Mr. Samuel Hill, the Dreamer of the Northwest
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2.
We are in Montana. It is rainy and dull. The scenery is beginning to get more mountainous as we approach the foothills of the Rockies. At Helena a vast crowd met the train, and the Governor of Montana read an address. The Queen responded with much cordiality and while she spoke her black spaniel, accompanied by a liveried Roumanian groom, was paraded up and down the platform on a nickel chain. He was extremely aristocratic, and refused to associate with the other dogs who tried hospitably to make his acquaintance. As we were to arrive in Spokane at 7:30 that evening, we were busy most of the day writing letters and sending dispatches as usual. The Queen that day remained in her car alone as it was for her a day of mourning. It was the anniversary of the death of her youngest child Mircea who died during the war.
Spokane is in the so-called "Inland Empire," the heart of the Pacific Northwest, and we found a populous thriving city spread out on one of those superb natural locations that so commend the pioneer's vision. There is a halo of pioneer memories around the city, since it was settled so recently as 1872. How glad the wayfaring hearts must have been to find an arrangement of nature so kind to the needs of men of vision who could see in forest and wilderness a dream city gleaming miragelike across the untouched undergrowth. The high ground that the pioneer found there is used as a residential section, no doubt as he planned, and the broad business streets are nearer the water front and the water power. They tell us that the fine railway beds of the Northern Pacific over which we traveled were laid in 1881, opening up this fertile country to a world tired of the beaten paths, and that Spokane has grown marvelously ever since.
Arrived there, a great delegation came on board the train with wonderful bouquets of orchids and roses for the Princess. All the elite of the town turned out and escorted the Queen with a military band through the streets to the Hotel Davenport, where a reception had been planned. Here Indians in native costumes danced a war dance at the foot of her throne, and here the Prince and the Princess were initiated into the tribe, and were called "Roaring Wind" and "Red Bird." An interesting part of the performance was when an Indian princess in a gorgeous costume was presented to the Queen, a very picture of noble beauty. One saw in this girl the nobility of a dispossessed people, a proud race ousted from sovereignty, residing on parts and parcels of their once limitless dominions which to-day make the glory of a newer white-skinned civilization while the original owners are left to a bureaucracy of white-collared clerks. The Indians then disappeared, and the reception took place.
I was about to nod in the midst of this when suddenly I saw Mr. Sam Hill's leonine head in the crowd. There he stood, a perfect giant of a man, with his shaggy white head and his ruddy kindly face, reminding me more of a childhood dream of Santa Claus than any one I had ever seen. He then stopped spellbound at the foot of the flight of steps leading to the throne and gazed at the Queen. Then he threw himself down on one knee and kissed her hand. No one, with an understanding heart or a sense of drama could witness that scene entirely unmoved. I fairly believe that no one needed to know the names or the circumstances, the stage directions or the mental footnotes of that act, to understand that here was Don Quixote at the feet of Dulcinea. Mr. Hill, perhaps, is the epitome of that streak of knight-errantry which characterizes so paradoxically the genus American Man. They set out with the will-to-gain that was Shylock's and yet, when their bounty is gathered, those little frail ideals that only extreme youth could harbor, instead of dying in the dry atmosphere of the counting house, are brought out pristine as when new, from some strange mental storage where they were hidden, not buried but fostered. Then in the latter days, with the candor of children building with blocks, they set out to erect, endow, educe those ephemeral fancies which the sterner years of young manhood had denied. For the time is turned to ward the setting sun and one begins to value that which weighs the most. We have Morgan, Carnegie, Munsey, we have too many, to illustrate and we need none better than Mr. Sam Hill of Washington.
He knelt at the feet of his beau-ideal and tasted the realization of a dream. It was the first time they had met in America. For some mysterious reason, a boyish idealism to welcome his Beata Domina on his own land, no doubt, he had refused to go out on the Mayor's private launch that was to meet the "Leviathan" on the Queen's arrival in New York harbor; and after all the time he had spent in New York anticipating her arrival, and although he had made many of the arrangements for her journey in the Western states, he never appeared on the scene until we reached his own state of Washington where he had come on his private car. Mrs. Spreckels and Miss Fuller also arrived in Spokane that day direct from New York. The meeting between Colonel Carroll and Mr. Hill was most cordial, although Hill, it seemed, never for a moment took his eyes off the Queen. When she arose from the throne, he escorted her upstairs to a large drawing-room where she had promised to speak over the radio to the people of the Northwest. No sooner did we get into this room than the Bishop of Washington appeared and, after greeting the Queen, said in a loud voice, "Let us pray." He prayed a long prayer for the Queen and every member of the royal family, and expressed our gratitude for our safe arrival in Washington State. At his conclusion, Queen Marie gave a short speech in front of the radio, and then the spotlights and the indefatigable photographers did their work to reproduce her in a black crepe dress with gold brocade, and an ermine coat with a black fur collar. After the refreshments, we returned to the train to find that an extra car had been attached where Miss Fuller, Mr. Hill and the others were comfortably installed.
Wednesday, November 3.
This is the great day for which we have been traveling many hundreds of miles—the climax of our journey. To-day the Museum at Maryhill is to be dedicated by the Queen. At 7:30 A.M. we stopped at the station of Maryhill, a small western village with a white wooden Methodist church and a few frame buildings, including the country store which, in our western towns, serves as a meeting house, club house and general utility place. A fine road stretched from the railroad station up a steep hill and wound its way along the side of a mountain to the end where stood the museum of Maryhill. The country all around is rugged, queer shapes of rock apparently volcanic in formation jut out on all sides, while below winds the Columbia River with a road along either bank. These roads, which are marvels of engineering and dreaming, were built through the intervention of Mr. Hill, who has indeed left his mark on the State of Washington where he grew up and which he loves with an intense affection. It was a wild landscape that met our eyes when we descended from the train. Mr. Hill as he gallantly escorted the Queen to the car, was a picturesque figure in his broad-brimmed Western hat, with the sun shining brightly on his rosy face and shaggy white eyebrows. He looked like a hero who had stepped out of a book of legends, his great broad shoulders and kindly smile vivified and exalted with his delight. Quixotic he may be, but one could not help loving his great enthusiasm and devotion to the Queen.
The ambition of his life, it seems, had been reached at this moment when he was about to escort Her Majesty to the museum which had so long awaited her arrival. It had been started during the War, but was left uncompleted owing to the lack of workmen. At a distance we could see the white concrete building standing out against the sky. Mr. Sam Hill and the Queen, dressed in her gray karakul coat with hat to match, rode in an open car and led the procession up the steep ascent, the rest following. It took about twenty minutes to reach the uncompleted concrete house which is most peculiar in architecture, like a dream that had become a bit distorted in translation to the medium of the real. As the road runs directly through the building, the automobiles took us right into the main hall where the Queen alighted at the foot of the throne and mounted the steps. The decorations of yellow chrysanthemums and Roumanian flags in this large hall helped to take away from the bareness of the building as it is absolutely devoid of any decorations and very unfinished, not even having windows nor furniture of any kind. Mr. Hill, who presided, after the national anthems, introduced the former Governor of Washington, who made a brief speech describing how this building came to be erected by Mr. Hill, praising his broad vision in building a museum in this place and prophesying the great multitude that it would one day attract. He spoke of Mr. Hill's devotion to the Queen, and of the value of her visit to Maryhill; and referred to the collection of art objects which the Queen had brought with her all the way from Roumania to be deposited in this shrine. Then Mr. Hill rose, looking very majestic, shining like the sun. He told in simple language of the dream he had always cherished of having Queen Marie come from far-off Roumania to dedicate this building, and now his dream had come true. He spoke of what her friendship had meant to him; that she was a woman of remarkable attainments and human sympathies which had been proved in the War when she nursed the sick and cared for the blind and ministered in the trenches and in the hospitals; that he was her devoted friend and she could call on him as long as he lived; that he wished this museum to be a center of art. He then introduced M. Tirman, who had also brought a collection of art objects from France. In a speech in French M. Tirman said he brought the good-will of the French people. Then Mr. Hill introduced the Queen. She rose gravely and gave one of the best speeches that I have heard her deliver since the beginning of her trip. Many people in the audience were moved to tears by the sincerity and weight of her purpose in speaking. She alluded to the cause of her visit, and her devotion to Mr. Hill who has always been a loyal friend. She then said that loyalty to friends had always been her code. She alluded to the trivial criticism of her friendship for Loie Fuller, but she said that no amount of criticism could alter her loyalty; that Miss Fuller had proven her friendship in the time of great trials, and had stood by her in the darkest hours of the War. She said that this building, although uncompleted and bare, represented a great ideal for which she, as well as her friend Mr. Sam Hill, stood. It was an ideal of beauty. She hoped that after she was gone this ideal would live on, and that the finished building would be a source of joy to many. She doubted whether she would ever come this way again, but she would never forget this occasion as long as she lived.
In spite of the bareness and crudeness of the building, the occasion was made unforgettable by the sincerity of the words spoken in it. It did represent an ideal which may perhaps have been quixotic, as most ideals are in the beginning, but I individually felt that this occasion would bear fruit. There was something romantic—almost visionary—in the visit of a queen from a far-off country to this shrine, which moved me and many of those present. I well realized that this occasion might appear ridiculous in some measure to many, but it is like that previous occasion the poet related where many came to scoff but remained to pray. Standing so courageously as she did in defense of her ideals has no doubt given rise to much comment but there are qualities of greatness about this woman that deflect the arrows of criticism, and, after all, what is gossip but the usual accompaniment of life? Are not all these criticisms trifles compared with the ideal of womanhood and nobility of character which the Queen has exhibited in the face of great emergencies?
We all followed the Queen and her happy escort out of the building on to the terrace. Far below in the open space on the plain great crowds were assembled who had heard the speeches which were repeated by the loud speaker. They cheered as she approached the wall of the terrace. Baskets containing carrier pigeons were presented to her, and as she opened the door of each cage the bird flew out, carrying the message of Maryhill to other parts of the world. When we turned our backs on this embryo temple of beauty to descend the hill, I personally had the conviction that something real would come out of this dream, if not in an expression of art, at least words which had been spoken that day would surely bear fruit.
The automobile drive along the Columbia Highway, following this ceremony, had been planned by Mr. Hill with much care and thought. He wanted the Queen to see this marvelous road, another dream set up now in concrete, which winds through one of the most enchanting scenes in America. I had no idea that anything so magnificent existed in the State of Washington. In all my travels I never saw greater natural beauty. It was a heavenly brisk day, flooded with sunshine. The road was perfect, winding through rugged hills of queer castellated shapes, some terraced, some impish almost in their curious formations, and past the white veils of water falls. We wound in and out, and up and down steep slopes to a rugged granite building on a high hill where we had tea. After four hours of this very diversified scenery our eyes were quite exhausted, and we were glad to realize that we were approaching Portland, which was the end of our journey.
This great city of the Northwest has an approach that is positively breath-taking. If Nature in her jewelry work has prepared a more beautiful setting, raised nobler peaks and mountains hoary with snow in the clouds, spread a more prodigal panorama, given finer air and clearer light, to a gem of a city, I do not know it. And then, not satisfied with all these gifts, she so disports her temperatures and rain about it that you may at one time hold the perfect petaled head of a rose in your hand and feast your eyes on snows. Mount Hood, rising white-capped in the clouds of the far horizon, has that integral, solitary spirit of Fujiyama with all the cold clear splendor of an Alpine setting. Shallower hills fall away below it, unintrusive on majesty, and lower still, we saw the magnificent vista of a valley spotted with little cubes that turned into vast modern skyscrapers as we neared them and separated into orderly rows on smooth boulevards leading us to our hotel for a comfortable rest. It, too, like the water falls springing alive out of the roadsides approaching the city, has an Indian name, Multnomah. The lovely purling syllables of Indian speech are rightly placed for harmony in a country so lately their own, where every fresh outlook of nature seems so perfect a setting for their simplicity and dignity, where the shades of those braves in the Happy Hunting Grounds must surely love to linger.
At the hotel I met my old friend, Bishop Sumner of Oregon, who had flowers and a letter in my room to greet me upon my arrival. Though we had little time in Portland, we could tell that a veritable beehive of plans had been afoot to make the time memorable. After the grandeur of natural scenery such as we had seen that day, however, man's best bib-and-tucker efforts over formal affairs suffered by comparison.
That evening there was a big dinner party given in the banquet hall of the hotel by Mr. Hill. There was another of those hollow square tables that always awe me, savoring as they do so much of long speeches, and there was all the accompaniment of wreathing flowers and fine viands. In order to get to a horse-show scheduled for late that evening, we had to leave in the midst of the dinner which drew itself out, as dinners of state are wont to do, be yond its allotted time. The splendid horses, as proud as humans of their marvelous display of beauty and skill, gave a very creditable performance. I thought this entertainment so much more suitable to a young country than the operas and ballets of an older civilization, and I liked the arrangement of having the automobiles drive right into the arena to deposit the Queen at the entrance to her box; after the show was over the same decorated cars came for us and took us out of the arena direct to the railway station from which we left at midnight for Seattle.