COLONEL

ARCHIBALD In Memoriam

GRACIE *

CHARLES V A L E

C

O L O N E L GRACIE died on the fourth of December, 1912. H e had been in feeble health all through the summer, but had no definite physical complaint. H e felt ill and weak, and ascribed his condition to the exposure and strain through which he went in the Titanic disaster. Mrs. Gracie and his daughter were with him up to the end, which he knew was coming, for the day before he died he had the minister of the Church of the Incarnation brought to his bedside, and Holy Communion was administered. On the next day he was unconscious for twelve hours; but just before he died he became conscious for about ten minutes, recognizing everyone and bidding them good-bye. The funeral service was held at Calvary Church, where he was married, and a large number of the members of the Seventh Regiment, to which he belonged, were present. The church was beautifully decorated. Mrs. Astor was there, and many other Titanic survivors, several of whom Colonel Gracie had helped into the boats at the time of the disaster. The interment took place at the Gracie plot at Woodlawn. I met Colonel Gracie, for the first—and last—time, at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria, in New York, when the world was still ringing with echoes of the great catastrophe. The extraordinary experiences through which he had passed, and the terrible scenes that he had witnessed, were still as vivid to him as if they had happened the day before; but he talked very quietly, directly, unaffectedly, neither obtruding nor avoiding the personal element. There was something strangely gracious in his attitude; I heard no harsh or condemnatory word from him: he seemed to have the rare gift of comprehension of human
* Reprinted, a year after Colonel Grade's death, from the "Concluding Note" to his book. The Truth About the Titanic.
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nature, the rare sense of proportion. H e accused no man of cowardice or inefficiency; but narrated the facts as he saw them, volunteering no inferences. And gradually, in that atmosphere of careless, casual security; with men and women from every corner of more than one continent scattered about the room; with all the obvious, and more subtle, presuppositions of civilization that a luxurious hotel in a huge metropolis illustrates;—there was evolved the picture of the great ship, going to her doom in the night, with her living cargo. I cannot express fully the vividness of that image—carved, as it were, from the darkness of memory and imposed on the sunlight of a summer's day. It stands out for me, ineffaceable, unforgettable—as it must stand out for all who passed through those tragic hours and still live to recall how near they were to death. One retraced the growing realization of the gravity of the situation; the conviction that the ship must inevitably sink before help could arrive; and, finally, the resolute facing of destiny. Good and bad deeds we^re done that night and morning: but the good outvalue the bad, immeasurably; and when the littlenesses have been duly reckoned, and the few cowards dismissed, and the uncouth or selfish weighed and found wanting, there remains the grand total of brave and steadfast men and women whose names must be enrolled imperishably in any record of world-heroism. In a note like this, closing a work which depends so much on the intimate connection of the author with the scenes that he describes, it is permissible to be personal. I had read, in a daily paper. Colonel Grade's first account of his experiences; had been struck by the special quality of the writing, by the pervading atmosphere of true chivalry—no other word can suggest quite adequately the impression conveyed by that narrative, written under the stress of poignant memories. I think that the effect produced by the account was the same with all who read it: certainly I have met no one who did not recognize the spirituality and fineness shining through the written words—a spirituality not opposed to, but entirely in consonance with, the unmistakable virility of the author. And so, when I met him, I was peculiarly interested in his personality: it seemed to me that this man who was sitting at my left hand, talking quietly, had

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descended as distinctly into hell as any human being would care to acknowledge, and had risen again from the dead—or, at least, from the sea of the dead—into a world which could never again be quite the same to him. I found myself looking from time to time at his eyes; and I saw in them what I have seen only once or twice in the eyes of living men—the experience of death, the acceptance of death, and the irrevocable impress of death. And, though he carried himself as a man accustomed to adventures and unafraid of the big or little ironies of destiny, he was conscious, I think, of a certain isolation, a new aloofness from the ordinary routine of daily life. He had been so near to the end of dreams, had seen the years flash past so suddenly into true perspective, that it was difficult to resume the trivial round and reconstitute a mental world in which details should acquire again their former pretence of importance. Colonel Gracie survived for less than eight months after the loss of the Titanic. Judged by the imperfect reckoning of impulse, it would seem almost unfair that he should have gone through so much, winning his life in the face of such deadly hazards, only to surrender it after a brief interval. But he himself would have been the last to complain. His implicit faith in Providence could not be shaken by any personal suffering. H e made a brave fight for life, as he had made a brave fight for the lives of others while the Titanic was sinking. When the end was inevitable, he accepted it with composure, though he had foreseen it with sadness. The thought of the tragedy with which his name will always be associated was constantly in his mind. The writing of his book involved a great deal of intimate correspondence, with the perpetual revival of painful memories. He made no effort to evade this strain: it was part of the task that he had undertaken. H e felt strongly that the work he was doing was absolutely necessary, and could not be neglected. It was both a public service and a private duty. Simply and sincerely, he dedicated himself to that service and duty. And now, he has done his work, and lived his life, and gone out into the light beyond the darkness. His country has lost a very gallant gentleman. The world has one more legend of brave deeds.

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