When they get to the Mad River I want them to dump the concrete boulder containing my ashes into the Hawthorn pool.

By Charles Vining, September 8, 1928.

“Let us,” Gregory said, “do something different now and then.”

“All right,” I said, cautiously.

“For example,” Gregory said, “if you’re going to interview somebody why can’t you have one about me for a change?”

“That’s too different,” I said. “We couldn’t go interviewing each other like that. It wouldn’t do.”

“Why not? What’s wrong with me?”

“Oh, you’re all right, Greg, and I like you, but you ought to be more of a public figure for an interview. You ought to be a financial magnate or a statesman or a railway president or something. You’re not even a golf champion or a visiting politician.”

“That’s just it,” Gregory said. “All our interviews are about the same kind of people. Rich or important. I’d be different.”

“How do you mean?”

“I’d be interesting.”

“That would be nice of you.”

“Do you know why?”

“No. But I suppose it’s something about fishing.”

“Not at all. I’d be interesting because I’m average. I’m like all the other people on the street. We’ve got the idea that people want freaks or heroes, but they don’t. They want people like themselves, that they can understand.”

“That’s bunk, Gregory. I suppose you think that’s why people like the colored comics.”

“Certainly. Exaggerations of themselves.”

“Well,” I said. “I’ve just had lunch with Fred and I don’t feel like arguing any more to-day. Anyway, we couldn’t have an interview about you, Greg. There wouldn’t be anything to ask you.”

“What do you usually ask people when you interview them?”

“Depends on the people. You have to ask them the things they know about.”

“You could ask me about the newspaper business, Charles.”

“All right. Mr. Clark. What do you regard, Mr. Clark, as the most serious problem of the newspaper business to-day?”

“That’s easy. The growing intelligence of the public.”

“And what is the solution, Mr. Clark?”

“I would make every editor pass his matriculation exams. Those who fall would be transferred to the business office.”

“Yes, that would look fine in an interview, Greg. You’d be getting your salary held back and then you’d blame me. Here’s a thing I’ve often wondered about you. Greg. Why are you in the newspaper business?”

“I May Be Minister of Fisheries”

“I’m not sure. But I think I went into it because everybody told me that the newspaper business leads to so many other things.”

“Where do you think it’s leading you?”

“Well, I’ve become Fishing Editor. I may be minister of game and fisheries some day.”

“For heaven’s sake, let’s keep off fishing. That’s one reason we could never have an interview about you, Greg. It would be sure to end up in a lot of tripe about trout. Why don’t you try to think about something else?”

“I do. Fishing is only my hobby.”

“If I were to ask you what is the most interesting thing in life, what would you say?”

“Not fishing. My wife and children.”

“Oh, you’ve been reading what Mr. Taschereau and Arthur Meighen said. That’s what they said.”

“I didn’t know that, Charles, honestly I didn’t. What should I say?”

“Yourself. That’s the most interesting thing in life to you. Your wife and children are interesting because they affect you. What’s your great object in life, Greg?”

“Object. Do I have to have an object?”

“Well, if you’re going to be successful you do. If you don’t know what you want how are you going to get it? Edison says the object of life should be to be happy. Are you happy?”

“Sure. I’m happy. But I want everybody to be happy.”

“Pollyanna. Awfully nice stuff for an interview.”

“No. If everybody’s happy they won’t be making trouble for me. That’s why I try to make everybody happy, Charles. When you see me, strutting round here and making a fool of myself that’s what I’m trying to do.”

“How do you mean?”

“Why, I’m letting people feel superior. They look at me and say to themselves they’re glad they’re not a queer nut like me and that makes them feel happy. I often let people feel superior so they’ll be happy. Then they don’t bother me.”

“That’s a fine philosophy for a young man. Haven’t you any ambition, Greg? I thought you told me a long time ago that you were going to write a book.”

“So I am. When I’m forty.”

“What’s it going to be about?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m going to do it when I’m forty.”

“How old are you now?”

“Thirty-six. I wouldn’t tell you that in an interview, though.”

“It’s high time you were doing something. Do you work hard at your writing?”

Gregory looked around the room.

“Yes,” he said, lowering his voice. “But I don’t want anybody to know it. It would spoil everything. I make them think I can’t work.”

“Do you work hard at your writing?” I asked. Gregory looked around the room. “Yes,” he said, lowering his voice. “But I don’t want anybody to know it.”

Has His Funeral All Planned

“How do you work? I never see you work.”

“I work all the time. I work walking along the street and sitting in Child’s. I’m always thinking about people and imagining about them and trying to understand them. On the street car I look at the man opposite me and think all about him. I’m never idle.”

“Oh, that,” I said. “But I mean work.”

“That’s work,” Gregory said. “Work means working at your job, doesn’t it? Well, my job is to understand about people so I’ll know what they like. The easiest part for me is sitting at the typewriter. But I wouldn’t want anybody to know about that, Charles.”

“Say, Greg. Do you mind telling me how you ever got to be a major in the army?”

“By not getting killed. I spent two years in an infantry battalion and kept from getting killed. They couldn’t help making me a major because there wasn’t anybody else left.”

“Were you a dug-out king, or what?”

“Well, I was pretty good in the dug-out. Adjutant for six months.”

“Oh. Adjutant. They probably had to promote you to get you out of the job.”

“Sure. They’ll find out anybody in six months, but I did pretty well. And apart from that, Charles, I was a champion. I wasn’t particularly athletic before the war but out there I was the champion of our whole brigade. There was only one other serious contender. I could jump higher, duck quicker and lie flatter than anybody in the brigade, even our colonel. And another reason I didn’t get killed was because I never got on a horse unless I absolutely had to.”

“Do you ever think about dying now, Greg?”

“Yes. I’ve got my funeral all planned. I’m going to make my will conditional on being buried the way I want.”

“What do you want them to do?”

“I want to be dressed in my fishing clothes, waders and jacket. Then I want them to lay me out with a rod in my hand and all my other rods, and flies and reels spread out round me. Then I want them to cremate me and all my things and put the ashes in the centre of a great big concrete boulder. The boulder will be put on a truck and all my fishing friends will soberly follow the truck up to the Mad river. When they get there I want them to dump the concrete boulder into the Hawthorn pool. And that’s all.”

“An awfully nice idea, Greg. Will you have anything inscribed on the boulder?”

“No. It will be just under the water in that pool, and all the trout will get in the shadows of it.”

“But nobody will know it’s there.”

“Certainly they will. Every good fisherman knows where the big boulders are in the pool he’s fishing. And all my friends will fish in the pool and they’ll come along and say, ‘There’s, Greg out there; I think I’ll try a cast there.’ They’ll never forget me that way.”

Doesn’t Believe in Judgment

“Why do you pick the Hawthorn pool?”

“Well, that’s where I’ve had my best fishing in the Mad river. And the pool really needs a big boulder anyway.”

“Don’t you think you’re liable to have trouble digging yourself out of that boulder on Judgment Day?”

“I don’t believe in Judgment. I got away from the idea of Judgment in the war. I knew old Jim-, a wicked carousing devil with blue eyes and an orange moustache, but brave and true and gay. How could he be Judged? How could the other men I know be Judged? And if they can’t be Judged, how can you or I?”

“Do you believe there’s life after death, Greg?”

“I think so. I hope there is; I’ve got some friends I’d like you to meet, Charles. I hope everybody’ll be there together. Everybody happy.”

“Even your colonel?”


“And the governor-general?”


“I thought you weren’t very keen about governor-generals.”

“Oh, they’re all right.”

“Didn’t I hear you saying the other day wo ought to do away with the governor-general in Canada?”

“Well, I was probably talking to some colonial. I wouldn’t make a fuss about doing away with the governor-general. He does no harm.”

“Would you like to see Canada get out of the Empire, Greg?”

“No, why leave the Empire? It does no harm to be in the Empire. I don’t think we need to leave the Empire any more than England or Scotland does. We’re all right. Canada is free. Canada has her own flag. Some people can’t see it and, I don’t know what it looks like myself, but I know it’s flying, right at the top of every mast.”

“Do you think Canada is ever likely to be annexed by the United States, Greg?”

“I’ll tell you what I do think. I think that within fifty years the United States will be annexed by Canada. I think the United States is heading toward the worst social disaster in human history through the breakdown of law and Justice. They’ll come to Canada to get our law and justice to save them.”

“Well, prophecy is safe, Greg. By the time it happens you’ll be up there in your boulder with the trout.”

“That would be pretty hot stuff for the interview though, Charles. What do you say?”

“Oh, we’d better forget that interview idea, Greg. If people were to read some of the things you’ve said they’d think we’re both nutty.”

“No they wouldn’t. I’ve given you some pretty good answers. You ought to write it.”

“That Sort of Thing’s Libelous”

“Well you know, Greg, an interview isn’t just a bunch of questions and answers. There’d have to be a description of you. Do you think you’d like that?”

“That’s all right. I’d help you with it.”

“No you wouldn’t. If I were going to interview you I’d interview you and it would be accurate and truthful.”

“What would you say, Charles?”

“I’d just tell what you look like. Five feet two inches tall, tously hair, large head, small face, green shirt, red tie, baggy clothes, shoes need shining, pockets always bulging with old letters which are never answered, hat over one ear, small glittery blue eyes behind a screen of long straight eyelashes, humorous terrier brows, acquisitive nose, hard mouth if you’d take off that straggly moustache, loud voice, big stride, glad hand, fine telephone manner, ready promises but-“

“Say,” Gregory said, “that sort of thing’s libelous. You’d get the paper into trouble. That’s my character, not my appearance. And it’s not right anyway.”

“Certainly it’s right. And I’d have to give an estimate of your character if the interview were going to be any good at all.”

“You don’t know my character. I’d have to tell you that.”

“You never ask a man his character when yon interview him. You have to estimate it. But I know yours already.”

“I’ll bet you don’t.”

“I know it better than you do, Greg. You never know your own character. You only know what you like to think it is.”

“Oh, is that so?” Gregory said.

He said it noisily, but I detected a furtive alarm.

“Yes,” I said.

“Well?” Gregory said.

“There’d have to be something about your habit of procrastination. And your fixed rule of never keeping an engagement on time, no matter how important it is. And your methods of wangling things. And the way you mismanage money. And your artfulness in bluffing things you don’t know anything about. And-“

“Look here, Charles. I thought you were my friend.”

“So I am, Greg. I’m just proving it. I know you, and still I like you. I’ll tell you, Greg. If you really want this interview I’m willing to do it.”

“Oh, I didn’t realize it would mean so much trouble for you, Charles.”

“I don’t mind that, Greg. In fact, I believe I’d like to do it for you.”

“No. Charles,” Gregory said. “I wouldn’t think of bothering you with it. Let’s go over to Child’s and have a talk.”

Editor’s Notes: I make an exception on this site and include another author’s writing in the event it is about Greg or Jim. Charles Vining was one of their colleagues on the Star Weekly.

Arthur Meighen was a former Prime Minister of Canada. Louis-Alexandre Taschereau was premier of Quebec from 1920 to 1936.