In December, 1896, Richard and Frederic Remington, the artist, were commissioned by the New York Journal to visit Cuba which was then at war with Spain. It was their intention to go from Key West in the Vamoose, a very fast but frail steam-launch, and to make a landing at some uninhabited point on the Cuban coast. After this their plans seem to have been to trust to luck and the kindliness of the revolutionists. After waiting for some time at Key West for favorable weather, they at last started out on a dark night to make the crossing. A few hours after the Vamoose had left Key West a heavy storm arose--apparently much too violent for the slightly built launch. The crew struck and the captain finally refused to go on to Cuba and put back to Key West. Shortly after this Remington and my brother reached Havana by a more simple and ostentatious route. This was my brother's first effort as a war correspondent, and I presume it was this fact and the very indefiniteness of the original plan that caused his mother and father so much uneasiness. And, indeed, it did prove eventually a hazardous exploit.
way to Key West.
December 19, 1896.
I hope you won't be cross with me for going off and not letting you know, but I thought it was better to do it that way as there was such delay in our getting started. I am going to Cuba by way of Key West with Frederic Remington and Michaelson, a correspondent who has been there for six months. We are to be taken by the Vamoose the fastest steam yacht made to Santa Clara province where the Cubans will meet us and take us to Gomez. We will stay a month with him, the yacht calling for copy and sketches once a week, and finally for us in a month. I get all my expenses and The Journal pays me $3,000 for the month's work. The Harper's Magazine also takes a story at six hundred dollars and Russell will reprint Remington's sketches and my story in book form, so I shall probably clear $4,000 in the next month or six weeks. I was a week in getting information on the subject so I know all about it from the men who have just been there and I want you to pay attention to what I tell you they told me and not to listen to any stray visitor who comes in for tea and talks without any tact or knowledge. There is no danger in the trip except the problem of getting there and getting away again, and that is now removed by The Journal's yacht. I would have gone earlier had any of the periodicals that asked me to go shown me any way to get there-- THERE IS NO FEVER THIS TIME OF YEAR and as you know fever never touches me. It got all the others in Central America and never worried me at all. There is no danger of getting shot, as the province into which we go, the Santa Clara province, is owned and populated and patrolled by the Cubans. It is no more Spanish than New Jersey and the Spaniards cannot get in there. We have the strongest possible letters from the Junta, and I have from Lamont, Bayard and Olney and credentials in every language. We will sit around the Gomez camp and send messengers back to the coast. It is a three days trip and as Gomez may be moving from place to place you may not hear from us for a month and we may not hear from you but remember it was a much longer time than that before you heard from me when I went to Honduras. Also keep in mind that I am going as a correspondent only and must keep out of the way of fighting and that I mean to do so, as Chamberlain says we want descriptive stories not brave deeds-- Major Flint who has arranged the trip for us was down there with Maceo as a correspondent. He saw six fights and never shot off his gun once because as he said it was not his business to kill people and he has persuaded me that he is right, so I won't do anything but look on-- I have bought at The Journal's expense a fifty dollar field glass which is a new invention and the best made. I have marked it so that you can see a man five miles off and as soon as I see him I mean to begin to ride or run the other way--no one loves himself more than I do so you leave me to take care of myself. I wish I could give you any idea of the contempt the four returned correspondents who talked to me, have for the Spaniards. They have seen them shoot 2,500 rounds without hitting men at 200 yards and they run away if the enemy begins on them first. However, you trust to Richard-- We have a fine escort arranged for us and Michaelson speaks Spanish perfectly and has been six months scouting over the country.
KEY West, December 26, 1896.
I got your letters late last night and they made me pretty solemn. It is an awfully solemn thing to have people care for you like that and to care for them as I do. I can't tell you how much I love you. You don't know how much the pain of worrying you for a month has meant to me, but I have talked it all out with myself, and left it to God and I am sure I am doing right. As Mrs. Crown said, "There's a whole churchful up here praying for you," and I guess that will pull me through. Of course, dear, dear Mother thought she was cross with me. She could not be cross with me, and her letter told me how much she cared, that was all, and made me be extra careful. But I need not promise you to be careful. You have an idea I am a wild, filibustering, hot-headed young man. I am not. I gave the guides to understand their duty was to keep us out of danger if we had to walk miles to avoid it. We are men of peace, going in, as real estate agents and coffee-planters and drummers are going in on every steamer, to attend to our especial work and get out again quick. I have just as strong a prejudice against killing a man as I have against his killing me.
Lots and lots of love. Don't get scared if you don't hear for a month, although we will try to get our stories back once a week, but you know we are at the convenience of the Cubans who will pocket our despatches and money and not take the long trip back. Thank dear Dad for his letter full of good advice. It was excellent. Remington and Michelson are good men and I like them immensely. Already we are firm friends.
KEY WEST--January 1, 1897.
As you will know by my telegram we are either off on a safe sea going boat or waiting for one. There is no turning back from here and the only reason I thought of doing so was the knowledge of the way you would suffer and worry. I argued it out that it was selfish in me to weigh my getting laughed at and paragraphed as the war correspondent that always Turned Back against a month of uneasiness for you, but later I saw I could not do it much as I love you for the element of danger to me is non-existent; it is merely an exciting adventure and you will have to believe me and not worry but be a Spartan mother. I would not count being laughed at and the loss of my own self respect if I really thought there was great danger, but I do not. You will not lose me and if I go now I can sit still next time and say "I have done better things than that." If I had not gone it would have meant that I would have had to have done just that much harder a stunt next time to make people forget that I had failed in this one. Now do cheer up and believe in the luck of Richard Harding Davis and the British Army. We have carte blanche from The Journal to buy or lease any boat on the coast and I rocked them for $1000 in advance payment because of the delay over the Vamoose.
I am so happy at thinking I am going, I could not have faced anyone had I not, although we had nothing to do with the failure, we tried to cross fairly in the damn tub and it was her captain who put back. I lay out on the deck and cried when he refused to go ahead, we had waited so long. The Cubans and Remington and Michelson had put on all their riding things but fortunately I had not and so was spared that humiliation. What I don't know about the Fine Art of Filibustering now is unnecessary. I find many friends of my Captain Boynton or "Capt. Burke." Tonight the officers of the Raleigh give me a grand dinner at which I wear a dress suit and make speeches--they are the best chaps I ever met in the Navy. Lots of love and best wishes to Dad and to Nora for a happy, happy New Year. You know me and you know my conscience but it would not let me go back in order to save you anxiety so you won't think me selfish. God bless you.
KEY WEST, January 2nd, 1897.
I have learned here that the first quality needed to make a great filibuster is Patience, it is not courage, or resources or a knowledge of the Cuban Coast line, it is patience. Anybody can run a boat into a dark bayou and dump rifles on the beach and scurry away to sea again but only heroes can sit for a month on a hotel porch or at the end of a wharf, and wait. That is all we do and that is my life at Key West. I get up and half dress and take a plunge in the bay and then dress fully and have a greasy breakfast and then light a huge Key West cigar, price three cents and sit on the hotel porch with my feet on a rail-- Nothing happens after that except getting one's boots polished as the two industries of this place are blacking boots and driving cabs. I have two boys to black mine at the same time every morning and pay the one who does his the better of the two-- It generally ends in a fight so that affords diversion-- Then a man comes along, any man, and says, "Remmington's looking for you" and I get up and look for Remington. There is only a triangle of streets where one can find him and I call at "Josh" Curry's first and then at Pendleton's News Store and read all the back numbers of the Police Gazette for the hundredth time and then call here at the Custom House and then look in at the Cable office, where Michaelson lives sending telegrams about anything or nothing and that brings me back to the hotel porch again, where I have my boots shined once more and then go into mid-day dinner. In the meanwhile Remington is looking for me a hundred yards in the rear. He generally gets to "Josh's" as I leave the Custom House-- In the afternoon I study Spanish out of a text book and at three take a bicycle ride, at five I call at the garrison to take tea with the doctor and his wife, who is sweeter than angel's ever get to be with a miniature angel of a baby called Martha. I wait until retreat is sounded and the gun is fired at sunset and having commented unfavorably on the way the soldiers let the flag drop on the grass instead of catching it on the arms as a bluejacket does, I ride off to the bay for another bath-- Then I take the launch to the Raleigh and dine with the officers and rejoice in the clean fresh paint and brass and decks and the lights and black places of a great ship of war, than which nothing is more splendid. We sit on the quarter-deck and smoke and play the guitar and I go home again, in time for bed. I vary this programme occasionally by spending the morning on the end of a wharf watching another man fish and reading old novels and the "Lives of Captain Walker" and "Captain Fry of the Virginius," two great books from each of which I am going to write a short story like the one of the Alamo or of the Jameson Raid-- The life of Walker I found on the Raleigh and the life of Captain Fry with all the old wood cuts and the newspaper comments of the time at a book store here. I don't know when we shall get away but it is no use kicking about it, Michaelson is doing all he can and the new tug will be along in a week anyway. I shall be so glad to get to Cuba that I will dance with glee.
MATANZAS, January 15th, 1897.
I sent you a note by Remington which he will mail in the States-- From here I go to Sagua La Grande. It is on the northern coast. I think from there I shall cross over to Cienfuegos on the Southern coast and then if I can catch a steamer go to Santiago to see my old friends, at the Juraqua mines and MacWilliams' ore road and "the Palms"-- Everywhere I am treated well on account of Weyler's order and I am learning a great deal and talking very little, my Spanish being bad. There is war here and no mistake and all the people in the fields have been ordered in to the fortified towns where they are starving and dying of disease. Yesterday I saw the houses of these people burning on both sides of the track-- They gave shelter to the insurgents and so very soon they found their houses gone. I am so relieved at getting old Remington to go as though I had won $5000. He was a splendid fellow but a perfect kid and had to be humored and petted all the time. I shall if I have luck be through with this in a few weeks but it has had such a set back at the start that I am afraid it can never make a book and I doubt if I can write a decent article even. I am so anxious not to keep you worrying any longer than is necessary and so I am hurrying along taking only a car window view of things. Address me care of Consul General Lee, Havana and confine your remarks to what is going on at home. I know what is going on here. I don't believe half I hear but I am being slowly converted. Remington is more excitable than I am, so don't misunderstand if he starts in violently. I am getting details and verifying things. He is right on a big scale but every one has lied so about this island that I do not want to say anything I do not believe is true. This is a beautiful little city and after Jaruco, where we slept two days ago, it is Paris. There we slept off the barnyard and cows and chickens walked all over the floor and fleas all over us. It was like Honduras only filthier. Speaking of Paris, tell the Kid I expect to go over to him soon after I return to New York.
CARDENAS--North Coast of Cuba.
January 16th, 1897.
It is very funny not knowing what sort of a place you are to sleep in next and taking things out of a grab bag, as it were-- In Europe you can always guess what the well known towns will give you for you have a guide book, but here it is all luck. Matanzas was a pretty city but the people were awful, the hotel was Spanish and the proprietor insolent, though I was spending more of Willie Hearst's money than all of the officers spend in a week, the Consul could not talk English or Spanish, he said he hadn't come there "to go to school to no Spaniard" and he gloried in the fact he had been there three years without knowing a word of the language. His vice-Consul was worse and everything went wrong generally. Every one I met was an Alarmist and that is polite for liar. They asked Remington if he was the man who manufactured the rifles and gave us the Iowa Democrat to read. To night I reached here after a six hours ride through blazing fields of sugar cane and stopped on my way to the hotel to ask the Consul when the next boat went to Saqua la Grande-- I had no letter of introduction to him as I had to the Matanzas consul, but as soon as he saw my card he got out of his chair and shook hands again and was as hearty and well bred and delightful as Charley himself and unlike Chas he did not ask me 14 francs for looking on him. He is out now chasing around to get me a train for to-morrow. But I won't go to-morrow. My hotel looks on the plaza and the proprietor and the whole suite of attendants are my slaves. It is just as different as can be. My interpreter does it, he calls himself MY VALET, although I point out to him that two shirts and twelve collars do not constitute a wardrobe even with a rubber coat thrown in. But he likes to play at my being a distinguished stranger and I can't say I object. Only when you remember the way I was invited to see Cuba and expected to see it, and now the way I am seeing it from car windows with A VALET. What would the new school of yellow kid journalists say if they knew that. For the first time on this trip I have wished you were both with me, that was to night. I never see anything really beautiful but that it instantly makes me feel selfish and wish you could see it too. It has happened again and again and to night I wish you could be here with me on this balcony. The town runs down a slope to the bay and in the middle of it is the Plaza with me on the balcony which lets out of my sleeping room-- "the room" so the proprietor tells me, "reserved only for the Capitain General." It is just like the description in that remarkable novel of mine where Clay and Alice sit on the balcony of the restaurant. I have the moonlight and the Cathedral with the open doors and the bronze statue in the middle and the royal palms moving in the breeze straight from the sea and the people walking around the plaza below. If it was in any way as beautiful as this Clay and Alice would have ended the novel that night.
I got a grand lot of letters to-day which Otto, my interpreter brought back from Havana after having conducted Remington there in safety. I must say you are writing very cheerfully now, but I don't wonder you worried at first but now that I am a commercial traveller with an order from Weyler which does everything when I find it necessary, you really must not worry any more but just let me continue on my uneventful journey and then come home. I shall have been gone so long and my friends, judging from Russell and Dana and Irene's letters, will be so glad to see me, that they will have forgotten I went out to do other things than coast around in trains. As a matter of fact this is a terribly big problem and most difficult to get the truth of, I find myself growing to be the opposite of the alarmist, whatever that is, although you would think the picturesque and dramatic and exciting thing would be the one I would rather believe because I want to believe it, but I find that that is not so, I see a great deal on both sides and I do not believe half I am told. As we used to say at college, "it is against history," and it is against history for men to act as I am told they are acting here-- They show me the pueblo huddled together around the fortified towns, living in palm huts but I know that they have always lived in palm huts, the yellow kid reporters don't know that or consider it, but send off word that the condition of the people is terrible, that they have only leaves to cover them, and it sounds very badly. That is an instance of what I mean. In a big way there is no doubt that the process going on here is one of extermination and ruin. Two years ago the amount of sugar shipped from the port of Matanzas to the U. S. was valued at 11 millions a year. This last year just over shows that sugar to the amount of $800,000 was sent out. In '94, 154 vessels touched at Matanzas on their way to America. In '95 there were 80 and in '96 there are 16. I always imagined that houses were destroyed during a war because they got in the way of cannon balls or they were burned because they might offer shelter to the enemy, but here they are destroyed, with the purpose of making the war horrible and hurrying up the end. The insurgents began first by destroying the sugar mills, some of which were worth millions of dollars in machinery, and now the Spaniards are burning the homes of the people and herding them in around the towns to starve out the insurgents and to leave them without shelter or places to go for food or to hide the wounded. So all day long where ever you look you see great heavy columns of smoke rising into this beautiful sky above the magnificent palms the most noble of all palms, almost of all trees-- It is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. I had no recollection of how beautiful it was or else I had not the knowledge of other places with which to compare it. Nothing out of the imagination can approach it in its great waterfalls and mossy rocks and grand plains and forests of white pillars with plumes waving above them. Only man is vile here and it is cruel to see the walls of the houses with blind eyes, with roofs gone and gardens burned, every church but one that I have seen was a fortress with hammocks swung from the altars and rude barricades thrown up around the doorways-- If this is war I am of the opinion that it is a senseless wicked institution made for soldiers, lovers and correspondents for different reasons, and for no one else in the world and it is too expensive for the others to keep it going to entertain these few gentlemen-- I have seen very little of it yet and I probably won't see much more, but I have seen all I want. Remington had his mind satisfied even sooner--but then he is an alarmist and exaggerates things-- The men who wear the red badge of courage, I don't feel sorry for, they have their reward in their bloody bandages and the little cross on their tunic but those you meet coming back sick and dying with fever are the ones that make fighting contemptible--poor little farmers, poor little children with no interest in Cuba or Spain's right to hold it, who have been sent out to die like ants before they have learned to hold a mauser, and who are going back again with the beards that have grown in the field hospitals on their cheeks and their eyes hollow, and too weak to move or speak. Six of them died while I was in Jaroco, a town as big as Marion and that had been the average for two months, think of that, six people dying in Marion every day through July and August-- I didn't stay in that town any longer than the train did-- Well I have been writing editorials here instead of cheering you up but I guess I'm about right and when I see a little more I'll tell it over again to The Journal-- It is not as exciting reading as deeds of daring by our special correspondent and I haven't changed my name or shaved my eyebrows or done anything the other men have done but I believe I am getting near the truth. They have shut off provisions going or coming from the towns, they have huddled hundreds of people who do not know what a bath means around these towns, and this is going to happen-- As soon as the rains begin the yellow fever and smallpox will set in and all vessels leaving Cuban ports will be quarantined and the island will be one great plague spot. The insurgents who are in the open fields will live and the soldiers will die for their officers know nothing of sanitation or care nothing. The little Consul has just been here to see me and we have had a long talk and I got back at him. He told me he had seen the Franco-German war as a correspondent of The Tribune and I asked him if he had ever met another correspondent of The Tribune at that time a German student named Hans who cabled the story of the battle of Gravellote and who Archibald Forbes says was the first correspondent to use the cable. The Consul who looks like William D. Howells wriggled around in his chair and said "I guess you mean me but I was not a German student, I was born and raised in Philadelphia and Forbes got my name wrong, it is Hance." So then I got up and shook hands with him in my turn and told him I had always wanted to meet that correspondent and did not expect to do so in Cardenas, on the coast of Cuba.
Thank you all for your letters. I am glad you liked the Jameson book. I thought you knew I was a F. R. G. S. It was George Curzon proposed me and as he is a gold medallist of the Society it was easy getting in. Lots of love.
Richard returned to New York from Cuba in February, 1897, but the following month started for Florence to pay me a long-promised visit. On his way he stopped for a few days in London and Paris.
ABASSADE DES ETATS-UNIS
59 Rue Galilee,
Paris, April 1st, 1897.
I got over here to-day after the heaviest weather I ever tackled on this channel. Stephen Crane came with me. I gave him a lunch on Wednesday. Anthony Hope, McCarthy, Harold Frederic and Barrie came. Sir Evelyn Wood instead of coming was detained at the war office and sent instead a lance Sergeant on horseback with a huge envelope marked "On Her Majesty's Service," which was to be delivered into my hands-- The entire Savoy was upset and it was generally supposed that war had been declared and that I was being ordered to the front-- The whole hotel hung over us until I had receipted for the package and the soldier had saluted and clanked away. I gave Crane the letter as a souvenir. I also saw Seymour Hicks' first night and recognized 15 American songs in it.
The London Times offered me the position of correspondent on the Greek frontier. Every one in London thought it an enormous compliment and Harold Frederic, Ralph, Ballard Smith and the rest were very envious. I told them I could not go, but I was glad to have had the compliment paid me. Barrie has made out a scenario of the "Soldiers" for dramatic purposes and has asked the Haymarket management to consider it. So, that I guess that it must be good--
So, I also guess I had better finish it-- I leave for Florence to night. I am having a fine, fine time and I am so glad you are all well.
Lots of love,
Of the many happy days we have spent together, I do not believe there were any much more happy than the three weeks Richard remained with me. It was his first long visit to Italy and from the day of his arrival he loved the old town and its people who gave him a most friendly welcome. He had come at a time when Florence was at its best, its narrow quaint streets filled with sunshine and thronged with idling natives and the scurrying tourists that always came with the first days of spring. The Cascine and the pink-walled roads of the environs were ablaze with wild roses and here, after his rather strenuous experience in Cuba, Richard gave himself up to long days of happy idleness. Together we took voyages of discovery to many of the little walled and forgotten towns where the tourists seldom set foot. Once we even wandered so far as Monte Carlo, where my brother tried very hard to break the bank and did not succeed. But the Richard Harding Davis luck did not fail him completely and I remember I greatly envied him the huge pile of gold and notes that represented his winnings and which we did our very best to spend before we left the land of the Prince of Monaco. However, having had his first taste of war, Richard felt that he must leave the peace and content of Florence to see how the Greeks, with whom he had much sympathy, were faring with their enemies the Turks. As it happened, this expedition proved but a short interruption, and in less than a month he was once more back with his new-found friends in Florence.
April 28, 1897
On the Way to Patras on a Steamer.
It has been a week since I wrote you last, when I sent you the Inauguration article. Since then I have been having the best time I ever had any place ALONE. I have had more fun with a crowd, but never have been so happy by myself. What I would have been had I taken some other chap with me I cannot imagine. But the people of this part of Greece have been so kind that I cannot say I have been alone. I never met with strangers anywhere who were so hospitable, so confiding and polite. After that slaughter-yard and pest place of Cuba, which is much more terrible to me now than it was when I was there, or before I had seen that war can be conducted like any other evil of civilization, this opera bouffe warfare is like a duel between two gentlemen in the Bois. Cuba is like a slave-holder beating a slave's head in with a whip. I am a war correspondent only by a great stretch of the imagination; I am a peace correspondent really, and all the fighting I have seen was by cannon at long range. (I was at long range, not the cannon.) I am doing this campaign in a personally conducted sense with no regard to the Powers or to the London Times. I did send them an article called "The Piping Times of War." If they do not use it I shall illustrate it with the photos I have taken and sell it, for five times the sum they would give, to the Harpers who are ever with us. As I once said in a noted work, "Greece, Mrs. Morris, restores all your lost illusions." For the last week I have been back in the days of Conrad, the Corsair, and "Oh, Maid of Athens, ere We Part." I have been riding over wind-swept hills and mountains topped with snow, and with sheep and goats and wild flowers of every color spreading for acres, and in a land where every man dresses by choice like a grand opera brigand, and not only for photographic purposes. I have been on the move all the time, chasing in the rear of armies that turn back as soon as I approach and apologize for disappointing me of a battle, or riding to the scene of a battle that never comes off, or hastening to a bombardment that turns out to be an attack on an empty fort.
I live on brown bread and cheese and goat's milk and sleep like a log in shepherds' huts. It is so beautiful that I almost grudge the night. Nora and Mother could take this trip as safely as a regiment and would see things out of fairyland. And such adventures! Late in life I am at last having adventures and honors heaped upon me. I was elected a captain of a band of brigands who had been watching a mountain pass for a month, and as it showed no signs of running away had taken to dancing on the green. I caught them at this innocent pastime and they allowed me to photograph them and give them wine at eight cents a quart which we drank out of a tin stovepipe. They drank about four feet of stovepipe or thirty-six cents' worth, then they danced and sang for me in a circle, old men and boys, then drilled with their carbines, and I showed them my revolver and field-glasses and themselves in the finder of the camera; and when I had to go they took me on their shoulders and marched me around waving their rifles. Then the old men kissed me on the cheek and we all embraced and they wept, and I felt as badly as though I were parting from fifty friends. They told my guide that if I would come back they would get fifty more "as brave as they" and I could be captain. I could not begin to tell you all the amusing things that have happened in this one week. I did not want to come at all, only a stern sense of duty made me. For I wanted to write the play in Charley's gilded halls and get to Paris and London. But I can never cease rejoicing that I took this trip. And it will make the book, "A Year from a Reporter's Diary," as complete as it can be. That was why I came. Now I have the Coronation of the Czar, the Millennial at Hungary, the Inauguration at Washington, the Queen's Jubilee, the War in Cuba, and the Greco-Turkish War. That is a good year's work and I mean to loaf after it. You will laugh and say that that is what I always say, but if you knew how I had to kick myself out of Florence and the Cascine to come here you would believe me. I want a rest and I am cutting this very short.
Don't fail to cut anything Dad and Mother don't like out of the Inauguration article. You will have me with you this winter on my little bicycle and going to dances and not paying board to anyone. Remember how I used to threaten to go to Greece when the coffee was not good. It seems too funny now, for I never was in a better place, or had more fun or saw less of war or the signs of war.
May 7, 1897.
10 East Twenty-Eighth Street-NIT
This is one of the places out of Phroso, but as you never read Phroso I will cut all that-- I hate to say it so soon again but this is the most beautiful country to travel over I have seen-- It is a fairy theatrical grand opera country where everybody dresses in petticoats and gold braided vests and carry carbines to tend sheep with-- I rode from Santa Maura (see map) to a spot opposite Prevesa where they said there was going to be bombarding-- There was not of course but I had I think the most beautiful ride of my life. I was absolutely happy--little lambs bleated and kids butted each other and peasants in fur cloaks without sleeves and in tights like princes sat on rocks and played pipes and the sky was blue, the mountains covered with snow and the fields and hills full of purple bushes and yellow and blue flowers and sheep-- There was a cable station of yellow adobe. It was the only building and it looked across at Prevesa but nobody bombarded. The general gave me cognac and the cable operator played a guitar for me and the preyor sang a fine bass, the corporal not to be out done gave me chocolate and the army stood around in the sun and joined in the conversation correcting the general and each other and taking off their hats to all the noble sentiments we toasted. It was just like a comic opera. After a while when I had finished a fine hunck of cheese and hard eggs and brown bread I took a photograph of the General and the cable operator and the officer with the bass voice and half of the army-- The other half was then sent to escort me to this place. It walked and I rode and there were many halts for drinks and cigarettes. They all ran after a stray colt and were lost for some time but we re-mobilized and advanced with great effect into this town. I was here taken in charge by at least fifty sailors and as many soldiers and comic opera brigands in drawers and white petticoats, who conducted me to a house on the hill where the innkeeper brought me a live chicken to approve of for dinner. Then the mayor of the town turned up in gold clothes and Barrison Sister skirts and said the General had telegraphed about me and that I was his-- The innkeeper wept and said he had seen me first and the chorus of soldiers, sailors and brigands all joined in. I kept out of it but I knew the Mayor would win and he did. Then we went out to a man-of-war the size of the Vagabond and were solemnly assured there would be bombarding of Prevesa to-morrow-- I go to sleep in that hope. We leave here at seven crossing the river and ride after the Greeks who are approaching Prevesa from the land side while the men-of-war bombard it from the river. At least that is what they say. I think it is the mildest war on both sides I ever heard of and I certainly mean to be a Times correspondent next time I play at going to war-- After being insulted and frightened to death all over Cuba, this is the pleasantest picnic I was ever on-- They seriously apologized for not bombarding while I was there and I said not to mention it-- With lots of love, old man, and to the family
May 16, 1897.
Here I am safe and sound again in the old rooms in Florence. I was gone twenty-three days and was traveling nineteen of them, walking, riding; in sailboats, in the cars, and on steamers. I have had more experiences and adventures than I ever had before in three months and quite enough to last me for years.
After my happy ride through Turkey and the retreat of the Greek army in Arta, of which I wrote you last, I have been in Thessaly where I saw the two days' battle of Velestinos from the beginning up to the end. It was the one real battle of the war and the Greeks fought well from the first to the last. I left Athens on the 29th of April with John Bass, a Harvard graduate, and a most charming and attractive youth who is, or was, in charge of the Journal men; Stephen Crane being among the number. He seems a genius with no responsibilities of any sort to anyone, and I and Bass left him at Velestinos after traveling with him for four days. Crane went to Volo, as did every other correspondent, leaving Bass and myself in Velestinos. As the villagers had run away, we burglarized the house of the mayor and made it our habitation while the courier hunted for food. It was like "The Swiss Family Robinson," and we rejoiced over the discovery of soap and tablecloths and stray knives and forks, just as though we had been cast on a desert island. Bass did the cooking and I laid the table and washed up and made the beds, which were full of fleas. But we had been sleeping on chairs and on the floor for a week so we did not mind much.
The second day we were awakened by cannon and you can imagine our joy and excitement. We had it all to ourselves for eight hours, as it took the other correspondents that long to arrive. It was an artillery and infantry battle and about 20,000 men were engaged on both sides. The Greeks fought from little trenches on the hills back of the town and the Turks advanced across a great green prairie. It was very long range and only twice did they get to within a quarter of a mile of our trenches. Bass and I went all over the Greek lines, for you were just as safe in one place as in another, which means that it wasn't safe anywhere, so we gave up considering that and followed the fight as best we could from the first trench, which was the only one that gave an uninterrupted view of the Turkish forces. It was a brilliantly clear day but opened with a hail storm, which enabled the Turks to crawl up half a mile in the sudden darkness. It also gave me the worst attack of sciatica I ever had. Fortunately, it did not come on badly until I reached Volo, when it suddenly took hold of me so that I could not walk. The trenches were wet with the rain and we had no clothes to change to, and two more showers kept us more or less wet all day. We had a fine view of everything and I learned a lot.
We were under a heavy fire for thirteen hours and certainly had some very close escapes. At times the firing was so fierce that if you had raised your arm above your head, the hand would have been instantly torn off. We had to lie on our stomachs with our chins in the dirt and not so much as budge. This was when the Turkish fire happened to be directed on our trench. At such times all the other trenches would fire so as to draw the attack away, and we would have to wait until it was over. The shells sounded like the jarring sound of telegraph wires when one hits the pole they hang from with a stone; and when the shells were close they sounded like the noise made by two trains passing in opposite directions when the wind is driven between the cars. The bullets were much worse than the shells as you could always hear them coming, and the bullets slipped up and passed you in a sneaking way with a noise like rustling silk, or if some one had torn a silk handkerchief with a sharp pull. One shell struck three feet from me and knocked me over with the dirt and stones and filled my nose and mouth with pebbles. I went back and dug it out of the ground while it was still hot and have it as a souvenir. I swore terribly at the bullets and Bass used to grin in a sickly way. It made your hair creep when they came very close. One man next me got a shot through the breast while he was ramming his cleaner down the barrel, and there were three killed within the limits of our fifty yards. We could not get back because there was a cross fire that swept a place we had to pass through, just about the way the wind comes around the City Hall in the times of a blizzard. We called it Dead Man's Curve, after that at Fourteenth Street and Union Square, because it was sprinkled with dead ammunition, mules and soldiers. We came through it the first time without knowing what we were getting into and we had no desire to go back again. So we waited until the sun set. I took some of the finest photographs and probably the only ones ever taken of a battle at such close range. Whenever the men fired, I would shoot off the camera and I expect I have some pretty great pictures. Bass took some of me so if there is any question as to whether I was at the Coronation, there will be none as to whether I was at Velestinos.
Our house was hit with two shells and bullets fell like the gentle rain from heaven all over the courtyard, so we would have been no safer there than behind the trenches. We sent off the first account of the battle written by anybody by midday, and stayed on until the next day at four when the place was evacuated in good order because, as usual, the Crown Prince was running away--from Pharsalia this time.
They say in Greece "Lewes, the peasant, won the race from Marathon, but Constantine the prince, won the race from Larissa."
I was all right until I got to Volo when my right leg refused absolutely to do its act and I had to be carried on a donkey. A Greek thought I looked funny sitting groaning on the little donkey; which I did--I looked ridiculous. So he laughed, and Bass and a French journalist batted him over the face and left me clinging to the donkey's neck and howling to them to come back and hold me up. But they preferred to fight, and a policeman came along and arrested the unhappy Greek and beat him over the head, just for luck, and marched him off to jail, just for laughing.
They took me to the hospital ship which was starting, and I came to Athens that way with one hundred and sixteen wounded; the man on my right had his ankles gone and the man on the left had a bullet in his side. They groaned all night and so did I. Then when the sun rose they sang, which was worse. I never saw anything more beautiful than the red-cross nurses, and I guess that is the most beautiful picture I shall ever see--those sweet-faced girls in blue and white bending over the dirty frightened little peasant boys and taking care of their wounds. I made love to all of them and asked three to marry me. I was in bed for two days after I got to Athens but had a fine time, as all the officers from the San Francisco, from the admiral down, came to see me, and the minister, consul and the rest did all that could have been done. I am now all right and was bicycling in the dear old Cascine this morning. On the whole it was a most successful trip. Sylvester Scovel and Phillips of The World arrived just as it was all over, and so Bass and I are about the only two Americans who were in it.
The train from Brindisi stopped at Rome on the way back and I went to see the Pages. They took me out and showed me Rome by moonlight in one hour. It was like a cinematograph. They are here now and coming to dinner tonight. Last night the consul had all our friends to dinner to welcome me back, and maybe I was not glad. I had been living on cheese and brown bread and cold lamb for two weeks, with no tobacco, and sleeping five hours a night on floors and sofas. Sometimes the officers and men fought for food, and we never got anything warm to eat except occasionally tinned things which we cooked in my kit. It was the most satisfactory trip all round I ever had. I have been twenty years trying to be in a battle and it will be twenty years more before I will want to be in another.
On the eighteenth I start for London, stopping one day in Paris to see the Clarks and Eustises. It is going to be bigger than the Coronation for crowds, and Mother need not worry, I shall keep out of it. The Minister to Russia sent me word that the Czar's prime minister has given him my article and that the Czar said thank him very much. So that is all right. Also Hay is to present me to the Prince at the levee on the 31st of May, and I shall send him a copy, too. I am looking forward to London with such joy. Tell Mother to send me the Bookbuyer with her article in it. I have only read the reviews of it, and they are so enthusiastic that I must have the whole thing quick. It was such a fine thing to do about Poe, and to give those other two fetishes the coup de grace. It reads splendidly and I want it all. What did Dad think of the Inauguration article? I send you all my dearest love and will have lots to tell you when I get back this time.
God bless you all.
Richard left Florence the latter part of May, and went to London where he had made arrangements to report the Queen's Jubilee. He began his round of gayeties by being presented at Court. The Miss Groves and Miss Wather to whom he refers in the following letter were the clerks at Cox's hotel.
LONDON, June 2nd, 1897.
I was a beautiful sight at the Levee. I wore a velvet suit made especially for me but no dearer for that and steel buttons and a beautiful steel sword and a court hat with silver on the side and silk stockings that I wore at Moscow and pumps with great buckles. I was too magnificent for words and so you would have said. I waited a long time in a long hall crowded with generals and sea captains and highlanders and volunteers and cavalry men and judges and finally was admitted past a rope and then past another rope and then rushed along into the throne room where I saw beefeaters and life guardsmen and chamberlains with white wands and I gave one my card and he read out "R. H. D. of the United States by the American Ambassador" and then I bowed to the Prince and Duke of York, Connaught and Edinburgh and to the American Ambassador and then Henry White and Spencer Eddy, the two Secretaries and the naval attache all shook hands with me and I went around in a hansom in the bright sunshine in hopes of finding some one who would know me. But no one did so I went to Cox's Hotel and showed myself to Miss Groves and Miss Wather. I went on the Terrace yesterday with the Leiters and at O'Connor's invitation brought them to tea. Labouchere was there and Dillon just out of jail and it was most interesting. I am very, very busy doing nothing and having a fine time--
LONDON, June 21, 1897.
Words cannot tell at least not unless I am well paid for it what London is like to-day. In the first place it is so jammed that no one can move and it is hung with decorations so that no one can see. Royal carriages get stuck just as do the humble drayman or Pickford's Van and royalties are lodging in cheap hotels with nothing but a couple of Grenadier's in sentry boxes to show they are any better blooded than the rest of the lodgers. I also added to the confusion by giving a lunch to the Ambassador and Miss Hay in return for the presentation. Lady Henry and Mrs. Asquith sat on either side of him and Mrs. Clark had Asquith and Lord Basil Blackwood to talk to-- There was also Anthony Hope, the beautiful Julia Neilson and her husband Fred Terry and Lady Edward Cecil and Lord Lester-- It went off fine and the Savoy people sent in an American Eagle of ice, decorated with American flags and dripping icy tears from its beak. It cost me five shillings a head and looked as though it cost that in pounds-- To night I dine with the Goulds and then go to a musical where Melba sings, Padewreski plays and then walk the streets if I can until daybreak as I think of making the night before the procession the greater part of the story. I send you a plan showing my seat which cost me twenty-five dollars, the advertised price being $125. but there has been a terrible slump in seats. Love to dear Dad and Nora.
89 Jermyn Street,
June 25th, 1897.
The Jubilee turned out to be the easiest spectacle to get at and to get away from that I ever witnessed. Experience in choosing a place and police regulations made it so simple that we went straight to our seats and got away again without as much trouble as it would have taken to have gone to a matinee. The stage management of the thing almost impressed me more than anything else. For grandeur and show it about equalled the procession of the Czar and in many ways it was more interesting because it was concerned with our own people and with our own part of the world. Next to the Queen, Lord Roberts got all of the applause. He rode a little white pony that had been with him in six campaigns and had carried him on his march to Candahar. It had all the campaign medals presented to it by the War Department and wore them in a line on its forehead, and walked just as though he knew what a great occasion it was. After Roberts came in popularity a Col. Maurice Clifford with the Rhodesian Horse in sombrero's and cartridge belts and khaki suits. He had lost his arm and was easily recognized. Wilfred Laurier the French Premier of Canada and the Lord Mayor were the other favourites. The scene in front of St. Paul's was absolutely magnificent with the sooty pillars behind the groups of diplomats, bishops and choir boys in white, University men in pink silk gowns, and soldiers, beef eaters, gentlemen at arms and the two Archbishops. The best moment was when the collected troops; negroes, Chinamen, East Indians, West Indians, African troopers, Canadian Mounted Police, Australians, Borneo police and English Grenadiers all sang the doxology together in the beautiful sunshine and under the shadow of that great facade of black and white marble. Also when the Archbishop of Canterbury without any warning suddenly after kissing the Queen's hand threw up his arm and cried out so that you could have heard him a hundred yards off "Three Cheers for Her Majesty" and the diplomats, and foreign rajahs and bishops and Salvation Army captains waved their hats and mortar boards and the soldiers ran their bearskins and helmets on their bayonets and spun them around in the air. The weather was absolutely perfect and there were no accidents. Last night the carriages were allowed to parade the streets and for hours the route was blocked with omnibuses hired by private parties, coster carts, private carriages, court carriages and the hansoms. The procession formed by these was two hours in going one mile. They passed my windows in Jermyn Street for three hours and a party of us sat inside and guyed the life out of them until one in the morning. We got very clever at it finally and very impudent and as the people were only two yards from us my windows being on a level with the tops of the buses and as we had a flaring illumination that lit up the street completely we had lots of fun with them especially with the busses, as we pretended to believe that the advertisements referred to the people on the top, and we would ask anxiously which lady was "Lottie Collins" and which gentleman had been brought up on " Mellin's Food"-- We had even more fun with the swells coming home from the Gala night at the opera and hemmed in between costers and Pickford's vans loaded down with women and children.
They called on us for speeches and matches and segars and we kept the procession supplied with food and drink. Nobody got mad and they answered back but we were prepared with numerous repartees and they were apparently so surprised by finding a party of ladies and gentlemen engaged in chaffing court officials that they would forget to reply until they had moved on. One bus driver said "Oh, you can larff, cause your at 'ome. We are 'unting for Jensen on a North Pole Expedition. We won't be home for three years yet--" Charley seems very happy and he got a most hearty welcome. I shall follow him over. I do not think I shall go when he does as that would mean seeing people and getting settled and I must get the Greek war done by the 12th of July and the Jubilee by the 15th of August. I know you will not mind, but I have been terribly interrupted by the Jubilee and by so many visitors. They are running in all the time, so I shall try to get the Greek war article done before I sail and also have a little peaceful view of London. I have seen nothing of it really yet. It has been like living in a circus, and moving about on an election night. I am well as can be except for occasional twinges of sciatica but I have not had to go to bed with it and some times it disappears for a week. A little less rain and more sun will stop it. I hope you do not mind my not returning but we will all be together for many months this Fall and I really feel that I have not had a quiet moment here for pleasure and work. It has been such a rush. I do wish to see dear Dad. I am so very sorry about his being ill, and I hope he is having lots of fishing. Love to all at Marion--and God bless you.
July 13, 1897.
Today Barrie gave a copyright performance of "The Little Minister" which Maude Adams is to play in the States. It was advertised by a single bill in front of the Haymarket Theater and the price of admission was five guineas. We took in fifteen guineas, the audience being Charley Frohman, Lady Craig and a man. Cyril Maude played the hero and Brandon Thomas and Barrie the two low comedy parts--two Scotchmen of Thrums. I started to play one of them, but as I insisted on making it an aged negro with songs, Barrie and Frohman got discouraged and let me play the villain, Lord Rintoul, in which character I was great. Maude played his part in five different ways and dialects so as to see which he liked best, he said. It was a bit confusing. Then one of the actors went up in the gallery and pretended to be a journalist critic who had sneaked in, and he abused the play and the actors with the exception of the man who played Whamond (himself) whom he said he thought showed great promise. Maude pretended not to know who he was and it fooled everybody. Mrs. Barrie played the gipsy and danced most of the time, which she said was her conception of the part as it was in the book. Her husband explained that this was a play, not a book, but she did not care and danced on and off. She played my daughter, and I had a great scene in which I cursed her, which got rounds of applause. Lady Lewis's daughters in beautiful Paquin dresses played Scotch lassies, and giggled in all the sad parts, and one actress who had made a great success as one of the "Two Vagabonds" made everybody weep by really trying to act. At one time there were five men on the stage all talking Scotch dialect and imitating Irving at the same time. It was a truly remarkable performance. Ethel Barrymore goes back on Saturday with Drew to play a French maid in "A Marriage of Convenience." She is announced to be engaged to Hope, I see by the papers. They are not engaged, of course, but the papers love to make matches. Look for me as sailing either on the 31st on the St. Louis or a week later. With lots and lots of love.
In the late summer Richard returned to Marion and from there went to New York. However, at this time, the lure of England was very strong with my brother, and early December found him back in London.
LONDON, December 29th, 1897.
I had a most exciting Christmas, most of which I spent in Whitechapel in the London Hospital. I lunched with the Spenders and then went down with them carrying large packages for distribution to the sick. I expected to be terribly bored, but thought I would feel so virtuous that I would the better enjoy my dinner which I had promised to take with the McCarthys-- On the contrary, I had the most amusing time and much more fun than I had later. The patients seemed only to be playing sick, and some of them were very humorous and others very pathetic and I played tin soldiers with some, and distributed rich gifts, other people had paid for, with a lavish hand. I also sat on a little girl's cot and played dolls for an hour. She had something wrong with her spine and I wept most of the time, chiefly because she smiled all the time. She went asleep holding on to my middle finger like the baby in "The Luck of Roaring Camp." There were eighty babies in red flannel nightgowns buttoned up the back who had pillow fights in honor of the day and took turns in playing on a barrel organ, those that were strong and tall enough. In the next ward another baby in white was dying-- Its mother was a coster girl, seventeen years old, with a big hat and plumes like those the flower girls wear at Piccadilly Circus. The baby was yellow like old ivory and its teeth and gums were blue and it died while we were watching it. The mother girl was drinking tea and crying into it out of red swollen eyes, and twenty feet off one of the red nightgowned kids was playing "Louisiana Lou" on the barrel organ. The nurse put the baby's arms under the sheets and then pulled one up over its face and took the teacup away from the mother who didn't see what had happened and I came away while three young nurses were comforting the girl. Most of the nurses were very beautiful, and I neglected my duties as Santa Claus to talk to them. They would stop talking to get down on their knees and dust up the floor, which was most embarrassing, you couldn't very well ask to be let to help. There was one coster who had his broken leg in a cage which moved with the leg no matter how much he tossed. He was like the man "who sat in jail without his boots, admiring how the world was made," he spent all his waking hours in wrapt admiration of the cage-- He said to me "I've been here a fortnight now, come Monday, and I can't break my leg no how. Yer can't do it, that's all-- Yer can twist, and kick, and toss, and it don't do no good. Yer jest can't do it-- Now you take notice." Then he would kick violently and the cage would run around on trolleys and keep the broken limb straight. "See!" he would exclaim, "Wot did I tell you-- Its no use of trying, yer just can't do it. 'ere I've been ten days a trying and it can't be done."
We had a very fine Christmas dinner just Ethel, the McCarthy's and I. Fanny, tell Charles, brought in the plum pudding with a sprig of holly in it and blazing, and after dinner I read them the Jackall-- About eleven I started to take Ethel to Miss Terry's, who lives miles beyond Kensington. There was a light fog. I said that all sorts of things ought to happen in a fog but that no one ever did have adventures nowadays. At that we rode straight into a bank of fog that makes those on the fishing banks look like Spring sunshine. You could not see the houses, nor the street, nor the horse, not even his tail. All you could see were gas jets, but not the iron that supported them. The cabman discovered the fact that he was lost and turned around in circles and the horse slipped on the asphalt which was thick with frost, and then we backed into lamp-posts and curbs until Ethel got so scared she bit her under lip until it bled. You could not tell whether you were going into a house or over a precipice or into a sea. The horse finally backed up a flight of steps, and rubbed the cabby against a front door, and jabbed the wheels into an area railing and fell down. That, I thought, was our cue to get out, so we slipped into a well of yellow mist and felt around for each 'other until a square block of light suddenly opened in mid air and four terrified women appeared in the doorway of the house through which the cabman was endeavoring to butt himself. They begged us to come in, and we did-- Being Christmas and because the McCarthy's always call me "King" I had put on all my decorations and the tin star and I also wore my beautiful fur coat, to which I have treated myself, and a grand good thing it is, too-- I took this off because the room was very hot, forgetting about the decorations and remarked in the same time to Ethel that it would be folly to try and get to Barkston Gardens, and that we must go back to the "Duchess's" for the night. At this Ethel answered calmly "yes, Duke," and I became conscious of the fact that the eyes of the four women were riveted on my fur coat and decorations. At the word "Duke" delivered by a very pretty girl in an evening frock and with nothing on her hair the four women disappeared and brought back the children, the servants, and the men, who were so overcome with awe and excitement and Christmas cheer that they all but got down on their knees in a circle. So, we fled out into the night followed by minute directions as to where "Your Grace" and "Your Ladyship" should turn. For years, no doubt, on a Christmas Day the story will be told in that house, wherever it may be in the millions of other houses of London, how a beautiful Countess and a wicked Duke were pitched into their front door out of a hansom cab, and after having partaken of their Christmas supper, disappeared again into a sea of fog. The only direction Ethel and I could remember was that we were to go to the right when we came to a Church, so when by feeling our way by the walls we finally reached a church we continued going on around it until we had encircled it five times or it had encircled us, we were not sure which. After the fifth lap we gave up and sat down on the steps. Ethel had on low slippers and was shivering and coughing but intensely amused and only scared for fear she would lose her voice for the first night of "Peter"-- We could hear voices sometimes, like people talking in a dream, and sometimes the sound of dance music, and a man's voice calling "Perlice" in a discouraged way as if he didn't much care whether the police came or not, but regularly like a fog siren-- I don't know how long we sat there or how long we might have sat there had not a man with a bicycle lamp loomed up out of the mist and rescued us. He had his mother with him and she said with great pride that her boy could find his way anywhere. So, we clung to her boy and followed. A cabman passed leading his horse with one of his lamps in his other hand and I turned for an instant to speak to him and Ethel and her friends disappeared exactly as though the earth had opened. So, I yelled after them, and Ethel said "Here, I am," at my elbow. It was like the chesire cat that kept appearing and disappearing until he made Alice dizzy. We finally found a link-boy and he finally found the McCarthy's house, and I left them giving Ethel quinine and whiskey. They wanted me to stay, but I could not face dressing, in the morning. So I felt my way home and only got lost twice. The Arch on Constitution Hill gave me much trouble. I thought it was the Marble Arch, and hence-- In Jermyn Street I saw two lamps burning dimly and a voice said, hearing my footsteps "where am I? I don't know where I am no more than nothing--" I told him he was in Jermyn Street with his horse's head about twenty feet from St. James-- There was a long dramatic silence and then the voice said-- "Well, I be blowed I thought I was in Pimlico!!!"
This has been such a long letter that I shall have to skip any more. I have NO sciatica chiefly because of the fur coat, I think, and I got two Christmas presents, one from Margaret Fraser and one from the Duchess of Sutherland-- Boxing Day I took Margaret to the matinee of the Pantomine and it lasted five hours, until six twenty, then I dressed and dined with the Hay's and went with them to the Barnum circus which began at eight and lasted until twelve. It was a busy day.
Lots of love.
LONDON, March 20, 1898.
The Nellie Farren benefit was the finest thing I have seen this year past. It was more remarkable than the Coronation, or the Jubilee. It began at twelve o'clock on Thursday, but at ten o'clock Wednesday night, the crowd began to gather around Drury Lane, and spent the night on the sidewalk playing cards and reading and sleeping. Ten hours later they were admitted, or a few of them were, as many as the galleries would hold. Arthur Collins, the manager of the Drury Lane and the man who organized the benefit, could not get a stall for his mother the day before the benefit. They were then not to be had, the last having sold for twelve guineas. I got TWO the morning of the benefit for three pounds each, and now people believe that I did get into the Coronation! The people who had stalls got there at ten o'clock, and the streets were blocked for "blocks" up to Covent Garden with hansoms and royal carriages and holders of tickets at fifty dollars apiece. It lasted six hours and brought in thirty thousand dollars. Kate Vaughan came back and danced after an absence from the stage of twelve years. Irving recited The Dream of Eugene Aram, Terry played Ophelia, Chevalier sang Mrs. Hawkins, Dan Leno gave Hamlet, Marie Tempest sang The Jewel of Asia and Hayden Coffin sang Tommy Atkins, the audience of three thousand people joining in the chorus, and for an encore singing "Oh, Nellie, Nellie Farren, may your love be ever faithful, may your pals be ever true, so God bless you Nellie Farren, here's the best of luck to you." In Trial by Jury, Gilbert played an associate judge; the barristers were all playwrights, the jury the principal comedians, the chorus girls were real chorus girls from the Gaiety mixed in with leading ladies like Miss Jeffries and Miss Hanbury, who could not keep in step. But the best part of it was the pantomime. Ellaline came up a trap with a diamond dress and her hair down her back and electric lights all over her, and said, "I am the Fairy Queen," and waved her wand, at which the "First Boy" in the pantomime said, "Go long, now, do, we know your tricks, you're Ellaline Terriss"; and the clown said, "You're wrong, she's not, she's Mrs. Seymour Hicks." Then Letty Lind came on as Columbine in black tulle, and Arthur Roberts as the policeman, and Eddy Payne as the clown and Storey as Pantaloon.
The rest of it brought on everybody. Sam Sothern played a "swell" and stole a fish. Louis Freear, a housemaid, and all the leading men appeared as policemen. No one had more than a line to speak which just gave the audience time to recognize him or her. The composers and orchestra leaders came on as a German band, each playing an instrument, and they got half through the Washington Post before the policemen beat them off. Then Marie Lloyd and all the Music Hall stars appeared as street girls and danced to the music of a hand-organ. Hayden Coffin, Plunkett Greene and Ben Davies sang as street musicians and the clown beat them with stuffed bricks. After that there was a revue of all the burlesques and comic operas, then the curtain was raised from the middle of the stage, and Nellie Farren was discovered seated at a table on a high stage with all the "legitimates" in frock-coats and walking dresses rising on benches around her.
The set was a beautiful wood scene well lighted. Wyndham stood on one side of her, and he said the yell that went up when the curtain rose was worse than the rebel yell he had heard in battles. In front of her, below the stage, were all the people who had taken part in the revue, forming a most interesting picture. There was no one in the group who had not been known for a year by posters or photographs: Letty Lind as the Geisha, Arthur Roberts as Dandy Dan. The French Girl and all the officers from The Geisha, the ballet girls from the pantomime, the bareback-riders from The Circus Girl; the Empire costumes and the monks from La Poupee, and all the Chinese and Japanese costumes from The Geisha. Everybody on the stage cried and all the old rounders in the boxes cried.
It was really a wonderfully dramatic spectacle to see the clown and officers and Geisha girls weeping down their grease paint. Nellie Farren's great song was one about a street Arab with the words: "Let me hold your, nag, sir, carry your little bag, sir, anything you please to give--thank'ee, sir!" She used to close her hand, then open it and look at the palm, then touch her cap with a very wonderful smile, and laugh when she said, "Thank'ee, sir!" This song was reproduced for weeks before the benefit, and played all over London, and when the curtain rose on her, the orchestra struck into it and the people shouted as though it was the national anthem. Wyndham made a very good address and so did Terry, then Wyndham said he would try to get her to speak. She has lost the use of her hands and legs and can only walk with crutches, so he put his arm around her and her son lifted her from the other side and then brought her to her feet, both crying like children. You could hear the people sobbing, it was so still. She said, "Ladies and Gentleman," looking at the stalls and boxes, then she turned her head to the people on the stage below her and said, "Brothers and Sisters," then she stood looking for a long time at the gallery gods who had been waiting there twenty hours. You could hear a long "Ah" from the gallery when she looked up there, and then a "hush" from all over it and there was absolute silence. Then she smiled and raised her finger to her bonnet and said, "Thank'ee, sir," and sank back in her chair. It was the most dramatic thing I ever saw on a stage. The orchestra struck up "Auld Lang Syne" and they gave three cheers on the stage and in the house. The papers got out special editions, and said it was the greatest theatrical event there had ever been in London.
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