More Truth Than Poetry

The Atlantic serial




The Biography of R. S.


‘More Truth Than Poetry’ is the story of an American who all his life followed two careers — the scientific career of a doctor, fighting to avert plagues, and the career of a scholar and poet.

In the first installment of his biography of his alter ego, R. S., he describes his German parents, his early religious experiences, his school and college life, his calf love. At Columbia he fell under the spell of poetry and philosophy, as illuminated by George Edward Woodberry, and of biology as defined by Edmund B. Wilson and Bashford Dean. Graduating from the laboratory, he went out to the Western plains, where he had his initial experience of anthropology.

Then came an enriching study in Paris, which benefited him all his life. Afterwards he returned to Manhattan and plunged into hospital training. He tells of his career as an ardent young interne, ranging through the city with the ambulance and in spare hours plugging at his research. The biography is peppered with anecdotes of the poor, of the old New York slums, and of the great doctors he served under. In the chapters to come he discusses the campaign he waged against typhus in the plague spots of the world.




You know, said R. S., I can write with the greatest enjoyment about Rickettsiæ, leprosy, allergy, syphilis, the foibles of the ladies who have contributed to my education, the seats of the trousers of college presidents, and my religious convictions. But when it comes to writing about truly dramatic episodes like war, epidemics, revolutions and riots, bombs bursting in air, and so forth, I become pen-tied, and what I write reads like a railway travel folder.

I envy that recently developed type of foreign newspaper correspondent whose acquaintance I first made during the war, — the ‘Touring Club de France,’ we called them, — who flitted in and out of combat areas, measured out for themselves, like stiff shots of cognac, stimulating but safe doses of excitement, and then drove back to the Continental or the Meurice to take hot baths and write their thrilling dispatches. Of course they must have served a useful purpose; otherwise they could not have borne the strain of making copy of wholesale murder. Somebody has to do it — like many other things one wouldn’t care to do oneself. If I resented them at all, when on rare occasions I ran into them, it was largely from envy for their comfortable transportation, which contrasted with the superannuated Fords, sidecars, mules, and most, often —— wet boots on which we others pursued our humbler duties. And in any event I have long forgiven them, since out of their stock sprang such men as Vincent Sheean and John Gunther.

But, apart from sheer literary ineptitude, my inability to write vividly of dramatic happenings is partly attributable to the fact that I have rarely been in the position of observer, and in the most exciting situations I have had detailed tasks to perform which limited both my vision and my sensibilities. Thus, while the most historically decisive events were going on about me, I was occupied with what that splendid officer, Colonel Grissinger, called the ‘toilette of the battlefield,’ with water supplies, with diarrhoea and diphtheria in active zones, or with delousing and similar this-and-thats as directed.

I find, therefore, that my reminiscences of the Serbian typhus epidemic of 1915, as terrifying and tragic an episode as has occurred since the Middle Ages, are on the whole rather prosaic and completely — try as I may — unconvincing of that heroism which the Arrowsmith type has made so familiar in prose and cinema, and winch, despite de Kruif and others, I have never —thank God!—observed in any of my numerous professional colleagues in action. I was working in my laboratory in New York, chiefly on theoretical problems of immunity, when war was declared, and into the winter of 19141915 I was growing increasingly restless— partly from temperament, partly because, as a German-American, the war seemed to me to offer the prospect that a defeated Germany might, at last, be transformed into the free republican state for which so many of our stock had hoped. I felt I ought to get into the war in some capacity, and my chance came in March, when Richard P. Strong organized the Red Cross Typhus Commission for Serbia.

This epidemic had started with the cold weather among the troops on the Belgrade front. The disease is always endemically lurking in that part of the world, and the conditions prevailing during that unhappy winter gave it an opening it had not had for a century. It spread from the army to the villagers, and, when the Austrians had been pushed back beyond Belgrade in a heroic and ferocious counterattack, infection traveled rapidly southward with the peasants and townspeople who streamed out of the zones of combat. The southern areas became crowded; there was shortage of shelter, clothing, food, and fuel. Large numbers of Austrian prisoners aggravated the situation. About 35,000 of these died of the disease. By February and early March, there were easily 150,000 cases, with a mortality of between 60 and 70 per cent. The Serbs lost 126 of their total of 350 doctors. British and a few American medical units came to help. Our own group started late, arriving in early April, but the epidemic was still going strong, and there was plenty to do.

Yet the work accomplished was largely in the way of salvage. One cannot ‘arrest’ epidemics of this sort when they are in full cry. Epidemics can be prevented, when energetic, well-organized counterattacks are made at the very beginning under reasonably normal conditions and with more information than — at that time — we possessed about typhus fever. With things as they were in Serbia, one could reduce suffering and improve the care of the sick, but actually stopping the epidemic at that point, or even modifying its natural course, was like trying to put out a fire with a nose spray. Our director, Dr. Strong, made vigorous efforts to delouse entire villages, and if courage and energy alone could have done it, he would have succeeded. But to delouse the Serbs, at that time, was as hopeless as exterminating the ticks on Cape Cod — which, incidentally, may become a real problem in itself before long, since during the last two years we have isolated spotted-fever virus from that region. So the epidemic followed its sinister course until the hot weather stopped it. Nevertheless, in consistence with our national character, there was much beating of drums about the ‘saviors of Serbia’ when we got back. It made me feel a little shoddy.

We crossed from Brindisi to Santi Quaranta and thence sailed down the coast, passing Corfu, where Ulysses in the form of a swine broke Calypso’s heart (how Freudian!), through the Gulf of Corinth, and then to Athens. Without even seeing the Parthenon, or going to a night club, we passed on up the east coast to Salonica.

Except for the lower end of the Cannebière and the streets surrounding the old harbor in Marseilles, Salonica in 1915 was the toughest water front I had ever seen. It was the true melting pot of the West and the Near East. Along the quays were tied up the painted ships, reminiscent — with their colored sails — of the thousand that went to Troy. Size, build, and rigging have probably changed little through the centuries. On the streets were Greek mountaineers in native costumes; Bulgarians; Serbs; Turks; heavily veiled women, some of them with coal-black hands; and Jews still wearing the long talars and the headdresses they wore in the fifteenth century, when large numbers of them fled from Spain to find safety from that early Inquisition that is losing so much of its impressiveness now that we are having bigger and better ones. On the hill behind the town, below the ancient walls, was the native Turkish quarter, with narrow, crooked streets — indescribably mysterious at night — and lovely with glimpses through Moorish arches, toward the harbor. Far to the south, Mt. Olympus towered high, its snow-capped peaks crested with clouds. The life in the water-front city was one of holiday and drinking, with women of all colors, races, and varieties of chastity. There appear to be recognized degrees of this virtue in the Near East. If I am rightly informed, an exalted American lady who nursed the Turkish wounded was decorated by the Sultan with the ‘Order of Chastity of the Second Class.’

Greece had not yet entered the war, the opinions of the population were said to be divided, and it was even rumored that there was serious internal dissension in the royal family, since the Queen was the Kaiser’s sister and the King inclined to worry about the British battleships concentrated at Malta. Salonica, still a neutral port in a strategic position on the very edge of the whirlpool, was full of military agents, propagandists, and observers of all the combatant nations, and was beginning to develop that irresponsible and reckless gayety that characterized noncombatant areas throughout the war and, extending over the world after the armistice of Versailles, contributed materially to the earthencircling hangover.

The town of Salonica itself was relatively free of disease. While epidemics of typhus and relapsing fever were devastating Serbia, not so many miles north, the Greek sanitarian Dr. Kopanaris—German-trained, a pupil of Loeffler — had established an extraordinarily efficient supervision of all border communications. It was through the kindness of this wise and able colleague that I obtained a few cages full of guinea pigs from Athens, most of my own animals having died on the trip over. Kopanaris showed me a small concentration camp near Salonica, where I saw my first cases of bubonic plague.

The money of Salonica was largely in Jewish hands. The bankers were Jews, and most ot the important business was under their control. From what I saw of the Greeks, I have no doubt that by this time the Jews are lucky if they haven’t lost their shirts.

The train that took our unit north crossed the border into Serbia at Gevgeli, and there I had my first glimpses of war. The bridge across the river had been destroyed within t he week. In the town were the fresh graves of two hundred people who had been killed in a Bulgarian raid. Others had been wounded and mutilated — cutting off the ears was a favorite witticism. Bulgaria was not at war with Serbia at that time, but the situation had Balkan traditions behind it. The comitadji system is as old as the Turkish Conquest. In all these Balkan states there were organized bands of raiders, safe in the mountain fastnesses, well armed, — probably with the connivance of their own governments, — who made a habit, even in times of official peace, of crossing borders, attacking villages, killing and robbing peasants, burning houses, and then slipping back into the mountains when reenforcements arrived. Their own governments took no responsibility, since they were theoretically outlaws. It was not a Bulgarian specialty, however. Later, in a little border town in Montenegro, an affable old fellow of sixty, who drank with me in the local han, boasted that he had been the leader of a comitadji band for thirty years and, having sustained innumerable wounds, was now an honored veteran, living on a Serbian pension.


The hospital at Uskub, now known as Skoplje, was established in a former military barracks in the river valley, about three miles from town. We were lodged for a few days in an elegant mansion facing the Vardar, the most palatial residence in the main street, said to have been the pride of the town and its most elegant bawdyhouse — the requisitioning of which, an act of extreme patriotism, indicated how desperately the Serbs were sacrificing all for resistance.

After a short period our group was broken up, three of us being assigned to the typhus hospital known as the ‘6th Reserve’ and run by a British unit founded by Lady Paget. The roads around the buildings, reaching down to the river, were ruts of mud; and on slight rises to the east there were at least twenty acres of little wooden crosses over the graves of the typhus dead of the last few months. As many as eighty cases a day were still arriving. It was heart-rending to see them carried in, stumbling between supporting relatives, or lying on straw in oxcarts, then laid out on the hospital grounds for preliminary cleaning and delousing before disposal in the wards.

My first, concern was to establish a laboratory and autopsy room, which I did by reconstructing a barrack shed that had been used for the storage of odds and ends. Fortunately, for this work I had the assistance of Austrian prisoners. There was a prisoners’ camp behind the hospital which held some five to six hundred, most of them typhus convalescents. The hospital and the camp were under British supervision, and in consequence these prisoners were well treated and given a great deal of liberty, escape across the mountains being quite impossible. These Austrians were now out of the war — and therefore relatively happy. At night they sang, and played on improvised fiddles and guitars. I often sat with them, because their parties were much more amusing than the solemn conversations at the British mess table. Among them, two good masons, a carpenter, and a plumber soon converted my shed into an autopsy room and a serviceable laboratory. Two of the prisoners —Otto, an ex-clerk from Vienna, and Wilhelm, a former bank cashier — I trained as laboratory technicians.

I noticed at the ‘6th Reserve’ what I confirmed by later observations in France: the British have, more than any other nation with which I have worked, the sporting spirit toward a defeated enemy. Their kindness to these prisoners and their lack of any dislike or hatred were natural reactions. They are brutal only in their propaganda and when money is involved. Austrians became trusted orderlies, and all of them felt that — in British hands — they were completely protected from reprisal and abuse. I have often been irritated by the English, and I have often laughed at their insular conceits. But I’d rather be captured by them in war than by any other nation.

My work at this hospital led to little immediate discovery. I gathered a great deal of information about the clinical aspects of the disease, did a great many autopsies, and learned the things that one can learn about typhus by living in an epidemic region. But scientific studies were hampered, not by any lack of opportunity or equipment, but rather by the fact that in typhus investigations at that time there was much underbrush to be cleared away. Before the true causes of the disease were uncovered, almost every known microorganism had, at some time or other, been implicated. An American bacteriologist, ballyhooed by an important hospital in New York, had, a short time before, described a ‘bacillus’ of typhus fever which had been much advertised. It required much of my time in Serbia to eliminate this error, and since the methods demanded by such work were quite at variance with any of the approaches later found to be significant, it was a lesson in the incalculable waste of time and money that can result from false observations backed by institutional propaganda. Nevertheless, this time was not entirely lost, since it set me definitely on the right path and convinced me, once and for all, that the solution lay in another direction. I drew on my Serbian experience and the thorough knowledge of the disease it hud given me when, some years later, I resumed my typhus studies. I was then able to work with a sound knowledge of pathology and clinical manifestations which I should not have had without the Serbian observations.

The work was trying on the nerves, since often, while I was doing an autopsy on a case still warm (it was desirable to perform these operations before secondary post-mortem invasion of bacteria had occurred), I could hear the families of other recent dead keening over the bodies on the farther side of a thin partition. Also, some of the burials were painful. I remember one dark, rainy day when we buried a Russian doctor. A ragged band of Serbian reservists stood in the mud and played the Russian and Serbian anthems out of tune. The horses on the truck slipped as it was being loaded, and the coffin fell off. When the chanting procession finally disappeared over the hill, I was glad that the rain on my face obscured the tears that I could not hold back. I felt in my heart, then, that I never could or would be an observer, and that, whatever Fate had in store for me, I should always wish to be in the ranks, however humbly or obscurely; and it came upon me suddenly that I was profoundly happy in my profession, in winch I would never aspire to administrative power or prominence so long as I could remain close, heart and hands, to the problems of disease.


As August approached and the epidemic relaxed, the work at the hospital became less strenuous, and I decided that I should like to see for myself what the conditions were in the outlying districts. I took, as an excuse, the wish to look after a younger colleague, Grinnell, who had been assigned to sanitary ‘cleaning up’ of an area in and around the village of Ipek across the Montenegrin border, and from whom we had had little news. To reach his station it was necessary to take a one-track spur railway to its terminal at Mitrovitza, where I arrived late one afternoon.

I made inquiries about getting to Ipek, and established communications with the local woiwode, an affable sergeant who fortunately spoke a little German. He said the only way to get to this place was on foot or on horseback; that it was some forty kilometres away, and that the entire distance would have to be covered by daylight, because the Albanian mountaineers were playful at night. After much argument, he consented to my going on the following day, promising to send two mounted gendarmes with me.

Returning to the hotel, I took a room and — luckily, as will appear later — was given one of which the door was opposite and only a few feet away from the top of one of the staircases. I then proceeded to clean up.

The technique of traveling in epidemic countries — especially when the prevailing epidemics are carried by lice, bedbugs, and fleas — is a special one. On such journeys I never slept in a bed, however tempting. I carried a Red Cross blanket, an extra suit of underwear, a beer bottle full of kerosene, and another of chloroform. Also, a cake of soap. Upon arriving in places of this sort, the first thing to do was to strip to the skin. Outer clothes were hung on a hook or laid over a chair, away from the washing area. The discarded underwear was loosely packed into my boots, a tablespoonful of chloroform poured into each one, and a string tightly tied around the tops. This executed any vermin that happened to be in the underwear, and made the clothing safe for use the following day. Then came a thorough wash — especially of the hairy parts of the body — with soap and waiter. After this, I could put on the clean underwear. Before wrapping myself in the blanket for sleep on the floor, I would sprinkle it with kerosene. I used my stuffed boots as a pillow, and usually managed a fair night’s rest.

My routine in this hostelry was rendered difficult by the fact that, according to local custom, in addition to being a wayside inn the place was also a bawdyhouse. The landlady herself was a buxom Serbian woman full of loud laughter, who joked with the soldiers, especially with a young and pomaded Serbian field clerk. Her humor, I could guess without understanding a word, was not of the most delicate. There were also some handsome maidens of not more than eighteen or twenty — of the same type, but more timid. Following the hospitable traditions of the house, one of them — and she was really a very nice girl —attached herself to me, followed me into my room, sat on my bed, and proceeded to watch my preparations with interested anticipation. We could not speak to each other, and I tried in vain to intimate by gesture that I was about to take a bath. I ostentatiously opened the door. She gently closed it and returned to sit on the bed, smiling at me. I decided that if I stripped to the waist and started to wash she would eventually get tired and leave of her own accord, but my ablutions intrigued her enormously. Such exaggerated cleanliness appeared fantastic. When I had finished with this part of the exercises, I had to take her by the arm and lead her out. She accepted this in good part, however — indeed, patted me on the back affectionately, assuming the hour had not yet arrived.

I finished my ablutions, had a meagre meal of boiled eggs, the inside of half a loaf of bread, tea, and an ample dosage of Slibovitz, in which not even the toughest germ could survive. To this I set up the crowd, thus establishing merry approval. Then, looking forward to an early start, I retired to my room.

I was wakened by a dreadful row just outside my door. A struggle was going on; someone was evidently hanging on to my doorknob, and someone else trying to pull him or her away. If the door had looked less frail, my judgment would have been to sit tight; but it seemed that the couple were about to crash into my room at any moment. I arose and put my hands on the most obvious weapon, a chair. The kerosene bottle would no doubt have been better, but I couldn’t, see it in the obscurity. The door seemed to be giving, and I wondered how soon it would fly open.

Though I had not yet heard of Marshal Foch, I concluded that counterattack would be the best defense. I silently drew the bolt and — since the door opened outward — pushed it with all the vigor I possessed. The effect was fortunate. It seemed that my girl friend had been intending to come into the room, and an enamored drunken soldier was trying forcibly to dissuade her. She must have been close to the door, and was merely pushed aside when it flew open; but he, standing just a little behind, with his head forward, received the full impact on his nose. His drunkenness was a great help — that, and the element of surprise. Whether he was actually laid out or not, I don’t know; but he lost his balance, stumbled backwards, missed his footing, and described a curve into the mud of the court. Naturally, I was anxious. I looked about, but the girl had vanished. I peered over the balcony to see the soldier getting unsteadily to his feet, and rebolted my door.

Before dawn the next morning I made my way to the woiwode’s office. My gendarmes were waiting for me. They seemed glad of the trip, and were very friendly. One of them had a black eye, but he was none the less amiable. He had probably been too drunk to remember. There were two horses for the three of us, which meant a walking pace, but they were generous in changing off, so that none of us walked more than a third of the way.

The road toward Montenegro, after five or six miles of cart track, degenerated into something more like a brook bed. It was hot going, but we maintained a fair pace, since it had been made quite clear that we must reach the town of Ipek before dark. In a little valley we came upon an isolated han, a little oblong building, the typical wayside rest. The interior consisted of a central passage, on either side of which ran raised platforms. The solitary old Turk proprietor boiled us some eggs and served us with thick, sweet coffee. My gendarmes, who were less fastidious than I and who had probably had every disease that the neighborhood afforded, filled up with bowls of pilaff, a confection of rice, butter, sugar, and bits of meat, which under safer circumstances I have learned to appreciate as far and away the least painful method of eating rice.

While we were inside we heard the sound of approaching horses. My companions ran out with me and we saw, riding down from the hills, a picturesque troop of a dozen horsemen. I half expected them to burst into song, for they looked like an opéra bouffe company. The horses were small and shaggy; the bridles gay with color; and the men themselves dressed in the tight white breeches of the Albanian highlander, with short embroidered white jackets bordered with black braid. In their broad sashes were stuck pistols and knives. Most of them carried rifles of various makes and periods. There was one Mauser. These were the first hillmen I had seen, and I was struck by the fact that their physical type was similar to my own. Their complexions, build, and hair were those of Anglo-Saxons.

I tried later to learn about the ethnology of the Albanians, but nothing much is known of them. They are called Pelasgians or Illyrians. It seemed quite likely to me that they might be descendants of the Greek gods who, one gathers from Swinburne, fled across the Gulf of Corinth when Christianity moved too close to Olympus. Menelaos, one remembers, was ξανθός, light-haired. This idea recurred to me when, on my return to Mitrovitza, I had an interpreted chat in the town jail with an Albanian girl imprisoned for knifing a Serb who had tried to rape her. She looked exactly like the Venus of Milo — only, of course, she had capable arms. In the same jail, that day, I saw a German aviator — a charming young lad who had been on his way to Bulgaria and had had a panne on Serbian territory, where armed peasants gathered him in. I managed to get a good meal to him, and we drank a bottle of wine together. It was terribly bad wine.

I watched the approach of these mountain sportsmen with some apprehension, but, to judge from this crowd, their ferocity had been exaggerated. Here in broad daylight they were a friendly lot. They dismounted and gathered about us, examined me closely — and grinned. I held out my hand to the central figure, a red-headed, red-bearded patriarch who might have been Vulcan. He grasped it and seemed to know what I meant when I said, ‘Delaware and Lackawanna!’ He had a huge revolver a muzzle loader — which, I was amused to find, had been made in the United States in 1859. We all went inside to have coffee together; after which we departed without interference.

My friend Grinnell, I found, had been down with dysentery, which, together with relapsing fever, malaria, and a growing enteric incidence, was increasing as typhus diminished. He was recovering when I arrived and later showed me his district. He had done a splendid job, and demonstrated how much could be accomplished for these miserable villagers with common sense, hard work, and the simplest equipment. If we had had a few thousand like Grinnell scattered through the country, we might have made more of an impression — possibly lasting —on the general conditions. He had trained squads of the garrison to carry on his work, and he promised to follow me out as soon as he was strong enough to travel.

The bishop was a hospitable soul. I suspected, also, that he was overjoyed to have a little party. He had been sitting in this isolated spot for God knows how long, with a ret inue of black-robed monks and some hundred or so Montenegrin militiamen — the former recruited from the less intelligent and less interesting of the lower middle class, the soldiers half-savage peasant lads. The bishop was thoroughly fed up with the whole show, for he was a cultivated mail of the world and bored.

He was a fine-looking person — tall, black-bearded, his impressiveness increased by his long black robes and the high black headdress. He welcomed me in excellent French, and sent me to a clean, whitewashed room with a bed and real sheets, a washstand, and clean towels.

He had dined. But his monks served me an excellent meal while he sat in attendance and plied me with a not too terrible red wine. Then he took me to his study, where there was a bottle of marvelous cognac and a box of his own particular cigarette tobacco.

I might have learned a great deal from the bishop had I not gone to sleep on him several times. In compassion, he led me to my quarters and wished me a pleasant night. I had no doubt of this. Luxuriously, I undressed completely, with happy confidence in the safety of the whitewashed walls. It wasn’t a bad night, as a matter of fact — except that toward morning I felt a bite on my neck, scratched a while, swung my boot at a bedbug crawling up the immaculate wall, and disfigured it with a red splotch of my own blood. I was too sleepy to worry, and became comatose again. When I finally awoke the sun was shining into my window and I was conscious of the fact that I had been waked by a rifle shot. I thought the place was being attacked, and went to the window to look out. There in the garden the bishop was sitting at a little iron table, with coffee, cigarettes, and cognac before him, and a Mauser across his lap. Just after I caught sight of him he raised the rifle to his cheek and fired upward into the mountains.

‘Good morning!’ I shouted.

‘Come down,’ he said, ‘and have some coffee. I amuse myself shooting at an old rabbit that feeds on the slope — but I won’t let you shoot. You might hit him, and then my morning plaisir would be spoiled.’

I hated to leave him. But, after arranging for Grinnell’s return journey to Uskub, I started back across the hills with my guards.

The little coastal steamer on which I left Salonica was delayed, and I missed connections with the direct boat for home, but my forced stop in Greece was fortunate for me. I saw the Parthenon, Corinth, and the lovely Achaian hills on which the daphne — Apollo’s beloved — was in flower. I crossed to Patras in the vain hope of catching another steamer, and saw the shores of the Corinthian Gulf.

In a bookstore I picked up secondhand texts with translations of the Odyssey and of Thucydides. And with their help I renewed some of t he adventures of my youth —remembering the resounding voice of the great schoolmaster, Julius Sachs, rolling forth the mighty vowels of Homeric periods with impressive wagging of his Olympian beard. And I felt glad that I had been a dishonest little boy. For while many of the good boys were conscientiously learning which verbs governed the dative or the ablative, and were detecting examples of synecdoche, anacoluthon, and pleonasm, I —in a back seat — was following the great classicist with a well-concealed ‘trot,’ getting a romantic kick out of the wanderings of Odysseus and of Xenophon, and, incidentally, passing better examinations. And I pondered on the stupidity of most classical teaching, which smothers what might be the most thrilling intellectual adventure of youth under rubbish heaps of syntax and grammar. Why not read all these things with a good trot, for those who have a talent and a taste for it to pick up a reading knowledge, if they will? All this I thought as I gazed upon the Parthenon at night and, thinking it, I completely forgot to take a good look at those remaining relics of sculpture which Lord Elgin — though quite justly realizing that Phidias should have been an Englishman— generously left behind.

On the sands of the Phaleron I met an unfortunate young lady who proved to me that some things still do happen as the penny thrillers describe them. She was sitting with a couple that in themselves were something to remember. The man was small and fat, with a pincenez and a little Hitler moustache. His wife was enormous, red-headed, deepbosomed, and forbidding in spite of a labored smile. Her reddish moustache was bigger than his. Imagine Charlie Chaplin married to Brunhild. These people were Jews from Smyrna and were very rich, as her jeweled hands and ears bore witness. The young woman with them was slight and timid. She and I left for Athens together on the tramcars, and her story was almost a perfect plot of old-fashioned melodrama. She was a minister’s daughter from the north of England who had come to Athens as governess in a rich Greek family. She had been ‘several times’ betrayed, and now she was almost penniless and spots were coming out on her skin. The spots, which she insisted on showing me after she had begged me for medical advice, persuaded me that, however much of a cliche her story, she needed help. And she was truly a well-educated and charming young girl. Fortunately I had by this time plenty of extra money. Through a Greek doctor with whom I had had professional correspondence I managed to have her admitted to a good hospital for the treatment she needed. She was utterly unwilling to go back to England, though I did my best to persuade her. I’ve often wondered what became of the poor thing eventually — cultivated, gently reared, penniless, luetic, and afraid to go home.

It was not easy to get home from Greece in those days. I used to row about in the harbor of the Piraeus trying to find some tramp or freighter that would lake me at least as far as Italy. Finally a small French Messageries steamer came in, and one of the engineers told me that they took a few passengers but were under government control and could not guarantee where they would go after they got to Malta. However, they took me as far as that, and from Malta I made my way to Marseilles; t hence to Bordeaux, and home on the old Touraine. I had to sneak aboard the ship with the help of one of the officers, because I had not the necessary military permits to leave the country and no lime to get them. The purser of this ship — Le Dantec was his name — was a poet of some repute. It turned out one of the jolliest voyages of my experience, except that the ship’s doctor and I had to listen each evening to the good commissaire’s daily harvest of dreadful imitations of Lamartine.

The next few years crowded me with other problems, and I did not get back to typhus until eight years later.


When, in March 1917, Kerensky established his provisional government in Russia, R.S. was thrilled with enthusiasm. A great representative democracy was about to take its place by the side of America, England, and France. The calamity of the war appeared to have achieved at least one magnificent result. Democracy, accepted so clearly at that time as the ultimate goal of political evolution, seemed at last to have begun its march eastward — perhaps into Asia. It was indeed a brave and noble episode while it lasted. How fine it was the historians— except for isolated voices like that of Seton-Watson and a very few others—seem now to have forgotten. A Russian friend, who was in Kerensky’s cabinet for a time, described to me how his chief, on a dramatic occasion, vowing that this was to be ‘the one bloodless revolution of history,’ harangued a turbulent Duma, declaring that the Czar would be executed only if they killed him (Kerensky) first. He told me too that, on the night when the extreme Left took control in Petrograd, Kerensky was within striking distance with two loyal regiments, but held his hand because he could not bring himself to give the signal for Russians to fire on Russians. It was a sad day for the world — indeed, for Germany herself, as she has since discovered — when she passed Lenin and Trotsky across the Russian borders and helped, in other ways, to smother the young democracy.

It was characteristic of R. S. that he wanted to express his enthusiasm by naming his newborn son ‘Kerensky.’ The common sense of his family prevented this, fort unately. What a calamity it would have been for the boy, had he been condemned to go through life In an Anglo-Saxon country with the given name of Kerensky!

A German name during the war was a source, if not of humiliation, at least of considerable annoyance to so-called ‘hyphenated’ Americans with family pride. Curiously enough, this situation was more difficult in the United States than in other Allied countries. A few there were who understood the feelings of people like R. S. and myself. But these were exceptions, and by most of the ‘old’ Americans their fellows of German stock were regarded as a sort of parthenogenetic breed who reproduced without ancestors until they learned mitosis in America. If was only toward the end of the war, when troops — especially from Wisconsin and from other regions of German settlement — had reestablished records comparable to those of the hundred thousand odd Germans who fought in the Civil War, that this offensive superciliousness of the Anglo-Saxon element partially subsided.

However, R. S. told me that as soon as he had left this country with orders to report in London on the way to France, all discrimination or even unpleasantness due to a German name ceased completely. There were two episodes which, far from annoying him, furnished evidence that both the British and the French were less provincial in these matters than the Americans.

The first of these experiences was at a luncheon given at the British Army Medical College, to which he had been invited by Sir Robert Bruce. During a lull in the conversat ion his neighbor, who had asked him his name, said in a loud voice: ‘Major, tell me, just how German are you by blood?’ It was a dreadful question to ask at that time, and at a military mess. Fortunately R. S. had one of those rare inspirations that usually come to one on the way home, or the next day. This time if flashed out at the right moment, and, while a tense table of officers gazed at him in the silent apology of gentlemen not knowing how to protect a guest., he replied: ‘I believe, sir, that I am just about as German as the King of England.’ The roar of relieved laughter that followed made him feel not only happy but — as I could see by the way he told the story — inordinately smart.

The second episode was a year or so later, in a dugout near Rougemont, on the Belfort front, whither he had been sent to look into an outbreak of diphtheria in the 32nd (Wisconsin) Division, which was holding this line. He had wandered in when the colonel in command was having a ‘canned’ luncheon with his French liaison officer. R. S. had been roaming through the woods from company to company all morning, and was grateful when the colonel asked him to join them. In the course of the conversation this hearty officer said, with some pride, ‘You know, these boys of mine are quite wonderful. Never have I seen a regiment that showed more enthusiasm, discipline, and guts. And yet they are fighting Germans, and the roster of my regiment might be that of a Saxon guard unit.’

R. S. was a little puzzled, wondering whether perhaps the colonel was feeling him out. But to bring things to a head he pretended to assume that the colonel hadn’t heard his name.

‘That doesn’t surprise me, sir,’ he said. ‘My own first name is Rudolf.’

He had apparently guessed right. The colonel looked at him with an expression of kindly embarrassment, for their relations had been businesslike and cordial for a week or more. But the Frenchman was an unknown quantity. He was the typical middle-aged, still snappy, French reservist — a captain — with the ribbons of the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur on his field-worn tunic, and he had probably served a strenuous year or two in the lines before he joined our forces. He gazed at R. S. thoughtfully and seriously. R. S. hadn’t any idea what was coming, and was fully prepared to resent the probably offensive remark or the equally offensive silence. Gradually a thin smile spread over the Frenchman’s tired face. Then his hand came across the board table and closed over that of R. S. with a gentle friendliness.

‘ You have nothing on me,’ he said, in pure New Yorkese. ‘ My name is Gustav Ehrman.’

Some years later, after the turning back of the Russians from Warsaw by Weygand, when Lenin’s Marxian empire had become diplomatically isolated from the rest, of tine western world, Russia became for R. S. an object of particular interest because it seemed to be passing through a sanitary period not unlike that prevailing in Europe during and after the Thirty Years’ War. Three million deaths from typhus (thirty million cases) is the estimate of Tarassevitch from 1917 to 1923. Cholera began in 1920. In the train of these two diseases came relapsing fever, tuberculosis, the enteric fevers, malaria, syphilis, and odds and ends — to say nothing of a famine, the most devastating since the Middle Ages.

And when R. S. was invited by the League of Nations to go to Russia as a Sanitary Commissioner, to report on the situation and to cooperate with the Russian Government in problems of vaccination and border protection, he jumped at the chance. The following notes on his journey I give as closely as I can in his own words.

In Warsaw I saw the prettiest girls I have ever seen. Of course I have also said this of New York, Paris, Vienna, Rouen, Tunis, Salonica, Peking, Tokyo, and Shrub Oak, New York. I must not omit one — the very prettiest, I believe — who was in a stagecoach that ran from near Rock Creek, Texas, to the railroad at Amarillo. She was so pretty that I have never forgot ten her; but I had been in the desert for several months, had a very ragged, reddish beard, my hair was long, and I wore blue overalls, boots, and an old coat. She went forward to sit with the driver, and after that first look I saw nothing but the back of her pink neck for the rest of the day. Also, to be just, I shouldn’t forget the harness maker’s daughter, who lived at a crossroads in Putnam County and stuck her head out of the window whenever I rode by. She was really the prettiest of all. Anyway, I did not say it of London or Boston, and the Warsaw ones are so vividly in my mind that they merit a few words.

The Warsawettes are something to remember — especially the blonde ones. A blonde Polonese, with that complete blondeness of hair which graces the best Slavic type — and the pink checks! They have blonde complexions with brunette temperaments. Nothing of the washed-out sentimentality of the German blonde. The Polish blonde is like a sunny day with a heavy wind blowing — fair, but not calm; or like a fine, red apple that looks as though it could bounce like a rubber ball. There was one, the cousin of a friend — Wrobczinsky, the Professor. I saw her only a short time, at lunch, for she worked in a bank, but I have never quite forgotten her perfection of looks and manner. ‘Polen ist nock nicht verloren,’ I said to myself, when I saw her.

And there were others. A wonderful people, the Poles. I did not like the men so much, but then, I never do. ‘Moreover, the women — in the upper classes at least — are the most cultivated, taking them as a whole, that I have encountered in any nation. The wife of almost every professional man I met was either a doctoress or a lawyerette or a musician or a government functionary, and that without any of the loss of charm, or the flat, heels, flowerpot hats, and wild hair that one associates in most other countries with the bluestocking. I liked, also, the red beet soup and the Starka. The latter is a sort of distillate of the beauty of the ladies, and a thimbleful — trickled down the back of the tongue — warms the body with a comforting courage from the neck down. It is the concentrate of Polish patriotism, and an army fed on Starka should be invincible.

Yet, much as I admired the intelligence of the upper classes and the splendid energy and vigor of the young government, especially in those matters which I could judge, — educational and public-health efforts, — I could not help feeling that Poland had a long way to go before she could take any significant place in European civilization. The spirit was feudal, the poor in villages and cities indescribably miserable and abject, the peasants serfs in every actual sense, docilely subservient to an immensely wealthy and arrogant class of landowners. Nothing had changed in regard to these matters in three hundred years, and to count Poland among the democratic states — whatever the form of government — was as absurd as to regard Russia as a haven of liberty. I began, at this time, to realize with amazement the unlimited capacity of men for self-deception — or, rather, for the ignoring of facts — in formulating the political or sociological conditions for which they are willing to let other people die. Later I learned that I had still underestimated it.

I left Warsaw with a heavy heart, especially since an English officer recently back from Odessa, who came to see me off, said, with the type of humor I associate with Punch, ‘Well, good-bye, old man. I hope you get back. Remember that it’s Friday, the thirteenth.'

The trains left for Moscow in those days on schedule, like ships, twice a week — Tuesdays and Fridays. Everyone on them had the holiday air of a convict train starting up the Hudson for Sing Sing. Gloom pervaded the bushy countenances of my entirely male fellow travelers. The train had hardly started when an anxious-looking Pole addressed me in poor French and begged me to change berths with him, because the second man in my compartment was a friend of his. Of course I complied, because his roommate didn’t look any hairier than mine. But when I had changed my baggage over I found that I had been deceived — because now I found myself in berth number 13. So I traveled into Russia during that summer, when Lenin’s illness was putting extra vigor into the bourgeois-hating, in berth number 13, on Friday the thirteenth. I am not superstitious, and always make a point of walking under ladders, insist on being the third to light a cigarette from the same match, and so forth. But I confess I was annoyed at that Pole.

Crossing the border was depressing. One had the feeling of stepping behind a curtain which shut off the rest of the world and deprived one of that protection by law the sense of which — except in actual battle — the civilized man carries about with him. It was a strange feeling to be without it. And the lack of it was almost immediately brought home by the utter absence of any kind of courtesy — indeed, a sort, of active contempt— with which the shabby train crew treated the passengers. Everyone aboard had some specific mission that made the journey necessary. Under ordinary circumstances, there would have been a lively interchange of purposes and ideas. There was almost no conversation after we crossed the frontier, and there was an atmosphere of strain when the customs officers, accompanied by a squad of Red soldiers, bayonets fixed, came aboard and took all passports, to disappear with them for an hour.

I had to get off the train to put several chests of cholera vaccine through the formalities. They were destined for the Red Army, and I was cynically pleased that the injections of this material were disagreeable to receive. That was a small sat isfact ion, however. I was spared nothing in respect to explaining myself, in spite of the quadruple history of my life, military activities, political views, and so forth, which I had had to write out for the Soviet Mission in Berlin. The Soviets at this time cared about as much for the League of Nations — which I represented — as the rest of the world does now.

In Moscow, I was received by a young Italian who was to act as my interpreter, and he led me to the officials with whom I was to deal. I had visions of getting to work promptly, but I had read Oblomov and was not wholly unprepared for what followed. Basically, the Revolution had not changed the Russian character. Procrastination and inefficiency remained, but now devoid of any of the formality and good-natured courtesy which prevailed in other days. Also, the disorder and sloppiness that were everywhere obvious were being inexpertly disguised by a pretense of bustle and much talk.

It was difficult to get a place to sleep. My guide tried to install me in a former hotel now run by a shaven-headed ruffian and four or five frowzy women. But when I found that I should be likely to lose any clothing or other movables that I could not always carry on my body, I preferred to establish myself in a hallway in the house occupied by the Nansen Mission, having borrowed a military cot from the stores of the American Relief Association, which was just preparing to liquidate.

Incidentally, those who have forgotten everything about Mr. Hoover except that he was not smart politician enough to appeal to our sovereign people for a second term might profitably be reminded of what his American Relief did for the Russians. As far as I could judge, the Russians themselves had forgotten it before his organization had moved out. He was, of course, working against insuperable obstacles, for the governing mob cared little in those days about a hundred thousand lives more or less, starving children, suffering and sickness, if only they could attain the noble ideals of Marxian theory. But Hoover and his people did feed many thousands who would otherwise have starved, — and possibly did, later on, — vaccinated many millions against cholera and typhoid fever, and were, as far as I could ascertain, the only agency of mercy and compassion practically expressed in an empire where hatred and persecution were the official government, policy.

But the Hoover Commission was moving out at the time I entered Russia, having spent some $50,000,000 of American money for purely humane purposes, for which it was getting no local credit. Indeed, the Soviet Government was anxious to get rid of these people, since they were a disturbing factor, had been granted too many privileges, and, possibly, were feeding and vaccinating occasional people who were not entirely convinced that a world ruled in the name of the ‘workers’ by fanatical Jacobin theorists was the Kingdom of Heaven. Also, the relief agents were in the position of contradicting from time to time the rosy accounts of the Socialist heaven which were being brought back by American radicals, gullible professors, and social workers. Even without Belgium, the Russian Relief work alone should give Hoover a high place in our history. He invaded Russia with the weapons of pity and mercy, and, though Russia rejected him with small thanks, he did, for a time, in a world inconceivably brutalized and debased, make the name of our country synonymous with kindness and humanity in the hearts of countless desperate people. It is too bad that he became only a President later on.

After my first night in Moscow, I asked my Italian friend to take me to the Ministry of Health,

‘Don’t be in a hurry,’ he said. ‘I will make an appointment for you for Tuesday morning, and then you may see him on Thursday afternoon. He will mean to see you on Tuesday, but he will most probably spend the preceding night, conversing with his friends about his soul or some fine point of Marxian theory, and they will not go to bed until the next day at about the time for your appointment.

‘Ask a Russian,’ he said, ‘whether he is sitting down or standing up, and he will reply somewhat as follows: “Do you mean physically, spiritually, or intellectually? Physically? Physically, I am sitting down. Spiritually, I may be standing up. For my father was a minor official in Samara. I was born in Omsk. My mother was the daughter of a nobleman in the province of Ekaterinoslav. She was partly Jewish, but her hair was blonde,” and so forth. It takes a long time, my friend, in this country, to come down to what you Americans call “brass tacks.” ‘

He was right. I finally got to see Dr. Siemashko, the Commissar of Health, on Friday. He was a pleasant, bearded gentleman, with the general allure of the country doctor which, I believe, he actually was before the Revolution. I asked for access to information concerning the prevalence of certain diseases, and a permit to go to regions where epidemics were prevailing or had been recently. He referred me to various subofficers. Everything looked fine, as described, but it took several other interviews before I found out that the health organization was, indeed, almost entirely on paper. There were still a few of the Samaritans and scientists of the old régime on hand — splendid and patriotic men like Tarassevitch, Barykin, Korschun, Zabolotny, and a few others. But the rank and file of the medical profession had been rooted out, being largely bourgeois, — as is the habit of our tribe, —and medical training had practically stopped. Personnel was lacking, the fine old laboratories were empty of supplies and apparatus, and the most important administrative posts were occupied by ignorant incompetents whose sole qualification was party loyalty, and who treated the men I have mentioned like lackeys, summoning them, letting them wait in anterooms, reprimanding them, and keeping them on starvation rations,

I did manage to obtain considerable information — largely by conversations with these older colleagues — and never have I encountered finer examples of courage, devot ion, and patriotism. Some of these men later went to prison, two committed suicide. But while I was there they carried on against unbelievable odds from sheer desire to help their own people. I obtained permission to go to the Black Sea, where the tail of a cholera epidemic was trailing along.

The existence of cholera in Russia has always been a matter of the greatest importance to epidemiologists, because practically all the great epidemics that have spread across Europe and occasionally traveled to America have swept across Russia from Asiatic origins.


At this point R. S. indulged in a rambling account of the history of cholera, its origin in India, its description by Susruta and Charaka, and the successive pandemics in which it swept northwestward across Russia into Europe. At first, he wanted me to include all this in outbook. He was especially interested in the effects of the cholera outbreaks on tho British conquest of India — the decimation of the army of Coates in 1779 and of General Hastings’s troops in the 1818 epidemic. When I had all this material in publishable shape, he suddenly changed his mind. ‘All that stuff,’ he said, ‘has been written up. If we put it in here, we’ll only be making another of those popular compilations of wellknown things that are flooding the market and appeal to people who are too lazy to go to the sources.’

Nothing I could say— though I thought his historical outline of great interest — made any impression on him. So finally I was forced to leave it out. When I had consented to his view, he continued about his Russian experiences.

During the 1891 epidemic (R. S. speaking), there were over 800,000 cases of cholera in Russia alone. Eastern Europe, and particularly Russia, had now been thoroughly durchseucht, as the Germans say, and the general picture of the disease appears to have become modified to the extent that later outbreaks could no longer be so easily traced to slow invasion from Asiatic sources. There were repeated visitations of Russia in 1908, 1909, and 1910. Again, during the Balkan War of 1912, there were cases among Austrian troops in Galicia, in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and Mesopotamia.

The problem in which I was particularly interested was, therefore, the following: Has cholera now become established in eastern Europe, where it remains smouldering in interepidemic foci and can blaze up in new epidemics without importation from India or intervening Asiatic sources?

For, as far as Russia was concerned, the disease had again become epidemically prevalent from 1920 on. The greatest incidence for these years occurred in 1921, but continued through 1922 into 1933, distributed over a wide region. Between January and June of 1922, something over 12,000 reported cases came from localities as widely separated as Siberia, Turkestan, Georgia, along the Black Sea to the Rumanian border, the Ukraine, and along the Polish border up to Lithuania.

It would take us too far into technical problems to discuss the fluctuations of virulence in bacteria. This question is particularly difficult with cholera because there is no laboratory animal available, except some of the higher monkeys, in which a cholera infection simulating that of man can be produced. The fundamental question even now, sixteen years after I was interested in it in Russia, is still unanswered. Yet I spent a good deal of my time there, with the full cooperation of Soviet health authorities, in making an extensive plan for the study of these matters along what may be called the ‘cholera frontiers’ of Europe. This plan was submitted to the League of Nations, but the only possible source of money — from America — was blocked by the fact, that the United States had no diplomatic relations with Russia at that time. The plan therefore sleeps peacefully — if it hasn’t been thrown into the waste-paper basket — in the Geneva archives. It was really nobody’s fault that it got no further than paper.

In view of what I have said about the general inefficiency and confusion of the Russian health organization, it is only fair to state that sensible suggestions, even for large-scale investigations, appealed to the authorities and found enthusiastic reception on the part of the poor, harassed, and overworked bacteriologists who remained. But undertakings of this kind require money and a type of organization which no country torn by a revolutionary cataclysm can command.

Nevertheless, the conception of this work was an inspiring experience. There is an epic appeal in the planning of a wide-flung campaign against a powerful and ancient scourge with the weapons that modern knowledge has placed in our hands. And it is in thinking of this problem, as well as the other times when I have been blessed with the chance of participating in antiepidcmic campaigns, that I feel that I can like Montaigne — ' me féliciter d’avoir vécu d’étranges aventures.’ And the best of this experience was that even in the hearts and minds of the otherwise hostile and cynical Soviet chiefs with whom this planning was done there arose a fellow feeling and warmth of zeal that swept away, in these matters, all political differences.

In this connection, the European world, especially Germany, owes an inestimable debt to Poland. If typhus and cholera did not sweep across the Russian borders into western countries during these years, it is to a large degree owing to the splendid sanitary organization by which the Poles guarded their frontiers. The accomplishment of this task by a young state, within a few years after being overrun by hostile armies, with little help except that given by the League of Nations, represents a feat of intelligence and energy that has rarely been exceeded. It is gratifying to know that active in this work were a number of young Poles trained in American laboratories.

Russia was my first experience — even considering the worst phases of the war, or any epidemics I have seen — of living in an atmosphere of universal fear. It was as though the Kremlin wore a great cave in the centre of the city from which a dragon might emerge at any moment to snatch people out of their houses or their beds. There is a picture by Boecklin in the Schack Gallery in Munich which symbolizes Russia of that time. It represents a mountain gorge through which, on a narrow road overhanging a precipice, a troop of tiny human beings are driving a pack horse. They are striving to hurry across a little bridge in the distance. High above them, a dragon is just emerging from his cave, and slowly uncoiling. And there is not the slightest chance of escape.

Suppressed panic was the state of mind of all the Russians I met, except those in official positions, and most of these though not all were cynically arrogant. The condition in Russia was analogous to that which fora time existed in France when, as Lenôtre says, there was a ‘symphony of terror’ affecting the hunters as well as the hunted. Those of whom the proscribed were most afraid were themselves so terrified that they dared not show mercy and concealed their own fears under an assumed brutality which they did not truly feel but which became a habit. The shavenheaded seksot or spy in the house in which I lived acted the sullen brute most of the time and was particularly harsh with a poor old gentlewoman — delicate and cultivated — who stood in daily terror of losing her job as charwoman. But in the evenings he often sat in the courtyard next door, singing sentimental ballads with the neighbor’s children, and to me he spoke tearfully of his longing for the old happy days with his wife and children in his native village.

This association of ferocity with sentimentality has not been uncommon in history. Souberbielle, the doctor of the Conciergerie and one of the jury that condemned the widow Capet to death, was a lender family man; and the frightful Sergeant Marceau, one of the most ferocious of the sans-culottes, lived a lifelong and gentle romance with Marie Desgraviers — an idyl that has been compared to that of Philemon and Baucis. The best example, of course, is Robespierre himself, who was as much a Puritan as Jonathan Edwards.

Lenin was sick. Trotsky was in command. I saw him several times driving across the Red Square, a dreaded and sinister figure, now free to put uncompromising theory to test on human beings, as we use guinea pigs and mice. All means of communication and all military and police power were in his hands, and not even in whispers behind closed doors was anything significant said. No day passed without platoons of troops or police guards moving through the streets (grass growing between the cobbles) with some ragged wretch led away to no one knew what fate. And always, for popular effect, the soldiers marched with a totally unnecessary show of violence, drawn revolvers or lowered bayonets. Often at night, usually toward morning, the tramp of marching files would awake me. I would hear them stopping at some house and banging at the door with the butt of a gun. I could imagine the people trembling in their beds, wondering which one it was to be, and knowing that there was neither justice nor succor. Six people in a room together after dark was ‘counterrevolution,’and every other person was a spy.

As for foreigners, the Russian Government ‘en-fiched’ itself of foreign passports and citizenship. H. was a Czechoslovak electrical engineer who had been invited into Russia to make a report on the state of power plants. He was given all facilities and submitted a survey with recommendations. But he had learned too much for his own good. They paid him his fee and put him on a train to Warsaw. At the border they took him off, appropriated his money and passport, brought, him back to Moscow, and turned him loose on the streets. He was taken under the wing of a foreign mission and fed for a while. During this time I saw him often, and tried to work out some scheme to take him out of the country. Two nights before I left Moscow, at about 2 A.M., his Russian landlady, frightened and in tears, rushed into our house. H. had just been taken away by a squad of soldiers. As far as I know, he was spurlos verschwunden.

I was acquiring an education, here in Russia, which all my previous experience of death, misery, war, and mass disease had failed to give me. For the terror, cruelly, suppression of all principles of liberty of speech or action, and general perfidy of private and public policy, I was, of course, prepared. I did on entering Russia, however, cling to the hope that underneath these possibly transitional evils there might be a strong idealistic and eventually feasible humane purpose. I cherished this idea as long as I could. But I was not a tourist, and I had a chance to come into unsupervised contact with a large number of people, including ex-aristocrats, railway employees, minor Jewish bureaucrats, former professors, and a few experienced foreigners. And I had a necessarily thorough look-in on one of the government departments. After a month of this, I felt quite satisfied that, there was no idealistic communism, either Marxian or Leninian, in Russia. Whatever may have been the high purposes of the founders, the present state of affairs was a savagely cynical and bloody autocracy maintained by espionage and brutality, utterly inefficient, and rapidly developing — in spite of its internationales — an extreme form of military nationalism. It seemed to me to be a sort of ‘state capitalism,’with all the means of production in the hands of a ruling minority which controlled the army and the police, a ‘capitalism’ with all the faults of our own, none of its efficiency, and no hope of modification and control by popular pressure, tradeunionism, or competition. Indeed, a railroad strike had just been suppressed with the killing of a thousand strikers.

This was my own reaction. I was so sure of its accuracy that I lost patience with many of my ‘intellectual’ friends, professors, writers, and so forth, among whom ‘communism’ had become a sort, of snobbism, and who, comfortably uxorious and safe in the suburbs of New York, Chicago, or Boston, swallowed the rawest propaganda and condoned murder, perfidy, and the assassination of liberty because they innocently, or stupidly, thought there was really communism in Russia. As a matter of fact, a sincere communist in Russia in 1923 would have lasted just as long as necessary to gel him into the nearest cellar.

Thinking these things, I walked one evening to the grave of John Reed, under the walls of the Kremlin, took off my hat, and considered affectionately that, after all, Shelley too had dreamed of the impossible, it is well, I thought, that they are both dead. If Reed had lived, he would have been ‘purged’ by this time. Typhus killed him more mercifully and without slandering his memory.

The amiable Dr. Siemashko gave me his private car to ride to Rostov. There were two hundred soldiers scattered among the crowded coaches, for the Ukrainians had not yet been entirely ‘persuaded’ that socialization was the key to freedom. Bands of ihe beloved Makhno’s disorganized forces were still roaming the prairies, and their favorite game was to tear up a hundred feet of track, attack the trains, and take what they could in the form of clothes and food.

In Kharkov, the train stopped for several hours and my two interpreter companions, getting off to visit friends while I stayed to take a nap, were left behind. Unable to speak a word of Russian, I wandered through the cars hoping that I might run into someone who spoke one of the languages familiar to me. My conductor, who, having received a dollar bill, was ready to risk his neck for me (in spite of disdain for our bourgeois capitalism, a dollar bill or a paper pound was more valuable than a passport; how the poor devils got rid of them for useful purposes, I don’t know), made inquiry in a loud voice, as we struggled over legs, bundles, and boxes in the dirty aisles. Finally we discovered a middleaged Jew who spoke German.

It was an enlightening experience. As I first walked through the cars, I felt an atmosphere of hatred and dislike. Hostile eyes seemed to be boring through my back; disdainful laughter at my expense, and other grumblings that perhaps it was just as well I did not understand, followed my course. But now I sat on a box next to my graybearded and kind-eyed Jew. His son had just been banished to Siberia for asking an irrelevant question at a party meeting. Others joined our group, while my friend interpreted. More and more of the passengers became curious about me. They were all eager for information about America. I was again and again astonished by the unconcealed admiration which, in spite of political hatred, the Russians expressed for the institutions of our capitalistic country. While they pretended to detest us as the Hindenburg line of reaction, they appeared eager to build up an industrial syst em imitative of our own — believing, poor things, that in their hands avarice, greed, and exploitation could be eliminated, a sort of celestial system of Standard Oil Companies and steel trusts.

In half an hour of conversation, not talking politics, of course, — I felt that I sat in a friendly crowd. An amiable grin appeared here and there. Somebody at the end of the car struck up one of those interminable sorrowful Russian ballads — endless narrative repetition of verses in minor tones, usually describing the life and career of some Cossack Robin Hood. I caught the tune and began to sing. My group was amused, and also joined in. My heart went out to these frightened, ill-clad, and hungry people, so instinctively friendly and good-natured, yet bullied and propagandized until their poor minds were no more than confusions of uncomprehended slogans about bourgeoisie, capitalism, and other catchwords. Made to work for wages over which they had no control; deprived of the power to strike, of freedom of movement, domicile, speech, choice of occupation, and even jurisdiction over their own children; without chance of profiting legitimately by superior qualities of character, physique, or mind; terrorized into complete acquiescence - — they believed their slavery a new form of liberty.

Truly, I reflected, the Soviet chiefs have succeeded in the principle expressed by Montaigne in another connection: ‘ Qu’il est besoing que le peuple ignore beaucoup de chases vrayes, et en croye beaucoup de faulses.' And these smiling and cheerful Muscovites, I knew, would not hesitate to denounce me or each other, and hand us over to the slit-eyed officer who commanded the escort, for a careless expression or a critical question. What makes people behave like this, I wondered. Fear, misery, and propaganda, which seem to be able to implant blind obedience and hatred into the most kindly human hearts. Add to this Russian formula the factor of nationalism, and you have the situation of Germany. The slogans are a bit differently conceived, but. the only real difference is that instead of shoot ing dissenters behind the ear, or hitting them on the head with a mallet, in Germany they stand them before a firing squad.

In Rostov, I saw some of the survivors of the famine. Hundreds of ragged souls — men, women, and children — camped around the railroad station, begging for food, cooking what they could get in tin kettles, their wretched belongings piled around them, exposed to sun and rain, waiting for a chance to steal rides on freight cars in the direction of possible food supplies. It was a new experience of human misery, and more dreadful to see than battlefields or death from disease.

The rest of my task in Russia was purely observational and advisory, as far as my suggest ions were welcome; and a few weeks longer gave me all the information that I could reasonably expect to obtain for transmission to Geneva. It took me two weeks to gel permission to leave Russia, however, and that it took no longer than that was due to the kind offices of Mischa Rosenbaum, a young New York Jew who had once studied at Columbia and now held down a desk in the Foreign Office. It was necessary to get a permit to board a given train on a specified date at a certain place. They were wise to make it so difficult to get out; for I truly believe that if the border valve had been freely opened all the Russians, with the exception of the inner circles and possibly the eastern Tartars and Kirghizes, who knew no geography, would have streamed across to the at least, unknown horrors of ‘bourgeois’ countries. If the ordinary Russian could get a chance to leave, there would be a Völkerwanderung into the democratic countries which would dislocate the world more than when the Ostrogoths came down the Danube.


After his return from Russia, R. S. was content to settle down in his laboratory. He now spent some of the happiest years of his career reorganizing his teaching and picking up the threads of his investigations. While the experiences in the field had been sterile in the sense of scientific production, they had taught him a great deal about the manifestations of ‘herd’ infections or epidemics and had stored his mind with unanswered questions that he was now eager to formulate in terms of experiment. He worked hard and steadily, but it was not easy to induce him to discuss the technicalities of his scientific interests. He believed that these belonged in the professional journals in which he published them, and that he could not tell about them in a popular way without appearing either to exaggerate his own professional importance or to make capital of the sensational interest which medical details appear to arouse in the public.

I happen to know, however, that during these years he was engaged in theoretical studies on antibodies, on allergy in tuberculosis, began his work on typhus, and felt about for clues to the nature of the invisible virus agents. These were relatively tranquil years, as tranquil as he could live them — for his temperament was such that he never knew he was happy until later, and the past always looked better to him than the present. He loved his work, he enjoyed his students, he spent his spare time and money on horses, and he wrote a great deal about all kinds of things both in prose and in verse. But something was always irritating or exciting him. He was not a comfortable man to live with. He was either himmelhoch jauchzend or zum Tode betrubt. His state of mind depended a good deal on the success or failure of his experiments; and whenever, as often happened, a hopeful idea blew up in smoke and a lot of effort seemed to have been wasted, he became insufferable.

At such limes he drank a lot more than was good for him and spent his evenings writing sonnets — some of which were published and thought good by others, though never quite as good as he thought them himself. He always said that his poetry was best, when he was able to attain just the right degree of intoxication. A sonnet usually cost him a quart of Scotch, and, since he favored the Shakespearean form, he never got the last two lines on the first quart. After he had worked himself to the second or third quatrain, he usually miscalculated, was too fuddled for the perfect ending, and put it off until the following evening. For prose, scientific or otherwise, as for riding horses, he believed one should be stark sober; when he was writing essays on educational subjects, he felt that a spot of beer put him into the solemn ass mood and thus a little closer to the state of mind of the professional pedagogue.

He was really a very happy man during these years, and rather stupid in not realizing it. People were much better to him than he deserved, and those most intimately associated with him made allowances for his peculiarities and his failings. There were lucid intervals when he gratefully realized this. And as his life approached its end he often spoke to me with Wehmuth (there is no English word that exactly expresses it) of the chances he had missed of making others happy.

I have jotted down in his own language some of the things he talked to me about in our many evenings together during these middle years, when — for a time — he uninterruptedly led the life of a university professor.

We medical men never really think of ourselves as professors because we look upon university connections as opportunities for doing our own work. As for our teaching obligations, as we grow wiser we learn that the relatively small fraction of our time which we spend with well-trained, intelligent young men is more of a privilege than an obligation. For these groups are highly selected, each year more thoroughly prepared, and they force the teacher continually to renew the fundamental premises of the sciences from which his speciality takes off. It keeps us as keen as we are individually able to be, for, in a rapidly moving subject, there is a vis a tergo that keeps pushing one up, and we profit, from it most directly through the fresh young blood that is pumped into our brains each year by the eager youngsters who won’t stand for pedantic nonsense.

So while we are, technically speaking, professors, we are actually older colleagues of our students, from whom we often learn as much as we teach them. This, and the sense of humility that is constantly forced upon honest investigators by the incompleteness of their own small victories over the secrets of nature, keep us from developing that, sense of sacred superiority that is shared by some academicians only with the monkeys of Benares.

In America the professor never held the respected position occupied by his European colleagues. The title was too often shared in our country by cornet players, boxing instructors, and dog trainers. Also, the American professor suffered from the fact that in many smaller colleges the teacher was a sort of underpaid employee of a president and lay board of trustees, who regarded him as something more than the janitor and a little less than the football coach. This condition was never strongly prevalent in the better universities, yet it was not until quite recently that the public in general had any respect for men who worked for small pay on matters that seemed to have no obvious economic value. All this is rapidly changing, and the professor was figuring much less in the comic literature as the absentminded imbecile who times his boiling watch while holding an egg in his hand, until he began again to lose some of his hard-earned prestige by the record of the recent professorial advisory boards in Washington.

By and large, however, professors have gained immensely, as they deserve, in the public esteem. Yet they remain, and always will remain, a peculiar group by reason of the very qualities that induce them to enter careers of scholarship. Moreover, the lives they lead, in concentration on highly specialized disciplines, are apt to bring out traits that differentiate them from their run-of-the-mill contemporaries. There are all kinds of professors: the inordinately vain type most common in literature (particularly ‘appreciation of poetry’); the Jehovahcomplex type (philosophy); the very much man-of-the-world type (government, economics); the women’s lunch club and general after-dinner type (education and psychology); the notorietyhunter type (almost any department); the recluse type (classicists, English philosophy, Norse, Icelandic, and the like); the we-are-the-really-importantones type (almost any science); and so forth. Of course I specify departments only as far as, in those named, I have met most of each variety. And then there are the mathematicians, who, like the dodo, belong in a class by themselves. But even so, the types named are, for each department, the exceptions. By and large, professors are a dignified, learned, and superior class of human beings, differentiated from the herd by hard, intellectual discipline; frugal, cultivated, and possessing the mental poise that comes with the sound mastery of some branch of important knowledge. I speak, of course, of professors in the central structures of universities, not including the bay windows that have been added in the form of schools of education, journalism, business, and so forth. Yet, as a complement to the specified virtues, there are among professors more than the normal proportion of eccentrics. And as a class, it seems not unjust to say that the practical-common-sense index is relatively low.

There was a friend of mine, a physiologist. When he came home one night his wife reminded him that they were to dine with the president, and said that she’d laid out his dress shirt . He went up to dress, but got thinking of conditioned reflexes, and when he had his day clothes off he fell victim to one and went to bed. After she’d waited for half an hour, his wife went upstairs and found him asleep. She roused him, helped him with his shirt, and then — poor woman — went downstairs again. He resumed his ponderings on conditioned reflexes and again fell victim to one. This time, realizing that he was going out to dinner, he took off the shirt she had just put on him, put the studs into another one, put that one on, stopped to think again, took the second shirt off, looked for a third, and shouted down to his wife that there wasn’t any dress shirt.

But stories about professors are endless. They were once a stock witticism like mother-in-law jokes. There was even a time, in the Roose velt-Wilso n campaign, when the New York Times editorially reproached Mr. Roosevelt for having unfairly ridiculed Mr. Wilson in speaking of him publicly as a ‘professor.’ However, the times are changing, as academic scholars are emerging more into public life. Perhaps it is a pity. For there was, in spite of the harmless ridicule, a real advantage in academic seclusion, and great scholars, like other productive talents, develop best in quasiloneliness. Today many a gifted youngster is lost to his true career by premature pressure toward the practical and the worldly. There should be an element of the devotional in the pursuit of scholarship, and this cannot survive the glare of publicity or the feeling that approval depends upon uninterrupted production.

The academic life should be and often is among the happiest lots of man. The unhappy ones are those who, in midcareer, discover that they have mistaken their talents and inclinations, lose interest in their work, and regard teaching as an onerous routine. Without gifts or training for other pursuits, they remain the permanent underpaid instructors and assistant professors. There are unfortunate individuals of this kind in every occupation, but they are particularly numerous in the academic world because young men, before they have mentally matured, often enter the university career on the impulse of an early but thin enthusiasm, or even because, after a graduate education, it seems the locus mdnoris resistentiae. They drift into it because, after ten or more years in tin; cloistered security of teaching institutions, they are afraid of the world. The situation cannot be entirely avoided. Teachers’ unions will not cure it, for scholarship cannot be made democratic in that sense. It is already democratic in the truer significance — namely, that wealth, influence, and other extraneous circumstances actually play no appreciable role in academic advancement. I assert this on the basis of twenty-five years of observation.

The provision of scholarships for the unusual student and the act ive search for talent by most enlightened institutions are constantly strengthening the democracy of scholarship. But, in another sense, by this same process scholarship develops an aristocracy of intellect uninfluenced by mass opinion or the pressure of an organized intellectual proletariat. If this sounds a paradox, I reply that I believe no democracy can maintain itself for any length of time without building up an aristocracy of ability and integrity to protect it from deterioration and eventual chaos. The responsibility of the university problem falls on the older scholars, it is their task to appraise and select, and not, out of laziness and the comfort of having their chores done by willing wheel horses, to permit men fundamentally unsuited to involve themselves until they are inextricably committed. This is not easy— but there is no other solution.

We have been living in an era of science. And it is not unnatural that our university administrators should have given the scientific departments a disproportionate degree of encouragement and support to the neglect of the humanities. Yet there are growing indications that the tide is turning; and men in leading positions are beginning to realize that the backbone of intellectual training lies in liberal education and in the adjustment of the content of the humanities to modern conditions. In this maturing of our hard-pressed democratic civilization the classicist, the historian, the philosopher, and all those other devoted disciples of the learning called useless in this era of national adolescence, will come into their own again. And when this happens, and the mass of high-school and college graduates go back into industrial and political life in ever-increasing numbers as educated people, there will be hope of the eventual triumph of humane civilization.


Boston is a much maligned town, said R. S. I’ve lived here for some eighteen years, off and on, and, being a rank outsider, have been let into secrets that; hereditary members of the various clans take the greatest pains to hide from each other. No, Mr. O’Neill, though I hate to contradict, a man to whose genius I do homage, I’ve not run into a single case of incest in all this time. And I cannot agree, my dear Benny DeVoto, whose gifted pen arouses uncnvious admiration, that Beacon Hill is a rabbit warren of love nests. Upton Sinclair was too bitter to require refutation — his passion is its own answer. John Marquand, with consummate art, aroused in me a liking for George Apley — and of course he liked him himself. I wish the species were not dying out. And in Wickford Point, after all, he was painting portraits of his own friends — that is, special cases — so well done that, in spite of his restrained satire, everyone seemed to recognize them and, except for those related to his models, to be much amused. But his characters might have been from the Chicago lake front, or the banks of the Monongahela, had it been Mr. Marquand’s misfortune to be born in Pittsburgh. Current rumor to the contrary, our lunatic asylums are not more crowded than those of other states, and unincarcerated morons are not more plentiful than elsewhere.

I have often asked myself just what is the actual source of this persistent literary virulence against the town I live in. It is aimed, of course, not at the half million or so Irish-Americans, nor the sixty or seventy thousand Jews, nor the odds and ends of recent arrivals like myself, but at the survivors of the stock that made much of the early history of our country, and whose reservations or habitats, like those of the Ainus or the Ogallala Sioux, grow narrower and narrower in a strip stretching from the State House to Massachusetts Avenue, along the basin. Like the tribes mentioned, they are disappearing, but there the parallel ends. They are not disappearing for the same reasons. As a physical stock, they survive all over the nation and are multiplying numerically quite as fast, as other sections of the population. Their fertility, once prodigious, has not diminished much below the old theological standards. But as a so-called Brahmin class they are going, because all but a few of the older ones are abandoning the time-honored tribal customs. The young men have followed the buffalo to New York and elsewhere, or are adopting the habits of the foreign palefaces who are gradually infiltrating the remaining clans by intermarriage and business pressure.

For my part, I am glad I came here while there were still representative, unmiscegenated specimens left. They held out a little longer than their kind elsewhere, because more deeply rooted. They once were a patrician merchant class much like the Buddenbrooks of Lübeck, or of Bremen, Lyons, London, and so forth. And they have the defects and virtues almost of an aristocracy. A few of them linger in their traditions partly because their individual fortunes hold out, partly because some of them still draw a thin sap from the deep roots that once made New England flower. And they must disappear, because at this stage of the world’s — and especially America’s — history there is no survival value in the cult of manners or in the old-fashioned ‘reactionary’ or ‘rightist’ scruples against, the minor and perfectly legal infringements of integrity, or in the prejudice of reserve against going out and ‘getting’ things. So they will disappear, and when they are completely gone something irrecoverable will have gone out of American lifenot the least the material they furnish for radical derision.

They have been a great consolation and comfort to me. They are often rich, but carry their wealth with simplicity. It is possible to be relatively poor among them without the self-ostracism that one practises among parvenus. They are all related, of course, and are inclined to be a bit boring about this. They are a little like the English in that they are inclined to be nasty to each other but kindly to those strangers whom they accept as equals. The insides of their houses are often littered with terrible art objects, — large naked marble ladies sitting on tigers’ backs, dreadful pictures, glass apples, and ivory elephants, — but these are mostly inherited from cruder days. There is a lot one can say about them in derision and criticism, but they are not in the true sense of the word snobs. Snobbery is usually a defense-reaction by which a consciously inferior individual takes refuge behind the accidental advantages of birth, money, or unearned position. There are snobs even among animals. At a dog show, you can see how the blue-ribboned useless Pomeranian has his nose turned up at the fox terrier; or consider the offensive snobbery of those purely ornamental Afghan bounds, as they cal! them, that look, with their tasscled ears, like homosexual English setters. Snobbery means usually some kind of decadence that needs to conceal itself under arrogance.

These Boston people are not snobs, nor are they decadent. The rushing world of America has grown away from their kind more rapidly than in other nations, and sometimes they overreact and appear amusing anachronisms. You will find their types in all old cities of the world, and if you come of a European family that belonged to the solider bourgeoisie they will remind you of your own people. A good many of them are provincial, and too many of them live in the past. The rich ones have many of the weaknesses that are fostered by hereditary wealth. And, like all the ‘haves’ in the world, they arc conserv ative’; the ‘haver,’ the more reactionary. Yet they slid take a more vigorous part in the political, educational, and other public activities of their region than the well-to-do take in most other parts of the United States. They may not be artistic or rest helically sensitive. But remember, they are of English stock. Yet even if they don’t enjoy art and music themselves, they value it platonic-ally, and support it; and you can see more old ladies with ear trumpets at the Friday afternoon Symphony than anywhere else in the world.

But you can get all this out of Marquand and Santayana, who start to satirize but end by making you like the people they deride. They may be funny on the surface, and some of them are funny all through. But in most of them there’s a fine, solid core that makes me wish they could breed true. For I like them a lot better than I do their children and the relatives who have gone to other places and have become simonized till you can’t tell them from the catalogue stock.

Boston is a well-sanitated city. This is entirely praiseworthy; but at times it made my own work a little difficult, particularly when I needed insects.

My insect hunting has been concerned mainly with bedbugs, lice, ticks, and fleas, though lately also with mosquitoes. But the lice and fleas have furnished the most, satisfaction. Bedbugs are a vulgar game. They are dull beasts and offer little play for skill or intelligence; are easily sneaked up on, and docile when caught. Fleas are the noblest game of all. They have speed and elusiveness, and, despite the; evidence of flea circuses, are not easily domesticated. If they ever get loose, as a thousand or so once got loose in my laboratory, it is worse than escaped monkeys, and it’s sauve qui peut. With fleas it is a matter of toujours de Vaudace. They attack by the formula of Marshal Foch: ‘If you are driven back on the right flank, and repulsed on the left, attack in the centre.’ When they attack in number, nothing helps except wing shooting with a Flit pump.

The louse is not so active, but by far wilier. In a manner, it is the most thrilling game — especially if dangerously infected. It demands unflagging vigilance. One summer I was feeding Arab lice — three hundred of them—on monkeys. The idea was to find out whether one could keep a louse from a human alive on monkey blood, because that would have facilitated a number of important experimental projects. I picked these lice originally out of the beards of Arabs, caged them, and now — day after hot day, in the Tunisian summer — I sat over equally uncomfortable fettered monkeys, picking up my lice with forceps, setting them, twenty or so at a time, on a monkey’s belly, and, when they were red and swollen, counting them one by one back into the boxes. To lose one would have been a calamity. And how they can scram when they start for the underbrush! It takes steady nerves; and three or four of the men engaged in similar occupations in the course of ten years or so were caught off their guard and got typhus in consequence. In this case, my scheme did not work. My lice didn’t do well on monkey blood, and the plan had to be abandoned.

Now I don’t want to be sensational about this. I wish merely to make the point that it has sporting advantages over the big-game business.

But to come back to catching lice in Boston. I needed a supply of local lice in which all possibility of previous typhus infection could be excluded. I knew where I could get the animals in New York — in a clinic in the Broom and Essex Street district, where, years before, I had picked them up often without wishing to. But the New York lice could not be regarded as reliably unimpeachable. I needed the Ctesar’s-wife kind of lice, and Boston was the place — if any to find them. I tried out bedbug preserves, lodging houses, and so forth. No luck. I sent my scouts into those quarters of the city where the cover and exposure indicated possible pasturage. Not a spoor was uncovered. There are imaginable difficulties. One cannot accost likely groups of people, even in clinics, and say: ‘Do you mind if I examine your head, to see whether you are lousy?' There is a social implication in this which is resented. As a last resort, I sent out my most persistent and skillful associate, Dr. Maximiliano. He followed many a false trail. Finally, exhausted and without hope, he was almost ready to give up.

Maximiliano was standing on the corner of Washington and Summer Streets, trying to make up his mind what to do next. There was always a tragic air about him, for he was small and dark, with an intense look in his eyes, — partly because he suffered from chronic gastritis, due to putting chili sauce on all his food, even soup and oatmeal, — and believed that he was incubating a cancer of the stomach. He stood in one place so long and looked so desole that he attracted the attention of a policeman, who we found out later was Officer Clancy of the Joy Street Station. Just what he thought it is impossible to tell, but be approached Maximiliano and said: —

‘Have ye lost yer way, young feller?'

Maximiliano, in his Latin despair, reacted with passion.

‘In all Boston, Mr. Officer,’ he said, ‘I cannot discover a louse.’

‘A what?’ asked Clancy.

‘A louse,’ replied Maximiliano.

‘Look here,’ thought Clancy, ‘this guy is nuts.’ But he was a conscientious soul. He asked: ‘An’ what do ye want with a louse, me lad?’

Maximiliano explained. He said that he was a ‘scientific.’ He described the epic magnitude of the typhus problem. He told of the work upon which he was engaged at the Harvard Medical School. He expounded the need of normal lice; how he would breed them on his leg; how he would lay them on little cakes of ice to anaesthetize them, and inject them into the rectum with typhus virus.

Clancy scratched his head. Maximiliano sounded crazy, but there was a convincing enthusiasm about him. Gently Clancy suggested that they go to the Station and consult the Captain. To the Captain the whole matter was recapitulated. He had conveyed many sufferers of hallucinations to the Psychopathic, but this was a new one.

‘If you will come to the Harvard Medical School, I should consider it a distinguished honor to demonstrate to you our procedure,’ declaimed Maximiliano.

The Captain was captivated by ‘the cause of science’ to which Maximiliano recurred repeatedly. ‘Are there any lousy guys on your beat, Clancy?’ he asked.

‘Well, there’s an old fellow,’ said Clancy, ‘that sells pencils down near the South Station, who I think might fill the bill. We might, give him the onceover.’

With the Captain’s blessing, Maximiliano and Clancy wandered the streets leading to the South Station. On Essex Street they came upon the pencil vender. He looked promising, but Maximiliano could not get close enough. Mr. Collins was shy of policemen. Clancy engaged him in conversation. Maximiliano edged closer. Eureka! There were nits in the crinkly hair. Maximiliano got excited. He took out his little pillbox and a small scissors. Mr. Collins backed away. ‘I ain’t done nothin’,’ he exclaimed. ‘What you-all tryin’ to do?’

‘You ain’t done nothin’,’said Clancy, ‘but you’d better come to the Station. The Captain wants to talk to you.’

Mr. Collins was frightened. But Clancy was determined. Together they all three made their way to the Joy Street Station. By the time they got there, Mr. Collins was in a state of resentful jitters.

‘Now, Collins,’ said the Captain, ‘there ain’t no charge against you. But we’ve got to look at your head in the cause o’ science.’

‘I ain’t done nothin’,’ repeated Collins. ‘I’m an American citizen and I got my rights. I dunno what youse all talkin’ ‘bout de cause o’ science.’

‘Collins,’ replied the Captain, ‘be a sport and let this Spanish professor look at your head.’

‘You tell dat man to keep off o’ me with dem scissors.’

‘Collins!’ The Captain was now stern. ‘I place you under arrest in the cause o’ science.’

As he was being led away to a cell, Collins weakened. Maximiliano took him to the window and got his nits. Collins was discharged, and Maximiliano came back in triumph. He and Clancy became fast friends. The Captain had called up the college and I tried to assure him that Maximiliano was quite sane, but I don’t know whether he believed me. I will pit the kindly intelligence of the Boston police lorce — always excepting traffic officers — against any in the world.

(To be concluded)

With each twelve months of the Atlantic