The Balkan trip began in Paris, and when
we boarded the night train, the .Orient Express, to go to Trieste
as our first stop, Sauvage and I felt we were to the unknown.
We had been warned of many hazards and exist-s, but we were young
and healthy, and keen for adventure. I was standing on the platform
of the car as the train was about to start. A military delegation
came alongside and saluted two British officers, who quickly
boarded the train with their orderlies. The whistle blew and
we pulled out.
To my surprise one of the officers was General
Sir David Henderson, who Geneva. I could scarcely believe my
eyes. Only a few days before I had met him at the Red Cross office,
surrounded by his official aura of authority. Now we were on
the same train, and he joined us in our compartment, where we
talked over all aspects of our trip as the hours sped past. There
was no edge to the horizon of our thoughts. A sudden newness
attached itself to the most ordinary remarks. It is by such accidental
circumstances that a lasting friendship to being. Speeding through
the darkness into dim regions of unfamiliar territory, not knowing
if there would ever be another meeting, sensing the dangers ahead
and the probability that my journey might well terminate in some
pest-ridden village in Macedonia, every moment seemed charged
I went out to the platform to smoke a cigarette,
when the other British officer who was a stranger to me, came
through from the next car. "Temperley is my name",
he said in a deep British voice. "I was told by my orderly
that you two ladies are going on a trip through the Balkans orderlies
know everything on, you know!" he smiled. "I'm on a
similar errand myself," he continued, "but I've traveled
that country many times before; they call me the "Balkan
Dog" but I'm really just a harmless historian. How far do
you go on this train?"
"We get off at Trieste," I answered,
"and from there we go by motor or by whatever means of transport
we can find."
"I go through to Belgrade," said
the major, "and from there down through Albania if I'm lucky.
There's a lot of fighting still going on down there. You must
be careful about that, and about your health too. Watch out for
lice and long-legged malaria mosquitoes and never drink water
without disinfecting it."
"Nice holiday resort!" I remarked,
"But why worry about it may not happen!"
"If I can be of use to you, and if our
paths ever cross again, here is my card," said the major.
"If you ever come to Cambridge,"
he added, "come to see me there at Peterhouse. We'll have
lots to talk about after you visit these Balkan countries. Good
luck, and au revoir!"
Sauvage and I traveled for seven weeks after our arrival in Trieste.
In Athens I fell a prey to sunstroke, trying to study the wonders
of the Acropolis in the scorching heat of midday; but this was
my only time free from Red Cross duties and I felt it was worth
the risk. Shortly after my recovery, at Salonika, which was our
next stop, Sauvage found herself in the hospital with "sand-flea
fever," a jolly sort of disease that can cause such swelling
of the face and glands that one would think the victim had been
bitten by a dragon rather than a flea. We were finally well enough
to start northward by train. The heat was gross, and the dusty
air quivered in the blistering glare, as we stopped at the dingy
station of Skoplje. We were carrying ten bags of ice from Salonika
to the Red Cross Hospital for diphtheria patients, and although
much had melted on the way there was enough left to be of some
On the station platform, to our amazement,
was Major Temperley surrounded by many sick and sallow malaria
victims. He looked more unkempt and exhausted than anyone we
had seen on the way. When he caught sight of us, he jumped to
his feet. "My word, girls, what a piece of good luck! Cheerio,
and how are you?"
We were ordered off the train to change to another string of
baggage and cattle cars going to Nis. Ducks, pigs, and chickens
were being unloaded by the peasants, and then we were told to
get on board at once and the Major and his orderly jumped on
with us. The cars were filthy beyond words. The wood benches
had served merely to separate the cattle and the pigs. No glass
was left in the windows and there were no screens; Major Tempeley
gave the place one look. . . . "Clear out, girls; we'll
have this place swept and disinfected before you come inside!"
We sat listlessly on the steps of the car, so hot and weary after
our long journey that nothing mattered; but we were grateful
for the major's precautions.
All that day and through the night we rattled
along in this odoriferous cattle car. But the wonder of that
journey was that this dusty worn-out Cambridge professor was
able to keep me so interested in his tales of Balkan heroism
and history that I was actually sorry when we neared the jumping-off
depot at Nis. The poems and lyrics he recited on that trip revealed
a wealth and accuracy of memory that dumbfounded me. I shall
always remember the lines he recited after telling me that an
artist must ride Pegasus with a light hand. "Never let the
weight of Life get you down. . . . Remember these lines by Tennyson,
"There came a rider to the castle gate.
The night was stormy and the hour late,
The horse had wings and would have flown
But that his heavy rider held him down.
These were his parting words as we climbed
down the steps to the platform at Nis. He went on to Belgrade
and then back to London. Another friendship born in a railroad
Many years later, Major Temperley came to Harvard as "Exchange
Professor," and at that time he often visited my New York
studio. We found that, like wine, our friendship had ripened
with the years.
While I was abroad on the Yugoslavian trip,
Mother was in the care of a fine, capable nurse, Mrs. Norma Beckford,
and when the weather was warm she took Mamma up to a house she
had in New London, Connecticut, on the water's edge. After my
return, still feeling the effects of my heat prostration at Athens,
I went up to see Mamma, and she said: "I'm all right; you
don't have to worry about me. It's cool here by the water, and
I'm being spoiled and having a lovely time, but I don't see why
you don't take a holiday yourself." Urged by Mamma, at the
end of August Sam and I and Sauvage and Ed McCartan decided that
my car Peewee would navigate well enough to take us up to the
St. Lawrence River for a two-week outing. As we left, I said,
"We must stop on the way and see Mother, because she'll
laugh at this car that's still running." We decided Peewee
ran on air and water, that's about all we ever put in, still,
it got us to the Thousand Islands, and there we rented twin cabins
with a little porch in front. Ed and Sam were in one and Sauvage
and I in the other, and we went paddling, canoeing, fishing,
picnicking, and wandering around in the woods. I have never been
back there since, and so the memory of that carefree, magical
holiday remains unchangeable in my mind.
As my mother's health continued to fail,
one of the great comforts to her and to me was Dr. Joseph Fraenkel,
a rare friend I made in those difficult years. He was a Viennese
Jew, in brilliance and wisdom so far ahead of his time that he
was considered a fanatic (Gehirne mit zwei Beinen, a brain with
two legs!). But to those who appreciated him, he gave unreservedly
of his knowledge and perceptiveness in medicine and philosophy,
and influenced the few doctors who dared to blaze the trail for
new treatments of physical and mental ailments.
His eyes were frightening. They protruded
from under his bushy eyebrows and blazed with a ferocity that
pierced falsehood or bluff. He searched the depths
and was not afraid of exposing what he found. At the top of his
house he had a library and working laboratory where, after his
crowded days of caring for the sick, he would continue his indefatigable
searching. A celestial and terrestrial globe stood at each end
of a big table; books in many languages lined the walls and were
piled on the floor beside his desk chair.
By some stroke of fortune I was admitted
to his inner sanctum. When I first saw him in this study, it
was as if I had entered another world. He had been engaged for
years in translating the Latin works of certain scholars into
English. Everything that Swedenborg had written he had thoroughly
read and absorbed. Rows of books on Oriental religions and philosophy
were among his treasures. The best translation he could find
of the Vedic writings in Sanskrit were his constant companions.
Fabre and his revelations of animal life, the Bible, the poets
of Germany and France, philosophical treatises from many minds
in many lands, this world of wisdom and spiritual understanding
was all stored here. It was at night that he withdrew to his
workroom, and it was there he took the time to initiate his pupils
into secrets that were at that time thought to be out of reach
or reason. We would turn the wooden sphere slowly, while he explained
the course of planets and stars as if they were his close friends.
"Read, Malvina, read always. Search out the ancient Oriental
truth of things. They knew so much more than modern man. Ages
of laziness and worldly-minded men have forgotten that Asia was
old and wise before Europe was born!"
His devotion to my mother was extraordinary.
As her health failed, he sensed the unspoken fears that racked
my heart. His own health was broken, and his time on earth was
limited, but to the very end he would come to comfort us when
he should have been in his bed. Sometimes at night he would appear,
uncalled, sure of how much he was wanted. I had constant evidence
of his psychic powers and super sensitiveness, as well as of
his human understanding. His incisive criticisms of my work in
the studio would shake me into new awareness.". . . Look
for the best, Malvina. Die Menschen verheimlichen sich!"
After a few moments of talk about how to read and study the masters
of old, he would draw a book out of his pocket and put it on
the table, saying: "Read it thoughtfully, Malvina, and try
to remember it!" Once it was Fabre d'Olivet's Hermeneutic
Origin of the Social State of Man. "It sounds formidable,
but it is good for you. When you have finished reading it, bring
it with you, and we will discuss it." Without another word
he would be gone. Another time it was the Golden Verses of Pythagoras
that he gave me, and I still treasure the hours we spent reading
these, and commentaries that filled a large volume. He it was
who first revealed to me the mind and writings of Édouard
Schure', whose book Les Grands Inités went with me on
most of my travels. If there were only more teachers like this
man, who could touch off the smoldering embers in the minds of
One night after my mother had been especially
restless and I was unable to Sleep, I went to the telephone in
a moment of weakness and thought, I must call Dr. Fraenkel. Before
I could call the number, the telephone started ringing. I answered
at once and heard my friend's unmistakable voice: " I think
tonight you and your mamma are having a hard time. I come in
a few moments. . . " He hung up. There was nothing to do
but to marvel at this experience, and in twenty minutes there
was a soft knock at our door and there he stood, wrapped in a
white muffler and heavy overcoat. "I go to Mamma first,"
he said, as he passed and put his hand on my arm. "You wait
He came back before long. "She is asleep
now, and will rest. And you must learn also to sleep. It is an
art, when the mind is troubled to learn how to rest otherwise
you will get insomnia, that would be bad. But do not tell me
I should not have come tonight. I know very well my own sickness.
I sent the nurse to get a prescription for me; she will be coming
back soon. I go now, and she will never know I came out. The
younger doctors insist they can save me by operating. I know
that they cannot, but in a few days I will let them have their
way. Otherwise they will always say, 'We could have saved him!'
I do not wish to be saved. Life is such a sensitive, wonderful
introduction, but it is only a beginning. Keep your fires burning,
and always listen by way of the heart, not the words, and always
you will be filled with wonder!"
About a week later some friends persuaded
me to go to dinner with them at l'Aiglon Restaurant. I was not
in the mood to be gay, but forced myself to go in spite of a
sense of impending sorrow. Groups of young people were enjoying
themselves all about us. My soul was gripped with a sudden overpowering
emotion. Voices grew faint. . . . The next thing of which I was
conscious was a cold wet compress being put on my forehead. I
was lying in the rest room, having fainted at the table.
When consciousness returned, I asked my hostess
for permission immediately to make a telephone call. I was able
to get to the booth, and I asked for Dr. Fraenkel's nurse. I
was so sure he had gone to the hospital that I had memorized
the number to call later that evening. When I asked for a report
on my friend's condition, the nurse replied, "Dr. Fraenkel
died ten minutes ago."
"Did they operate?" I asked. "Yes,"
she said, "but they found his condition hopeless."
A strange quietude came over me. I bade my hostess good night
and said I could drive home alone, that I felt quite able to
go and preferred that no one accompany me. Reluctantly she acquiesced.
The following morning, in that suspended
moment of dawn, I felt suddenly the presence of someone standing
at the door of my room. It was Dr. Fraenkel who appeared clearly
before me. He put his hand forward, and I felt it pressing my
brow. "It is all right now, Malvina. I am with God!"
In 1920 when I was in France, I purchased
a ten ton block of Caen stone and had it shipped to my stone
carver Robert Baillie in New Jersey. The year before, Robert
Bacon, in my studio in New York, had expressed his interest in
the study for a memorial group I was planning. Very soon after,
in France, I was saddened to hear that this fine and valued friend
had died. Mrs. Bacon telegraphed me that his last wish had been
to have me make the group, "The Sacrifice," in French
Caen stone, and she confirmed the commission and said she would
present the group to Harvard as a memorial for World War I.
On my return after the stone had been shipped,
we began work. When the heavy masses of excess stone had been
cut off and the group reduced to about six tons and ready to
finish, we moved it on a truck to 157. There we took out the
big front window of the erstwhile harness room and built a ramp
of two steel rails on supports made of railroad ties and so managed
to get the rough cut stone in.
For fifteen months Baillie and I carved this
group. If I had known ahead of time what work was involved in
carving a full suit of chain armor in stone, I think I would
never have started such a medieval labor of love. Since we could
not use a mallet for fear of lifting off the stone links, we
had to carve them with hand pressure and sharp chisels. However,
it strengthened my arm and tested my patience and won me the
friendly help of Mr. Bashford Dean, Curator of Arms and Armor
at the Metropolitan Museum. When the group was finally finished,
he gave me a rare gauntlet and a piece of chain mail, saying
it was because I worked like a medieval craftsman.
During the last months of work on this group,
I offered the use of my car to the New York Red Cross. I was
sent on numberless errands, including meeting the steamers bringing
Red Cross workers to New York. One of the most distinguished
visitors I was sent to welcome was General Sir David Henderson
who in Paris had agreed to let me model a portrait of him if
he ever came to America. Between the dock and his destination
in New York we made the appointment for the sittings and, since
his time was limited, I built up the head from memory so that
we got off to a good start. He was one of those aristocratic
Britishers whose definite clean-cut features are a delight to
sculptors. I noted new lines of suffering on his face and found
that since our last meeting he had lost his only son in an airplane
Sir David showed interest in the figures
of my stone group, and I confessed to him it was difficult to
find the type I wanted for the young crusader. He drew a photo
from his uniform pocket and said it was the last one taken of
his aviator son. The serene strength of the face struck me, and
I begged leave to borrow the picture and use it as my guide.
Sir David agreed, and before he left assured me that the crusader
was very like his son. When the portrait of Sir David was completed,
a deep and abiding friendship had been formed between us. I gave
him a little bronze he liked as a souvenir when he left, for
somehow we both had the presentiment that we would never meet
He went to Geneva, and from there I had news
that he had been taken ill. I remember still how earnestly I
prayed for his recovery, hoping the waves of thought might be
strong enough to reach Him. . . . At last a letter came for me,
postmarked Geneva. Mother asked me to stay with her while I read
it. It was from Lady Henderson: "David received your letter,
but was too ill to write you He died yesterday. He had your letter
beside him. He spoke often of the portrait you made of him in
America. I am wondering if it could go to the Imperial War Museum
in London?" The following spring I went to see Lady Henderson
London and arranged to carry out her wishes.
When the stone group of "The Sacrifice"
was almost completed, an incident occurred that I make no effort
to explain, but these are the facts:
One morning I awoke from a dream in which
there had appeared to me the figure of a man walking toward me.
His face was clearly defined as he can~ quite near, and he said,
"What are you going to do about this?" I was so startle
at the emphatic question that I woke up wondering who the man
might be an what it all meant.
At breakfast I related the dream to Mother,
who, having heard of my dream many times before, dismissed the
matter with a smile. Just then I took up the morning paper and
noticed the headlines describing a terrible accident that had
occurred in Boston Back Bay station. Gervase Elwes, the English
tenor, ha missed his step when getting off the train just as
it started to move. He was being met by a delegation of friends
and admirers, and before anyone could realize what had happened,
his body fell between the platform and the train and he was'
"Mother," I cried out, "I feel sure this is the
man who spoke to me in m dreams!" I read aloud the story
and tried to quiet the pounding in my heart. Something strange
had certainly shaken my equilibrium, for, although I ha never
met Gervase Elwes, try as I might the message kept repeating
itself. But said no more about it.
Two weeks later, Ernest Schelling asked if
he might bring a friend to se the "Sacrifice" group
and if I would permit this lady to stay in the studio alone as
she had recently suffered deep tragedy and did not want to meet
anyone. The hour was arranged, and when the heavily veiled lady
had spent the desired time in the studio she asked to speak to
me. It was Lady Elwes.
She asked if I had known her husband, who
had recently been killed in a accident. I hardly knew what to
answer, but I said, "Perhaps!" She went on t ask me
if I ever made portraits from a death mask and photographs. I
replied that I had occasionally been able to do this if I could
obtain enough accurate data and she said that she could collect
various photographs. Then I could no long keep silent about my
dream, and I told her what had happened. "If your photographs
show me the profiles of the same man whom I saw in my dream I
a sure I can make his portrait." In the dream I had seen
only his front face.
When the pictures came, I was dumbfounded.
It was the same man. Lady Elwes had planned to return to England
in ten days' time. I promised to work rapidly as possible. In
fact, I was driven as if by a supernatural force. Elwes seemed
to appear before me in a certain place in the studio, and I would
talk t him and ask him to turn so that I could see his profile
and I worked exactly as a living model was posing for me. It
was somewhat like the experience I had had doing my drawing of
Keats in Rome.
After four days of work, I developed a high
fever and had to have the clay head taken to my home as I was
too ill to go to the studio. When Lady Elwes came to see the
portrait two days before sailing, she brought a priest with her
who had known her husband well. I could not get up to receive
the visitors, so Mother acted as hostess. They were left alone
for a while in the front parlor where the portrait was. Then
Lady Elwes came to see me in my room and expressed astonishment
at the accuracy of the likeness, and especially the expression,
which she said was not in any of the photographs and was evident
only when her husband was singing.
Naturally I was somewhat overcome, for it
had been an exhausting and feverish experience. The head was
cast in plaster, and Lady Elwes took it to England where a committee
of her friends who had other portraits submitted as a memorial
decided to select mine. So it was cast in bronze and placed as
his memorial in a niche built into the wall of Queen's Hall,
London. During the London Blitz in the Second World War, the
hall and everything in it were completely destroyed.
There are mysterious moments in life that
we cannot explain, but the sequence of unpredictable events relating
to this portrait was certainly more than coincidental.
The "Sacrifice" was completed, and the time came for
moving the group up to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine,
where it would stay for a while until it could be sent to Cambridge.
Once again we took out the big front window and backed an open
truck up to the wall of 157. Three marble carvers and I went
along with the stone group and directed the unloading and placing
in the Chapel of Ansgarius. Brick piers had been set up to hold
the block, and, extending beyond it, a wooden base and steps.
A stone base could not be used in the chapel as we were warned
that the beams under the floor were not strong enough to support
the weight. I designed two tall Gothic candlesticks to stand
at the head on either side of the group. These were always lighted
when the verger noted visitors going into the chapel to pray.
A high stained-glass window shed its light over the carved figures.
The setting was ideal.
The group was later moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts,
and permanently placed in the Memorial Chapel at Harvard University.
Yesterday Is Tomorrow