Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XXXI "The Problem of Asia"

MAHAN'S home life had been interrupted twice since his retirement, first by service on the War Board, in 1898; next by duty on the American Commission at The Hague during the summer of 1899. The autumn and winter of 1898-99 he had spent with his family, and upon his return from Europe in the late summer of 1899, he went to their summer home in Quogue. Lyle had finished at Groton and was attending Columbia College. Helen and Ellen had made their bows to society. Little else in the family routine was changed. The city house at 160 West 86th Street together with the summer cottage at Quogue provided for all seasons of the year.

The period from 1899 to 1904 was a happy time for the Mahans. The life of the family centered around the captain, who was probably unaware how definitely everything and everybody in the household was subordinated to him. He was the center of the family orbit, whether he read prayers, breakfasted, walked, worked, swam, lunched, slept, rode his bicycle, had tea, dressed for dinner, dined, or read. They would not have had it otherwise.

Mahan was quick to act, even in the little emergencies that occurred around his own fireside, and would leap from his chair to extinguish a spark front the fire. With this same swift reaction he once commandeered a passing boat in time to assist in the rescue of a drowning man. On such occasions, or when giving warning of any danger, he would resort to what his wife called his "quarter-deck voice." From descriptions, the sound must have recalled his former Captain, Goldsborough, who bellowed "like the Bull of Bashan." Mahan could not modulate his voice, but passed at once from a conversational tone to a roar.

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