn't got anything on."

This may be embarrassing as well as unfair. Ever since the child scored
his sensational critical success so many years ago, all his sons have
been eager to do likewise. They have inherited extraordinary suspicion
regarding the raiment of all great men. Even when they are forced to
admit that some particular king is actually clad in substantial
achievement of one sort or another, they are still apt to carp about the
fit and cut of his clothing. Almost always they maintain that he
borrowed his shoes from some one else and that he cannot fill them.

In regard to humbler citizens they are apt to carry charity to great
lengths. In addition to the incident recorded by Andersen they cherish
another legend about the child. According to the tradition, he wrote a
will just before he died in which he said, "Thank heaven I leave not a
single adjective to any of my descendants. I have spent them all."

The clan is notoriously extravagant. They live for all the world like
Bedouins of the Sahara without thought of the possibility of a rainy
day. Their gaudiest years come early in life. Middle age and beyond is
apt to be tragic. Almost nothing in the experience of mankind is quite
so heartrending as the spectacle of one of these young critics, grown
gray, coming face to face in his declining years with a masterpiece. At
such times he is apt to be seized with a tremor and stricken dumb.
Undoubtedly he is tormented with the memory of all the adjectives which
he flung away in his youth. They are gone beyond recall. He fumbles in
his purse and finds nothing except small change worn smooth. The best he
can do is to fling out a "highly creditable piece of work" and go on his
way.

Still he has had fun for his adjectives for all that. There is a
compensating glow in the heart of the young critic when he remembers the
day an obscure author came to him asking bread, though rather expecting
a stone, and he with a flourish reached down into the breadbox and gave
the poor man layer cake.

"After all," one of the young critics told me in justifying his mode of
life, "it may be just as tragic as you say to be caught late in life
with a masterpiece in front of you and not a single adequate adjective
left in your purse. Yes, I'll grant you that it's unfortunate. But
there's still another contingency which I mean to avoid. Wouldn't it be
a rotten sell to die with half your adjectives still unused? You know
you can't take them with you to heaven. Of what possible use would they
be up there? Even the bravest superlatives would seem pretty mean and
petty in that land. Think of being blessed with milk and honey for the
first time and trying to express your gratitude and wonder with, 'The
best I ever tasted.' No, sir. I'm going to get ready for the new eternal
words by using up all the old ones before I die."



XX

THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER


They call him "the unknown hero." It is enough, it is better that we
should know him as "the unknown soldier." "Hero" suggests a superman and
implies somebody exalted above his fellows. This man was one of many. We
do not know what was in his heart when he died. It is entirely possible
that he was a fearful man. He may even have gone unwillingly into the
fight. That does not matter now. The important thing is that he was
alive and is dead.

He was drawn from a far edge of the world by the war and in it he lost
even his identity. War may have been well enough in the days when it was
a game for heroes, but now it sweeps into the combat everything and
every man within a nation. The unknown soldier stands for us as symbol
of this blind and far-reaching fury of modern conflict. His death was in
vain unless it helps us to see that the whole world is our business. No
one is too great to be concerned with the affairs of mankind, and no one
too humble.

The unknown soldier was a typical American and it is probable that once
upon a time he used to speak of faraway folk as "those foreigners." He
thought they were no kin of his, but he died in one of the distant
lands. His blood and the blood of all the world mingled in a common
stream.

The body of the unknown soldier has come home, but his spirit will
wander with his brothers. There will be no rest for his soul until the
great democracy of death has been translated into the unity of life.



XXI

A TORTOISE SHELL HOME


Every once in so often somebody gets up in a pulpit or on a platform and
declares that home life in America is being destroyed. The agent of
devastation varies. According to the mood of the man with forebodings,
it is the motion pictures, the new dances, bridge, or the comic
supplements in the Sunday newspapers. It seems to us that these
defenders of the home are themselves offensively solicitous. If we
happened to be a home, we rather think that we would resent the
overeagerness of our champions. They act as if the thing they seek to
preserve were so weak and pitiful that it must go down before the gust
of any new enthusiasm.

After all, the home is much older than these dragons which are said to
be capable of devouring it. Least of all are we disposed to worry over
deadly effects from the new dances. This fear has recently been put into
vivid form by Hartley Manners in a play called "The National Anthem," in
which Laurette Taylor, his wife, was starred. Jazz, according to Mr.
Manners, is our anthem. The hero and the heroine of his play dance
themselves to the brink of perdition. The end is tragic, for the husband
dies and the wife narrowly escapes from the effects of poison which she
has taken by mistake while dazed from drink and dancing.

This seems to us special and exceptional. A vice must be easy to be
universally dangerous. All the moralists assure us that descent by the
primrose path is facile. Skill in the new dances argues to us a certain
strength of character. We do not understand how any person of flabby
will can become proficient. In our own case we must confess that it is
not our strength and uprightness which has kept us from jazz, but such
traits as timidity and lack of application. As a boy we painstakingly
learned the two-step. For this we deserve no great credit. It was not
our wish, and only the vigorous application of parental influence
carried us through. After we broke away from the home ties we began to
back-slide. The dances changed from month to month and we lacked the
hardihood to keep up. Cravenly we quit and slumped into a job.

None of our excuses can be made persuasive enough for exoneration. All
there is to be said for work as opposed to dancing is that it is so much
easier. Of course, our respect is infinite for the sturdy ones who have
gone through the flames of cleansing and perfecting fire and have earned
the right to step out upon the waxed floor. Few of them escape the marks
of their time of tribulation. Every close observer of American dancing
must have noted the set expression upon the face of all participants.
There is hardly one who might not serve as a model for General Grant
exclaiming: "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all
summer."

No form of national activity begins to be so conscientious as dancing.
Up-to-date physicians, we understand, are beginning to prescribe it as
tonic and penance for patients growing slack in their attitude toward
life. At a cabaret recently a man pointed out a dancer in the middle of
the floor and said: "That woman in the bright red dress is fifty-six
years old." We were properly surprised, and he went on: "Her story is
interesting. Two years ago she went to a neurologist because of a
general physical and nervous breakdown. He said to her: 'Madam, the
trouble is that you are growing old, and, worse than that, you are ready
to admit it. You must fight against it. You must hold on to youth as if
it were a horizontal bar and chin yourself.'"

We looked at the woman more closely and saw that she was obeying the
doctor's orders literally. Her fight was a gallant one. Dancing had
served to keep down her weight and improve her blood pressure, but there
was not the slightest suggestion that she was enjoying herself. She had
bought advice and she was intent upon using it. And as we looked over
the entire floor we could see no one who seemed to be dancing for the
fun of it. A few took a pardonable pride in their perfection of fancy
steps, but that emotion is not quite akin to joy. They were dancing for
exercise or prestige, or to fulfill social obligations.

All this is admirable in its way, but we have not sufficient faith in
the persistence of human gallantry to believe that it can last forever.
The home will get every last one of the dancers yet because it is so
much easier to loaf in an easy-chair than to keep up the continual
bickering against old age, indolence, and the selfishness of comfort.

Motion pictures may be more dangerous because we are informed that they
are still in their infancy. But perhaps the home is also. In spite of
the length of time during which it has been going on, its possibilities
of development are enormous. Within the memory of living man a home was
generally supposed to be a place where people sat and stared at each
other. Sometimes they visited neighbors, but these trips were
traditionally restricted to occasions upon which the friends were ill
and too helpless to carry on a conversation. If any one doubts that talk
is a recent development in home life, let him consider the musical
instruments of a generation which is gone. Take the spinnet, for
instance, and note that even the most carefully modulated whisper would
have drowned out its feeble tinkle.

To be sure, our ancestors had books and a few magazines, but they were
not of a sort to promote general conversation. Only the grown-ups were
capable of exchanging their views on Mr. Thackeray's latest novel. But
now, when the group returns from an evening at the motion-picture
theater where "The Kid" or "Shoulder Arms" is being shown, it is
impossible to keep anybody out of the discussion on account of his lack
of years. Little Ferdinand has just as much right to an opinion about
the prowess of Charlie Chaplin as grandpa, and, according to our
observation, it is a right almost certain to be exercised.

Of course, before we began this discussion of the decay of home life we
should have set about coming to some definition acceptable to both sides
of the controversy. Now, when it is too late to do anything about it, we
are struck by the fact that we are probably talking at cross purposes.
It is our contention that man is not less than the turtle. We think it
is entirely possible for him to carry his home life around with him. It
would not seem to us, for instance, that home life was impaired if the
family took in the movies now and again or even very frequently. Nor are
we willing to accept a bridge party down the street as something alien
and outside. In other words, a man's home (and, of course, we mean a
woman's home as well) ought not to be defined by the walls of his house
or even by the fences of the front yard. The anti-suffragists once had
the slogan "Woman's place is in the home," but what they really meant
was "in the house," since they used to insist that the business of
voting would take her out of it. It seems to us that the woman of to-day
should have a home with limits at least as spacious as those of the
whole world. And so naturally she ought to have her share in all the
concerns of life.



XXII

I'D DIE FOR DEAR OLD RUTGERS


"He fought the last twenty rounds with a broken hand." "The final
quarter was played on sheer nerve, for an examination at the end of the
game showed that his backbone was shattered and both legs smashed."
"Although knocked senseless in the opening chukker, he finished the
match and no one realized his predicament until he confessed to his team
mates in the clubhouse."

These are, of course, incidents common enough in the life of any of our
sporting heroes. To a true American sportsman a set of tennis is held in
about the same esteem as a popular playwright holds a woman's honor.
There is no point at which "I give up" can be sanctioned. Not only must
the amateur athlete sell his life dearly, but he must keep on selling it
until he is carried off the field. Accordingly, it is easy to understand
why Forest Hills seethed with indignation when Mlle. Suzanne Lenglen
walked (she could still walk, mind you) over to an official in the
middle of a tennis match and announced that she was ill and would not
continue. It was quite obvious to all that the Frenchwoman was still
alive and breathing and the thing was shocking heresy.

The writer is not disposed to defend Suzanne's heresy to the full. He
believes that Mlle. Lenglen was ill, but he feels that she erred, not
because she resigned, but because she did it with so little grace. She
seemed to have no appreciation of the hardship which the sudden
termination of the match imposed upon Mrs. Molla Bjurstedt Mallory.
However, Molla did and came off the court swearing.

It was an embarrassing moment, but possibly a moral can be dug from it
all the same. For the first time in the experience of many, a new sort
of athletic tradition was vividly presented. No one will deny that the
French knew the gesture of Thermopylæ as well as the next one, but they
have never thought to associate it with sports. The gorgeous and gallant
Carpentier has, upon occasions in his ring career, resigned. He showed
no lack of nerve on these occasions, but merely followed a line of
conduct which is foreign to us. Pitted at those particular times against
men who were too heavy for him and facing certain defeat, he admitted
their superiority somewhat before the inevitable end. Like a chess
master, he sensed the fact that victory was no longer in the balance,
and that nothing remained to be done except some mopping up. Such
perfunctory and merely academic action did not seem to him to come
properly within the realm of sport, particularly if he was to be the man
mopped up.

American sport commentators who knew these facts in the record of
Carpentier were disposed to announce before his match with Dempsey that
he would most certainly seek to avoid a knockout by stopping as soon as
he was hurt. His astounding courage surprised them. And yet it was
exactly the sort of courage they should have expected. He did not fight
on through gruelling punishment just for the sake of being a martyr. He
went through it because up to the very end he believed that his great
right hand punch might win for him, and even at the last Carpentier was
still swinging.

In spite of the sentimental objections of the old-fashioned follower of
sports, the tradition which was bred out of Sparta by Anglo-Saxon has
begun to decay. Referees do step in and end unequal contests. Ring
followers themselves are known to cry, "Stop the fight" at times when
the match has become no longer a contest. "Mollycoddles!" shriek the
ghosts of the bareknuckle days who float over the ring, but we do not
heed their voices. Again, we have decreasing patience with the severely
injured football player who struggles against the restraining arms of
the coaches when they would take him out because of his disabilities.
To-day he is less a hero than a rather dramatically self-conscious young
man who puts a gesture above the success of his team.

There is still ground for the modification of a sporting tradition which
has made those things which we call games become at moments ordeals
having no relation to sport. Losing is still considered such a serious
business that an elaborate ritual has been built up as to what
constitutes good losing. We not only demand that a man shall die, if
need be, for the Lawn Tennis Championship of Eastern Rhode Island, but
we go so far as to prescribe the exact manner in which he shall die. A
set, silent and determined demeanor is generally favored.

From Japan have come hints of something better in this direction. Every
American engaged in sport should be required to spend an afternoon in
watching Zenzo Shimidzu of the Japanese Davis Cup team. Shimidzu's
contribution to sport is the revelation that a man may try hard and yet
have lots of fun even when things go against him. He seems to reserve
his most winning smile for his losing shots. Once in his match against
Bill Johnston he was within a point of set and down from the sky a high
short lob was descending. Shimidzu was ready for what seemed a certain
kill. He was as eager as an avenging sparrow. Back came his racquet and
down it swung upon the ball, only to drive it a foot out of court.
Immediately, the little man burst into a silent gale of merriment. The
fact that he had a set within his grasp and had thrown it away seemed to
him almost the funniest thing which had ever happened to him.

Of course, this is a manner which might be difficult for us Americans to
acquire. Unlike the Japanese we have only a limited sense of humor. Its
limits end for the most part with things which happen to other people.
We laugh at the pictures in which we see Happy Hooligan being kicked by
the mule, but we would not be able to laugh if we ourselves met the same
mule under similar circumstances. However, in an effort to popularize
the light and easy demeanor in sporting competition it is fair to point
out that it is not only a beautiful thing but that it is also
effective.

Shimidzu almost beat Tilden by the very fact that he refused to do
anything but smile when things went against him. The tall American would
smash a ball to a far corner of the court for what seemed a certain
kill, but the little man would leap across the turf and send it back.
And as he stroked the ball he smiled. It was discouraging enough for
Tilden to be pitted against a Gibraltar, but it seemed still more
hopeless from the fact that even when he managed to split the rock it
broke only into the broadest of grins.

Ten years of work by one of our most prominent editors for a war with
Japan were swept away by the Davis Cup matches. It is hard to understand
how there can be any race problem concerning a people with so excellent
a backhand and so genial a disposition. Indeed, many of the things which
our friends from California have told us about Japan did not seem to be
so. All of us have heard endlessly about the rapidity with which the
Japanese increase. There was no proof of it at Forest Hills. When the
doubles match started there were on one side of the net two Japanese.
When the match ended, almost four hours later, there was still just two
Japanese.



XXIII

ARE EDITORS PEOPLE?


One of the characters in "A Prince There Was" is the editor of a
magazine and, curiously enough, he has been made the hero of the film.
Of course, there may be something to be said for editors. Indeed, we
have heard them trying to say it, and yet they remain among the forces
of darkness and of mystery. By every rule of logic the editor in any
story ought to be the villain.

It is not the darkness so much as the mystery which disturbs us. Only
rarely have we been able to understand what an editor was talking about.
Sometimes we have suspected that neither of us did. There was, for
instance, the man who tapped upon his flat-topped desk and said with
great precision and deliberation, "When you are writing for _Blank's
Magazine_, you want to remember that _Blank's_ is a magazine which is
read at five o'clock in the afternoon."

He was our first editor. Disillusion had not yet set in. We still
believed in Santa Claus and sanctums. And so we took home with us the
advice about five o'clock and pondered. We remembered it perfectly, but
that was not much good. "_Blank's_ is a magazine which is read at five
o'clock in the afternoon." How were we to interpret this declaration of
a principle? It was beyond our powers to write with ladyfingers.
Possibly the editor meant that our style needed a little more lemon in
it. There could be no complaint, we felt sure, against the sugar. Ten
years of hard service on a New York morning newspaper had granulated us
pretty thoroughly.

Having made up our mind that a slight increase in the acid content per
column might enable us to qualify with the editor as a man who could
write for five o'clock in the afternoon, we were suddenly confronted
with a new problem. _Blank's_ was an international magazine. Did the
editor mean five o'clock by London or San Francisco time? Until we knew
the answer there was no good running our head against rejection slips.
There was no way to tell whether he would like an essay entitled "On
Pipe Smoking Before Breakfast in Surrey," or whether he would prefer a
little something on "Is the Garden of Eden Mentioned in the Bible
Actually California?" Naturally, if one were writing with San
Francisco's five o'clock in mind he would go on to make some comparison
between Los Angeles and the serpent.

After extended deliberation, we decided that perhaps it would be best
not to try to write for _Blank's_ at all. It might put a strain upon the
versatility of a young man too hard for him to bear. Suppose, for
instance, he worked faithfully and molded his style to meet all the
demands and requirements of five o'clock in the afternoon, and then
suppose just as he was in the middle of a long novel, daylight saving
should be introduced? His art would then be exactly one hour off and he
would be obliged to turn back his hands along with those of the clock.

Of course, even though you understand an editor you may not agree with
him. The makers of magazines incline a little to dogma. Give a man a
swivel chair and he will begin to lean back and tell you what the public
wants. Gazing through his window over the throng of Broadway, a faraway
look will come into his eyes and he will begin to speak very earnestly
about the farmer in Iowa. The farmer in Iowa is enormously convenient to
editors. He is as handy as a rejection slip. In refusing manuscripts
which he doesn't want to take, an editor almost invariably blames it on
some distant subscriber. "I like this very much myself," he will
explain. "It's great stuff. I wish I could use it. That part about the
bobbed hair is a scream. But none of it would mean anything to the
farmer in Iowa. Won't you show me something again that isn't quite so
sophisticated?"

Riding through Iowa, we always make it a point to shake our fist at the
landscape. And if by any chance the train passes a farmer we try to hit
him with some handy missile. And why not? He kept us out of print. At
least they said he did.

And yet though editors are invariably doleful about the capacity of the
farmer in Iowa and points west, it would be quite inaccurate to suggest
any fundamental pessimism. An editor is always optimistic, particularly
when a contributor asks for his check. But it really is a sincere and
deep grained hopefulness. No editor could live from day to day without
the faculty or arguing himself into the belief that the next number of
his magazine is not going to be quite so bad as the last one.

Unfortunately he is not content to be a solitary tippler in good cheer.
He feels that it is his duty to discover authors and inspirit them.
Indeed, the average editor cannot escape feeling that telling a writer
to do something is almost the same thing as performing it himself.

The editorial mind, so called, is afflicted with the King Cole complex.
Types subject to this delusion are apt to believe that all they need do
to get a thing is to call for it. You may remember that King Cole called
for his bowl just as if there were no such thing as a Volstead
amendment. "What we want is humor," says an editor, and he expects the
unfortunate author to trot around the corner and come back with a quart
of quips.

An editor would classify "What we want is humor" as a piece of
coöperation on his part. It seems to him a perfect division of labor.
After all, nothing remains for the author to do except to write.

Sometimes the mogul of a magazine will be even more specific. We
confessed to an editor once that we were not very fertile in ideas, and
he said, "Never mind, I'll think up something for you."

"Let me see," he continued, and crinkled his brow in that profound way
which editors have. Suddenly the wrinkles vanished and his face lighted
up. "That's it," he cried. "I want you to go and do us a series
something like Mr. Dooley." He leaned back and fairly beamed
satisfaction. He had done his best to make a humorist out of us. If
failure followed it could only be because of shortsightedness and
stubbornness on our part. We had our assignment.



XXIV

WE HAVE WITH US THIS EVENING----


We have always wondered just what it is which frightens the after dinner
speaker. He is protected by tradition, the Christian religion and the
game laws. And yet he trembles. Perhaps he knows that he is going to be
terrible, but it is common knowledge that after dinner speakers seldom
reform. The life gets them. It was thought, once upon a time, that the
practice was in some way connected with alcoholic stimulation, but this
has since been disproved. After dinner speaking is a separate vice.
Total abstainers from every other evil practice are not immune.

The chief fault is that an irrationally inverted formula has come into
being. The after dinner speaker almost invariably begins with his
apology. He is generally becomingly frank when he first gets to his
feet. There is always a confident prophecy that the audience is not
going to be very much interested in what he has to say and the admission
that he is pretty sure to do the job badly. Unfortunately, no speaker
ever succeeds in deterring himself by these forebodings of disaster. He
never fails to go on and prove the truth of his own estimate of
inefficiency.

Many men profess to find the greatest difficulty in getting to their
feet. Perhaps this is sincere, but the task does not seem to be
one-sixteenth as hard as sitting down again. People whose vision is
perfect in every other respect suffer from a curious astigmatism which
prevents them from recognizing a stopping point when they come to it. We
suggest to some ingenious inventor that he devise a combination of time
clock and trip hammer by which a dull, blunt instrument shall be
liberated at the end of five minutes so that it may fall with great
force, killing the after dinner speaker and amusing the spectators. The
mechanical difficulties might be great, but the machine would be even
more useful if it could be attuned in some way so that the hammer should
fall, if necessary, before the expiration of the five minutes, the
instant the speaker said, "That reminds me of the story about the two
Irishmen."

Funny stories are endurable, in moderation, if only the teller is
perfectly frank in introducing them for their own sake and not
pretending that they have any conceivable relationship to the endowment
fund of Wellesley College, or the present condition of the silk business
in America. To such length has hypocrisy gone, that there is now at
large and dining out, a gentleman who makes a practice of kicking the
leg of the table and then remarking, "Doesn't that sound like a
cannon?--Speaking of cannon, that reminds me----"

Another young man of our own acquaintance has been using the same
anecdote for all sorts of occasions for the last four years. His story
concerns an American soldier who drove a four-mule team past the first
line trench in the darkness and started rumbling along an old road that
led across no-man's-land. He had gone a few yards when a doughboy jumped
up out of a listening post and began to signal to him. "What's the
matter?" shouted the driver.

"Shush! Shush!" hissed the outpost with great terror and intensity.
"You're driving right toward the German lines. For Heaven's sake go back
and don't speak above a whisper."

"Whisper, Hell!" roared the driver. "I've got to turn four mules
around."

It may be that there actually was such an outpost and such a driver, but
neither had any intention of acting as a perpetual symbol and yet we
know positively that this particular story has been introduced as an
argument for buying another Liberty Bond of the fourth issue; as a
justification for the vehemence of the American novelists of the younger
generation; and as a reason for the tendency to overstatement in the
dramatic and literary criticism of New York newspapers. We are also
under the impression that it was used in a debate concerning the
propriety of a motion picture censorship in New York state.

Indeed the speaker whom we have in mind never failed to use the mule
story, no matter what the nature of the occasion, unless he substituted
the one about the man who wanted to go to Seville. He was a farmer, this
man, and he lived some few miles away from Seville in a little
ramshackle farm house. It had been his ambition of a lifetime to go to
Seville and upon one particular morning he came out of the house
carrying a suitcase.

"Where are you going?" asked his wife.

"To Seville," replied the farmer.

His wife was a very pious woman and she added by way of correction, "You
mean, God willing."

"No," objected the farmer, dogmatically, "I mean I'm going to Seville."

Now Heaven was angered by this impiety and the dogmatic farmer was
immediately transformed into a frog. Before the very eyes of his wife he
lost his mortal form and hopped with a great splash into the big pond
behind the house. To that pond the good woman went every day for a year
and prayed that her husband should be restored to his natural form. On
the first morning of the second year the big frog began to grow bigger
and bigger and suddenly he was no longer a frog but a man. Out of the
pond he leaped and ran straightaway into the house. He came out carrying
a suitcase.

"Where are you going?" exclaimed the startled wife.

"To Seville," said the farmer.

"You mean," his wife implored in abject terror, "God willing."

"No," answered the farmer, "to Seville or back to the frog pond!"

The young man of whom we are writing first heard the story from Major
General Robert Lee Bullard in a training school in Lyons. The doughty
warrior told it in reply to the question, "What is this offensive spirit
of which you've been telling us?" But with a sea change the story took
up many other and varied rôles. It served as the climax of an eloquent
speech in favor of the release of political prisoners; it began an
address urging greater originality upon the dramatists of America and it
was conscripted at a luncheon to Hughie Jennings to explain the
speaker's interpretation of the fundamental reason for the victory of
the New York Giants over the Yankees in the world's series of last
season.

Speaking of baseball, a great football coach once said that he could
develop a championship eleven any time at all out of good material and
seven simple plays well learned. Likewise, an after-dinner speaker can
manage tolerably well with a limited supply of stories, if only they are
elastic enough in interpretation and he covers a sufficiently wide range
of territory in his dining rambles.

It is our experience that the most inveterate story tellers among public
speakers are ministers. Unfortunately, the average clergyman has a
tendency to select tales a little rowdy in an effort to set himself down
among his listeners as a fellow member in good standing of the
fraternity of Adam. Still more unfortunately the ministerial speaker
often attempts to modify and deodorize the anecdote a little and, on top
of that, gets it just a little wrong. No matter who the narrator may be,
nothing is quite so ghastly as the improper story when told to an
audience of more than ten or eleven listeners. Even more than a poetic
drama a purple story needs a group, small and select. Any one interested
in preserving impropriety might very well endow a chain of thimble
theaters with a maximum seating capacity of ten. Some such step is
needed or the off color yarn will disappear entirely from American life.
It was nurtured upon big mirrors and brass rails and, these being
lacking, there is no proper atmosphere in which it may suitably be
reared. Most certainly the anecdote of doubtful character does not
belong to large banquets even of visiting Elks. Literature of this sort
is fragile. It represents what the Freudians call an escape, and the
most brazen of us is a little shamefaced about taking off his
inhibitions in front of a hundred people, mostly strangers.

There must be something wrong with after-dinner speaking because it is
notoriously the lowest form of American oratory. It if were not for
Chauncey M. Depew whole generations in this country would have been born
and lived and died without once having any memory worth preserving after
the demitasse. The trouble, we think, is that dinner guests are much too
friendly. It is the custom that the man at the speakers' table may not
be heckled. He is privileged and privilege has made him dull. According
to our observation there is never anything of interest said with the
laying of cornerstones or the dedication of new high school buildings.
On the other hand, we have frequently been amused and excited by tilts
at political conventions and mass meetings.

William Jennings Bryan is among the prize bores of the world when he
gets up to do his canned material about _The Prince of Peace_, but no
sensitive soul can fail to admire this same Commoner if he has ever had
the privilege of hearing him talk down political foes upon the floor of
a convention. All the labored tricks of oratory are forgotten then. Give
Mr. Bryan some one at whom he may with propriety shake a finger and he
becomes direct, vivid and moving.

Colonel Theodore Roosevelt was a speaker of somewhat the same type. He
did not talk well unless there was some living and present person for
him to speak against. Upon one occasion we heard him make a particularly
dreary discourse, and incidentally a political one, until he came to a
point where a group in the audience took exception to some statement and
attempted to howl him down. It was like the touch of a whip on the
flanks of a stake horse. Roosevelt returned to the statement and said it
over again, only this time he said it much more dogmatically and twice
as well. Before that speech was done he had climbed to the top of a
table and was putting all his back and shoulders into every word. Even
his platitudes seemed to be knockout blows. He was inspiring. He was
magnificent.

The after-dinner speaker needs this same stimulus of emotion. He ought
to have something into which he can get his teeth. Every well conducted
banquet should include a special committee to heckle the guests of
honor. Even a dreary person might be aroused to fervor if his opening
sentence was met with a mocking roar of, "Is that so!" Loud cries of
"Make him sit down" would undoubtedly serve to make the speaker forget
his entire stock of anecdotes about Pat and Mike. There would be no calm
in which he could be reminded of anything except that certain
desperadoes were not willing to listen, and that, by the Old Harry, he
was going to give it to them so hot and heavy that they would have to.

The scheme may sound a little cruel, but we ought to face the fact that
a time has come when we must choose between cutting off the heads of our
after-dinner speakers or slapping them in the face. We believe that they
deserve to have a chance to show us whether or not they have a right to
live.



XXV

THE YOUNG PESSIMISTS


Bert Williams used to tell a story about a man on a lonely road at night
who suddenly saw a ghost come out of the forest and begin to follow him.
The man walked faster and the ghost increased his pace. Then the man
broke into a run with the ghost right on his heels. Mile after mile,
faster and faster, they went until at last the man dropped at the side
of the road exhausted. The ghost perched beside him on a large rock and
boomed, "That was quite a run we had." "Yes" gasped the man, "and as
soon as I get my breath we're going to have another one."

Our young American pessimists see man at the moment he drops beside the
road, and without further investigation decide that it is all up with
him. To be sure, they may not be very far wrong in the ultimate fate of
man, but at least they anticipate his end. They do not stick with him
until the finish; and this second-wind flight, however useless, is
something so characteristic of life that it belongs in the record. I
have at least a sneaking suspicion that now and again there happens
along a runner so staunch and courageous that he keeps up the fight
until cock-crow and thus escapes all the apparitions which would
overthrow him. Of course, it is a long shot and the young pessimists
are much too logical to wait for such miraculous chances. As a matter of
fact, they don't call themselves pessimists, but prefer to be known as
rationalists, realists, or some such name which carries with it the hint
of wisdom.

And they are wise up to the very point of believing only the things they
have seen. However, I am not sure they are quite so wise when they go a
notch beyond this and assert roundly that everything which they have
seen is true. For my own part I don't believe that white rabbits are
actually born in high hats. The truth is quicker than the eye, but it is
hardly possible to make any person with fresh young sight believe that.
Question the validity of some character in a play or book by a young
rationalist and he will invariably reply, "Why she lived right in our
town," and he will upon request supply name, address, and telephone
number to confound the doubters.

"Let the captious be sure they know their Emmas as well as I do before
they tell me how she would act," wrote Eugene O'Neill when somebody
objected that the heroine of "Diff'rent" was not true. This, of course,
shifts the scope of the inquiry to the question, "How well does O'Neill
know his Emmas?" Indeed, how well does any bitter-end rationalist know
anybody? Once upon a time we lived in a simple age in which when a man
said, "I'm going to kick you downstairs because I don't like you," and
then did it, there was not a shadow of doubt in the mind of the person
at the foot of the stairs that he had come upon an enemy. All that is
changed now. During the war, for instance, George Sylvester Viereck
wrote a book to prove that every time Roosevelt said, "Viereck is an
undesirable citizen," or words to that effect, he was simply dissembling
an admiration so great that it was shot through and through with
ambivalent outbursts of hatred. Mr. Viereck may not have proved his
case, but he did, at least, put his relations into debatable ground by
shifting from Philip conscious to Philip subconscious.

In the new world of the psychoanalysts there is confusion for the
rationalist even though he is dealing with something so inferentially
logical as a science. For here, with all its tangible symbols, is a
science which deals with things which cannot be seen or heard or
touched. And much of all the truth in the world lies in just such dim
dominions. The pessimist is very apt to be stopped at the border. For
years he has reproached the optimist with the charge that he lived by
dreams rather than realities. Now, wise men have come forward to say
that the key to all the most important things in life lies in dreams. Of
course, the poets have known that for years, but nobody paid any
attention to them because they only felt it and offered no papers to the
medical journals.

It would be unfair to suggest that no dreamer is a pessimist. The most
prolific period of pessimism comes at twenty-one, or thereabouts, when
the first attempt is made to translate dreams into reality, an attempt
by a person not over-skillful in either language. Often it is made in
college where a new freedom inspires a somewhat sudden and wholesale
attempt to put every vision to the test. Along about this time the young
man finds that the romanticists have lied to him about love and he
bounces all the way back to Strindberg. Maybe he gets drunk for the
first time and learns that every English author from Shakespeare to
Dickens has vastly overrated it for literary effect. He follows the
formulæ of Falstaff and instead of achieving a roaring joviality he goes
to sleep. Personally tobacco sent me into a deep pessimism when I first
took it up in a serious way. Huck's corncob pipe had always seemed to me
one of the most persuasive symbols of true enjoyment. It seemed to me
that life could hold nothing more ideal than to float down the
Mississippi blowing rings. After six months of experimenting I was ready
to believe that maybe the Mississippi wasn't so much either. Romance
seemed pretty doubtful stuff. Around this time, also, the young man
generally discovers, in compulsory chapel, that the average minister is
a dull preacher; and of course that knocks all the theories of the
immortality of the soul right on the head. He may even have come to
college with a thirst for knowledge and a faith in its exciting quality,
only to have these emotions ooze away during the second month of
introductory lectures on anthropology.

Accordingly, it is not surprising to find F. Scott Fitzgerald's Amory
Blaine looking at the towers of Princeton and musing:

     Here was a new generation, shouting the old cries, learning the old
     creeds through a revery of long days and nights; destined finally
     to go out into that dirty gray turmoil to follow love and pride; a
     new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty
     and the worship of success; grown up to find all Gods dead, all
     wars fought; all faiths in man shaken....

Nobody wrote as well as that in Copeland's course at Harvard but there
was a pretty general agreement that life--or rather Life--was a sham and
a delusion. This was expressed in poems lamenting the fact that the
oceans and the mountains were going to go on and that the writer
wouldn't.

Generally he didn't give the oceans or the mountains very long either.
All the short stories were about murder and madness. We cut our patterns
into very definite conclusions because we were pessimists and sure of
ourselves. It was the most logical of philosophies and disposed of all
loose ends. One of my pieces (to polish off a theme on the futility of
human wishes) was about a man who went stark raving, and Copeland sat in
his chair and groaned and moaned, which was his substitute for making
little marks in red ink. He had been reading Sheridan's "The Critic" to
the class with the scene in which the two faithless Spanish lovers and
the two nieces and the two uncles all try to kill each other at the same
time, and are thus thrown into the most terrific stalemate until the
author's ingenious contrivance of a beefeater who cries, "Drop your
weapons in the Queen's name." At any rate when I had finished the little
man ceased groaning and shook his head about my story of the man who
went mad. "Broun," he said, "try to solve your problems without recourse
to death, madness--or any other beefeater in the Queen's name."

And it seems to me that the young pessimists, generally speaking, have
allowed themselves to be bound in a formula as tight as that which ever
afflicted any Pollyanna. It isn't the somberness with which they imbue
life which arouses our protest, so much as the regularity. They paint
life not only as a fake fight in which only one result is possible, but
they make it again and again the selfsame fight.



XXVI

GLASS SLIPPERS BY THE GROSS


When Cinderella sat in the ashes she should have consoled herself with
the thought of the motion-picture rights. No young woman of our time has
had her adventures so ceaselessly celebrated in film and drama. Of
course, she generally goes by some other name. It might be "Miss Lulu
Bett," for instance.

For our part, we must confess that much as we like Zona Gale's modern
and middle-western version of the old tale, Cinderella is beginning to
lose favor with us. Her appeal in the first place rested on the fact
that she was abused and neglected, but by this time the ashes have
become the skimpiest sort of interlude. You just know that the fairy
godmother is waiting in the wings, and you can hear the great coach
honking around the corner. Undoubtedly, the order for the glass slippers
was placed months in advance. More than likely it called for a gross,
since there are ever so many Cinderella feet to fit these days--what
with Peg and Kiki and Sally and Irene and all the authentic members of
the family. Indeed, for a time, Cinderella was spreading herself around
so lavishly in dramatic fiction that one sex was not enough to contain
her, and we had a Cinderella Man. All the usual perquisites were his
except the glass slipper.

And now the time has come when the original poetic justice due to the
miss by the kitchen stove has quite worn off. Cinderella has been paid
in full, but how about her two ugly sisters? They have gone down the
ages without honor or rewards. Each time their aspirations are blighted.
Although eminently conscientious in fulfilling their social duties, it
has availed them nothing. We are determined not to welcome the story
again until it appears in a revised form. In the version which we favor,
Prince Charming will try the glass slipper upon Cinderella, and then
turn away without enthusiasm, remarking in cutting manner, "It is not a
fit. Your foot is much too small." One of the ugly sisters will be
sitting somewhat timidly in the background, and it will be to her the
Prince will turn, exclaiming rapturously: "A perfect number nine!"

And they lived happily ever after.

And while we are about it, a good many of the fairy stories can stand
revision. This Jack the Giant Killer has been permitted to go to
outrageous lengths. Between him and David, and a few others, the
impression has been spread broadcast that any large person is a perfect
setup for the first valiant little man who chooses to assail him with
sword or sling. We purpose organizing the Six Foot League to combat this
hostile propaganda. Elephants will be admitted, too, on account of the
unjust canard concerning their fear of mice. We and the elephants do not
intend to go on through life taking all sorts of nonsense from
whippersnappers. The success of Jack and all the other little men of
legend has undoubtedly been due to the chivalry of the big and strong.
Dragons have died cheerfully rather than take a mean advantage and slay
pestiferous and belligerent runts by spitting out a little fire. Why
doesn't somebody celebrate the heroism of these miscalled monsters who
have gone down with full steam in their boilers because they were
unwilling even to guard themselves against foemen so palpably out of
their class?

Take St. George, for instance. Do you imagine for a minute that his
victory was honestly and fairly earned? British pluck and all the rest
of it had nothing to do with it. The dragon could have finished him off
in a second, but the huge and kindly animal was afflicted with an acute
sense of humor. Between paroxysms it is known to have remarked: "I shall
certainly die laughing." It could not resist the sight of St. George
swaggering up to the attack in full armor like an infuriated Ford
charging the Woolworth Building. And the strangest part of it all is
that the dragon did die laughing just as it had predicted. St. George
flung his sword exactly between a "ha" and a "ha." The tiny bit of steel
lodged in the windpipe like a fishbone, and before medical assistance
could be summoned the dragon was dead. Of course it was clever, but we
should hardly call it cricket. All the triumphs of the little men are of
much the same sort. Honest, slam-bang, line play has never entered into
their scheme of things. Their reputation rests on fakes and forward
passes.

Then there was the wolf and Little Red Riding-Hood. The general
impression seems to be that the child's grandmother was a saintly old
lady and that the wolf was a beast. Let us dismiss this sentimental
conception and consider the facts squarely. Before meeting the wolf Red
Riding-Hood was the usual empty-headed flapper. She knew nothing of the
world. So flagrant was her innocence that it constituted a positive
menace to the community. The wolf changed all that. It gave Red
Riding-Hood a good scare and opened her eyes. After that encounter
nobody ever fooled Red Riding-Hood much. She positively abandoned her
practice of wandering around into cottages on the assumption that if
there was anybody in bed it must be her grandmother.

The familiar story, somehow or other, has omitted to say that Miss Hood
eventually married the richest man in the village. Perhaps the old
narrator did not want to reveal the fact that on top of the what-not in
the palatial home there stood a silver frame, and upon the picture in
the frame was written: "Whatever measure of success I may have attained
I owe to you--Red Riding-Hood." And whose picture do you suppose it was?
Her grandmother? No. Her husband? Oh, no, indeed! It was the wolf.



XXVII

A MODERN BEANSTALK


The legends of the world have been devised by timorous people. They
represent the desire of man, sloshing around in a world much too big for
him, to keep up his courage by whistling. He has pretended through these
tales that champions of his own kind would spring up to protect him.
"Let St. George do it," was a well known motto in the days of old.

And we must insist again that such tales are false and pernicious
stimulants for the young. We intend to tell H. 3d that when Jack climbed
up the beanstalk the giant flicked him off with one finger. We want the
child to have some respect for size and to associate it with authority.
Otherwise we don't see how we can possibly prevail upon him to pay any
attention when we say, "Stop that." If he goes on with these fairy
stories he will merely measure us coolly for a slingshot.

As a matter of fact, he doesn't pay any attention now. The time for
propaganda is already here. In our stories the ogre is going to receive
his due. Of course, we will add a moral. It would be wrong to lead the
boy to believe that brute force is the only effective power in the
world. Now and then a giant will be killed, but it will not be any easy
victory for one presumptuous champion with a magic sword. Instead we
will explain that little Jack was not killed when the giant flipped him
off the beanstalk. The huge finger struck him only a glancing blow.
Nevertheless, it took Jack a good many days to get well again. It was a
fine lesson for him. During his convalescence (naturally we will have to
think up a shorter word) he did a lot of thinking. As soon as he was up
and around he scoured the country for other boys and at last he managed
to recruit a band of fifty. The first dark night Jack climbed the
beanstalk again, but he took along the fifty. By a prearranged plan they
fell upon the giant from all sides and managed to bear him down and kill
him. We certainly are not going to admit that a giant can be opened by
anything less than Jacks or better.

Following the account of the death of the giant will come the moral. We
will explain that Jack is small and weak and that there are great and
monstrous powers in the world which are too strong for him. But he need
not wait for the superman or the magic lamp or anything like that. He
must make common cause with his kind. At this point we shall probably
digress for a while to go into a brief but adequate exposition of the
League of Nations, municipal ownership, profit sharing and the single
tax.

Dropping the serious side of the discussion, we shall add that even a
great broth of a man can be spoiled by too many cooks. There is no power
in the world great enough to resist the will of man if only he moves
against it valiantly--and in numbers.

Maybe H. 3d will not like our version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" half
as well as the original. But we fear that when he grows up he is going
to find that there are still dragons and ogres and assorted monsters
roaming the world. We want him to be instrumental in killing them. We
don't want him to get clawed by going forward in foolishly overconfident
forays.

There is the Tammany Tiger, for instance. Here and there a brave young
fellow rises up and says, "I'm going to kill the Tiger." Having read the
fairy stories, he thinks that the thing can be done by a little courage
mixed with magic. He paints REFORM on a banner, charges ahead before
anybody but the Tiger is ready and gets chewed up.

This is sentimentally appealing, but it has been a singularly useless
system of ridding the city of the Tiger. I want H. 3d to know better and
to act not only more wisely but more successfully. Somewhere in the
story I plan to work in a paraphrase of something Emerson once said.
Jack's last words to his army just before climbing the beanstalk will
be, "If you strike a giant you must kill him."



XXVIII

VOLSTEAD AND CONVERSATION


There is one argument in favor of Prohibition. It certainly helps to
make conversation on a railroad train. In the years before Volstead we
had ridden thousands of miles silently peering at the two strangers
across the smoking compartment and wondering how to get them talking.
The weather is overrated as a common starting point. It dies after a
sentence.

Now we have a sure method. Begin with, "Well, this is certainly just the
day for a little shot of something," and you will find enough
conversation on hand to carry you across the continent. Indeed, nothing
but an ocean can stop it.

Some day, of course, we are going to run into a stranger who will reply,
"Prohibition is now the national law of our land and I want you to know,
sir, that I intend to respect it."

This has never happened yet. It makes us wonder how the drys get from
point to point. Either they stay at home, abstain from smoking or betray
their cause for the sake of friendliness. During two years of frequent
travel we have never yet met an advocate of Prohibition in a smoking
compartment.

There was nothing but the most fiery opposition on the part of the man
who was going to Rochester.

"It's making criminals out of us," he declared severely but with an ill
concealed joy at the thought of being at last, in ripe middle age, a
law-breaker. He carried us into Albany with tales of men who "never
touched a drop until they went and passed that there law." All these
belated roisterers he pictured as reeling in and out of his office under
the visible effects of illegal stimulation. He sought to create the
impression that he thought the condition terrible, but evidently it had
contributed a new and exciting factor to the wholesale fruit business.
Even the pre-Volstead drinkers he seemed to find not unworthy of his
concern. All of them used to take just one and stop. Now his life was
beset with roaring graybeards.

Leaving Albany, the young man in the check suit took up the talk and
began a vivid account of recent experiences in Malone, N. Y., which he
identified as the strategic point in bootlegging activities. Opening on
a note of pathos, in which he wrung the hearts of his hearers by
recounting the amazingly low price of Scotch near the border, he
introduced a merrier mood by relating a conversation between two farmers
of the section which he had overheard.

"What style of car have you got?" asked one of the men in the allegedly
veracious anecdote.

"Twenty cases," replied the other laconically.

According to the estimate of the narrator, a bootlegger passes through
Malone every eight minutes. He saw one take a turn into Main Street
careening along at fifty miles an hour and skid so dangerously that the
auto tipped, throwing a case of whiskey clear across the road. "He went
out of town making seventy," added the story teller.

Invariably the bootlegger was the hero of his tales. These modern Robin
Hoods he pictured as little brothers to all the world except the revenue
officers. Once two revenooers caught one of the gallant company and were
about to proceed with him to Syracuse, toting along four telltale
barrels of rye. But they had gone only a short distance on their journey
when they were overtaken by two men in a motor truck escorting a
prisoner, heavily manacled, and ten barrels of whiskey. After a short
confab they agreed to relieve the revenuers of their prisoner and
deliver both miscreants to the proper authorities in Syracuse. The
gullible agents of the law gave up their man.

"And," continued the rum romancer, "they never did show up at Syracuse
at all. That second crowd they weren't revenue men at all. They were
bootleggers."

Indeed, the young man declared that in Northern New York there is a well
organized Bootleggers' Union, which pays all fines out of a common fund.
So great was his seeming admiration for the rum runners that we
suspected him of being himself a member in good standing, but soon we
were moved to identify him as a participant in a trade still more
sinister. An acquaintance came past the green curtain and inquired
eagerly, "Did you sell her?"

"Twice," said the young man enthusiastically and without regard to our
look of horror as we were moved by circumstantial evidence to believe
him not only a white slaver but a dishonest one.

"Yes," he continued. "I had my work cut out. You see he doesn't like
Nazimova."

We were a little sorry to find that the young man was a motion picture
salesman. It made us fear that perhaps some of his bootlegging yarns had
been colored with the ready fiction of his business. Still it was
interesting to sit and learn that Niagara Falls got "Camille" for only
$300.

The middle-aged man, the one with the large acquaintance among belated
drunkards, seemingly had little interest when the conversation turned
from bootlegging to the silver screen. We never did hear what business
"The Sheik" did in Albany because he was roaring at a skeptic about
cabbage.

"I tell you," he shouted, "they got 110 tons off of every acre."

Now we yield to no man in love of cabbage, but we should not find such
quantities appealing. It would compel corn beef commitments beyond the
point of comfort.

The skeptic made some timid observation about onions. We did not catch
whether it was for or against.

"Do you know," said the cabbage king, "that 75 per cent. of all the
onions in America are eaten by Jews?" He said it with rancor, whether
racial or vegetable we could not determine. To us it seemed an unusual
tribute to an ancient people. No other story of their executive capacity
had ever seemed to us quite so convincing. We marveled at the
extraordinary coöperation which could hold a habit so precisely to an
average easy to compute and remember.

We were also moved to admiration for the census takers. Statistics seem
to us man's supreme triumph in solving the mysteries of a chaotic world.
Creation, of course, was divine, but even that did not involve
bookkeeping.

For a time we considered abandoning our project to write a novel about a
newspaper man and his son and make it, instead, a pastoral about a hero
simple and sincere whose life was dedicated to the task of determining
the ultimate destination of every onion raised in America. Then, since
art ought to be international, we planned to widen the scope of the tale
and include Bermuda. This would enable us to develop a tropical love
interest and get a sex appeal into the story. We are not sure that a
book would have a wide sale on onions alone.

Of course other vegetables might enter the story. There could be a
villain forever tempting the hero to abandon his career and go after
parsnips. Titles simply flooded our mind. We thought of "Desperate
Steaks," "Out of the Frying Pan" and "A Bed of Onions," although we had
a vague impression that W. L. George had done something of this sort in
one of his earlier novels. "Breath Control" we dismissed as too
frivolous. "Smothered" was too sensational.

Eventually we abandoned the whole project. We feared that we might not
be up to the atmosphere of an onion novel.

Still, the advertising might be very effective if the publisher could
be induced to bill the book under a great, flaring headline, "The Onion
Forever."

But the train of thought was cut short when the demon vegetable
statistician got up and said, "If I could have just one wish in the
world, I'd choose a fruit farm between here and Lockport." Looking up to
see where "here" was, we observed the Rochester station. The trip had
seemed but a moment, and all because of Prohibition.

By the way, did you know that 14.72 per cent, of all the potatoes raised
in America come from Maine?



XXIX

LIFE, THE COPY CAT


Every evening when dusk comes in the Far West, little groups of men may
be observed leaving the various ranch houses and setting out on
horseback for the moving picture shows. They are cowboys and they are
intent on seeing Bill Hart in Western stuff. They want to be taken out
of the dull and dreary routine of the world in which they live.

But somehow or other the films simply cannot get very far away from
life, no matter how hard or how fantastically they try. As we have
suggested, the cowboy who struts across the screen has no counterpart in
real life, but imitation is sure to bridge the gap. Young men from the
cattle country, after much gazing at Hart, will begin to be like him.
The styles which the cowboys are to wear next year will be dictated this
fall in Hollywood.

It has generally been recognized that life has a trick of taking color
from literature. Once there were no flappers and then F. Scott
Fitzgerald wrote "This Side of Paradise" and created them in shoals.
Germany had a fearful time after the publication of Goethe's "Werther"
because striplings began to contract the habit of suicide through the
influence of the book and went about dying all over the place. And all
Scandinavia echoed with slamming doors for years just because Ibsen sent
Nora out into the night. In fact the lock on that door has never worked
very well since. When "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written things came to
such a pass that a bloodhound couldn't see a cake of ice without jumping
on it and beginning to bay.

If authors and dramatists can do so much with their limited public,
think of the potential power of the maker of films, who has his tens of
thousands to every single serf of the writing man. The films can make us
a new people and we rather think they are doing it. Fifteen years ago
Americans were contemptuous of all Latin races because of their habit of
talking with gestures. It was considered the part of patriotic dignity
to stand with your hands in your pockets and to leave all expression, if
any, to the voice alone.

Watch an excited American to-day and you will find his gestures as
sweeping as those of any Frenchman. As soon as he is jarred in the
slightest degree out of calm he immediately begins to follow
subconscious promptings and behave like his favorite motion picture
actor. Nor does the resemblance end necessarily with mere externals.
Hiram Johnson, the senator from California, is reported to be the most
inveterate movie fan in America, and it is said that he never takes
action on a public question without first asking himself, "What would
Mary Pickford do under similar circumstances?" In other words the
senator's position on the proposal to increase the import tax on
nitrates may be traced directly to the fact that he spent the previous
evening watching "Little Lord Fauntleroy."

Even the speaking actors, most contemptuous of all motion picture
critics, are slaves of the screen. At an audible drama in a theater the
other day we happened to see a young actor who had once given high
promise of achievement in what was then known as the legitimate.
Eventually he went into motion pictures, but now he was back for a short
engagement. We were shocked to observe that he tried to express every
line he uttered with his features and his hands regardless of the fact
that he had words to help him. He spoke the lines, but they seemed to
him merely incidental. We mean that when his part required him to say,
"It is exactly nineteen minutes after two," he tried to do it by
gestures and facial expression. This is a difficult feat, particularly
as most young players run a little fast or a little slow and are rather
in need of regulating. When the young man left the theater at the close
of the performance we sought him out and reproached him bitterly on the
ground of his bad acting.

"Where do you get that stuff?" we asked.

"In the movies," he admitted frankly enough.

There was no dispute concerning facts. We merely could not agree on the
question of whether or not it was true that he had become a terrible
actor. Life came into the conversation. Something was said by somebody
(we can't remember which one of us originated it) about holding the
mirror up to nature. The actor maintained that everyday common folk
talked and acted exactly like characters in the movies whenever they
were stirred by emotion. We made a bet and it was to be decided by what
we observed in an hour's walk. At the southwest corner of Thirty-seventh
street and Third avenue, we came upon two men in an altercation. One had
already laid a menacing hand upon the coat collar of the other. We
crowded close. The smaller man tried to shake himself loose from the
grip of his adversary. And he said, "Unhand me." He had met the movies
and he was theirs.

The discrepancy in size between the two men was so great that my actor
friend stepped between them and asked, "What's all this row about?" The
big man answered: "He has spoken lightly of a woman's name."

That was enough for us. We paid the bet and went away convinced of the
truth of the actor's boast that the movies have already bent life to
their will. At first it seemed to us deplorable, but the longer we
reflected on the matter the more compensations crept in.

Somehow or other we remembered a tale of Kipling's called "The Finest
Story In The World," which dealt with a narrow-chested English clerk,
who, by some freak or other, remembered his past existences. There were
times when he could tell with extraordinary vividness his adventures on
a Roman galley and later on an expedition of the Norsemen to America. He
told all these things to a writer who was going to put them into a book,
but before much material had been supplied the clerk fell in love with a
girl in a tobacconist's and suddenly forgot all his previous
existences. Kipling explained that the lords of life and death simply
had to step in and close the doors of the past as soon as the young man
fell in love because love-making was once so much more glorious than now
that we would all be single if only we remembered.

But love-making is likely to have its renaissance from now on since the
movies have come into our lives. Douglas Fairbanks is in a sense the
rival of every young man in America. And likewise no young woman can
hope to touch the fancy of a male unless she is in some ways more
fetching than Mary Pickford. In other words, pace has been provided for
lovers. For ten cents we can watch courtship being conducted by experts.
The young man who has been to the movies will be unable to avail himself
of the traditional ineptitude under such circumstances. Once upon a time
the manly thing to do was mumble and make a botch of it. The movies have
changed all that. Courtship will come to have a technique. A young man
will no more think of trying to propose without knowing how than he
would attempt a violin concert without ever having practiced. The
phantom rivals of the screen will be all about him. He must win to
himself something of their fire and gesture. Love-making is not going to
be as easy as it once was. Those who have already wed before the
competition grew so acute should consider themselves fortunate. Consider
for instance the swain who loves a lady who has been brought up on the
picture plays of Bill Hart. That young man who hopes to supplant the
shadow idol will have to be able to shoot Indians at all ranges from
four hundred yards up, and to ride one hundred thousand miles without
once forgetting to keep his face to the camera.



XXX

THE ORTHODOX CHAMPION


The entire orthodox world owes a debt to Benny Leonard. In all the other
arts, philosophies, religions and what nots conservatism seems to be
crumbling before the attacks of the radicals. A stylist may generally be
identified to-day by his bloody nose. Even in Leonard's profession of
pugilism the correct method has often been discredited of late.

It may be remembered that George Bernard Shaw announced before "the
battle of the century" that Carpentier ought to be a fifty to one
favorite in the betting. It was the technique of the Frenchman which
blinded Shaw to the truth. Every man in the world must be in some
respect a standpatter. The scope of heresy in Shaw stops short of the
prize ring. His radicalism is not sufficiently far reaching to crawl
through the ropes. When Carpentier knocked out Beckett with one
perfectly delivered punch he also jarred Shaw. He knocked him loose from
some of his cynical contempt for the conventions. Mr. Shaw might
continue to be in revolt against the well-made play, but he surrendered
his heart wholly to the properly executed punch.

But Carpentier, the stylist, fell before Dempsey, the mauler, in spite
of the support of the intellectuals. It seemed once again that all the
rules were wrong. Benny Leonard remains the white hope of the orthodox.
In lightweight circles, at any rate, old-fashioned proprieties are still
effective. No performer in any art has ever been more correct than
Leonard. He follows closely all the best traditions of the past. His
left hand jab could stand without revision in any textbook. The manner
in which he feints, ducks, sidesteps and hooks is unimpeachable. The
crouch contributed by some of the modernists is not in the repertoire of
Leonard. He stands up straight like a gentleman and a champion and is
always ready to hit with either hand.

His fight with Rocky Kansas at Madison Square Garden was advertised as
being for the lightweight championship of the world. As a matter of fact
much more than that was at stake. Spiritually, Saint-Saens, Brander
Matthews, Henry Arthur Jones, Kenyon Cox, and Henry Cabot Lodge were in
Benny Leonard's corner. His defeat would, by implication, have given
support to dissonance, dadaism, creative evolution and bolshevism. Rocky
Kansas does nothing according to rule. His fighting style is as formless
as the prose of Gertrude Stein. One finds a delightfully impromptu
quality in Rocky's boxing. Most of the blows which he tries are
experimental. There is no particular target. Like the young poet who
shot an arrow into the air, Rocky Kansas tosses off a right hand swing
every once and so often and hopes that it will land on somebody's jaw.

But with the opening gong Rocky Kansas tore into Leonard. He was gauche
and inaccurate but terribly persistent. The champion jabbed him
repeatedly with a straight left which has always been considered the
proper thing to do under the circumstances. Somehow or other it did not
work. Leonard might as well have been trying to stand off a rhinoceros
with a feather duster. Kansas kept crowding him. In the first clinch
Benny's hair was rumpled and a moment later his nose began to bleed. The
incident was a shock to us. It gave us pause and inspired a sneaking
suspicion that perhaps there was something the matter with Tennyson
after all. Here were two young men in the ring and one was quite correct
in everything which he did and the other was all wrong. And the wrong
one was winning. All the enthusiastic Rocky Kansas partisans in the
gallery began to split infinitives to show their contempt for Benny
Leonard and all other stylists. Macaulay turned over twice in his grave
when Kansas began to lead with his right hand.

But traditions are not to be despised. Form may be just as tough in
fiber as rebellion. Not all the steadfastness of the world belongs to
heretics. Even though his hair was mussed and his nose bleeding, Benny
continued faithful to the established order. At last his chance came.
The young child of nature who was challenging for the championship
dropped his guard and Leonard hooked a powerful and entirely orthodox
blow to the conventional point of the jaw. Down went Rocky Kansas. His
past life flashed before him during the nine seconds in which he
remained on the floor and he wished that he had been more faithful as a
child in heeding the advice of his boxing teacher. After all, the old
masters did know something. There is still a kick in style, and
tradition carries a nasty wallop.



XXXI

WITH A STEIN ON THE TABLE


Half a League would be better than one. Perhaps a quarter section would
be still better. The thing that sank Mr. Wilson's project, so far as
America was concerned, was the machinery. It was too heavy. Not so much
was needed. The only essential thing was a large round table and a
pleasant room held under at least one year's lease. Of course, it should
have been the right sort of table. If they had put knives and forks and,
better yet, glasses upon the one in Paris, instead of ink and paper, we
might already have a better world. Beer and light wines can settle
subjects which defy all the subtleties possible to ink.

What the world needs, then, is not so much a league as an international
beer night to be held at regular intervals by representatives of the
nations. Good beer and enough of it would have settled the whole problem
of the covenants which were going to be open and did not turn out that
way. The little meetings would have a persuasive privacy, and yet they
would not be secret to any destructive extent. An alert reporter hanging
about the front door could not fail to hear the strains of "He's a jolly
good fellow" drifting down the stairs from the conference room and, if
he were a journalist of any ability, he would have no difficulty in
surmising that the crowd was entertaining the delegate from Germany and
discussing indemnities.

Some persons were not quite fair in criticizing the shortcomings of
President Wilson at Paris. It was easy to seize upon "open covenants"
and to demolish his sincerity by pointing out the secrecy with which
negotiations were carried on. It is sentimentally satisfying to every
liberal and radical in the world to declare that all the walls should
have come down and to continue this criticism by suggesting that the
Arms conference ought to have been taken out of the Pan American
Building and transferred to Tex Rickard's arena on Boyle's Thirty Acres,
or the Yale Bowl. The notion is fascinating because it permits the
possibility of cheering sections and enables one to picture Henry Cabot
Lodge leaping to his feet every now and again and asking all the men
with the R. R. banners (Reactionary Republicans) to join him in nine
long rahs for the freedom of the seas. The delegates, of course, would
be numbered so that the spectators could tell who was doing the kicking.

It is appealing and we wish it could be done that way, but it is not
sound. We all know how bitter and destructive are legal battles which
have their first hearing in the newspapers. We also remember how
tenacious have been many of the struggles between capital and labor just
so long as the leaders of either side were talking to each other across
eight-column headlines instead of a table.

One may counter by calling to mind various evil things which have come
to the world from the tops of tables, but we must insist again upon
stressing the point that these were not tables which supported food and
drink. In Paris various points were lost to democracy because the
supporters of the right were outstayed by the champions of evil. In our
little club room it would be hard to put such pressure upon anybody. He
would need to do no more than shout for the waiter to fill up his mug
again and intrench himself for the evening. The most attractive thing
about our suggestion is that though it sounds like frivolous foolery it
actually is nothing of the sort. We are willing to accept modifications,
but the scheme would work. We have seen the pacifying effects of food
and drink upon warring factions too many times not to respect them.

Once, at a dinner we heard Max Eastman talk across a table to Judge Gary
and both enjoyed it. We do not mean to suggest that the two men arose
with all their previous ideas of the conduct of the world changed. Judge
Gary did not offer, in spite of the eloquence of Eastman, to curtail the
working day in the mills of the United States Steel Company, nor did the
editor of _The Liberator_ promise that thereafter he would be more
kindly disposed in writing about universal military training. But both
men were disposed to listen. Gary did not rush to the telephone to
summon a Federal attorney, and there was no disposition on the part of
Eastman to call the proletariat up into immediate arms. The most
friendly thing which anybody ever said about Mr. Wilson's League of
Nations came from those opponents of the scheme who called it "nothing
but a debating society."

Talk is lint for the wounds of the world. The guns cannot begin until
the statesmen have had their say. Any device which provides a pleasant
place and an audience for the orators in power is distinctly a move to
end war. The trouble with ultimatums is not only that they are ugly but
that they are short. If certain gentlemen from Serbia could have been
brought face to face with other gentlemen from Austria and empowered to
thrash it out the dispute between the two nations would by no means be
settled by now, but it would still be in a talking stage.

Arguments must be fostered and preserved. It may be a little tiresome to
hear premiers saying, "Is that so?" to one another, but the satisfaction
derived from such exchanges is enough to keep the conflicting parties
from seeking a blood restoration of national egos. Food and drink are
not only the greatest instigators but the best preservers of free speech
in the world. Undoubtedly everybody in his time has heard some
toastmaster or other insult a prominent citizen a few feet away in a
manner which would be unsafe on the public highway and nothing has
happened. It has been passed off as something wholly suitable to the
occasion. As we listened to Max Eastman talk across the table to Judge
Gary we wondered whether anybody would have even thought for a moment of
sending Debs to jail if he had only had the good fortune to talk from
behind a barricade of knives and forks. These are the ultimate and most
effective weapons of all peaceful men. With one of each in front of him
even a revolutionist may bare his heart and still be safe from the
bayonets of the military.

Of course, the value of the weapons is not unknown to the conservatives
as well. Many a rampant reformer has gone to Washington and has seen his
ideals drown one by one before his eyes in the soup. For years England
managed to muddle along with Ireland by inviting nationalists out to
dinner. With the spread and development of civilization the price of
pottage has gone up. To-day we can afford to laugh at poor ignorant and
deluded Jacob who let his pottage go for a mess of birthright.

In the light of these admissions it would be impossible to contend that
all the ills of the world could be solved by the device of international
beer nights. Even well fed men are not perfect. Alcohol is benign, but
it does not canonize. Schemes would go on even over demitasses. There
would be stratagems and surprises. And yet to our mind the stratagem,
even of a statesman, can never be so potent for harm in the world as the
stratagem of a general. Diplomacy is an evil game, chiefly because it
has been so exclusive. Our little club would be large enough to admit
all the delegates of the world. The only house rule would be "No checks
cashed."

We have no idea that the heart of man is not more important than his
stomach. The world will not be made over more closely to the heart's
desire until we are of a better breed. But while we are waiting,
friendly talks about a table may count for something. We might manage to
swap a groaning world for a groaning board. There is sanction for hope
in the words of the song. We know, don't we, that it's always fair
weather when good fellows get together with a stein on the table. All
America needs, then, to make the world safer for democracy is the stein
and the good fellows.



XXXII

ART FOR ARGUMENT'S SAKE


All editors are divided into two parts. In one group are those who think
that anybody who can make a good bomb can undoubtedly fashion a great
sonnet. The members of the other class believe that if a man loves his
country he is necessarily well fitted to be a book reviewer.

As a matter of fact, new terminology is coming into the business of
criticism. A few years ago the critic who was displeased with a book
called it "sensational" or "sentimental" or something like that. To-day
he would voice his disapproval by writing "Pro-German" or "Bolshevist."
Authors are no longer evaluated in terms of æsthetics, but rather from
the point of view of political economy. Indeed, to-day we have hardly
such a thing as good writers and bad writers. They have become instead
either "sound" or "dangerous." A sound author is one with whose views
you are in agreement.

So tightly are the lines drawn that the criticism of the leading members
of each side can be accurately predicted in advance. Show me the cover
of a war novel, and let me observe that it is called "The Great Folly,"
and I will guarantee to foreshadow with a high degree of accuracy just
what the critic of The New York _Times_ will say about it and also the
critic of _The Liberator_. Even if it happened to be called "The Glory
of Shrapnel," the guessing would be just as easy.

The manner in which anybody says anything now whether in prose, verse,
music or painting is entirely secondary in the minds of all critical
publications. Reviewers look for motives. Symphonies are dismissed as
seditious, and lyrics are closely scanned to see whether or not their
rhythms are calculated to upset the established order without due
recourse to the ballot. Nor has this particular reviewer any intention
of suggesting that such activity is entirely vain and fanciful. He
remembers that only a month ago he began a thrilling adventure story
called "The Lost Peach Pit," only to discover, when he was half through,
that it was a tract in favor of a higher import duty on potash.

A vivid novel about the war by John Dos Passos has been issued under the
title "Three Soldiers." One of the chief characters was a creative
musician who broke under the rigor of army discipline which was
repugnant to him. Nobody who wrote about the book undertook to discuss
whether or not the author had painted a persuasive picture of the
struggle in the soul of a credible man. Instead they argued as to just
what proportion of men in the American army were discontented, and the
final critical verdict is being withheld until statistics are available
as to how many of them were musicians. Those who disliked the book did
not speak of Mr. Dos Passos as either a realist or a romanticist. They
simply called him a traitor and let it go at that. The enthusiasts on
the other side neglected to say anything about his style because they
needed the space to suggest that he ought to be the next candidate for
president from the Socialist party.

Speaking as a native-born American (Brooklyn--1888) who once voted for a
Socialist for membership in the Board of Aldermen, the writer must admit
that he has found the radical solidarity of critical approval or dissent
more trying than that of the conservatives. Again and again he has
found, in _The Liberator_ and elsewhere, able young men, who ought to
know better, praising novels for no reason on earth except that they
were radical. If the novelist said that life in a middlewestern town was
dreary and evil he was bound to be praised by the socialist reviewers.
On the other hand, any author who found in this same middle west a
community or an individual not hopelessly stunted in mind and in morals,
was immediately scourged as a viciously sentimental observer who had
probably been one of the group which fixed upon the nomination of
President Harding late at night behind the locked doors of a little room
in a big hotel.

The enthusiasm of the radical critics extends not only to rebels against
existing governmental principles and moral conventions, but to all those
who dare to write in any new manner. There seems to be a certain
confusion whereby free verse is held to be a movement in the direction
of free speech.

Novels which begin in the middle and work first forward and then back,
win favor as blows against the bourgeois idea that a straight line is
the shortest distance between two points. Of course, the radical author
can do almost anything the conservative does and still retain the
admiration of his fellows by dint of a very small amount of tact.
Rhapsodies on love will be damned as sentimental if the author has been
injudicious enough to allow his characters to marry, but he can retain
exactly the same language if he is careful to add a footnote that
nothing is contemplated except the freest of free unions. A few works
are praised by both sides because each finds a different interpretation
for the same set of facts. Thus, the authors of "Dulcy" were surprised
to find themselves warmly greeted in one of the Socialist dailies as
young men who had struck a blow for government ownership of all
essential industries merely because they had introduced a big business
man into their play and, for the purposes of comic relief, had made him
a fool.

Class consciousness has become so acute that it extends even beyond the
realms of literature and drama into the field of sports. The recent
"battle of the century" eventually simmered down into the minds of many
as a struggle between the forces of reaction and revolution. It was
known before the fight that Carpentier would wear a flowered silk
bathrobe into the ring, while Dempsey would be clad in an old red
sweater. How could symbolism be more perfect? Anybody who believed that
Carpentier's right would be good enough to win, was immediately set down
as a profiteer in munitions who would undoubtedly welcome the outbreak
of another war. Likewise it was unsafe to express the opinion that
Dempsey's infighting might be too much for the Frenchman, lest one be
identified with the little willful group of pacifists who impeded the
progress of the war. Eventually, the startling revelation was made by
the reporter of a morning newspaper that he had seen Carpentier smelling
a rose. After that, any belief in the invader's prowess laid whoever
expressed it open to the charge, not only of aristocracy, but of
degeneracy as well. After Dempsey's blows wore down his opponent and
defeated him, it was generally felt by his supporters that the
eight-hour day was safe, and that the open shop would never be generally
accepted in America.

The only encouraging feature in the increasingly sharp feeling of class
consciousness among critics is a growing frankness. Reviewers are
willing to admit now that they think so and so's novel is an indifferent
piece of work because he speaks ill of conscription and they believe in
it. A year or so ago they would have pretended that they did not like it
because the author split some infinitives.

One of the frankest writing men we ever met is the editor of a Socialist
newspaper. "Whenever there's a big strike," he explained to me, "I
always tell the man who goes out on the story, 'Never see a striker hit
a scab. Always see the scab hit the striker.'"

"You see," he went on, "there are seven or eight other newspapers in
town who will see it just the other way and I've got to keep the balance
straight."

There used to be a practice somewhat similar to this among baseball
umpires. Whenever the man behind the plate felt that he had called a
bad ball a strike, he would bide his time until the next good one came
over and that he would call a ball. The practice was known as "evening
up" and it is no longer considered efficient workmanship. That is, not
among umpires. The radical editor was not in the least abashed when I
quoted to him the remark of a man who said that he always read his paper
with great interest because he invariably found the editorial opinions
in the news and the news on the editorial page. "That's just what I'm
trying to do," he exclaimed delightedly. "I'm not trying to give the
people the news. I'm trying to make new Socialists every day."

It is to be feared that even those writers who have the opportunity to
be more deliberate than the journalists have been struck with the idea
that by words they can shape the world a little closer to the heart's
desire. Throughout the war we were told so constantly that battles could
be decided and ships built and wars decided by the force of propaganda,
that every man with a portable typewriter in his suitcase began to think
of it as a baton. There was a day when a novelist was satisfied if he
could capture a little slice of life and get it between the covers of
his book. Now everybody writes to shake the world. The smell of
propaganda is unmistakable.

With literature in its present state of mind critics cannot be expected
to watch and wait for the great American novel or the great American
play. Instead they look for the book which made the tariff possible, or
the play which ended the steel strike.



XXXIII

NO 'RAHS FOR RAY


Richard Le Gallienne was lamenting, once, that he probably would never
be able to write a best-seller like Hall Caine or Marie Corelli. "It's
no use," he said. "You can't fake it. Bad writing is a gift."

So is college spirit. That is why almost all the plays and motion
pictures about football games and hazing and such like are so fearfully
unconvincing. Nobody who is hired for money can possibly make the same
joyful ass of himself as a collegian under strictly amateur momentum.
Expense has not been spared, nor pains, in the building of "Two Minutes
To Go," with the delightful Charlie Ray, but it just isn't real. Films
may be faithful enough in depicting such trifling emotions as hate and
passion and mother-love, but the feeling which animates the freshman
when Yale has the ball on the three-yard line is something a little too
searing and sacred for the camera's eye.

One of the difficulties of catching any of this spirit for play or for
picture is that there is no logical reason for its existence. Logic
won't touch it. The director and his entire staff would all have to be
inspired to be able to make a college picture actually glow. There is
not that much inspiration in all Hollywood.

The partisanship of the big football games has always been to me one of
the most mystifying features in American life. It is all the more
mystifying from the fact that it grips me acutely twice a year when
Harvard plays Princeton, and again when we play Yale. I find no
difficulty in being neutral about Bates of Middlebury. It did not even
worry me much when Georgia scored a touchdown. The encounters with Yale
and Princeton are not games but ordeals. Of course, there is no sense to
it. A victory for Harvard or a defeat makes no striking difference in
the course of my life. My job goes on just the same and the servants
will stay, and there will be a furnace and food even if the Crimson is
defeated by many touchdowns.

I never played on a Harvard eleven, nor even had a relative on any of
the teams. There was a second cousin on the scrub, but he was before my
time, and it cannot be that all my interest has been drummed up by his
career. I don't know the coaches nor the players. Yale and Princeton
have not wronged me. In fact, I once sold an article to a Yale man who
is now conducting a magazine in New York. Naturally it was on a neutral
subject, which happened to be the question of whether mothers were any
more skillful than fathers in handling children. Orange and black are
beautiful colors and "Old Nassau" is a stirring tune. Woodrow Wilson
meant well at Paris, and Big Bill Edwards was as pleasant-spoken a
collector of income taxes as I ever expect to meet.

Yet all this is forgotten when the teams run out on to the gridiron. I
find myself yelling "Block that kick! Block that kick! Block that kick!"
or "Touchdown! Touchdown!" as if my heart would break. It is pretty
lucky that the old devil who bought Faust's soul has never come along
and tempted me in the middle of a football game. He could drive a good
bargain cheap. There have been times when for nothing more than a five
yard gain through the center of the line he could have had not only my
soul, but a third mortgage on the house. If he played me right he might
even get that recipe for making near beer closer.

The strangest part of all this is that the emotions described are not
exceptional. A number of sane persons have assured me that they feel
just the same about the big games. One of my best friends in college was
always known to us as "the brother of the man who dropped the punt." The
man who actually committed that dire deed was not even mentioned. I
remember, also, a Harvard captain whose team lost and who horrified the
entire university by remarking at the team dinner a few weeks later that
he was always going to look back on the season with pleasure because he
thought that he and the rest of the players had had good fun, even
though they had lost to Yale. Naturally he was never allowed to return
to Cambridge after his graduation. His unfortunate remark came a few
years before the passage of the sedition law, but there was a militant
public opinion in the college fully capable of taking care of such
cases.

Feeling, then, as I do, that there is no such poignant ordeal possible
to man as sitting through a tight Harvard-Yale game, any screen story
of football seems not only piffling but sacrilegious. In the Charlie Ray
picture, the two contending teams were Stanley and Baker. There were
views of the rival cheering sections and closer ones of Charlie Ray
running the length of the gridiron for a touchdown. This feat was made
somewhat easy for him by the fact that all the extra people engaged for
the picture seemed to have been instructed to slap him lightly above the
knee with the little finger of the right hand and then fall upon their
faces so that he might step over them.

It was not this palpable artificiality which was the most potent factor
in bringing me into an extreme state of calm. A long Harvard run made
possible by the entire Yale team's being struck by lightning would seem
to me thoroughly satisfactory. The trouble with "Two Minutes To Go" was
that I never forgot for a moment that Charlie Ray was a motion picture
star instead of a halfback. Of course, you might object that I should
properly have the same feeling when seeing Ray in pictures where he is
engaged in altercations with holdup men and other scoundrels. That is
different. In such situations the stratagems of the films are amply
convincing, but in football nobody can possibly play the villain so
effectively as a Yaleman. We have often wondered how one university
could possibly corner the entire supply of treacherous and beetle-browed
humanity.

The foemen lined up against Charlie Ray didn't begin to be fierce
enough. Nor did the rival groups of rooters serve any better to convince
me of their authenticity. It was quite evident that they were swayed by
no emotion other than that of a willingness to obey the orders of the
director. Football is too warm and passionate a thing to be reduced to
the flat dimensions of the screen. Battle, murder, sudden death and many
other things are done amply well in films. Football is different. Though
it injure the heart, increase the blood pressure and shorten life, only
the reality will do.



XXXIV

"ATABOY!"


Thomas Burke has a cultivated taste for low life and he records his
delight in Limehouse so vividly that it is impossible to doubt his
sincerity. In his volume of essays called "Out and About London," he
spreads his enthusiasm over the entire "seven hundred square miles of
London, in which adventure is shyly lurking for those who will seek her
out."

In the spreading there is at least ground for suspicion that here and
there authentic enthusiasm has worn a bit thin. It is no more than a
suspicion, for Burke is a skillful writer who can set an emotion to
galloping without showing the whip. Only when he comes to describe a
baseball game is the American reader prepared to assert roundly that
Burke is merely parading an enthusiasm which he does not feel. We could
not escape the impression that the English author felt that a baseball
game was the most primitive thing America had to offer and that he was
in duty bound to enthuse over this exhibition of human nature in the
raw.

We have seen many Englishmen at baseball games. We have even attempted
to explain to a few visitors the fine points of the game, why John
McGraw spoke in so menacing a manner to the umpire or why Hughie
Jennings ate grass and shouted "Ee-Yah!" at the batter. Invariably the
Englishman has said that it was all very strange and all very
delightful. Never have we believed him. The very essence of nationality
lies in the fact that the other fellow's pastime invariably seems a
ridiculous affair. One may accept the cookery, the politics and the
religion of a foreign nation years before he will take an alien game to
his heart. We doubt whether it would be possible to teach an American to
say "Well played" in less than a couple of generations.

Burke has no fears. Not only does he describe the game in a general way,
but he plunges boldly ahead in an effort to record American slang. The
title of the essay is well enough. Burke calls it "Atta-boy!" This is,
of course, authentic American slang. It meets all the requirements,
being in common use, having a definite meaning and affording a short cut
to the expression of this meaning. We can not quite accept the spelling.
There is, perhaps, room for controversy here. When the American army
first came to France the word attracted a good deal of attention and
some French philologists undertook to follow it to the source. One of
them quickly discovered that he was dealing not with a word but a
contracted phrase. We are of the opinion that thereafter he went astray,
for he declared that "Ataboy" was a contraction of "At her boy," and he
offered the freely translated substitute "Au travail garçon."

It will be observed that Mr. Burke has given his attaboy a "t" too many.
"That's the boy" is the source of the word. Perhaps it would be more
accurately spelled if written "'at 'a boy." The single "a" is a neutral
vowel which has come to take the place of the missing "the." The same
process has occurred in the popular phrases "'ataswingin'" and
"'ataworkin'." These, however, have a lesser standing. "Ataboy" is
almost official. One of the American army trains which ran regularly
from Paris to Chaumont began as the Atterbury special, being named after
the general in charge of railroads. In a week it had become the Ataboy
special, and so it remained even in official orders.

Some of the slang which Burke records as being observed at the game is
palpably inaccurate. Thus he reports hearing a rooter shout, "Take orf
that pitcher!" It is safe to assume that what the rooter actually said
was, "Ta-ake 'im out!"

Again Burke writes, "An everlasting chorus, with reference to the
scoring board, chanted like an anthem--'Go-ing up! Go-ing up! Go-ing
up!'"

Now, as a matter of fact, the "go-ing up!" did not refer to the scoring
board, but to the pitcher who must have been manifesting signs of losing
control. The shouts of baseball crowds are so closely standardized that
we think we have a right to view with a certain distrust such unfamiliar
snatches of slang as "He's pitching over a plate in heaven," or "Gimme
some barb' wire. I wanter knit a sweater for the barnacle on second,"
and also, "Hey, catcher, quit the diamond, and lemme l'il brother teach
you." It is impossible for us to reconcile "lemme l'il brother" and
"quit the diamond."

It must be said in justice to Burke that it is entirely possible that
he did hear some of the outlandish phrases which he has jotted down.
Among the dough-boys gathered for the game there may have been some
former college professor who had devoted the afternoon to convincing his
comrades that he was no highbrow, but a typical American. Such a theory
would account for "quit the diamond."



XXXV

HOW TO WIN MONEY AT THE RACES----


Perseverance, courage, acumen, unceasing vigilance, hard work and
application are all required of the man who would win money at the
races. He should also have some capital in easily marketable securities.

During his preliminary days at the university, the man who would win
money on the races should specialize in science. It will be quite
impossible for him in his later career to tell whether his selection was
beaten by a nose or a head, unless he is absolutely familiar with the
bone structure of the horse (Equidoe), (Ungulate), (E. caballus). In
freshman zoölogy he will learn that, at the highest, the teeth number
forty-four, and that the horse as a domestic animal dates from
prehistoric times. This will serve to explain to him the character of
the entries in some of the selling races.

Geology will make it possible for him to distinguish between
"track--slow" and "track--muddy." The romance languages need not be
avoided. French will enable the student to ask the price on Trompe La
Morte without recourse to the subterfuge of "What are you laying on the
top one?" In spite of the amount of science required, the young man
will find that he has small need of mathematics. A working knowledge of
subtraction will suffice.

As has been well said in many a commencement address, college is not the
end but merely the beginning of education. The graduate should begin his
intensive preparation not later than twelve hours before going to the
track. He will find that the first edition of _The Morning Telegraph_ is
out by midnight. Hindoo's selections are generally on page eight. I have
never known the identity of Hindoo, but there is internal evidence
pointing toward President Harding. At any rate, Hindoo is a man who has
mastered the pre-election style of the President. His good will to all
horses, black, brown and bay, is boundless.

In studying Mr. Hindoo's advice concerning the first race at Belmont
Park last week, I found, "Captain Alcock--Last race seems to give him
the edge." If I had gone no further, my mind might have been easy, but
in chancing to look down the column I noted, "Servitor--Well suited
under the conditions"; "Pen Rose--Plainly the one that is to be feared";
"Bellsolar--May be heard from if up to her last race." On such minute
examination the edge of Captain Alcock seemed to grow more blunt.
"Neddam," I discovered, "will bear watching," and "Hobey Baker may
furnish the surprise." To a man of scientific training such conflicting
testimony is disturbing. What for instance would the world have thought
of the scholarship of Aristotle if, after declaring that the earth was
spherical, he had added that it might be well to have a good place
bet--at two to one--on its being flat.

As happens all too often in the swing away from science, mere emotion
was allowed to rush in unimpeded. Turning to a publication called _The
Daily Running Horse_, I found the section dealing with the first race to
be run at Belmont Park and read, "Captain Alcock is a nice horse right
now." That settled it. All too seldom in this world does one find an
individual who has the edge and still refrains from slashing about with
it and cutting people. Captain Alcock was represented to us as "nice" in
spite of the fact that he was "in with a second rate lot," as _The Daily
Running Horse_ went on to state. Later it seemed to us that the boast
was in bad taste, but this factor, which we recognized immediately after
the running of the first race as groundless condescension, appeared at
the time a rather fetching sort of democracy. Captain Alcock was willing
to associate with second raters and didn't even mind admitting it.

The price was eleven to ten, and after we made our bet the bookmaker
revised his figures down to nine to ten. There was a thrill in having
been a party to "hammering down the price." Soon we were to wish that
Captain Alcock had been much less nice. Away from the barrier he went on
his journey of a mile with a lead of two lengths. Next it was four and
then five. His heels threw dust upon the second raters. Around the turn
came Captain Alcock flaunting his edge in every stride. As they
straightened out into the stretch the man behind us remarked, "Captain
Alcock will win in a common canter."

The Captain was content to do no such thing. Although in with second
raters he remained a nice horse and he was willing to do nothing common
even for the sake of victory. He began to ease up in order to become
companionable with the field. Evidently he had felt unduly conspicuous
so far in front. Winning in a common canter was not cricket to his mind.
He wanted to make a race of it while there was still time. And as the
speed and the lead of Captain Alcock abated, down the stretch from far
in the rear dashed the black mare Bellsolar. Suddenly I remembered the
ominous words of Hindoo, "May be heard from if up to her last race."
Evidently Bellsolar was up. Captain Alcock was carrying the business of
being nice much too far. Before he could do anything about it, Bellsolar
was at his shoulders. She did not stop for greeting, but dashed past and
won before the genial Captain could begin sprinting again.

As a matter of fact, it was not until the next day that I appreciated
just how much wisdom had been contained in _The Daily Running Horse_,
advice which I had neglected. Turning back to the first race I found,
"Advised play--None, too tough." If the tipster had only kept up that
pace throughout the afternoon all his followers would be winners at the
track.



XXXVI

ONE TOUCH OF SLAPSTICK


The Duchess in _Clair de Lune_ implored her gentleman friend to speak to
her roughly, using hedge and highroad talk. Theatrical managers have now
come to realize that many of us who may never hope to be duchesses are
still swayed by this back to the soil movement. The humor of musical
comedy grows more robust as the season wanes. It is broader, thicker
and, to my mind, funnier. Comedy, like Antæus, must keep at least a
tiptoe on the earth. When the spirit of fun begins to sicken it is time
that he should be hit severely with a bladder. Having been knocked down,
he will rise refreshed.

All of which is preliminary to the expression of the opinion that Jim
Barton, now playing at the Century, is the funniest clown who has
appeared in New York this season. Mr. Barton was discovered in a
burlesque show by some astute theatrical scout several seasons ago.
Burlesque was several rungs higher in the ladder than his starting
point, for his career included appearances in carnivals and the little
shows which ply up and down some of the rivers, giving nightly
performances on their boat whenever there is a cluster of light big
enough to indicate a village. Jim Barton has been trained, therefore,
in capturing the interest and attention of primitive and
unsophisticated theatergoers. This training has encouraged him in zest
and violence. It has impressed upon him the conception that the
fundamental appeal to all sorts of people and all sorts of intelligences
is rhythm. "When in doubt, dance" is his motto.

Primarily he developed his dancing as something which should make people
laugh. It was, and is, full of stunts and grotesque movements and
surprising turns. But it has not remained just funny. Consciously or
unconsciously he knows, just as Charlie Chaplin knows, that funny things
must be savored with something else to capture interest completely. And
when you watch the antics of Barton and laugh there comes unexpectedly,
every now and then, a sudden tightening of the emotions as you realize
that some particular pose or movement is not funny at all, but a
gorgeously beautiful picture. For instance, when Barton begins his
skating dance the first reaction is one of amusement. There is a
recognizable burlesque of the traditional stunts of the man on ice, but
that is lost presently in the further realization that the thing is
amazingly skillful and graceful. Again he follows a Spanish dancer with
castanets and seems to depend upon nothing more than the easy laugh
accorded to the imitator, but as he goes on it isn't just a burlesque.
He has captured the whole spirit and rhythm of the dance.

There is, perhaps, something of hypocrisy and swank in taking the
performance of Barton and seeming to imply, "Of course I like this man
because I see all sorts of things in his work that his old burlesque
audiences never recognized." It is dishonest, too, because as a matter
of fact I like exactly the same things which won his audiences in the
old Columbia circuit. I have never been able to steel myself against the
moment in which the comedian steps up behind the stout lady and slaps
her resoundingly between the shoulder blades. Jim Barton is particularly
good because he hits louder and harder than any other comedian I ever
saw. But even for this liking a defense is possible. The influx of
burlesque methods ought to have a thoroughly cleansing influence in
American musical comedy. More refined entertainment has often been
unpleasantly salacious, not because it was daring but because it was
cowardly. Familiar stories of the smoking car and the barroom have been
brought into Broadway theaters often enough, but in disguised form. They
have minced into the theater. The appeal created by this form of humor
has been never to the honest laugh but to the smirk. If I were a censor
I think I would allow a performer to say or do almost anything in the
theater if only he did it frankly and openly. The blue pencil ought to
be used only against furtive things. You may not like smut, but it is
never half so objectionable as shamefacedness. The best tonic I can
think of for the hangdog school of musical comedy to which we have fast
been drifting is the immediate importation to Broadway of fifty
comedians exactly like Jim Barton. Of course, the only trouble is that
the scouts would probably turn up with the report that there was not
even one.

Still rumor is going about of at least one other. I am reliably
informed that Bobby Clark of _Peek-A-Boo_ is one of the funniest men of
the year. Unfortunately I am not in a position to make a first hand
report because on the night his show opened at the Columbia I was
watching _Mixed Marriage_ break into another theater, or attending a
revival of John Ferguson or something like that.

Accordingly, I missed the scene in which Bobby Clark tries to put his
head into the lion's mouth. Clark must be a good comedian, because he
sounds funny even when you get him at second or third hand in the form,
"And then you see he says, 'You do it fine. You even smell like a lion.
Take off the head now and we'll get along.'"

As it has been explained to me, Clark and the other comedian are hired
by a circus because the trained lion has suddenly become too ill to
perform. Clark's partner is to put on a lion's skin and pretend to be a
lion while Clark goes through the usual stunts of the trainer, including
the feat of putting his head into the lion's mouth. At the last minute
the lion recovers and is wheeled out on to the stage in a big cage.
Clark believes the animal is his partner in disguise and compliments him
warmly on the manner in which he roars. Finally, however, he becomes
irritated when there is no response, except a roar, to his request,
"Take off the head now and come on." After a second roar Clark remarks
with no little pique, "Come on, now, cut it out, you're not so good as
all that."

What happens after that I don't know because the people who have been to
the Columbia Theater always leave you in doubt as to whether Clark
actually goes into the lion's den or not. Presumably not, because later
in the show, according to these reports, there is a drill by The World's
Worst Zouaves in which Clark as the chief zouave whistles continually
for new formations only to have nothing happen. Whether Clark is the
originator of the material about the lion and the rest, or only the
executor, I am not prepared to say. All the scouts talk as if he made it
up as he went along, and whenever a comedian can bring about that state
of mind there need be no doubt of his ability.



XXXVII

DANGER SIGNALS FOR READERS


By this time, of course, we ought to know the danger signals in a novel
and realize the exact spot at which to come to a full stop. On page 54
of "The Next Corner," by Kate Jordan, we found the situation in which
Robert, husband, came face to face with Elsie, wife, after a separation
of three years. Mining interests had called him to Burma, and she, being
given the world to choose from, had decided to live in Paris. He was
punctual at the end of his three years in arriving at his wife's
apartment, but she was not there. The maid informed him that she had
gone to a tea at the home of the Countess Longueval. Without stopping to
wait for an invitation John hurried after her. He entered the huge and
garish reception room and there, yes there, was Elsie. But perhaps Miss
Jordan had better tell it:

"The effect she produced on him, in her yellow gauze, that though
fashioned for afternoon wear was so transparent it left a good deal of
her body visible, with her face undisguisedly tricked out and her
gleaming cigarette poised, was a harsh one--a marionette with whom
fashion was an idolatry; an over-decorated, empty eggshell. She could
feel this, and in a desperate way persisted in the affectation which
sustained her, the more so that under Robert's earnest gaze a feeling of
guilt made her hideously uncomfortable.

"'Throw that away,' Robert said quietly with a scant look at the
cigarette."

It seemed strange to us that Robert had been so little influenced toward
liberalism during his three years in Burma, for that was the spot where
Kipling's soldier found the little Burmese girl "a smokin' of a whackin'
big cheeroot."

Still, Robert carried his point. Elsie, our heroine, gave a laugh. What
sort of a laugh, do you suppose? Quite so, "an empty laugh," and "she
turned to flick it from her fingers"; that is, the cigarette. Perhaps we
should add that she flicked it to "a table that held the smokers'
service." Elsie, undoubtedly, had degenerated during Robert's absence,
but she was still too much the lady to put ashes on the carpet. And yet
she did use cosmetics. This was the second thing which Robert took up
with her. In the cab he wanted to know why she put "all that stuff" on
her face. Perhaps her answer was a little perplexing, for she said,
"Embellishment, mon cher. Pour la beauté, pour la charme!"

"I'm quite of the world in my tolerance," he explained to her. "If you
needed help of this sort and applied it delicately to your face I'd not
mind. In fact, if delicately done, probably I'd not know of it."

This, of course, seems to us an immoral attitude. Things are right or
wrong, whether one notices them or not. After all, the recording angel
would know. Elsie could use paint and powder with such delicacy as to
deceive him. However, we are interrupting Robert, who went on, and "His
voice grew kinder, although his eyes remained sternly grave."

"It's been from the beginning of the world," he said, "and it is in the
East, wherever there are women. But--and make a note of it--they are
always women of a certain sort."

Seemingly, Robert got away with this statement, although it is not true.
Manchu women of the highest degree paint a great scarlet circle on the
side of their face in spite of the fact that there is a native proverb
which, freely translated, may be rendered, "Discretion is the better
part of pallor."

It is only fair to add that the indiscretions of Elsie went beyond
powder and paint and even beyond smoking cigarettes. When her husband
told her that he must make a brief business trip to England she asked to
be excused from accompanying him on the ground that she would prefer to
remain in Paris for a while. As a matter of fact, she planned to go to
Spain. And she did. She went to a house party at the home of Don Arturo
Valda y Moncado, Marques de Burgos. She had been told that it was to be
a house party, but when she got to the isolated little castle on the top
of the crag she found no one but Don Arturo Valda y Moncado, Marques de
Burgos. No sooner had she arrived than a storm began to rage and the
last mule coach went down the mountain. She must stay the night! Still,
after her first wild pleadings that he allow her to clamber down the
mountain alone at night until she could find a hotel, reasonable in
price and respectable, she did not feel so lonely with Arturo. To be
sure, he sounded a good deal like a house party all by himself, and more
than that she loved him.

After dinner he began to make love and soon she joined him. He grew
impassioned, and Elsie said that she would throw in her lot with his and
never leave him. In a transport of joy, Arturo was about to bestow upon
her one of those Spanish kisses which no novelist can round off in less
than a page and a half. Elsie commanded him to be patient. First, she
said, she must write a letter to her husband. In this moment Arturo was
superb in his Latin restraint. He did not suggest a cablegram or even a
special delivery stamp. Perhaps it would have meant death to go to the
postoffice on such a night. Elsie wrote to Robert, painstakingly and
frankly, confessing that she loved Arturo and was going to remain with
him and that she would not be home at all any more. Then a sure footed
serving man was intrusted with the letter and told to seek a post box on
the mountain side.

No sooner was that out of the way than a Spanish peasant entered the
house and shot Arturo. It seems that Arturo had betrayed his daughter.
The shot killed Arturo and Elsie wished she had never sent the letter.
Unfortunately, you can't make your confession and eat it too. No
postscript was possible. Elsie staggered down the mountain side and a
chapter later she woke up in a hospital in Bordeaux. The strain had been
too great.

Nor could we stand it either. We sought out somebody else who had
already read the book and he told us that Elsie went back to America and
found her husband, and that for months and months she lived in an agony
of shame, thinking he knew all about what had never happened. Finally
she decided that he didn't, and then she lived months and months in an
agony of fear that the letter was still on its way. She got up every
morning, opening everything feverishly and finding only bills and
advertisements. At this point the person who knew the story was
interrupted in telling us about it, but we think we can supply the end.

After more months and months, in which first shame died and then fear,
hope was born. And then came happiness. The old hunted look faded from
the eyes of Elsie. She seemed a superbly normal woman, save in one
respect. During the political campaign of 1920, when practically every
visitor who came to the house would remark, at one time or other during
the course of the evening, "Don't you think this man Burleson is a
mess?" Elsie would look up with just the suggestion of a faint smile
about her fine, sensitive mouth and answer, "Oh, I don't know."



XXXVIII

ADVENTURE MADE PAINLESS


One of my favorite characters in all fiction is D'Artagnan. He was
forever fighting duels with people and stabbing them, or riding at top
speed over lonely roads at night to save a woman's name or something. I
believe that I glory in D'Artagnan because of my own utter inability to
do anything with a sword. Beyond self-inflicted razor wounds, no blood
has been shed by me. Horseback riding is equally foreign to my
experience, and I have done nothing for any woman's name. And why should
I? D'Artagnan does all these things so much better that there is not the
slightest necessity for personal muddling. When he gallops I ride too,
clattering along at breakneck speed between ghostly lines of trees. Only
there is no ache in my legs the next morning. Nor heartache either over
heroines.

He is my substitute in adventure. After an evening with him I can go
down to the office in the morning and go through routine work without
the slightest annoying consciousness that it is, after all, pretty dull
stuff. I am not tempted to put on my hat and coat and fling up my job in
order to go out to seek adventures with swordsmen and horses and
provocative ladies in black masks.

Undoubtedly there must be some longing in me for all this or I would
not have such a keen interest in _The Three Musketeers_, but, having
read about it, there is no craving for actual deeds. Possibly, after a
long evening with a tale of adventure, I may swagger a little the next
day and puzzle a few office boys with a belligerent manner to which they
are not accustomed; but they do not fit into the picture perfectly
enough to maintain the mood. It has been satisfied, and when it begins
to tug again there are other books which will serve to gratify my keen
desire to hear the clink of blades and the sound of running footsteps on
the cobbles as the miscreants give way. The scurvy knaves! The system
saves time and expense and arnica. Without it I might not be altogether
reconciled to Brooklyn.

In my opinion, most of the men and women whom I know find the same
relief in books and plays and motion pictures. The rather stout lady on
the floor below us has three small children. I imagine that they are a
fearful nuisance, but recently, after getting them to bed, she has been
reading "The Sheik." Her husband--he is one of these masterful men--told
me that he had glanced at the book himself and found it silly and highly
colored. He said that he was going to tell her to stop. I agreed with
him as to the silliness of the book, but it seemed to me that his wife
had earned her right to a fling on the desert. If I knew him a little
better, I would go on to say that it ought to comfort him to have his
wife reading such a highly flavored romance. He is excessively jealous,
and he ought to be pleased to have a possibly roving fancy so completely
occupied by an intense interest in an Arab chieftain who never
lived--no, not even in Arabia or any place at all outside the pages of a
book. The husband has no need to worry. There is no one in our
neighborhood who resembles Ben Ahmed Abdullah--or whatever his fool name
may be.

Once, when my neighbor found me at the door of his apartment, where I
had gone to borrow half an orange, he seemed unusually surly. That was
certainly a groundless suspicion. At the time I was entirely absorbed in
"The Outline of History." Mrs. X--of course I can't give her name or
even provide any description which might serve to identify her--was
entirely safe from my attentions, for during that particular week I was
rather taken with Cleopatra, even though Wells did speak slightingly of
her. Unfortunately we have no adequate idea of Cleopatra's appearance.
Wells attempts no description. The only existing portrait is one of
those conventionalized Egyptian things with the arms held out stiffly as
if the siren of the Nile was trying to indicate to the clerk the size of
the shoe which she desired. Still, we can imply something from the
enthusiasm of Antony and the others. Somehow or other, I have always
felt sure that there was not the slightest resemblance between Cleopatra
and Mrs. X.

Here is what I am trying to get at. Mr. X sells something or other, and
apparently nobody in New York wants it, which makes it necessary for him
to go on long journeys in which he touches Providence, Boston, New
Bedford, and Bangor. Practically all my evenings are spent at home.

I have spoken of the stairs, but it is only a short flight. Mrs. X is
sentimental and I am romantic. And we are both quite safe, and Mr. X can
go peacefully and enthusiastically around Bangor selling whatever it is
which he has to sell. I resemble the Sheik Ben Ahmed Abdullah even less
than Mrs. X resembles Cleopatra. Mr. Smith (we might as well abandon
subterfuges and come out frankly with the name, since I have already
been indiscreet enough for him to identify the personages concerned) has
no rival but a phantom one.

Realizing how much Smith and I and Mrs. Smith owe to the protecting
consolations of fiction, which includes history as written by Wells, I
feel that I ought to go on to generalize in favor of many much-abused
types of entertainment. Whenever a youngster steals anything, or a wife
runs away from home, the motion pictures are blamed. Censorship is
devoted to removing all traces of bloodshed from the films. Police
magistrates are called in to suppress farces dealing with folk given to
high jinks, on the ground that they threaten the morals of the
community. We assume, of course, that the censors are thinking of morals
in terms of deeds. They can hardly be ambitious enough to hope to
curtail the thoughts of a community.

And I deny their major premise. Evil instincts are in us all.
Practically everybody would enjoy robbing a bank or running away with
somebody with whom he ought not to run away. These lawless instincts are
invariably drained off by watching their mimic presentment in novels and
films and plays.

If only accurate statistics were available, I would wager and win on the
proposition that not half of 1 per cent of all the cracksmen in America
have ever seen _Alias Jimmy Valentine_. No burglar could watch the play
without being shamed out of his job by sheer envy. An ounce of
self-respect--and there are figures to show that yeggs average three and
a quarter--would keep a crook from continuing in his bungling way after
observing the manner in which Jimmy Valentine opens the door of a safe
merely by sandpapering his fingers. What sort of person do you suppose
could go and buy nitroglycerine ungrudgingly after that? Even by the
least optimistic estimate of human nature, the worst we could expect
from a criminal who had seen the play would be to have him make a
gallant and sincere effort to employ the touch system in his own career.
Such attempts would be easy to frustrate. Night watchmen could creep up
on the idealists and catch them unaware. They could be traced by their
cursing. And, of course, the police might keep an eye open at the doors
of the sandpaper shops.

_Kiki_, David Belasco's adaptation from the French, taps another rich
vein of human depravity and allows it to be exploited and exhausted by
means of drama. The heroine of the play is a rowdy little baggage. She
has a civil word for no man. The truth is not in her. Now, every child
born into the world would like to lie and be impertinent. There is
practically no fun in being polite, and truth-telling is most
indifferent judged solely as an indoor sport. Manners and veracity are
things which people learn slowly and painfully. Undoubtedly both are
useful, though I am not at all sure that their importance is not
somewhat exaggerated. Community life demands certain sacrifices,
particularly as the pressure of civilization increases. The men of a
primitive tribe do not get up in the subway to give their seats to
ladies, because they have no subways. Likewise, having no hats, they are
not obliged to take them off. Of course it goes deeper than that. Even a
primitive civilization has weather, and yet one seldom hears an Indian
in his native state observing: "Isn't it unusually warm for November?"

Once everybody was primitive, and the most intensive training cannot
wholly obliterate the old longing to be done with strange and
self-imposed trappings. Until it is licked out of them, children are
savagely rude. Training can alter practice, but even the most severe
chastisement cannot get deep enough to affect an instinct. We all want
to be rude, and we would, now and again, break loose in unrestrained
spells of boorishness if it were not for an occasional Kiki who does the
work for us. Accordingly, one of the most salutary forms of
entertainment is the comedy of bad manners which recurs in our theater
every once in so often.

"But," I hear somebody objecting, "no matter how much each of us may
like to be rude, we don't care much about it when it is done to us. In
real life we would all run from Kiki because her monstrous bragging
would irritate us, and her vulgarity and bad manners would be most
annoying."

All that would be true but for one factor. In any play which achieves
success a curious transference of personality takes place. Before a play
begins the audience is separated from the people on the stage by a
number of barriers. First of all, there is the curtain, but by and by
that goes up. The orchestra pit and the footlights still stand as moats
to keep us at our distance. Then the magic of the playhouse begins to
have its effect. If the actors and the playwrights know the tricks of
the business, they soon lift each impressionable person from his seat
and carry him spiritually right into the center of the happenings. He
becomes one or more persons in the play. We do not weep when Hamlet dies
because we care anything in particular about him. His death can hardly
come as a surprise. We knew he was going to die. We even knew that he
had been dead for a long time.

Probably a few changes have been made in adapting _Kiki_ from the
French. Kiki is made just a bit more respectable than she was in the
French version, but she remains enough of a gamin and a rebel against
taste and morals to satisfy the outlaw spirit of an American audience.
She is for the New York stage "a good girl," but since this seems to be
only the slightest check upon her speech and conduct, there can be no
violent objection. Of course the type is perfectly familiar in the
American theater, but this time it seems to us better written than
usual, and much more skillfully and warmly played. Indeed, in my
opinion, Miss Ulric's Kiki is the best comedy performance of the season.
Even this is not quite enough. It has been a lean season, and this
particular piece of acting is good enough to stand out in a brilliant
one. The final scene of the play, in which Kiki apologizes for being
virtuous, seems to me a truly dazzling interpretation of emotions. It is
comic because it is surprising, and it is surprising because it concerns
some of the true things which people neglect to discuss.

By seeing _Alias Jimmy Valentine_, the safe-cracking instinct which lies
dormant in us may be satisfied. _Kiki_ allows us to indulge our fondness
for being rude without alienating our friends. But more missionary work
remains. In _The Idle Inn_, Ben-Ami appears as a horse thief.
Personally, I have no inclination in that direction. I would not have
the slightest idea what to do with a horse after stealing him. My
apartment is quite small and up three flights of stairs. However, there
are other vices embodied in the rôle which are more appealing to me. The
rôle is that of a masterful man, which has always been among my thwarted
ambitions. In the second act Ben-Ami breaks through a circle of dancing
villagers and, seizing the bride, carries her off to the forest.
Probably New York will never realize how many weddings have been carried
on without mishap this season solely because of Ben-Ami's performance in
_The Idle Inn_. In addition to entrusting him with all my eloping for
the year, I purpose to let Ben-Ami swagger for me. He does it superbly.
To my mind this young Jewish actor is one of the most vivid performers
in our theater. His silences are more eloquent than the big speeches of
almost any other star on Broadway.

The play is nothing to boast about. Once it was in Yiddish, and as far
as spirit goes it remains there. Once it was a language, and now it is
words. The usually adroit Arthur Hopkins has fallen down badly by
providing Ben-Ami with a mediocre company. He suffers like an
All-America halfback playing on a scrub team. The other players keep
getting in his way.

One more production may be drawn into the discussion, but only by
extending the field of inquiry a little. _The Chocolate Soldier,_ which
is based on Shaw's _Arms and the Man,_ can hardly be said to satisfy the
soldiering instinct in us by a romantic tale of battle. Shaw's method is
more direct. He contents himself with telling us that the only people
who do get the thrill of adventure out of war are those who know it only
in imagination. His perfect soldier is prosaic. It is the girl who has
never seen a battle who romances about it. Still, Shaw does make it
possible for us to practice one vice vicariously. After seeing a piece
by him the spectator does not feel the need of being witty. He can just
sit back and let George do it.



XXXIX

THE TALL VILLA


"The Tall Villa," by Lucas Malet, is a novel, but it may well serve as a
textbook for those who want to know how to entertain a ghost. There need
be no question that such advice is needed. For all the interest of the
present generation in psychical research, we treat apparitions with
scant courtesy. Suppose a visitor goes into a haunted room and at
midnight is awakened by a specter who carries a bloody dagger in one
hand and his ghostly head in the other; does the guest ask the ghost to
put his things down and stay a while? He does not. Instead, he rushes
screaming from the room or pulls the bedclothes over his head and dies
of fright.

Ghosts walk because they crave society and they get precious little of
it. Frances Copley, the heroine of "The Tall Villa," managed things much
better. When the apparition of Lord Oxley first appeared to her she did
not faint or scream. On the contrary, the author tells us, "The
breeding, in which Frances Copley trusted, did not desert her now. After
the briefest interval she went on playing--she very much knew not what,
discords more than probably, as she afterward reflected!"

After all, Lord Oxley may have been a ghost, but he was still a
gentleman. Indeed, when she saw him later she perceived that the shadow
"had grown, in some degree, substantial, taking on for the most part,
definite outline, definite form and shape. That, namely, of a young man
of notably distinguished bearing, dressed (in as far as, through the
sullen evening light, Frances could make out) in clothes of the highest
fashion, though according to a long discarded coloring and cut."

From friends of the family Frances learned that young Oxley, who had
been dead about a century and a half, had shot himself on account of
unrequited love. After having looked him up and found that he was an
eligible ghost in every particular, Frances decided to take him up. She
continued to play for him without the discords. In fact, she began to
look forward to his afternoon calls with a great deal of pleasure. Her
husband did not understand her. She did not like his friends, and his
friends' friends were impossible. Oxley's calls, on the other hand, were
a social triumph. He was punctiliously exclusive. Nobody else could even
see him. When he came into the room others often noticed that the room
grew suddenly and surprisingly chilly, but the author fails to point out
whether that was due to Lord Oxley's station in life or after life.

Bit by bit the acquaintance between Frances and the ghost ripened. At
first she never looked at him directly, but regarded his shadow in the
mirror. And they communicated only through music. Later Frances made so
bold as to speak to his lordship.

"When you first came," she said, her voice veiled, husky, even a little
broken, "I was afraid. I thought only of myself. I was terrified both at
you and what you might demand from me. I hastened to leave this house,
to go away and try to forget. But I wasn't permitted to forget. While I
was away much concerning you was told me which changed my feeling toward
you and showed me my duty. I have come back of my own free will. I am
still afraid, but I no longer mind being afraid. My desire now is not to
avoid, but rather to meet you. For, as I have learned, we are kinsfolk,
you and I; and since this house is mine, you are in a sense my guest. Of
that I have come to be glad. I claim you as part of my inheritance--the
most valued, the most welcome portion, if you so will it. If I can help,
serve, comfort you, I am ready to do so to the utmost of my poor
capacity."

Alexis, Lord Oxley, made no reply, but it was evident that he accepted
her offer of service and comfort graciously, for he continued to call
regularly. His manners were perfect, although it is true that he never
sent up his card, and yet in one matter Frances felt compelled to chide
him and even tearfully implore a reformation. It made her nervous when
she noticed one day that he carried in his right hand the ghost of the
pistol with which he had shot himself. Agreeably he abandoned his
century old habit, but later he was able to give more convincing proof
of his regard for Frances. She was alone in the Tall Villa when her
husband's vulgar friend, Morris Montagu, called. He came to tell her
that her husband was behaving disgracefully in South America, and on
the strength of that fact he made aggressive love. "Montagu's voice grew
rasping and hoarse. But before, paralyzed by disgust and amazement,
Frances had time to apprehend his meaning or combat his purpose, his
coarse, pawlike--though much manicured--hand grasped her wrist."

Suddenly the room grew chilly and Morris Montagu, in mortal terror,
relaxed his grip and began to run for the door as he cried, "Keep off,
you accursed devil, I tell you. Don't touch me. Ah! Ah! Damn you, keep
off----"

It is evident to the reader that the ghost of Alexis, Lord Oxley, is
giving the vulgar fellow what used to be known as "the bum's rush" in
the days before the Volstead act. At any rate, the voice of Montagu grew
feeble and distant and died away in the hall. Then the front door
slammed. Frances was saved!

After that, of course, it was evident to Alexis, Lord Oxley, and Frances
that they loved each other. He began to talk to her in a husky and
highfalutin style. He even stood close to her chair and patted her head.
"Presently," writes Lucas Malet, "his hand dwelt shyly, lingering upon
her bent head, her cheek, the nape of her slender neck. And Frances felt
his hand as a chill yet tender draw, encircling, playing upon her. This
affected her profoundly, as attacking her in some sort through the
medium of her senses, from the human side, and thereby augmenting rather
than allaying the fever of her grief."

Naturally, things could not go on in that way forever, and so Alexis,
Lord Oxley, arranged that Frances should cross the bridge with him into
the next life. It was not difficult to arrange this. She had only to
die. And so she did. All of which goes to prove that though it is well
to be polite and well spoken to ghosts, they will bear watching as much
as other men.



XL

PROFESSOR GEORGE PIERCE BAKER


A great many persons speak and write about Professor George Pierce
Baker, of Harvard, as if he were a sort of agitator who made a practice
of luring young men away from productive labor to write bad plays. There
is no denying the fact that a certain number of dramatists have come out
of Harvard's English 47, but the course also has a splendid record of
cures. Few things in the world are so easy as to decide to write a play.
It carries a sense of satisfaction entirely disproportionate to the
amount of effort entailed. Even the failure to put a single line on
paper brings no remorse, for it is easy to convince yourself that the
thing would have had no chance in the commercial theater.

All this would be well enough except that the author of a phantom play
is apt to remain a martyr throughout his life. He makes a very bad
husband and father and a worse bridge partner. Freudians know the
complaint as the Euripidean complex. The sufferer is ailing because his
play lies suppressed in his subconscious mind.

Professor Baker digs these plays out. People who come to English 47 may
talk about their plays as much as they choose, but they must write them,
too. Often a cure follows within forty-eight hours after the completion
of a play. Sometimes it is enough for the author to read the thing
through for himself, but if that does not avail there is an excellent
chance for him after his play has been read aloud by Professor Baker and
criticized by the class. If a pupil still wishes to write plays after
this there is no question that he belongs in the business. He may, of
course, never earn a penny at it but, starve or flourish, he is a
playwright.

Professor Baker deserves the thanks of the community, then, not only for
Edward Sheldon, and Cleves Kincaid, and Miss Lincoln and Eugene O'Neill
and some of the other playwrights who came from English 47, but also for
the number of excellent young men who have gone straight from his
classroom to Wall Street, and the ministry, and automobile accessories
with all the nascent enthusiasm of men just liberated from a great
delusion.

In another respect Professor Baker has often been subjected to much
undeserved criticism. Somebody has figured out that there are 2.983 more
rapes in the average English 47 play than in the usual non-collegiate
specimen of commercial drama. We feel comparatively certain that there
is nothing in the personality of Professor Baker to account for this or
in the traditions of Harvard, either. We must admit that nowhere in the
world is a woman quite so unsafe as in an English 47 play, but the
faculty gives no official encouragement to this undergraduate enthusiasm
for sex problems. One must look beyond the Dean and the faculty for an
explanation. It has something to do with Spring, and the birds, and the
saplings and "What Every Young Man Ought to Know" and all that sort of
thing.

When I was in English 47 I remember that all our plays dealt with Life.
At that none of us regarded it very highly. Few respected it and
certainly no one was in favor of it. The course was limited to juniors,
seniors and graduate students and we were all a little jaded. There were
times, naturally, when we regretted our lost illusions and longed to be
freshmen again and to believe everything the Sunday newspapers said
about Lillian Russell. But usually there was no time for regrets; we
were too busy telling Life what we thought about it. Here there was a
divergence of opinion. Some of the playwrights in English 47 said that
Life was a terrific tragedy. In their plays the hero shot himself, or
the heroine, or both, as the circumstances might warrant, in the last
act. The opposing school held that Life was a joke, a grim jest to be
sure, cosmic rather than comic, but still mirthful. The plays by these
authors ended with somebody ordering "Another small bottle of Pommery"
and laughing mockingly, like a world-wise cynic.

Bolshevism had not been invented at that time, but Capital was severely
handled just the same. All our villains were recruited from the upper
classes. Yet capitalism had an easy time of it compared with marriage. I
do not remember that a single play which I heard all year in 47, whether
from Harvard or Radcliffe, had a single word of toleration, let alone
praise, for marriage. And yet it was dramatically essential, for
without marriage none of us would have been able to hammer out our
dramatic tunes upon the triangle. Most of the epigrams also were about
marriage. "Virtue is a polite word for fear," that is the sort of thing
we were writing when we were not empowering some character to say,
"Honesty is a bedtime fairy story invented for the proletariat," or "The
prodigal gets drunk; the Puritan gets religion."

But up to date Professor Baker has stood up splendidly under this yearly
barrage of epigrams. With his pupils toppling institutions all around
him he has held his ground firmly and insisted on the enduring quality
of the fundamental technic of the drama. When a pupil brings in a play
in favor of polygamy, Baker declines to argue but talks instead about
peripety. In other words, Professor Baker is wise enough to realize that
it is impossible that he should furnish, or even attempt to mold in any
way, the philosophy which his students bring into English 47 each year.
If it is often a crude philosophy that is no fault of his. He can't
attempt to tell the fledgling playwrights what things to say and, of
course, he doesn't. English 47 is designed almost entirely to give a
certain conception of dramatic form. Professor Baker "tries in the light
of historical practice to distinguish the permanent from the impermanent
in technic." He endeavors, "by showing the inexperienced dramatist how
experienced dramatists have solved problems similar to his own, to
shorten a little the time of apprenticeship."

When a man has done with Baker he has begun to grasp some of the things
he must not do in writing a play. With that much ground cleared all that
he has to do is to acquire a knowledge of life, devise a plot and find a
manager.



XLI

WHAT SHAKESPEARE MISSED


Next to putting a gold crown upon a man's head and announcing, "I create
you emperor," no evil genius could serve him a worse turn than by giving
him a blue pencil and saying: "Now you're a censor." Unfortunately
mankind loves to possess the power of sitting in judgment. In some
respects the life of a censor is more exhilarating than that of an
emperor. The best the emperor can do is to snip off the heads of men and
women, who are mere mortals. The censor can decapitate ideas which but
for him might have lived forever. Think, for instance, of the
extraordinary thrill which might come to a matter-of-fact individual
living to-day in the city of Philadelphia if he happened to be the
censor to whom the moving-picture version of "Macbeth" was submitted.
His eye would light upon the subtitle "Give me the dagger," and, turning
to the volume called "Rules and Standards," he would find among the
prohibitions: "Pictures which deal at length with gun play, and the use
of knives."

"That," one hears the censor crying in triumph, "comes out."

"But," we may fancy the producer objecting, "you can't take that out;
Shakespeare wrote it, and it belongs in the play."

"I don't care who wrote it," the censor could answer. "It can't be shown
in Pennsylvania."

And it couldn't. The little fat man with the blue pencil--and censors
always become fat in time--can stand with both his feet upon the face of
posterity; he can look Fame in the eye and order her to quit trumpeting;
he can line his wastebasket with the greatest notions which have stirred
the mind of man. Like Joshua of old, he can command the sun and the moon
to stand still until they have passed inspection. Cleanliness, it has
been said, is next to godliness, but just behind comes the censor.

Perhaps you may object that the censor would do none of the things
mentioned. Perhaps he wouldn't, but the Pennsylvania State Board of
Censors of Motion Pictures has been sufficiently alive to the
possibilities of what it might want to do in reëditing the classics to
give itself, specifically, supreme authority over the judgment and the
work of dead masters. Under Section 22 of "Standards of the Board" we
find:

"That the theme or story of a picture is adapted from a publication,
whether classical or not; or that portions of a picture follow paintings
or other illustrations, is not a sufficient reason for the approval of a
picture or portions of a picture."

As a matter of fact, it is pretty hard to see just how "Macbeth" could
possibly come to the screen in Pennsylvania. It might be banned on any
one of several counts. For instance, "Prolonged fighting scenes will be
shortened, and brutal fights will be wholly disapproved." Nobody can
question that the murder of Banquo was brutal. "The use of profane and
objectionable language in subtitles will be disapproved," which would
handicap Macduff a good deal in laying on in his usual fashion.

"Gruesome and unduly distressing scenes will be disapproved. These
include shooting, stabbing, profuse bleeding----" If Shakespeare had
only written with Pennsylvania in mind, Duncan might be still alive and
Lady Macbeth sleep as well as the next one.

But at this point we recognize another gentleman who wishes to protest
against any more attacks upon motion-picture censorship being made which
rest wholly on supposition. He has read "Standards of the Board," issued
by the gentlemen in Pennsylvania, and he asserts that all the rules laid
down are legitimate if interpreted with intelligence.

It will not be necessary to put the whole list of rules in evidence
since there need be no dispute as to the propriety of such rules as
prohibit moving pictures about white slavery and the drug traffic.
Skipping these, we come to No. 5, which is as follows:

"Scenes showing the modus operandi of criminals which are suggestive and
incite to evil action, such as murder, poisoning, housebreaking, safe
robbery, pocket picking, the lighting and throwing of bombs, the use of
ether, chloroform, etc., to render men and women unconscious, binding
and gagging, will be disapproved."

Here I take the liberty of interrupting for a moment to protest that
the board has framed this rule upon the seeming assumption that to see
murders, robberies, and the rest is to wish at once to emulate the
criminals. This theory is in need of proving. "A good detective story"
is the traditional relaxation of all men high in power in times of
stress, but it is not recorded of Roosevelt, Wilson, Secretary of State
Hughes, Lloyd George, nor of any of the other noted devotees of criminal
literature that he attempted to put into practice any of the things of
which he read. But to get on with the story:

"(6) Gruesome and unduly distressing scenes will be disapproved. These
include shooting, stabbing, profuse bleeding, prolonged views of men
dying and of corpses, lashing and whipping and other torture scenes,
hangings, lynchings, electrocutions, surgical operations, and views of
persons in delirium or insane."

Here, of course, a great deal is left to the discretion of the censors.
Just what is "gruesome and unduly distressing"? This, I fancy, must
depend upon the state of the censor's digestion. To a vegetarian censor
it might be nothing more than a close-up of a beefsteak dinner. To a man
living in the city which supports the Athletics and the Phillies a mere
flash of a baseball game might be construed as "gruesome and unduly
distressing."

This is another of the rules which puts Shakespeare in his place,
sweeping out, as it does, both Lear and Ophelia. And possibly Hamlet.
Was Hamlet mad? The Pennsylvania censors will have to take that question
up in a serious way sooner or later.

"(7) Studio and other scenes, in which the human form is shown in the
nude, or the body is unduly exposed, will be disapproved."

This fails to state whether the prohibition includes the reproduction of
statues shown publicly and familiarly to all comers in our museums.

Prohibition No. 8, which deals with eugenics, birth control and similar
subjects, may be passed without comment, as it refers rather to news
than to feature pictures.

Prohibition No. 9 covers a wide field:

"Stories or scenes holding up to ridicule and reproach races, classes,
or other social groups, as well as the irreverent and sacrilegious
treatment of religious bodies or other things held to be sacred, will be
disapproved."

Here we have still another rule which might be invoked against Hamlet's
coming to the screen, since the chance remark, "Something is rotten in
the state of Denmark," might logically be held to be offensive to
Scandinavians. "The Merchant of Venice," of course, would have no
chance, not only as anti-Semitic propaganda, but because it holds up
money lenders, a well-known social group, to ridicule.

No. 10 briefly forbids pictures which deal with counterfeiting,
seemingly under the impression that if this particular crime is never
mentioned the members of the underworld may possibly forget its
existence. In No. 11 there is the direct prohibition of "scenes showing
men and women living together without marriage." Here the greatest
difficulty will fall upon those film manufacturers who deal in travel
pictures. No exhibitor is safe in flashing upon a screen the picture of
a cannibal man and woman and several little cannibals in front of their
hut without first ascertaining from the camera man that he went inside
and inspected the wedding certificate. No. 13 forbids the use of
"profane and objectionable language," which we shall find later has been
construed to include the simple "Hell."

Under 15 we find this ruling: "Views of incendiarism, burning, wrecking,
and the destruction of property, which may put like action into the
minds of those of evil instincts, or may degrade the morals of the
young, will be disapproved."

In other words, Nero may fiddle to his heart's content, but he must do
it without the inspiration of the burning of Rome. Curiously enough,
throughout all the rules of censorship there runs a continuous train of
reasoning that the pictures must be adapted to the capacity and
mentality of the lowest possible person who could wander into a picture
house. The picture-loving public, in the minds of the censors, seems to
be honeycombed with potential murderers, incendiaries, and
counterfeiters. Rule No. 16 discourages scenes of drunkenness, and adds
chivalrously: "Especially if women have a part in the scenes."

Next we come to a rule which would handicap vastly any attempt to
reproduce Stevenson or any other lover of the picaresque upon the
screen. "Pictures which deal at length with gun play," says Rule 17,
"and the use of knives, and are set in the underworld, will be
disapproved. Prolonged fighting scenes will be shortened and brutal
fights will be wholly disapproved."

What, we wonder, would the censors do with a picture about Thermopylæ?
Would they, we wonder, command that resistance be shortened if the
picture was to escape the ban? The Alamo was another fight which dragged
on unduly, and Grant was guilty of great disrespect in his famous "If it
takes all summer," not to mention the impudent incitement toward the
prolongation of a fight in Lawrence's "Don't give up the ship."

No. 19 suggests difficulties in its ban on "sensual kissing and
love-making scenes." Naturally the question arises: "At just what point
does a kiss become sensual?" Here the censors, to their credit, have
been clear and definite in their ruling. They have decided that a kiss
remains chaste for ten feet. If held upon the screen for as much as an
inch above this limit, it changes character and becomes sensual. Here,
at any rate, morality has been measured with an exactitude which is
rare.

No. 20 is puzzling. It begins, liberally enough, with the announcement
that "Views of women smoking will not be disapproved as such," but then
adds belatedly that this ruling does not apply if "their manner of
smoking is suggestive." Suggestive of what, I wonder? Perhaps the
censors mean that it is all right for women to smoke in moving pictures
if only they don't inhale, but it would have been much more simple to
have said just that. No. 22 is the famous proclamation that the
classics, as well as other themes, must meet Pennsylvania requirements,
and in 23 we have a fine general rule which covers almost anything a
censor may want to do. "Themes or incidents in picture stories," it
reads, "which are designed to inflame the mind to improper adventures,
or to establish false standards of conduct, coming under the foregoing
classes, or of other kinds, will be disapproved. Pictures will be judged
as a whole, with a view to their final total effect; those portraying
evil in any form which may be easily remembered or emulated will be
disapproved."

Perhaps there are still some who remain unconvinced as to the excesses
of censorship. The argument may be advanced that nothing is wrong with
the rules mentioned if only they are enforced with discretion and
intelligence. In answer to this plea the best thing to do would be to
consider a few of the eliminations in definite pictures which were
required by the Pennsylvania board and by the one in Ohio which operates
under a somewhat similar set of regulations. An industrial play called
"The Whistle" was banned in its entirety in Pennsylvania under the
following ruling: "Disapproved under Section 6 of the Act of 1915.
Symbolism of the title raises class antagonism and hatred, and
throughout subtitles, scenes, and incidents have the same effect."

But most astounding of all was the final observation: "Child-labor and
factory laws of this State would make incident shown impossible." In
other words, if a thing did not happen in Pennsylvania it is assumed not
to have happened at all. It is entirely possible that the next producer
who brings an Indian picture to the censors may be asked to eliminate
the elephants on the ground that "there aren't any in this State."

The same State ordered out of "Officer Cupid," a comedy, a scene in
which one of the chief comedians was seen robbing a safe, presumably
under the section against showing crime upon the stage.

Most troublesome of all were the changes ordered into the screen version
of Augustus Thomas's well-known play "The Witching Hour." It may be
remembered that the villain of this piece was an assistant district
attorney in the State of Kentucky, but Pennsylvania would not have him
so. It is difficult to find any specific justification for this attitude
in the published standards of the State unless we assume that a district
attorney was classified as belonging to the group "other things held to
be sacred" which were not to be treated lightly. The first ruling of the
censors in regard to "The Witching Hour" ran: "Reel One--Eliminate
subtitle 'Frank Hardmuth, assistant district attorney,' and substitute
'Frank Hardmuth, a prosperous attorney.'"

Next came: "Reel Two--Eliminate subtitle, 'I can give her the
best--money, position, and, as far as character--I am district attorney
now, and before you know it I will be the governor,' and substitute: 'I
can give her the best--money, position, and, as far as character--I am
now a prosperous attorney, and before you know it I will be running for
governor.'"

And again: "Eliminate subtitle: 'Exactly--but you have taken an oath to
stand by this city,' and substitute: 'Exactly, but you have taken an
oath to stand by the law.'"

This curious complex that even assistant district attorneys should be
above suspicion ran through the entire film. Simpler was the change of
the famous curtain line which was familiar to all theatergoers of New
York ten or twelve seasons ago when "The Witching Hour" was one of the
hits of the season. It may be remembered that at the end of the third
act Frank Hardmuth, then a district attorney and not yet reduced to a
prosperous attorney, ran into the library of the hero to kill him. The
hero's name we have forgotten, but he was a professional gambler, of a
high type, who later turned hypnotist. Hardmuth thrust a pistol into his
stomach, and we can still see the picture and hear the line as John
Mason turned and said: "You can't shoot that gun [and then after a long
pause]: You can't even hold it." Hardmuth, played by George Nash,
staggered back and exclaimed, just before the curtain came down: "I'd
like to know how in Hell you did that to me." It can hardly have been
equally effective in moving pictures after the censor made the caption
read: "I'd like to know how you did that to me." The original version
fell under the ban against profanity.

In Ohio a more recent picture called "The Gilded Lily" had not a little
trouble. Here the Board of Censors curtly ordered: "First Reel--Cut out
girl smoking cigarette which she takes from man." Seemingly they did not
even stop to consider whether or not she smoked it suggestively. And
again in the third reel came the order: "Cut out all scenes of girl's
smoking cigarette at table." Most curious of all was the order: "Cut out
verse with words: 'I'm a little prairie flower growing wilder every
hour.'"

William Vaughn Moody's "The Faith Healer" was considered a singularly
dignified and moving play in its dramatic form, but the picture ran into
difficulties, as usual, in Pennsylvania. "Eliminate subtitle," came the
order: "'Your power is not gone because you love--but because your love
has fallen on one unworthy.'" As this is a fair statement of the idea
upon which Mr. Moody built his play, it cannot be said that anything
which the moving-picture producers brought in was responsible.

Throughout the rest of the world one may thumb his nose as a gesture of
scorn and contempt, but in Pennsylvania this becomes a public menace not
to be tolerated. "Reel Two"--we find in the records of the Board of
Censors--"eliminate view of man thumbing his nose at lion."

As a matter of fact, no rule of censorship of any sort may be framed so
wisely that by and by some circumstance will not arise under which it
may be turned to an absurd use. Any censors must have rules. No man can
continue to make decisions all day long. He must eventually fall back
upon the bulwark of printed instructions. I observed an instance of this
sort during the war. A rule was passed forbidding the mention of any
arrivals from America in France. An American captain who had brought his
wife to France ran into this regulation when he attempted to cable home
to his parents the news that he had become the proud parent of a son.
"Charles Jr. arrived to-day. Weight eight pounds. Everything fine," he
wrote on the cable blank, only to have it turned back to him with the
information: "We're not allowed to pass any messages about arrivals."

It is almost as difficult for babies to arrive in motion-picture
stories. Any suggestion which would tend to weaken the faith of any one
in storks or cabbage leaves is generally frowned upon. For a time
picture producers felt that they had discovered a safe device which
would inform adults and create no impression in the minds of younger
patrons, and pictures were filled with mothers knitting baby clothes.
This has now been ruled out as quite too shocking. "Eliminate scene
showing Bobby holding up baby's sock," the Pennsylvania body has ruled,
"and scene showing Bobby standing with wife kissing baby's sock." In
fact, there is nothing at all to be done except to make all screen
babies so many Topsies who never were born at all. Even such a simple
sentence as "And Julia Duane faced the most sacred duties of a woman's
life alone" was barred.

Like poor Julia Duane, the moving-picture producers have one problem
which they must face alone. They are confronted with difficulties
unknown to the publisher of books and the producer of plays. The movie
man must frame a story which will interest grown-ups and at the same
time contain nothing which will disturb the innocence of the youngest
child in the audience. At any rate, that is the task to which he is held
by most censorship boards. The publisher of a novel knows that there are
certain things which he may not permit to reach print without being
liable to prosecution, but at the same time he knows that he is
perfectly safe in allowing many things in his book which are not
suitable for a four-year-old-child. There is no prospect that the
four-year-old child will read it. Just so when a manager undertakes a
production of Ibsen's "Ghosts" it never enters into his head just what
its effect will be on little boys of three. But these same youngsters
will be at the picture house, and the standards of what is suitable for
them must be standards of all the others. There should, of course, be
some way of grading movie houses. There should be theaters for children
under fourteen, others with subjects suitable for spectators from
fourteen to sixty, and then small select theaters for those more than
sixty in which caution might be thrown to the winds.

Another of the difficulties of the unfortunate moving-picture producer
is the fact that censorship bodies in various parts of the country have
a faculty of seldom hitting on the same thing as objectionable. There
is, of course, a National Association of the Motion Picture Industry
which maintains its own censorship through which 92 per cent of all the
pictures exhibited in America are passed, but in addition to that
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, and Maryland have State censorship boards,
and there are numerous local bodies as well. Cecil B. De Mille
complained, shortly after his version of Geraldine Farrar in "Carmen"
was launched, that at that time there were approximately thirty-five
censorship organizations in the United States. These included various
State and municipal boards. Every one of these thirty-odd organizations
censored "Carmen." No two boards censored the same thing. In other
words, what was morally acceptable to New York was highly immoral in
Pennsylvania. What Pennsylvania might see with impunity was considered
dangerous to the citizens of an adjoining State.

Of course the question at issue is whether the potential immoral picture
shall first be shown at the producer's or the exhibitor's risk, or
whether censorship shall come first before there has been any public
showing. The contention is made by some of the moving-picture people
that they should have the same freedom given to people who deal in print
to publish first and take the consequences later if any statute has been
violated. The right to free speech, in fact, has been invoked in favor
of the motion picture as a medium of expression. This view had the
support of the late Mayor Gaynor, an excellent jurist, but apparently it
is not the view held by various State courts which have passed upon the
constitutionality of censorship laws. When the aldermen of New York City
passed an ordinance providing for the censorship of movies Mayor Gaynor
wrote: "If this ordinance is legal, then a similar ordinance in respect
of the newspapers and the theaters generally would be legal. Once revive
the censorship and there is no telling how far we may carry it."

No matter what the law, the real basis of censorship is the public
itself. Persons who feel that tighter lines of censorship must be drawn
and new bodies established go on the theory that there is a great demand
for the salacious moving-picture show. But there is no continuing appeal
in dirt in the theater. It does not permanently sell the biggest of the
magazines or the newspapers. And naturally it is not a paying commodity
to the moving-picture men. The best that the censor can do is to guess
what will be offensive to the general public. The general public can be
much more accurate in its reactions. It knows. And it is prepared to
stay away from the dirty show in droves.



XLII

CENSORING THE CENSOR


Mice and canaries were sometimes employed in France to detect the
presence of gas. When these little things began to die in their cages
the soldiers knew that the air had become dangerous. Some such system
should be devised for censorship to make it practical. Even with the
weight of authority behind him no bland person, with virtue obviously
unruffled, is altogether convincing when he announces that the book he
has just read or the moving picture he has seen is so hideously immoral
that it constitutes a danger to the community. For my part I always feel
that if he can stand it so can I. To the best of my knowledge and
belief, Mr. Sumner was not swayed from his usual course of life by so
much as a single peccadillo for all of _Jurgen_. His indignation was
altogether altruistic. He feared for the fate of weaker men and women.

Every theatrical manager, every motion picture producer, and every
publisher knows, to his sorrow, that the business of estimating the
effect of any piece of imaginative work upon others is precarious and
uncertain. Genius would be required to predict accurately the reaction
of the general public to any set piece which seems immoral to the
censor. For instance, why was Mr. Sumner so certain that _Jurgen_,
which inspired him with horror and loathing, would prove a persuasive
temptation to all the rest of the world? Censorship is serious and
drastic business; it should never rest merely upon guesswork and more
particularly not upon the guesses of men so staunch in morals that they
are obviously of distant kin to the rest of humanity.

The censor should be a person of a type capable of being blasted for the
sins of the people. His job can be elevated to dignity only when the
world realizes that he runs horrid risks. If we should choose our
censors from fallible folk we might have proof instead of opinions.
Suppose the censor of Jurgen had been some one other than Mr. Sumner,
some one so unlike the head of the vice society that after reading Mr.
Cabell's book he had come out of his room, not quivering with rage, but
leering and wearing vine leaves. In such case the rest would be easy. It
would merely be necessary to shadow the censor until he met his first
dryad. His wink would be sufficient evidence and might serve as a cue
for the rescuers to rush forward and save him. Of course there would
then be no necessity for legal proceedings in regard to the book. Expert
testimony as to its possible effects would be irrelevant. We would know
and we could all join cheerfully in the bonfire.

To my mind there are three possible positions which may logically be
taken concerning censorship. It might be entrusted to the wisest man in
the world, to a series of average men,--or be abolished. Unfortunately
it has been our experience that there is a distinct affinity between
fools and censorship. It seems to be one of those treading grounds where
they rush in. To be sure, we ought to admit a prejudice at the outset
and acknowledge that we were a reporter in France during the war at a
time when censors seemed a little more ridiculous than usual. We still
remember the young American lieutenant who held up a story of a boxing
match in Saint-Nazaire because the reporter wrote, "In the fourth round
MacBeth landed a nice right on the Irishman's nose and the claret began
to flow." "I'm sorry," said the censor, "but we have strict orders from
Major Palmer that no mention of wine or liquor is to be allowed in any
story about the American army."

Nor have we forgotten the story of General Petain's mustache. "Why,"
asked Junius Wood of the _Globe_, "have you held up my story? All the
rest have gone."

"Unfortunately," answered the courteous Frenchman, "you have twice used
the expression General Petain's 'white mustache.' I might stretch a
point and let you say 'gray mustache,' but I should much prefer to have
you say 'blond mustache.'"

"Oh, make it green with purple spots," said Junius.

The use of average men in censorship would necessitate sacrifices to the
persuasive seduction of immorality, as I have suggested, and moreover
there are very few average men. Accordingly, I am prepared to abandon
that plan of censorship. The wisest man in the world is too old and too
busy with his plays and has announced that he will never come to
America. Accordingly we venture to suggest that in time of peace we try
to get along without any censorship of plays or books or moving
pictures. I have no desire, of course, to leave Mr. Sumner
unemployed--it would perhaps be only fair to allow him to slosh around
among the picture post cards.

Once official censorship had been officially abolished, a strong and
able censorship would immediately arise consisting of the playgoing and
reading public. It is a rather offensive error to assume that the vast
majority of folk in America are rarin' to get to dirty books and dirty
plays. It is the experience of New York managers that the run of the
merely salacious play is generally short. The success which a few nasty
books have had has been largely because of the fact that they came close
to the line of things which are forbidden. Without the prohibition there
would be little popularity.

To save myself from the charge of hypocrisy I should add that personally
I believe there ought to be a certain amount of what we now know as
immoral writing. It would do no harm in a community brought up to take
it or let it alone. It is well enough for the reading public and the
critic to use terms such as moral or immoral, but they hardly belong in
the vocabulary of an artist. I have heard it said that before Lucifer
left Heaven there were no such things as virtues and vices. The world
was equipped with a certain number of traits which were qualities
without distinction or shame. But when Lucifer and the heavenly hosts
drifted into their eternal warfare it was agreed that each side should
recruit an equal number of these human, and at that time unclassified,
qualities. A coin was tossed and, whether by fair chance or sharp
miracle, Heaven won.

"I choose Blessedness," said the Captain of the Angels. It should be
explained that the selection was made without previous medical
examination, and Blessedness seemed at that time a much more robust
recruit than he has since turned out to be. A tendency to flat foot is
always hard to detect.

"Give me Beauty," said Lucifer, and from that day to this the artists of
the world have been divided into two camps--those who wished to achieve
beauty and those who wished to achieve blessedness, those who wanted to
make the world better and those who were indifferent to its salvation if
they could only succeed in making it a little more personable.

However, the conflict is not quite so simple as that. Late in the
afternoon when the Captain of the Angels had picked Unselfishness and
Moderation and Faith and Hope and Abstinence, and Lucifer had called to
his side Pride and Gluttony and Anger and Lust and Tactlessness, there
remained only two more qualities to be apportioned to the contending
sides. One of them was Sloth, who was obviously overweight, and the
other was a furtive little fellow with his cap down over his eyes.

"What's your name?" said the Captain of the Angels.

"Truth," stammered the little fellow.

"Speak up," said the Captain of the Angels so sharply that Lucifer
remonstrated, saying, "Hold on there; Anger's on my side."

"Truth," said the little fellow again but with the same somewhat
indistinct utterance which has always been so puzzling to the world.

"I don't understand you," said the Captain of the Angels, "but if it's
between you and Sloth I'll take a chance with you. Stop at the locker
room and get your harp and halo."

Now to-day even Lucifer will admit, if you get him in a corner, that
Truth is the mightiest warrior of them all. The only trouble is his
truancy. Sometimes he can't be found for centuries. Then he will bob up
unexpectedly, break a few heads, and skip away. Nothing can stand
against him. Lucifer's best ally, Beauty, is no match for him. Truth
holds every decision. But the trouble is that he still keeps his cap
down over his eyes, and he still mumbles his words, and nobody knows him
until he is at least fifty years away and moving fast. At that distance
he seems to grow bigger, and he invariably reaches into his back pocket
and puts on his halo so that people can recognize him. Still, when he
comes along the next time and is face to face with any man of this
world, the mortal is pretty sure to say, "Your face is familiar but I
can't seem to place you."

There is no denying that he isn't a good mixer. But for that he would be
an excellent censor.

       *       *       *       *       *


Etext transcriber's note:

The following changes have been made from the original text:

Frudian=>Freudian

too old and two busy=>too old and too busy

Minnegerode=>Minnigerode [Meade Minnigerode (1887-1967)]





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