The Red Cross Girl

The Red Cross Girl

THE RED CROSS GIRL RICHARD HARDING DAVIS 2. THE GRAND CROSS OF THE CRESCENT 3. THE INVASION OF ENGLAND 4. BLOOD WILL TELL 5. THE SAILORMAN 6. THE MIND READER 7. THE NAKED MAN 8. THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF 9. THE CARD-SHARP INTRODUCTION R. H. D. "And they rise to their feet as he passes gentlemen unafraid." He was almost too good to be true. In addition the gods loved him and so he had to die young. Some people think that a man of fifty-two is middle-aged. But if R. H. D. had lived to be a hundred he would never have grown old. It is not generally known that the name of his other brother was Peter Pan. Within the year we have played at pirates together at the taking of sperm whales; and we have ransacked the Westchester Hills for gunsites against the Mexican invasion. And we have made lists of guns and medicines and tinned things in case we should ever happen to go elephant shooting in Africa. But we weren't going to hurt the elephants. Once R. H. D. shot a hippopotamus and he was always ashamed and sorry. I think he never killed anything else. He wasn't that kind of a sportsman. Of hunting as of many other things he has said the last word. Do you remember the Happy Hunting Ground in "The Bar Sinister"?--"Where nobody hunts us and there is nothing to hunt." Experienced persons tell us that a man-hunt is the most exciting of all sports. R. H. D. hunted men in Cuba. He hunted for wounded men who were out in front of the trenches and still under fire and found some of them and brought them in. The Rough Riders didn't make him an honorary member of their regiment just because he was charming and a faithful friend but largely because they were a lot of daredevils and he was another. To hear him talk you wouldn't have thought that he had ever done a brave thing in his life. He talked a great deal and he talked even better than he wrote (at his best he wrote like an angel) but I have dusted every corner of my memory and cannot recall any story of his in which he played a heroic or successful part. Always he was running at top speed or hiding behind a tree or lying face down in a foot of water (for hours!) so as not to be seen. Always he was getting the worst of it. But about the other fellows he told the whole truth with lightning flashes of wit and character building and admiration or contempt. Until the invention of moving pictures the world had nothing in the least like his talk. His eye had photographed his mind had developed and prepared the slides his words sent the light through them and lo and behold they were reproduced on the screen of your own mind exact in drawing and color. With the written word or the spoken word he was the greatest recorder and reporter of things that he had seen of any man perhaps that ever lived. The history of the last thirty years its manners and customs and its leading events and inventions cannot be written truthfully without reference to the records which he has left to his special articles and to his letters. Read over again the Queen's Jubilee the Czar's Coronation the March of the Germans through Brussels and see for yourself if I speak too zealously even for a friend to whom now that R. H. D. is dead the world can never be the same again. But I did not set out to estimate his genius. That matter will come in due time before the unerring tribunal of posterity. One secret of Mr. Roosevelt's hold upon those who come into contact with him is his energy. Retaining enough for his own use (he uses a good deal because every day he does the work of five or six men) he distributes the inexhaustible remainder among those who most need it. Men go to him tired and discouraged he sends them away glad to be alive still gladder that he is alive and ready to fight the devil himself in a good cause. Upon his friends R. H. D. had the same effect. And it was not only in proximity that he could distribute energy but from afar by letter and cable. He had some intuitive way of knowing just when you were slipping into a slough of laziness and discouragement. And at such times he either appeared suddenly upon the scene or there came a boy on a bicycle with a yellow envelope and a book to sign or the postman in his buggy or the telephone rang and from the receiver there poured into you affection and encouragement. But the great times of course were when he came in person and the temperature of the house which a moment before had been too hot or too cold became just right and a sense of cheerfulness and well-being invaded the hearts of the master and the mistress and of the servants in the house and in the yard. And the older daughter ran to him and the baby who had been fretting because nobody would give her a double- barrelled shotgun climbed upon his knee and forgot all about the disappointments of this uncompromising world. He was touchingly sweet with children. I think he was a little afraid of them. He was afraid perhaps that they wouldn't find out how much he loved them. But when they showed him that they trusted him and unsolicited climbed upon him and laid their cheeks against his then the loveliest expression came over his face and you knew that the great heart which the other day ceased to beat throbbed with an exquisite bliss akin to anguish. One of the happiest days I remember was when I and mine received a telegram saying that he had a baby of his own. And I thank God that little Miss Hope is too young to know what an appalling loss she has suffered.... Perhaps he stayed to dine. Then perhaps the older daughter was allowed to sit up an extra half-hour so that she could wait on the table (and though I say it that shouldn't she could do this beautifully with dignity and without giggling) and perhaps the dinner was good or R. H. D. thought it was and in that event he must abandon his place and storm the kitchen to tell the cook all about it. Perhaps the gardener was taking life easy on the kitchen porch. He too came in for praise. R. H. D. had never seen our Japanese iris so beautiful; as for his they wouldn't grow at all. It wasn't the iris it was the man behind the iris. And then back he would come to us with a wonderful story of his adventures in the pantry on his way to the kitchen and leaving behind him a cook to whom there had been issued a new lease of life and a gardener who blushed and smiled in the darkness under the Actinidia vines. It was in our little house at Aiken in South Carolina that he was with us most and we learned to know him best and that he and I became dependent upon each other in many ways. Events into which I shall not go had made his life very difficult and complicated. And he who had given so much friendship to so many people needed a little friendship in return and perhaps too he needed for a time to live in a house whose master and mistress loved each other and where there were children. Before he came that first year our house had no name. Now it is called "Let's Pretend." Now the chimney in the living-room draws but in those first days of the built-over house it didn't. At least it didn't draw all the time but we pretended that it did and with much pretense came faith. From the fireplace that smoked to the serious things of life we extended our pretendings until real troubles went down before them--down and out. It was one of Aiken's very best winters and the earliest spring I ever lived anywhere. R. H. D. came shortly after Christmas. The spireas were in bloom and the monthly roses; you could always find a sweet violet or two somewhere in the yard; here and there splotches of deep pink against gray cabin walls proved that precocious peach-trees were in bloom. It never rained. At night it was cold enough for fires. In the middle of the day it was hot. The wind never blew and every morning we had a four for tennis and every afternoon we rode in the woods. And every night we sat in front of the fire (that didn't smoke because of pretending) and talked until the next morning. He was one of those rarely gifted men who find their chiefest pleasure not in looking backward or forward but in what is going on at the moment. Weeks did not have to pass before it was forced upon his knowledge that Tuesday the fourteenth (let us say) had been a good Tuesday. He knew it the moment he waked at 7 A. M. and perceived the Tuesday sunshine making patterns of bright light upon the floor. The sunshine rejoiced him and the knowledge that even before breakfast there was vouchsafed to him a whole hour of life. That day began with attentions to his physical well-being. There were exercises conducted with great vigor and rejoicing followed ...