The Peripatetic Reviewer

I USUALLY find Spring in a New England trout stream where on a misty day the gray-brown of the brush is just beginning to show a faint green. Or else I fly south in April to lecture and discuss books, and find her on the way—the redbud and the dogwood, the azaleas in Richmond, the magnolias in Atlanta, the flowering cherry in Miss Charlotte’s drive at Middleburg. But the really thorough way to capture Spring is to go right down to Florida, as Edwin Way Teale did in mid-February, south of the Tamiami Trail, and then follow the vernal season north. “Spring,” says Mr. Teale, “advances up the United States at the average rate of about fifteen miles a day. It ascends mountainsides at the rate of about a hundred feet a day.”What he and Mrs. Teale did was to begin in the Everglades and, zigzagging by car, keep pace with Spring as she awakened in the Louisiana marshes, the Great Smokies, the Piedmont Plateau, the Jersey pine barrens, Cape Cod, and so up through the New England mountains to the Canadian border. It was an American pilgrimage through twenty-three states; he was watching the reawakening of a continent, and the signs as he records them in North with the Spring (Dodd, Mead, $5.00) were as fresh as if this were the year one.
Like every good naturalist, Mr. Teale has a lively sense of history. He respects the land and loves to find a surviving bit of the old wilderness — for instance, the Nickajack Cave in Tennessee. But it drives him to cold fury when he sees the devastation resulting from ruthless exploitation. As he and Mrs. Teale drove up the Everglades they counted nine huge columns of smoke in the sky, and at one point they actually drove through a sheet of fire. All this the result of what he terms a fifty-million-dollar fiasco — the endeavor to dry out the Everglades fifty years ago. Again when he comes to the Ducktown Desert, seventy miles from Chattanooga, his gorge rises as he sees what deforestation and sulphur dioxide have done to destroy all life in the Copper Basin.
Before they left Florida the Teales were overtaken by the homecoming migrants. Each Spring, he tells us, the birds come back in the same order; pintail ducks, the first of the waterfowl; bluebirds and redwings, leading the procession of the songbirds; and then wave after wave of robins. There is a reason for the order: “Just, as robins follow the advance of the 85-degree isotherm,” writes Mr. Teale, “so hummingbirds move up the continent in the wake of the unfolding flowers.”The author is a sure hand with the field glasses, and when he spots a swallow-tailed kite or a sand-hill crane or a Florida jay, or in a sea meadow the elusive black rail, he can usually explain why they are there and what they are up to.
But the most delightful thing about Mr. Teale is the magnitude of his interests. He is just as good with people as he is with birds, just as attentive to wild flowers as he is to the peepers. His description of the seashells they found on the Islands of Sanibel and Captive is lyrical. His account of the red tide which was slaying such windrows of fish off the Gulf Coast, is ominous. He had a honey of a visit with Marjorie kinnan Rawlings, who took him down to see “that secret and lovely place where Jody built his fluttermill,” and who fed him 1 he most delectable food he had on the whole trip. A little while later he is telling about Reginald Thorpe, who was once an industrialist in Cleveland, Ohio, and who is now collecting diamondbacks for a living. Thorpe showed him how to do it, and even at the distance of the printed page it gives you goose-pimples to watch. A few chapters later he is talking about the happy times he has had with John Kieran, the Thoreau of Van Cortlandt. Park. This book is Americana of the best, very human, very curious, very observant. I had never realized, for instance, that it is the female black flies that go for the angler’s blood — the males never touch him. There ought to be some way of my using that precaution this Spring.

The charmer from Italy

Daphne du Maurier has a talent for mystification. In Rebecca she wrote of a heroine we never saw in the flesh but whose spell was woven through every page. In My Cousin Rachel (Doubleday, $3.50) she tells the story of an Italian widow who captivates two English bachelors, Ambrose Ashley, the elder, whom she marries and subdues in Italy, and Philip, his cousin and heir, whom she comes to live with in Cornwall after Ambrose’s mysterious death. The story takes place in the West Country at a time when the stagecoach and sail were the swiftest methods of communication. Thus it took Philip a long time to discover what was eating his cousin in Florence.
Until Philip was twenty-three the two men had lived in oblivious bachelordom in their roomy, dusty manor house on the Cornish coast. Philip had been orphaned at the age of eighteen months when his father was killed fighting the French. He was adopted and brought up by his cousin, a misogynist who would have no women in the house, not even among the servants. Philip’s boyhood was one of self-sufficiency, unaffected by his schooling at Harrow and Oxford: his life centered in the Barton lands where he farmed with his cousin, went hunting, swimming, or fishing, and where his cousin was not only his idol but the only person for whom he felt genuine affection. When Ambrose was forty-three his health began to creak, the doctors ordered him to winter in Italy, and the two men were irretrievably separated.
In Florence the crusty bachelor is swept off his feet by the Comtessa Sangalletti, and what happens thereafter Philip has to piece together from the letters and the frantic messages which came from his cousin, and from such bits of information as he could acquire on his short, repulsive visit to Florence after Ambrose’s death. The natural jealousy which Philip feels toward “Cousin Rachel” for having snared Ambrose turns into black anger as he discovers the torment to which Ambrose had been put by her extravagance and infidelity.
Miss du Maurier is a caster of spells, and the first she casts is on Ambrose in Tuscany; the second upon Philip when he is drawn out of his solitary rustic state by the cries for help from abroad. He reads between the lines, and the clues prompt him to believe that his cousin is being preyed on and perhaps poisoned by the Comtessa and Signor Rainaldi, her confidant. His trip to the villa after the Comtessa has departed adds to his suspicion, and it is with revenge in his heart that he returns to England to await her inevitable visit. The fact that Ambrose has made no provision for her in his will adds to his distrust.
But when Cousin Rachel appears she is totally unlike the woman Philip imagined. She is small and quick, impulsive and defenseless, with an enchanting smile and the features of a Roman coin. Philip’s hardness melts, and long before he realizes it the County knows that things are going on at the big house. Philip’s infatuation, almost too swift for belief, is proclaimed at the Christmas party in the Hall, and still more intimately on his twenty-fifth birthday when the family jewels and estate are his to bestow.
And then comes the third spell as Rachel begins to wind him around her finger as she had his cousin. The black doubts begin to rise again in Philip’s mind: Is Rachel guilty of greed, or of infidelity, or of murder? The author makes each reader his own detective, and the skill and fun of the story are that one can retrace the events, step by step, and still be in doubt.
Rachel in her Italian sophistication and Philip in his naïve manhood are a pair to watch. The minor parts — Seecombe, the old steward; Nick Kendall, the guardian; Tamlyn, the gardener; Louise, the girl Philip might have married — are well drawn, and the mists and cold of the Cornish coast with its occasional bright pane of sunlight are beautifully contrasted with the heat and haze of Tuscany in the blaze of August.
The last spell and the hardest to throw off is the plausibility that Philip Ashley, so diffident, so unliterary, and so close-minded, would have been willing to tell this story on himself. In real life neither wild horses nor a psychiatrist could have pulled it out of him.

The genuine Scot

There is an initial hurdle which every reader must take before he begins to enjoy A. J. Cronin’s autobiography, Adventures in Two Worlds (McGraw-Hill, $4.00): the hurdle of familiarity. During the two decades in which Dr. Cronin’s novels have established his popularity, we have repeatedly been given a thumbnail sketch of his life. We have been told of his Scotch heritage, of his impecuniousness, and of the slights he suffered as a Roman Catholic in a predominantly Protestant country; we have read of his experiences as a young doctor serving the rural Scots and the Welsh coal miners, and of how in 1929, when he was convalescing from an ulcer, he devoted four months to the writing of Hatters Castle, a novel whose success launched him on his second career. Thus the panorama of his autobiography is predictable — even if the episodes in it are not.
The greater part of Adventures in Two Worlds is devoted to Dr. Cronin’s roving experiences as a general practitioner. The opening chapter finds him in medical school, from which he graduates with honors but with these words of Dr. MacEwen, his formidable teacher, ringing in his head: “In medicine, or some other field, I believe that you may make your mark. But of one thing I am sure. You will never be a surgeon.”
Young Cronin was already in love, but marriage was out of the question until he had proved himself, and this he was eager to do whenever the next call came. He served as a ship’s doctor in the long voyage from Liverpool to Calcutta, then shifted to country practice in the Highlands. He battled a scarlet fever epidemic, and traced the farmer who was distributing the tainted milk. He pulled fishbones out of throats, delivered babies, and almost lost his nerve in a desperate struggle against diphtheria when he had to lance a child’s throat without anesthetics and when the words “You will never be a surgeon” thundered in his head until at last the clean breath came through. His doctoring experiences here, as in the Welsh coalfields, and later, on his more fashionable rounds in London, are all told as warmly lit, personal encounters.
To his work he brought a wholesome Scotch disposition with enough stubbornness to see things through. His propensity is to be cheerful, and time and again his episodes have a happy ending with a bit of a moral tucked in the tale. If he has tasted defeat and made mistakes they evidently have no pari here; if he has been humbled by self-doubts, they were soon absorbed by his buoyancy and faith. His return to religion was as momentous as his turn to writing. And when at last he had the means to do so, he took his family on pilgrimages to Paris, Chartres, Auvergne, to Spain and Italy trips which visibly reinforced his belief.
He carries you forward in his recital not by any compulsion of style, wit, or originality but by his genuine interest in men and women whom he doctored as best he could and whose problems and heartaches will appeal to many.
Peter Marshall was another Scot who lived in two worlds. His first was the old country, where he was reared in a suburb of Glasgow, and where at the age of fourteen he would have given his heart to sign on in the Royal Navy. But they rejected him as too young; so he went to work in a tube mill, played soccer, led the Cub Scouts, and turned over his pay check to his mother. One dark night when he was walking the moors he heard the call and, unquestioning believer that he was, he knew that he was destined for full-time Christian service. Throughout his life Peter made his decisions by praying for guidance, waiting until he got it, and then never looking back. A cousin persuaded him to emigrate to the United States, and there the breaks came. Some people would call them lucky; to Peter they were God’s grace, He was sent to theological school by his Men’s Bible Class, had a brilliantly successful pastorate in Atlanta, married the perfect wife, was called to Washington, and became Chaplain to the Senate. In nineteen years he had become one of the most beloved preachers in America; and then at the height of his power, at the age of forty-seven, Ids heart failed. His story, A Man Called Peter (McGraw-Hill, $3.50), has been written by Catherine Marshall. his wife. Here are his dedication, their happiness together, and the simple and forceful sermons bearing his special stamp — a book of simple integrity and absolute faith, free of pretense, and poignant in its sense of loss. It puts me in mind of An American Idyll by Cornelia Stratton Parker.