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- The Voyages of Captain Scott - 2/60 -


you hurt yourself, don't expect any sympathy from me.' The knife was opened, and to cut himself rather badly proved as easy as falling into the leat. The father, however, had not noticed, and the boy put his bleeding hand into his pocket and walked on unconcernedly. He was really considerably damaged; and this is a good story of a child of seven who all his life suffered extreme nausea from the sight of blood; even in the Discovery days, to get accustomed to 'seeing red,' he had to force himself to watch Dr. Wilson skinning his specimens.

When he was about eight Con passed out of the hands of a governess, and became a school-boy, first at a day school in Stoke Damerel and later at Stubbington House, Fareham. He rode grandly between Oatlands and Stoke Damerel on his pony, Beppo, which bucked in vain when he was on it, but had an ingratiating way of depositing other riders on the road. From what one knows of him later this is a characteristic story. One day he dismounted to look over a gate at a view which impressed him (not very boyish this), and when he recovered from a brown study there was no Beppo to be seen. He walked the seven miles home, but what was characteristic was that he called at police-stations on the way to give practical details of his loss and a description of the pony. Few children would have thought of this, but Scott was naturally a strange mixture of the dreamy and the practical, and never more practical than immediately after he had been dreamy. He forgot place and time altogether when thus abstracted. I remember the first time he dined with me, when a number of well-known men had come to meet him, he arrived some two hours late. He had dressed to come out, then fallen into one of his reveries, forgotten all about the engagement, dined by himself and gone early to bed. Just as he was falling asleep he remembered where he should be, arose hastily and joined us as speedily as possible. It was equally characteristic of him to say of the other guests that it was pleasant to a sailor to meet so many interesting people. When I said that to them the sailor was by far the most interesting person in the room he shouted with mirth. It always amused Scott to find that anyone thought him a person of importance.

[Illustration: Robert F. Scott at the age of 13 as a naval cadet.]

I suppose everyone takes for granted that in his childhood, as later when he made his great marches, Scott was muscular and strongly built. This was so far from being the case that there were many anxious consultations over him, and the local doctor said he could not become a sailor as he could never hope to obtain the necessary number of inches round the chest. He was delicate and inclined to be pigeon-breasted. Judging from the portrait of him here printed, in his first uniform as a naval cadet, all this had gone by the time he was thirteen, but unfortunately there are no letters of this period extant and thus little can be said of his years on the Britannia where 'you never felt hot in your bunk because you could always twist, and sleep with your feet out at port hole.' He became a cadet captain, a post none can reach who is not thought well of by the other boys as well as by their instructors, but none of them foresaw that he was likely to become anybody in particular. He was still 'Old Mooney,' as his father had dubbed him, owing to his dreamy mind; it was an effort to him to work hard, he cast a wistful eye on 'slackers,' he was not a good loser, he was untidy to the point of slovenliness, and he had a fierce temper. All this I think has been proved to me up to the hilt, and as I am very sure that the boy of fifteen or so cannot be very different from the man he grows into it leaves me puzzled. The Scott I knew, or thought I knew, was physically as hard as nails and flung himself into work or play with a vehemence I cannot remember ever to have seen equaled. I have fished with him, played cricket and football with him, and other games, those of his own invention being of a particularly arduous kind, for they always had a moment when the other players were privileged to fling a hard ball at your undefended head. 'Slackness,' was the last quality you would think of when you saw him bearing down on you with that ball, and it was the last he asked of you if you were bearing down on him. He was equally strenuous of work; indeed I have no clearer recollection of him than his way of running from play to work or work to play, so that there should be the least possible time between. It is the 'time between' that is the 'slacker's' kingdom, and Scott lived less in it than anyone I can recall. Again, I found him the best of losers, with a shout of delight for every good stroke by an opponent: what is called an ideal sportsman. He was very neat and correct in his dress, quite a model for the youth who come after him, but that we take as a matter of course; it is 'good form' in the Navy. His temper I should have said was bullet-proof. I have never seen him begin to lose it for a second of time, and I have seen him in circumstances where the loss of it would have been excusable.

However, 'the boy makes the man,' and Scott was none of those things I saw in him but something better. The faults of his youth must have lived on in him as in all of us, but he got to know they were there and he took an iron grip of them and never let go his hold. It was this self-control more than anything else that made the man of him of whom we have all become so proud. I get many proofs of this in correspondence dealing with his manhood days which are not strictly within the sphere of this introductory note. The horror of slackness was turned into a very passion for keeping himself 'fit.' Thus we find him at one time taking charge of a dog, a 'Big Dane,' so that he could race it all the way between work and home, a distance of three miles. Even when he was getting the Discover ready and doing daily the work of several men, he might have been seen running through the streets of London from Savile Row or the Admiralty to his home, not because there was no time for other method of progression, but because he must be fit, fit, fit. No more 'Old Mooney' for him; he kept an eye for ever on that gentleman, and became doggedly the most practical of men. And practical in the cheeriest of ways. In 1894 a disastrous change came over the fortunes of the family, the father's money being lost and then Scott was practical indeed. A letter he wrote I at this time to his mother, tenderly taking everything and everybody on his shoulders, must be one of the best letters ever written by a son, and I hope it may be some day published. His mother was the great person of his early life, more to him even than his brother or his father, whom circumstances had deprived of the glory of following the sailor's profession and whose ambitions were all bound up in this son, determined that Con should do the big things he had not done himself. For the rest of his life Con became the head of the family, devoting his time and his means to them, not in an it-must-be-done manner, but with joy and even gaiety. He never seems to have shown a gayer front than when the troubles fell, and at a farm to which they retired for a time he became famous as a provider of concerts. Not only must there be no 'Old Mooney' in him, but it must be driven out of everyone. His concerts, in which he took a leading part, became celebrated in the district, deputations called to beg for another, and once in these words, 'Wull 'ee gie we a concert over our way when the comic young gentleman be here along?'

Some servants having had to go at this period, Scott conceived the idea that he must even help domestically in the house, and took his own bedroom under his charge with results that were satisfactory to the casual eye, though not to the eyes of his sisters. It was about this time that he slew the demon of untidiness so far as his own dress was concerned and doggedly became a model for still younger officers. Not that his dress was fine. While there were others to help he would not spend his small means on himself, and he would arrive home in frayed garments that he had grown out of and in very tarnished lace. But neat as a pin. In the days when he returned from his first voyage in the Antarctic and all England was talking of him, one of his most novel adventures was at last to go to a first-class tailor and be provided with a first-class suit. He was as elated by the possession of this as a child. When going about the country lecturing in those days he traveled third class, though he was sometimes met at the station by mayors and corporations and red carpets.

The hot tempers of his youth must still have lain hidden, but by now the control was complete. Even in the naval cadet days of which unfortunately there is so little to tell, his old friends who remember the tempers remember also the sunny smile that dissipated them. When I knew him the sunny smile was there frequently, and was indeed his greatest personal adornment, but the tempers never reached the surface. He had become master of his fate and captain of his soul.

In 1886 Scott became a middy on the Boadicea, and later on various ships, one of them the Rover, of which Admiral Fisher was at that time commander. The Admiral has a recollection of a little black pig having been found under his bunk one night. He cannot swear that Scott was the leading culprit, but Scott was certainly one of several who had to finish the night on deck as a punishment. In 1888 Scott passed, his examinations for sub-lieutenant, with four first-class honors and one second, and so left his boyhood behind. I cannot refrain however from adding as a conclusion to these notes a letter from Sir Courtauld Thomson that gives a very attractive glimpse of him in this same year:

'In the late winter a quarter of a century ago I had to find my way from San Francisco to Alaska. The railway was snowed up and the only transport available at the moment was an ill-found tramp steamer. My fellow passengers were mostly Californians hurrying off to a new mining camp and, with the crew, looked a very unpleasant lot of ruffians. Three singularly unprepossessing Frisco toughs joined me in my cabin, which was none too large for a single person. I was then told that yet another had somehow to be wedged in. While I was wondering if he could be a more ill-favored or dirtier specimen of humanity than the others the last comer suddenly appeared--the jolliest and breeziest English naval Second Lieutenant. It was Con Scott. I had never seen him before, but we at once became friends and remained so till the end. He was going up to join his ship which, I think, was the Amphion, at Esquimault, B. C.

'As soon as we got outside the Golden Gates we ran into a full gale which lasted all the way to Victoria, B. C. The ship was so overcrowded that a large number of women and children were allowed to sleep on the floor of the only saloon there was on condition that they got up early, so that the rest of the passengers could come in for breakfast and the other meals.

'I need scarcely say that owing to the heavy weather hardly a woman was able to get up, and the saloon was soon in an indescribable condition. Practically no attempt was made to serve meals and the few so-called stewards were themselves mostly out of action from drink or sea-sickness.

'Nearly all the male passengers who were able to be about spent their time drinking and quarrelling. The deck cargo and some of our top hamper were washed away and the cabins got their share of the waves that were washing the deck.


The Voyages of Captain Scott - 2/60

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