We wish some of the soft-handed literary people who bleat about only being able to write in carefully purged and decorated surroundings could have a look at that stateroom. In just such compartments Mr. McFee has written for years, and expected to finish that night (in the two hours each day that he is able to devote to writing) his tale, “Captain Macedoine’s Daughter.” As we talked there was a constant procession of in-comers, most of them seeming to the opaque observation of the layman to be firemen discussing matters of overtime. On the desk lay an amusing memorandum, which the Chief referred to jocularly as one of Mac’s “works,” anent some problem of whether the donkeyman was due certain overtime on a Sunday when the Turrialba lay in Hampton Roads waiting for coal. On the cabin door was a carefully typed list marked in Mr. McFee’s hand “Work to Do.” It began something like this:
Engine Pump-Link Brasses
Fill Up Main Engine Feed Pump and Bilge Rams
Open and Scale After Port Boiler
Main Circulator Impeller to Examine
Hydrokineter Valve on Centre Boiler to be Rejointed
The delightful thing about Mr. McFee is that he can turn from these things, which he knows and loves, to talk about literary problems, and can out-talk most literary critics at their own game.
He took us through his shining engines, showing us some of the beauty spots—the Weir pumps and the refrigerating machinery and the thrust-blocks (we hope we have these right), unconsciously inflicting upon us something of the pain it gives the bungling jack of several trades when he sees a man who is so fine a master not merely of one, but of two—two seemingly diverse, but in which the spirit of faith and service are the same. “She’s a bonny ship,” he said, and his face was lit with sincerity as he said it. Then he washed his hands and changed into shore clothes and we went up to Frank’s, where we had pork and beans and talked about Sir Thomas Browne.