With the exception of the ageing Henri de Blowitz in Paris,1 ‘Chinese’ Morrison was now the most famous Times correspondent in the field and, after Nellie Melba, the most recognisable Australian on the international stage. He was also handsome and, as Polly Condit Smith and other survivors of the Siege of the Legations would testify, incredibly brave.
Yet it was a source of concern to him that he had never developed a lasting relationship with any woman except his mother, Rebecca. He was, he admitted to his diary, ‘Oppressed by invincible shyness’. And he asked himself: ‘Why is it that I can never overcome this?’
There seemed to be no reason for it. Willard Straight, an American interpreter in the Imperial Customs Service,