Crowley Speaks of Eckenstein . . .  

The following is a lengthy excerpt from the Confessions of Aleister Crowley. I have added sub-titles in order to emphasize certain parts.

"Eckenstein was a man twenty years older than myself.  His business in  life was mathematics and science, and his one pleasure mountaineering.  He  was probably the best all-round man in England, but his achievements were  little known because of his almost fanatical objection to publicity.  He  hated self-advertising quacks like the principal members of the Alpine  Club with an intensity which, legitimate as it was, was almost overdone.  His detestation of every kind of humbug and false pretence was  an  overmastering passion.  I have never met any man who upheld the highest  moral ideals with such unflinching candour.

We did a few climbs together that Easter and made a sort of  provisional agreement to undertake an expedition to the Himalayas when  occasion offered.  He had been a member of the Conway expedition of 1892,  but had quitted the party at Askole, principally on account of his disgust  with its mismanagement.  The separation was engineered, moreover, from the  other side.  For what reason has never been clearly explained.  It would  evidently be improper to suggest that they had made up their minds to  record at least a partial success and did not want an independent witness  to their proceedings on the  glacier.

Scientific Probity . . . 

One incident of that expedition is well worth mentioning.  A survey  was being made with instruments which lacked various essential parts, and  on Eckenstein pointing out the uselessness of making observations of this  kind, the reply was, "Yes, I know, but it's good enough for the Royal Geographical Society."   Anything of this sort roused Eckenstein to a pitch  of indescribably violent rage.  I could not have had a better teacher in  matters of conscience.  He taught me thoroughness and accuracy in every  department of the game.

Preparing for Adversity . . . 

To illustrate one point.  I had considered myself a very good  glissader, and as compared with the other people whom I met on the  mountain side, even such experts as Norman Collie, I had little to learn.  But Eckenstein showed me that I was not even a beginner.  He made me start  down assorted slopes from all sorts of positions, and to pick myself up  into any other desired position; to stop, to increase my pace or to jump,  at the word of command.  Why "starting from all sorts of positions"?  The  idea was that one might conceivably fall on to a snow slope or have to  jump to it from a great height, and it was therefore   necessary to know  how to deal with such situations1.


The combination was ideal.  Eckenstein had all the civilized  qualities and I all the savage ones.  He was a finished athlete; his right  arm, in particular, was so strong that he had only to get a couple of  fingers on to a sloping ledge of an overhanging rock above his head and he  could draw himself slowly up by that alone until his right shoulder was  well above those fingers.  There is a climb on the east face of the Y-  shaped bolder (so called because of a forked crack on the west face) near  Wastdale Head Hotel which he was the only man to do, though many quite   first-rate climbers tried it.  Great as his strength was, he considered it   as nothing, quoting a Bavarian schoolmaster of his acquaintance, who could   tear a silver florin in half with his fingers.

He was rather short and sturdily built.  He did not know the meaning  of the word "fatigue".  He could endure the utmost hardship without  turning a hair.  He was absolutely reliable, either as leader or second  man, and this quality was based upon profound and accurate calculations.  He knew his limitations to a hair's breadth.  I never saw him attempt  anything beyond his powers; and I never knew him in want of anything from  lack of foresight.

He had a remarkable sense of direction, thought inferior to my own.  But his was based upon rational considerations, that is to say, he could  deduce where north was from calculations connected with geology, wind and  the law of probabilities; whereas my own finer sense was purely psychical  and depended upon the subconscious registration in my brain as to the  angles through which my body had turned during the day.

One point, however, is not covered by this explanation, nor can I  find anything satisfactory or even plausible.  For instance, one day (not  having seen moonrise that month or in the district) we attempted to climb  the Yolcan di Colima; we had sent back our mozos with the camp to  Zapotlan, intending to cross the mountain to the ranch of a gentleman to  whom we had introductions.  We had watched the volcano for a week and  more, in the hope of discovering some periodicity in its eruptions, which  we hailed to do.  We accordingly took our chance and went across the  slopes until the rocks began to burn our feet through our boots.   We  recognized that it was hopeless to proceed.

We decided to make for the farm and soon reached a belt of virgin  jungle where the chapparal and fallen timber made it almost impenetrable.  The trees were so thick that we could rarely see the sky.  The only  indication for progress was to keep on down hill.  The slopes were  amazingly complicated, so that at any moment we might have been facing  east, south or west.  The dust of the rotten timber almost choked and  blinded us.  We suffered tortures from thirst, our water supply being  extremely limited.  Night fell; it was impossible to see our hands in  front of us.  We accordingly lit a fire to keep off the jackals and other possibilities, which we heard howling round  us.   We naturally began to discuss the question of direction; and I said,   "The moon will rise over there", and laid down my axe as a pointer.   Eckenstein independently laid down his, after a rather prolonged mental   calculation.  When the moon rose we found that my axe was within five   degrees and his within ten degrees of the correct direction.  This was   only one of many such tests; and I do not see in the least how I knew,   especially as astronomy is one of the many subjects of which my knowledge  is practically nil.  In spite of innumerable nights spent under the stars,  I can recognize few constellations except the Great Bear and Orion.

Besides my sense of direction on the large scale, I have a quite  uncanny faculty for picking out a complicated route through rocks and ice  falls.  This is not simply a question of good judgment; for in any given  route, seen from a distance, there may always be a passage, perhaps not  twenty feet in height, which would   render the whole plan abortive.  This  is especially the case with ice falls, where much of the route is  necessarily hidden from view.  Obviously, one cannot see what is on the  other side of a s‚rac whose top one has theoretically reached.  Yet I have  never been wrong; I have never been forced to turn back from a climb once  begun.

I have also an astonishing memory for the minutest details of any  ground over which I have passed.  Professor Norman Collie had this quality  very highly developed, but he paid me the compliment of saying that I was  much better than he was himself.  This too, was in my very early days when  he was teaching me many quite rudimentary points in the technique of rock  climbing.  Again, we have a question of subconscious physical memory.  I  am often quite unable to describe even the major landmarks of a climb  which I have just done, but I recognize every pebble as I come to it if  asked to retrace my steps.  Efforts on my part to bring up a mountain into  clear consciousness frequently create such a muddle in my mind that I  almost wonder at myself.  I make such grotesque mistakes that I am not far  from doubting whether I have been on the mountain at all: yet my limbs   possess a consciousness of their own which is infallible.  I am reminded   of the Shetland ponies (see Wilkie Collin's The Two Destinies) which can  find their way through the most bewildering bogs and mist.  This faculty   is not only retrospective --- I can find my way infallibly over unknown   country in any weather.  The only thing that stops me is the interference   of my conscious mind.

I have several other savage faculties; in particular, I can smell  snow and water, though for ordinary things my olfactory sense is far below  the average.  I cannot distinguish perfectly familiar perfumes in many  cases; that is, I cannot connect them with their names.

Eckenstein and I were both exceedingly expert at describing what lay behind any mountain at which we might be looking.  In his case, the  knowledge was deduced scientifically; in mine, it was what one must call  sheer clairvoyance.   The nearest I could get to understanding his methods  was judging by the glow above the ridge of a mountain whether the other  side was snow-covered, and estimating its steepness and the angle of its  rocks by analogy with the corresponding faces of the mountains behind us,  or similar formations elsewhere.   I should hardly be necessary to point  out the extraordinary practical value of these qualities in deciding one's  route in unknown country.

In the actual technique of climbing, Eckenstein and I were still more   complementary.  It is impossible to imagine two methods more opposed.   His  climbing was invariably clean, orderly and intelligible; mine can hardly   be described as human.  I think my early untutored efforts, emphasized by   my experience on chalk, did much to form my style.  His movements were a   series, mine were continuous; he used definite muscles, I used my whole  body.   Owing doubtless to my early ill-health, I never developed physical  strength; but I was very light, and possessed elasticity and balance to an  extraordinary degree.

I remember going out on Scafell with a man named Corry.  He was the  ideal athlete and had gone through a course of Sandow; but had little  experience of climbing at that time.  I took him up the North Climb of  Mickledoor.   There is one place where, while hunting for holds, one  supports oneself by an arm stretched at full length into a crack.  The arm  is supported by the rock and the hand grasps a hold as satisfactory as a  sword hilt.  The inconceivable happened; Corry fell off and had to be  replevined by the rope.  I was amazed, but said nothing.  We continued the  climb and, reaching the top of the Broad Stand, took off the rope.  By way  of exercise, I suggested climbing a short, precipitous pitch above a  sloping slab.  There was no possible danger, it was within the powers of a  child of six; but Corry came off again.  I was standing on the slab and  caught him by the collar as he passed on his way to destruction.

After that, we put on the rope again and returned by descending, I  think, Mickledoor Chimney.  On the way down to Wastdale, he was strangely  silent and embarrassed, but finally he made up his mind to ask me about  it.

"Do you mind if I feel your arm?" he said.  "It must be a marvel."

I complied and he nearly fainted with surprise.  My muscles were in  quantity and quality like those of an early Victorian young lady.  He  showed my his own arm.  There could not have been a finer piece of anatomy  for manly strength.   He could not understand how, with everything in his  favour, he had been unable to maintain his grip on the best holds in  Westmorland.

A curious parallel to this incident happened in 1902 on the  expedition to Chogo Ri.  We had an arrangement by which a pair of ski could be  converted into a sledge for convenience in hauling baggage over snow-  covered glaciers.   When the doctor and I proposed to move from Camp 10 to  Camp 11 we set up this sledge and packed seven loads on it.  We found it  quite easy to pull.   This was clearly an economy of five porters and we  started two men up the slope.  To our astonishment they were unable to  budge it.  They called for assistance; until the whole seven were on the  ropes.  Even so, they had great difficulty in pulling the sledge and  before they had gone a hundred yards managed to upset in into a crevasse  They settled the matter by taking two loads (between 100 and 120 pounds)  each and went off quite merrily.  It is useless to have strength unless  you know how to apply it.

Eckenstein recognized from the first the value of my natural  instincts for mountaineering, and also that I was one of the silliest  young asses alive.   Apart from the few priceless lessons that I had had  from Collie, I was still an amateur of the most callow type.  I had no  idea of system.  I had achieved a good deal, it is true, but a mixture of  genius and common sense; but I had no regular training and was totally  ignorant of the serious business of camp life and other branches of  exploration.

We arranged to spend the summer in a tent on the Sch"nb�hl glacier   under the Dent Blanche, primarily with the idea of fitting me for the Himalayan expedition, and secondarily with that of climbing the east face  of the Dent Blanche by a new route which he had previously attempted with  Zurbriggen.   They had been stopped by a formation which is exceedingly  curious and rare in the Alps --- slopes of very soft snow set in an  unclimbable angle.  He thought that my capacity for swimming up places of  this sort might enable us to bag the mountain.

I hope that Eckenstein has left adequate material for a biography and  made arrangements for its publication.  I had always meant to handle the  matter myself.  But the unhappy termination of his life in phthisis and  marriage, when he had hoped to spend its autumn and winter in Kashmir  meditating upon the mysteries which appealed to his sublime spirit, made  all such plans nugatory.

I fell it one of my highest duties to record in these memoirs as much  as possible relative to this man, who, with Allan Bennett, stands apart  from and above all others with whom I have been really intimate.  The  greatness of his spirit was not inferior to that of such giants as Rodin;  he has an artist no less than if he had actually produced any monument to  his mind.  Only his constant manhandling by spasmodic asthma prevented him  from matching his genius by masterpieces.  As it is, there is an immense  amount in his life mysterious and extraordinary beyond anything I have  ever known. 

A Mysterious Incident . . .  

For instance, during a number of years he was the object of  repeated murderous attacks which he could only explain on the hypothesis that he was being  mistaken for somebody else. I must record one adventure, striking not only in itself, but because   it is of a type which seems almost as universal as the "flying dream".   It  possesses the quality of the phantasmal.  It strikes me as an adventure  which in some form or other happens to a very large number of men; which   occurs constantly in dreams and romances of the Stevensonian order.  For   instance, I cannot help believing that something of the kind has happened  to me, though I cannot say when, or remember the incidents.  I have  written the essence of it in "The Cream Cricean"; and some phantasm of  similar texture appears to me in sleep so frequently that I wonder whether  its number is less than one weekly, on the average.  Sometimes it  perpetuates itself night after night, recognizable as itself despite  immense variety of setting, and haunting my waking hours with something  approaching conviction that it represents some actuality.

This story is briefly as follows.  One night after being attacked in  the streets of Soho, or the district between that section of Oxford street  and the Euston Road, he determined, in case of a renewed assault, to walk  home by a roundabout and unfamiliar route.  Somewhere in the neighbourhood  of the Caledonian Road he thought that he was being followed --- it was  not late at night and somewhat foggy.  To make sure, he turned into a  narrow passage on to which opened the gardens of a row of houses, in one,  and only one, of which lights were visible.  The garden door of this house  was open and he dodged in to see whether the men he suspected were  following.  Two figures appearing at the end of the passage, he quietly  closed the door behind him with the intention of entering the house,  explaining his position and asking to be allowed to leave by the front   door.  The door was opened by a young and beautiful woman in fashionable   evening dress.  She appeared of good social position and, on his   explaining himself, asked him to sty to supper.  He accepted.  No servants  appeared, but on reaching the dining-room --- which was charmingly   furnished and decorated with extremely good pictures, Monet, Sisley and  the like, with sketches or etchings by Whistler, all small but admirable  examples of those masters --- he found a cold supper for two people was  laid out.   Eckenstein remained for several hours, in fact until daylight,  when he left with the understanding that he would return that evening.  He  made no note of the address, the street being familiar to him and his  memory for numbers entirely reliable.  I think that he was somehow  prevented from returning the same evening; I am not quite sure on this  point.  But if so, he was there twenty-four hours later.  He was surprised  to find the house in darkness and astounded when no further inspection he  saw a notice "To Let".  He knocked and rang in vain.  Assuming that he  must have mistaken the number, unthinkable as the supposition was, he explored the adjacent houses, but found nothing. 

Annoyed and intrigued, he called on the agent the next morning and visited  the house.  He recognized it as that of his hostess.  Even the lesser  discolorations of the wallpaper where the bookcase and pictures had been  testified to the identity of the room.  The agent assured him that the  house had not been occupied for three months.  Eckenstein pointed to  various tokens of recent occupancy.  The agent refused to admit the  conclusion.  They explored the back part of the premises and found the  French windows through which Eckenstein had entered, and the garden gate,  precisely as he had left them.  On inquiry it appeared that the house was  vacant owing to the proprietor (a bachelor of some sixty years old, who   had lived there a long while with a man and wife to keep house for him)   having been ordered to the south of France for the winter.  He had led a   very retired life, seeing no company; the house had been furnished in  early Victorian style.  Only the one room where Eckenstein had had supper  was unfurnished.  The agent explained this by saying that the old man had  taken the effects of his study with him to France, for the sake of their  familiarity.

The mystery intrigued Eckenstein immensely and he returned several  times to the house.  A month or so later he found the two servants had  returned.  The master was expected back in the spring.  They denied all  knowledge of any such lady as described; and there the mystery rests, save  that some considerable time later Eckenstein received a letter, unsigned,  in evidently disguised handwriting.   It contained a few brief phrases to  the effect that the writer was sorry, but it could not be helped; that  there was no hope for the future, but that memory would never fade.  He  connected this mysterious communication with his hostess, simply because  he could not imagine any other possibility.

I can offer no explanation whatever, but I believe every word of the  story, and what is most strange is that I possess an impenetrable  conviction that something almost exactly the same must have happened to  me.  I am reminded of the one fascinating episode which redeems the once-  famous but excessively stupid and sentimental novel Called Back from  utterly abject dullness.  There is also an admirable scene in one of  Stevenson's best stories, "John Nicholson".  A similar theme occurs in Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, "The Sire de Malétroit's Door", and "A lodging for   the Night".  There are similar ideas in oriental and classical literature.   The fascination of the central idea thus seems a positive obsession to  certain minds.

Is it somehow symbolic of a widespread wish or fear?  Is it, as in  the case of the Oedipus complex, the vestige of a racial memory --- "In  the beginning was the deed"?  (This phrase magnificent concludes Freud's Totem and Taboo.)  Or can it be the actual memory of an event in some  previous incarnation or in some other illusion than what we call real  life?

In the course of writing this story down, the impression of personal  reminiscence has become steadily stronger.  I now recall clearly enough  that I have actually experienced not one but many such adventures, that  is, as far as the spiritual essence is concerned.  I have repeatedly, sometimes by accident but more often on purpose, gone into the wrong room  or the wrong house, with the deliberate intention of finding romance.  More often than not, I have succeeded.  As to the sequel, I have often  enough failed to return; and here again sometimes the fore of  circumstances has been responsible, sometimes disinclination; but, most  frequently of all, through the operation of that imp of the perverse whom  I blame elsewhere in this book for occasional defeats at chess.   I have  wished to go, I have made every preparation for going, I have perhaps   reached the door, and then found myself powerless to enter.  Stranger   still, I have actually returned; and then, despite the strongest conscious   efforts to "recapture the first fine careless rapture" of the previous   visit, behaved in such a way as to make it impossible.

I have never been baffled by any such inexplicable incident as the  abandonment of the room, though I have sometimes failed to find the  expected girl.

Talking the whole matter over with my guide, philosopher and friend,  Frater O.P.V., he finds the whole story extraordinarily gripping.  He  finds the situation nodal for the spirit of romance.  An extraordinary  number of vital threads or "nerves" of romance.

He attaches great significance to the failure of Eckenstein to keep  the appointment.  It seems to him as if the whole business were a sort of  magical ordeal, that Eckenstein should have been awake to the miraculous  character of the adventure and kept his appointment though hell itself  yawned between him and the house.  The main test is his realization that  the incident is high Magick, that if he fail to grasp its importance, to  understand that unless he return that night the way will shut fro ever.  He suggests that by failing to appreciate the opportunity at its full  value he had somehow missed the supreme chance of his life, as if the  "wrong house" were the gateway to another world, an inn, so to speak, on  the outskirts of the City of God.  In recent years I have been constantly  alert and on the look-out for something of the kind.  Whenever my plans  are disarranged by a number of apparently trivial and accidental   circumstances, I look eagerly for the possibility that the situation to  which they lead may prove the opening scene in some gigantic drama.  Numerous episodes in these memoirs illustrate this thesis.  One might even   say that the whole book is a demonstration of how the accumulation and  consequence of large numbers of apparently disconnected facts have  culminated in bringing "the time and the place, and the loved one all  together".

Lineage & Education . . .  

Eckenstein's parents had escaped from Germany in '48, or thereabouts,  as political exiles, or so I imagine; I do not remember any details.  But  he was educated at Bonn and knew Bloody Bill intimately.  This luckless  despot was at that time a young man of extraordinary promise, taking himself with  the utmost seriousness as realizing the gigantic responsibilities of his  inheritance.   He was intensely eager to fit himself to do his best for  Germany.  He was openminded and encouraged Eckenstein's endeavours to  introduce eight-oared rowing into the university, and used his influence  to obtain permission of officers to lay by their swords when playing  tennis.

Pranks . . .  

One incident amuses me greatly.  Students were exempt from the general law and could not be punished for any act which was not mentioned  by name in the statues.  The brighter spirits would then accordingly  search the statues for gaps.  It was, for instance, strengstens verboten  to tie night-watchmen to lightning conductors during thunderstorms.  Eckenstein and his friends waited accordingly for the absence of  thunderstorms and then proceeded to tie up the watchmen.

A Man Precise and Moral . . .   

He was as thoroughly anglicized as possible.  The chief mark of the  old Adam was a tendency to professional dogmatism.  When he felt he was  right, he was almost offensively right; and on any point which seemed to  him settled, the coefficient of his mental elasticity was zero.  He could  not imagine the interference of broad principles with the detailed results  of research.  The phrase "general principles" enraged him.  He insisted on  each case being analysed by itself as it arose.  This is all right, but it  is possible to overdo it.  There are many circumstances which elude  analysis, yet are perfectly clear if examined in the light of the  fundamental structure of the human organism.  For all that, he was exactly  the man that I needed to correct my tendency to take things for granted,  to be content with approximations, to jump at conclusions, and generally  to think casually and loosely.  Besides this, my experience of his moral  and intellectual habits was of the greatest service to me, or rather to  England, when it was up to me to outwit Hugo Münsterberg.

Eckenstein's moral code was higher and nobler than that of any other  man I have met.  On numerous points I cannot agree; for some of his ideas  are based on the sin complex.  I cannot imagine where he got it from, he  with his rationalistic mind from which he excluded all the assumptions of  established religion.  But he certainly had the idea that virtue was  incompatible with enjoyment.  He refused to admit that writing poetry was  work, though he admired and loved it intensely.  I think his argument must  have been that if a man enjoys what he is doing, he should not expect  extra remuneration.

An Odd Aversion . . .  

Eckenstein share the idiosyncrasies of certain very great men in  history.   He could not endure kittens.  He did not mind grown-up cats.  The feeling was quite irrational and conferred mysterious powers! for he  could detect the presence of a kitten by means of some sense peculiar to  himself.  We used to tease him about it in the manner of the young, who  never understand that anything may be serious to another person which is  not so to them.  One Easter the hotel was overcrowded; and five of us, including Eckenstein and  myself, were sleeping in the barn.  One of Eckenstein's greatest friends  was Mrs. Bryant, whose beautiful death between Chamonix and Montanvers in  1922 was the crown of a noble life.  She had brought her niece, Miss  Nichols, who to intrepidity on rocks added playfulness in less austere  surroundings.  I formally accuse her of putting a kitten under  Eckenstein's pillow in the barn while we were in the smoking-room after  dinner.  If it had been a cobra Eckenstein could not have been more upset!

He had also an idiosyncrasy about artificial scent.  One day my wife  and a friend came home from shopping.  They had called at the chemist's  who had sprayed them with "Shem-el-nessim".  We saw them coming and went  to the door to receive them.  Eckenstein made one rush --- like a bull ---  for the window of the sitting-rrom, flung it open and spent the next  quarter of an hour leaning out and gasping for breath.

A Love of Puzzles . . .

Eckenstein was a great connoisseur of puzzles.  It is extremely  useful, by the way, to be able to occupy the mind in such ways when one  has not the conveniences or inclination for one's regular work, and there  is much time to kill in a hotel or a tent in bad weather.  Personally, I  have found chess solitaire and triple-dummy bridge or skat as good as  anything.

Eckenstein was a recognized authority on what is known as Kirkwood's schoolgirl problem, but we used to work all sorts of things, from problems  connected with Mersenne's numbers and Fermat's binary theorem to thepurely frivolous attempt to represent any given number by the use of the  number four, four times --- neither more nor less, relating them by any of  the accepted symbols of mathematical operations.  His has been done up to about 170, with the exception of the number 113, and thence to 300 or thereabouts with only a few gaps.  I solved 113 with the assistance of Frater Psi and the sue of a subfactorial, fur Eckenstein would not admit the use of this symbol as fair.

He was also interested in puzzles involving material apparatus, one of which seems worth mention.  He was in Mysore and a travelling conjurer sold him a whole bundle of more or less ingenious tricks.  One of these consisted simply of two pieces of wood; one a board with a hole in it, the other shaped somewhat like a dumb-bell, the ends being much too big to go through the hole.   Eckenstein said that he was almost ready to swear that he saw the man take them up separately and rapidly put them together, in which condition he had them and was never able to take them apart.  He explored the surface minutely for signs of complexity of structure but without success.  I never saw the toy, he having sent it to Mr. W. W. Rouse Ball, a great authority on such matters, but also baffled in this case.

Too Literal . . . 

We were naturally always interested in any problems concerned with the working out of a difficult route, and here his probity on one occasion made him the victim of an unscrupulous child of Shaitan.  The villain appeared in the guise of an old and valued friend, saying "Is it possible to reach Q from P (mentioning two places in London) without passing a public house?"  Eckenstein accordingly took his walks in that direction and after endless trouble discovered a roundabout way which fulfilled the condition.  Communicating the joyful news, his friend replied, "Good for you!  Here's something else.  Can you get to the Horseshoe, Tottenham Court Road, from here without passing a public house?"  I do not know how many pairs of alpine boots Eckenstein wore out on the problem, before asking his friend, "Can it be done?"  A telegram assured him that it could.  More boots went the way of all leather and then he gave up. "It's perfectly easy," said the false friend, don't pass them --- go in!"

(The psychologist will observe that this atrocious piece of misplaced humour was made possible by the earlier problem having been genuine, difficult and interesting, thus guaranteeing the spoof.)

One of his favourite amusements was to calculate the possibility of some published description of a phenomenon.  For instance, in the novel "She" here is a "rocking stone" about which there are sufficient data in the book to enable an expert to say whether it was possible in nature.  He decided that it was, but only on the assumption that it was a cone balanced on its apex.

An Adventure on the Thames . . . 

I suppose that every form of navigation possesses its peculiar dangers.  I remember Eckenstein telling me of an adventure he once had with Legros.  One might be tempted to think that very little harm could come to a barge in a dock on the Thames, bar being cut down by a torpedo ram.  But the facts are otherwise.  It was the first time that either of them had been in charge of this species of craft, which they had to manoeuvre in  order to inspect a wharf which required some slight repair.  The gallant little wave-waltzer displaced a hundred and twenty tons and was called the Betsy Anne.

They boarded the barge without difficulty, but to get her going was another matter.   The fellow-countrymen of Cook, drake and Nelson were not behindhand with wise advice couched in language of frankness and fancy. They learned that the way to make a barge go was to walk up and down the broad flat gunwale with a pole.  She was certainly very hard to start; but it got easier as she gathered way.  They entered into the spirit of the sport and began to run up and down with their poles, exciting each other to emulation with cheerful laughter.  Pride filled their souls as they observed that their rapid mastery of the awkward craft was appreciated on shore, as the lusty cheering testified.  It encouraged them to mightier efforts and before long they must have been making well over two miles an hour. 

Then Eckenstein's quick ear asked him whether the shouting on shore was so wholly the expression of unstinted admiration as he had supposed.  He paid greater attention and thought he detected yells of coarse ridicule mingled with violent objurgation.  He thought he heard a word at the conclusion of a string of extremely emphatic epithets which might easily have been mistaken for "Fool!"  At this point Legros stopped poling, said shortly and unmistakably "Hell!" and pointed to the wharf, which, as previously stated, stood in need of some trifling repairs.  It was now not more than fifty yards away and seemed to them to be charging them with the determination of an angry elephant.   They realized the danger and shouted for advice.  The answer was, in essence, "Dive!"  It was, of course, hopeless to attempt to check or even to deflect the Betsy Anne.  They dived, and a moment later heard the rending crash of the collision, and were nearly brained by baulks of falling timber.   "Well," said Eckenstein, a they drove home to change their muddy garments, "We've done a good morning's work, anyhow.  That wharf is no longer in need of trifling repairs."  Both it and the Betsy Anne kept the neighbourhood in matchwood for the next two years.  Oh! for a modern Cowper to immortalize the maritime John Gilpin!"