The rest of 1898 was one long bad dream. Our men had gone to war but it was difficult to find out what was happening. I remember a time, sixty-odd years later, when the malevolent eye of television turned war into a spectator sport, even to the extent (I hope that this is not true! ) that attacks were timed so that the action could be shown live on the evening news. Can you imagine a more ironically horrible way to die than to have one's death timed to allow an anchor man to comment on it just before turning the screen over to the beer ads?
In 1898 the fighting was not brought live into our livingrooms; we had trouble finding out what had happened even long after the fact. Was our Navy guarding the east coast (as eastern politicians were demanding), or was it somewhere in the Caribbean? Had the Oregon rounded the Horn and would it reach the Fleet in time? Why was there a second battle at Manila? Hadn't we won the battle of Manila Bay weeks ago?
In 1898 I knew so little about military matters that I did not realise that civilians should not know the location of a fleet or the planned movements of an army. I did not know that anything known to an outsider will be known by enemy agents just minutes later. I had never heard of the public's ‘right to know', a right that cannot be found in the Constitution but was sacrosanct in the second half of the twentieth century. This so-called ‘right' meant that tr was satisfactory (regrettable perhaps but necessary) for soldiers and sailors and airmen to die in order to preserve unblemished that sacred ‘right to know'.
I had still to learn that neither Congressmen nor newsmen could be trusted with the lives of our men.
Let me try to be fair. Let us assume that over ninety per cent of Congressmen and newsmen are honest and honourable men. In that case, less than ten per cent need be murderous fools indifferent to the deaths of heroes for that minority to destroy lives, lose battles, turn the course of a war.
I did not have these grim thoughts in 1898; it would take the War of 1898 and two world wars and two undeclared wars (‘police actions' for God's sake! ) to make me realise that neither our www.hothoroscope.ru government nor our press could be trusted with human lives.
‘A democracy works well only when the common man is an aristocrat. But God must hate the common man; He has made him so dadblamed common! Does your common man understand chivalry? Noblesse oblige? Aristocratic rules of conduct? Personal responsibility for the welfare of the State? One may as well search for fur on a frog. ' Is that something I heard my father say? No. Well, not exactly. It is something I recall from about two o'clock in the morning in the Oyster Bar of the Renton House in Kansas City after Mr Clemens' lecture in January 1898. Maybe my father said part of it; perhaps Mr Clemens said all of it, or perhaps they shared it - my memory is not perfect after so many years.
Mr Clemens and my father were indulging in raw oysters, philosophy, and brandy. I had a small glass of port. Both port and raw oysters were new to me; I disliked both. .. not helped by the odour of Mr Clemens' cigar.
(I had assured Mr Clemens that I enjoyed the aroma of a good cigar; please do smoke. A mistake. )
But I would have endured more than cigar smoke and raw oysters to be present that night. On the platform Mr Clemens had looked just like his pictures: a jovial Satan with a halo of white hair, in a beautifully tailored white suit. In person he was a foot shorter, warmly charming, and he made an even more fervent admirer of me by treating me as a grown lady.
I was up hours past my bedtime and had to keep pinching myself not to fall asleep. What I remember best was Mr Clemens' discourse on the subject of cats and redheads. .. .omposed on the spot for my benefit, I think - it does not appear anywhere in his published works, not even those released by the University of California fifty years after his death.
Did you know that Mr Clemens was a redhead? But that must wait.
News of the signing of the peace protocol reached Thebes on 12 August, a Friday. Mr Barnaby, our principal, called us all into the lecture hall and told us, then dismissed school. I ran home, found that Mother already knew. We cried on each other a little while Beth and Lucille were noisy around us, then Mother and I started in on a complete, unseasonal spring cleaning so that we would be ready when Father and Tom (and Mr Smith? - I did not voice it) got Nome sometime next week. Frank was told to cut the grass and to do anything else that needed doing outdoors - don't ask; just do it.
Church on Sunday was a happy Praise-the-Lord occasion, with Reverend Timberly being even more long-windedly stupid than usual but nobody minded, least of all me.
After church Mother said, ‘Maureen, are you going to school tomorrow? '
I had not thought about it. The Thebes school board bad decided to offer summer high school (in addition to the usual make-up session for grammar school dullards) as a patriotic act to permit older boys to graduate early and enlist. I had signed up for summer school both to add to my education (since I had given up the idea of college) and to fill that aching emptiness caused by Father and Tom (and Mr Smith) being away at war.
(I have spent the longest years of my life waiting for men to come back from war. And for some who did not come back. )