20 MARCH 1942, Page 18

Looking Backward

" ELLA MAILLART," says the casual reader, " wasn't she the girl who went with Peter Fleming across China? " But Ella Maillan

has no need to stand on any one else's shoulders ; indeed, she

was winning sailing championships (for Switzerland) at the Olympic Games before Mr. Fleming took to adventure. Gypsy Afloat is the record of several summers' sailing, in the nineteen- twenties, in the Channel, Bay of Biscay, and the Dutch canals. First there was the barge ' Volunteer,' and the charming pre- posterous Colonel who advertised for navigation pupils and pay- ing guests, and instead got Miss Maillart, first as cabin-boy, then as deck-hand. This was not the kind of sailing she had dreamed of (at Cowes, they bumped four times into the red buoy bang in front of the Royal Yacht Squadron, but nobody else on the barge seemed to mind), but it did give her a steady, impersonal back- ground at a time when she badly needed it. She rejoined Volunteer ' two years later for a cruise in the Low Countries, whose big moments were a collision with a canal bridge, and two days' stranding on the mud off Beierland. Meanwhile, there had been a less erratic summer. on the Atalante,' a cruising cutter which Miss Maillart and three girl-friends planned to sail to America and the South Seas (but that hope was disappointed); and a lucky meeting, in the snow at Megeve, with an Admiral who made his home on a yacht. Later, she joined him on the Insoumise ' for a cruise to Gibraltar, which to her extreme annoyance went no further than St. Jean de Luz. While Miss Maillart is describing these things, in her forceful vivid English, she is also trying to recapture and assess her own state of mind. She was energetic and restless, and she did not know what to do with her life. " The world "—i.e., family con- ventions, jobs, politics—seemed sham and rotten. Nothing felt worth while, there was no cause to live or die for, and only in ski-ing or sailing could she find full play for all her faculties. This mood may look queer in these days, when we can no longer pick and choose what to do with our lives, but it was the mood of a great many people between the wars, and it bred Nazis and Fascists. Miss Maillart was too intelligent and honest to try any short cuts ; and in so far as she has a lesson for us, it is of the value, to the energetic and discontented, of such a discipline as she learned on her cruises—a discipline which demanded courage, energy, responsibility, plus the mastery of a skilled craft. Neither ski-ing nor sailing could tell Miss Maillart what to do with her life, but they could help to make her fit and ready for the day when her course should seem clear. And it is for her spirited and intelligent attack on life, as well as for the fascinating details of her cruises, that her book will be read and enjoyed.

Far and wide as Cherry Kearton has travelled for his wild life photographs, he always seems at ease in his surroundings, and never seriously questions the values of the world he moves in.

The framework of his new book is a fairly recent journey to East Africa, interspersed with recollections of previous journeys, and chapters on animal camouflage, animal building, and jungle sounds. We Fee him stalking a new and unrecorded animal in the Great Rift Valley, " a cross between a young pig and a hyena," and, of course, the native driver shouts something about lunch just before the camera clicks ; we sweat and shiver as his party find themselves cut off in a ravine with a great bush fire roaring towards them ; we admire his easy way of talking about " a pride of sixteen to eighteen lions." All this is described with an earnest and cheerful simplicity, and illustrated with the excellent photographs we expect from Mr. Kearton. Vanished Watzrs opens rather ominously, with the Little Folk of Celtic Faeryland tripping about on the very first page with elfin candle-flames, and we begin to fear yet another of those essays in Highland mist of which Mr. MacGregor has been so prolific. But soon he swings into a very different vein, and gossips racily and entertainingly about his childhood at Apple- cross and on the Dornoch Firth, his fierce, family-proud father (" Who, in comparison with the ancient Clan Gregor, are the Windsors? "), his schools at Tain and Inverness, his family's conventions, rows and treats. From time to time the Little Folk trip in again, and the last pages, " Applecross Revisited," are the occasion for some woolly sentiment ; but as long as Mr. MacGregor sticks to real people and incidents he has seen, he is quite readable and amusing. JANET ADAM SMITH.