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´╗┐Title: Frenzied Fiction
Author: Leacock, Stephen, 1869-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Frenzied Fiction" ***

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FRENZIED FICTION


By Stephen Leacock



CONTENTS

   I.     My Revelations as a Spy
   II.    Father Knickerbocker: A Fantasy
   III.   The Prophet in Our Midst
   IV.    Personal Adventures in the Spirit World
   V.     The Sorrows of a Summer Guest
   VI.    To Nature and Back Again
   VII.   The Cave-Man as He Is
   VIII.  Ideal Interviews--
      I.    With a European Prince
      II.   With Our Greatest Actor
      III.  With Our Greatest Scientist
      IV.   With Our Typical Novelists
   IX.    The New Education
   X.     The Errors of Santa Claus
   XI.    Lost in New York
   XII.   This Strenuous Age
   XIII.  The Old, Old Story of How Five Men Went Fishing
   XIV.   Back from the Land
   XV.    The Perplexity Column as Done by the Jaded Journalist
   XVI.   Simple Stories of Success, or How to Succeed in Life
   XVII.  In Dry Toronto
   XVIII. Merry Christmas



I. My Revelations as a Spy

In many people the very name "Spy" excites a shudder of apprehension; we
Spies, in fact, get quite used to being shuddered at. None of us Spies
mind it at all. Whenever I enter a hotel and register myself as a Spy
I am quite accustomed to see a thrill of fear run round the clerks, or
clerk, behind the desk.

Us Spies or We Spies--for we call ourselves both--are thus a race apart.
None know us. All fear us. Where do we live? Nowhere. Where are we?
Everywhere. Frequently we don't know ourselves where we are. The secret
orders that we receive come from so high up that it is often forbidden
to us even to ask where we are. A friend of mine, or at least a Fellow
Spy--us Spies have no friends--one of the most brilliant men in the
Hungarian Secret Service, once spent a month in New York under the
impression that he was in Winnipeg. If this happened to the most
brilliant, think of the others.

All, I say, fear us. Because they know and have reason to know our
power. Hence, in spite of the prejudice against us, we are able to move
everywhere, to lodge in the best hotels, and enter any society that we
wish to penetrate.

Let me relate an incident to illustrate this: a month ago I entered one
of the largest of the New York hotels which I will merely call the B.
hotel without naming it: to do so might blast it. We Spies, in fact,
never _name_ a hotel. At the most we indicate it by a number known only
to ourselves, such as 1, 2, or 3.

On my presenting myself at the desk the clerk informed me that he had no
room vacant. I knew this of course to be a mere subterfuge; whether or
not he suspected that I was a Spy I cannot say. I was muffled up, to
avoid recognition, in a long overcoat with the collar turned up and
reaching well above my ears, while the black beard and the moustache,
that I had slipped on in entering the hotel, concealed my face. "Let
me speak a moment to the manager," I said. When he came I beckoned him
aside and taking his ear in my hand I breathed two words into it. "Good
heavens!" he gasped, while his face turned as pale as ashes. "Is it
enough?" I asked. "Can I have a room, or must I breathe again?" "No,
no," said the manager, still trembling. Then, turning to the clerk:
"Give this gentleman a room," he said, "and give him a bath."

What these two words are that will get a room in New York at once I must
not divulge. Even now, when the veil of secrecy is being lifted, the
international interests involved are too complicated to permit it.
Suffice it to say that if these two had failed I know a couple of others
still better.

I narrate this incident, otherwise trivial, as indicating the astounding
ramifications and the ubiquity of the international spy system. A
similar illustration occurs to me as I write. I was walking the other
day with another man, on upper B. way between the T. Building and the W.
Garden.

"Do you see that man over there?" I said, pointing from the side of
the street on which we were walking on the sidewalk to the other side
opposite to the side that we were on.

"The man with the straw hat?" he asked. "Yes, what of him?"

"Oh, nothing," I answered, "except that he's a Spy!"

"Great heavens!" exclaimed my acquaintance, leaning up against a
lamp-post for support. "A Spy! How do you know that? What does it mean?"

I gave a quiet laugh--we Spies learn to laugh very quietly.

"Ha!" I said, "that is my secret, my friend. _Verbum sapientius! Che
sara sara! Yodel doodle doo!_"

My acquaintance fell in a dead faint upon the street. I watched them
take him away in an ambulance. Will the reader be surprised to learn
that among the white-coated attendants who removed him I recognized no
less a person than the famous Russian Spy, Poulispantzoff. What he was
doing there I could not tell. No doubt his orders came from so high up
that he himself did not know. I had seen him only twice before--once
when we were both disguised as Zulus at Buluwayo, and once in the
interior of China, at the time when Poulispantzoff made his secret entry
into Thibet concealed in a tea-case. He was inside the tea-case when I
saw him; so at least I was informed by the coolies who carried it. Yet
I recognized him instantly. Neither he nor I, however, gave any sign of
recognition other than an imperceptible movement of the outer eyelid.
(We Spies learn to move the outer lid of the eye so imperceptibly that
it cannot be seen.) Yet after meeting Poulispantzoff in this way I was
not surprised to read in the evening papers a few hours afterward
that the uncle of the young King of Siam had been assassinated. The
connection between these two events I am unfortunately not at liberty to
explain; the consequences to the Vatican would be too serious. I doubt
if it could remain top-side up.

These, however, are but passing incidents in a life filled with danger
and excitement. They would have remained unrecorded and unrevealed, like
the rest of my revelations, were it not that certain recent events have
to some extent removed the seal of secrecy from my lips. The death of
a certain royal sovereign makes it possible for me to divulge things
hitherto undivulgeable. Even now I can only tell a part, a small part,
of the terrific things that I know. When more sovereigns die I can
divulge more. I hope to keep on divulging at intervals for years. But I
am compelled to be cautious. My relations with the Wilhelmstrasse, with
Downing Street and the Quai d'Orsay, are so intimate, and my footing
with the Yildiz Kiosk and the Waldorf-Astoria and Childs' Restaurants
are so delicate, that a single _faux pas_ might prove to be a false
step.

It is now seventeen years since I entered the Secret Service of the G.
empire. During this time my activities have taken me into every quarter
of the globe, at times even into every eighth or sixteenth of it.

It was I who first brought back word to the Imperial Chancellor of
the existence of an Entente between England and France. "Is there an
Entente?" he asked me, trembling with excitement, on my arrival at the
Wilhelmstrasse. "Your Excellency," I said, "there is." He groaned. "Can
you stop it?" he asked. "Don't ask me," I said sadly. "Where must we
strike?" demanded the Chancellor. "Fetch me a map," I said. They did
so. I placed my finger on the map. "Quick, quick," said the Chancellor,
"look where his finger is." They lifted it up. "Morocco!" they cried. I
had meant it for Abyssinia but it was too late to change. That night the
warship Panther sailed under sealed orders. The rest is history, or at
least history and geography.

In the same way it was I who brought word to the Wilhelmstrasse of the
_rapprochement_ between England and Russia in Persia. "What did you
find?" asked the Chancellor as I laid aside the Russian disguise in
which I had travelled. "A _Rapprochement!_" I said. He groaned. "They
seem to get all the best words," he said.

I shall always feel, to my regret; that I am personally responsible for
the outbreak of the present war. It may have had ulterior causes. But
there is no doubt that it was precipitated by the fact that, for the
first time in seventeen years, I took a six weeks' vacation in June and
July of 1914. The consequences of this careless step I ought to have
foreseen. Yet I took such precautions as I could. "Do you think," I
asked, "that you can preserve the _status quo_ for six weeks, merely six
weeks, if I stop spying and take a rest?" "We'll try," they answered.
"Remember," I said, as I packed my things, "keep the Dardanelles closed;
have the Sandjak of Novi Bazaar properly patrolled, and let the Dobrudja
remain under a _modus vivendi_ till I come back."

Two months later, while sitting sipping my coffee at a Kurhof in the
Schwarzwald, I read in the newspapers that a German army had invaded
France and was fighting the French, and that the English expeditionary
force had crossed the Channel. "This," I said to myself, "means war." As
usual, I was right.

It is needless for me to recount here the life of busy activity that
falls to a Spy in wartime. It was necessary for me to be here, there
and everywhere, visiting all the best hotels, watering-places, summer
resorts, theatres, and places of amusement. It was necessary, moreover,
to act with the utmost caution and to assume an air of careless
indolence in order to lull suspicion asleep. With this end in view I
made a practice of never rising till ten in the morning. I breakfasted
with great leisure, and contented myself with passing the morning in a
quiet stroll, taking care, however, to keep my ears open. After lunch I
generally feigned a light sleep, keeping my ears shut. A _table d'hote_
dinner, followed by a visit to the theatre, brought the strenuous day to
a close. Few Spies, I venture to say, worked harder than I did.

It was during the third year of the war that I received a peremptory
summons from the head of the Imperial Secret Service at Berlin, Baron
Fisch von Gestern. "I want to see you," it read. Nothing more. In the
life of a Spy one learns to think quickly, and to think is to act. I
gathered as soon as I received the despatch that for some reason or
other Fisch von Gestern was anxious to see me, having, as I instantly
inferred, something to say to me. This conjecture proved correct.

The Baron rose at my entrance with military correctness and shook hands.

"Are you willing," he inquired, "to undertake a mission to America?"

"I am," I answered.

"Very good. How soon can you start?"

"As soon as I have paid the few bills that I owe in Berlin," I replied.

"We can hardly wait for that," said my chief, "and in case it might
excite comment. You must start to-night!"

"Very good," I said.

"Such," said the Baron, "are the Kaiser's orders. Here is an American
passport and a photograph that will answer the purpose. The likeness is
not great, but it is sufficient."

"But," I objected, abashed for a moment, "this photograph is of a man
with whiskers and I am, unfortunately, clean-shaven."

"The orders are imperative," said Gestern, with official hauteur. "You
must start to-night. You can grow whiskers this afternoon."

"Very good," I replied.

"And now to the business of your mission," continued the Baron.
"The United States, as you have perhaps heard, is making war against
Germany."

"I have heard so," I replied.

"Yes," continued Gestern. "The fact has leaked out--how, we do not
know--and is being widely reported. His Imperial Majesty has decided to
stop the war with the United States."

I bowed.

"He intends to send over a secret treaty of the same nature as the one
recently made with his recent Highness the recent Czar of Russia. Under
this treaty Germany proposes to give to the United States the whole of
equatorial Africa and in return the United States is to give to Germany
the whole of China. There are other provisions, but I need not trouble
you with them. Your mission relates, not to the actual treaty, but to
the preparation of the ground."

I bowed again.

"You are aware, I presume," continued the Baron, "that in all high
international dealings, at least in Europe, the ground has to be
prepared. A hundred threads must be unravelled. This the Imperial
Government itself cannot stoop to do. The work must be done by agents
like yourself. You understand all this already, no doubt?"

I indicated my assent.

"These, then, are your instructions," said the Baron, speaking slowly
and distinctly, as if to impress his words upon my memory. "On your
arrival in the United States you will follow the accredited methods that
are known to be used by all the best Spies of the highest diplomacy.
You have no doubt read some of the books, almost manuals of instruction,
that they have written?"

"I have read many of them," I said.

"Very well. You will enter, that is to say, enter and move everywhere in
the best society. Mark specially, please, that you must not only _enter_
it but you must _move_. You must, if I may put it so, get a move on."

I bowed.

"You must mix freely with the members of the Cabinet. You must dine with
them. This is a most necessary matter and one to be kept well in mind.
Dine with them often in such a way as to make yourself familiar to them.
Will you do this?"

"I will," I said.

"Very good. Remember also that in order to mask your purpose you must
constantly be seen with the most fashionable and most beautiful women of
the American capital. Can you do this?"

"Can I?" I said.

"You must if need be"--and the Baron gave a most significant look which
was not lost upon me--"carry on an intrigue with one or, better, with
several of them. Are you ready for it?"

"More than ready," I said.

"Very good. But this is only a part. You are expected also to
familiarize yourself with the leaders of the great financial interests.
You are to put yourself on such a footing with them as to borrow large
sums of money from them. Do you object to this?"

"No," I said frankly, "I do not."

"Good! You will also mingle freely in Ambassadorial and foreign circles.
It would be well for you to dine, at least once a week, with the British
Ambassador. And now one final word"--here Gestern spoke with singular
impressiveness--"as to the President of the United States."

"Yes," I said.

"You must mix with him on a footing of the most open-handed
friendliness. Be at the White House continually. Make yourself in the
fullest sense of the words the friend and adviser of the President. All
this I think is clear. In fact, it is only what is done, as you know, by
all the masters of international diplomacy."

"Precisely," I said.

"Very good. And then," continued the Baron, "as soon as you find
yourself sufficiently _en rapport_ with everybody, or I should say," he
added in correction, for the Baron shares fully in the present German
horror of imported French words, "when you find yourself sufficiently
in enggeknupfterverwandtschaft with everybody, you may then proceed to
advance your peace terms. And now, my dear fellow," said the Baron,
with a touch of genuine cordiality, "one word more. Are you in need of
money?"

"Yes," I said.

"I thought so. But you will find that you need it less and less as you
go on. Meantime, good-bye, and best wishes for your mission."

Such was, such is, in fact, the mission with which I am accredited. I
regard it as by far the most important mission with which I have been
accredited by the Wilhelmstrasse. Yet I am compelled to admit that up to
the present it has proved unsuccessful. My attempts to carry it out
have been baffled. There is something perhaps in the atmosphere of this
republic which obstructs the working of high diplomacy. For over five
months now I have been waiting and willing to dine with the American
Cabinet. They have not invited me. For four weeks I sat each night
waiting in the J. hotel in Washington with my suit on ready to be asked.
They did not come near me.

Nor have I yet received an invitation from the British Embassy inviting
me to an informal lunch or to midnight supper with the Ambassador.
Everybody who knows anything of the inside working of the international
spy system will realize that without these invitations one can do
nothing. Nor has the President of the United States given any sign. I
have sent ward to him, in cipher, that I am ready to dine with him on
any day that may be convenient to both of us. He has made no move in the
matter.

Under these circumstances an intrigue with any of the leaders of
fashionable society has proved impossible. My attempts to approach them
have been misunderstood--in fact, have led to my being invited to
leave the J. hotel. The fact that I was compelled to leave it, owing to
reasons that I cannot reveal, without paying my account, has occasioned
unnecessary and dangerous comment. I connect it, in fact, with the
singular attitude adopted by the B. hotel on my arrival in New York, to
which I have already referred.

I have therefore been compelled to fall back on revelations and
disclosures. Here again I find the American atmosphere singularly
uncongenial. I have offered to reveal to the Secretary of State the
entire family history of Ferdinand of Bulgaria for fifty dollars. He
says it is not worth it. I have offered to the British Embassy the
inside story of the Abdication of Constantine for five dollars. They say
they know it, and knew it before it happened. I have offered, for little
more than a nominal sum, to blacken the character of every reigning
family in Germany. I am told that it is not necessary.

Meantime, as it is impossible to return to Central Europe, I expect to
open either a fruit store or a peanut stand very shortly in this great
metropolis. I imagine that many of my former colleagues will soon be
doing the same!



II. Father Knickerbocker: A Fantasy

It happened quite recently--I think it must have been on April the
second of 1917--that I was making the long pilgrimage on a day-train
from the remote place where I dwell to the city of New York. And as we
drew near the city, and day darkened into night, I had fallen to reading
from a quaint old copy of Washington Irving's immortal sketches of
Father Knickerbocker and of the little town where once he dwelt.

I had picked up the book I know not where. Very old it apparently was
and made in England. For there was pasted across the fly-leaf of it an
extract from some ancient magazine or journal of a century ago, giving
what was evidently a description of the New York of that day.

From reading the book I turned--my head still filled with the vision
of Father Knickerbocker and Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown--to examine
the extract. I read it in a sort of half-doze, for the dark had fallen
outside, and the drowsy throbbing of the running train attuned one's
mind to dreaming of the past.

"The town of New York"--so ran the extract pasted in the little
book--"is pleasantly situated at the lower extremity of the Island
of Manhattan. Its recent progress has been so amazing that it is now
reputed, on good authority, to harbour at least twenty thousand souls.
Viewed from the sea, it presents, even at the distance of half a mile, a
striking appearance owing to the number and beauty of its church spires,
which rise high above the roofs and foliage and give to the place its
characteristically religious aspect. The extreme end of the island is
heavily fortified with cannon, commanding a range of a quarter of a
mile, and forbidding all access to the harbour. Behind this Battery a
neat greensward affords a pleasant promenade, where the citizens are
accustomed to walk with their wives every morning after church."

"How I should like to have seen it!" I murmured to myself as I laid
the book aside for a moment. "The Battery, the harbour and the citizens
walking with their wives, their own wives, on the greensward."

Then I read on:

"From the town itself a wide thoroughfare, the Albany Post Road, runs
meandering northward through the fields. It is known for some distance
under the name of the Broad Way, and is so wide that four moving
vehicles are said to be able to pass abreast. The Broad Way, especially
in the springtime when it is redolent with the scent of clover and
apple-blossoms, is a favourite evening promenade for the citizens--with
their wives--after church. Here they may be seen any evening strolling
toward the high ground overlooking the Hudson, their wives on one arm,
a spyglass under the other, in order to view what they can see. Down
the Broad Way may be seen moving also droves of young lambs with their
shepherds, proceeding to the market, while here and there a goat stands
quietly munching beside the road and gazing at the passers-by."

"It seems," I muttered to myself as I read, "in some ways but little
changed after all."

"The town"--so the extract continued--"is not without its amusements. A
commodious theatre presents with great success every Saturday night the
plays of Shakespeare alternating with sacred concerts; the New Yorker,
indeed, is celebrated throughout the provinces for his love of amusement
and late hours. The theatres do not come out until long after nine
o'clock, while for the gayer habitues two excellent restaurants serve
fish, macaroni, prunes and other delicacies till long past ten at
night. The dress of the New Yorker is correspondingly gay. In the other
provinces the men wear nothing but plain suits of a rusty black, whereas
in New York there are frequently seen suits of brown, snuff-colour and
even of pepper-and-salt. The costumes of the New York women are equally
daring, and differ notably from the quiet dress of New England.

"In fine, it is commonly said in the provinces that a New Yorker can be
recognized anywhere, with his wife, by their modish costumes, their easy
manners and their willingness to spend money--two, three and even five
cents being paid for the smallest service."

"Dear me," I thought, as I paused a moment in my reading, "so they had
begun it even then."

"The whole spirit of the place"--the account continued--"has recently
been admirably embodied in literary form by an American writer, Mr.
Washington Irving (not to be confounded with George Washington). His
creation of Father Knickerbocker is so lifelike that it may be said to
embody the very spirit of New York. The accompanying woodcut--which
was drawn on wood especially for this periodical--recalls at once the
delightful figure of Father Knickerbocker. The New Yorkers of to-day
are accustomed, indeed, to laugh at Mr. Irving's fancy and to say that
Knickerbocker belongs to a day long since past. Yet those who know tell
us that the image of the amiable old gentleman, kindly but irascible,
generous and yet frugal, loving his town and seeing little beyond it,
may be held once and for all to typify the spirit of the place, without
reference to any particular time or generation."

"Father Knickerbocker!" I murmured, as I felt myself dozing off to
sleep, rocked by the motion of the car. "Father Knickerbocker, how
strange if he could be here again and see the great city as we know it
now! How different from his day! How I should love to go round New York
and show it to him as it is."

So I mused and dozed till the very rumble of the wheels seemed to
piece together in little snatches. "Father Knickerbocker--Father
Knickerbocker--the Battery--the Battery--citizens walking with their
wives, with their wives--their own wives"--until presently, I imagine, I
must have fallen asleep altogether and knew no more till my journey was
over and I found myself among the roar and bustle of the concourse of
the Grand Central.

And there, lo and behold, waiting to meet me, was Father Knickerbocker
himself! I know not how it happened, by what queer freak of
hallucination or by what actual miracle--let those explain it who deal
in such things--but there he stood before me, with an outstretched hand
and a smile of greeting, Father Knickerbocker himself, the Embodied
Spirit of New York.

"How strange," I said. "I was just reading about you in a book on the
train and imagining how much I should like actually to meet you and to
show you round New York."

The old man laughed in a jaunty way.

"Show _me_ round?" he said. "Why, my dear boy, _I live here_."

"I know you did long ago," I said.

"I do still," said Father Knickerbocker. "I've never left the place.
I'll show _you_ around. But wait a bit--don't carry that handbag. I'll
get a boy to call a porter to fetch a man to take it."

"Oh, I can carry it," I said. "It's a mere nothing."

"My dear fellow," said Father Knickerbocker, a little testily I thought,
"I'm as democratic and as plain and simple as any man in this city. But
when it comes to carrying a handbag in full sight of all this crowd,
why, as I said to Peter Stuyvesant about--about"--here a misty look
seemed to come over the old gentleman's face--"about two hundred years
ago, I'll be hanged if I will. It can't be done. It's not up to date."

While he was saying this, Father Knickerbocker had beckoned to a group
of porters.

"Take this gentleman's handbag," he said, "and you carry his newspapers,
and you take his umbrella. Here's a quarter for you and a quarter for
you and a quarter for you. One of you go in front and lead the way to a
taxi."

"Don't you know the way yourself?" I asked in a half-whisper.

"Of course I do, but I generally like to walk with a boy in front of me.
We all do. Only the cheap people nowadays find their own way."

Father Knickerbocker had taken my arm and was walking along in a queer,
excited fashion, senile and yet with a sort of forced youthfulness in
his gait and manner.

"Now then," he said, "get into this taxi."

"Can't we _walk_?" I asked.

"Impossible," said the old gentleman. "It's five blocks to where we are
going."

As we took our seats I looked again at my companion; this time more
closely. Father Knickerbocker he certainly was, yet somehow strangely
transformed from my pictured fancy of the Sleepy Hollow days. His
antique coat with its wide skirt had, it seemed, assumed a modish cut
as if in imitation of the bell-shaped spring overcoat of the young man
about town. His three-cornered hat was set at a rakish angle till it
looked almost like an up-to-date fedora. The great stick that he used
to carry had somehow changed itself into the curved walking-stick of a
Broadway lounger. The solid old shoes with their wide buckles were gone.
In their place he wore narrow slippers of patent leather of which he
seemed inordinately proud, for he had stuck his feet up ostentatiously
on the seat opposite. His eyes followed my glance toward his shoes.

"For the fox-trot," he said. "The old ones were no good. Have a
cigarette? These are Armenian, or would you prefer a Honolulan or a
Nigerian? Now," he resumed, when we had lighted our cigarettes, "what
would you like to do first? Dance the tango? Hear some Hawaiian music,
drink cocktails, or what?"

"Why, what I should like most of all, Father Knickerbocker--"

But he interrupted me.

"There's a devilish fine woman! Look, the tall blonde one! Give me
blondes every time!" Here he smacked his lips. "By gad, sir, the women
in this town seem to get finer every century. What were you saying?"

"Why, Father Knickerbocker," I began, but he interrupted me again.

"My dear fellow," he said. "May I ask you not to call me _Father_
Knickerbocker?"

"But I thought you were so old," I said humbly.

"Old! Me _old_! Oh, I don't know. Why, dash it, there are plenty of men
as old as I am dancing the tango here every night. Pray call me, if you
don't mind, just Knickerbocker, or simply Knicky--most of the other boys
call me Knicky. Now what's it to be?"

"Most of all," I said, "I should like to go to some quiet place and have
a talk about the old days."

"Right," he said. "We're going to just the place now--nice quiet dinner,
a good quiet orchestra, Hawaiian, but quiet, and lots of women." Here
he smacked his lips again, and nudged me with his elbow. "Lots of women,
bunches of them. Do you like women?"

"Why, Mr. Knickerbocker," I said hesitatingly, "I suppose--I--"

The old man sniggered as he poked me again in the ribs.

"You bet you do, you dog!" he chuckled. "We _all_ do. For me, I confess
it, sir, I can't sit down to dinner without plenty of women, stacks of
them, all round me."

Meantime the taxi had stopped. I was about to open the door and get out.

"Wait, wait," said Father Knickerbocker, his hand upon my arm, as he
looked out of the window. "I'll see somebody in a minute who'll let us
out for fifty cents. None of us here ever gets in or out of anything by
ourselves. It's bad form. Ah, here he is!"

A moment later we had passed through the portals of a great restaurant,
and found ourselves surrounded with all the colour and tumult of a New
York dinner _a la mode_. A burst of wild music, pounded and thrummed
out on ukuleles by a group of yellow men in Hawaiian costume, filled the
room, helping to drown or perhaps only serving to accentuate the babel
of talk and the clatter of dishes that arose on every side. Men in
evening dress and women in all the colours of the rainbow, _decollete_
to a degree, were seated at little tables, blowing blue smoke into the
air, and drinking green and yellow drinks from glasses with thin stems.
A troupe of _cabaret_ performers shouted and leaped on a little stage at
the side of the room, unheeded by the crowd.

"Ha ha!" said Knickerbocker, as we drew in our chairs to a table. "Some
place, eh? There's a peach! Look at her! Or do you like better that
lazy-looking brunette next to her?"

Mr. Knickerbocker was staring about the room, gazing at the women with
open effrontery, and a senile leer upon his face. I felt ashamed of him.
Yet, oddly enough, no one about us seemed in the least disturbed.

"Now, what cocktail will you have?" said my companion. "There's a new
one this week, the Fantan, fifty cents each, will you have that? Right?
Two Fantans. Now to eat--what would you like?"

"May I have a slice of cold beef and a pint of ale?"

"Beef!" said Knickerbocker contemptuously. "My dear fellow, you can't
have that. Beef is only fifty cents. Do take something reasonable. Try
Lobster Newburg, or no, here's a more expensive thing--Filet Bourbon
a la something. I don't know what it is, but by gad, sir, it's three
dollars a portion anyway."

"All right," I said. "You order the dinner."

Mr. Knickerbocker proceeded to do so, the head-waiter obsequiously at
his side, and his long finger indicating on the menu everything that
seemed most expensive and that carried the most incomprehensible name.
When he had finished he turned to me again.

"Now," he said, "let's talk."

"Tell me," I said, "about the old days and the old times on Broadway."

"Ah, yes," he answered, "the old days--you mean ten years ago before the
Winter Garden was opened. We've been going ahead, sir, going ahead. Why,
ten years ago there was practically nothing, sir, above Times Square,
and look at it now."

I began to realize that Father Knickerbocker, old as he was, had
forgotten all the earlier times with which I associated his memory.
There was nothing left but the _cabarets_, and the Gardens, the Palm
Rooms, and the ukuleles of to-day. Behind that his mind refused to
travel.

"Don't you remember," I asked, "the apple orchards and the quiet groves
of trees that used to line Broadway long ago?"

"Groves!" he said. "I'll show you a grove, a coconut grove"--here he
winked over his wineglass in a senile fashion--"that has apple-trees
beaten from here to Honolulu." Thus he babbled on.

All through our meal his talk continued: of _cabarets_ and dances, or
fox-trots and midnight suppers, of blondes and brunettes, "peaches" and
"dreams," and all the while his eye roved incessantly among the tables,
resting on the women with a bold stare. At times he would indicate and
point out for me some of what he called the "representative people"
present.

"Notice that man at the second table," he would whisper across to
me. "He's worth all the way to ten millions: made it in Government
contracts; they tried to send him to the penitentiary last fall but
they can't get him--he's too smart for them! I'll introduce you to him
presently. See the man with him? That's his lawyer, biggest crook in
America, they say; we'll meet him after dinner." Then he would suddenly
break off and exclaim: "Egad, sir, there's a fine bunch of them," as
another bevy of girls came trooping out upon the stage.

"I wonder," I murmured, "if there is nothing left of him but this?
Has all the fine old spirit gone? Is it all drowned out in wine and
suffocated in the foul atmosphere of luxury?"

Then suddenly I looked up at my companion, and I saw to my surprise that
his whole face and manner had altered. His hand was clenched tight on
the edge of the table. His eyes looked before him--through and beyond
the riotous crowd all about him--into vacancy, into the far past,
back into memories that I thought forgotten. His face had altered. The
senile, leering look was gone, and in its place the firm-set face of the
Knickerbocker of a century ago.

He was speaking in a strange voice, deep and strong.

"Listen," he said, "listen. Do you hear it--there--far out at
sea--ships' guns--listen--they're calling for help--ships' guns--far out
at sea!" He had clasped me by the arm. "Quick, to the Battery, they'll
need every man to-night, they'll--"

Then he sank back into his chair. His look changed again. The vision
died out of his eyes.

"What was I saying?" he asked. "Ah, yes, this old brandy, a very special
brand. They keep it for me here, a dollar a glass. They know me here,"
he added in his fatuous way. "All the waiters know me. The headwaiter
always knows me the minute I come into the room--keeps a chair for me.
Now try this brandy and then presently we'll move on and see what's
doing at some of the shows."

But somehow, in spite of himself, my companion seemed to be unable to
bring himself fully back into the consciousness of the scene before him.
The far-away look still lingered in his eyes.

Presently he turned and spoke to me in a low, confidential tone.

"Was I talking to myself a moment ago?" he asked. "Yes? Ah, I feared
I was. Do you know--I don't mind telling it to you--lately I've had a
strange, queer feeling that comes over me at times, as if _something
were happening_--something, I don't know what. I suppose," he continued,
with a false attempt at resuming his fatuous manner, "I'm going the
pace a little too hard, eh! Makes one fanciful. But the fact is, at
times"--he spoke gravely again--"I feel as if there were something
happening, something coming."

"Knickerbocker," I said earnestly, "Father Knickerbocker, don't you know
that something _is_ happening, that this very evening as we are sitting
here in all this riot, the President of the United States is to come
before Congress on the most solemn mission that ever--"

But my speech fell unheeded. Knickerbocker had picked up his glass again
and was leering over it at a bevy of girls dancing upon the stage.

"Look at that girl," he interrupted quickly, "the one dancing at the
end. What do you think of her, eh? Some peach!"

Knickerbocker broke off suddenly. For at this moment our ears caught the
sound of a noise, a distant tumult, as it were, far down the street and
growing nearer. The old man had drawn himself erect in his seat, his
hand to his ear, listening as he caught the sound.

"Out on the Broad Way," he said, instinctively calling it by its
ancient name as if a flood of memories were upon him. "Do you hear it?
Listen--listen--what is it? I've heard that sound before--I've heard
every sound on the Broad Way these two centuries back--what is it? I
seem to know it!"

The sound and tumult as of running feet and of many voices crying came
louder from the street. The people at the tables had turned in their
seats to listen. The music of the orchestra had stopped. The waiters
had thrown back the heavy curtains from the windows and the people were
crowding to them to look out into the street. Knickerbocker had risen in
his place, his eyes looked toward the windows, but his gaze was fixed on
vacancy as with one who sees a vision passing.

"I know the sound," he cried. "I see it all again. Look, can't you see
them? It's Massachusetts soldiers marching South to the war--can't you
hear the beating of the drums and the shrill calling of the fife--the
regiments from the North, the first to come. I saw them pass, here where
we are sitting, sixty years ago--"

Knickerbocker paused a moment, his hand still extended in the air, and
then with a great light upon his face he cried:

"I know it now! I know what it meant, the feeling that has haunted
me--the sounds I kept hearing--the guns of the ships at sea and the
voices calling in distress! I know now. It means, sir, it means--"

But as he spoke a great cry came up from the street and burst in at the
doors and windows, echoing in a single word:

WAR! WAR! The message of the President is for WAR!

"War!" cried Father Knickerbocker, rising to his full height, stern and
majestic and shouting in a stentorian tone that echoed through the great
room. "War! War! To your places, every one of you! Be done with your
idle luxury! Out with the glare of your lights! Begone you painted women
and worthless men! To your places every man of you! To the Battery! Man
the guns! Stand to it, every one of you for the defence of America--for
our New York, New York--"

Then, with the sound "New York, New York" still echoing in my ears I
woke up. The vision of my dream was gone. I was still on the seat of
the car where I had dozed asleep, the book upon my knee. The train had
arrived at the depot and the porters were calling into the doorway of
the car: "New York! New York!"

All about me was the stir and hubbub of the great depot. But loud
over all it was heard the call of the newsboys crying "WAR! WAR! The
President's message is for WAR! Late extra! WAR! WAR!"

And I knew that a great nation had cast aside the bonds of sloth
and luxury, and was girding itself to join in the fight for the free
democracy of all mankind.



III. The Prophet in Our Midst

The Eminent Authority looked around at the little group of us seated
about him at the club. He was telling us, or beginning to tell us,
about the outcome of the war. It was a thing we wanted to know. We were
listening attentively. We felt that we were "getting something."

"I doubt very much," he said, "whether Downing Street realizes the
enormous power which the Quai d'Orsay has over the Yildiz Kiosk."

"So do I," I said, "what is it?"

But he hardly noticed the interruption.

"You've got to remember," he went on, "that, from the point of view of
the Yildiz, the Wilhelmstrasse is just a thing of yesterday."

"Quite so," I said.

"Of course," he added, "the Ballplatz is quite different."

"Altogether different," I admitted.

"And mind you," he said, "the Ballplatz itself can be largely moved from
the Quirinal through the Vatican."

"Why of course it can," I agreed, with as much relief in my tone as I
could put into it. After all, what simpler way of moving the Ballplatz
than that?

The Eminent Authority took another sip at his tea, and looked round at
us through his spectacles.

It was I who was taking on myself to do most of the answering, because
it was I who had brought him there and invited the other men to meet
him. "He's coming round at five," I had said, "do come and have a cup
of tea and meet him. He knows more about the European situation and
the probable solution than any other man living." Naturally they came
gladly. They wanted to know--as everybody wants to know--how the war
will end. They were just ordinary plain men like myself.

I could see that they were a little mystified, perhaps disappointed.
They would have liked, just as I would, to ask a few plain questions,
such as, can the Italians knock the stuff out of the Austrians? Are the
Rumanians getting licked or not? How many submarines has Germany got,
anyway? Such questions, in fact, as we are accustomed to put up to one
another every day at lunch and to answer out of the morning paper. As it
was, we didn't seem to be getting anywhere.

No one spoke. The silence began to be even a little uncomfortable. It
was broken by my friend Rapley, who is in wholesale hardware and who has
all the intellectual bravery that goes with it. He asked the Authority
straight out the question that we all wanted to put.

"Just what do you mean by the Ballplatz? What is the Ballplatz?"

The Authority smiled an engaging smile.

"Precisely," he said, "I see your drift exactly. You say what _is_ the
Ballplatz? I reply quite frankly that it is almost impossible to answer.
Probably one could best define it as the driving power behind the
Ausgleich."

"I see," said Rapley.

"Though the plain fact is that ever since the Herzegovinian embroglio
the Ballplatz is little more than a counterpoise to the Wilhelmstrasse."

"Ah!" said Rapley.

"Indeed, as everybody knows, the whole relationship of the Ballplatz
with the Nevski Prospekt has emanated from the Wilhelmstrasse."

This was a thing which personally I had _not_ known. But I said nothing.
Neither did the other men. They continued smoking, looking as innocent
as they could.

"Don't misunderstand me," said the Authority, "when I speak of the
Nevski Prospekt. I am not referring in any way to the Tsarskoe Selo."

"No, no," we all agreed.

"No doubt there were, as we see it plainly now, under currents in all
directions from the Tsarskoe Selo."

We all seemed to suggest by our attitude that these undercurrents were
sucking at our very feet.

"But the Tsarskoe Selo," said the Authority, "is now definitely
eliminated."

We were glad of that; we shifted our feet back into attitudes of ease.

I felt that it was time to ask a leading question.

"Do you think," I said, "that Germany will be broken up by the war?"

"You mean Germany in what sense? Are you thinking of Preuszenthum? Are
you referring to Junkerismus?"

"No," I said, quite truthfully, "neither of them."

"Ah," said the Authority, "I see; you mean Germany as a Souverantat
embodied in a Reichsland."

"That's it," I said.

"Then it's rather hard," said the Eminent Authority, "to answer
your question in plain terms. But I'll try. One thing, of course, is
_absolutely_ certain, Mittel-Europa goes overboard."

"It does, eh?"

"Oh, yes, absolutely. This is the end of Mittel-Europa. I mean to
say--here we've had Mittel-Europa, that is, the Mittel-Europa _idea_, as
a sort of fantasmus in front of Teutonism ever since Koniggratz."

The Authority looked all round us in that searching way he had. We all
tried to look like men seeing a fantasmus and disgusted at it.

"So you see," he went on, "Mittel-Europa is done with."

"I suppose it is," I said. I didn't know just whether to speak with
regret or not. I heard Rapley murmur, "I guess so."

"And there is not a doubt," continued the Authority, "that when
Mittel-Europa goes, Grossdeutschthum goes with it."

"Oh, sure to," we all murmured.

"Well, then, there you are--what is the result for Germany--why the
thing's as plain as a pikestaff--in fact you're driven to it by the
sheer logic of the situation--there is only _one_ outcome--"

The Authority was speaking very deliberately. He even paused at this
point and lighted a cigarette, while we all listened breathlessly. We
felt that we had got the thing to a focus at last.

"Only one outcome--a Staatenbund."

"Great heavens," I said, "not a Staatenbund!"

"Undoubtedly," said the Authority, puffing quietly at his cigarette, as
if personally he wouldn't lift a finger to stop the Staatenbund if he
could, "that's the end of it, a Staatenbund. In other words, we are back
where we were before the Vienna Congress!"

At this he chuckled heartily to himself: so the rest of us laughed too:
the thing was _too_ absurd. But the Authority, who was a man of nice
distinctions and genuinely anxious to instruct us, was evidently afraid
that he had overstated things a little.

"Mind you," he said, "there'll be _something_ left--certainly the
Zollverein and either the Ausgleich or something very like it."

All of the men gave a sort of sigh of relief. It was certainly something
to have at least a sort of resemblance or appearance of the Ausgleich
among us. We felt that we were getting on. One could see that a number
of the men were on the brink of asking questions.

"What about Rumania," asked Nelles--he is a banker and interested in
government bonds--"is this the end of it?"

"No," said the Authority, "it's not the end of Rumania, but it _is_ the
end of Rumanian Irridentismus."

That settled Nelles.

"What about the Turks?" asked Rapley.

"The Turks, or rather, I suppose it would be more proper to say, the
Osmanli, as that is no doubt what you mean?" Rapley nodded. "Well,
speaking personally, I should say that there's no difficulty in a
permanent settlement in that quarter. If I were drawing up the terms
of a treaty of peace meant to be really lasting I should lay down three
absolute bases; the rest needn't matter"--the Authority paused a moment
and then proceeded to count off the three conditions of peace on his
fingers--"These would be, first, the evacuation of the Sandjak; second,
an international guarantee for the Capitulations; and third, for
internal matters, an arrangement along the lines of the original firman
of Midhat Pasha."

A murmur of complete satisfaction went round the group.

"I don't say," continued the Eminent Authority, "that there wouldn't be
other minor matters to adjust; but they would be a mere detail. You
ask me, for instance, for a _milice_, or at least a gendarmerie, in the
Albanian hinterland; very good, I grant it you at once. You retain, if
you like, you abolish the Cypriotic suzerainty of the Porte--all right.
These are matters of indifference."

We all assumed a look of utter indifference.

"But what about the Dardanelles? Would you have them fixed so that ships
could go through, or not?" asked Rapley.

He is a plain man, not easily put down and liking a plain answer. He got
it.

"The Dardanelles," said the Authority, "could easily be denationalized
under a quadrilateral guarantee to be made a pars materia of the pactum
foederis."

"That ought to hold them," I murmured.

The Authority felt now that he had pretty well settled the map of
Europe. He rose and shook hands with us all around very cordially. We
did not try to detain him. We felt that time like his was too valuable
to be wasted on things like us.

"Well, I tell you," said Rapley, as we settled back into our chairs when
the Great Authority had gone, "my own opinion, boys, is that the United
States and England can trim Germany and Austria any day in the week and
twice on Sunday."

After which somebody else said:

"I wonder how many of these submarines Germany has, anyway?"

And then we drifted back into the humbler kind of war talk that we have
been carrying on for three years.

But later, as we walked home together, Rapley said to me:

"That fellow threw a lot of light on things in Europe, didn't he?"

And I answered:

"Yes."

What liars we all are!



IV. Personal Adventures in the Spirit World

I do not write what follows with the expectation of convincing or
converting anybody. We Spiritualists, or Spiritists--we call ourselves
both, or either--never ask anybody to believe us. If they do, well and
good. If not, all right. Our attitude simply is that facts are facts.
There they are; believe them or not as you like. As I said the other
night, in conversation with Aristotle and John Bunyan and George
Washington and a few others, why should anybody believe us? Aristotle,
I recollect, said that all that he wished was that everybody should know
how happy he was; and Washington said that for his part, if people
only knew how bright and beautiful it all was where he was, they would
willingly, indeed gladly, pay the mere dollar--itself only a nominal
fee--that it cost to talk to him. Bunyan, I remember, added that he
himself was quite happy.

But, as I say, I never ask anybody to believe me; the more so as I was
once an absolute sceptic myself. As I see it now, I was prejudiced. The
mere fact that spiritual seances and the services of a medium involved
the payment of money condemned the whole thing in my eyes. I did not
realize, as I do now, that these _medii_, like anybody else, have got to
live; otherwise they would die and become spirits.

Nor would I now place these disclosures before the public eyes were if
not that I think that in the present crisis they will prove of value to
the Allied cause.

But let me begin at the beginning. My own conversion to spiritualism
came about, like that of so many others, through the more or less casual
remark of a Friend.

Noticing me one day gloomy and depressed, this Friend remarked to me:

"Have you any belief in Spiritualism?"

Had it come from anyone else, I should have turned the question aside
with a sneer. But it so happens that I owe a great deal of gratitude to
this particular Friend. It was he who, at a time when I was so afflicted
with rheumatism that I could scarcely leap five feet into the air
without pain, said to me one day quite casually: "Have you ever tried
pyro for your rheumatism?" One month later I could leap ten feet in the
air--had I been able to--without the slightest malaise. The same man,
I may add, hearing me one day exclaiming to myself: "Oh, if there were
anything that would remove the stains from my clothes!" said to me very
simply and quietly: "Have you ever washed them in luxo?" It was he, too,
who, noticing a haggard look on my face after breakfast one morning,
inquired immediately what I had been eating for breakfast; after which,
with a simplicity and directness which I shall never forget, he said:
"Why not eat humpo?"

Nor can I ever forget my feeling on another occasion when, hearing me
exclaim aloud: "Oh, if there were only something invented for removing
the proteins and amygdaloids from a carbonized diet and leaving only the
pure nitrogenous life-giving elements!" seized my hand in his, and said
in a voice thrilled with emotion: "There is! It has!"

The reader will understand, therefore, that a question, or query,
from such a Friend was not to be put lightly aside. When he asked if I
believed in Spiritualism I answered with perfect courtesy:

"To be quite frank, I do not."

There was silence between us for a time, and then my Friend said:

"Have you ever given it a trial?"

I paused a moment, as the idea was a novel one.

"No," I answered, "to be quite candid, I have not."

Neither of us spoke for perhaps twenty minutes after this, when my
Friend said:

"Have you anything against it?"

I thought awhile and then I said:

"Yes, I have."

My Friend remained silent for perhaps half an hour. Then he asked:

"What?"

I meditated for some time. Then I said:

"This--it seems to me that the whole thing is done for money. How
utterly unnatural it is to call up the dead--one's great-grandfather,
let us say--and pay money for talking to him."

"Precisely," said my Friend without a moment's pause. "I thought so. Now
suppose I could bring you into contact with the spirit world through a
medium, or through different _medii_, without there being any question
of money, other than a merely nominal fee, the money being, as it were,
left out of count, and regarded as only, so to speak, nominal, something
given merely _pro forma_ and _ad interim_. Under these circumstances,
will you try the experiment?"

I rose and took my Friend's hand.

"My dear fellow," I said, "I not only will, but I shall."

From this conversation dated my connection with Spiritualism, which has
since opened for me a new world.

It would be out of place for me to indicate the particular address
or the particular methods employed by the agency to which my Friend
introduced me. I am anxious to avoid anything approaching a commercial
tinge in what I write. Moreover, their advertisement can be seen
along with many others--all, I am sure, just as honourable and just as
trustworthy--in the columns of any daily newspaper. As everybody knows,
many methods are employed. The tapping of a table, the movement of a
ouija board, or the voice of a trance medium, are only a few among the
many devices by which the spirits now enter into communication with us.
But in my own case the method used was not only simplicity itself, but
was so framed as to carry with it the proof of its own genuineness. One
had merely to speak into the receiver of a telephone, and the voice of
the spirit was heard through the transmitter as in an ordinary telephone
conversation.

It was only natural, after the scoffing remark that I had made, that
I should begin with my great-grandfather. Nor can I ever forget the
peculiar thrill that went through me when I was informed by the head
of the agency that a tracer was being sent out for Great-grandfather to
call him to the phone.

Great-grandfather--let me do him this justice--was prompt. He was
there in three minutes. Whatever his line of business was in the
spirit world--and I was never able to learn it--he must have left it
immediately and hurried to the telephone. Whatever later dissatisfaction
I may have had with Great-grandfather, let me state it fairly and
honestly, he is at least a punctual man. Every time I called he came
right away without delay. Let those who are inclined to cavil at the
methods of the Spiritualists reflect how impossible it would be to
secure such punctuality on anything but a basis of absolute honesty.

In my first conversation with Great-grandfather, I found myself so
absurdly nervous at the thought of the vast gulf of space and time
across which we were speaking that I perhaps framed my questions
somewhat too crudely.

"How are you, great-grandfather?" I asked.

His voice came back to me as distinctly as if he were in the next room:

"I am happy, very happy. Please tell everybody that I am _happy_."

"Great-grandfather," I said. "I will. I'll see that everybody knows it.
Where are you, great-grandfather?"

"Here," he answered, "beyond."

"Beyond what?"

"Here on the other side."

"Side of which?" I asked.

"Of the great vastness," he answered. "The other end of the
Illimitable."

"Oh, I see," I said, "that's where you are."

We were silent for some time. It is amazing how difficult it is to find
things to talk about with one's great-grandfather. For the life of me I
could think of nothing better than:

"What sort of weather have you been having?"

"There is no weather here," said Great-grandfather. "It's all bright and
beautiful all the time."

"You mean bright sunshine?" I said.

"There is no sun here," said Great-grandfather.

"Then how do you mean--" I began.

But at this moment the head of the agency tapped me on the shoulder to
remind me that the two minutes' conversation for which I had deposited,
as a nominal fee, five dollars, had expired. The agency was courteous
enough to inform me that for five dollars more Great-grandfather would
talk another two minutes.

But I thought it preferable to stop for the moment.

Now I do not wish to say a word against my own great-grandfather. Yet
in the conversations which followed on successive days I found him--how
shall I put it?--unsatisfactory. He had been, when on this side--to
use the term we Spiritualists prefer--a singularly able man, an English
judge; so at least I have always been given to understand. But somehow
Great-grandfather's brain, on the other side, seemed to have got badly
damaged. My own theory is that, living always in the bright sunshine, he
had got sunstroke. But I may wrong him. Perhaps it was locomotor ataxy
that he had. That he was very, very happy where he was is beyond
all doubt. He said so at every conversation. But I have noticed that
feeble-minded people are often happy. He said, too, that he was glad to
be where he was; and on the whole I felt glad that he was too. Once or
twice I thought that possibly Great-grandfather felt so happy because he
had been drinking: his voice, even across the great gulf, seemed somehow
to suggest it. But on being questioned he told me that where he was
there was no drink and no thirst, because it was all so bright and
beautiful. I asked him if he meant that it was "bone-dry" like Kansas,
or whether the rich could still get it? But he didn't answer.

Our intercourse ended in a quarrel. No doubt it was my fault. But
it _did_ seem to me that Great-grandfather, who had been one of the
greatest English lawyers of his day, might have handed out an opinion.

The matter came up thus: I had had an argument--it was in the middle of
last winter--with some men at my club about the legal interpretation of
the Adamson Law. The dispute grew bitter.

"I'm right," I said, "and I'll prove it if you give me time to consult
the authorities."

"Consult your great-grandfather!" sneered one of the men.

"All right," I said, "I will."

I walked straight across the room to the telephone and called up the
agency.

"Give me my great-grandfather," I said. "I want him right away."

He was there. Good, punctual old soul, I'll say that for him. He was
there.

"Great-grandfather," I said, "I'm in a discussion here about the
constitutionality of the Adamson Law, involving the power of Congress
under the Constitution. Now, you remember the Constitution when they
made it. Is the law all right?"

There was silence.

"How does it stand, great-grandfather?" I said. "Will it hold water?"

Then he spoke.

"Over here," he said, "there are no laws, no members of Congress and no
Adamsons; it's all bright and beautiful and--"

"Great-grandfather," I said, as I hung up the receiver in disgust, "you
are a Mutt!"

I never spoke to him again. Yet I feel sorry for him, feeble old soul,
flitting about in the Illimitable, and always so punctual to hurry to
the telephone, so happy, so feeble-witted and courteous; a better man,
perhaps, take it all in all, than he was in life; lonely, too, it may
be, out there in the Vastness. Yet I never called him up again. He is
happy. Let him stay.

Indeed, my acquaintance with the spirit world might have ended at that
point but for the good offices, once more, of my Friend.

"You find your great-grandfather a little slow, a little dull?" he said.
"Well, then, if you want brains, power, energy, why not call up some of
the spirits of the great men, some of the leading men, for instance, of
your great-grandfather's time?"

"You've said it!" I exclaimed. "I'll call up Napoleon Bonaparte."

I hurried to the agency.

"Is it possible," I asked, "for me to call up the Emperor Napoleon and
talk to him?"

Possible? Certainly. It appeared that nothing was easier. In the case
of Napoleon Bonaparte the nominal fee had to be ten dollars in place of
five; but it seemed to me that, if Great-grandfather cost five, Napoleon
Bonaparte at ten was cheapness itself.

"Will it take long to get him?" I asked anxiously.

"We'll send out a tracer for him right away," they said.

Like Great-grandfather, Napoleon was punctual. That I will say for him.
If in any way I think less of Napoleon Bonaparte now than I did, let
me at least admit that a more punctual, obliging, willing man I never
talked with.

He came in two minutes.

"He's on the line now," they said.

I took up the receiver, trembling.

"Hello!" I called. "Est-ce que c'est l'Empereur Napoleon a qui j'ai
l'honneur de parler?"

"How's that?" said Napoleon.

"Je demande si je suis en communication avec l'Empereur Napoleon--"

"Oh," said Napoleon, "that's all right; speak English."

"What!" I said in surprise. "You know English? I always thought you
couldn't speak a word of it."

He was silent for a minute. Then he said:

"I picked it up over here. It's all right. Go right ahead."

"Well," I continued, "I've always admired you so much, your wonderful
brain and genius, that I felt I wanted to speak to you and ask you how
you are."

"Happy," said Napoleon, "very happy."

"That's good," I said. "That's fine! And how is it out there? All bright
and beautiful, eh?"

"Very beautiful," said the Emperor.

"And just where are you?" I continued. "Somewhere out in the
Unspeakable, I suppose, eh?"

"Yes," he answered, "out here beyond."

"That's good," I said. "Pretty happy, eh?"

"Very happy," said Napoleon. "Tell everybody how happy I am."

"I know," I answered. "I'll tell them all. But just now I've a
particular thing to ask. We've got a big war on, pretty well the whole
world in it, and I thought perhaps a few pointers from a man like you--"

But at this point the attendant touched me on the shoulder. "Your time
is up," he said.

I was about to offer to pay at once for two minutes more when a better
idea struck me. Talk with Napoleon? I'd do better than that. I'd call a
whole War Council of great spirits, lay the war crisis before them and
get the biggest brains that the world ever produced to work on how to
win the war.

Who should I have? Let me see! Napoleon himself, of course. I'd bring
him back. And for the sea business, the submarine problem, I'd have
Nelson. George Washington, naturally, for the American end; for
politics, say, good old Ben Franklin, the wisest old head that ever
walked on American legs, and witty too; yes, Franklin certainly, if only
for his wit to keep the council from getting gloomy; Lincoln--honest old
Abe--him certainly I must have. Those and perhaps a few others.

I reckoned that a consultation at ten dollars apiece with spirits of
that class was cheap to the verge of the ludicrous. Their advice ought
to be worth millions--yes, billions--to the cause.

The agency got them for me without trouble. There is no doubt they are a
punctual crowd, over there beyond in the Unthinkable.

I gathered them all in and talked to them, all and severally, the
payment, a merely nominal matter, being made, _pro forma_, in advance.

I have in front of me in my rough notes the result of their advice.
When properly drafted it will be, I feel sure, one of the most important
state documents produced in the war.

In the personal sense--I have to admit it--I found them just a trifle
disappointing. Franklin, poor fellow, has apparently lost his wit. The
spirit of Lincoln seemed to me to have none of that homely wisdom that
he used to have. And it appears that we were quite mistaken in thinking
Disraeli a brilliant man; it is clear to me now that he was dull--just
about as dull as Great-grandfather, I should say. Washington, too, is
not at all the kind of man we thought him.

Still, these are only personal impressions. They detract nothing from
the extraordinary value of the advice given, which seems to me to settle
once and for ever any lingering doubt about the value of communications
with the Other Side.

My draft of their advice runs in part as follows:

The Spirit of Nelson, on being questioned on the submarine problem,
holds that if all the men on the submarines were where he is everything
would be bright and happy. This seems to me an invaluable hint. There is
nothing needed now except to put them there.

The advice of the Spirit of Napoleon about the campaign on land seemed
to me, if possible, of lower value than that of Nelson on the campaign
at sea. It is hardly conceivable that Napoleon has forgotten where the
Marne is. But it may have changed since his day. At any rate, he says
that, if ever the Russians cross the Marne, all is over. Coming from
such a master-strategist, this ought to be attended to.

Franklin, on being asked whether the United States had done right in
going into the war, said "Yes"; asked whether the country could with
honour have stayed out, he said "No." There is guidance here for
thinking men of all ranks.

Lincoln is very happy where he is. So, too, I was amazed to find, is
Disraeli. In fact, it was most gratifying to learn that all of the great
spirits consulted are very happy, and want everybody to know how happy
they are. Where they are, I may say, it is all bright and beautiful.

Fear of trespassing on their time prevented me from questioning each of
them up to the full limit of the period contracted for.

I understand that I have still to my credit at the agency five minutes'
talk with Napoleon, available at any time, and similarly five minutes
each with Franklin and Washington, to say nothing of ten minutes'
unexpired time with Great-grandfather.

All of these opportunities I am willing to dispose of at a reduced rate
to anyone still sceptical of the reality of the spirit world.



V. The Sorrows of a Summer Guest

Let me admit, as I start to write, that the whole thing is my own fault.
I should never have come. I knew better. I have known better for years.
I have known that it is sheer madness to go and pay visits in other
people's houses.

Yet in a moment of insanity I have let myself in for it and here I am.
There is no hope, no outlet now till the first of September when my
visit is to terminate. Either that or death. I do not greatly care
which.

I write this, where no human eye can see me, down by the pond--they call
it the lake--at the foot of Beverly-Jones's estate. It is six o'clock
in the morning. No one is up. For a brief hour or so there is peace.
But presently Miss Larkspur--the jolly English girl who arrived last
week--will throw open her casement window and call across the lawn,
"Hullo everybody! What a ripping morning!" And young Poppleson will call
back in a Swiss yodel from somewhere in the shrubbery, and Beverly-Jones
will appear on the piazza with big towels round his neck and
shout, "Who's coming for an early dip?" And so the day's fun and
jollity--heaven help me--will begin again.

Presently they will all come trooping in to breakfast, in coloured
blazers and fancy blouses, laughing and grabbing at the food with mimic
rudeness and bursts of hilarity. And to think that I might have been
breakfasting at my club with the morning paper propped against the
coffee-pot, in a silent room in the quiet of the city.

I repeat that it is my own fault that I am here.

For many years it had been a principle of my life to visit nobody. I had
long since learned that visiting only brings misery. If I got a card or
telegram that said, "Won't you run up to the Adirondacks and spend the
week-end with us?" I sent back word: "No, not unless the Adirondacks
can run faster than I can," or words to that effect. If the owner of
a country house wrote to me: "Our man will meet you with a trap any
afternoon that you care to name," I answered, in spirit at least: "No,
he won't, not unless he has a bear-trap or one of those traps in which
they catch wild antelope." If any fashionable lady friend wrote to me
in the peculiar jargon that they use: "Can you give us from July the
twelfth at half-after-three till the fourteenth at four?" I replied:
"Madam, take the whole month, take a year, but leave me in peace."

Such at least was the spirit of my answers to invitations. In practice
I used to find it sufficient to send a telegram that read: "Crushed with
work impossible to get away," and then stroll back into the reading-room
of the club and fall asleep again.

But my coming here was my own fault. It resulted from one of those
unhappy moments of expansiveness such as occur, I imagine, to
everybody--moments when one appears to be something quite different
from what one really is, when one feels oneself a thorough good fellow,
sociable, merry, appreciative, and finds the people around one the
same. Such moods are known to all of us. Some people say that it is the
super-self asserting itself. Others say it is from drinking. But let
it pass. That at any rate was the kind of mood that I was in when I met
Beverly-Jones and when he asked me here.

It was in the afternoon, at the club. As I recall it, we were drinking
cocktails and I was thinking what a bright, genial fellow Beverly-Jones
was, and how completely I had mistaken him. For myself--I admit it--I
am a brighter, better man after drinking two cocktails than at any other
time--quicker, kindlier, more genial. And higher, morally. I had been
telling stories in that inimitable way that one has after two cocktails.
In reality, I only know four stories, and a fifth that I don't quite
remember, but in moments of expansiveness they feel like a fund or flow.

It was under such circumstances that I sat with Beverly-Jones. And it
was in shaking hands at leaving that he said: "I _do_ wish, old chap,
that you could run up to our summer place and give us the whole of
August!" and I answered, as I shook him warmly by the hand: "My _dear_
fellow, I'd simply _love_ to!" "By gad, then it's a go!" he said. "You
must come up for August, and wake us all up!"

Wake them up! Ye gods! Me wake them up!

One hour later I was repenting of my folly, and wishing, when I thought
of the two cocktails, that the prohibition wave could be hurried up so
as to leave us all high and dry--bone-dry, silent and unsociable.

Then I clung to the hope that Beverly-Jones would forget. But no. In due
time his wife wrote to me. They were looking forward so much, she said,
to my visit; they felt--she repeated her husband's ominous phrase--that
I should wake them all up!

What sort of alarm-clock did they take me for, anyway!

Ah, well! They know better now. It was only yesterday afternoon that
Beverly-Jones found me standing here in the gloom of some cedar-trees
beside the edge of the pond and took me back so quietly to the house
that I realized he thought I meant to drown myself. So I did.

I could have stood it better--my coming here, I mean--if they hadn't
come down to the station in a body to meet me in one of those long
vehicles with seats down the sides: silly-looking men in coloured
blazers and girls with no hats, all making a hullabaloo of welcome. "We
are quite a small party," Mrs. Beverly-Jones had written. Small! Great
heavens, what would they call a large one? And even those at the station
turned out to be only half of them. There were just as many more all
lined up on the piazza of the house as we drove up, all waving a fool
welcome with tennis rackets and golf clubs.

Small party, indeed! Why, after six days there are still some of the
idiots whose names I haven't got straight! That fool with the fluffy
moustache, which is he? And that jackass that made the salad at the
picnic yesterday, is he the brother of the woman with the guitar, or
who?

But what I mean is, there is something in that sort of noisy welcome
that puts me to the bad at the start. It always does. A group of
strangers all laughing together, and with a set of catchwords and jokes
all their own, always throws me into a fit of sadness, deeper than
words. I had thought, when Mrs. Beverly-Jones said a _small_ party,
she really meant small. I had had a mental picture of a few sad people,
greeting me very quietly and gently, and of myself, quiet, too, but
cheerful--somehow lifting them up, with no great effort, by my mere
presence.

Somehow from the very first I could feel that Beverly-Jones was
disappointed in me. He said nothing. But I knew it. On that first
afternoon, between my arrival and dinner, he took me about his place, to
show it to me. I wish that at some proper time I had learned just what
it is that you say when a man shows you about his place. I never
knew before how deficient I am in it. I am all right to be shown an
iron-and-steel plant, or a soda-water factory, or anything really
wonderful, but being shown a house and grounds and trees, things that I
have seen all my life, leaves me absolutely silent.

"These big gates," said Beverly-Jones, "we only put up this year."

"Oh," I said. That was all. Why shouldn't they put them up this year? I
didn't care if they'd put them up this year or a thousand years ago.

"We had quite a struggle," he continued, "before we finally decided on
sandstone.

"You did, eh?" I said. There seemed nothing more to say; I didn't
know what sort of struggle he meant, or who fought who; and personally
sandstone or soapstone or any other stone is all the same to me.

"This lawn," said Beverly-Jones, "we laid down the first year we were
here." I answered nothing. He looked me right in the face as he said it
and I looked straight back at him, but I saw no reason to challenge his
statement. "The geraniums along the border," he went on, "are rather an
experiment. They're Dutch."

I looked fixedly at the geraniums but never said a word. They were
Dutch; all right, why not? They were an experiment. Very good; let them
be so. I know nothing in particular to say about a Dutch experiment.

I could feel that Beverly-Jones grew depressed as he showed me round.
I was sorry for him, but unable to help. I realized that there were
certain sections of my education that had been neglected. How to be
shown things and make appropriate comments seems to be an art in itself.
I don't possess it. It is not likely now, as I look at this pond, that I
ever shall.

Yet how simple a thing it seems when done by others. I saw the
difference at once the very next day, the second day of my visit, when
Beverly-Jones took round young Poppleton, the man that I mentioned above
who will presently give a Swiss yodel from a clump of laurel bushes to
indicate that the day's fun has begun.

Poppleton I had known before slightly. I used to see him at the club.
In club surroundings he always struck me as an ineffable young ass, loud
and talkative and perpetually breaking the silence rules. Yet I have
to admit that in his summer flannels and with a straw hat on he can do
things that I can't.

"These big gates," began Beverly-Jones as he showed Poppleton round the
place with me trailing beside them, "we only put up this year."

Poppleton, who has a summer place of his own, looked at the gates very
critically.

"Now, do you know what _I'd_ have done with those gates, if they were
mine?" he said.

"No," said Beverly-Jones.

"I'd have set them two feet wider apart; they're too narrow, old chap,
too narrow." Poppleton shook his head sadly at the gates.

"We had quite a struggle," said Beverly-Jones, "before we finally
decided on sandstone."

I realized that he had one and the same line of talk that he always
used. I resented it. No wonder it was easy for him. "Great mistake,"
said Poppleton. "Too soft. Look at this"--here he picked up a big stone
and began pounding at the gate-post--"see how easily it chips! Smashes
right off. Look at that, the whole corner knocks right off, see!"

Beverly-Jones entered no protest. I began to see that there is a sort of
understanding, a kind of freemasonry, among men who have summer places.
One shows his things; the other runs them down, and smashes them. This
makes the whole thing easy at once. Beverly-Jones showed his lawn.

"Your turf is all wrong, old boy," said Poppleton. "Look! it has no body
to it. See, I can kick holes in it with my heel. Look at that, and that!
If I had on stronger boots I could kick this lawn all to pieces."

"These geraniums along the border," said Beverly-Jones, "are rather an
experiment. They're Dutch."

"But my dear fellow," said Poppleton, "you've got them set in wrongly.
They ought to slope _from_ the sun you know, never _to_ it. Wait a
bit"--here he picked up a spade that was lying where a gardener had been
working--"I'll throw a few out. Notice how easily they come up. Ah, that
fellow broke! They're apt to. There, I won't bother to reset them, but
tell your man to slope them over from the sun. That's the idea."

Beverly-Jones showed his new boat-house next and Poppleton knocked a
hole in the side with a hammer to show that the lumber was too thin.

"If that were _my_ boat-house," he said, "I'd rip the outside clean off
it and use shingle and stucco."

It was, I noticed, Poppleton's plan first to imagine Beverly-Jones's
things his own, and then to smash them, and then give them back smashed
to Beverly-Jones. This seemed to please them both. Apparently it is a
well-understood method of entertaining a guest and being entertained.
Beverly-Jones and Poppleton, after an hour or so of it, were delighted
with one another.

Yet somehow, when I tried it myself, it failed to work.

"Do you know what I would do with that cedar summer-house if it was
mine?" I asked my host the next day.

"No," he said.

"I'd knock the thing down and burn it," I answered.

But I think I must have said it too fiercely. Beverly-Jones looked hurt
and said nothing.

Not that these people are not doing all they can for me. I know that.
I admit it. If I _should_ meet my end here and if--to put the thing
straight out--_my_ lifeless body is found floating on the surface of
this pond, I should like there to be documentary evidence of _that_
much. They are trying their best. "This is Liberty Hall," Mrs.
Beverly-Jones said to me on the first day of my visit. "We want you to
feel that you are to do absolutely as you like!"

Absolutely as I like! How little they know me. I should like to have
answered: "Madam, I have now reached a time of life when human society
at breakfast is impossible to me; when any conversation prior to eleven
a.m. must be considered out of the question; when I prefer to eat my
meals in quiet, or with such mild hilarity as can be got from a comic
paper; when I can no longer wear nankeen pants and a coloured blazer
without a sense of personal indignity; when I can no longer leap and
play in the water like a young fish; when I do not yodel, cannot sing
and, to my regret; dance even worse than I did when young; and when the
mood of mirth and hilarity comes to me only as a rare visitant--shall
we say at a burlesque performance--and never as a daily part of my
existence. Madam, I am unfit to be a summer guest. If this is Liberty
Hall indeed, let me, oh, let me go!"

Such is the speech that I would make if it were possible. As it is, I
can only rehearse it to myself.

Indeed, the more I analyse it the more impossible it seems, for a man of
my temperament at any rate, to be a summer guest. These people, and,
I imagine, all other summer people, seem to be trying to live in a
perpetual joke. Everything, all day, has to be taken in a mood of
uproarious fun.

However, I can speak of it all now in quiet retrospect and without
bitterness. It will soon be over now. Indeed, the reason why I have come
down at this early hour to this quiet water is that things have reached
a crisis. The situation has become extreme and I must end it.

It happened last night. Beverly-Jones took me aside while the others
were dancing the fox-trot to the victrola on the piazza.

"We're planning to have some rather good fun to-morrow night," he said,
"something that will be a good deal more in your line than a lot of it,
I'm afraid, has been up here. In fact, my wife says that this will be
the very thing for you."

"Oh," I said.

"We're going to get all the people from the other houses over and
the girls"--this term Beverly-Jones uses to mean his wife and her
friends--"are going to get up a sort of entertainment with charades and
things, all impromptu, more or less, of course--"

"Oh," I said. I saw already what was coming.

"And they want you to act as a sort of master-of-ceremonies, to make up
the gags and introduce the different stunts and all that. I was telling
the girls about that afternoon at the club, when you were simply killing
us all with those funny stories of yours, and they're all wild over it."

"Wild?" I repeated.

"Yes, quite wild over it. They say it will be the hit of the summer."

Beverly-Jones shook hands with great warmth as we parted for the
night. I knew that he was thinking that my character was about to be
triumphantly vindicated, and that he was glad for my sake.

Last night I did not sleep. I remained awake all night thinking of the
"entertainment." In my whole life I have done nothing in public except
once when I presented a walking-stick to the vice-president of our club
on the occasion of his taking a trip to Europe. Even for that I used
to rehearse to myself far into the night sentences that began: "This
walking-stick, gentleman, means far more than a mere walking-stick."

And now they expect me to come out as a merry master-of-ceremonies
before an assembled crowd of summer guests.

But never mind. It is nearly over now. I have come down to this quiet
water in the early morning to throw myself in. They will find me
floating here among the lilies. Some few will understand. I can see it
written, as it will be, in the newspapers.

"What makes the sad fatality doubly poignant is that the unhappy victim
had just entered upon a holiday visit that was to have been prolonged
throughout the whole month. Needless to say, he was regarded as the life
and soul of the pleasant party of holiday makers that had gathered at
the delightful country home of Mr. and Mrs. Beverly-Jones. Indeed, on
the very day of the tragedy, he was to have taken a leading part in
staging a merry performance of charades and parlour entertainments--a
thing for which his genial talents and overflowing high spirits rendered
him specially fit."

When they read that, those who know me best will understand how and why
I died. "He had still over three weeks to stay there," they will say.
"He was to act as the stage manager of charades." They will shake their
heads. They will understand.

But what is this? I raise my eyes from the paper and I see Beverly-Jones
hurriedly approaching from the house. He is hastily dressed, with
flannel trousers and a dressing-gown. His face looks grave. Something
has happened. Thank God, something has happened. Some accident! Some
tragedy! Something to prevent the charades!

I write these few lines on a fast train that is carrying me back to New
York, a cool, comfortable train, with a deserted club-car where I can
sit in a leather arm-chair, with my feet up on another, smoking, silent,
and at peace.

Villages, farms and summer places are flying by. Let them fly. I, too,
am flying--back to the rest and quiet of the city.

"Old man," Beverly-Jones said, as he laid his hand on mine very
kindly--he is a decent fellow, after all, is Jones--"they're calling you
by long-distance from New York."

"What is it?" I asked, or tried to gasp.

"It's bad news, old chap; fire in your office last evening. I'm afraid
a lot of your private papers were burned. Robinson--that's your senior
clerk, isn't it?--seems to have been on the spot trying to save things.
He's badly singed about the face and hands. I'm afraid you must go at
once."

"Yes, yes," I said, "at once."

"I know. I've told the man to get the trap ready right away. You've just
time to catch the seven-ten. Come along."

"Right," I said. I kept my face as well as I could, trying to hide
my exultation. The office burnt! Fine! Robinson's singed! Glorious!
I hurriedly packed my things and whispered to Beverly-Jones farewell
messages for the sleeping household. I never felt so jolly and facetious
in my life. I could feel that Beverly-Jones was admiring the spirit and
pluck with which I took my misfortune. Later on he would tell them all
about it.

The trap ready! Hurrah! Good-bye, old man! Hurrah! All right. I'll
telegraph. Right you are, good-bye. Hip, hip, hurrah! Here we are! Train
right on time. Just these two bags, porter, and there's a dollar for
you. What merry, merry fellows these darky porters are, anyway!

And so here I am in the train, safe bound for home and the summer quiet
of my club.

Well done for Robinson! I was afraid that it had missed fire, or that my
message to him had gone wrong. It was on the second day of my visit that
I sent word to him to invent an accident--something, anything--to call
me back. I thought the message had failed. I had lost hope. But it is
all right now, though he certainly pitched the note pretty high.

Of course I can't let the Beverly-Joneses know that it was a put-up job.
I must set fire to the office as soon as I get back. But it's worth it.
And I'll have to singe Robinson about the face and hands. But it's worth
that too!



VI. To Nature and Back Again

It was probably owing to the fact that my place of lodgment in New York
overlooked the waving trees of Central Park that I was consumed, all the
summer through, with a great longing for the woods. To me, as a lover of
Nature, the waving of a tree conveys thoughts which are never conveyed
to me except by seeing a tree wave.

This longing grew upon me. I became restless with it. In the daytime
I dreamed over my work. At night my sleep was broken and restless. At
times I would even wander forth, at night into the park, and there, deep
in the night shadow of the trees, imagine myself alone in the recesses
of the dark woods remote from the toil and fret of our distracted
civilization.

This increasing feeling culminated in the resolve which becomes the
subject of this narrative. The thought came to me suddenly one night. I
woke from my sleep with a plan fully matured in my mind. It was this:
I would, for one month, cast off all the travail and cares of civilized
life and become again the wild man of the woods that Nature made me. M
 woods, somewhere in New England, divest myself of my clothes--except
only my union suit--crawl into the woods, stay there a month and then
crawl out again. To a trained woodsman and crawler like myself the thing
was simplicity itself. For food I knew that I could rely on berries,
roots, shoots, mosses, mushrooms, fungi, bungi--in fact the whole of
Nature's ample storehouse; for my drink, the running brook and the quiet
pool; and for my companions the twittering chipmunk, the chickadee,
the chocktaw, the choo-choo, the chow-chow, and the hundred and one
inhabitants of the forgotten glade and the tangled thicket.

Fortunately for me, my resolve came to me upon the last day in August.
The month of September was my vacation. My time was my own. I was free
to go.

On my rising in the morning my preparations were soon made; or, rather,
there were practically no preparations to make. I had but to supply
myself with a camera, my one necessity in the woods, and to say good-bye
to my friends. Even this last ordeal I wished to make as brief as
possible. I had no wish to arouse their anxiety over the dangerous,
perhaps foolhardy, project that I had in mind. I wished, as far as
possible, to say good-bye in such a way as to allay the very natural
fears which my undertaking would excite in the minds of my friends.

From myself, although trained in the craft of the woods, I could not
conceal the danger that I incurred. Yet the danger was almost forgotten
in the extraordinary and novel interest that attached to the experiment.
Would it prove possible for a man, unaided by our civilized arts and
industries, to maintain himself naked--except for his union suit--in the
heart of the woods? Could he do it, or could he not? And if he couldn't
what then?

But this last thought I put from me. Time alone could answer the
question.

As in duty bound, I went first to the place of business where I am
employed, to shake hands and say good-bye to my employer.

"I am going," I said, "to spend a month naked alone in the woods."

He looked up from his desk with genial kindliness.

"That's right," he said, "get a good rest."

"My plan is," I added, "to live on berries and funguses."

"Fine," he answered. "Well, have a good time, old man--good-bye."

Then I dropped in casually upon one of my friends.

"Well," I said, "I'm off to New England to spend a month naked."

"Nantucket," he said, "or Newport?"

"No," I answered, speaking as lightly as I could. "I'm going into the
woods and stay there naked for a month."

"Oh, yes," he said. "I see. Well, good-bye, old chap--see you when you
get back."

After that I called upon two or three other men to say a brief word of
farewell. I could not help feeling slightly nettled, I must confess, at
the very casual way in which they seemed to take my announcement. "Oh,
yes," they said, "naked in the woods, eh? Well, ta-ta till you get
back."

Here was a man about to risk his life--for there was no denying
the fact--in a great sociological experiment, yet they received the
announcement with absolute unconcern. It offered one more assurance, had
I needed it, of the degenerate state of the civilization upon which I
was turning my back.

On my way to the train I happened to run into a newspaper reporter with
whom I have some acquaintance.

"I'm just off," I said, "to New England to spend a month naked--at least
naked all but my union suit--in the woods; no doubt you'll like a few
details about it for your paper."

"Thanks, old man," he said, "we've pretty well given up running that
nature stuff. We couldn't do anything with it--unless, of course,
anything happens to you. Then we'd be glad to give you some space."

Several of my friends had at least the decency to see me off on the
train. One, and one alone accompanied me on the long night-ride to New
England in order that he might bring back my clothes, my watch, and
other possessions from the point where I should enter the woods,
together with such few messages of farewell as I might scribble at the
last moment.

It was early morning when we arrived at the wayside station where we
were to alight. From here we walked to the edge of the woods. Arrived
at this point we halted. I took off my clothes, with the exception of
my union suit. Then, taking a pot of brown stain from my valise, I
proceeded to dye my face and hands and my union suit itself a deep
butternut brown.

"What's that for?" asked my friend.

"For protection," I answered. "Don't you know that all animals are
protected by their peculiar markings that render them invisible? The
caterpillar looks like the leaf it eats from; the scales of the fish
counterfeit the glistening water of the brook; the bear and the 'possum
are coloured like the tree-trunks on which they climb. There!" I added,
as I concluded my task. "I am now invisible."

"Gee!" said my friend.

I handed him back the valise and the empty paint-pot, dropped to my
hands and knees--my camera slung about my neck--and proceeded to crawl
into the bush. My friend stood watching me.

"Why don't you stand up and walk?" I heard him call.

I turned half round and growled at him. Then I plunged deeper into the
bush, growling as I went.

After ten minutes' active crawling I found myself in the heart of the
forest. It reached all about me on every side for hundreds of miles. All
around me was the unbroken stillness of the woods. Not a sound reached
my ear save the twittering of a squirrel, or squirl, in the branches
high above my head or the far-distant call of a loon hovering over some
woodland lake.

I judged that I had reached a spot suitable for my habitation.

My first care was to make a fire. Difficult though it might appear to
the degenerate dweller of the city to do this, to the trained woodsman,
such as I had now become, it is nothing. I selected a dry stick, rubbed
it vigorously against my hind leg, and in a few moments it broke into a
generous blaze. Half an hour later I was sitting beside a glowing fire
of twigs discussing with great gusto an appetizing mess of boiled grass
and fungi cooked in a hollow stone.

I ate my fill, not pausing till I was full, careless, as the natural man
ever is, of the morrow. Then, stretched out upon the pine-needles at the
foot of a great tree, I lay in drowsy contentment listening to the song
of the birds, the hum of the myriad insects and the strident note of
the squirrel high above me. At times I would give utterance to the soft
answering call, known to every woodsman, that is part of the freemasonry
of animal speech. As I lay thus, I would not have exchanged places with
the pale dweller in the city for all the wealth in the world. Here I lay
remote from the world, happy, full of grass, listening to the crooning
of the birds.

But the mood of inaction and reflection cannot last, even with the lover
of Nature. It was time to be up and doing. Much lay before me to be done
before the setting of the sun should bring with it, as I fully expected
it would, darkness. Before night fell I must build a house, make myself
a suit of clothes, lay in a store of nuts, and in short prepare myself
for the oncoming of winter, which, in the bush, may come on at any time
in the summer.

I rose briskly from the ground to my hands and knees and set myself to
the building of my house. The method that I intended to follow here was
merely that which Nature has long since taught to the beaver and which,
moreover, is known and practised by the gauchos of the pampas, by the
googoos of Rhodesia and by many other tribes. I had but to select a
suitable growth of trees and gnaw them down with my teeth, taking care
so to gnaw them that each should fall into the place appointed for it
in the building. The sides, once erected in this fashion, another row of
trees, properly situated, is gnawed down to fall crosswise as the roof.

I set myself briskly to work and in half an hour had already the
satisfaction of seeing my habitation rising into shape. I was still
gnawing with unabated energy when I was interrupted by a low growling in
the underbrush. With animal caution I shrank behind a tree, growling in
return. I could see something moving in the bushes, evidently an animal
of large size. From its snarl I judged it to be a bear. I could hear it
moving nearer to me. It was about to attack me. A savage joy thrilled
through me at the thought, while my union suit bristled with rage from
head to foot as I emitted growl after growl of defiance. I bared my
teeth to the gums, snarling, and lashed my flank with my hind foot.
Eagerly I watched for the onrush of the bear. In savage combat who
strikes first wins. It was my idea, as soon as the bear should appear,
to bite off its front legs one after the other. This initial advantage
once gained, I had no doubt of ultimate victory.

The brushes parted. I caught a glimpse of a long brown body and a hairy
head. Then the creature reared up, breasting itself against a log, full
in front of me. Great heavens! It was not a bear at all. It was a man.

He was dressed, as I was, in a union suit, and his face and hands, like
mine, were stained a butternut brown. His hair was long and matted and
two weeks' stubble of beard was on his face.

For a minute we both glared at one another, still growling. Then the man
rose up to a standing position with a muttered exclamation of disgust.

"Ah, cut it out," he said. "Let's talk English."

He walked over towards me and sat down upon a log in an attitude that
seemed to convey the same disgust as the expression of his features.
Then he looked round about him.

"What are you doing?" he said.

"Building a house," I answered.

"I know," he said with a nod. "What are you here for?"

"Why," I explained, "my plan is this: I want to see whether a man can
come out here in the woods, naked, with no aid but that of his own hands
and his own ingenuity and--"

"Yes, yes, I know," interrupted the disconsolate man. "Earn himself a
livelihood in the wilderness, live as the cave-man lived, carefree and
far from the curse of civilization!"

"That's it. That was my idea," I said, my enthusiasm rekindling as I
spoke. "That's what I'm doing; my food is to be the rude grass and the
roots that Nature furnishes for her children, and for my drink--"

"Yes, yes," he interrupted again with impatience, "for your drink the
running rill, for your bed the sweet couch of hemlock, and for your
canopy the open sky lit with the soft stars in the deep-purple vault of
the dewy night. I know."

"Great heavens, man!" I exclaimed. "That's my idea exactly. In fact,
those are my very phrases. How could you have guessed it?"

He made a gesture with his hand to indicate weariness and
disillusionment.

"Pshaw!" he said. "I know it because I've been doing it. I've been here
a fortnight now on this open-air, life-in-the-woods game. Well, I'm sick
of it! This last lets me out."

"What last?" I asked.

"Why, meeting you. Do you realize that you are the nineteenth man
that I've met in the last three days running about naked in the woods?
They're all doing it. The woods are full of them."

"You don't say so!" I gasped.

"Fact. Wherever you go in the bush you find naked men all working out
this same blasted old experiment. Why, when you get a little farther in
you'll see signs up: NAKED MEN NOT ALLOWED IN THIS BUSH, and NAKED MEN
KEEP OFF, and GENTLEMEN WHO ARE NAKED WILL KINDLY KEEP TO THE HIGH ROAD,
and a lot of things like that. You must have come in at a wrong place or
you'd have noticed the little shanties that they have now at the edge of
the New England bush with signs up: UNION SUITS BOUGHT AND SOLD, CAMERAS
FOR SALE OR TO RENT, HIGHEST PRICE FOR CAST-OFF CLOTHING, and all that
sort of thing."

"No," I said. "I saw nothing."

"Well, you look when you go back. As for me, I'm done with it. The
thing's worked out. I'm going back to the city to see whether I can't,
right there in the heart of the city, earn myself a livelihood with my
unaided hands and brains. That's the real problem; no more bumming on
the animals for me. This bush business is too easy. Well, good-bye; I'm
off."

"But stop a minute," I said. "How is it that, if what you say is true, I
haven't seen or heard anybody in the bush, and I've been here since the
middle of the morning?"

"Nonsense," the man answered. "They were probably all round you but you
didn't recognize them."

"No, no, it's not possible. I lay here dreaming beneath a tree and there
wasn't a sound, except the twittering of a squirrel and, far away, the
cry of a lake-loon, nothing else."

"Exactly, the twittering of a squirrel! That was some feller up the tree
twittering to beat the band to let on that he was a squirrel, and no
doubt some other feller calling out like a loon over near the lake. I
suppose you gave them the answering cry?"

"I did," I said. "I gave that low guttural note which--"

"Precisely--which is the universal greeting in the freemasonry of animal
speech. I see you've got it all down pat. Well, good-bye again. I'm off.
Oh, don't bother to growl, please. I'm sick of that line of stuff."

"Good-bye," I said.

He slid through the bushes and disappeared. I sat where I was, musing,
my work interrupted, a mood of bitter disillusionment heavy upon me. So
I sat, it may have been for hours.

In the far distance I could hear the faint cry of a bittern in some
lonely marsh.

"Now, who the deuce is making that noise?" I muttered. "Some silly fool,
I suppose, trying to think he's a waterfowl. Cut it out!"

Long I lay, my dream of the woods shattered, wondering what to do.

Then suddenly there came to my ear the loud sound of voices, human
voices, strident and eager, with nothing of the animal growl in them.

"He's in there. I seen him!" I heard some one call.

Rapidly I dived sideways into the underbrush, my animal instinct strong
upon me again, growling as I went. Instinctively I knew that it was I
that they were after. All the animal joy of being hunted came over me.
My union suit stood up on end with mingled fear and rage.

As fast as I could I retreated into the wood. Yet somehow, as I moved,
the wood, instead of growing denser, seemed to thin out. I crouched low,
still growling and endeavouring to bury myself in the thicket. I was
filled with a wild sense of exhilaration such as any lover of the wild
life would feel at the knowledge that he is being chased, that some
one is after him, that some one is perhaps just a few feet behind him,
waiting to stick a pitchfork into him as he runs. There is no ecstasy
like this.

Then I realized that my pursuers had closed in on me. I was surrounded
on all sides.

The woods had somehow grown thin. They were like the mere shrubbery of a
park--it might be of Central Park itself. I could hear among the deeper
tones of men the shrill voices of boys. "There he is," one cried, "going
through them bushes! Look at him humping himself!" "What is it, what's
the sport?" another called. "Some crazy guy loose in the park in his
underclothes and the cops after him."

Then they closed in on me. I recognized the blue suits of the police
force and their short clubs. In a few minutes I was dragged out of
the shrubbery and stood in the open park in my pyjamas, wide awake,
shivering in the chilly air of early morning.

Fortunately for me, it was decided at the police-court that
sleep-walking is not an offence against the law. I was dismissed with a
caution.

My vacation is still before me, and I still propose to spend it naked.
But I shall do so at Atlantic City.



VII. The Cave-Man as He is

I think it likely that few people besides myself have ever actually seen
and spoken with a "cave-man."

Yet everybody nowadays knows all about the cave-man. The fifteen-cent
magazines and the new fiction have made him a familiar figure. A few
years ago, it is true, nobody had ever heard of him. But lately,
for some reason or other, there has been a run on the cave-man. No
up-to-date story is complete without one or two references to him. The
hero, when the heroine slights him, is said to "feel for a moment the
wild, primordial desire of the cave-man, the longing to seize her, to
drag her with him, to carry her away, to make her his." When he takes
her in his arms it is recorded that "all the elemental passion of the
cave-man surges through him." When he fights, on her behalf against a
dray-man or a gun-man or an ice-man or any other compound that makes up
a modern villain, he is said to "feel all the fierce fighting joy of the
cave-man." If they kick him in the ribs, he likes it. If they beat
him over the head, he never feels it; because he is, for the moment,
a cave-man. And the cave-man is, and is known to be, quite above
sensation.

The heroine, too, shares the same point of view. "Take me," she murmurs
as she falls into the hero's embrace, "be my cave-man." As she says it
there is, so the writer assures us, something of the fierce light of the
cave-woman in her eyes, the primordial woman to be wooed and won only by
force.

So, like everybody else, I had, till I saw him, a great idea of the
cave-man. I had a clear mental picture of him--huge, brawny, muscular,
a wolfskin thrown about him and a great war-club in his hand. I knew
him as without fear with nerves untouched by our effete civilization,
fighting, as the beasts fight, to the death, killing without pity and
suffering without a moan.

It was a picture that I could not but admire.

I liked, too--I am free to confess it--his peculiar way with women. His
system was, as I understood it, to take them by the neck and bring them
along with him. That was his fierce, primordial way of "wooing" them.
And they liked it. So at least we are informed by a thousand credible
authorities. They liked it. And the modern woman, so we are told, would
still like it if only one dared to try it on. There's the trouble; if
one only _dared_!

I see lots of them--I'll be frank about it--that I should like to grab,
to sling over my shoulder and carry away with me; or, what is the same
thing, allowing for modern conditions, have an express man carry them.
I notice them at Atlantic City, I see them in Fifth Avenue--yes,
everywhere. But would they come? That's the _deuce_ of it. Would they
come right along, like the cave-woman, merely biting off my ear as
they came, or are they degenerate enough to bring an action against me,
indicting the express company as a party of the second part?

Doubts such as these prevent me from taking active measures. But they
leave me, as they leave many another man, preoccupied and fascinated
with the cave-man.

One may imagine, then, my extraordinary interest in him when I actually
met him in the flesh. Yet the thing came about quite simply, indeed more
by accident than by design, an adventure open to all.

It so happened that I spent my vacation in Kentucky--the region, as
everybody knows, of the great caves. They extend--it is a matter of
common knowledge--for hundreds of miles; in some places dark and sunless
tunnels, the black silence broken only by the dripping of the water from
the roof; in other places great vaults like subterranean temples, with
vast stone arches sweeping to the dome, and with deep, still water of
unfathomed depth as the floor; and here and there again they are lighted
from above through rifts in the surface of the earth, and are dry and
sand strewn--fit for human habitation.

In such caves as these--so has the obstinate legend run for
centuries--there still dwell cave-men, the dwindling remnant of their
race. And here it was that I came across him.

I had penetrated into the caves far beyond my guides. I carried a
revolver and had with me an electric lantern, but the increasing
sunlight in the cave as I went on had rendered the latter needless.

There he sat, a huge figure, clad in a great wolfskin. Besides him lay
a great club. Across his knee was a spear round which he was binding
sinews that tightened under his muscular hand. His head was bent over
his task. His matted hair had fallen over his eyes. He did not see me
till I was close beside him on the sanded floor of the cave. I gave a
slight cough.

"Excuse me!" I said.

The Cave-man gave a startled jump.

"My goodness," he said, "you startled me!"

I could see that he was quite trembling.

"You came along so suddenly," he said, "it gave me the jumps." Then
he muttered, more to himself than to me, "Too much of this darned
cave-water! I must quit drinking it."

I sat down near to the Caveman on a stone, taking care to place my
revolver carefully behind it. I don't mind admitting that a loaded
revolver, especially as I get older, makes me nervous. I was afraid that
he might start fooling with it. One can't be too careful.

As a way of opening conversation I picked up the Cave-man's club.

"Say," I said, "that's a great club you have, eh? By gee! it's heavy!"

"Look out!" said the Cave-man with a certain agitation in his voice as
he reached out and took the club from me. "Don't fool with that club!
It's loaded! You know you could easily drop the club on your toes, or on
mine. A man can't be too careful with a loaded club."

He rose as he said this and carried the club to the other side of the
cave, where he leant it against the wall. Now that he stood up and I
could examine him he no longer looked so big. In fact he was not big at
all. The effect of size must have come, I think, from the great wolfskin
that he wore. I have noticed the same thing in Grand Opera. I noticed,
too, for the first time that the cave we were in seemed fitted up, in a
rude sort of way, like a dwelling-room.

"This is a nice place you've got," I said.

"Dandy, isn't it?" he said, as he cast his eyes around. "_She_ fixed
it up. She's got great taste. See that mud sideboard? That's the real
thing, A-one mud! None of your cheap rock about that. We fetched that
mud for two miles to make that. And look at that wicker bucket. Isn't
it great? Hardly leaks at all except through the sides, and perhaps
a little through the bottom. _She_ wove that. She's a humdinger at
weaving."

He was moving about as he spoke, showing me all his little belongings.
He reminded me for all the world of a man in a Harlem flat, showing a
visitor how convenient it all is. Somehow, too, the Cave-man had lost
all appearance of size. He looked, in fact, quite little, and when he
had pushed his long hair back from his forehead he seemed to wear that
same, worried, apologetic look that we all have. To a higher being, if
there is such, our little faces one and all appear, no doubt, pathetic.

I knew that he must be speaking about his wife.

"Where is she?" I asked.

"My wife?" he said. "Oh, she's gone out somewhere through the caves with
the kid. You didn't meet our kid as you came along, did you? No? Well,
he's the greatest boy you even saw. He was only two this nineteenth of
August. And you should hear him say 'Pop' and 'Mom' just as if he was
grown up. He is really, I think, about the brightest boy I've ever
known--I mean quite apart from being his father, and speaking of him as
if he were anyone else's boy. You didn't meet them?"

"No," I said, "I didn't."

"Oh, well," the Cave-man went on, "there are lots of ways and passages
through. I guess they went in another direction. The wife generally
likes to take a stroll round in the morning and see some of the
neighbours. But, say," he interrupted, "I guess I'm forgetting my
manners. Let me get you a drink of cave-water. Here, take it in this
stone mug! There you are, say when! Where do we get it? Oh, we find it
in parts of the cave where it filters through the soil above. Alcoholic?
Oh, yes, about fifteen per cent, I think. Some say it soaks all through
the soil of this State. Sit down and be comfortable, and, say if you
hear the woman coming just slip your mug behind that stone out of sight.
Do you mind? Now, try one of these elm-root cigars. Oh, pick a good
one--there are lots of them!"

We seated ourselves in some comfort on the soft sand, our backs against
the boulders, sipping cave-water and smoking elm-root cigars. It seemed
altogether as if one were back in civilization, talking to a genial
host.

"Yes," said the Cave-man, and he spoke, as it were, in a large and
patronizing way. "I generally let my wife trot about as she likes in
the daytime. She and the other women nowadays are getting up all these
different movements, and the way I look at it is that if it amuses
her to run around and talk and attend meetings, why let her do it. Of
course," he continued, assuming a look of great firmness, "if I liked to
put my foot down--"

"Exactly, exactly," I said. "It's the same way with us!"

"Is it now!" he questioned with interest. "I had imagined that it was
all different Outside. You're from the Outside, aren't you? I guessed
you must be from the skins you wear."

"Have you never been Outside?" I asked.

"No fear!" said the Cave-man. "Not for mine! Down here in the caves,
clean underground and mostly in the dark, it's all right. It's nice and
safe." He gave a sort of shudder. "Gee! You fellows out there must
have your nerve to go walking around like that on the outside rim of
everything, where the stars might fall on you or a thousand things
happen to you. But then you Outside Men have got a natural elemental
fearlessness about you that we Cave-men have lost. I tell you, I was
pretty scared when I looked up and saw you standing there."

"Had you never seen any Outside Men?" I asked.

"Why, yes," he answered, "but never close. The most I've done is to
go out to the edges of the cave sometimes and look out and see them,
Outside Men and Women, in the distance. But of course, in one way or
another, we Cave-men know all about them. And the thing we envy most
in you Outside Men is the way you treat your women! By gee! You take no
nonsense from them--you fellows are the real primordial, primitive men.
We've lost it somehow."

"Why, my dear fellow--" I began.

But the Cave-man, who had sat suddenly upright, interrupted.

"Quick! quick!" he said. "Hide that infernal mug! She's coming. Don't
you hear!"

As he spoke I caught the sound of a woman's voice somewhere in the outer
passages of the cave.

"Now, Willie," she was saying, speaking evidently to the Cave-child,
"you come right along back with me, and if I ever catch you getting in
such a mess as that again I'll never take you anywhere, so there!"

Her voice had grown louder. She entered the cave as she spoke--a
big-boned woman in a suit of skins leading by the hand a pathetic little
mite in a rabbit-skin, with blue eyes and a slobbered face.

But as I was sitting the Cave-woman evidently couldn't see me; for she
turned at once to speak to her husband, unconscious of my presence.

"Well, of all the idle creatures!" she exclaimed. "Loafing here in the
sand"--she gave a sniff--"and smoking--"

"My dear," began the Cave-man.

"Don't you my-dear me!" she answered. "Look at this place! Nothing
tidied up yet and the day half through! Did you put the alligator on to
boil?"

"I was just going to say--" began the Cave-man.

"_Going_ to say! Yes, I don't doubt you were going to say. You'd go on
saying all day if I'd let you. What I'm asking you is, is the alligator
on to boil for dinner or is it not--My gracious!" She broke off all of
a sudden, as she caught sight of me. "Why didn't you say there was
company? Land sakes! And you sit there and never say there was a
gentleman here!"

She had hustled across the cave and was busily arranging her hair with a
pool of water as a mirror.

"Gracious!" she said, "I'm a perfect fright! You must excuse me," she
added, looking round toward me, "for being in this state. I'd just
slipped on this old fur blouse and run around to a neighbour's and I'd
no idea that he was going to bring in company. Just like him! I'm afraid
we've nothing but a plain alligator stew to offer you, but I'm sure if
you'll stay to dinner--"

She was hustling about already, good primitive housewife that she was,
making the stone-plates rattle on the mud table.

"Why, really--" I began. But I was interrupted by a sudden exclamation
from both the Cave-man and the Cave-woman together:

"Willie! where's Willie!"

"Gracious!" cried the woman. "He's wandered out alone--oh, hurry, look
for him! Something might get him! He may have fallen in the water! Oh,
hurry!"

They were off in a moment, shouting into the dark passages of the outer
cave: "Willie! Willie!" There was agonized anxiety in their voices.

And then in a moment, as it seemed, they were back again, with Willie in
their arms, blubbering, his rabbit-skin all wet.

"Goodness gracious!" said the Cave-woman. "He'd fallen right in, the
poor little man. Hurry, dear, and get something dry to wrap him in!
Goodness, what a fright! Quick, darling, give me something to rub him
with."

Anxiously the Cave-parents moved about beside the child, all quarrel
vanished.

"But surely," I said, as they calmed down a little, "just there where
Willie fell in, beside the passage that I came through, there is only
three inches of water."

"So there is," they said, both together, "but just suppose it had been
three feet!"

Later on, when Willie was restored, they both renewed their invitation
to me to stay to dinner.

"Didn't you say," said the Cave-man, "that you wanted to make some notes
on the difference between Cave-people and the people of your world of
to-day?"

"I thank you," I answered, "I have already all the notes I want!"



VIII. Ideal Interviews



I. WITH A EUROPEAN PRINCE

With any European Prince, travelling in America

On receiving our card the Prince, to our great surprise and pleasure,
sent down a most cordial message that he would be delighted to see us at
once. This thrilled us.

"Take us," we said to the elevator boy, "to the apartments of the
Prince." We were pleased to see him stagger and lean against his wheel
to get his breath back.

In a few moments we found ourselves crossing the threshold of the
Prince's apartments. The Prince, who is a charming young man of from
twenty-six to twenty-seven, came across the floor to meet us with an
extended hand and a simple gesture of welcome. We have seldom seen
anyone come across the floor more simply.

The Prince, who is travelling incognito as the Count of Flim Flam, was
wearing, when we saw him, the plain morning dress of a gentleman of
leisure. We learned that a little earlier he had appeared at breakfast
in the costume of a Unitarian clergyman, under the incognito of the
Bishop of Bongee; while later on he appeared at lunch, as a delicate
compliment to our city, in the costume of a Columbia professor of
Yiddish.

The Prince greeted us with the greatest cordiality, seated himself,
without the slightest affectation, and motioned to us, with
indescribable bonhomie, his permission to remain standing.

"Well," said the Prince, "what is it?"

We need hardly say that the Prince, who is a consummate master of ten
languages, speaks English quite as fluently as he does Chinese. Indeed,
for a moment, we could scarcely tell which he was talking.

"What are your impressions of the United States?" we asked as we took
out our notebook.

"I am afraid," answered the Prince, with the delightful smile which is
characteristic of him, and which we noticed again and again during the
interview, "that I must scarcely tell you that."

We realized immediately that we were in the presence not only of a
soldier but of one of the most consummate diplomats of the present day.

"May we ask then," we resumed, correcting our obvious blunder, "what are
your impressions, Prince, of the Atlantic Ocean?"

"Ah," said the Prince, with that peculiar thoughtfulness which is so
noticeable in him and which we observed not once but several times, "the
Atlantic!"

Volumes could not have expressed his thought better.

"Did you," we asked, "see any ice during your passage across?"

"Ah," said the Prince, "ice! Let me think."

We did so.

"Ice," repeated the Prince thoughtfully.

We realized that we were in the presence not only of a soldier, a
linguist and a diplomat, but of a trained scientist accustomed to exact
research.

"Ice!" repeated the Prince. "Did I see any ice? No."

Nothing could have been more decisive, more final than the clear, simple
brevity of the Prince's "No." He had seen no ice. He knew he had seen
no ice. He said he had seen no ice. Nothing could have been more
straightforward, more direct. We felt assured from that moment that the
Prince had not seen any ice.

The exquisite good taste with which the Prince had answered our question
served to put us entirely at our ease, and we presently found ourselves
chatting with His Highness with the greatest freedom and without the
slightest _gene_ or _mauvaise honte_, or, in fact, _malvoisie_ of any
kind.

We realized, indeed, that we were in the presence not only of a trained
soldier, a linguist and a diplomat, but also of a conversationalist of
the highest order.

His Highness, who has an exquisite sense of humour--indeed, it broke
out again and again during our talk with him--expressed himself as both
amused and perplexed over our American money.

"It is very difficult," he said, "with us it is so simple; six and a
half groner are equal to one and a third gross-groner or the quarter
part of our Rigsdaler. Here it is so complicated."

We ventured to show the Prince a fifty-cent piece and to explain its
value by putting two quarters beside it.

"I see," said the Prince, whose mathematical ability is quite
exceptional, "two twenty-five-cent pieces are equal to one fifty-cent
piece. I must try to remember that. Meantime," he added, with a gesture
of royal condescension, putting the money in his pocket, "I will keep
your coins as instructors"--we murmured our thanks--"and now explain to
me, please, your five-dollar gold piece and your ten-dollar eagle."

We felt it proper, however, to shift the subject, and asked the Prince a
few questions in regard to his views on American politics. We soon found
that His Highness, although this is his first visit to this continent,
is a keen student of our institutions and our political life. Indeed,
His Altitude showed by his answers to our questions that he is as well
informed about our politics as we are ourselves. On being asked what he
viewed as the uppermost tendency in our political life of to-day, the
Prince replied thoughtfully that he didn't know. To our inquiry as to
whether in his opinion democracy was moving forward or backward, the
Prince, after a moment of reflection, answered that he had no idea. On
our asking which of the generals of our Civil War was regarded in Europe
as the greatest strategist, His Highness answered without hesitation,
"George Washington."

Before closing our interview the Prince, who, like his illustrious
father, is an enthusiastic sportsman, completely turned the tables on us
by inquiring eagerly about the prospects for large game in America.

We told him something--as much as we could recollect--of woodchuck
hunting in our own section of the country. The Prince was interested at
once. His eye lighted up, and the peculiar air of fatigue, or languor,
which we had thought to remark on his face during our interview, passed
entirely off his features. He asked us a number of questions, quickly
and without pausing, with the air, in fact, of a man accustomed to
command and not to listen. How was the woodchuck hunted? From horseback
or from an elephant? Or from an armoured car, or turret? How many
beaters did one use to beat up the woodchuck? What bearers was it
necessary to carry with one? How great a danger must one face of having
one's beaters killed? What percentage of risk must one be prepared to
incur of accidentally shooting one's own beaters? What did a bearer
cost? and so on.

All these questions we answered as best we could, the Prince apparently
seizing the gist, or essential part of our answer, before we had said
it.

In concluding the discussion we ventured to ask His Highness for his
autograph. The Prince, who has perhaps a more exquisite sense of humour
than any other sovereign of Europe, declared with a laugh that he had no
pen. Still roaring over this inimitable drollery, we begged the Prince
to honour us by using our own fountain-pen.

"Is there any ink in it?" asked the Prince--which threw us into a
renewed paroxysm of laughter.

The Prince took the pen and very kindly autographed for us seven
photographs of himself. He offered us more, but we felt that seven was
about all we could use. We were still suffocated with laughter over the
Prince's wit; His Highness was still signing photographs when an equerry
appeared and whispered in the Prince's ear. His Highness, with the
consummate tact to be learned only at a court, turned quietly without a
word and left the room.

We never, in all our experience, remember seeing a prince--or a mere man
for the matter of that--leave a room with greater suavity, discretion,
or aplomb. It was a revelation of breeding, of race, of long slavery to
caste. And yet, with it all, it seemed to have a touch of finality about
it--a hint that the entire proceeding was deliberate, planned, not to be
altered by circumstance. He did not come back.

We understand that he appeared later in the morning at a civic reception
in the costume of an Alpine Jaeger, and attended the matinee in the
dress of a lieutenant of police.

Meantime he has our pen. If he turns up in any costume that we can spot
at sight, we shall ask him for it.



II. WITH OUR GREATEST ACTOR

   That is to say, with Any One of
   our Sixteen Greatest Actors

It was within the privacy of his own library that we obtained--need we
say with infinite difficulty--our interview with the Great Actor. He was
sitting in a deep arm-chair, so buried in his own thoughts that he
was oblivious of our approach. On his knee before him lay a cabinet
photograph of himself. His eyes seemed to be peering into it, as if
seeking to fathom its unfathomable mystery. We had time to note that a
beautiful carbon photogravure of himself stood on a table at his elbow,
while a magnificent half-tone pastel of himself was suspended on a
string from the ceiling. It was only when we had seated ourself in a
chair and taken out our notebook that the Great Actor looked up.

"An interview?" he said, and we noted with pain the weariness in his
tone. "Another interview!"

We bowed.

"Publicity!" he murmured rather to himself than to us. "Publicity! Why
must one always be forced into publicity?"

It was not our intention, we explained apologetically, to publish or to
print a single word--

"Eh, what?" exclaimed the Great Actor. "Not print it? Not publish it?
Then what in--"

Not, we explained, without his consent.

"Ah," he murmured wearily, "my consent. Yes, yes, I must give it. The
world demands it. Print, publish anything you like. I am indifferent to
praise, careless of fame. Posterity will judge me. But," he added more
briskly, "let me see a proof of it in time to make any changes I might
care to."

We bowed our assent.

"And now," we began, "may we be permitted to ask a few questions about
your art? And first, in which branch of the drama do you consider that
your genius chiefly lies, in tragedy or in comedy?"

"In both," said the Great Actor.

"You excel then," we continued, "in neither the one nor the other?"

"Not at all," he answered, "I excel in each of them."

"Excuse us," we said, "we haven't made our meaning quite clear. What we
meant to say is, stated very simply, that you do not consider yourself
better in either of them than in the other?"

"Not at all," said the Actor, as he put out his arm with that splendid
gesture that we have known and admired for years, at the same time
throwing back his leonine head so that his leonine hair fell back from
his leonine forehead. "Not at all. I do better in both of them. My
genius demands both tragedy and comedy at the same time."

"Ah," we said, as a light broke in upon us, "then that, we presume, is
the reason why you are about to appear in Shakespeare?"

The Great Actor frowned.

"I would rather put it," he said, "that Shakespeare is about to appear
in me."

"Of course, of course," we murmured, ashamed of our own stupidity.

"I appear," went on the Great Actor, "in _Hamlet_. I expect to present,
I may say, an entirely new Hamlet."

"A new Hamlet!" we exclaimed, fascinated. "A new Hamlet! Is such a thing
possible?"

"Entirely," said the Great Actor, throwing his leonine head forward
again. "I have devoted years of study to the part. The whole conception
of the part of Hamlet has been wrong."

We sat stunned.

"All actors hitherto," continued the Great Actor, "or rather, I should
say, all so-called actors--I mean all those who tried to act before
me--have been entirely mistaken in their presentation. They have
presented Hamlet as dressed in black velvet."

"Yes, yes," we interjected, "in black velvet, yes!"

"Very good. The thing is absurd," continued the Great Actor, as he
reached down two or three heavy volumes from the shelf beside him. "Have
you ever studied the Elizabethan era?"

"The which?" we asked modestly.

"The Elizabethan era?"

We were silent.

"Or the pre-Shakespearean tragedy?"

We hung our head.

"If you had, you would know that a Hamlet in black velvet is perfectly
ridiculous. In Shakespeare's day--as I could prove in a moment if you
had the intelligence to understand it--there was no such thing as black
velvet. It didn't exist."

"And how then," we asked, intrigued, puzzled and yet delighted, "do
_you_ present Hamlet?"

"In _brown_ velvet," said the Great Actor.

"Great Heavens," we exclaimed, "this is a revolution."

"It is. But that is only one part of my conception. The main thing will
be my presentation of what I may call the psychology of Hamlet."

"The psychology!" we said.

"Yes," resumed the Great Actor, "the psychology. To make Hamlet
understood, I want to show him as a man bowed down by a great burden. He
is overwhelmed with Weltschmerz. He carries in him the whole weight of
the Zeitgeist; in fact, everlasting negation lies on him--"

"You mean," we said, trying to speak as cheerfully as we could, "that
things are a little bit too much for him."

"His will," went on the Great Actor, disregarding our interruption, "is
paralysed. He seeks to move in one direction and is hurled in another.
One moment he sinks into the abyss. The next, he rises above the clouds.
His feet seek the ground, but find only the air--"

"Wonderful," we said, "but will you not need a good deal of machinery?"

"Machinery!" exclaimed the Great Actor, with a leonine laugh. "The
machinery of _thought_, the mechanism of power, of magnetism--"

"Ah," we said, "electricity."

"Not at all," said the Great Actor. "You fail to understand. It is all
done by my rendering. Take, for example, the famous soliloquy on death.
You know it?"

"'To be or not to be,'" we began.

"Stop," said the Great Actor. "Now observe. It is a soliloquy.
Precisely. That is the key to it. It is something that Hamlet _says to
himself_. Not a _word of it_, in my interpretation, is actually spoken.
All is done in absolute, unbroken silence."

"How on earth," we began, "can you do that?"

"Entirely and solely _with my face_."

Good heavens! Was it possible? We looked again, this time very closely,
at the Great Actor's face. We realized with a thrill that it might be
done.

"I come before the audience _so_," he went on, "and
soliloquize--thus--follow my face, please--"

As the Great Actor spoke, he threw himself into a characteristic pose
with folded arms, while gust after gust of emotion, of expression, of
alternate hope, doubt and despair, swept--we might say chased themselves
across his features.

"Wonderful!" we gasped.

"Shakespeare's lines," said the Great Actor, as his face subsided to its
habitual calm, "are not necessary; not, at least, with my acting. The
lines, indeed, are mere stage directions, nothing more. I leave them
out. This happens again and again in the play. Take, for instance, the
familiar scene where Hamlet holds the skull in his hand: Shakespeare
here suggests the words 'Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well--'"

"Yes, yes!" we interrupted, in spite of ourself, "'a fellow of infinite
jest--'"

"Your intonation is awful," said the Actor. "But listen. In my
interpretation I use no words at all. I merely carry the skull quietly
in my hand, very slowly, across the stage. There I lean against a pillar
at the side, with the skull in the palm of my hand, and look at it in
silence."

"Wonderful!" we said.

"I then cross over to the right of the stage, very impressively, and
seat myself on a plain wooden bench, and remain for some time, looking
at the skull."

"Marvellous!"

"I then pass to the back of the stage and lie down on my stomach, still
holding the skull before my eyes. After holding this posture for some
time, I crawl slowly forward, portraying by the movement of my legs and
stomach the whole sad history of Yorick. Finally I turn my back on the
audience, still holding the skull, and convey through the spasmodic
movements of my back Hamlet's passionate grief at the loss of his
friend."

"Why!" we exclaimed, beside ourself with excitement, "this is not merely
a revolution, it is a revelation."

"Call it both," said the Great Actor.

"The meaning of it is," we went on, "that you practically don't need
Shakespeare at all."

"Exactly, I do not. I could do better without him. Shakespeare cramps
me. What I really mean to convey is not Shakespeare, but something
greater, larger--how shall I express it--bigger." The Great Actor paused
and we waited, our pencil poised in the air. Then he murmured, as his
eyes lifted in an expression of something like rapture. "In fact--ME."

He remained thus, motionless, without moving. We slipped gently to our
hands and knees and crawled quietly to the door, and so down the stairs,
our notebook in our teeth.



III WITH OUR GREATEST SCIENTIST

As seen in any of our College Laboratories

It was among the retorts and test-tubes of his physical laboratory
that we were privileged to interview the Great Scientist. His back was
towards us when we entered. With characteristic modesty he kept it so
for some time after our entry. Even when he turned round and saw us his
face did not react off us as we should have expected.

He seemed to look at us, if such a thing were possible, without seeing
us, or, at least, without wishing to see us.

We handed him our card.

He took it, read it, dropped it in a bowlful of sulphuric acid and then,
with a quiet gesture of satisfaction, turned again to his work.

We sat for some time behind him. "This, then," we thought to ourselves
(we always think to ourselves when we are left alone), "is the man, or
rather is the back of the man, who has done more" (here we consulted
the notes given us by our editor), "to revolutionize our conception of
atomic dynamics than the back of any other man."

Presently the Great Scientist turned towards us with a sigh that seemed
to our ears to have a note of weariness in it. Something, we felt, must
be making him tired.

"What can I do for you?" he said.

"Professor," we answered, "we have called upon you in response to an
overwhelming demand on the part of the public--"

The Great Scientist nodded.

"To learn something of your new researches and discoveries in" (here
we consulted a minute card which we carried in our pocket) "in
radio-active-emanations which are already becoming" (we consulted our
card again) "a household word--"

The Professor raised his hand as if to check us.

"I would rather say," he murmured, "helio-radio-active--"

"So would we," we admitted, "much rather--"

"After all," said the Great Scientist, "helium shares in the most
intimate degree the properties of radium. So, too, for the matter of
that," he added in afterthought, "do thorium, and borium!"

"Even borium!" we exclaimed, delighted, and writing rapidly in our
notebook. Already we saw ourselves writing up as our headline _Borium
Shares Properties of Thorium_.

"Just what is it," said the Great Scientist, "that you want to know?"

"Professor," we answered, "what our journal wants is a plain and simple
explanation, so clear that even our readers can understand it, of the
new scientific discoveries in radium. We understand that you possess,
more than any other man, the gift of clear and lucid thought--"

The Professor nodded.

"And that you are able to express yourself with greater simplicity than
any two men now lecturing."

The Professor nodded again.

"Now, then," we said, spreading our notes on our knee, "go at it. Tell
us, and, through us, tell a quarter of a million anxious readers just
what all these new discoveries are about."

"The whole thing," said the Professor, warming up to his work as
he perceived from the motions of our face and ears our intelligent
interest, "is simplicity itself. I can give it to you in a word--"

"That's it," we said. "Give it to us that way."

"It amounts, if one may boil it down into a phrase--"

"Boil it, boil it," we interrupted.

"Amounts, if one takes the mere gist of it--"

"Take it," we said, "take it."

"Amounts to the resolution of the ultimate atom."

"Ha!" we exclaimed.

"I must ask you first to clear your mind," the Professor continued, "of
all conception of ponderable magnitude."

We nodded. We had already cleared our mind of this.

"In fact," added the Professor, with what we thought a quiet note of
warning in his voice, "I need hardly tell you that what we are dealing
with must be regarded as altogether ultramicroscopic."

We hastened to assure the Professor that, in accordance with the high
standards of honour represented by our journal, we should of course
regard anything that he might say as ultramicroscopic and treat it
accordingly.

"You say, then," we continued, "that the essence of the problem is the
resolution of the atom. Do you think you can give us any idea of what
the atom is?"

The Professor looked at us searchingly.

We looked back at him, openly and frankly. The moment was critical for
our interview. Could he do it? Were we the kind of person that he could
give it to? Could we get it if he did?

"I think I can," he said. "Let us begin with the assumption that the
atom is an infinitesimal magnitude. Very good. Let us grant, then,
that though it is imponderable and indivisible it must have a spacial
content? You grant me this?"

"We do," we said, "we do more than this, we _give_ it to you."

"Very well. If spacial, it must have dimension: if dimension--form. Let
us assume _ex hypothesi_ the form to be that of a spheroid and see where
it leads us."

The Professor was now intensely interested. He walked to and fro in his
laboratory. His features worked with excitement. We worked ours, too, as
sympathetically as we could.

"There is no other possible method in inductive science," he added,
"than to embrace some hypothesis, the most attractive that one can find,
and remain with it--"

We nodded. Even in our own humble life after our day's work we had found
this true.

"Now," said the Professor, planting himself squarely in front of us,
"assuming a spherical form, and a spacial content, assuming the dynamic
forces that are familiar to us and assuming--the thing is bold, I
admit--"

We looked as bold as we could.

"Assuming that the _ions_, or _nuclei_ of the atom--I know no better
word--"

"Neither do we," we said.

"That the nuclei move under the energy of such forces, what have we
got?"

"Ha!" we said.

"What have we got? Why, the simplest matter conceivable. The forces
inside our atom--itself, mind you, the function of a circle--mark
that--"

We did.

"Becomes merely a function of pi!"

The Great Scientist paused with a laugh of triumph.

"A function of pi!" we repeated in delight.

"Precisely. Our conception of ultimate matter is reduced to that of an
oblate spheroid described by the revolution of an ellipse on its own
minor axis!"

"Good heavens!" we said. "Merely that."

"Nothing else. And in that case any further calculation becomes a mere
matter of the extraction of a root."

"How simple," we murmured.

"Is it not," said the Professor. "In fact, I am accustomed, in talking
to my class, to give them a very clear idea, by simply taking as our
root F--F being any finite constant--"

He looked at us sharply. We nodded.

"And raising F to the log of infinity. I find they apprehend it very
readily."

"Do they?" we murmured. Ourselves we felt as if the Log of Infinity
carried us to ground higher than what we commonly care to tread on.

"Of course," said the Professor, "the Log of Infinity is an Unknown."

"Of course," we said very gravely. We felt ourselves here in the
presence of something that demanded our reverence.

"But still," continued the Professor almost jauntily, "we can handle the
Unknown just as easily as anything else."

This puzzled us. We kept silent. We thought it wiser to move on to more
general ground. In any case, our notes were now nearly complete.

"These discoveries, then," we said, "are absolutely revolutionary."

"They are," said the Professor.

"You have now, as we understand, got the atom--how shall we put it?--got
it where you want it."

"Not exactly," said the Professor with a sad smile.

"What do you mean?" we asked.

"Unfortunately our analysis, perfect though it is, stops short. We have
no synthesis."

The Professor spoke as in deep sorrow.

"No synthesis," we moaned. We felt it was a cruel blow. But in any case
our notes were now elaborate enough. We felt that our readers could do
without a synthesis. We rose to go.

"Synthetic dynamics," said the Professor, taking us by the coat, "is
only beginning--"

"In that case--" we murmured, disengaging his hand.

"But, wait, wait," he pleaded "wait for another fifty years--"

"We will," we said very earnestly. "But meantime as our paper goes to
press this afternoon we must go now. In fifty years we will come back."

"Oh, I see, I see," said the Professor, "you are writing all this for a
newspaper. I see."

"Yes," we said, "we mentioned that at the beginning."

"Ah," said the Professor, "did you? Very possibly. Yes."

"We propose," we said, "to feature the article for next Saturday."

"Will it be long?" he asked.

"About two columns," we answered.

"And how much," said the Professor in a hesitating way, "do I have to
pay you to put it in?"

"How much which?" we asked.

"How much do I have to pay?"

"Why, Professor--" we began quickly. Then we checked ourselves. After
all was it right to undeceive him, this quiet, absorbed man of science
with his ideals, his atoms and his emanations. No, a hundred times no.
Let him pay a hundred times.

"It will cost you," we said very firmly, "ten dollars."

The Professor began groping among his apparatus. We knew that he was
looking for his purse.

"We should like also very much," we said, "to insert your picture along
with the article--"

"Would that cost much?" he asked.

"No, that is only five dollars."

The Professor had meantime found his purse.

"Would it be all right," he began, "that is, would you mind if I pay you
the money now? I am apt to forget."

"Quite all right," we answered. We said good-bye very gently and passed
out. We felt somehow as if we had touched a higher life. "Such,"
we murmured, as we looked about the ancient campus, "are the men of
science: are there, perhaps, any others of them round this morning that
we might interview?"



IV. WITH OUR TYPICAL NOVELISTS

Edwin and Ethelinda Afterthought--Husband and Wife--In their Delightful
Home Life.

It was at their beautiful country place on the Woonagansett that we had
the pleasure of interviewing the Afterthoughts. At their own cordial
invitation, we had walked over from the nearest railway station, a
distance of some fourteen miles. Indeed, as soon as they heard of our
intention they invited us to walk. "We are so sorry not to bring you in
the motor," they wrote, "but the roads are so frightfully dusty that we
might get dust on our chauffeur." This little touch of thoughtfulness is
the keynote of their character.

The house itself is a delightful old mansion giving on a wide garden,
which gives in turn on a broad terrace giving on the river.

The Eminent Novelist met us at the gate. We had expected to find the
author of _Angela Rivers_ and _The Garden of Desire_ a pale aesthetic
type (we have a way of expecting the wrong thing in our interviews). We
could not resist a shock of surprise (indeed we seldom do) at finding
him a burly out-of-door man weighting, as he himself told us, a hundred
stone in his stockinged feet (we think he said stone).

He shook hands cordially.

"Come and see my pigs," he said.

"We wanted to ask you," we began, as we went down the walk, "something
about your books."

"Let's look at the pigs first," he said. "Are you anything of a pig
man?"

We are always anxious in our interviews to be all things to all men. But
we were compelled to admit that we were not much of a pig man.

"Ah," said the Great Novelist, "perhaps you are more of a dog man?"

"Not altogether a dog man," we answered.

"Anything of a bee man?" he asked.

"Something," we said (we were once stung by a bee).

"Ah," he said, "you shall have a go at the beehives, then, right away?"

We assured him that we were willing to postpone a go at the beehives
till later.

"Come along, then, to the styes," said the Great Novelist, and he added,
"Perhaps you're not much of a breeder."

We blushed. We thought of the five little faces around the table for
which we provide food by writing our interviews.

"No," we said, "we were not much of a breeder."

"Now then," said the Great Novelist as we reached our goal, "how do you
like this stye?"

"Very much indeed," we said.

"I've put in a new tile draining--my own plan. You notice how sweet it
keeps the stye."

We had not noticed this.

"I am afraid," said the Novelist, "that the pigs are all asleep inside."

We begged him on no account to waken them. He offered to open the little
door at the side and let us crawl in. We insisted that we could not
think of intruding.

"What we would like," we said, "is to hear something of your methods
of work in novel writing." We said this with very peculiar conviction.
Quite apart from the immediate purposes of our interview, we have always
been most anxious to know by what process novels are written. If we
could get to know this, we would write one ourselves.

"Come and see my bulls first," said the Novelist. "I've got a couple of
young bulls here in the paddock that will interest you."

We felt sure that they would.

He led us to a little green fence. Inside it were two ferocious looking
animals, eating grain. They rolled their eyes upwards at us as they ate.

"How do those strike you?" he asked.

We assured him that they struck us as our beau ideal of bulls.

"Like to walk in beside them?" said the Novelist, opening a little gate.

We drew back. Was it fair to disturb these bulls?

The Great Novelist noticed our hesitation.

"Don't be afraid," he said. "They're not likely to harm you. I send
my hired man right in beside them every morning, without the slightest
hesitation."

We looked at the Eminent Novelist with admiration. We realized that like
so many of our writers, actors, and even our thinkers, of to-day, he was
an open-air man in every sense of the word.

But we shook our heads.

Bulls, we explained, were not a department of research for which we were
equipped. What we wanted, we said, was to learn something of his methods
of work.

"My methods of work?" he answered, as we turned up the path again.
"Well, really, I hardly know that I have any."

"What is your plan or method," we asked, getting out our notebook and
pencil, "of laying the beginning of a new novel?"

"My usual plan," said the Novelist, "is to come out here and sit in the
stye till I get my characters."

"Does it take long?" we questioned.

"Not very. I generally find that a quiet half-hour spent among the hogs
will give me at least my leading character."

"And what do you do next?"

"Oh, after that I generally light a pipe and go and sit among the
beehives looking for an incident."

"Do you get it?" we asked.

"Invariably. After that I make a few notes, then go off for a ten mile
tramp with my esquimaux dogs, and get back in time to have a go through
the cattle sheds and take a romp with the young bulls."

We sighed. We couldn't help it. Novel writing seemed further away than
ever.

"Have you also a goat on the premises?" we asked.

"Oh, certainly. A ripping old fellow--come along and see him."

We shook our heads. No doubt our disappointment showed in our face. It
often does. We felt that it was altogether right and wholesome that our
great novels of to-day should be written in this fashion with the help
of goats, dogs, hogs and young bulls. But we felt, too, that it was not
for us.

We permitted ourselves one further question.

"At what time," we said, "do you rise in the morning?"

"Oh anywhere between four and five," said the Novelist.

"Ah, and do you generally take a cold dip as soon as you are up--even in
winter?"

"I do."

"You prefer, no doubt," we said, with a dejection that we could not
conceal, "to have water with a good coat of ice over it?"

"Oh, certainly!"

We said no more. We have long understood the reasons for our own failure
in life, but it was painful to receive a renewed corroboration of it.
This ice question has stood in our way for forty-seven years.

The Great Novelist seemed to note our dejection.

"Come to the house," he said, "my wife will give you a cup of tea."

In a few moments we had forgotten all our troubles in the presence of
one of the most charming chatelaines it has been our lot to meet.

We sat on a low stool immediately beside Ethelinda Afterthought, who
presided in her own gracious fashion over the tea-urn.

"So you want to know something of my methods of work?" she said, as she
poured hot tea over our leg.

"We do," we answered, taking out our little book and recovering
something of our enthusiasm. We do not mind hot tea being poured over us
if people treat us as a human being.

"Can you indicate," we continued, "what method you follow in beginning
one of your novels?"

"I always begin," said Ethelinda Afterthought, "with a study."

"A study?" we queried.

"Yes. I mean a study of actual facts. Take, for example, my _Leaves from
the Life of a Steam Laundrywoman_--more tea?"

"No, no," we said.

"Well, to make that book I first worked two years in a laundry."

"Two years!" we exclaimed. "And why?"

"To get the atmosphere."

"The steam?" we questioned.

"Oh, no," said Mrs. Afterthought, "I did that separately. I took a
course in steam at a technical school."

"Is it possible?" we said, our heart beginning to sing again. "Was all
that necessary?"

"I don't see how one could do it otherwise. The story opens, as no doubt
you remember--tea?--in the boiler room of the laundry."

"Yes," we said, moving our leg--"no, thank you."

"So you see the only possible _point d'appui_ was to begin with a
description of the inside of the boiler."

We nodded.

"A masterly thing," we said.

"My wife," interrupted the Great Novelist, who was sitting with the head
of a huge Danish hound in his lap, sharing his buttered toast with the
dog while he adjusted a set of trout flies, "is a great worker."

"Do you always work on that method?" we asked.

"Always," she answered. "For _Frederica of the Factory_ I spent six
months in a knitting mill. For _Marguerite of the Mud Flats_ I made
special studies for months and months."

"Of what sort?" we asked.

"In mud. Learning to model it. You see for a story of that sort the
first thing needed is a thorough knowledge of mud--all kinds of it."

"And what are you doing next?" we inquired.

"My next book," said the Lady Novelist, "is to be a study--tea?--of the
pickle industry--perfectly new ground."

"A fascinating field," we murmured.

"And quite new. Several of our writers have done the slaughter-house,
and in England a good deal has been done in jam. But so far no one has
done pickles. I should like, if I could," added Ethelinda Afterthought,
with the graceful modesty that is characteristic of her, "to make it the
first of a series of pickle novels, showing, don't you know, the whole
pickle district, and perhaps following a family of pickle workers for
four or five generations."

"Four or five!" we said enthusiastically. "Make it ten! And have you any
plan for work beyond that?"

"Oh, yes indeed," laughed the Lady Novelist. "I am always planning
ahead. What I want to do after that is a study of the inside of a
penitentiary."

"Of the _inside_?" we said, with a shudder.

"Yes. To do it, of course, I shall go to jail for two or three years!"

"But how can you get in?" we asked, thrilled at the quiet determination
of the frail woman before us.

"I shall demand it as a right," she answered quietly. "I shall go to
the authorities, at the head of a band of enthusiastic women, and demand
that I shall be sent to jail. Surely after the work I have done, that
much is coming to me."

"It certainly is," we said warmly.

We rose to go.

Both the novelists shook hands with us with great cordiality. Mr.
Afterthought walked as far as the front door with us and showed us a
short cut past the beehives that could take us directly through the bull
pasture to the main road.

We walked away in the gathering darkness of evening very quietly. We
made up our mind as we went that novel writing is not for us. We must
reach the penitentiary in some other way.

But we thought it well to set down our interview as a guide to others.



IX. The New Education

"So you're going back to college in a fortnight," I said to the Bright
Young Thing on the veranda of the summer hotel. "Aren't you sorry?"

"In a way I am," she said, "but in another sense I'm glad to go back.
One can't loaf all the time."

She looked up from her rocking-chair over her Red Cross knitting with
great earnestness.

How full of purpose these modern students are, I thought to myself. In
my time we used to go back to college as to a treadmill.

"I know that," I said, "but what I mean is that college, after all, is
a pretty hard grind. Things like mathematics and Greek are no joke,
are they? In my day, as I remember it, we used to think spherical
trigonometry about the hardest stuff of the lot."

She looked dubious.

"I didn't _elect_ mathematics," she said.

"Oh," I said, "I see. So you don't have to take it. And what _have_ you
elected?"

"For this coming half semester--that's six weeks, you know--I've elected
Social Endeavour."

"Ah," I said, "that's since my day, what is it?"

"Oh, it's _awfully_ interesting. It's the study of conditions."

"What kind of conditions?" I asked.

"All conditions. Perhaps I can't explain it properly. But I have the
prospectus of it indoors if you'd like to see it. We take up Society."

"And what do you do with it?"

"Analyse it," she said.

"But it must mean reading a tremendous lot of books."

"No," she answered. "We don't use books in this course. It's all
Laboratory Work."

"Now I _am_ mystified," I said. "What do you mean by Laboratory Work?"

"Well," answered the girl student with a thoughtful look upon her face,
"you see, we are supposed to break society up into its elements."

"In six weeks?"

"Some of the girls do it in six weeks. Some put in a whole semester and
take twelve weeks at it."

"So as to break up pretty thoroughly?" I said.

"Yes," she assented. "But most of the girls think six weeks is enough."

"That ought to pulverize it pretty completely. But how do you go at it?"

"Well," the girl said, "it's all done with Laboratory Work. We take, for
instance, department stores. I think that is the first thing we do, we
take up the department store."

"And what do you do with it?"

"We study it as a Social Germ."

"Ah," I said, "as a Social Germ."

"Yes," said the girl, delighted to see that I was beginning to
understand, "as a Germ. All the work is done in the concrete. The class
goes down with the professor to the department store itself--"

"And then--"

"Then they walk all through it, observing."

"But have none of them ever been in a departmental store before?"

"Oh, of course, but, you see, we go as Observers."

"Ah, now, I understand. You mean you don't buy anything and so you are
able to watch everything?"

"No," she said, "it's not that. We do buy things. That's part of it.
Most of the girls like to buy little knick-knacks, and anyway it gives
them a good chance to do their shopping while they're there. But while
they _are_ there they are observing. Then afterwards they make charts."

"Charts of what?" I asked.

"Charts of the employes; they're used to show the brain movement
involved."

"Do you find much?"

"Well," she said hesitatingly, "the idea is to reduce all the employes
to a Curve."

"To a Curve?" I exclaimed, "an In or an Out."

"No, no, not exactly that. Didn't you use Curves when you were at
college?"

"Never," I said.

"Oh, well, nowadays nearly everything, you know, is done into a Curve.
We put them on the board."

"And what is this particular Curve of the employe used for?" I asked.

"Why," said the student, "the idea is that from the Curve we can get the
Norm of the employe."

"Get his Norm?" I asked.

"Yes, get the Norm. That stands for the Root Form of the employe as a
social factor."

"And what can you do with that?"

"Oh, when we have that we can tell what the employe would do under any
and every circumstance. At least that's the idea--though I'm really only
quoting," she added, breaking off in a diffident way, "from what Miss
Thinker, the professor of Social Endeavour, says. She's really fine.
She's making a general chart of the female employes of one of the
biggest stores to show what percentage in case of fire would jump out of
the window and what percentage would run to the fire escape."

"It's a wonderful course," I said. "We had nothing like it when I went
to college. And does it only take in departmental stores?"

"No," said the girl, "the laboratory work includes for this semester
ice-cream parlours as well."

"What do you do with _them_?"

"We take them up as Social Cells, Nuclei, I think the professor calls
them."

"And how do you go at them?" I asked.

"Why, the girls go to them in little laboratory groups and study them."

"They eat ice-cream in them?"

"They _have to_," she said, "to make it concrete. But while they are
doing it they are considering the ice-cream parlour merely as a section
of social protoplasm."

"Does the professor go?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, she heads each group. Professor Thinker never spares herself
from work."

"Dear me," I said, "you must be kept very busy. And is Social Endeavour
all that you are going to do?"

"No," she answered, "I'm electing a half-course in Nature Work as well."

"Nature Work? Well! Well! That, I suppose, means cramming up a lot of
biology and zoology, does it not?"

"No," said the girl, "it's not exactly done with books. I believe it is
all done by Field Work."

"Field Work?"

"Yes. Field Work four times a week and an Excursion every Saturday."

"And what do you do in the Field Work?"

"The girls," she answered, "go out in groups anywhere out of doors, and
make a Nature Study of anything they see."

"How do they do that?" I asked.

"Why, they look at it. Suppose, for example, they come to a stream or a
pond or anything--"

"Yes--"

"Well, they _look_ at it."

"Had they never done that before?" I asked.

"Ah, but they look at it as a Nature Unit. Each girl must take forty
units in the course. I think we only do one unit each day we go out."

"It must," I said, "be pretty fatiguing work, and what about the
Excursion?"

"That's every Saturday. We go out with Miss Stalk, the professor of
Ambulation."

"And where do you go?"

"Oh, anywhere. One day we go perhaps for a trip on a steamer and another
Saturday somewhere in motors, and so on."

"Doing what?" I asked.

"Field Work. The aim of the course--I'm afraid I'm quoting Miss Stalk
but I don't mind, she's really fine--is to break nature into its
elements--"

"I see--"

"So as to view it as the external structure of Society and make
deductions from it."

"Have you made any?" I asked.

"Oh, no"--she laughed--"I'm only starting the work this term. But, of
course, I shall have to. Each girl makes at least one deduction at the
end of the course. Some of the seniors make two or three. But you have
to make _one_."

"It's a great course," I said. "No wonder you are going to be busy; and,
as you say, how much better than loafing round here doing nothing."

"Isn't it?" said the girl student with enthusiasm in her eyes. "It gives
one such a sense of purpose, such a feeling of doing something."

"It must," I answered.

"Oh, goodness," she exclaimed, "there's the lunch bell. I must skip and
get ready."

She was just vanishing from my side when the Burly Male Student, who was
also staying in the hotel, came puffing up after his five-mile run. He
was getting himself into trim for enlistment, so he told me. He noted
the retreating form of the college girl as he sat down.

"I've just been talking to her," I said, "about her college work. She
seems to be studying a queer lot of stuff--Social Endeavour and all
that!"

"Awful piffle," said the young man. "But the girls naturally run to all
that sort of rot, you know."

"Now, your work," I went on, "is no doubt very different. I mean what
you were taking before the war came along. I suppose you fellows have
an awful dose of mathematics and philology and so on just as I did in my
college days?"

Something like a blush came across the face of the handsome youth.

"Well, no," he said, "I didn't co-opt mathematics. At our college, you
know, we co-opt two majors and two minors."

"I see," I said, "and what were you co-opting?"

"I co-opted Turkish, Music, and Religion," he answered.

"Oh, yes," I said with a sort of reverential respect, "fitting yourself
for a position of choir-master in a Turkish cathedral, no doubt."

"No, no," he said, "I'm going into insurance; but, you see, those
subjects fitted in better than anything else."

"Fitted in?"

"Yes. Turkish comes at nine, music at ten and religion at eleven. So
they make a good combination; they leave a man free to--"

"To develop his mind," I said. "We used to find in my college days that
lectures interfered with it badly. But now, Turkish, that must be an
interesting language, eh?"

"Search me!" said the student. "All you have to do is answer the roll
and go out. Forty roll-calls give you one Turkish unit--but, say, I must
get on, I've got to change. So long."

I could not help reflecting, as the young man left me, on the great
changes that have come over our college education. It was a relief to
me later in the day to talk with a quiet, sombre man, himself a graduate
student in philosophy, on this topic. He agreed with me that the old
strenuous studies seem to be very largely abandoned.

I looked at the sombre man with respect.

"Now your work," I said, "is very different from what these young people
are doing--hard, solid, definite effort. What a relief it must be to you
to get a brief vacation up here. I couldn't help thinking to-day, as I
watched you moving round doing nothing, how fine it must feel for you
to come up here after your hard work and put in a month of out-and-out
loafing."

"Loafing!" he said indignantly. "I'm not loafing. I'm putting in a half
summer course in Introspection. That's why I'm here. I get credit for
two majors for my time here."

"Ah," I said, as gently as I could, "you get credit here."

He left me. I am still pondering over our new education. Meantime
I think I shall enter my little boy's name on the books of Tuskegee
College where the education is still old-fashioned.



X. The Errors of Santa Claus


It was Christmas Eve.

The Browns, who lived in the adjoining house, had been dining with the
Joneses.

Brown and Jones were sitting over wine and walnuts at the table. The
others had gone upstairs.

"What are you giving to your boy for Christmas?" asked Brown.

"A train," said Jones, "new kind of thing--automatic."

"Let's have a look at it," said Brown.

Jones fetched a parcel from the sideboard and began unwrapping it.

"Ingenious thing, isn't it?" he said. "Goes on its own rails. Queer how
kids love to play with trains, isn't it?"

"Yes," assented Brown. "How are the rails fixed?"

"Wait, I'll show you," said Jones. "Just help me to shove these dinner
things aside and roll back the cloth. There! See! You lay the rails like
that and fasten them at the ends, so--"

"Oh, yes, I catch on, makes a grade, doesn't it? Just the thing to amuse
a child, isn't it? I got Willy a toy aeroplane."

"I know, they're great. I got Edwin one on his birthday. But I thought
I'd get him a train this time. I told him Santa Claus was going to bring
him something altogether new this time. Edwin, of course, believes in
Santa Claus absolutely. Say, look at this locomotive, would you? It has
a spring coiled up inside the fire box."

"Wind her up," said Brown with great interest. "Let's see her go."

"All right," said Jones. "Just pile up two or three plates or something
to lean the end of the rails on. There, notice the way it buzzes before
it starts. Isn't that a great thing for a kid, eh?"

"Yes," said Brown. "And say, see this little string to pull the whistle!
By Gad, it toots, eh? Just like real?"

"Now then, Brown," Jones went on, "you hitch on those cars and I'll
start her. I'll be engineer, eh!"

Half an hour later Brown and Jones were still playing trains on the
dining-room table.

But their wives upstairs in the drawing-room hardly noticed their
absence. They were too much interested.

"Oh, I think it's perfectly sweet," said Mrs. Brown. "Just the loveliest
doll I've seen in years. I must get one like it for Ulvina. Won't
Clarisse be perfectly enchanted?"

"Yes," answered Mrs. Jones, "and then she'll have all the fun of
arranging the dresses. Children love that so much. Look, there are three
little dresses with the doll, aren't they cute? All cut out and ready to
stitch together."

"Oh, how perfectly lovely!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown. "I think the mauve one
would suit the doll best, don't you, with such golden hair? Only don't
you think it would make it much nicer to turn back the collar, so, and
to put a little band--so?"

"_What_ a good idea!" said Mrs. Jones. "Do let's try it. Just wait, I'll
get a needle in a minute. I'll tell Clarisse that Santa Claus sewed it
himself. The child believes in Santa Claus absolutely."

And half an hour later Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Brown were so busy stitching
dolls' clothes that they could not hear the roaring of the little train
up and down the dining table, and had no idea what the four children
were doing.

Nor did the children miss their mothers.

"Dandy, aren't they?" Edwin Jones was saying to little Willie Brown, as
they sat in Edwin's bedroom. "A hundred in a box, with cork tips, and
see, an amber mouthpiece that fits into a little case at the side. Good
present for Dad, eh?"

"Fine!" said Willie appreciatively. "I'm giving Father cigars."

"I know, I thought of cigars too. Men always like cigars and cigarettes.
You can't go wrong on them. Say, would you like to try one or two of
these cigarettes? We can take them from the bottom. You'll like them,
they're Russian--away ahead of Egyptian."

"Thanks," answered Willie. "I'd like one immensely. I only started
smoking last spring--on my twelfth birthday. I think a feller's a fool
to begin smoking cigarettes too soon, don't you? It stunts him. I waited
till I was twelve."

"Me too," said Edwin, as they lighted their cigarettes. "In fact, I
wouldn't buy them now if it weren't for Dad. I simply _had_ to give him
something from Santa Claus. He believes in Santa Claus absolutely, you
know."

And, while this was going on, Clarisse was showing little Ulvina the
absolutely lovely little bridge set that she got for her mother.

"Aren't these markers perfectly charming?" said Ulvina. "And don't you
love this little Dutch design--or is it Flemish, darling?"

"Dutch," said Clarisse. "Isn't it quaint? And aren't these the dearest
little things, for putting the money in when you play. I needn't have
got them with it--they'd have sold the rest separately--but I think it's
too utterly slow playing without money, don't you?"

"Oh, abominable," shuddered Ulvina. "But your mamma never plays for
money, does she?"

"Mamma! Oh, gracious, no. Mamma's far too slow for that. But I shall
tell her that Santa Claus insisted on putting in the little money
boxes."

"I suppose she believes in Santa Claus, just as my mamma does."

"Oh, absolutely," said Clarisse, and added, "What if we play a little
game! With a double dummy, the French way, or Norwegian Skat, if you
like. That only needs two."

"All right," agreed Ulvina, and in a few minutes they were deep in a
game of cards with a little pile of pocket money beside them.

About half an hour later, all the members of the two families were
again in the drawing-room. But of course nobody said anything about the
presents. In any case they were all too busy looking at the beautiful
big Bible, with maps in it, that the Joneses had brought to give to
Grandfather. They all agreed that, with the help of it, Grandfather
could hunt up any place in Palestine in a moment, day or night.

But upstairs, away upstairs in a sitting-room of his own Grandfather
Jones was looking with an affectionate eye at the presents that stood
beside him. There was a beautiful whisky decanter, with silver filigree
outside (and whiskey inside) for Jones, and for the little boy a big
nickel-plated Jew's harp.

Later on, far in the night, the person, or the influence, or whatever
it is called Santa Claus, took all the presents and placed them in the
people's stockings.

And, being blind as he always has been, he gave the wrong things to the
wrong people--in fact, he gave them just as indicated above.

But the next day, in the course of Christmas morning, the situation
straightened itself out, just as it always does.

Indeed, by ten o'clock, Brown and Jones were playing with the train, and
Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jones were making dolls' clothes, and the boys were
smoking cigarettes, and Clarisse and Ulvina were playing cards for their
pocket-money.

And upstairs--away up--Grandfather was drinking whisky and playing the
Jew's harp.

And so Christmas, just as it always does, turned out all right after
all.



XI. Lost in New York

A VISITOR'S SOLILOQUY

Well! Well!

Whatever has been happening to this place, to New York? Changed? Changed
since I was here in '86? Well, I should say so.

The hack-driver of the old days that I used to find waiting for me at
the station curb, with that impossible horse of his--the hack-driver
with his bulbous red face, and the nice smell of rye whisky all 'round
him for yards--gone, so it seems, for ever.

And in place of him this--what is it they call it?--taxi, with a
clean-shaven cut-throat steering it. "Get in," he says, Just that. He
doesn't offer to help me or lift my satchel. All right, young man, I'm
crawling in.

That's the machine that marks it, eh? I suppose they have them rigged up
so they can punch up anything they like. I thought so--he hits it up to
fifty cents before we start. But I saw him do it. Well, I can stand for
it this time. I'll not be caught in one of these again.

The hotel? All right, I'm getting out. My hotel? But what is it they
have done to it? They must have added ten stories to it. It reaches
to the sky. But I'll not try to look to the top of it. Not with this
satchel in my hand: no, sir! I'll wait till I'm safe inside. In there
I'll feel all right. They'll know me in there. They'll remember right
away my visit in the fall of '86. They won't easily have forgotten
that big dinner I gave--nine people at a dollar fifty a plate, with the
cigars extra. The clerk will remember _me_, all right.

Know me? Not they. The _clerk_ know me! How could he? For it seems now
there isn't any clerk, or not as there used to be. They have subdivided
him somehow into five or six. There is a man behind a desk, a majestic
sort of man, waving his hand. It would be sheer madness to claim
acquaintance with him. There is another with a great book, adjusting
cards in it; and another, behind glass labelled "Cashier," and busy as
a bank; there are two with mail and telegrams. They are all too busy to
know me.

Shall I sneak up near to them, keeping my satchel in my hand? I wonder,
do they _see_ me? _Can_ they see me, a mere thing like me? I am within
ten feet of them, but I am certain that they cannot see me. I am, and I
feel it, absolutely invisible.

Ha! One has seen me. He turns to me, or rather he rounds upon me, with
the words "Well, sir?" That, and nothing else, sharp and hard. There is
none of the ancient kindly pretence of knowing my name, no reaching
out a welcome hand and calling me Mr. Er--Er--till he has read my name
upside down while I am writing it and can address me as a familiar
friend. No friendly questioning about the crops in my part of the
country. The crops, forsooth! What do these young men know about crops?

A room? Had I any reservation? Any which? Any reservation. Oh, I see,
had I written down from home to say that I was coming? No, I had not
because the truth is I came at very short notice. I didn't know till a
week before that my brother-in-law--He is not listening. He has moved
away. I will stand and wait till he comes back. I am intruding here; I
had no right to disturb these people like this.

Oh, I can have a room at eleven o'clock. When it is which?--is vacated.
Oh, yes, I see, when the man in it gets up and goes away. I didn't for
the minute catch on to what the word--He has stopped listening.

Never mind, I can wait. From eight to eleven is only three hours,
anyway. I will move about here and look at things. If I keep moving they
will notice me less. Ha! books and news papers and magazines--what a
stack of them! Like a regular book-store. I will stand here and take
a look at some of them. Eh! what's that? Did I want to _buy_ anything?
Well, no, I hadn't exactly--I was just--Oh, I see, they're on _sale_.
All right, yes, give me this one--fifty cents--all right--and this and
these others. That's all right, miss, I'm not stingy. They always say of
me up in our town that when I--She has stopped listening.

Never mind. I will walk up and down again with the magazines under my
arm. That will make people think I live here. Better still if I could
put the magazines in my satchel. But how? There is no way to set it down
and undo the straps. I wonder if I could dare put it for a minute on
that table, the polished one--? Or no, they wouldn't likely allow a man
to put a bag _there_.

Well, I can wait. Anyway, it's eight o'clock and soon, surely, breakfast
will be ready. As soon as I hear the gong I can go in there. I wonder
if I could find out first where the dining-room is. It used always to
be marked across the door, but I don't seem to see it. Darn it, I'll ask
that man in uniform. If I'm here prepared to spend my good money to get
breakfast I guess I'm not scared to ask a simple question of a man in
uniform. Or no, I'll not ask _him_. I'll try this one--or no, he's busy.
I'll ask this other boy. Say, would you mind, if you please, telling me,
please, which way the dining-room--Eh, what? Do I want which? The grill
room or the palm room? Why, I tell you, young man, I just wanted to
get some breakfast if it's--what? Do I want what? I didn't quite get
that--_a la carte_? No, thanks--and, what's that? table de what? in the
palm room? No, I just wanted--but it doesn't matter. I'll wait 'round
here and look about till I hear the gong. Don't worry about me.

What's that? What's that boy shouting out--that boy with the tray? A
call for Mr. Something or Other--say, must be something happened pretty
serious! A call for Mr.--why, that's for me! Hullo! _Here I am! Here,
it's Me! Here I am_--wanted at the desk? all right, I'm coming, I'm
hurrying. I guess something's wrong at home, eh! _Here I am_. That's my
name. I'm ready.

Oh, a room. You've got a room for me. All right. The fifteenth floor!
Good heavens! Away up there! Never mind, I'll take it. Can't give me a
bath? That's all right. I had one.

Elevator over this way? All right, I'll come along. Thanks, I can carry
it. But I don't see any elevator? Oh, this door in the wall? Well! I'm
hanged. This the elevator! It certainly has changed. The elevator that
I remember had a rope in the middle of it, and you pulled the rope up as
you went, wheezing and clanking all the way to the fifth floor. But this
looks a queer sort of machine. How do you do--Oh, I beg your pardon. I
was in the road of the door, I guess. Excuse me, I'm afraid I got in the
way of your elbow. It's all right, you didn't hurt--or, not bad.

Gee whiz! It goes fast. Are you sure you can stop it? Better be careful,
young man. There was an elevator once in our town that--fifteenth floor?
All right.

This room, eh! Great Scott, it's high up. Say, better not go too near
that window, boy. That would be a hell of a drop if a feller fell out.
You needn't wait. Oh, I see. I beg your pardon. I suppose a quarter is
enough, eh?

Well, it's a relief to be alone. But say, this is high up! And what a
noise! What is it they're doing out there, away out in the air, with all
that clatter--building a steel building, I guess. Well, those fellers
have their nerve, all right. I'll sit further back from the window.

It's lonely up here. In the old days I could have rung a bell and had a
drink sent up to the room; but away up here on the fifteenth floor!
Oh, no, they'd never send a drink clean up to the fifteenth floor. Of
course, in the old days, I could have put on my canvas slippers and
walked down to the bar and had a drink and talked to the bar-tender.

But of course they wouldn't have a bar in a place like this. I'd like
to go down and see, but I don't know that I'd care to ask, anyway. No, I
guess I'll just sit and wait. Some one will come for me, I guess, after
a while.

If I were back right now in our town, I could walk into Ed Clancey's
restaurant and have ham and eggs, or steak and eggs, or anything, for
thirty-five cents.

Our town up home is a peach of a little town, anyway.

Say, I just feel as if I'd like to take my satchel and jump clean out of
that window. It would be a good rebuke to them.

But, pshaw! what would _they_ care?



XII. This Strenuous Age

Something is happening, I regret to find, to the world in which we used
to live. The poor old thing is being "speeded up." There is "efficiency"
in the air. Offices open at eight o'clock. Millionaires lunch on a baked
apple. Bankers eat practically nothing. A college president has declared
that there are more foot pounds of energy in a glass of peptonized
milk than in--something else, I forget what. All this is very fine. Yet
somehow I feel out of it.

My friends are failing me. They won't sit up after midnight. They
have taken to sleeping out of doors, on porches and pergolas. Some, I
understand, merely roost on plain wooden bars. They rise early. They
take deep breathing. They bathe in ice water. They are no good.

This change I am sure, is excellent. It is, I am certain, just as it
ought to be. I am merely saying, quietly and humbly, that I am not in
it. I am being left behind. Take, for example, the case of alcohol.
That, at least, is what it is called now. There were days when we called
it Bourbon whisky and Tom Gin, and when the very name of it breathed
romance. That time is past.

The poor stuff is now called alcohol, and none so low that he has a good
word for it. Quite right, I am certain. I don't defend it. Alcohol,
they are saying to-day, if taken in sufficient quantities, tears all the
outer coating off the diaphragm. It leaves the epigastric tissue, so I
am informed, a useless wreck.

This I don't deny. It gets, they tell me, into the brain. I don't
dispute it. It turns the prosencephalon into mere punk. I know it. I've
felt it doing it. They tell me--and I believe it--that after even
one glass of alcohol, or shall we say Scotch whisky and soda, a man's
working power is lowered by twenty per cent. This is a dreadful thing.
After three glasses, so it is held, his capacity for sustained rigid
thought is cut in two. And after about six glasses the man's working
power is reduced by at least a hundred per cent. He merely sits
there--in his arm-chair, at his club let us say--with all power,
even all _desire_ to work gone out of him, not thinking rigidly, not
sustaining his thought, a mere shapeless chunk of geniality, half hidden
in the blue smoke of his cigar.

Very dreadful, not a doubt. Alcohol is doomed; it is going it is gone.
Yet when I think of a hot Scotch on a winter evening, or a Tom Collins
on a summer morning, or a gin Rickey beside a tennis-court, or a stein
of beer on a bench beside a bowling-green--I wish somehow that we could
prohibit the use of alcohol and merely drink beer and whisky and gin as
we used to. But these things, it appears, interfere with work. They have
got to go.

But turn to the broader and simpler question of _work_ itself. In my
time one hated it. It was viewed as the natural enemy of man. Now the
world has fallen in love with it. My friends, I find, take their deep
breathing and their porch sleeping because it makes them work better.
They go for a week's vacation in Virginia not for its own sake, but
because they say they can work better when they get back. I know a
man who wears very loose boots because he can work better in them: and
another who wears only soft shirts because he can work better in a soft
shirt. There are plenty of men now who would wear dog-harness if they
thought they could work more in it. I know another man who walks away
out into the country every Sunday: not that he likes the country--he
wouldn't recognize a bumble bee if he saw it--but he claims that if he
walks on Sunday his head is as clear as a bell for work on Monday.

Against work itself, I say nothing. But I sometimes wonder if I stand
alone in this thing. Am I the _only_ person left who hates it?

Nor is work all. Take food. I admit, here and now, that the lunch I like
best--I mean for an ordinary plain lunch, not a party--is a beef steak
about one foot square and two inches thick. Can I work on it? No, I
can't, but I can work in spite of it. That is as much as one used to
ask, twenty-five years ago.

Yet now I find that all my friends boast ostentatiously about the meagre
lunch they eat. One tells me that he finds a glass of milk and a prune
is quite as much as he cares to take. Another says that a dry biscuit
and a glass of water is all that his brain will stand. One lunches
on the white of an egg. Another eats merely the yolk. I have only two
friends left who can eat a whole egg at a time.

I understand that the fear of these men is that if they eat more than
an egg or a biscuit they will feel heavy after lunch. Why they object
to feeling heavy, I do not know. Personally, I enjoy it. I like nothing
better than to sit round after a heavy lunch with half a dozen heavy
friends, smoking heavy cigars. I am well aware that that is wicked. I
merely confess the fact. I do not palliate it.

Nor is food all, nor drink, nor work, nor open air. There has spread
abroad along with the so-called physical efficiency a perfect passion
for _information_. Somehow if a man's stomach is empty and his head
clear as a bell, and if he won't drink and won't smoke, he reaches out
for information. He wants facts. He reads the newspapers all though,
instead of only reading the headings. He clamours for articles filled
with statistics about illiteracy and alien immigration and the number of
battleships in the Japanese navy.

I know quite a lot of men who have actually bought the new
_Encyclopaedia Britannica_. What is more, they _read_ the thing. They
sit in their apartments at night with a glass of water at their elbow
reading the encyclopaedia. They say that it is literally filled with
facts. Other men spend their time reading the Statistical Abstract of
the United States (they say the figures in it are great) and the Acts
of Congress, and the list of Presidents since Washington (or was it
Washington?).

Spending their evenings thus, and topping it off with a cold baked
apple, and sleeping out in the snow, they go to work in the morning,
so they tell me, with a positive sense of exhilaration. I have no doubt
that they do. But, for me, I confess that once and for all I am out of
it. I am left behind.

Add to it all such rising dangers as total prohibition, and the female
franchise, the daylight saving, and eugenic marriage, together with
proportional representation, the initiative and the referendum, and the
duty of the citizen to take an intelligent interest in politics--and I
admit that I shall not be sorry to go away from here.

But before I _do_ go, I have one hope. I understand that down in Hayti
things are very different. Bull fights, cock fights, dog fights, are
openly permitted. Business never begins till eleven in the morning.
Everybody sleeps after lunch, and the bars remain open all night.
Marriage is but a casual relation. In fact, the general condition of
morality, so they tell me, is lower in Hayti than it has been anywhere
since the time of Nero. Me for Hayti.



XIII. The Old, Old Story of How Five Men Went Fishing

This is a plain account of a fishing party. It is not a story. There
is no plot. Nothing happens in it and nobody is hurt. The only point of
this narrative is its peculiar truth. It not only tells what happened
to us--the five people concerned in it--but what has happened and is
happening to all the other fishing parties that at the season of the
year, from Halifax to Idaho, go gliding out on the unruffled surface
of our Canadian and American lakes in the still cool of early summer
morning.

We decided to go in the early morning because there is a popular belief
that the early morning is the right time for bass fishing. The bass is
said to bite in the early morning. Perhaps it does. In fact the thing
is almost capable of scientific proof. The bass does _not_ bite between
eight and twelve. It does _not_ bite between twelve and six in the
afternoon. Nor does it bite between six o'clock and midnight. All these
things are known facts. The inference is that the bass bites furiously
at about daybreak.

At any rate our party were unanimous about starting early. "Better
make an early start," said the Colonel, when the idea of the party was
suggested. "Oh, yes," said George Popley, the bank manager, "we want to
get right out on the shoal while the fish are biting."

When he said this all our eyes glistened. Everybody's do. There's a
thrill in the words. To "get right out on the shoal at daybreak when the
fish are biting," is an idea that goes to any man's brain.

If you listen to the men talking in a Pullman car, or an hotel corridor,
or, better still, at the little tables in a first-class bar, you will
not listen long before you hear one say: "Well, we got out early, just
after sunrise, right on the shoal." And presently, even if you can't
hear him, you will see him reach out his two hands and hold them about
two feet apart for the other man to admire. He is measuring the fish.
No, not the fish they caught; this was the big one that they lost. But
they had him right up to the top of the water. Oh, yes, he was up to
the top of the water all right. The number of huge fish that have been
heaved up to the top of the water in our lakes is almost incredible. Or
at least it used to be when we still had bar rooms and little tables
for serving that vile stuff Scotch whisky and such foul things as gin
Rickeys and John Collinses. It makes one sick to think of it, doesn't
it? But there was good fishing in the bars, all the winter.

But, as I say, we decided to go early in the morning. Charlie Jones,
the railroad man, said that he remembered how when he was a boy, up in
Wisconsin, they used to get out at five in the morning--not get up
at five but be on the shoal at five. It appears that there is a shoal
somewhere in Wisconsin where the bass lie in thousands. Kernin, the
lawyer, said that when he was a boy--this was on Lake Rosseau--they used
to get out at four. It seems there is a shoal in Lake Rosseau where you
can haul up the bass as fast as you can drop your line. The shoal is
hard to find--very hard. Kernin can find it, but it is doubtful--so I
gather--if any other living man can. The Wisconsin shoal, too, is very
difficult to find. Once you find it, you are all right; but it's hard to
find. Charlie Jones can find it. If you were in Wisconsin right now he'd
take you straight to it, but probably no other person now alive could
reach that shoal. In the same way Colonel Morse knows of a shoal in
Lake Simcoe where he used to fish years and years ago and which, I
understand, he can still find.

I have mentioned that Kernin is a lawyer, and Jones a railroad man
and Popley a banker. But I needn't have. Any reader would take it for
granted. In any fishing party there is always a lawyer. You can tell him
at sight. He is the one of the party that has a landing net and a steel
rod in sections with a wheel that is used to wind the fish to the top of
the water.

And there is always a banker. You can tell him by his good clothes.
Popley, in the bank, wears his banking suit. When he goes fishing he
wears his fishing suit. It is much the better of the two, because his
banking suit has ink marks on it, and his fishing suit has no fish marks
on it.

As for the railroad man--quite so, the reader knows it as well as I
do--you can tell him because he carries a pole that he cut in the bush
himself, with a ten-cent line wrapped round the end of it. Jones says
he can catch as many fish with this kind of line as Kernin can with his
patent rod and wheel. So he can too. Just the same number.

But Kernin says that with his patent apparatus if you get a fish on you
can _play_ him. Jones says to Hades with _playing_ him: give him a fish
on his line and he'll haul him in all right. Kernin says he'd lose him.
But Jones says _he_ wouldn't. In fact he _guarantees_ to haul the fish
in. Kernin says that more than once--in Lake Rosseau--he has played a
fish for over half an hour. I forget now why he stopped; I think the
fish quit playing.

I have heard Kernin and Jones argue this question of their two rods,
as to which rod can best pull in the fish, for half an hour. Others may
have heard the same question debated. I know no way by which it could be
settled.

Our arrangement to go fishing was made at the little golf club of our
summer town on the veranda where we sit in the evening. Oh, it's just
a little place, nothing pretentious: the links are not much good for
_golf_; in fact we don't play much _golf_ there, so far as golf goes,
and of course, we don't serve meals at the club, it's not like that--and
no, we've nothing to drink there because of prohibition. But we go and
_sit_ there. It is a good place to _sit_, and, after all, what else can
you do in the present state of the law?

So it was there that we arranged the party.

The thing somehow seemed to fall into the mood of each of us. Jones said
he had been hoping that some of the boys would get up a fishing party.
It was apparently the one kind of pleasure that he really cared for. For
myself I was delighted to get in with a crowd of regular fishermen
like these four, especially as I hadn't been out fishing for nearly ten
years, though fishing is a thing I am passionately fond of. I know no
pleasure in life like the sensation of getting a four-pound bass on the
hook and hauling him up to the top of the water, to weigh him. But, as
I say, I hadn't been out for ten years. Oh, yes, I live right beside
the water every summer, and yes, certainly--I am saying so--I am
passionately fond of fishing, but still somehow I hadn't been _out_.
Every fisherman knows just how that happens. The years have a way of
slipping by. Yet I must say I was surprised to find that so keen a sport
as Jones hadn't been out--so it presently appeared--for eight years. I
had imagined he practically lived on the water. And Colonel Morse and
Kernin, I was amazed to find, hadn't been out for twelve years, not
since the day--so it came out in conversation--when they went out
together in Lake Rosseau and Kernin landed a perfect monster, a regular
corker, five pounds and a half, they said; or no, I don't think he
_landed_ him. No, I remember, he didn't _land_ him. He caught him--and
he _could_ have landed him, he should have landed him--but he _didn't_
land him. That was it. Yes, I remember Kernin and Morse had a slight
discussion about it--oh, perfectly amicable--as to whether Morse had
fumbled with the net or whether Kernin--the whole argument was perfectly
friendly--had made an ass of himself by not "striking" soon enough. Of
course the whole thing was so long ago that both of them could look
back on it without any bitterness or ill nature. In fact it amused them.
Kernin said it was the most laughable thing he ever saw in his life to
see poor old Jack--that's Morse's name--shoving away with the landing
net wrong side up. And Morse said he'd never forget seeing poor old
Kernin yanking his line first this way and then that and not knowing
where to try to haul it. It made him laugh to look back at it.

They might have gone on laughing for quite a time, but Charlie Jones
interrupted by saying that in his opinion a landing net is a piece of
darned foolishness. Here Popley agrees with him. Kernin objects that if
you don't use a net you'll lose your fish at the side of the boat. Jones
says no: give him a hook well through the fish and a stout line in his
hand and that fish has _got_ to come in. Popley says so too. He says let
him have his hook fast through the fish's head with a short stout line,
and put him (Popley) at the other end of that line and that fish will
come in. It's _got_ to. Otherwise Popley will know why. That's the
alternative. Either the fish must come in or Popley must know why.
There's no escape from the logic of it.

But perhaps some of my readers have heard the thing discussed before.

So, as I say, we decided to go the next morning and to make an early
start. All of the boys were at one about that. When I say "boys," I use
the word, as it is used in fishing, to mean people from say forty-five
to sixty-five. There is something about fishing that keeps men young. If
a fellow gets out for a good morning's fishing, forgetting all business
worries, once in a while--say, once in ten years--it keeps him fresh.

We agreed to go in a launch, a large launch--to be exact, the largest
in the town. We could have gone in row boats, but a row boat is a poor
thing to fish from. Kernin said that in a row boat it is impossible
properly to "_play_" your fish. The side of the boat is so low that
the fish is apt to leap over the side into the boat when half "played."
Popley said that there is no comfort in a row boat. In a launch a man
can reach out his feet and take it easy. Charlie Jones said that in a
launch a man could rest his back against something, and Morse said that
in a launch a man could rest his neck. Young inexperienced boys, in the
small sense of the word, never think of these things. So they go out
and after a few hours their necks get tired; whereas a group of expert
fishers in a launch can rest their backs and necks and even fall asleep
during the pauses when the fish stop biting.

Anyway all the "boys" agreed that the great advantage of a launch would
be that we could get a _man_ to take us. By that means the man could see
to getting the worms, and the man would be sure to have spare lines, and
the man could come along to our different places--we were all beside the
water--and pick us up. In fact the more we thought about the advantage
of having a "man" to take us the better we liked it. As a boy gets old
he likes to have a man around to do the work.

Anyway Frank Rolls, the man we decided to get, not only has the biggest
launch in town but what is more Frank _knows_ the lake. We called him up
at his boat-house over the phone and said we'd give him five dollars to
take us out first thing in the morning provided that he knew the shoal.
He said he knew it.

I don't know, to be quite candid about it, who mentioned whisky first.
In these days everybody has to be a little careful. I imagine we had all
been _thinking_ whisky for some time before anybody said it. But there
is a sort of convention that when men go fishing they must have whisky.
Each man makes the pretence that one thing he needs at six o'clock in
the morning is cold raw whisky. It is spoken of in terms of affection.
One man says the first thing you need if you're going fishing is a good
"snort" of whisky; another says that a good "snifter" is the very thing;
and the others agree that no man can fish properly without "a horn," or
a "bracer" or an "eye-opener." Each man really decides that he himself
won't take any. But he feels that, in a collective sense, the "boys"
need it.

So it was with us. The Colonel said he'd bring along "a bottle of
booze." Popley said, no, let _him_ bring it; Kernin said let him; and
Charlie Jones said no, he'd bring it. It turned out that the Colonel had
some very good Scotch at his house that he'd like to bring; oddly enough
Popley had some good Scotch in _his_ house too; and, queer though it is,
each of the boys had Scotch in his house. When the discussion closed
we knew that each of the five of us was intending to bring a bottle of
whisky. Each of the five of us expected the other to drink one and a
quarter bottles in the course of the morning.

I suppose we must have talked on that veranda till long after one in the
morning. It was probably nearer two than one when we broke up. But we
agreed that that made no difference. Popley said that for him three
hours' sleep, the right kind of sleep, was far more refreshing than ten.
Kernin said that a lawyer learns to snatch his sleep when he can, and
Jones said that in railroad work a man pretty well cuts out sleep.

So we had no alarms whatever about not being ready by five. Our plan was
simplicity itself. Men like ourselves in responsible positions learn to
organize things easily. In fact Popley says it is that faculty that has
put us where we are. So the plan simply was that Frank Rolls should come
along at five o'clock and blow his whistle in front of our places, and
at that signal each man would come down to his wharf with his rod and
kit and so we'd be off to the shoal without a moment's delay.

The weather we ruled out. It was decided that even if it rained that
made no difference. Kernin said that fish bite better in the rain. And
everybody agreed that man with a couple of snorts in him need have no
fear of a little rain water.

So we parted, all keen on the enterprise. Nor do I think even now that
there was anything faulty or imperfect in that party as we planned it.

I heard Frank Rolls blowing his infernal whistle opposite my summer
cottage at some ghastly hour in the morning. Even without getting out of
bed, I could see from the window that it was no day for fishing. No, not
raining exactly. I don't mean that, but one of those peculiar days--I
don't mean _wind_--there was no wind, but a sort of feeling in the air
that showed anybody who understands bass fishing that it was a perfectly
rotten day for going out. The fish, I seemed to know it, wouldn't bite.

When I was still fretting over the annoyance of the disappointment I
heard Frank Rolls blowing his whistle in front of the other cottages. I
counted thirty whistles altogether. Then I fell into a light doze--not
exactly sleep, but a sort of _doze_--I can find no other word for it. It
was clear to me that the other "boys" had thrown the thing over. There
was no use in my trying to go out alone. I stayed where I was, my doze
lasting till ten o'clock.

When I walked up town later in the morning I couldn't help being struck
by the signs in the butcher's shops and the restaurants, FISH, FRESH
FISH, FRESH LAKE FISH.

Where in blazes do they get those fish anyway?



XIV. Back from the Land

I have just come back now with the closing in of autumn--to the city. I
have hung up my hoe in my study; my spade is put away behind the piano.
I have with me seven pounds of Paris Green that I had over. Anybody who
wants it may have it. I didn't like to bury it for fear of its poisoning
the ground. I didn't like to throw it away for fear of its destroying
cattle. I was afraid to leave it in my summer place for fear that it
might poison the tramps who generally break in in November. I have it
with me now. I move it from room to room, as I hate to turn my back upon
it. Anybody who wants it, I repeat, can have it.

I should like also to give away, either to the Red Cross or to anything
else, ten packets of radish seed (the early curled variety, I think),
fifteen packets of cucumber seed (the long succulent variety, I
believe it says), and twenty packets of onion seed (the Yellow Danvers,
distinguished, I understand, for its edible flavour and its nutritious
properties). It is not likely that I shall ever, on this side of the
grave, plant onion seed again. All these things I have with me. My
vegetables are to come after me by freight. They are booked from Simcoe
County to Montreal; at present they are, I believe, passing through
Schenectady. But they will arrive later all right. They were seen going
through Detroit last week, moving west. It is the first time that I
ever sent anything by freight anywhere. I never understood before the
wonderful organization of the railroads. But they tell me that there is
a bad congestion of freight down South this month. If my vegetables get
tangled up in that there is no telling when they will arrive.

In other words, I am one of the legion of men--quiet, determined,
resolute men--who went out last spring to plant the land, and who are
now back.

With me--and I am sure that I speak for all the others as well--it was
not a question of mere pleasure; it was no love of gardening for its
own sake that inspired us. It was a plain national duty. What we said to
ourselves was: "This war has got to stop. The men in the trenches thus
far have failed to stop it. Now let _us_ try. The whole thing," we
argued, "is a plain matter of food production."

"If we raise enough food the Germans are bound to starve. Very good. Let
us kill them."

I suppose there was never a more grimly determined set of men went out
from the cities than those who went out last May, as I did, to conquer
the food problem. I don't mean to say that each and every one of us
actually left the city. But we all "went forth" in the metaphorical
sense. Some of the men cultivated back gardens; others took vacant lots;
some went out into the suburbs; and others, like myself, went right out
into the country.

We are now back. Each of us has with him his Paris Green, his hoe and
the rest of his radish seed.

The time has, therefore, come for a plain, clear statement of our
experience. We have, as everybody knows, failed. We have been beaten
hack all along the line. Our potatoes are buried in a jungle of autumn
burdocks. Our radishes stand seven feet high, uneatable. Our tomatoes,
when last seen, were greener than they were at the beginning of August,
and getting greener every week. Our celery looked as delicate as a
maidenhair fern. Our Indian corn was nine feet high with a tall feathery
spike on top of that, but no sign of anything eatable about it from top
to bottom.

I look back with a sigh of regret at those bright, early days in April
when we were all buying hoes, and talking soil and waiting for the snow
to be off the ground. The street cars, as we went up and down to
our offices, were a busy babel of garden talk. There was a sort of
farmer-like geniality in the air. One spoke freely to strangers. Every
man with a hoe was a friend. Men chewed straws in their offices, and
kept looking out of windows to pretend to themselves that they were
afraid it might blow up rain. "Got your tomatoes in?" one man would ask
another as they went up in the elevator. "Yes, I got mine in yesterday,"
the other would answer, "But I'm just a little afraid that this east
wind may blow up a little frost. What we need now is growing weather."
And the two men would drift off together from the elevator door along
the corridor, their heads together in friendly colloquy.

I have always regarded a lawyer as a man without a soul. There is one
who lives next door to me to whom I have not spoken in five years. Yet
when I saw him one day last spring heading for the suburbs in a pair of
old trousers with a hoe in one hand and a box of celery plants in the
other I felt that I loved the man. I used to think that stock-brokers
were mere sordid calculating machines. Now that I have seen whole firms
of them busy at the hoe, wearing old trousers that reached to their
armpits and were tied about the waist with a polka dot necktie, I know
that they are men. I know that there are warm hearts beating behind
those trousers.

Old trousers, I say. Where on earth did they all come from in such a
sudden fashion last spring? Everybody had them. Who would suspect that
a man drawing a salary of ten thousand a year was keeping in reserve a
pair of pepper-and-salt breeches, four sizes too large for him, just
in case a war should break out against Germany! Talk of German
mobilization! I doubt whether the organizing power was all on their side
after all. At any rate it is estimated that fifty thousand pairs of old
trousers were mobilized in Montreal in one week.

But perhaps it was not a case of mobilization, or deliberate
preparedness. It was rather an illustration of the primitive instinct
that is in all of us and that will out in "war time." Any man worth the
name would wear old breeches all the time if the world would let him.
Any man will wind a polka dot tie round his waist in preference to
wearing patent braces. The makers of the ties know this. That is
why they make the tie four feet long. And in the same way if any
manufacturer of hats will put on the market an old fedora, with a limp
rim and a mark where the ribbon used to be but is not--a hat guaranteed
to be six years old, well weathered, well rained on, and certified
to have been walked over by a herd of cattle--that man will make and
deserve a fortune.

These at least were the fashions of last May. Alas, where are they now?
The men that wore them have relapsed again into tailor-made tweeds. They
have put on hard new hats. They are shining their boots again. They are
shaving again, not merely on Saturday night, but every day. They are
sinking back into civilization.

Yet those were bright times and I cannot forbear to linger on them.
Nor the least pleasant feature was our rediscovery of the morning. My
neighbour on the right was always up at five. My neighbour on the
left was out and about by four. With the earliest light of day, little
columns of smoke rose along our street from the kitchen ranges where
our wives were making coffee for us before the servants got up. By six
o'clock the street was alive and busy with friendly salutations. The
milkman seemed a late comer, a poor, sluggish fellow who failed to
appreciate the early hours of the day. A man, we found, might live
through quite a little Iliad of adventure before going to his nine
o'clock office.

"How will you possibly get time to put in a garden?" I asked of one of
my neighbours during this glad period of early spring before I left for
the country. "Time!" he exclaimed. "Why, my dear fellow, I don't have to
be down at the warehouse till eight-thirty."

Later in the summer I saw the wreck of his garden, choked with
weeds. "Your garden," I said, "is in poor shape." "Garden!" he said
indignantly. "How on earth can I find time for a garden? Do you realize
that I have to be down at the warehouse at eight-thirty?"

When I look back to our bright beginnings our failure seems hard indeed
to understand. It is only when I survey the whole garden movement in
melancholy retrospect that I am able to see some of the reasons for it.

The principal one, I think, is the question of the season. It appears
that the right time to begin gardening is last year. For many things it
is well to begin the year before last. For good results one must begin
even sooner. Here, for example, are the directions, as I interpret
them, for growing asparagus. Having secured a suitable piece of ground,
preferably a deep friable loam rich in nitrogen, go out three years ago
and plough or dig deeply. Remain a year inactive, thinking. Two years
ago pulverize the soil thoroughly. Wait a year. As soon as last year
comes set out the young shoots. Then spend a quiet winter doing nothing.
The asparagus will then be ready to work at _this_ year.

This is the rock on which we were wrecked. Few of us were men of
sufficient means to spend several years in quiet thought waiting to
begin gardening. Yet that is, it seems, the only way to begin. Asparagus
demands a preparation of four years. To fit oneself to grow strawberries
requires three years. Even for such humble things as peas, beans, and
lettuce the instructions inevitably read, "plough the soil deeply in the
preceeding autumn." This sets up a dilemma. _Which_ is the preceeding
autumn? If a man begins gardening in the spring he is too late for last
autumn and too early for this. On the other hand if he begins in the
autumn he is again too late; he has missed this summer's crop. It is,
therefore, ridiculous to begin in the autumn and impossible to begin in
the spring.

This was our first difficulty. But the second arose from the question
of the soil itself. All the books and instructions insist that the
selection of the soil is the most important part of gardening. No doubt
it is. But, if a man has already selected his own backyard before he
opens the book, what remedy is there? All the books lay stress on the
need of "a deep, friable loam full of nitrogen." This I have never seen.
My own plot of land I found on examination to contain nothing but earth.
I could see no trace of nitrogen. I do not deny the existence of loam.
There may be such a thing. But I am admitting now in all humility of
mind that I don't know what loam is. Last spring my fellow gardeners and
I all talked freely of the desirability of "a loam." My own opinion is
that none of them had any clearer ideas about it than I had. Speaking
from experience, I should say that the only soils are earth, mud and
dirt. There are no others.

But I leave out the soil. In any case we were mostly forced to disregard
it. Perhaps a more fruitful source of failure even than the lack of loam
was the attempt to apply calculation and mathematics to gardening. Thus,
if one cabbage will grow in one square foot of ground, how many cabbages
will grow in ten square feet of ground? Ten? Not at all. The answer is
_one_. You will find as a matter of practical experience that however
many cabbages you plant in a garden plot there will be only _one_ that
will really grow. This you will presently come to speak of as _the
_cabbage. Beside it all the others (till the caterpillars finally finish
their existence) will look but poor, lean things. But _the_ cabbage will
be a source of pride and an object of display to visitors; in fact it
would ultimately have grown to be a _real_ cabbage, such as you buy for
ten cents at any market, were it not that you inevitably cut it and eat
it when it is still only half-grown.

This always happens to the one cabbage that is of decent size, and to
the one tomato that shows signs of turning red (it is really a feeble
green-pink), and to the only melon that might have lived to ripen. They
get eaten. No one but a practised professional gardener can live and
sleep beside a melon three-quarters ripe and a cabbage two-thirds grown
without going out and tearing it off the stem.

Even at that it is not a bad plan to eat the stuff while you can. The
most peculiar thing about gardening is that all of a sudden everything
is too old to eat. Radishes change over night from delicate young shoots
not large enough to put on the table into huge plants seven feet high
with a root like an Irish shillelagh. If you take your eyes off a
lettuce bed for a week the lettuces, not ready to eat when you last
looked at them, have changed into a tall jungle of hollyhocks. Green
peas are only really green for about two hours. Before that they are
young peas; after that they are old peas. Cucumbers are the worst case
of all. They change overnight, from delicate little bulbs obviously too
slight and dainty to pick, to old cases of yellow leather filled with
seeds.

If I were ever to garden again, a thing which is out of the bounds of
possibility, I should wait until a certain day and hour when all the
plants were ripe, and then go out with a gun and shoot them all dead, so
that they could grow no more.

But calculation, I repeat, is the bane of gardening. I knew, among our
group of food producers, a party of young engineers, college men,
who took an empty farm north of the city as the scene of their summer
operations. They took their coats off and applied college methods. They
ran out, first, a base line AB, and measured off from it lateral
spurs MN, OP, QR, and so on. From these they took side angles with a
theodolite so as to get the edges of each of the separate plots of
their land absolutely correct. I saw them working at it all through one
Saturday afternoon in May. They talked as they did it of the peculiar
ignorance of the so-called practical farmer. He never--so they
agreed--uses his head. He never--I think I have their phrase
correct--stops to think. In laying out his ground for use, it never
occurs to him to try to get the maximum result from a given space. If
a farmer would only realize that the contents of a circle represent the
maximum of space enclosable in a given perimeter, and that a circle is
merely a function of its own radius, what a lot of time he would save.

These young men that I speak of laid out their field engineer-fashion
with little white posts at even distances. They made a blueprint of the
whole thing as they planted it. Every corner of it was charted out. The
yield was calculated to a nicety. They had allowed for the fact that
some of the stuff might fail to grow by introducing what they called "a
coefficient of error." By means of this and by reducing the variation of
autumn prices to a mathematical curve, those men not only knew already
in the middle of May the exact yield of their farm to within half a
bushel (they allowed, they said, a variation of half a bushel per fifty
acres), but they knew beforehand within a few cents the market value
that they would receive. The figures, as I remember them, were simply
amazing. It seemed incredible that fifty acres could produce so much.
Yet there were the plain facts in front of one, calculated out. The
thing amounted practically to a revolution in farming. At least it ought
to have. And it would have if those young men had come again to hoe
their field. But it turned out, most unfortunately, that they were busy.
To their great regret they were too busy to come. They had been working
under a free-and-easy arrangement. Each man was to give what time he
could every Saturday. It was left to every man's honour to do what he
could. There was no compulsion. Each man trusted the others to be there.
In fact the thing was not only an experiment in food production, it was
also a new departure in social co-operation. The first Saturday that
those young men worked there were, so I have been told, seventy-five of
them driving in white stakes and running lines. The next Saturday there
were fifteen of them planting potatoes. The rest were busy. The week
after that there was one man hoeing weeds. After that silence fell upon
the deserted garden, broken only by the cry of the chick-a-dee and the
choo-choo feeding on the waving heads of the thistles.

But I have indicated only two or three of the ways of failing at food
production. There are ever so many more. What amazes me, in returning
to the city, is to find the enormous quantities of produce of all sorts
offered for sale in the markets. It is an odd thing that last spring,
by a queer oversight, we never thought, any of us, of this process of
increasing the supply. If every patriotic man would simply take a large
basket and go to the market every day and buy all that he could carry
away there need be no further fear of a food famine.

And, meantime, my own vegetables are on their way. They are in a soap
box with bars across the top, coming by freight. They weigh forty-six
pounds, including the box. They represent the result of four months'
arduous toil in sun, wind, and storm. Yet it is pleasant to think that I
shall be able to feed with them some poor family of refugees during the
rigour of the winter. Either that or give them to the hens. I certainly
won't eat the rotten things myself.



XV. The Perplexity Column as Done by the Jaded Journalist

INSTANTANEOUS ANSWERS TO ALL QUESTIONS

(All questions written out legibly with the name and address of the
sender and accompanied by one dollar, answered immediately and without
charge.)

Harvard Student asks:

Can you tell me the date at which, or on which, Oliver Cromwell's father
died?

Answer: No, I can't.

Student of Mathematics asks:

Will you kindly settle a matter involving a wager between myself and
a friend? A. bet B. that a pedestrian in walking downhill over a given
space and alternately stepping with either foot, covers more ground than
a man coasting over the same road on a bicycle. Which of us wins?

Answer: I don't understand the question, and I don't know which of you
is A.

Chess-player asks:

Is the Knight's gambit recognized now as a permissible opening in chess?

Answer: I don't play chess.

Reuben Boob asks:

For some time past I have been calling upon a young lady friend at her
house evenings and going out with her to friends' nights. I should like
to know if it would be all right to ask to take her alone with me to the
theatre?

Answer: Certainly not. This column is very strict about these things.
Not alone. Not for a moment. It is better taste to bring your father
with you.

Auction asks:

In playing bridge please tell me whether the third or the second player
ought to discard from weakness on a long suit when trumps have been
twice round and the lead is with dummy.

Answer: Certainly.

Lady of Society asks:

Can you tell me whether the widow of a marquis is entitled to go in to
dinner before the eldest daughter of an earl?

Answer: Ha! ha! This is a thing we know--something that we _do_ know.
You put your foot in it when you asked us that. We have _lived_ this
sort of thing too long ever to make any error. The widow of a marquis,
whom you should by rights call a marchioness dowager (but we overlook
it--you meant no harm) is entitled (in any hotel that we know or
frequent) to go in to dinner whenever, and as often, as she likes. On a
dining-car the rule is the other way.

Vassar Girl asks:

What is the date of the birth of Caracalla?

Answer: I couldn't say.

Lexicographer asks:

Can you tell me the proper way to spell "dog"?

Answer: Certainly. "Dog" should be spelt, properly and precisely, "dog."
When it is used in the sense to mean not "_a_ dog" or "_one_ dog" but
two or more dogs--in other words what we grammarians are accustomed
to call the plural--it is proper to add to it the diphthong, _s_,
pronounced with a hiss like _z_ in soup.

But for all these questions of spelling your best plan is to buy a copy
of Our Standard Dictionary, published in ten volumes, by this newspaper,
at forty dollars.

Ignoramus asks:

Can you tell me how to spell "cat"?

Answer: Didn't you hear what we just said about how to spell "dog"? Buy
the Dictionary.

Careworn Mother asks:

I am most anxious to find out the relation of the earth's diameter to
its circumference. Can you, or any of your readers, assist me in it?

Answer: The earth's circumference is estimated to be three decimal one
four one five nine of its diameter, a fixed relation indicated by the
Greek letter _pi_. If you like we will tell you what _pi_ is. Shall we?

"Brink of Suicide" writes:

Can you, will you, tell me what is the Sanjak of Novi Bazar?

Answer. The Sanjak of Novi Bazar is bounded on the north by its northern
frontier, cold and cheerless, and covered during the winter with deep
snow. The east of the Sanjak occupies a more easterly position. Here the
sun rises--at first slowly, but gathering speed as it goes. After having
traversed the entire width of the whole Sanjak, the magnificent orb,
slowly and regretfully, sinks into the west. On the south, where the
soil is more fertile and where the land begins to be worth occupying,
the Sanjak is, or will be, bounded by the British Empire.



XVI. Simple Stories of Success, or How to Succeed in Life

Let me begin with a sort of parable. Many years ago when I was on the
staff of a great public school, we engaged a new swimming master.

He was the most successful man in that capacity that we had had for
years.

Then one day it was discovered that he couldn't swim.

He was standing at the edge of the swimming tank explaining the breast
stroke to the boys in the water.

He lost his balance and fell in. He was drowned.

Or no, he wasn't drowned, I remember,--he was rescued by some of the
pupils whom he had taught to swim.

After he was resuscitated by the boys--it was one of the things he had
taught them--the school dismissed him.

Then some of the boys who were sorry for him taught him how to swim, and
he got a new job as a swimming master in another place.

But this time he was an utter failure. He swam well, but they said he
couldn't _teach_.

So his friends looked about to get him a new job. This was just at the
time when the bicycle craze came in. They soon found the man a position
as an instructor in bicycle riding. As he had never been on a bicycle in
his life, he made an admirable teacher. He stood fast on the ground and
said, "Now then, all you need is confidence."

Then one day he got afraid that he might be found out. So he went out to
a quiet place and got on a bicycle, at the top of a slope, to learn to
ride it. The bicycle ran away with him. But for the skill and daring of
one of his pupils, who saw him and rode after him, he would have been
killed.

This story, as the reader sees, is endless. Suffice it to say that the
man I speak of is now in an aviation school teaching people to fly. They
say he is one of the best aviators that ever walked.

According to all the legends and story books, the principal factor in
success is perseverance. Personally, I think there is nothing in it. If
anything, the truth lies the other way.

There is an old motto that runs, "If at first you don't succeed, try,
try again." This is nonsense. It ought to read, "If at first you don't
succeed, quit, quit, at once."

If you can't do a thing, more or less, the first time you try, you will
never do it. Try something else while there is yet time.

Let me illustrate this with a story.

I remember, long years ago, at a little school that I attended in the
country, we had a schoolmaster, who used perpetually to write on the
blackboard, in a copperplate hand, the motto that I have just quoted:

   "If at first you don't succeed,
    Try, try, again."

He wore plain clothes and had a hard, determined face. He was studying
for some sort of preliminary medical examination, and was saving money
for a medical course. Every now and then he went away to the city and
tried the examination: and he always failed. Each time he came back, he
would write up on the blackboard:

   "Try, try again."

And always he looked grimmer and more determined than before. The
strange thing was that, with all his industry and determination, he
would break out every now and then into drunkenness, and lie round the
tavern at the crossroads, and the school would be shut for two days.
Then he came back, more fiercely resolute than ever. Even children could
see that the man's life was a fight. It was like the battle between Good
and Evil in Milton's epics.

Well, after he had tried it four times, the schoolmaster at last
passed the examination; and he went away to the city in a suit of store
clothes, with eight hundred dollars that he had saved up, to study
medicine. Now it happened that he had a brother who was not a bit like
himself, but was a sort of ne'er-do-well, always hard-up and sponging on
other people, and never working.

And when the schoolmaster came to the city and his brother knew that
he had eight hundred dollars, he came to him and got him drinking and
persuaded him to hand over the eight hundred dollars and to let him put
it into the Louisiana State lottery. In those days the Louisiana Lottery
had not yet been forbidden the use of the mails, and you could buy a
ticket for anything from one dollar up. The Grand Prize was two hundred
thousand dollars, and the Seconds were a hundred thousand each.

So the brother persuaded the schoolmaster to put the money in. He said
he had a system for buying only the tickets with prime numbers, that
won't divide by anything, and that it must win. He said it was a
mathematical certainty, and he figured it out with the schoolmaster in
the back room of a saloon, with a box of dominoes on the table to show
the plan of it. He told the schoolmaster that he himself would only take
ten per cent of what they made, as a commission for showing the system,
and the schoolmaster could have the rest.

So, in a mad moment, the schoolmaster handed over his roll of money, and
that was the last he ever saw of it.

The next morning when he was up he was fierce with rage and remorse
for what he had done. He could not go back to the school, and he had no
money to go forward. So he stayed where he was in the little hotel where
he had got drunk, and went on drinking. He looked so fierce and unkempt
that in the hotel they were afraid of him, and the bar-tenders watched
him out of the corners of their eyes wondering what he would do; because
they knew that there was only one end possible, and they waited for it
to come. And presently it came. One of the bar-tenders went up to the
schoolmaster's room to bring up a letter, and he found him lying on the
bed with his face grey as ashes, and his eyes looking up at the ceiling.
He was stone dead. Life had beaten him.

And the strange thing was that the letter that the bartender carried
up that morning was from the management of the Louisiana Lottery. It
contained a draft on New York, signed by the treasurer of the State of
Louisiana, for two hundred thousand dollars. The schoolmaster had won
the Grand Prize.

The above story, I am afraid, is a little gloomy. I put it down merely
for the moral it contained, and I became so absorbed in telling it that
I almost forgot what the moral was that it was meant to convey. But I
think the idea is that if the schoolmaster had long before abandoned the
study of medicine, for which he was not fitted, and gone in, let us say,
for playing the banjo, he might have become end-man in a minstrel show.
Yes, that was it.

Let me pass on to other elements in success.

I suppose that anybody will admit that the peculiar quality that
is called initiative--the ability to act promptly on one's own
judgement--is a factor of the highest importance.

I have seen this illustrated two or three times in a very striking
fashion.

I knew, in Toronto--it is long years ago--a singularly bright young man
whose name was Robinson. He had had some training in the iron and steel
business, and when I knew him was on the look out for an opening.

I met him one day in a great hurry, with a valise in his hand.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"Over to England," he said. "There is a firm in Liverpool that have
advertised that they want an agent here, and I'm going over to apply for
the job."

"Can't you do it by letter?" I asked.

"That's just it," said Robinson, with a chuckle, "all the other men
will apply by letter. I'll go right over myself and get there as soon or
sooner than the letters. I'll be the man on the spot, and I'll get the
job."

He was quite right. He went over to Liverpool, and was back in a
fortnight with English clothes and a big salary.

But I cannot recommend his story to my friends. In fact, it should not
be told too freely. It is apt to be dangerous.

I remember once telling this story of Robinson to a young man called
Tomlinson who was out of a job. Tomlinson had a head two sizes too big,
and a face like a bun. He had lost three jobs in a bank and two in a
broker's office, but he knew his work, and on paper he looked a good
man.

I told him about Robinson, to encourage him, and the story made a great
impression.

"Say, that was a great scheme, eh?" he kept repeating. He had no command
of words, and always said the same thing over and over.

A few days later I met Tomlinson in the street with a valise in his
hand.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"I'm off to Mexico," he answered. "They're advertising for a Canadian
teller for a bank in Tuscapulco. I've sent my credentials down, and
I'm going to follow them right up in person. In a thing like this, the
personal element is everything."

So Tomlinson went down to Mexico and he travelled by sea to Mexico
City, and then with a mule train to Tuscapulco. But the mails, with his
credentials, went by land and got there two days ahead of him.

When Tomlinson got to Tuscapulco he went into the bank and he spoke to
the junior manager and told him what he came for. "I'm awfully sorry,"
the junior manager said, "I'm afraid that this post has just been
filled." Then he went into an inner room to talk with the manager. "The
tellership that you wanted a Canadian for," he asked, "didn't you say
that you have a man already?"

"Yes," said the manager, "a brilliant young fellow from Toronto; his
name is Tomlinson, I have his credentials here--a first-class man. I've
wired him to come right along, at our expense, and we'll keep the job
open for him ten days."

"There's a young man outside," said the junior, "who wants to apply for
the job."

"Outside?" exclaimed the manager. "How did he get here?"

"Came in on the mule train this morning: says he can do the work and
wants the job."

"What's he like?" asked the manager.

The junior shook his head.

"Pretty dusty looking customer," he said. "Shifty looking."

"Same old story," murmured the manager. "It's odd how these fellows
drift down here, isn't it? Up to something crooked at home, I suppose.
Understands the working of a bank, eh? I guess he understands it a
little too well for my taste. No, no," he continued, tapping the papers
that lay on the table, "now that we've got a first-class man like
Tomlinson, let's hang on to him. We can easily wait ten days, and the
cost of the journey is nothing to the bank as compared with getting a
man of Tomlinson's stamp. And, by the way, you might telephone to the
Chief of Police and get him to see to it that this loafer gets out of
town straight off."

So the Chief of Police shut up Tomlinson in the calaboose and then sent
him down to Mexico City under a guard. By the time the police were done
with him he was dead broke, and it took him four months to get back to
Toronto; when he got there, the place in Mexico had been filled long
ago.

But I can imagine that some of my readers might suggest that I have
hitherto been dealing only with success in a very limited way, and that
more interest would lie in discussing how the really great fortunes are
made.

Everybody feels an instinctive interest in knowing how our great
captains of industry, our financiers and railroad magnates made their
money.

Here the explanation is really a very simple one. There is, in fact,
only one way to amass a huge fortune in business or railway management.
One must begin at the bottom. One must mount the ladder from the lowest
rung. But this lowest rung is everything. Any man who can stand upon it
with his foot well poised, his head erect, his arms braced and his eye
directed upward, will inevitably mount to the top.

But after all--I say this as a kind of afterthought in conclusion--why
bother with success at all? I have observed that the successful people
get very little real enjoyment out of life. In fact the contrary is
true. If I had to choose--with an eye to having a really pleasant
life--between success and ruin, I should prefer ruin every time. I have
several friends who are completely ruined--some two or three times--in
a large way of course; and I find that if I want to get a really
good dinner, where the champagne is just as it ought to be, and where
hospitality is unhindered by mean thoughts of expense, I can get it best
at the house of a ruined man.



XVII. In Dry Toronto

A LOCAL STUDY OF A UNIVERSAL TOPIC

Note.--Our readers--our numerous readers--who live in Equatorial Africa,
may read this under the title "In Dry Timbucto"; those who live in
Central America will kindly call it "In Dry Tehauntepec."

It may have been, for aught I know, the change from a wet to a dry
atmosphere. I am told that, biologically, such things profoundly affect
the human system.

At any rate I found it impossible that night--I was on the train from
Montreal to Toronto--to fall asleep.

A peculiar wakefulness seemed to have seized upon me, which appeared,
moreover, to afflict the other passengers as well. In the darkness of
the car I could distinctly hear them groaning at intervals.

"Are they ill?" I asked, through the curtains, of the porter as he
passed.

"No, sir," he said, "they're not ill. Those is the Toronto passengers."

"All in this car?" I asked.

"All except that gen'lman you may have heard singing in the smoking
compartment. He's booked through to Chicago."

But, as is usual in such cases, sleep came at last with unusual
heaviness. I seemed obliterated from the world till, all of a sudden, I
found myself, as it were, up and dressed and seated in the observation
car at the back of the train, awaiting my arrival.

"Is this Toronto?" I asked of the Pullman conductor, as I peered through
the window of the car.

The conductor rubbed the pane with his finger and looked out.

"I think so," he said.

"Do we stop here?" I asked.

"I think we do this morning," he answered. "I think I heard the
conductor say that they have a lot of milk cans to put off here this
morning. I'll just go and find out, sir."

"Stop here!" broke in an irascible-looking gentleman in a grey tweed
suit who was sitting in the next chair to mine. "Do they _stop_ here?
I should say they did indeed. Don't you know," he added, turning to the
Pullman conductor, "that any train is _compelled_ to stop here. There's
a by-law, a municipal by-law of the City of Toronto, _compelling_ every
train to stop?"

"I didn't know it," said the conductor humbly.

"Do you mean to say," continued the irascible gentleman, "that you have
never read the by-laws of the City of Toronto?"

"No, sir," said the conductor.

"The ignorance of these fellows," said the man in grey tweed, swinging
his chair round again towards me. "We ought to have a by-law to compel
them to read the by-laws. I must start an agitation for it at once."
Here he took out a little red notebook and wrote something in it,
murmuring, "We need a new agitation anyway."

Presently he shut the book up with a snap. I noticed that there was a
sort of peculiar alacrity in everything he did.

"You, sir," he said, "have, of course, read our municipal by-laws?"

"Oh, yes," I answered. "Splendid, aren't they? They read like a
romance."

"You are most flattering to our city," said the irascible gentleman with
a bow. "Yet you, sir, I take it, are not from Toronto."

"No," I answered, as humbly as I could. "I'm from Montreal."

"Ah!" said the gentleman, as he sat back and took a thorough look at me.
"From Montreal? Are you drunk?"

"No," I replied. "I don't think so."

"But you are _suffering_ for a drink," said my new acquaintance eagerly.
"You need it, eh? You feel already a kind of craving, eh what?"

"No," I answered. "The fact is it's rather early in the morning--"

"Quite so," broke in the irascible gentleman, "but I understand that in
Montreal all the saloons are open at seven, and even at that hour are
crowded, sir, crowded."

I shook my head.

"I think that has been exaggerated," I said. "In fact, we always try
to avoid crowding and jostling as far as possible. It is generally
understood, as a matter of politeness, that the first place in the
line is given to the clergy, the Board of Trade, and the heads of the
universities."

"Is it conceivable!" said the gentleman in grey. "One moment, please,
till I make a note. 'All clergy--I think you said _all_, did you
not?--drunk at seven in the morning.' Deplorable! But here we are at the
Union Station--commodious, is it not? Justly admired, in fact, all over
the known world. Observe," he continued as we alighted from the train
and made our way into the station, "the upstairs and the downstairs,
connected by flights of stairs; quite unique and most convenient: if
you don't meet your friends downstairs all you have to do is to look
upstairs. If they are not there, you simply come down again. But stop,
you are going to walk up the street? I'll go with you."

At the outer door of the station--just as I had remembered it--stood a
group of hotel bus-men and porters.

But how changed!

They were like men blasted by a great sorrow. One, with his back turned,
was leaning against a post, his head buried on his arm.

"Prince George Hotel," he groaned at intervals. "Prince George Hotel."

Another was bending over a little handrail, his head sunk, his arms
almost trailing to the ground.

"_King Edward_," he sobbed, "_King Edward_."

A third, seated on a stool, looked feebly up, with tears visible in his
eyes.

"Walker House," he moaned. "First-class accommodation for--" then he
broke down and cried.

"Take this handbag," I said to one of the men, "to the _Prince George_."

The man ceased his groaning for a moment and turned to me with something
like passion.

"Why do you come to _us_?" he protested. "Why not go to one of the
others. Go to _him_," he added, as he stirred with his foot a miserable
being who lay huddled on the ground and murmured at intervals,
"_Queen's_! Queen's Hotel."

But my new friend, who stood at my elbow, came to my rescue.

"Take his bags," he said, "you've got to. You know the by-law. Take it
or I'll call a policeman. You know _me_. My name's Narrowpath. I'm on
the council."

The man touched his hat and took the bag with a murmured apology.

"Come along," said my companion, whom I now perceived to be a person of
dignity and civic importance. "I'll walk up with you, and show you the
city as we go."

We had hardly got well upon the street before I realized the enormous
change that total prohibition had effected. Everywhere were the bright
smiling faces of working people, laughing and singing at their tasks,
and, early though it was, cracking jokes and asking one another riddles
as they worked.

I noticed one man, evidently a city employe, in a rough white suit,
busily cleaning the street with a broom and singing to himself: "How
does the little busy bee improve the shining hour." Another employe, who
was handling a little hose, was singing, "Little drops of water, little
grains of sand, Tra, la, la, la, _la_ la, Prohibition's grand."

"Why do they sing?" I asked. "Are they crazy?"

"Sing?" said Mr Narrowpath. "They can't help it. They haven't had a
drink of whisky for four months."

A coal cart went by with a driver, no longer grimy and smudged, but
neatly dressed with a high white collar and a white silk tie.

My companion pointed at him as he passed.

"Hasn't had a glass of beer for four months," he said.

"Notice the difference. That man's work is now a pleasure to him. He
used to spend all his evenings sitting round in the back parlours of the
saloons beside the stove. Now what do you think he does?"

"I have no idea."

"Loads up his cart with coal and goes for a drive--out in the country.
Ah, sir, you who live still under the curse of the whisky traffic little
know what a pleasure work itself becomes when drink and all that goes
with it is eliminated. Do you see that man, on the other side of the
street, with the tool bag?"

"Yes," I said, "a plumber, is he not?"

"Exactly, a plumber. Used to drink heavily--couldn't keep a job more
than a week. Now, you can't drag him from his work. Came to my house to
fix a pipe under the kitchen sink--wouldn't quit at six o'clock. Got
in under the sink and begged to be allowed to stay--said he hated to
go home. We had to drag him out with a rope. But here we are at your
hotel."

We entered.

But how changed the place seemed.

Our feet echoed on the flagstones of the deserted rotunda.

At the office desk sat a clerk, silent and melancholy, reading the
Bible. He put a marker in the book and closed it, murmuring "Leviticus
Two."

Then he turned to us.

"Can I have a room," I asked, "on the first floor?"

A tear welled up into the clerk's eye.

"You can have the whole first floor," he said, and he added, with a half
sob, "and the second, too, if you like."

I could not help contrasting his manner with what it was in the old
days, when the mere mention of a room used to throw him into a fit of
passion, and when he used to tell me that I could have a cot on the roof
till Tuesday, and after that, perhaps, a bed in the stable.

Things had changed indeed.

"Can I get breakfast in the grill room?" I inquired of the melancholy
clerk.

He shook his head sadly.

"There is no grill room," he answered. "What would you like?"

"Oh, some sort of eggs," I said, "and--"

The clerk reached down below his desk and handed me a hard-boiled egg
with the shell off.

"Here's your egg," he said. "And there's ice water there at the end of
the desk."

He sat back in his chair and went on reading.

"You don't understand," said Mr Narrowpath, who still stood at my elbow.
"All that elaborate grill room breakfast business was just a mere relic
of the drinking days--sheer waste of time and loss of efficiency. Go on
and eat your egg. Eaten it? Now, don't you feel efficient? What more do
you want? Comfort, you say? My dear sir! more men have been ruined by
comfort--Great heavens, comfort! The most dangerous, deadly drug that
ever undermined the human race. But, here, drink your water. Now you're
ready to go and do your business, if you have any."

"But," I protested, "it's still only half-past seven in the morning--no
offices will be open--"

"Open!" exclaimed Mr. Narrowpath. "Why! they all open at daybreak now."

I had, it is true, a certain amount of business before me, though of
no very intricate or elaborate kind--a few simple arrangements with the
head of a publishing house such as it falls to my lot to make every now
and then. Yet in the old and unregenerate days it used to take all day
to do it: the wicked thing that we used to call a comfortable breakfast
in the hotel grill room somehow carried one on to about ten o'clock
in the morning. Breakfast brought with it the need of a cigar for
digestion's sake and with that, for very restfulness, a certain perusal
of the _Toronto Globe_, properly corrected and rectified by a look
through the _Toronto Mail_. After that it had been my practice to stroll
along to my publishers' office at about eleven-thirty, transact my
business, over a cigar, with the genial gentleman at the head of it, and
then accept his invitation to lunch, with the feeling that a man who has
put in a hard and strenuous morning's work is entitled to a few hours of
relaxation.

I am inclined to think that in those reprehensible bygone times, many
other people did their business in this same way.

"I don't think," I said to Mr. Narrowpath musingly, "that my publisher
will be up as early as this. He's a comfortable sort of man."

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Narrowpath. "Not at work at half-past seven! In
Toronto! The thing's absurd. Where is the office? Richmond Street? Come
along, I'll go with you. I've always a great liking for attending to
other people's business."

"I see you have," I said.

"It's our way here," said Mr. Narrowpath with a wave of his hand. "Every
man's business, as we see it, is everybody else's business. Come along,
you'll be surprised how quickly your business will be done."

Mr. Narrowpath was right.

My publishers' office, as we entered it, seemed a changed place.
Activity and efficiency were stamped all over it. My good friend the
publisher was not only there, but there with his coat off, inordinately
busy, bawling orders--evidently meant for a printing room--through
a speaking tube. "Yes," he was shouting, "put WHISKY in black letter
capitals, old English, double size, set it up to look attractive, with
the legend MADE IN TORONTO in long clear type underneath--"

"Excuse me," he said, as he broke off for a moment. "We've a lot of
stuff going through the press this morning--a big distillery catalogue
that we are rushing through. We're doing all we can, Mr. Narrowpath,"
he continued, speaking with the deference due to a member of the City
Council, "to boom Toronto as a Whisky Centre."

"Quite right, quite right!" said my companion, rubbing his hands.

"And now, professor," added the publisher, speaking with rapidity, "your
contract is all here--only needs signing. I won't keep you more than a
moment--write your name here. Miss Sniggins will you please witness this
so help you God how's everything in Montreal good morning."

"Pretty quick, wasn't it?" said Mr. Narrowpath, as we stood in the
street again.

"Wonderful!" I said, feeling almost dazed. "Why, I shall be able to
catch the morning train back again to Montreal--"

"Precisely. Just what everybody finds. Business done in no time. Men who
used to spend whole days here clear out now in fifteen minutes. I knew a
man whose business efficiency has so increased under our new regime that
he says he wouldn't spend more than five minutes in Toronto if he were
paid to."

"But what is this?" I asked as we were brought to a pause in our walk
at a street crossing by a great block of vehicles. "What are all these
drays? Surely, those look like barrels of whisky!"

"So they are," said Mr. Narrowpath proudly. "_Export_ whisky. Fine
sight, isn't it? Must be what?--twenty--twenty-five--loads of it. This
place, sir, mark my words, is going to prove, with its new energy and
enterprise, one of the greatest seats of the distillery business, in
fact, _the_ whisky capital of the North--"

"But I thought," I interrupted, much puzzled, "that whisky was
prohibited here since last September?"

"Export whisky--_export_, my dear sir," corrected Mr. Narrowpath. "We
don't interfere, we have never, so far as I know, proposed to interfere
with any man's right to make and export whisky. That, sir, is a plain
matter of business; morality doesn't enter into it."

"I see," I answered. "But will you please tell me what is the meaning
of this other crowd of drays coming in the opposite direction? Surely,
those are beer barrels, are they not?"

"In a sense they are," admitted Mr. Narrowpath. "That is, they are
_import_ beer. It comes in from some other province. It was, I imagine,
made in this city (our breweries, sir, are second to none), but the sin
of _selling_ it"--here Mr. Narrowpath raised his hat from his head and
stood for a moment in a reverential attitude--"rests on the heads of
others."

The press of vehicles had now thinned out and we moved on, my guide
still explaining in some detail the distinction between business
principles and moral principles, between whisky as a curse and whisky as
a source of profit, which I found myself unable to comprehend.

At length I ventured to interrupt.

"Yet it seems almost a pity," I said, "that with all this beer and
whisky around an unregenerate sinner like myself should be prohibited
from getting a drink."

"A drink!" exclaimed Mr. Narrowpath. "Well, I should say so. Come right
in here. You can have anything you want."

We stepped through a street door into a large, long room.

"Why," I exclaimed in surprise, "this is a bar!"

"Nonsense!" said my friend. "The _bar_ in this province is forbidden.
We've done with the foul thing for ever. This is an Import Shipping
Company's Delivery Office."

"But this long counter--"

"It's not a counter, it's a desk."

"And that bar-tender in his white jacket--"

"Tut! Tut! He's not a bar-tender. He's an Import Goods Delivery Clerk."

"What'll you have, gentlemen," said the Import Clerk, polishing a glass
as he spoke.

"Two whisky and sodas," said my friend, "long ones."

The Import Clerk mixed the drinks and set them on the desk.

I was about to take one, but he interrupted.

"One minute, sir," he said.

Then he took up a desk telephone that stood beside him and I heard him
calling up Montreal. "Hullo, Montreal! Is that Montreal? Well, say, I've
just received an offer here for two whisky and sodas at sixty cents,
shall I close with it? All right, gentlemen, Montreal has effected the
sale. There you are."

"Dreadful, isn't it?" said Mr. Narrowpath. "The sunken, depraved
condition of your City of Montreal; actually _selling_ whisky.
Deplorable!" and with that he buried his face in the bubbles of the
whisky and soda.

"Mr. Narrowpath," I said, "would you mind telling me something? I fear
I am a little confused, after what I have seen here, as to what your new
legislation has been. You have not then, I understand, prohibited the
making of whisky?"

"Oh, no, we see no harm in that."

"Nor the sale of it?"

"Certainly not," said Mr. Narrowpath, "not if sold _properly_."

"Nor the drinking of it?"

"Oh, no, that least of all. We attach no harm whatever, under our law,
to the mere drinking of whisky."

"Would you tell me then," I asked, "since you have not forbidden the
making, nor the selling, nor the buying, nor the drinking of whisky,
just what it is that you have prohibited? What is the difference between
Montreal and Toronto?"

Mr. Narrowpath put down his glass on the "desk" in front of him. He
gazed at me with open-mouthed astonishment.

"Toronto?" he gasped. "Montreal and Toronto! The difference between
Montreal and Toronto! My dear sir--Toronto--Toronto--"

I stood waiting for him to explain. But as I did so I seemed to become
aware that a voice, not Mr. Narrowpath's but a voice close at my ear,
was repeating "Toronto--Toronto--Toronto--"

I sat up with a start--still in my berth in the Pullman car--with the
voice of the porter calling through the curtains "Toronto! Toronto!"

So! It had only been a dream. I pulled up the blind and looked out
of the window and there was the good old city, with the bright sun
sparkling on its church spires and on the bay spread out at its feet. It
looked quite unchanged: just the same pleasant old place, as cheerful,
as self-conceited, as kindly, as hospitable, as quarrelsome, as
wholesome, as moral and as loyal and as disagreeable as it always was.

"Porter," I said, "is it true that there is prohibition here now?"

The porter shook his head.

"I ain't heard of it," he said.



XVIII. Merry Christmas

"My Dear Young Friend," said Father Time, as he laid his hand gently
upon my shoulder, "you are entirely wrong."

Then I looked up over my shoulder from the table at which I was sitting
and I saw him.

But I had known, or felt, for at least the last half-hour that he was
standing somewhere near me.

You have had, I do not doubt, good reader, more than once that strange
uncanny feeling that there is some one unseen standing beside you, in a
darkened room, let us say, with a dying fire, when the night has grown
late, and the October wind sounds low outside, and when, through the
thin curtain that we call Reality, the Unseen World starts for a moment
clear upon our dreaming sense.

You _have_ had it? Yes, I know you have. Never mind telling me about it.
Stop. I don't want to hear about that strange presentiment you had the
night your Aunt Eliza broke her leg. Don't let's bother with _your_
experience. I want to tell mine.

"You are quite mistaken, my dear young friend," repeated Father Time,
"quite wrong."

"_Young_ friend?" I said, my mind, as one's mind is apt to in such a
case, running to an unimportant detail. "Why do you call me young?"

"Your pardon," he answered gently--he had a gentle way with him, had
Father Time. "The fault is in my failing eyes. I took you at first sight
for something under a hundred."

"Under a hundred?" I expostulated. "Well, I should think so!"

"Your pardon again," said Time, "the fault is in my failing memory. I
forgot. You seldom pass that nowadays, do you? Your life is very short
of late."

I heard him breathe a wistful hollow sigh. Very ancient and dim he
seemed as he stood beside me. But I did not turn to look upon him. I had
no need to. I knew his form, in the inner and clearer sight of things,
as well as every human being knows by innate instinct, the Unseen face
and form of Father Time.

I could hear him murmuring beside me, "Short--short, your life is
short"; till the sound of it seemed to mingle with the measured ticking
of a clock somewhere in the silent house.

Then I remembered what he had said.

"How do you know that I am wrong?" I asked. "And how can you tell what I
was thinking?"

"You said it out loud," answered Father Time. "But it wouldn't have
mattered, anyway. You said that Christmas was all played out and done
with."

"Yes," I admitted, "that's what I said."

"And what makes you think that?" he questioned, stooping, so it seemed
to me, still further over my shoulder.

"Why," I answered, "the trouble is this. I've been sitting here for
hours, sitting till goodness only knows how far into the night, trying
to think out something to write for a Christmas story. And it won't go.
It can't be done--not in these awful days."

"A Christmas Story?"

"Yes. You see, Father Time," I explained, glad with a foolish little
vanity of my trade to be able to tell him something that I thought
enlightening, "all the Christmas stuff--stories and jokes and
pictures--is all done, you know, in October."

I thought it would have surprised him, but I was mistaken.

"Dear me," he said, "not till October! What a rush! How well I remember
in Ancient Egypt--as I think you call it--seeing them getting out their
Christmas things, all cut in hieroglyphics, always two or three years
ahead."

"Two or three years!" I exclaimed.

"Pooh," said Time, "that was nothing. Why in Babylon they used to get
their Christmas jokes ready--all baked in clay--a whole Solar eclipse
ahead of Christmas. They said, I think, that the public preferred them
so."

"Egypt?" I said. "Babylon? But surely, Father Time, there was no
Christmas in those days. I thought--"

"My dear boy," he interrupted gravely, "don't you know that there has
always been Christmas?"

I was silent. Father Time had moved across the room and stood beside the
fireplace, leaning on the mantelpiece. The little wreaths of smoke from
the fading fire seemed to mingle with his shadowy outline.

"Well," he said presently, "what is it that is wrong with Christmas?"

"Why," I answered, "all the romance, the joy, the beauty of it has gone,
crushed and killed by the greed of commerce and the horrors of war. I am
not, as you thought I was, a hundred years old, but I can conjure up,
as anybody can, a picture of Christmas in the good old days of a hundred
years ago: the quaint old-fashioned houses, standing deep among the
evergreens, with the light twinkling from the windows on the snow; the
warmth and comfort within; the great fire roaring on the hearth; the
merry guests grouped about its blaze and the little children with their
eyes dancing in the Christmas fire-light, waiting for Father Christmas
in his fine mummery of red and white and cotton wool to hand the
presents from the yule-tide tree. I can see it," I added, "as if it were
yesterday."

"It was but yesterday," said Father Time, and his voice seemed to soften
with the memory of bygone years. "I remember it well."

"Ah," I continued, "that was Christmas indeed. Give me back such days
as those, with the old good cheer, the old stage coaches and the gabled
inns and the warm red wine, the snapdragon and the Christmas-tree, and
I'll believe again in Christmas, yes, in Father Christmas himself."

"Believe in him?" said Time quietly. "You may well do that. He happens
to be standing outside in the street at this moment."

"Outside?" I exclaimed. "Why don't he come in?"

"He's afraid to," said Father Time. "He's frightened and he daren't come
in unless you ask him. May I call him in?"

I signified assent, and Father Time went to the window for a moment and
beckoned into the darkened street. Then I heard footsteps, clumsy and
hesitant they seemed, upon the stairs. And in a moment a figure
stood framed in the doorway--the figure of Father Christmas. He stood
shuffling his feet, a timid, apologetic look upon his face.

How changed he was!

I had known in my mind's eye, from childhood up, the face and form of
Father Christmas as well as that of Old Time himself. Everybody knows,
or once knew him--a jolly little rounded man, with a great muffler wound
about him, a packet of toys upon his back and with such merry, twinkling
eyes and rosy cheeks as are only given by the touch of the driving snow
and the rude fun of the North Wind. Why, there was once a time, not
yet so long ago, when the very sound of his sleigh-bells sent the blood
running warm to the heart.

But now how changed.

All draggled with the mud and rain he stood, as if no house had
sheltered him these three years past. His old red jersey was tattered in
a dozen places, his muffler frayed and ravelled.

The bundle of toys that he dragged with him in a net seemed wet and worn
till the cardboard boxes gaped asunder. There were boxes among them, I
vow, that he must have been carrying these three past years.

But most of all I noted the change that had come over the face of Father
Christmas. The old brave look of cheery confidence was gone. The smile
that had beamed responsive to the laughing eyes of countless children
around unnumbered Christmas-trees was there no more. And in the place of
it there showed a look of timid apology, of apprehensiveness, as of one
who has asked in vain the warmth and shelter of a human home--such a
look as the harsh cruelty of this world has stamped upon the faces of
its outcasts.

So stood Father Christmas shuffling upon the threshold, fumbling his
poor tattered hat in his hand.

"Shall I come in?" he said, his eyes appealingly on Father Time.

"Come," said Time. He turned to speak to me, "Your room is dark. Turn up
the lights. He's used to light, bright light and plenty of it. The dark
has frightened him these three years past."

I turned up the lights and the bright glare revealed all the more
cruelly the tattered figure before us.

Father Christmas advanced a timid step across the floor. Then he paused,
as if in sudden fear.

"Is this floor mined?" he said.

"No, no," said Time soothingly. And to me he added in a murmured
whisper, "He's afraid. He was blown up in a mine in No Man's Land
between the trenches at Christmas-time in 1914. It broke his nerve."

"May I put my toys on that machine gun?" asked Father Christmas timidly.
"It will help to keep them dry."

"It is not a machine gun," said Time gently. "See, it is only a pile of
books upon the sofa." And to me he whispered, "They turned a machine gun
on him in the streets of Warsaw. He thinks he sees them everywhere since
then."

"It's all right, Father Christmas," I said, speaking as cheerily as I
could, while I rose and stirred the fire into a blaze. "There are no
machine guns here and there are no mines. This is but the house of a
poor writer."

"Ah," said Father Christmas, lowering his tattered hat still further and
attempting something of a humble bow, "a writer? Are you Hans Andersen,
perhaps?"

"Not quite," I answered.

"But a great writer, I do not doubt," said the old man, with a humble
courtesy that he had learned, it well may be, centuries ago in the
yule-tide season of his northern home. "The world owes much to its great
books. I carry some of the greatest with me always. I have them here--"

He began fumbling among the limp and tattered packages that he carried.
"Look! _The House that Jack Built_--a marvellous, deep thing, sir--and
this, _The Babes in the Wood_. Will you take it, sir? A poor present,
but a present still--not so long ago I gave them in thousands every
Christmas-time. None seem to want them now."

He looked appealingly towards Father Time, as the weak may look towards
the strong, for help and guidance.

"None want them now," he repeated, and I could see the tears start in
his eyes. "Why is it so? Has the world forgotten its sympathy with the
lost children wandering in the wood?"

"All the world," I heard Time murmur with a sigh, "is wandering in the
wood." But out loud he spoke to Father Christmas in cheery admonition,
"Tut, tut, good Christmas," he said, "you must cheer up. Here, sit in
this chair the biggest one; so--beside the fire. Let us stir it to a
blaze; more wood, that's better. And listen, good old Friend, to the
wind outside--almost a Christmas wind, is it not? Merry and boisterous
enough, for all the evil times it stirs among."

Old Christmas seated himself beside the fire, his hands outstretched
towards the flames. Something of his old-time cheeriness seemed to
flicker across his features as he warmed himself at the blaze.

"That's better," he murmured. "I was cold, sir, cold, chilled to the
bone. Of old I never felt it so; no matter what the wind, the world
seemed warm about me. Why is it not so now?"

"You see," said Time, speaking low in a whisper for my ear alone, "how
sunk and broken he is? Will you not help?"

"Gladly," I answered, "if I can."

"All can," said Father Time, "every one of us."

Meantime Christmas had turned towards me a questioning eye, in which,
however, there seemed to revive some little gleam of merriment.

"Have you, perhaps," he asked half timidly, "schnapps?"

"Schnapps?" I repeated.

"Ay, schnapps. A glass of it to drink your health might warm my heart
again, I think."

"Ah," I said, "something to drink?"

"His one failing," whispered Time, "if it is one. Forgive it him. He was
used to it for centuries. Give it him if you have it."

"I keep a little in the house," I said reluctantly perhaps, "in case of
illness."

"Tut, tut," said Father Time, as something as near as could be to a
smile passed over his shadowy face. "In case of illness! They used to
say that in ancient Babylon. Here, let me pour it for him. Drink, Father
Christmas, drink!"

Marvellous it was to see the old man smack his lips as he drank his
glass of liquor neat after the fashion of old Norway.

Marvellous, too, to see the way in which, with the warmth of the fire
and the generous glow of the spirits, his face changed and brightened
till the old-time cheerfulness beamed again upon it.

He looked about him, as it were, with a new and growing interest.

"A pleasant room," he said. "And what better, sir, than the wind without
and a brave fire within!"

Then his eye fell upon the mantelpiece, where lay among the litter of
books and pipes a little toy horse.

"Ah," said Father Christmas almost gayly, "children in the house!"

"One," I answered, "the sweetest boy in all the world."

"I'll be bound he is!" said Father Christmas and he broke now into a
merry laugh that did one's heart good to hear. "They all are! Lord bless
me! The number that I have seen, and each and every one--and quite right
too--the sweetest child in all the world. And how old, do you say? Two
and a half all but two months except a week? The very sweetest age of
all, I'll bet you say, eh, what? They all do!"

And the old man broke again into such a jolly chuckling of laughter that
his snow-white locks shook upon his head.

"But stop a bit," he added. "This horse is broken. Tut, tut, a hind leg
nearly off. This won't do!"

He had the toy in his lap in a moment, mending it. It was wonderful to
see, for all his age, how deft his fingers were.

"Time," he said, and it was amusing to note that his voice had assumed
almost an authoritative tone, "reach me that piece of string. That's
right. Here, hold your finger across the knot. There! Now, then, a bit
of beeswax. What? No beeswax? Tut, tut, how ill-supplied your houses
are to-day. How can you mend toys, sir, without beeswax? Still, it will
stand up now."

I tried to murmur by best thanks.

But Father Christmas waved my gratitude aside.

"Nonsense," he said, "that's nothing. That's my life. Perhaps the little
boy would like a book too. I have them here in the packet. Here, sir,
_Jack and the Bean Stalk_, most profound thing. I read it to myself
often still. How damp it is! Pray, sir, will you let me dry my books
before your fire?"

"Only too willingly," I said. "How wet and torn they are!"

Father Christmas had risen from his chair and was fumbling among his
tattered packages, taking from them his children's books, all limp and
draggled from the rain and wind.

"All wet and torn!" he murmured, and his voice sank again into sadness.
"I have carried them these three years past. Look! These were for little
children in Belgium and in Serbia. Can I get them to them, think you?"

Time gently shook his head.

"But presently, perhaps," said Father Christmas, "if I dry and mend
them. Look, some of them were inscribed already! This one, see you, was
written '_With father's love_.' Why has it never come to him? Is it rain
or tears upon the page?"

He stood bowed over his little books, his hands trembling as he turned
the pages. Then he looked up, the old fear upon his face again.

"That sound!" he said. "Listen! It is guns--I hear them."

"No, no," I said, "it is nothing. Only a car passing in the street
below."

"Listen," he said. "Hear that again--voices crying!"

"No, no," I answered, "not voices, only the night wind among the trees."

"My children's voices!" he exclaimed. "I hear them everywhere--they
come to me in every wind--and I see them as I wander in the night and
storm--my children--torn and dying in the trenches--beaten into the
ground--I hear them crying from the hospitals--each one to me, still as
I knew him once, a little child. Time, Time," he cried, reaching out his
arms in appeal, "give me back my children!"

"They do not die in vain," Time murmured gently.

But Christmas only moaned in answer:

"Give me back my children!"

Then he sank down upon his pile of books and toys, his head buried in
his arms.

"You see," said Time, "his heart is breaking, and will you not help him
if you can?"

"Only too gladly," I replied. "But what is there to do?"

"This," said Father Time, "listen."

He stood before me grave and solemn, a shadowy figure but half seen
though he was close beside me. The fire-light had died down, and through
the curtained windows there came already the first dim brightening of
dawn.

"The world that once you knew," said Father Time, "seems broken and
destroyed about you. You must not let them know--the children. The
cruelty and the horror and the hate that racks the world to-day--keep it
from them. Some day _he_ will know"--here Time pointed to the prostrate
form of Father Christmas--"that his children, that once were, have not
died in vain: that from their sacrifice shall come a nobler, better
world for all to live in, a world where countless happy children shall
hold bright their memory for ever. But for the children of To-day, save
and spare them all you can from the evil hate and horror of the war.
Later they will know and understand. Not yet. Give them back their Merry
Christmas and its kind thoughts, and its Christmas charity, till later
on there shall be with it again Peace upon Earth Good Will towards Men."

His voice ceased. It seemed to vanish, as it were, in the sighing of the
wind.

I looked up. Father Time and Christmas had vanished from the room. The
fire was low and the day was breaking visibly outside.

"Let us begin," I murmured. "I will mend this broken horse."


END





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