Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Ch. 8 - Ideal Interviews

I. WITH A EUROPEAN PRINCE

With any European Prince, travelling in America

On receiving our card the Prince, to our great surprise
and pleasure, sent down a most cordial message that he
would be delighted to see us at once. This thrilled us.

"Take us," we said to the elevator boy, "to the apartments
of the Prince." We were pleased to see him stagger and
lean against his wheel to get his breath back.

In a few moments we found ourselves crossing the threshold
of the Prince's apartments. The Prince, who is a charming
young man of from twenty-six to twenty-seven, came across
the floor to meet us with an extended hand and a simple
gesture of welcome. We have seldom seen anyone come across
the floor more simply.

The Prince, who is travelling incognito as the Count of
Flim Flam, was wearing, when we saw him, the plain morning
dress of a gentleman of leisure. We learned that a little
earlier he had appeared at breakfast in the costume of
a Unitarian clergyman, under the incognito of the Bishop
of Bongee; while later on he appeared at lunch, as a
delicate compliment to our city, in the costume of a
Columbia professor of Yiddish.

The Prince greeted us with the greatest cordiality, seated
himself, without the slightest affectation, and motioned
to us, with indescribable bonhomie, his permission to
remain standing.

"Well," said the Prince, "what is it?"

We need hardly say that the Prince, who is a consummate
master of ten languages, speaks English quite as fluently
as he does Chinese. Indeed, for a moment, we could scarcely
tell which he was talking.

"What are your impressions of the United States?" we
asked as we took out our notebook.

"I am afraid," answered the Prince, with the delightful
smile which is characteristic of him, and which we noticed
again and again during the interview, "that I must scarcely
tell you that."

We realized immediately that we were in the presence not
only of a soldier but of one of the most consummate
diplomats of the present day.

"May we ask then," we resumed, correcting our obvious
blunder, "what are your impressions, Prince, of the
Atlantic Ocean?"

"Ah," said the Prince, with that peculiar thoughtfulness
which is so noticeable in him and which we observed not
once but several times, "the Atlantic!"

Volumes could not have expressed his thought better.

"Did you," we asked, "see any ice during your passage
across?"

"Ah," said the Prince, "ice! Let me think."

We did so.

"Ice," repeated the Prince thoughtfully.

We realized that we were in the presence not only of a
soldier, a linguist and a diplomat, but of a trained
scientist accustomed to exact research.

"Ice!" repeated the Prince. "Did I see any ice? No."

Nothing could have been more decisive, more final than
the clear, simple brevity of the Prince's "No." He had
seen no ice. He knew he had seen no ice. He said he had
seen no ice. Nothing could have been more straightforward,
more direct. We felt assured from that moment that the
Prince had not seen any ice.

The exquisite good taste with which the Prince had answered
our question served to put us entirely at our ease, and
we presently found ourselves chatting with His Highness
with the greatest freedom and without the slightest _gene_
or _mauvaise honte_, or, in fact, _malvoisie_ of any kind.

We realized, indeed, that we were in the presence not
only of a trained soldier, a linguist and a diplomat,
but also of a conversationalist of the highest order.

His Highness, who has an exquisite sense of humour--indeed,
it broke out again and again during our talk with him
--expressed himself as both amused and perplexed over
our American money.

"It is very difficult," he said, "with us it is so simple;
six and a half groner are equal to one and a third
gross-groner or the quarter part of our Rigsdaler. Here
it is so complicated."

We ventured to show the Prince a fifty-cent piece and to
explain its value by putting two quarters beside it.

"I see," said the Prince, whose mathematical ability is
quite exceptional, "two twenty-five-cent pieces are equal
to one fifty-cent piece. I must try to remember that.
Meantime," he added, with a gesture of royal condescension,
putting the money in his pocket, "I will keep your coins
as instructors"--we murmured our thanks--"and now explain
to me, please, your five-dollar gold piece and your
ten-dollar eagle."

We felt it proper, however, to shift the subject, and
asked the Prince a few questions in regard to his views
on American politics. We soon found that His Highness,
although this is his first visit to this continent, is
a keen student of our institutions and our political
life. Indeed, His Altitude showed by his answers to our
questions that he is as well informed about our politics
as we are ourselves. On being asked what he viewed as
the uppermost tendency in our political life of to-day,
the Prince replied thoughtfully that he didn't know. To
our inquiry as to whether in his opinion democracy was
moving forward or backward, the Prince, after a moment
of reflection, answered that he had no idea. On our asking
which of the generals of our Civil War was regarded in
Europe as the greatest strategist, His Highness answered
without hesitation, "George Washington."

Before closing our interview the Prince, who, like his
illustrious father, is an enthusiastic sportsman, completely
turned the tables on us by inquiring eagerly about the
prospects for large game in America.

We told him something--as much as we could recollect--of
woodchuck hunting in our own section of the country. The
Prince was interested at once. His eye lighted up, and
the peculiar air of fatigue, or languor, which we had
thought to remark on his face during our interview, passed
entirely off his features. He asked us a number of
questions, quickly and without pausing, with the air, in
fact, of a man accustomed to command and not to listen.
How was the woodchuck hunted? From horseback or from an
elephant? Or from an armoured car, or turret? How many
beaters did one use to beat up the woodchuck? What bearers
was it necessary to carry with one? How great a danger
must one face of having one's beaters killed? What
percentage of risk must one be prepared to incur of
accidentally shooting one's own beaters? What did a bearer
cost? and so on.

All these questions we answered as best we could, the
Prince apparently seizing the gist, or essential part of
our answer, before we had said it.

In concluding the discussion we ventured to ask His
Highness for his autograph. The Prince, who has perhaps
a more exquisite sense of humour than any other sovereign
of Europe, declared with a laugh that he had no pen.
Still roaring over this inimitable drollery, we begged
the Prince to honour us by using our own fountain-pen.

"Is there any ink in it?" asked the Prince--which threw
us into a renewed paroxysm of laughter.

The Prince took the pen and very kindly autographed for
us seven photographs of himself. He offered us more, but
we felt that seven was about all we could use. We were
still suffocated with laughter over the Prince's wit;
His Highness was still signing photographs when an equerry
appeared and whispered in the Prince's ear. His Highness,
with the consummate tact to be learned only at a court,
turned quietly without a word and left the room.

We never, in all our experience, remember seeing a
prince--or a mere man for the matter of that--leave a
room with greater suavity, discretion, or aplomb. It was
a revelation of breeding, of race, of long slavery to
caste. And yet, with it all, it seemed to have a touch
of finality about it--a hint that the entire proceeding
was deliberate, planned, not to be altered by circumstance.
He did not come back.

We understand that he appeared later in the morning at
a civic reception in the costume of an Alpine Jaeger,
and attended the matinee in the dress of a lieutenant of
police.

Meantime he has our pen. If he turns up in any costume
that we can spot at sight, we shall ask him for it.


II. WITH OUR GREATEST ACTOR

That is to say, with Any One of
our Sixteen Greatest Actors

It was within the privacy of his own library that we
obtained--need we say with infinite difficulty--our
interview with the Great Actor. He was sitting in a deep
arm-chair, so buried in his own thoughts that he was
oblivious of our approach. On his knee before him lay a
cabinet photograph of himself. His eyes seemed to be
peering into it, as if seeking to fathom its unfathomable
mystery. We had time to note that a beautiful carbon
photogravure of himself stood on a table at his elbow,
while a magnificent half-tone pastel of himself was
suspended on a string from the ceiling. It was only when
we had seated ourself in a chair and taken out our notebook
that the Great Actor looked up.

"An interview?" he said, and we noted with pain the
weariness in his tone. "Another interview!"

We bowed.

"Publicity!" he murmured rather to himself than to us.
"Publicity! Why must one always be forced into publicity?"

It was not our intention, we explained apologetically,
to publish or to print a single word--

"Eh, what?" exclaimed the Great Actor. "Not print it?
Not publish it? Then what in--"

Not, we explained, without his consent.

"Ah," he murmured wearily, "my consent. Yes, yes, I must
give it. The world demands it. Print, publish anything
you like. I am indifferent to praise, careless of fame.
Posterity will judge me. But," he added more briskly,
"let me see a proof of it in time to make any changes I
might care to."

We bowed our assent.

"And now," we began, "may we be permitted to ask a few
questions about your art? And first, in which branch of
the drama do you consider that your genius chiefly lies,
in tragedy or in comedy?"

"In both," said the Great Actor.

"You excel then," we continued, "in neither the one nor
the other?"

"Not at all," he answered, "I excel in each of them."

"Excuse us," we said, "we haven't made our meaning quite
clear. What we meant to say is, stated very simply, that
you do not consider yourself better in either of them
than in the other?"

"Not at all," said the Actor, as he put out his arm with
that splendid gesture that we have known and admired for
years, at the same time throwing back his leonine head
so that his leonine hair fell back from his leonine
forehead. "Not at all. I do better in both of them. My
genius demands both tragedy and comedy at the same time."

"Ah," we said, as a light broke in upon us, "then that,
we presume, is the reason why you are about to appear in
Shakespeare?"

The Great Actor frowned.

"I would rather put it," he said, "that Shakespeare is
about to appear in me."

"Of course, of course," we murmured, ashamed of our own
stupidity.

"I appear," went on the Great Actor, "in _Hamlet_. I
expect to present, I may say, an entirely new Hamlet."

"A new Hamlet!" we exclaimed, fascinated. "A new Hamlet!
Is such a thing possible?"

"Entirely," said the Great Actor, throwing his leonine
head forward again. "I have devoted years of study to
the part. The whole conception of the part of Hamlet has
been wrong."

We sat stunned.

"All actors hitherto," continued the Great Actor, "or
rather, I should say, all so-called actors--I mean all
those who tried to act before me--have been entirely
mistaken in their presentation. They have presented Hamlet
as dressed in black velvet."

"Yes, yes," we interjected, "in black velvet, yes!"

"Very good. The thing is absurd," continued the Great Actor,
as he reached down two or three heavy volumes from the
shelf beside him. "Have you ever studied the Elizabethan era?"

"The which?" we asked modestly.

"The Elizabethan era?"

We were silent.

"Or the pre-Shakespearean tragedy?"

We hung our head.

"If you had, you would know that a Hamlet in black velvet
is perfectly ridiculous. In Shakespeare's day--as I could
prove in a moment if you had the intelligence to understand
it--there was no such thing as black velvet. It didn't
exist."

"And how then," we asked, intrigued, puzzled and yet
delighted, "do _you_ present Hamlet?"

"In _brown_ velvet," said the Great Actor.

"Great Heavens," we exclaimed, "this is a revolution."

"It is. But that is only one part of my conception. The
main thing will be my presentation of what I may call
the psychology of Hamlet."

"The psychology!" we said.

"Yes," resumed the Great Actor, "the psychology. To make
Hamlet understood, I want to show him as a man bowed down
by a great burden. He is overwhelmed with Weltschmerz.
He carries in him the whole weight of the Zeitgeist; in
fact, everlasting negation lies on him--"

"You mean," we said, trying to speak as cheerfully as we
could, "that things are a little bit too much for him."

"His will," went on the Great Actor, disregarding our
interruption, "is paralysed. He seeks to move in one
direction and is hurled in another. One moment he sinks
into the abyss. The next, he rises above the clouds. His
feet seek the ground, but find only the air--"

"Wonderful," we said, "but will you not need a good deal
of machinery?"

"Machinery!" exclaimed the Great Actor, with a leonine
laugh. "The machinery of _thought_, the mechanism of
power, of magnetism--"

"Ah," we said, "electricity."

"Not at all," said the Great Actor. "You fail to understand.
It is all done by my rendering. Take, for example, the
famous soliloquy on death. You know it?"

"'To be or not to be,'" we began.

"Stop," said the Great Actor. "Now observe. It is a
soliloquy. Precisely. That is the key to it. It is
something that Hamlet _says to himself_. Not a _word of
it_, in my interpretation, is actually spoken. All is
done in absolute, unbroken silence."

"How on earth," we began, "can you do that?"

"Entirely and solely _with my face_."

Good heavens! Was it possible? We looked again, this time
very closely, at the Great Actor's face. We realized with
a thrill that it might be done.

"I come before the audience _so_," he went on, "and
soliloquize--thus--follow my face, please--"

As the Great Actor spoke, he threw himself into a
characteristic pose with folded arms, while gust after
gust of emotion, of expression, of alternate hope, doubt
and despair, swept--we might say chased themselves across
his features.

"Wonderful!" we gasped.

"Shakespeare's lines," said the Great Actor, as his face
subsided to its habitual calm, "are not necessary; not,
at least, with my acting. The lines, indeed, are mere
stage directions, nothing more. I leave them out. This
happens again and again in the play. Take, for instance,
the familiar scene where Hamlet holds the skull in his
hand: Shakespeare here suggests the words 'Alas, poor
Yorick! I knew him well--'"

"Yes, yes!" we interrupted, in spite of ourself, "'a
fellow of infinite jest--'"

"Your intonation is awful," said the Actor. "But listen.
In my interpretation I use no words at all. I merely
carry the skull quietly in my hand, very slowly, across
the stage. There I lean against a pillar at the side,
with the skull in the palm of my hand, and look at it in
silence."

"Wonderful!" we said.

"I then cross over to the right of the stage, very
impressively, and seat myself on a plain wooden bench,
and remain for some time, looking at the skull."

"Marvellous!"

"I then pass to the back of the stage and lie down on my
stomach, still holding the skull before my eyes. After
holding this posture for some time, I crawl slowly forward,
portraying by the movement of my legs and stomach the
whole sad history of Yorick. Finally I turn my back on
the audience, still holding the skull, and convey through
the spasmodic movements of my back Hamlet's passionate
grief at the loss of his friend."

"Why!" we exclaimed, beside ourself with excitement,
"this is not merely a revolution, it is a revelation."

"Call it both," said the Great Actor.

"The meaning of it is," we went on, "that you practically
don't need Shakespeare at all."

"Exactly, I do not. I could do better without him.
Shakespeare cramps me. What I really mean to convey is
not Shakespeare, but something greater, larger--how shall
I express it--bigger." The Great Actor paused and we
waited, our pencil poised in the air. Then he murmured,
as his eyes lifted in an expression of something like
rapture. "In fact--ME."

He remained thus, motionless, without moving. We slipped
gently to our hands and knees and crawled quietly to the
door, and so down the stairs, our notebook in our teeth.


III WITH OUR GREATEST SCIENTIST

As seen in any of our College Laboratories

It was among the retorts and test-tubes of his physical
laboratory that we were privileged to interview the Great
Scientist. His back was towards us when we entered. With
characteristic modesty he kept it so for some time after
our entry. Even when he turned round and saw us his face
did not react off us as we should have expected.

He seemed to look at us, if such a thing were possible,
without seeing us, or, at least, without wishing to see us.

We handed him our card.

He took it, read it, dropped it in a bowlful of sulphuric
acid and then, with a quiet gesture of satisfaction,
turned again to his work.

We sat for some time behind him. "This, then," we thought
to ourselves (we always think to ourselves when we are
left alone), "is the man, or rather is the back of the
man, who has done more" (here we consulted the notes
given us by our editor), "to revolutionize our conception
of atomic dynamics than the back of any other man."

Presently the Great Scientist turned towards us with a
sigh that seemed to our ears to have a note of weariness
in it. Something, we felt, must be making him tired.

"What can I do for you?" he said.

"Professor," we answered, "we have called upon you in
response to an overwhelming demand on the part of the
public--"

The Great Scientist nodded.

"To learn something of your new researches and discoveries
in" (here we consulted a minute card which we carried in
our pocket) "in radio-active-emanations which are already
becoming" (we consulted our card again) "a household
word--"

The Professor raised his hand as if to check us.

"I would rather say," he murmured, "helio-radio-active--"

"So would we," we admitted, "much rather--"

"After all," said the Great Scientist, "helium shares in
the most intimate degree the properties of radium. So,
too, for the matter of that," he added in afterthought,
"do thorium, and borium!"

"Even borium!" we exclaimed, delighted, and writing
rapidly in our notebook. Already we saw ourselves writing
up as our headline _Borium Shares Properties of Thorium_.

"Just what is it," said the Great Scientist, "that you
want to know?"

"Professor," we answered, "what our journal wants is a
plain and simple explanation, so clear that even our
readers can understand it, of the new scientific discoveries
in radium. We understand that you possess, more than any
other man, the gift of clear and lucid thought--"

The Professor nodded.

"And that you are able to express yourself with greater
simplicity than any two men now lecturing."

The Professor nodded again.

"Now, then," we said, spreading our notes on our knee,
"go at it. Tell us, and, through us, tell a quarter of
a million anxious readers just what all these new
discoveries are about."

"The whole thing," said the Professor, warming up to his
work as he perceived from the motions of our face and
ears our intelligent interest, "is simplicity itself. I
can give it to you in a word--"

"That's it," we said. "Give it to us that way."

"It amounts, if one may boil it down into a phrase--"

"Boil it, boil it," we interrupted.

"Amounts, if one takes the mere gist of it--"

"Take it," we said, "take it."

"Amounts to the resolution of the ultimate atom."

"Ha!" we exclaimed.

"I must ask you first to clear your mind," the Professor
continued, "of all conception of ponderable magnitude."

We nodded. We had already cleared our mind of this.

"In fact," added the Professor, with what we thought a
quiet note of warning in his voice, "I need hardly tell
you that what we are dealing with must be regarded as
altogether ultramicroscopic."

We hastened to assure the Professor that, in accordance
with the high standards of honour represented by our
journal, we should of course regard anything that he
might say as ultramicroscopic and treat it accordingly.

"You say, then," we continued, "that the essence of the
problem is the resolution of the atom. Do you think you
can give us any idea of what the atom is?"

The Professor looked at us searchingly.

We looked back at him, openly and frankly. The moment
was critical for our interview. Could he do it? Were we
the kind of person that he could give it to? Could we
get it if he did?

"I think I can," he said. "Let us begin with the assumption
that the atom is an infinitesimal magnitude. Very good.
Let us grant, then, that though it is imponderable and
indivisible it must have a spacial content? You grant me
this?"

"We do," we said, "we do more than this, we _give_ it
to you."

"Very well. If spacial, it must have dimension: if
dimension--form. Let us assume _ex hypothesi_ the form
to be that of a spheroid and see where it leads us."

The Professor was now intensely interested. He walked to
and fro in his laboratory. His features worked with
excitement. We worked ours, too, as sympathetically as
we could.

"There is no other possible method in inductive science,"
he added, "than to embrace some hypothesis, the most
attractive that one can find, and remain with it--"

We nodded. Even in our own humble life after our day's
work we had found this true.

"Now," said the Professor, planting himself squarely in
front of us, "assuming a spherical form, and a spacial
content, assuming the dynamic forces that are familiar
to us and assuming--the thing is bold, I admit--"

We looked as bold as we could.

"Assuming that the _ions_, or _nuclei_ of the atom--I
know no better word--"

"Neither do we," we said.

"That the nuclei move under the energy of such forces,
what have we got?"

"Ha!" we said.

"What have we got? Why, the simplest matter conceivable.
The forces inside our atom--itself, mind you, the function
of a circle--mark that--"

We did.

"Becomes merely a function of pi!"

The Great Scientist paused with a laugh of triumph.

"A function of pi!" we repeated in delight.

"Precisely. Our conception of ultimate matter is reduced
to that of an oblate spheroid described by the revolution
of an ellipse on its own minor axis!"

"Good heavens!" we said. "Merely that."

"Nothing else. And in that case any further calculation
becomes a mere matter of the extraction of a root."

"How simple," we murmured.

"Is it not," said the Professor. "In fact, I am accustomed,
in talking to my class, to give them a very clear idea,
by simply taking as our root F--F being any finite constant--"

He looked at us sharply. We nodded.

"And raising F to the log of infinity. I find they
apprehend it very readily."

"Do they?" we murmured. Ourselves we felt as if the Log
of Infinity carried us to ground higher than what we
commonly care to tread on.

"Of course," said the Professor, "the Log of Infinity is
an Unknown."

"Of course," we said very gravely. We felt ourselves here
in the presence of something that demanded our reverence.

"But still," continued the Professor almost jauntily, "we
can handle the Unknown just as easily as anything else."

This puzzled us. We kept silent. We thought it wiser to
move on to more general ground. In any case, our notes
were now nearly complete.

"These discoveries, then," we said, "are absolutely
revolutionary."

"They are," said the Professor.

"You have now, as we understand, got the atom--how shall
we put it?--got it where you want it."

"Not exactly," said the Professor with a sad smile.

"What do you mean?" we asked.

"Unfortunately our analysis, perfect though it is, stops
short. We have no synthesis."

The Professor spoke as in deep sorrow.

"No synthesis," we moaned. We felt it was a cruel blow.
But in any case our notes were now elaborate enough. We
felt that our readers could do without a synthesis. We
rose to go.

"Synthetic dynamics," said the Professor, taking us by
the coat, "is only beginning--"

"In that case--" we murmured, disengaging his hand.

"But, wait, wait," he pleaded "wait for another fifty
years--"

"We will," we said very earnestly. "But meantime as our
paper goes to press this afternoon we must go now. In
fifty years we will come back."

"Oh, I see, I see," said the Professor, "you are writing
all this for a newspaper. I see."

"Yes," we said, "we mentioned that at the beginning."

"Ah," said the Professor, "did you? Very possibly. Yes."

"We propose," we said, "to feature the article for next
Saturday."

"Will it be long?" he asked.

"About two columns," we answered.

"And how much," said the Professor in a hesitating way,
"do I have to pay you to put it in?"

"How much which?" we asked.

"How much do I have to pay?"

"Why, Professor--" we began quickly. Then we checked
ourselves. After all was it right to undeceive him, this
quiet, absorbed man of science with his ideals, his atoms
and his emanations. No, a hundred times no. Let him pay
a hundred times.

"It will cost you," we said very firmly, "ten dollars."

The Professor began groping among his apparatus. We knew
that he was looking for his purse.

"We should like also very much," we said, "to insert your
picture along with the article--"

"Would that cost much?" he asked.

"No, that is only five dollars."

The Professor had meantime found his purse.

"Would it be all right," he began, "that is, would you
mind if I pay you the money now? I am apt to forget."

"Quite all right," we answered. We said good-bye very
gently and passed out. We felt somehow as if we had
touched a higher life. "Such," we murmured, as we looked
about the ancient campus, "are the men of science: are
there, perhaps, any others of them round this morning
that we might interview?"


IV. WITH OUR TYPICAL NOVELISTS

Edwin and Ethelinda Afterthought--Husband and Wife--In
their Delightful Home Life.

It was at their beautiful country place on the Woonagansett
that we had the pleasure of interviewing the Afterthoughts.
At their own cordial invitation, we had walked over from
the nearest railway station, a distance of some fourteen
miles. Indeed, as soon as they heard of our intention
they invited us to walk. "We are so sorry not to bring
you in the motor," they wrote, "but the roads are so
frightfully dusty that we might get dust on our chauffeur."
This little touch of thoughtfulness is the keynote of
their character.

The house itself is a delightful old mansion giving on
a wide garden, which gives in turn on a broad terrace
giving on the river.

The Eminent Novelist met us at the gate. We had expected
to find the author of _Angela Rivers_ and _The Garden of
Desire_ a pale aesthetic type (we have a way of expecting
the wrong thing in our interviews). We could not resist
a shock of surprise (indeed we seldom do) at finding him
a burly out-of-door man weighting, as he himself told
us, a hundred stone in his stockinged feet (we think he
said stone).

He shook hands cordially.

"Come and see my pigs," he said.

"We wanted to ask you," we began, as we went down the
walk, "something about your books."

"Let's look at the pigs first," he said. "Are you anything
of a pig man?"

We are always anxious in our interviews to be all things
to all men. But we were compelled to admit that we were
not much of a pig man.

"Ah," said the Great Novelist, "perhaps you are more of
a dog man?"

"Not altogether a dog man," we answered.

"Anything of a bee man?" he asked.

"Something," we said (we were once stung by a bee).

"Ah," he said, "you shall have a go at the beehives,
then, right away?"

We assured him that we were willing to postpone a go at
the beehives till later.

"Come along, then, to the styes," said the Great Novelist,
and he added, "Perhaps you're not much of a breeder."

We blushed. We thought of the five little faces around
the table for which we provide food by writing our
interviews.

"No," we said, "we were not much of a breeder."

"Now then," said the Great Novelist as we reached our
goal, "how do you like this stye?"

"Very much indeed," we said.

"I've put in a new tile draining--my own plan. You notice
how sweet it keeps the stye."

We had not noticed this.

"I am afraid," said the Novelist, "that the pigs are all
asleep inside."

We begged him on no account to waken them. He offered to
open the little door at the side and let us crawl in. We
insisted that we could not think of intruding.

"What we would like," we said, "is to hear something of
your methods of work in novel writing." We said this with
very peculiar conviction. Quite apart from the immediate
purposes of our interview, we have always been most
anxious to know by what process novels are written. If
we could get to know this, we would write one ourselves.

"Come and see my bulls first," said the Novelist. "I've
got a couple of young bulls here in the paddock that will
interest you."

We felt sure that they would.

He led us to a little green fence. Inside it were two
ferocious looking animals, eating grain. They rolled
their eyes upwards at us as they ate.

"How do those strike you?" he asked.

We assured him that they struck us as our beau ideal
of bulls.

"Like to walk in beside them?" said the Novelist, opening
a little gate.

We drew back. Was it fair to disturb these bulls?

The Great Novelist noticed our hesitation.

"Don't be afraid," he said. "They're not likely to harm
you. I send my hired man right in beside them every
morning, without the slightest hesitation."

We looked at the Eminent Novelist with admiration. We
realized that like so many of our writers, actors, and
even our thinkers, of to-day, he was an open-air man in
every sense of the word.

But we shook our heads.

Bulls, we explained, were not a department of research
for which we were equipped. What we wanted, we said, was
to learn something of his methods of work.

"My methods of work?" he answered, as we turned up the
path again. "Well, really, I hardly know that I have any."

"What is your plan or method," we asked, getting out our
notebook and pencil, "of laying the beginning of a new
novel?"

"My usual plan," said the Novelist, "is to come out here
and sit in the stye till I get my characters."

"Does it take long?" we questioned.

"Not very. I generally find that a quiet half-hour spent
among the hogs will give me at least my leading character."

"And what do you do next?"

"Oh, after that I generally light a pipe and go and sit
among the beehives looking for an incident."

"Do you get it?" we asked.

"Invariably. After that I make a few notes, then go off
for a ten mile tramp with my esquimaux dogs, and get back
in time to have a go through the cattle sheds and take
a romp with the young bulls."

We sighed. We couldn't help it. Novel writing seemed
further away than ever.

"Have you also a goat on the premises?" we asked.

"Oh, certainly. A ripping old fellow--come along and
see him."

We shook our heads. No doubt our disappointment showed
in our face. It often does. We felt that it was altogether
right and wholesome that our great novels of to-day should
be written in this fashion with the help of goats, dogs,
hogs and young bulls. But we felt, too, that it was not
for us.

We permitted ourselves one further question.

"At what time," we said, "do you rise in the morning?"

"Oh anywhere between four and five," said the Novelist.

"Ah, and do you generally take a cold dip as soon as you
are up--even in winter?"

"I do."

"You prefer, no doubt," we said, with a dejection that
we could not conceal, "to have water with a good coat of
ice over it?"

"Oh, certainly!"

We said no more. We have long understood the reasons for
our own failure in life, but it was painful to receive
a renewed corroboration of it. This ice question has
stood in our way for forty-seven years.

The Great Novelist seemed to note our dejection.

"Come to the house," he said, "my wife will give you a
cup of tea."

In a few moments we had forgotten all our troubles in
the presence of one of the most charming chatelaines it
has been our lot to meet.

We sat on a low stool immediately beside Ethelinda
Afterthought, who presided in her own gracious fashion
over the tea-urn.

"So you want to know something of my methods of work?"
she said, as she poured hot tea over our leg.

"We do," we answered, taking out our little book and
recovering something of our enthusiasm. We do not mind
hot tea being poured over us if people treat us as a
human being.

"Can you indicate," we continued, "what method you follow
in beginning one of your novels?"

"I always begin," said Ethelinda Afterthought, "with a
study."

"A study?" we queried.

"Yes. I mean a study of actual facts. Take, for example,
my _Leaves from the Life of a Steam Laundrywoman_--more
tea?"

"No, no," we said.

"Well, to make that book I first worked two years in a
laundry."

"Two years!" we exclaimed. "And why?"

"To get the atmosphere."

"The steam?" we questioned.

"Oh, no," said Mrs. Afterthought, "I did that separately.
I took a course in steam at a technical school."

"Is it possible?" we said, our heart beginning to sing
again. "Was all that necessary?"

"I don't see how one could do it otherwise. The story
opens, as no doubt you remember--tea?--in the boiler room
of the laundry."

"Yes," we said, moving our leg--"no, thank you."

"So you see the only possible _point d'appui_ was to
begin with a description of the inside of the boiler."

We nodded.

"A masterly thing," we said.

"My wife," interrupted the Great Novelist, who was sitting
with the head of a huge Danish hound in his lap, sharing
his buttered toast with the dog while he adjusted a set
of trout flies, "is a great worker."

"Do you always work on that method?" we asked.

"Always," she answered. "For _Frederica of the Factory_
I spent six months in a knitting mill. For _Marguerite
of the Mud Flats_ I made special studies for months and
months."

"Of what sort?" we asked.

"In mud. Learning to model it. You see for a story of
that sort the first thing needed is a thorough knowledge
of mud--all kinds of it."

"And what are you doing next?" we inquired.

"My next book," said the Lady Novelist, "is to be a study
--tea?--of the pickle industry--perfectly new ground."

"A fascinating field," we murmured.

"And quite new. Several of our writers have done the
slaughter-house, and in England a good deal has been done
in jam. But so far no one has done pickles. I should
like, if I could," added Ethelinda Afterthought, with
the graceful modesty that is characteristic of her, "to
make it the first of a series of pickle novels, showing,
don't you know, the whole pickle district, and perhaps
following a family of pickle workers for four or five
generations."

"Four or five!" we said enthusiastically. "Make it ten!
And have you any plan for work beyond that?"

"Oh, yes indeed," laughed the Lady Novelist. "I am always
planning ahead. What I want to do after that is a study
of the inside of a penitentiary."

"Of the _inside_?" we said, with a shudder.

"Yes. To do it, of course, I shall go to jail for two or
three years!"

"But how can you get in?" we asked, thrilled at the quiet
determination of the frail woman before us.

"I shall demand it as a right," she answered quietly. "I
shall go to the authorities, at the head of a band of
enthusiastic women, and demand that I shall be sent to
jail. Surely after the work I have done, that much is
coming to me."

"It certainly is," we said warmly.

We rose to go.

Both the novelists shook hands with us with great
cordiality. Mr. Afterthought walked as far as the front
door with us and showed us a short cut past the beehives
that could take us directly through the bull pasture to
the main road.

We walked away in the gathering darkness of evening very
quietly. We made up our mind as we went that novel writing
is not for us. We must reach the penitentiary in some
other way.

But we thought it well to set down our interview as a
guide to others.

Stephen Leacock