This edition contains a wealth of Stepen Crane's best and most important short stories. Here comes an excerpt of the contents: The Open Boat A Man And Some Others The Bride Comes To Yellow Sky The Wise Men The Five White Mice Flanagan And His Short Filibustering Adventure Horses Death And The Child An Experiment In Misery The Men In The Storm The Duel That Was Not Fought An Ominous Baby A Great Mistake An Eloquence Of Grief The Auction The Pace Of Youth A Detail The Monster The Blue Hotel His New Mittens The Angel Child Lynx-Hunting The Lover And The Telltale "Showin' Off" Making An Orator Shame The Carriage-Lamps The Knife The Stove The Trial, Execution, And Burial Of Homer Phelps The Fight The City Urchin And The Chaste Villagers A Little Pilgrimage The Reluctant Voyagers The Kicking Twelfth The Upturned Face. The Shrapnel Of Their Friends. "And If He Wills, We Must Die." ...
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My Best Short Stories
The Open Boat
A Man And Some Others
The Bride Comes To Yellow Sky
The Wise Men
The Five White Mice
Flanagan And His Short Filibustering Adventure
Death And The Child
An Experiment In Misery
The Men In The Storm
The Duel That Was Not Fought
An Ominous Baby
A Great Mistake
An Eloquence Of Grief
The Pace Of Youth
The Blue Hotel
His New Mittens
The Angel Child
The Lover And The Telltale
Making An Orator
The Trial, Execution, And Burial Of Homer Phelps
The City Urchin And The Chaste Villagers
A Little Pilgrimage
The Reluctant Voyagers
The Kicking Twelfth
The Upturned Face.
The Shrapnel Of Their Friends.
"And If He Wills, We Must Die."
Wyoming Valley Tales
The Surrender Of Forty Fort.
'Ol' Bennet" And The Indians.
The Battle Of Forty Fort.
New York Sketches
Stories Told By An Artist In New York
The Silver Pageant.
A Street Scene In New York.
Minetta Lane, New York.
The Roof Gardens And Gardeners Of New York.
In The Broadway Cars.
The Assassin In Modern Battles.
An Old Man Goes Wooing.
The Royal Irish Constabulary.
A Fishing Village.
Sullivan County Sketches
Four Men In A Cave.
The Mesmeric Mountain.
The Squire's Madness.
How The Donkey Lifted The Hills.
A Man By The Name Of Mud.
A Poker Game.
A Self-Made Man.
A Tale Of Mere Chance.
At Clancy's Wake.
An Episode Of War.
The Voice Of The Mountain.
Why Did The Young Clerk Swear? Or, The Unsatisfactory French.
The Victory Of The Moon.
My Best Short Stories, S. Crane
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Cover Design: Based on a 1914 derivative work of a Portrait of Crane from The New Student's Reference Work. Licenced under Creative Commons Licence Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC-BY-SA 3.0). Details of this licence can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/.
By Thomas L. Raymond
Stephen Crane is a name which suggests a Newarker as strongly as any name can. One of the seven men who represented Newark in a boundary settlement, with some men from Elizabeth, on a hill out in Weequahic Park, was Jasper Crane, who was one of the founders of Newark, two hundred and fifty-five years ago, and whose farm came to the southwest corner of Broad and Market streets. One of his descendants, Stephen Crane, was a member of the Continental Congress and had four sons who were soldiers in the Revolution. From Jasper Crane and Stephen Crane was descended our Stephen Crane, who also won fame, but not the sort his ancestors had, for he won his in the world of letters, as a great artist of his craft.
His father, the Reverend Jonathan Townley Crane, D.D., was born in Connecticut Farms and later moved to Newark. He became a Methodist, — his family had been Presbyterians, I fancy, until his generation,— and was Pastor of the Central Methodist Church on Market Street, and later Presiding Elder of the Methodist Conference for Newark. His wife was Mary Helen Peck, and both were strong in intellect, writers, he of theology, she, after his death, for the "New York Tribune." It was in Newark, at 14 Mulberry Place, that Stephen Crane, whose memory we honor tonight, was born on November 1,1871. The simple red brick three-story house still stands there, a ghost of the dear old Newark of the seventies and eighties, when its streets were quiet and shady and its life serene. To realize that such a life as Crane's came from such a house and such surroundings requires some forcing of the imagination. He was the youngest of fourteen children, and it is evident that the family supply of theology and religious piety had run out before this last Crane was born, for he does not seem a likely heir of such ancestors. He was taken from Newark in 1874, when his father, in the itinerancy of his ministry, was called elsewhere.
The Cranes moved from Newark to Bloomington, which is across the Raritan River from Bound Brook, where they lived for two years. Stephen's brother Edmund tells some amusing stories of him in his early years. The boys, of whom there were seven in the family at this time, used to go down to the river to swim, taking Stevie with them. He says: "We often took Stevie bathing with us in the Raritan River about half a mile above the bridge. There was a smooth, sandy bar extending from the south bank across the river, very shallow near the shore and growing deeper toward the middle of the river. Stevie would wade in the shallows watched by one of us. Wading breast deep in water he would stretch out his arms and waving his hands, would achieve what he called 'fimming.' He started to 'fim' to 'Wee-wee' (Willie), my next older brother, who was farther out in the river. As the depth gradually increased the water came up to his chin, then to his mouth, and then to his eyes, but he kept steadily on, and I plucked him out, gasping but unscared, just as his yellow hair was going under. We boys were naturally delighted with his grit."
From Bloomington the family removed to Paterson and two years later to Port Jervis, where Stephen first went to school. He was eight years old before beginning school. Because of his delicate health he had not been sent to school before this and it seems his parents had not attempted to teach him in any formal way; but his mind was active and bright and he soon passed from class to class until he was studying in classes with children older than himself. In 1880 his father died and his mother took the family to Newark, where they lived for a short while in the Roseville section, then went to live again in Port Jervis. About two years later they removed to Asbury Park, where Townley Crane, an older brother, was in charge of a news bureau for the "New York Herald" and "Sun" and the "Philadelphia Press." Stephen attended school in Asbury Park, and in 1888 we find him reporting "Shore News" as an aid to his brother Townley. Mrs. Crane at this time was reporting the religious news of Ocean Grove. Townley's connection with the "Tribune" was terminated abruptly in the fall of 1888 through a very amusing incident. It seems that young Stephen reported a parade of a certain patriotic order in Asbury Park in the summer of 1892, but in his report of it, he gave full play to his sense of humor and "made a burlesque of the whole performance," ridiculing the marchers, their clothes, and the way they marched. The order was growing very strong in numbers and influence at this time, and the Republicans were anxious to obtain their votes for Harrison and Reid, who were that year running for President and Vice-President. The story Crane had written was approved by William J. Devereux, who was in charge of the news bureau because of Townley's absence, without careful reading. Thinking it of little importance, he sent it on and it duly appeared the next morning in print. It caused great indignation among the men of the order in the State of New York, and in fact everywhere, and since Whitelaw Reid was the editor of the "Tribune" and Republican candidate for Vice-President, it turned them against the ticket.
The state, the vote of which decided the election, was carried by Cleveland by about a thousand votes, and so it has been said that Crane made Cleveland President of the United States. This is Mr. Devereux's account of the incident, and it appeared contemporaneously, I believe, in the "Trenton Times." Others tell of a parade of labor men upon which Crane's comments were equally unwelcome, but in which he treated the subject from another point of view, that of the social psychologist, and we are left to choose between the two accounts. Both stories relate to the same incident, however, but Billy Devereux's is far more colorful.
The process of educating Stephen Crane was never completed in the academic sense. It is said that he went to Pennington Seminary, then to the Hudson River Institute at Claverack, New York, a military school, then to Lafayette College in 1890, where he remained but two terms, then to Syracuse University, which he left after one year, in 1891. Though endowed with a fine mind and a penetrating intelligence, he was a poor scholar; bad in his English, fond of going out of nights and smoking a pipe; not a hard worker; unreasonably often absent from his classes, a possible cause of the abrupt termination of his stay at Lafayette; but "a good fellow," considerate, gentle, though ready to use his fists in a good cause with effect when necessary; a baseball player, and a good one. Finally, we are told that while at college he spent what time he could in typesetting rooms of local newspapers, and that this very elementary stage in literature inspired him with the desire to write. One more item of interest about his college days: he read a great deal, but out of his courses, and into late hours of the night. This is the picture of Stephen Crane at school and college which I gather from the many sources of information placed in my hands. It is a probable picture, and his later life gives no contradiction to the truth of it. It is very interesting also. Genius cannot be harnessed; the school of genius is unorganized and undisciplined, and we cannot but feel that all through these years, no doubt vastly irksome to him, he had his eye on his goal, he knew what he was about; consciously or unconsciously he was fitting himself for his remarkable career.
On leaving college he was fated, however, to find himself in a far more bitter school — the school of poverty and disappointment, of fruitless effort and failure of recognition; a school in which he paid with hunger for the printing of his first book; in which he once said: "I would give my future literary career for twenty-three dollars in cash at this minute." After leaving college he sought work without success on some New York newspaper, toiling through Park Row, upstairs and downstairs, from one editor's office to another; but was obliged to take a position in a mercantile house, which he soon gave up. He went through all the poverty and privation in these days that one must know who determines to live his own life and express his own soul, but at last was employed by the "Tribune," on the staff of which he worked for over a year. Crane later joined the staff of the "Newark Morning Times," a journal whose short career will be recalled by some of us old grayheads. He worked for the "Times" a short while for $10 a week and then returned to New York City. Here he lived a life of great poverty, writing special articles for Sunday newspapers and doing any writing he could to make a living.
He came to know the men who were then prominent in the literary circle of New York —Richard Watson Gilder, Hamlin Garland, Thomas Masson, Edward Townsend, and others. He investigated the life of the East Side and of the slums. The urge of art was strong in him and he wrote his first novel, "Maggie, a Girl of the Streets," a story of a sordid family of the slums, for which he unsuccessfully tried to find a publisher. Eventually it was privately printed and published under the pseudonym of Johnstone Smith, and came to the notice of William Dean Howells, who recognized at once the genius of its author. From this time Howells was his friend, encouraging him, helping him, and giving him his start. Then came the book that proved the turning-point in his career, bringing him from obscurity into full light as a writer of great force and imagination, "The Red Badge of Courage," published by Appleton in 1895, after first appearing in a Philadelphia newspaper. "The Black Riders and Other Lines" followed, published by Copeland and Day in Boston in 1895 in beautiful form, a choice little book which I predict collectors will seize upon. This was followed by "George's Mother" (1896); "The Little Regiment and Other Episodes of the American Civil War" (1896); "The Third Violet" (1897); "The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure" (1898); "The Monster" (1899); "Whilomville Stories" (1900); "Wounds in the Rain" (1900); "Great Battles of the World" (1901); "The O'Ruddy" (1903), which at his death was unfinished and was completed by his friend Robert Barr.
Upon these books the judgment of Stephen Crane as an artist must be based. It is, I think, a rich product for so short a life. It is apparent that writing books in New York City, lover of action and adventure that he was, had made him restless, and no doubt Crane gladly seized the opportunity to go to Cuba, where the uprising that led to the Spanish-American War was well under way. In the fall of 1896 he was engaged as correspondent for the "New York Journal." Having determined upon this adventure, he was obliged to await the secret sailing of the filibustering ship that was to take him to Cuba. Receiving sudden notice of its time of departure, and having no opportunity to arrange his private affairs, he wrote his brother hasty directions for their disposition in case of his death, which he evidently anticipated as a likely result of his enterprise. The steamer was wrecked off the Florida coast, and for several days and nights he and three others of the crew were tossed about on "the abrupt waves," as he calls them. He tells his story in "The Open Boat," and splendid reading it is! They were at last rescued, dragged up on the beach, one of them dead, after Crane and one of the others had done all the rowing, taking their turns at rest in the wet bottom of the storm-tossed little boat. This fearful experience must have injured his health permanently; still he did not give up his intention of going on to Cuba but waited around to find other means of getting there. After futile efforts, he writes his brother in March, 1897: "I have been for over a month among the swamps further South [of Jacksonville], wading miserably to and fro in an attempt to avoid our darned U. S. navy. It can't be done. I am through trying. I have changed all my plans and am going to Crete."
He was not yet weary of adventure. The Graeco-Turkish war had broken out, and before resting up from one terrible experience he was rushing to another, planning to go to the scene of war in Crete as correspondent of the "New York Journal." Apparently he went to Crete by way of England. This was his first visit to England, and it was here in all likelihood that he was engaged as field correspondent of the "Westminster Gazette." When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, he was back in New York, and the spirit of adventure took him off" again to Cuba as war correspondent of the "New York Journal" and the "New York World." He was at Guantanamo, Santiago, and Havana and in Porto Rico. He was mentioned in official dispatches for gallantry under fire with the marines near Guantanamo. Did he leave Cuba after the war by way of Mexico? It is merely a surmise of mine that he did, because some of his stories in "The Open Boat and Other Tales" indicate an intimate acquaintance with Mexico City, the Mexican plains, and Mexican life generally. He certainly knows the American bar in Mexico City, the adobe hut, the Mexican peasant, the Mexican sky and night. He knows his Texas also, and in all probability he came back to New York leisurely through Mexico and Texas, filling his mind on the way with those impressions, sharp of outline and rich in color, of what he saw and heard, of which he has written so beautifully in many short stories. I especially recall "The Bride comes to Yellow Sky,""The Five White Mice," "One Dash—Horses" as fine glimpses of life in Mexico and in Texas.
Though I have not seen any of his articles as war correspondent, several of the admirers of his literary work express the opinion that he made a great mistake in attempting to do other than imaginative writing. He was evidently not a success at journalistic writing at any time in his career. Unhappily it was the hardships of the sort of journalistic work he had chosen that injured his health and laid the foundation for tuberculosis which developed later and brought his young and remarkable life to an all too early close. He had tasted of the sweets of life in England on his first visit there in 1897, and the lure seems to have called him back after his return from the war in Cuba. He had friends there; he was understood and appreciated by the best minds in literature; English life appealed to him, and no doubt his shattered health was a further motive in his determination to live in England. No wonder he felt the spell of England when we find he had such friends there as Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, and Ford Madox Hueffer. Each has written of him since his death in the highest appreciation of his art, and it is apparent that his personality was extremely attractive to each apart from his art. There are charming little personal touches of reminiscence in these few, too few, pages that these men have written. Conrad says: "My wife and I like best to remember him riding to meet us at the gate of the Park at Brede. Born master of his sincere impressions, he was also born horseman. He never appeared so happy or so much to advantage as on the back of a horse.... Those who have read his little tale 'Horses' and the story of 'The Open Boat,' in the volume of that name, know with what fine understanding he loved horses and the sea. And his passage on this earth was like that of a horseman riding swiftly in the dawn of a day fated to be short and without sunshine." These words are from one of the most eminent men of letters of today, and one considered by many the greatest living novelist in the English language. When he went to England with his wife, whom he had married in 1898, and whose maiden name was Cora Taylor, they lived at first in a little house in Limpsfield, in Surrey, a short way out of London.
When I was in England in 1912 I spent most of my time in London, making trips to Oxford and Canterbury but otherwise seeing little of England. It is a curious coincidence, however, that I did spend several days in Limpsfield visiting some friends. It is but a short trip from London, but the little place is a charming example of an ancient English town, in the midst of English country, with its narrow winding principal street through the centre densely lined with very old and very diminutive houses, with casement windows of diamond paned leaded glass. At the head of the street is the thirteenth century parish church crumbling in its Gothic beauty, and outside the town is the great stretch of "common grounds" inevitable in an English village. There are, off from the main street, some beautiful houses, old and new, with their charming gardens and stately trees, and altogether one can hardly imagine a more delightful place for a writer to be in. I did not see the house in which Crane lived, but we have a vivid picture of him in those days from the pen of that fine writer, brave soldier, and generous friend and critic of young artists and young movements, Ford Madox Hueffer, in his recently published "Thus to Revisit." He was placed in a wonderful environment here for a young man of letters. Joseph Conrad and Hueffer lived nearby; a few miles away was the great Henry James, himself an American by birth; and I have a most delightful memory of a Mr. Pye and his interesting wife and daughters, who had one of those charming places off the main street, and whose wonderful house and garden have been an inspiration for me ever since. They were the friends of Rupert Brooke, Charles Ricketts, Robert Bridges, Sturge Moore, and many others of those finest intellects in England, and were no doubt typical of the residents of the place. This will give some idea of the environment in which Crane found himself in Limpsfield.
The literary crowd in England sought Crane out and made much of him, and evidently took him to their hearts at the same time rendering full appreciation of his genius; nevertheless he had very hard sledding, incurred large debts, and was greatly worried about his future; but he lived the wild kind of life he loved, sitting around in his shirt sleeves, wearing riding breeches and leggings with a great Colt in his belt, and roaming over the country on what Hueffer calls "a great coach horse." Hueffer was visiting at his house one evening, awaiting with his wife his return from London. When Crane arrived he announced that he had received a commission to write anything he was moved to at twenty pounds for a thousand words. He radiated gladness that night, and proceeded to rent an abandoned and unrestored Elizabethan manor house, called Brede Place. There he lived the life of a Tudor baron of the sixteenth century. The floors were covered with rushes, and bones were thrown from the table to be gnawed by the stray dogs and lost cats that filled the house. Hosts of miscellaneous guests partook of the bizarre hospitality of its master, who sat upstairs in a little room over the front porch writing to earn the money to support it all. This is Hueffer's picture. Meanwhile a dread disease was sapping away his life, and finally he went to the Black Forest in Germany in the vain hope of recovery; but his hardships and exposure in the wars had too deeply marked him, and he died at Badenweiler on June 5, 1900. He is buried in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Thus passed from this world in his thirtieth year one who in a short life had made for his name a permanent place in English literature. The Newark-born boy had strayed far from home in thought as well as in deed. His legend is in the making. I have tried to gather all the fragments of information together and make a consecutive story of them, but have been obliged to resort freely to conjecture. No attempt seems to have been made to write his biography, and such facts as I have been able to make use of have been gathered through the enterprise and interest of Professor Max Herzberg, Mr. William Hamilton Osborne and others, who have most kindly placed at my disposal the results of their efforts.
Crane was a lovable fellow, inspiring affection in all who knew him, every one calling him "Stevie," "dear Stevie," "poor Stevie"; he was careless of his material affairs; he liked the active life—horseback riding, baseball playing; he was fond of the sea, of horses, of guns; he loved adventure, free living, and outdoor life; and he was brave, indeed he wore his own red badge of courage. He was short and slight of figure, his hair light, his eyes blue, and his complexion swarthy—the ensemble was handsome. He lived the life of privation, of poverty, and of adventure so typical of genius; he preferred independence to comfort, and an interesting life to a dull and prosperous one, that he might express himself and have his say. He was quiet and thoughtful in manner but brilliant in conversation, adopting the rough speech of the street though quite capable on occasion of using the splendid English of the classics.
The East Side of New York and the life of the very poor, the gangster, the woman of the streets, the bartender of the slums, the Mexican greaser, the Texas cowboy, the ordinary sailor,—these were an open book to him and the material for his art. He mastered their manners and their speech, and could think in their terms. Yet he knew letters! One cannot read him without feeling that He knew English and French literature. He had studied Flaubert, Maupassant, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Henry James. He used "the most economical forms,"—to quote Hueffer again, a phrase that I like,— wrote forcibly and simply; he was a master of words, and hated extra words and digressions, as well as both rhyme and formal meter. In short, he had a method and knew what he was doing.
In this he is rare. In this he was, unconsciously probably, one of the founders of a school. We must recall that he wrote in the famous nineties, was of the nineties, and was in England during the nineties. This was one of the most marvelous periods of flowering that the arts have known; a great renaissance in writing and the graphic arts was under way, and an English critic like Hueffer can place Crane beside Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and William H. Hudson as the pioneers of a new method of writing English fiction, a method in which effect was not to be gained by sensational plot, by rhetorical descriptions, by padding out the story, by unnecessary words and lines, but one in which "the most economical of forms" was used, in which truth was aimed at, in which the effect came from reality rather than from artificial means. And yet such writing is all art. The highest craftsmanship is required. The effects appearing so simple on the page are far from being arrived at as simply as it would seem.
"The Black Riders and Other Lines" is one of the earliest volumes of so-called free verse, though the mighty Whitman, of course, had begun to use it fifty years before. I look upon "The Black Riders "as a momentous book in English verse, and it was in this and in the free verse of Hueffer that the splendid modern school of Ezra Pound, T. S. Elliot, and others had its source.
Hear this poem:
Some little blades of grass
Stood before God.
"What did you do?"
Then all save one of the little blades
Began eagerly to relate
The merits of their lives.
This one stayed a small way behind,
Presently, God said,
"And what did you do?"
The little blade answered,
"Oh, my Lord,
"Memory is bitter to me,
"For if ever I did good deeds,
"I know not of them."
Then God, in all his splendor,
Arose from his throne.
"Oh, best little blade of grass!" he said.
This is another:
There were many who went in huddled procession,
They knew not whither;
But, at any rate, success or calamity,
Would attend all in equality.
There was one who sought a new road.
He went into direful thickets,
And ultimately he died thus, alone;
But they said he had courage.
So much for the form of his verse; its substance is that of a gentle, generous, but blindingly true and sharp view of this complicated life of ours and its problems; it is the attitude of one who says," We know not good nor evil"; of the divine One who said, "Judge not that ye be not judged." It is the pitiless picture of us as we are in our own hearts and in our own souls as contrasted with the agreeable and smug portrait we draw of ourselves to make our lives easier.
"The Red Badge of Courage" is an amazing book. Written by one who had never seen or smelled the smoke of battle, he lives for us again the life of a young soldier boy from a farm in New York State, in his late teens, who goes out to war gaily enough, but who is subjected to months of inaction in camp. What troubles him under the tension of camp life is how he will act under fire when fire comes. He is not at all sure of himself, but dares not confess to his comrades. He tries in vain to find some similar emotion in his fellow soldiers. He stands bravely, if unconsciously so, the first violent impact of war. The enemy retreats; he and the other troops relax, relieved immensely; but no sooner have they thrown their weary bodies on the ground than the enemy is seen coming toward them again. Many run away in panic and he with them. Crane lives the life of this boy, who later wins glory on the field, and for four days—the action of the book is but four days—we know him as we know ourselves or better. It is magnificent writing: no word is wasted, we can skip no page, we must follow this mind as long as the mirror is upheld for us. This book must take its place and will among the great books of English literature.
Confucius once said: "In the beginning of my relations with men I heard their words, and I believed their actions conformed to them. Now, in my relations with men, I hear their words, but I examine their actions." This is true psychology, and Crane is very much interested in this phase of psychology. His characters are continually saying what they do not mean from one motive or another. In "The Red Badge of Courage," Henry Fleming, the hero, himself full of doubt about his own courage, but never expressing the doubt, seeks to find the thoughts of the other soldiers, but their words convey no sign of the fear in their hearts. In "The Third Violet" we find two lovers continually saying what they do not mean. The cowardice of love makes liars of them, and each is helpless to discover the mind of the other. And we find this same theme running through many of his books. Men's faces and words are a stone wall behind which we cannot penetrate the thought. This is the phenomenon of life that attracts him; the impact of personalities whose motives are inscrutable, one to the other. It is one of the deepest studies in which man can engage—the interpreting of the human mind. During the years that I have been reading, I have come to feel a sort of personal presence of the writers whose works attract me. With such a man as Crane, as with Whitman or Walter Pater, Dostoevsky or Henry James, I can read anything they have written with delight because their minds have become familiar to me and reading them is like hearing them talk. It becomes more and more the man and less and less his work, as is the case with certain friends we have known. His works are merely an expression of him, part of the atmosphere he radiates. He has no good and no bad novels or essays or poems for me, because in all he says I come to know him better, and can talk with him more intimately. Of course I know his work varies in quality; but he is my friend, my guide, my inspiration—part of my life. I have felt this curiously enough about Stephen Crane. This may not be intelligent criticism, but I know if I can stand as much of any one friend's society as he will give me, there must be something unusually fine about that friend, and so I feel about Stephen Crane. I say it is curious that I should feel this of Stephen Crane because he died so young. Yet he had made his great pilgrimage through life, he had felt, he had learned, he had known. His soul was afire. He was rich in vast experience though his years were few. You feel there is an immense residue of Crane which he does not express, has not had time to express, maybe could not have expressed, which gives every word he writes a value, which lends a grace to his life and his thought. Some of his work I have not been able to find, but I feel a delightful sense of having more of him in store for me.
We can safely give him a high place to-day, and I believe we can rest assured he will hold it. He is part of that fine procession of genius which has made our new world eminent in the arts: Emerson, Whitman, Whistler, La Farge, Henry James, Lafcadio Hearn, Charles Eliot Norton, Stephen Crane—each in his chosen form of expression has compelled the admiration of the whole world. It seems provincial to claim Crane for Newark, but Newark should be glad of him and Newark may well take pride in him. But had he been born in Central Africa, we might well meet here to do his memory honor. It is fine of you Schoolmen to have erected a tablet to his memory. Let those who say that there is no inspiration here in our city to high triumphs in the splendid world of art stand before that tablet, read it, and know that through privation and suffering, in spite of uninspiring surroundings and lack of sympathetic understanding, in spite of ill health and poverty, one born Newarker gallantly pushed ahead to his goal, courageously fought the fight for art, and gained for himself a place of eminence and distinction recognized by two continents.
A Tale intended to be after the Fact. Being the Experience of Four Men from the Sunk Steamer 'Commodore'
None of them knew the colour of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them. These waves were of the hue of slate, save for the tops, which were of foaming white, and all of the men knew the colours of the sea. The horizon narrowed and widened, and dipped and rose, and at all times its edge was jagged with waves that seemed thrust up in points like rocks.
Many a man ought to have a bath-tub larger than the boat which here rode upon the sea. These waves were most wrongfully and barbarously abrupt and tall, and each froth-top was a problem in small boat navigation.
The cook squatted in the bottom and looked with both eyes at the six inches of gunwale which separated him from the ocean. His sleeves were rolled over his fat forearms, and the two flaps of his unbuttoned vest dangled as he bent to bail out the boat. Often he said: "Gawd! That was a narrow clip." As he remarked it he invariably gazed eastward over the broken sea.
The oiler, steering with one of the two oars in the boat, sometimes raised himself suddenly to keep clear of water that swirled in over the stern. It was a thin little oar and it seemed often ready to snap.
The correspondent, pulling at the other oar, watched the waves and wondered why he was there.
The injured captain, lying in the bow, was at this time buried in that profound dejection and indifference which comes, temporarily at least, to even the bravest and most enduring when, willy nilly, the firm fails, the army loses, the ship goes down. The mind of the master of a vessel is rooted deep in the timbers of her, though he commanded for a day or a decade, and this captain had on him the stern impression of a scene in the greys of dawn of seven turned faces, and later a stump of a top-mast with a white ball on it that slashed to and fro at the waves, went low and lower, and down. Thereafter there was something strange in his voice. Although steady, it was deep with mourning, and of a quality beyond oration or tears.
"Keep 'er a little more south, Billie," said he.
"'A little more south,' sir," said the oiler in the stern.
A seat in this boat was not unlike a seat upon a bucking broncho, and, by the same token, a broncho is not much smaller. The craft pranced and reared, and plunged like an animal. As each wave came, and she rose for it, she seemed like a horse making at a fence outrageously high. The manner of her scramble over these walls of water is a mystic thing, and, moreover, at the top of them were ordinarily these problems in white water, the foam racing down from the summit of each wave, requiring a new leap, and a leap from the air. Then, after scornfully bumping a crest, she would slide, and race, and splash down a long incline, and arrive bobbing and nodding in front of the next menace.
A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats. In a ten-foot dingey one can get an idea of the resources of the sea in the line of waves that is not probable to the average experience which is never at sea in a dingey. As each slaty wall of water approached, it shut all else from the view of the men in the boat, and it was not difficult to imagine that this particular wave was the final outburst of the ocean, the last effort of the grim water. There was a terrible grace in the move of the waves, and they came in silence, save for the snarling of the crests.
In the wan light, the faces of the men must have been grey. Their eyes must have glinted in strange ways as they gazed steadily astern. Viewed from a balcony, the whole thing would doubtlessly have been weirdly picturesque. But the men in the boat had no time to see it, and if they had had leisure there were other things to occupy their minds. The sun swung steadily up the sky, and they knew it was broad day because the colour of the sea changed from slate to emerald-green, streaked with amber lights, and the foam was like tumbling snow. The process of the breaking day was unknown to them. They were aware only of this effect upon the colour of the waves that rolled toward them.
In disjointed sentences the cook and the correspondent argued as to the difference between a life-saving station and a house of refuge. The cook had said: "There's a house of refuge just north of the Mosquito Inlet Light, and as soon as they see us, they'll come off in their boat and pick us up."
"As soon as who see us?" said the correspondent.
"The crew," said the cook.
"Houses of refuge don't have crews," said the correspondent. "As I understand them, they are only places where clothes and grub are stored for the benefit of shipwrecked people. They don't carry crews."
"Oh, yes, they do," said the cook.
"No, they don't," said the correspondent.
"Well, we're not there yet, anyhow," said the oiler, in the stern.
"Well," said the cook, "perhaps it's not a house of refuge that I'm thinking of as being near Mosquito Inlet Light. Perhaps it's a life-saving station."
"We're not there yet," said the oiler, in the stern.
As the boat bounced from the top of each wave, the wind tore through the hair of the hatless men, and as the craft plopped her stern down again the spray slashed past them. The crest of each of these waves was a hill, from the top of which the men surveyed, for a moment, a broad tumultuous expanse, shining and wind-riven. It was probably splendid. It was probably glorious, this play of the free sea, wild with lights of emerald and white and amber.
"Bully good thing it's an on-shore wind," said the cook. "If not, where would we be? Wouldn't have a show."
"That's right," said the correspondent.
The busy oiler nodded his assent.
Then the captain, in the bow, chuckled in a way that expressed humour, contempt, tragedy, all in one. "Do you think we've got much of a show now, boys?" said he.
Whereupon the three were silent, save for a trifle of hemming and hawing. To express any particular optimism at this time they felt to be childish and stupid, but they all doubtless possessed this sense of the situation in their mind. A young man thinks doggedly at such times. On the other hand, the ethics of their condition was decidedly against any open suggestion of hopelessness. So they were silent.
"Oh, well," said the captain, soothing his children, "we'll get ashore all right."
But there was that in his tone which made them think, so the oiler quoth: "Yes! If this wind holds!"
The cook was bailing: "Yes! If we don't catch hell in the surf."
Canton flannel gulls flew near and far. Sometimes they sat down on the sea, near patches of brown sea-weed that rolled over the waves with a movement like carpets on a line in a gale. The birds sat comfortably in groups, and they were envied by some in the dingey, for the wrath of the sea was no more to them than it was to a covey of prairie chickens a thousand miles inland. Often they came very close and stared at the men with black bead-like eyes. At these times they were uncanny and sinister in their unblinking scrutiny, and the men hooted angrily at them, telling them to be gone. One came, and evidently decided to alight on the top of the captain's head. The bird flew parallel to the boat and did not circle, but made short sidelong jumps in the air in chicken-fashion. His black eyes were wistfully fixed upon the captain's head. "Ugly brute," said the oiler to the bird. "You look as if you were made with a jack-knife." The cook and the correspondent swore darkly at the creature. The captain naturally wished to knock it away with the end of the heavy painter; but he did not dare do it, because anything resembling an emphatic gesture would have capsized this freighted boat, and so with his open hand, the captain gently and carefully waved the gull away. After it had been discouraged from the pursuit the captain breathed easier on account of his hair, and others breathed easier because the bird struck their minds at this time as being somehow grewsome and ominous.
In the meantime the oiler and the correspondent rowed. And also they rowed.
They sat together in the same seat, and each rowed an oar. Then the oiler took both oars; then the correspondent took both oars; then the oiler; then the correspondent. They rowed and they rowed. The very ticklish part of the business was when the time came for the reclining one in the stern to take his turn at the oars. By the very last star of truth, it is easier to steal eggs from under a hen than it was to change seats in the dingey. First the man in the stern slid his hand along the thwart and moved with care, as if he were of Sèvres. Then the man in the rowing seat slid his hand along the other thwart. It was all done with the most extraordinary care. As the two sidled past each other, the whole party kept watchful eyes on the coming wave, and the captain cried: "Look out now! Steady there!"
The brown mats of sea-weed that appeared from time to time were like islands, bits of earth. They were travelling, apparently, neither one way nor the other. They were, to all intents, stationary. They informed the men in the boat that it was making progress slowly toward the land.
The captain, rearing cautiously in the bow, after the dingey soared on a great swell, said that he had seen the lighthouse at Mosquito Inlet. Presently the cook remarked that he had seen it. The correspondent was at the oars then, and for some reason he too wished to look at the lighthouse, but his back was toward the far shore and the waves were important, and for some time he could not seize an opportunity to turn his head. But at last there came a wave more gentle than the others, and when at the crest of it he swiftly scoured the western horizon.
"See it?" said the captain.
"No," said the correspondent slowly, "I didn't see anything."
"Look again," said the captain. He pointed. "It's exactly in that direction."
At the top of another wave, the correspondent did as he was bid, and this time his eyes chanced on a small still thing on the edge of the swaying horizon. It was precisely like the point of a pin. It took an anxious eye to find a lighthouse so tiny.
"Think we'll make it, captain?"
"If this wind holds and the boat don't swamp, we can't do much else," said the captain.
The little boat, lifted by each towering sea, and splashed viciously by the crests, made progress that in the absence of sea-weed was not apparent to those in her. She seemed just a wee thing wallowing, miraculously top-up, at the mercy of five oceans. Occasionally, a great spread of water, like white flames, swarmed into her.
"Bail her, cook," said the captain serenely.
"All right, captain," said the cheerful cook.
It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him. They were a captain, an oiler, a cook, and a correspondent, and they were friends, friends in a more curiously iron-bound degree than may be common. The hurt captain, lying against the water-jar in the bow, spoke always in a low voice and calmly, but he could never command a more ready and swiftly obedient crew than the motley three of the dingey. It was more than a mere recognition of what was best for the common safety. There was surely in it a quality that was personal and heartfelt. And after this devotion to the commander of the boat there was this comradeship that the correspondent, for instance, who had been taught to be cynical of men, knew even at the time was the best experience of his life. But no one said that it was so. No one mentioned it.
"I wish we had a sail," remarked the captain. "We might try my overcoat on the end of an oar and give you two boys a chance to rest." So the cook and the correspondent held the mast and spread wide the overcoat. The oiler steered, and the little boat made good way with her new rig. Sometimes the oiler had to scull sharply to keep a sea from breaking into the boat, but otherwise sailing was a success.
Meanwhile the lighthouse had been growing slowly larger. It had now almost assumed colour, and appeared like a little grey shadow on the sky. The man at the oars could not be prevented from turning his head rather often to try for a glimpse of this little grey shadow.
At last, from the top of each wave the men in the tossing boat could see land. Even as the lighthouse was an upright shadow on the sky, this land seemed but a long black shadow on the sea. It certainly was thinner than paper. "We must be about opposite New Smyrna," said the cook, who had coasted this shore often in schooners. "Captain, by the way, I believe they abandoned that life-saving station there about a year ago."
"Did they?" said the captain.
The wind slowly died away. The cook and the correspondent were not now obliged to slave in order to hold high the oar. But the waves continued their old impetuous swooping at the dingey, and the little craft, no longer under way, struggled woundily over them. The oiler or the correspondent took the oars again.
Shipwrecks are à propos of nothing. If men could only train for them and have them occur when the men had reached pink condition, there would be less drowning at sea. Of the four in the dingey none had slept any time worth mentioning for two days and two nights previous to embarking in the dingey, and in the excitement of clambering about the deck of a foundering ship they had also forgotten to eat heartily.
For these reasons, and for others, neither the oiler nor the correspondent was fond of rowing at this time. The correspondent wondered ingenuously how in the name of all that was sane could there be people who thought it amusing to row a boat. It was not an amusement; it was a diabolical punishment, and even a genius of mental aberrations could never conclude that it was anything but a horror to the muscles and a crime against the back. He mentioned to the boat in general how the amusement of rowing struck him, and the weary-faced oiler smiled in full sympathy. Previously to the foundering, by the way, the oiler had worked double-watch in the engine-room of the ship.
"Take her easy, now, boys," said the captain. "Don't spend yourselves. If we have to run a surf you'll need all your strength, because we'll sure have to swim for it. Take your time."
Slowly the land arose from the sea. From a black line it became a line of black and a line of white, trees and sand. Finally, the captain said that he could make out a house on the shore. "That's the house of refuge, sure," said the cook. "They'll see us before long, and come out after us."
The distant lighthouse reared high. "The keeper ought to be able to make us out now, if he's looking through a glass," said the captain. "He'll notify the life-saving people."
"None of those other boats could have got ashore to give word of the wreck," said the oiler, in a low voice. "Else the life-boat would be out hunting us."
Slowly and beautifully the land loomed out of the sea. The wind came again. It had veered from the north-east to the south-east. Finally, a new sound struck the ears of the men in the boat. It was the low thunder of the surf on the shore. "We'll never be able to make the lighthouse now," said the captain. "Swing her head a little more north, Billie," said he.
"'A little more north,' sir," said the oiler.
Whereupon the little boat turned her nose once more down the wind, and all but the oarsman watched the shore grow. Under the influence of this expansion doubt and direful apprehension was leaving the minds of the men. The management of the boat was still most absorbing, but it could not prevent a quiet cheerfulness. In an hour, perhaps, they would be ashore.
Their backbones had become thoroughly used to balancing in the boat, and they now rode this wild colt of a dingey like circus men. The correspondent thought that he had been drenched to the skin, but happening to feel in the top pocket of his coat, he found therein eight cigars. Four of them were soaked with sea-water; four were perfectly scatheless. After a search, somebody produced three dry matches, and thereupon the four waifs rode impudently in their little boat, and with an assurance of an impending rescue shining in their eyes, puffed at the big cigars and judged well and ill of all men. Everybody took a drink of water.
"Cook," remarked the captain, "there don't seem to be any signs of life about your house of refuge."
"No," replied the cook. "Funny they don't see us!"
A broad stretch of lowly coast lay before the eyes of the men. It was of dunes topped with dark vegetation. The roar of the surf was plain, and sometimes they could see the white lip of a wave as it spun up the beach. A tiny house was blocked out black upon the sky. Southward, the slim lighthouse lifted its little grey length.
Tide, wind, and waves were swinging the dingey northward. "Funny they don't see us," said the men.
The surf's roar was here dulled, but its tone was, nevertheless, thunderous and mighty. As the boat swam over the great rollers, the men sat listening to this roar. "We'll swamp sure," said everybody.
It is fair to say here that there was not a life-saving station within twenty miles in either direction, but the men did not know this fact, and in consequence they made dark and opprobrious remarks concerning the eyesight of the nation's life-savers. Four scowling men sat in the dingey and surpassed records in the invention of epithets.
"Funny they don't see us."
The light-heartedness of a former time had completely faded. To their sharpened minds it was easy to conjure pictures of all kinds of incompetency and blindness and, indeed, cowardice. There was the shore of the populous land, and it was bitter and bitter to them that from it came no sign.
"Well," said the captain, ultimately, "I suppose we'll have to make a try for ourselves. If we stay out here too long, we'll none of us have strength left to swim after the boat swamps."
And so the oiler, who was at the oars, turned the boat straight for the shore. There was a sudden tightening of muscles. There was some thinking.
"If we don't all get ashore—" said the captain. "If we don't all get ashore, I suppose you fellows know where to send news of my finish?"
They then briefly exchanged some addresses and admonitions. As for the reflections of the men, there was a great deal of rage in them. Perchance they might be formulated thus: "If I am going to be drowned—if I am going to be drowned—if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of life? It is preposterous. If this old ninny-woman, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived of the management of men's fortunes. She is an old hen who knows not her intention. If she has decided to drown me, why did she not do it in the beginning and save me all this trouble? The whole affair is absurd.... But no, she cannot mean to drown me. She dare not drown me. She cannot drown me. Not after all this work." Afterward the man might have had an impulse to shake his fist at the clouds: "Just you drown me, now, and then hear what I call you!"
The billows that came at this time were more formidable. They seemed always just about to break and roll over the little boat in a turmoil of foam. There was a preparatory and long growl in the speech of them. No mind unused to the sea would have concluded that the dingey could ascend these sheer heights in time. The shore was still afar. The oiler was a wily surfman. "Boys," he said swiftly, "she won't live three minutes more, and we're too far out to swim. Shall I take her to sea again, captain?"
"Yes! Go ahead!" said the captain.
This oiler, by a series of quick miracles, and fast and steady oarsmanship, turned the boat in the middle of the surf and took her safely to sea again.
There was a considerable silence as the boat bumped over the furrowed sea to deeper water. Then somebody in gloom spoke. "Well, anyhow, they must have seen us from the shore by now."
The gulls went in slanting flight up the wind toward the grey desolate east. A squall, marked by dingy clouds, and clouds brick-red, like smoke from a burning building, appeared from the south-east.
"What do you think of those life-saving people? Ain't they peaches?"
"Funny they haven't seen us."
"Maybe they think we're out here for sport! Maybe they think we're fishin'. Maybe they think we're damned fools."
It was a long afternoon. A changed tide tried to force them southward, but wind and wave said northward. Far ahead, where coast-line, sea, and sky formed their mighty angle, there were little dots which seemed to indicate a city on the shore.
The captain shook his head. "Too near Mosquito Inlet."
And the oiler rowed, and then the correspondent rowed. Then the oiler rowed. It was a weary business. The human back can become the seat of more aches and pains than are registered in books for the composite anatomy of a regiment. It is a limited area, but it can become the theatre of innumerable muscular conflicts, tangles, wrenches, knots, and other comforts.
"Did you ever like to row, Billie?" asked the correspondent.
"No," said the oiler. "Hang it."
When one exchanged the rowing-seat for a place in the bottom of the boat, he suffered a bodily depression that caused him to be careless of everything save an obligation to wiggle one finger. There was cold sea-water swashing to and fro in the boat, and he lay in it. His head, pillowed on a thwart, was within an inch of the swirl of a wave crest, and sometimes a particularly obstreperous sea came in-board and drenched him once more. But these matters did not annoy him. It is almost certain that if the boat had capsized he would have tumbled comfortably out upon the ocean as if he felt sure that it was a great soft mattress.
"Look! There's a man on the shore!"
"There! See 'im? See 'im?"
"Yes, sure! He's walking along."
"Now he's stopped. Look! He's facing us!"
"He's waving at us!"
"So he is! By thunder!"
"Ah, now we're all right! Now we're all right! There'll be a boat out here for us in half-an-hour."
"He's going on. He's running. He's going up to that house there."
The remote beach seemed lower than the sea, and it required a searching glance to discern the little black figure. The captain saw a floating stick and they rowed to it. A bath-towel was by some weird chance in the boat, and, tying this on the stick, the captain waved it. The oarsman did not dare turn his head, so he was obliged to ask questions.
"What's he doing now?"
"He's standing still again. He's looking, I think.... There he goes again. Towards the house.... Now he's stopped again."
"Is he waving at us?"
"No, not now! he was, though."
"Look! There comes another man!"
"Look at him go, would you."
"Why, he's on a bicycle. Now he's met the other man. They're both waving at us. Look!"
"There comes something up the beach."
"What the devil is that thing?"
"Why, it looks like a boat."
"Why, certainly it's a boat."
"No, it's on wheels."
"Yes, so it is. Well, that must be the life-boat. They drag them along shore on a wagon."
"That's the life-boat, sure."
"No, by ——, it's—it's an omnibus."
"I tell you it's a life-boat."
"It is not! It's an omnibus. I can see it plain. See? One of these big hotel omnibuses."
"By thunder, you're right. It's an omnibus, sure as fate. What do you suppose they are doing with an omnibus? Maybe they are going around collecting the life-crew, hey?"
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