The Contributors' Column--September Atlantic

William McFee, still Chief Engineer of H.M.S. Kharki, writes from Smyrna: —

Am glad you like Ferguson. I met him again in Malta. Thereby is suspended a tale. Whether he was going out somewhere after being court-martialed, or whether he was going home to be court-martialed, was not clear, and he was too drunk to enlighten us. He seemed to have a grievance against some official whom he called, ‘that, - paymaster on the last ship.’ Nevertheless, he was looking extremely well.

Lawrence Pearsall Jacks, Principal of Manchester, the Unitarian College at Oxford, and editor of the Hibbert Journal, is a frequent and welcome contributor to the Atlantic. In the letter from which the following passages are taken, Mrs. Annie Pike Greenwood gives a lively description of some episodes in the life of a sage-brush farmer and his wife which have less bearing on its political phases.

We are in the busiest season of all — the start of things. . . . I began with a big gardening day. Baked beans, so as to have a quick easy dinner. It is also the most pleasing meal that I can serve to Charley, for he would rather have baked beans than turkey. Out in the garden I plant like mad, and become almost mad in the effort, for I find that my beautiful garden is full of alfalfa-roots. I have been begging for that alfalfa field for a garden for a long time, and Charley has at last, ploughed up the alfalfa and given it to me. He went through all the approved methods for the removal of the terrible roots, but some of them reach through to China, and those are the ones that escape the plough. I found many that had been ploughed, but were growing again. With what delight I hoed them out and sent them spinning out into the killing sun!

When I was in the midst of my gardening I heard a call from Charley. Looking up I beheld a horrific sight — six of our cows, all bloated. Now, when the family cow gets bloated on the Farm, it means a lot of excitement; but when six of them go and do the same thing at once, it leaves one powerless of expression. I left the garden on the run, went to Ihe kitchen, and fixed catsup bottles with bloat medicine. Then I ran down to the barn, where Charley had penned up the four that were in least danger, and was putting gags in the mouths of the two that seemed about to die. Having gagged them to allow the gas to escape through the open mouth, he placed them on the hillside, front feet higher than back feet. The canal was dry, or he would have put. them in the water and poured water over their sides. I held one cow and Walter held the other. In the meantime two men came, and between us all we brought the six cows safely through.

When it was over, Charley gasped, ' And the government is urging us to go into live stock more than we do!' And I was thinking, ‘People who do not live on farms have no idea of the losses that the farmer constantly bears. What, he gets for his labor is low, and then besides he has the loss of stock, no matter how careful he may be.’

Which reminds me that it cost Charley two dead calves and a dead sow and all her little pigs to go to the Legislature. There was no way that we could avoid these losses. Of course, they might have taken place if he had remained at home; but that is hardly possible, for the circumstances were nearly all those of a necessary man being missing at the time needed.

Charley has had a time this spring breaking the colts. We have a number of handsome young horses that have never worked before, and they certainly resent being made to work now. One of them, a beauty, but mean, got her shoulder hurt. Charley was attempting to doctor it, and was standing on the tongue of the wagon in order to reach Star better. Suddenly she reared back and pawed him off the tongue and on to the ground. It was a close call. Charley thought his last hour had come. He was n’t able to move for half an hour as she injured one of his legs so that he is almost a cripple for the time being. I can’t help feeling sorry for the poor things. They are so beautiful, — great big work-horses, pure bred, — and they love their freedom so much that the harness galls them almost to death.

Margaret Prescott Montague is a West Virginia writer whose title to the affection of our readers has been proved more times than we can, off-hand, recount. Simeon Strunsky of the New York Evening Post, after his recent excursus into the serious problems of world politics, recurs in this paper to the lighter, more whimsical style, which his earlier Atlantic articles made familiar. Reverend Samuel McChord Crothers has been minister of the First (Unitarian) Church, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, since 1894. Laura Spencer Portor (Mrs. Francis Pope), whose name has long been as a household word to our readers, is connected with the editorial department of an important women’s periodical in New York. Her last contributions to the Atlantic — the series of papers printed in the early months of 1918 as ‘Adventures in Indigence ’ — have had much success as a separate publication. ‘Serena and Wild Strawberries’ is the third of Olive Tilford Dargan’s whimsical but sympathetic tales of the hill-people of North Carolina among whom she makes her home. Lord Dunsany (18th Baron Dunsany in the Irish peerage), whose delightful bit of humorous satire, ‘Fame and the Poet,’we printed last month, is the author of many volumes of stories, brief essays, and plays, among the bestknown titles being A Dreamer’s Tales, Plays of Gods and Men, The Gads of the Mountain, and The Queen’s Enemies.

Fannie Stearns (Davis) Gifford, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, keeps for the Berkshire Hills their old title to distinction in American letters. Claudia Cranston, a young Texan, of Quaker descent, will be remembered by her story, ’A Thin Day,’in the Atlantic for July. 1918. Dabney Horton is a young officer in the American Aviation Service, still overseas. George R. Parkin, C.M.G., D.C.L. (Oxford), is Organizing Secretary of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust. George Boas, formerly a member of the Faculty of the University of California, has recently returned from service abroad in the American Expeditionary Force. Margaret Sherwood is Professor of English at Wellesley College.

With regard to Mrs. Jessie Lee Ellis, the Reverend Mr. Holmes of Buffalo writes:

In reply to your inquiry as to the date of the letter and the place from which it was written . . . the original manuscript was contained in a personal communication to Dr. Robert E. Speer, of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, written from Tabriz. Persia, in January 13, 1919. Mrs. Ellis made a general statement or report to Dr. Speer, and added that she was enclosing a copy of extracts for her journal letter home, in order that he might better have a vivid picture of all that had transpired at Urumia. I suspect, therefore, that the letter now in your hands was written from time to time through the fall of 1919 and after the missionary refugees had been deported from Urumia to Tabriz.

Frank W. Taussig, Professor of Political Economy at Harvard since 1891, and Chairman of the United States Tariff Commission since its creation several years ago, is recognized as the leading American authority on the tariff and related subjects. Reverend Bernard Iddings Bell resigned as Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral at Fonddu-Lac. in order to devote all his time to his duties as chaplain at the Great Lakes

Training Station for the duration of the war. He is now President of St. Stephen’s College, Annandale, New York, the only Eastern College for men owned and controlled by the Episcopal Church. Thomas W. Lamont, long a member of the firm of J. P. Morgan & Company, served as one of the chief American financial advisers during the months of treaty-making in Paris. He has bad the further advantage of t raveling about Europe since the armistice, meeting financial men of all the leading countries. His opportunities for making the diagnosis which he here presents have been altogether exceptional.

Mr. Smith’s pictorial comment on ’The Ugly City’ of Chicago has, not unnaturally, stirred many civic sensibilities. One Chicagoan puts it thus,—

One can but feel for anyone who, entering, living in, and becoming acquainted with Chicago, cannot see the magnificence nf industry as if rises above the unavoidable squalor which, unhappily, is always an incident in the backwash of progress, —

and concludes with an invocation to ‘Chicago the Magnificent.’ The difficulty with this is that the efficiency of Chicago’s industry is not disputed. It is not that, but rather the ‘unavoidable’ squalor, which is the subject of discussion. Another champion of Chicago, whom we find particularly sympathetic, writes, in the full exuberance of homecoming, this: —

DEAR ATLANTIC,—
I have just spent a most unpleasant half hour in reading that infamous libel, ‘The Ugly City.’ Let me explain my peculiar resentment and dismay. I have just returned to my home, Chicago, after twenty months overseas, and for nearly twenty months my great hope and dream was of my return to Chicago. ‘Over there’ 1 traveled through many cities - Liverpool, London, Le Havre. Paris. Lyons. Nice, Marseilles, Brest, and many others - none so fine as Chicago. 1 have lived in Chicago all my life. I feel almost personally insulted when Henry Justin Smith calls Chicago ‘the idiot child of cities.’ Could any phrase be more absurd? Chicago is not ugly is not foul — is not loathsome.

’Oh, boy, it’s good to be back in li’l’ ol’ Chicago! ’

Those who know tell us that literature in St. Louis and vicinity is looking up. Our only recent first-hand information is this inquiry from that aspiring neighborhood: —

PHILLIPPY, TENN., July 1. 1919. DEAR SIRS,—

I am preparing an article that which I expects to offer for sale to the several publishers for publication for the benefit of their readers.

I wish to say the matter will be found very at" tractive. . . . Subject is

We cannot part with our friends —
We cannot let our angels go.

I am a correspondent for several papers. and are a member of the Press Reporting Syndicate St. Louis, Mo.
Yours truly,
E. M. N.

We who have lived through a plague such as Defoe never dreamed of may well ponder his reflection on the state of the world when a dreadful menace has been removed. The passage is called to our attention by a kind friend, Dr. Emma Wheat Gillmore, of Chicago.

Daniel Defoe [she writes], who takes himself so seriously in A Journal of the Pplayuc Year that he becomes almost a humorist, describes the coöperation of all political and religious sects while the plague in his London town was at its height and the inhabitants were in a cowardly panic. When the epidemic was declining, and citizens were beginning to assume the normal tenor of their ways, he quaintly deplores the estrangement and small jealousies of various societies. We who have lately emerged from our geographical isolation to take an interest in the broad world which is composed of a brotherhood of nations, might well review Defoe’s Journal and apply the following lamentation to national issues.

‘Here we may observe, and I hope it may not be amiss to take notice of it, that a near view of death would soon reconcile men of good principles one to another: and that it is chiefly owing to our easy situation in life and our putting these things far from us that our breaches are fomented, ill blood continued, prejudices, lack of charity and Christian union, so much kept and so far carried on among us as it is. Another plague year would reconcile all these differences; a close conversing with death, or with disease that threatens death, would scum off the gall from our tempers, remove the animosities among us, and bring us to see with different eyes than those with which we looked on these things before. T is evident death will reconcile us all; on the other side of the grave we shall all be brothers again.

In heaven, whither I hope we may come from all parties and persuasions, we shall find neither prejudices nor scruple. Then we shall be of one principle and one opinion. Why we can not be content to go hand in hand to the place where we shall soon join heart and hand without the least hesitation and with the most complete harmony and affection — I say why we can not do so here, I can say nothing to. neither shall I say anything more of it but that it remains to be lamented.’

The author of the Club ‘A Domestic Python,’ in the April issue, sends us this triumphant reply to a correspondent who took exception to his attribution of twenty talons to the feline hero of his tale.

What a thing il is to be scientific! How deftly the scientific eye circles in apparent vespa-like aimlessness over the literary output, discovers in the very heart of it an unsuspecting fly, and drops on it with an exultant buzzzz! There is no struggle. The fly was, the wasp is. Exit fly.

Sometimes that fly is but the camouflaged garment of a barb. More than one angler casting along near sunset has been surprised to find his fly taken ‘on the fly’ by a passing swallow: and one may recall the case where at dusk a bat look it neatly in his butterfly flight, and the angler retrieved it with some trouble. His mate, downstream, asked him what he’d caught.

‘Dunno!’ was the dazed reply, ‘unless I’ve fetched down a cherubim.’

Now, here I find that in my chapter from the life of ’Thomas,’ I quite casually commented on his having used ‘twenty talons’ in his attempted conquest of the coiled garden-hose which to his quixotic eye had become a python: and my friendly but scientific critic, with an aim at verity, has promptly challenged that; and demands. ‘What breed of cats is Thomas, anyway?’

He does n’t say how many talons are enjoyed by the Marias and Thomases of his acquaint. It may be that, like the prickly pear which fell up against Burbank in agricultural combat and lost its spines, his are shorn of their one-time racial glories, fallen on peace-times, league of nations, disarmament, and have but one on each foot. Or even like the three gray sisters of the classics who had but a single tooth between them which they shared turn and turn about, perhaps his are up-to-date, with Ford-like interchangeable parts and the weight reduced to a minimum. But Thomas!

One time a friend called on us — Thomas and me— aS we sat side by side on a grassy mound and watched the bees gathering in a drunken orgy, five or more in every poppy blossom. Said friend wore a pair of skin-tight trousers, and he lifted Thomas up on his knee. The spirit of impishness led me to take a hand, knowing Thomas, —. and attempt to lift him off again. Thomas objected. Every talon that he had was instantly active in protest, clutching; and the thinness of those trousers was promptly shown. A green apple fell from the tree above. I did not make record of my friend’s remarks. That was the Recording Angel’s business — including my share in the affair. But you can’t convince him now (my friend, I mean, and not the Angel) that Thomas did not use — not twenty, but a million talons; although it is not convenient to show in proof the scars.

No: it is not that the science was at fault, as far as it went. Certain small details were just omitted, as out of place in that brief chapter; wellenough known to Thomas’s own friends, but perhaps not to be carelessly handed on to be made a jest by strangers; and at the moment it was forgotten that what was so painfully commonplace to us might well seem w eird to others.

The mother of Thomas was jetty black, felinely beautiful, with the grace of a serpent, and as attractive as a star prima donna in the height of her Parisian youth. But she was wayward. She would walk in the moonlight. Whereby in time she gave birth to a litter of kittens, likewise jetty black; yet every son and daughter of them were what is known as ‘double-pawed.’ Some had two clearly defined paws on each foot; one or two had less. I gave them all away to acquaintances, who cherished them for a time, at least —as curiosities. Thomas alone I kept, rejoicing in his twenty talents—I would say talons — for mouse-catching. I do not think that he minds at all the oddity of their number: and not for worlds would I bring it home to him. However-he does not read the Atlantic. So I feel safe in thus supplying the overlooked detail.

The Port of Missing Hopes is pleasantly alluded to in this kind note from Ohio: —

DEAR ATLANTIC,—
Mr. Bradford’s delightful article on Frances Willard, in which was revealed her high literary ambition to write for the Atlantic, reminds me of Miss Margaret McCall of Ohio, who added this postscript to a steamer letter, written to me in 1914.

‘When you get through reading this, please throw it overboard. I should love to have something accepted once by the Atlantic.’ Bien à vous,
SARAH PLAISANCE.

It is interesting to watch the laws of nature collide with human testimony. John Burroughs, you remember, invoked the former, to prove Thoreau more imaginative than scientific when the Walden philosopher maintains that he stood ‘in the very abutment of a rainbow’s arch,’which, as Burroughs remarks, is in flat contradiction to every rule of optics, which demand that the arch of the rainbow shall be always just in front of the observer.

Now, whether that law has been repealed or not, the Atlantic hesitates to determine. But we can cite from letters of half a dozen readers passages which reinforce Thoreau’s testimony from personal experience. Here, for example, is an interesting comment which has recently come to the Atlantic from a reader in Sapporo, Japan.

The venerable critic’s remarks about rainbows are lucid and, of course, correct, but when he assumes that Thoreau, in speaking of the ‘abutment of the rainbow’s arch,’ means literally to say that the bow extended to right or left. I think he forgets for the moment that other word of H.D.T. which he presently quotes: ‘Let all things give way to the impulse of expression.’ Here, I think, Thoreau did not so curb his impulse of expression as to leave out the abutment of the arch and say that what he saw was the whole bow.

It is easy to see a rainbow projected against leaves and grass, by looking away from the sun into the spray from a lawn-sprinkler; and that such a thing may happen in a veritable shower of rain I can testify from a unique experience of boyhood. About three o’clock of a summer afternoon I was standing at a second-story window facing north, looking out at a heavy shower, when brilliant, sunshine burst over the scene, and there, upon the grass and across the trunk of a large chestnut tree about thirty feet away, lay a brilliant spectrum. The shape was so broken by the irregular surfaces over which the colors spread that it was scarcely a bow at all, but the dazzling brilliance was just such as might call forth from Thoreau the language of the quotation.

The recollection of this experience has remained vivid during forty years, and very many times, when I have seen rainfall in sunshine near midday, I have tried to see again the rainbow on the grass; but the necessary combination of bright sunshine and heavy rain has never been present. It may well be, therefore, that in all his long life of accurate and penetrating observation, our friend-of-all-the-world has never seen just the display which, as I imagine, prompted Thoreau to write this rather cryptic passage.

The Atlantic is in receipt of divers inquiries as to whether this magazine has been sold. We have heard that various successful corporations and associations, and in especial a gentleman of vast notoriety, have all and severally purchased the magazine. That there is no word of truth in all this, flat or contingent, present or prospective, seems not to interfere with the currency of the rumor. When our readers hear it, we ask them to contradict it flatly. For a dozen years we have worked too hard to make the Atlantic, to part with it now, when at length it is partially made.