Quentin Roosevelt.

Quentin Roosevelt; a sketch with letters online

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Copyright, 1921, bv

Printed in the United States of America

Published October, 1921

Reprinted November, twice in December, 1921;

March, 1922

"Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die, and
none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of
Hfe and the duty of hfe. Both hfe and death are parts
of the same Great Adventure. Never yet was worthy
adventure worthily carried through by the man who
put his personal safety first."

Theodore Roosevelt.


Three years ago to-day Quentin Roosevelt fell
in France in an aerial combat over the German
lines. He was buried by the enemy with mili-
tary honors near the little town of Chamery.

Two weeks later when the Soissons salient was
wiped out the Three Hundred and Third Engineers
found his grave. The American burial service
was read over the grave and the Engineers raised
a new cross, and placed a shaft to mark where
the airplane had fallen. Quentin Roosevelt was
not yet twenty -one when he was shot down; still
years count for but little in the record of a life;
one man at twenty may have accomplished more
and leave more behind to mourn his loss than
another who saw a century out. Quentin Roose-
velt to casual acquaintances typified the light-
hearted joie de vivre (there is no English phrase


that can quite convey the meaning) which fresh-
ened all who came in contact with it, but under-
neath it all there lay the stern purpose and high
resolve of one who realizes the essential serious-
ness of life.

K R.

July 14, 1921.

[ viii ]



Foreword vii


I. Before the War 1

II, The Way of the Eagle —




III. The Last Patrol 165

IV. Official Judgment 198

V. "The Judgment of His Peers" . . ; 211

VI. Verses 266


Quentin Roosevelt, Mineola, May, 1917 . . Frontispiece


Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt at Field Seven in His

Beloved "Dock Yack" Plane 98

The Grave at Chamery 17G

Chamery 180

Changed to Gold „ . 274


QuENTiN Roosevelt was born in Washington
on November 19, 1897, six months before his
father enlisted for the war to free Cuba. As a
boy he attended the public schools in Washington.
The last year of his father's second term as presi-
dent he went to the Episcopal High School at
Alexandria, Virginia.

The following summer — that of 1909 — he spent
in Europe. He had always been interested in
mechanics, and in a letter to Ambler Blackford,
a son of the principal of the school, he tells of his
first sight of an airplane.

We have had a wonderful time here and seen
lots. We were at Rheims and saw all the aero-
planes flying, and saw Curtis who won the Gordon
Bennett cup for swiftest flight. You don't know
how pretty it was to see all the aeroplanes sailing
at a time. At one time there were four in the



air. It was the prettiest thing I ever saw. The
prettiest one was a monoplane called the An-
toinette, which looks like a great big bird in the
air. It does not wiggle at all and goes very fast.
It is awfully pretty turning.

Isn't Notre Dame wonderful? I think any-
thing could be religious in it. And the Louvre, I
think it would take at least a year to see it. I
have some of the pictures. I think the little
Infanta Margarita by Velazquez is the cunningest
thing I ever saw, and I think they are all very
beautiful. We have been to Rouen and every-

Tell S. that I am sending him a model of an
aeroplane that winds up with a rubber band.
They work quite well. I have one which can fly

a hundred yards, and goes higher than my head !


Much love to all from ^


That autumn on his return to this country he
entered Groton School as a first former. His
bent for mechanics, which was not inherited, and



his love of reading, which was inherited, found
expression in the school magazine. Quentin be-
came an editor and also worked as typesetter and
general overseer in the more practical part of
publishing. It was in the printing-room that he
enjoyed himself most when at Groton.

In January, 1915, with the World War launched
upon its first winter, he wrote the following story
for The Grotonian:


"The train stopped with a jerk, the doors flew
open, and the crowd surged out toward the street.
I made my way slowly to the taxi stand and hailed
a waiting machine. *4 West fifty-seventh street,
and make it fast,' I said. The man glanced at
me quickly, hesitated, and then said, 'Why that's
John Amsden's house, isn't it?'

"'Yes,' I said, 'make it in less than ten minutes
and you get a fiver.'

"The machine started to the street, dove around
the corner into thirty-fourth, and then across.
The traffic seemed strangely crowded: — we barely



moved behind a stream of street cars and autos.
Finally came Broadway and I saw the reason.
Herald Square was packed with people, — a tense,
silent crowd, all watching the bulletin boards. I
strained to catch a glimpse and made out, under
the flaring arc lights, *10.45 — Drs. Waring and
McEwen report John Amsden is doing as well as
can be expected. He is partially conscious.'

"I hammered on the window of the taxi stand,
as the man turned, cried to him to hurry. The
traffic was still blocked, however, and we were
hemmed in. I looked at the board again. An-
other notice was being rolled up. '11 — Condition
slightly improved.' Strained faces in the crowd
relaxed. I could see one man turning to another
and clapping him on the back, a smile of relief on
his face. So that was the reason. That was why
I had received the telegram, *John needs you.
Come at once.'

"The traffic began to move, and soon we were
racing up Fifth Avenue, 42nd, 48th, St. Patrick's
Cathedral, — at last 57th. Two policemen guarded
the entrance of the street. I was evidently ex-



pected, for they let me through with a glance at
my card.

" The door was open, and I went into the familiar
hallway with its carved oak stairs. The contrast
was startling. Outside the crowded streets; —
inside, dead silence. I went upstairs. Low
voices came from the back of the house. Some-
one inside was speaking: — *It must have been
that speech in Union Square that did it. The
Doctors say it is pneumonia. His system is so
overworked that he can't fight the disease.'

"Another man spoke up, * Something had to
crack. No man can work at fever heat for weeks
on end.'

"I pushed open the door and entered. Three
men were seated before the fire, all of them men
whom I knew. My cousin Arthur, who was a
reporter on the Globe, Charles Wright, the actor,
and Pearson, the critic. Arthur sprang to his
feet as I entered. *I'm afraid its too late. Cousin
Fred,' he said, 'the Doctors have given orders
that no one is to see him.'

" Hopeless, I sat down. Why had I gone away ?


I might have known something would happen to

"*Tell me,* I said.

"'There's not much to tell,' said Pearson. *He
would speak at that mass meeting in Union Square
Friday. It was drizzling a little and he caught
a chill. That and overwork brought on pneu-
monia. That's about all.*

"We lapsed into silence, each thinking of the
man above who was fighting for breath. The
fire flickered, and then died out. Arthur spoke

"'You were with him. Tell us about it/

"*It was like a dream,' I said, *A dream come

"'John Amsden and I roomed together at
college. I think that was the beginning of our
friendship. He never did much there, that is,
in any serious way. He worked a little, went to
every dance in or out of Boston, and that was
about all. He had not the physique for an
athlete, and though he had several things published
in the Advocate, he gradually let it drop, and never



tried for editor. He did not have to work for a
living, for liis father's millions were waiting for
him so there was no incentive. People said that
he had lost what little capacity he had ever had
for work while in college.

" 'After college he led the life that all those lead
who belong to the class reformers and Socialists
call the idle rich. His winters were spent in Aiken
or Palm Beach; his summers in Europe, with
interludes of Meadowbrook and Tuxedo. I doubt
if he ever did anything more than this for twelve
years. Even his friends, who always claimed that
he would some day develop, gave up hope. He
seemed to have arrived at the end of his develop-

" ' Last summer we arranged to go abroad to-
gether for a bicycle trip through Holland and
Belgium. That was in July. August found us in
Belgium, travelling slowly from place to place.
To make a long story short, we were caught in the
whirlwind of the war. We saw the fall of Liege
and we followed in the track of the invader as he
tramped through Belgium. We saw towns lev-



elled, cathedrals shelled, smelt the smell of the
battle-field, saw the fleeing people, homes burned,
husbands and fathers gone, the soldier dead, his
rifle in his hand, the priest with his crucifix, — we
saw it all.

** ' To John it was a revelation. He had never
before felt the horror of death, never seen the
human soul apart from its polished covering.
What death he had seen had been decorous,
honored, attended with peace and quiet. He had
barely realized the fact that suffering existed, —
that the horrors of war were any more than a
novelist's term.

"* Following in War's path had brought it all
home to him with an appalling nearness. All the
sorrows he had never known, all the emotions he
had never felt, — ^he went through it all, saw the
feelings of people, not mirrored in a book or ve-
neered by etiquette, but sharp, bitter, unconquera-
ble. In him it brought out all the character that
had lain hid. All the crusader spirit of his ances-
tors came to the top. He was fired with it. In
his reaction he thought of his former life almost
with loathing. It seemed to him almost unbe-



lievable that America could be callous to the
suffering, to the horror of what he saw before his
very eyes. He felt he was chosen, that it was
his duty to tell of Belgium.

" ' He decided quite suddenly. "I'm going back,
Fred," he said, "to tell the people at home about
this. They must understand, they must help."

" ' We made our way to the coast, as best we
could, and at last got a steamer for America. On
our voyage we talked of the people at home often.
It never occurred to him that people would not
understand, that they would not see as he did.
He could not conceive of anyone remaining un-
moved in the face of suffering such as we had seen.

" 'We parted at the dock. The next day, as I
sat at home, the telephone rang. It was John.
"Fred," he said, "I must have a talk with you.'*

"'We agreed, finally, that I was to come over
and see him.

"'He was sitting in this room before the fire,
as we are now, when I came in. In all my life
I have never seen a look of utter hopelessness
such as there was on his face. "It's all wrong,"
he said, "they don't see. I can't understand it.'*



"'He told me then, how he had been to his
friends, had spoken to them, and the effect of
his words. "They wouldn't even listen to me.
They wouldn't even listen ! I tried to tell about
it all but they cut me short. Harry Wilding
wanted to tell me about the baseball the Giants
were playing. Schuyler had a scheme he wanted
me to finance, — to charter a steamer and send
over a cargo of silk socks to Belgium. Said it
was a great opportunity now that the German
market was closed." He laughed, dully, and,
pulling aside the shade pointed out the window.

" ' "There," he said, " there it is. That is the
explanation. That is the American spirit; Ameri-
ca's countersign; her God."

"'I looked. A huge sign showed in electric lights:


James Fried's article on What There is in the
War for the U. S. A.

"'"Yes," said John, bitterly, "that is the acid
test of the 'Great American Nation's' feelings.
What do we get out of it ? "


"'He gazed into the depths of the fire, and I
watched the shadows come and go on his face.
Suddenly his expression changed, and his eyes
sparlded with the Hght of battle. "I have it,"
he cried, "I shall write the play of the war. I shall
bring war home to the people as it has never been
brought before. I shall challenge the nation. "

" ' That was the beginning of his great play. He
worked feverishly, at high pressure, — writing far
into the night.

"'In three weeks it was done. I remember
the joy on his face as he came to the door. "It's
done, Fred," he said.

'"He would not let me read it, though I begged
him to. The first night, so he said, was the test.
He wanted me to see it then for the first time, and
so I waited. As you know, Eisenstein agreed,
after the first reading, to put it on as soon a
company could be got together.

'"Then, at last, came the first night. All New
York seemed to be there. It had been wonderfully
advertised. All over the city, great placards with
the name, WAR, in red, and then John Amsden,



underneath. I had to fight my way, — but you
were there — ^you remember.'

"Pearson nodded.

"'You remember how it was received. Not a
sound from the whole packed house. Not a clap,
not a cheer, not even the shuffling that a crowd of
people generally make. It was a tense, uplifted
audience. A woman in front of me was crying as
the curtain fell, and the crowd filed out silently.
No one was discussing the play in the lobby
when I came out. It was too great, beyond un-
thinking praise. Men went home and thought
over it.

" ' By morning it was famous. In every paper it
appeared on the front page. Critics called it a
sermon of the stage.

"'That was four weeks ago. Since then the
presses have been running to capacity printing it,
it has been played all over the country. People
have telegraphed him by the thousand, asking
him to speak. He has been hailed as another
prophet who should preach of America's duty
in this war.



" ' He was asked to speak at Union Square before
I left. You know the rest — /

"I stopped, and we sat in silence for a while,
each busied with his own thoughts. The clock
in the Metropolitan tower began to chime. I
looked out the window onto the quiet street.
Across was Broadway, with its lights, its passing
crowds. I could just see the top of the huge sign
at Columbus Circle:— 'CHARLES WRIGHT in
WAR'. I thought of the great crowd gathered
at Herald Square. The clock struck the hour,-

"The deep boom died away. There was a
noise of footsteps on the stairs. It was the
Doctor. We sprang to our feet. *How is he;
Doctor?' said Arthur; his voice sounding cracked
and strained.

"The Doctor looked at us, his face worn and
white and lined, and shook his head slowly. He
turned and went out without a word.

"'Oh, it can't be true,' cried Arthur. * There
must be something wrong. Why should he die.'''

"'It can't be helped, boy' said Pearson, 'It was


fate. God's plans seem mysterious to our cramped
view.' He quoted softly:

"'One man with a dream, at pleasure

Shall go forth and conquer a crown.' "

Quentin had a remarkable gift for descriptive
writing, and particularly delighted in short
sketches, usually with the element of fantastic
mysticism predominant. The two brief stories
following were written while he was serving in


"The service pistol is a merciless thing.

"Up there above my desk it hangs, between
Hilda's picture and the instrument board, always
loaded, always ready. Yes; always ready, always
loaded; thats the watchword of our service, —
even now as we lie idly awash, charging our bat-
teries. Its pleasanter this way, tho, with the
fresh air cleaning off the fumes of the last nights
run. And then, when you're on the surface, there
aren't so many noises, or at least I know them all.



Sometimes when we are submerged I hear sounds,
— ones that I cant account for, I swear they're
only imagination, tho'. You can almost hear
them now; the soft deadened whisper of stumpy
fingers groping and pawing at the edges of our
plates. Its all foolishness, all foolishness ! Here
I am, the senior commander of the imperial sub-
marine service, with a record that even an ad-
miral might envj% worrying like any child over
noises that dont exist, — mere imagination.

"Kuhlman is responsible. He was mad and I
should have put him in irons. I remember when
first he came aboard. The old admiral was there,
and said to me, 'Take him and make a man of
him.' So I gave him responsibility, put him in
charge of the forward tubes. Off the coast of
Ireland we were, and sure of work before long.

"We got it, too, — a big boat, one of their crack
liners. I was sorry we had to do it, for there
were many women and children among her pas-
sengers, but what else could I do ? She had been
warned; and in war there is no pity.

"I let young Kuhlman have the shot, and then,


as there was no convoy and no guns, we rose to
watch the effect. It is very sudden death, a
torpedo. One moment you are but two days
from port; the next the boats are manned and
the band plays as she sinks. It was a bad night,
and there were many of the boats that they could
not launch. She sank very quickly, and we sub-
merged again, for it was too rough for us, — and
so we lay for two days while the storm went on
above. Then it blew itself out, and luckily too,
for two days below are hard on the nerves. Kuhl-
man felt it most, for he had never before seen
death, and the sight of that ship sinking from the
torpedo that he had fired, had been too much
for him. So we came up, and were lying on the
surface, just as we are now, while we officers
smoked upon deck. After two days like that,
the air seems very sweet, and it is good to live
again, and cease to be a machine. Only as we
stood there something came drifting down upon
us, — something white that glinted in the sunlight.
It was quite close before I saw what it was, —
too close. Somehow the current caught it and



brought it alongside, and it seemed to stick to
us in the little wash that lapped our sides. All
the flesh was gone from the head, — the fish had
been at it, — and the bare skull shone like polished
ivory as it bobbed up and down and the water
washed in and out of the empty eyes. It had
been a common sailor off the ship we had sunk
two days before, and across the chest of the suit
you could see the letters *Cunard Line.' It
drifted on, but with it went all the life of the air,
and I ordered the men below.

"It umst have been that that started Kuhl-
man. I had grown quite attached to him, for he
seemed only a boy, for all of his moustaches. And
yet, at first, even I did not notice any change.
Then he took to coming in and sitting talking to
me in my room, and I began to wonder. He said
he liked the company. Only, as I found out, the
real reason was that he was afraid to be alone.
Later he told me about it. In the beginning it
used only to bother him at night when the lights
were out. Then, as he lay in bed, they would
begin. He would hear them outside in the water,


talking to one another, in dead voiceless words,
the salt water in their mouths. And always
their talk was of him. 'He fired the torpedo,*
they seemed to say, and then he would hear the
fumbling of soft, sodden fingers tearing at the
rivets. Later he began to see faces, dreadful,
greenish, water logged ones, long strings of sea
weed in their hair. And worst of all they were
all faces he knew, friends and family at home,
that stared at him with blind dead resentment.
They became worse and more insistent, and he
began to go round with his eyes fixed in front of
him, for he said they watched him from the cor-
ners. He slept with his lights turned on. I did
my best to talk him out of it, but I knew that we
would soon lay up for our month in port, and I
thought that would cure him. Then we put in
to take on oil for our last two weeks, and they
gave me a bundle of papers. Kuhlman was in
my room at the time, and I tossed them to him
to read, for I thought it might cheer him. I was
busy myself, looking over my new orders, and
the reports from other commanders. Over my


shoulder I called to him some question about the
news. There was no answer, and after a bit I
turned around to look at him. He was sitting,
the paper spread before him on the desk, and as
I looked, he got up and fumbled for the door
handle. His face was dead white, and on it the
look of one who has seen something very terrible,
— something more than one should see. I stood
for a moment doing nothing, for the look on his
face had driven all thoughts from my head and
then, stupidly, I looked to the paper for the ex-
planation. There was little enough in it, — politics,
the war, a new invention, and at the top of the
page the pictures of some people, a family I
judged, with father, mother, and a sweet-faced
girl of about twenty. I looked closer, and saw
under the pictures, 'drowned in the Caronia dis-
aster.' Even then I could not see the reason for
that look in his face. Orders were orders, and
he'd have to learn that in war people were killed,
and not always the guilty, — and it was all part
of the game. Suddenly there was the roar of a
shot. I was in his room before the echoes died


along the iron walls, but of course it was too late.

"He lay bent over his desk, the pistol still
clutched in his hands. Then, at last, I saw the
reason. In a little gold frame before him was a
girl's picture, the same that I had just seen in
the paper, now blotched with his blood, he had
written in his round, boyish hand, — 'Ah, dearest;
mea magna culpa.'

"A bad, bad business it was. The bullet at
that range, had torn his face terribly, and yet
somehow I was relieved, glad almost. I am sure
that his eyes would have been, — not nice.

"That was a month ago and I am still at sea.
I thought when I got back after that run I would
ask for a rest, — I had begun myself to hear things
that were not of the ship. But once in port, they
told me I was chosen to take this, our newest,
on her maiden run. What could I do? It was
an honor they offered me. All the same, I wish
the captain's quarters were not like those on my
old ship. When I came in, and saw the bare iron
walls just as before, with that grim pistol in its
clips by the instrument board, I seemed to see


him again. And now, three weeks out, it is grow-
ing worse. I dare not turn the lights out, for if
I do, instead of the luminous dials of my instru-
ment board I see only his poor shattered head,
with great eyes that call me.

"Perhaps he was right, after all. The service
pistol is a merciful thing."


" 'Wliat is the greatest blessing' I mused, as
I sat at my window. And the warm breath of
spring, sweet with the scent of flowers and green
things growing whispered softly 'Life. Life is
the greatest gift. To live and feel no fear lest
the grim hand that stays not smite. What higher
hn.ve the gods to give?'

"In my heart youth cried assent, and full of
the horror of that gray and merciless one who
spares no man, I went forth into the crowded
ways. Everywhere was life, and the beauty of
things living. As pleasant music to my ears were
the cries of children and all the many voices of


the street. Death seemed but some foul vampire
that lay in gloating cruelty waiting to take all
from me.

"I wandered whither my feet led me, careless
of all save my thoughts until I came on a street
to me unknown, a dark street heavy with the

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Online LibraryQuentin RooseveltQuentin Roosevelt; a sketch with letters → online text (page 1 of 13)