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The Whitefriars Library of Wit & Humour
FACES AND PLACES
HENRY W. LUCY (Author of "East by West: A Record of a Journey Round the World")
With Portrait of the Author and Illustrations
London: Henry and Co, Bouverie Street, Ec
To J.R. Robinson, Editor and Manager of the "Daily News", at whose suggestion some of these articles were written, they are in their collected form inscribed, with sincere regard, by an old friend and colleague.
London, February 1892.
I. "FRED" BURNABY 1 II. A NIGHT ON A MOUNTAIN 23 III. THE PRINCE OF WALES 35 IV. A HISTORIC CROWD 41 V. WITH PEGGOTTY AND HAM 52 VI. TO THOSE ABOUT TO BECOME JOURNALISTS 62 VII. A CINQUE PORT 69 VIII. OYSTERS AND ARCACHON 77 IX. CHRISTMAS EVE AT WATT'S 86 X. NIGHT AND DAY ON THE CARS IN CANADA 100 XI. EASTER ON LES AVANTS 108 XII. THE BATTLE OF MERTHYR 125 XIII. MOSQUITOES AND MONACO 137 XIV. A WRECK IN THE NORTH SEA 145 XV. A PEEP AT AN OLD HOUSE OF COMMONS 152 XVI. SOME PREACHERS I HAVE KNOWN:— Mr. Moody 170 "Bendigo" 176 "Fiddler Joss" 181 Dean Stanley 184 Dr. Moffat 187 Mr. Spurgeon 190 In the Ragged Church 196
FACES AND PLACES
I made the acquaintance of Colonel Fred Burnaby in a balloon. In such strange quarters, at an altitude of over a thousand feet, commenced a friendship that for years was one of the pleasantest parts of my life, and remains one of its most cherished memories.
It was on the 14th of September, 1874. A few weeks earlier two French aeronauts, a Monsieur and Madame Duruof, making an ascent from Calais, had been carried out to sea, and dropping into the Channel, had passed through enough perils to make them a nine days' wonder. Arrangements had been completed for them to make a fresh ascent from the grounds of the Crystal Palace, and half London seemed to have gone down to Sydenham to see them off. I was young and eager then, and having but lately joined the staff of the Daily News as special correspondent, was burning for an opportunity to distinguish myself. So I went off to the Crystal Palace resolved to go up in the balloon.
"No," said Mr. Coxwell, when I asked him if there were a seat to spare in the car. "No; I am sorry to say that you are too late. I have had at least thirty applications for seats, and as the car will hold only six persons, and as practically there are but two seats for outsiders, you will see that it is impossible."
This was disappointing, the more so as I had brought with me a large military cloak and a pair of seal-skin gloves, under a general but well-defined impression that the thing to do up in a balloon was to keep yourself warm. Mr. Coxwell's account of the position of affairs so completely shut out the prospect of a passage in the car that I reluctantly resigned the charge of the military cloak and gloves, and strolled down to the enclosure where the process of inflating the balloon was going on. Here was congregated a vast crowd, which increased in density as four o'clock rang out, and the great mass of brown silk into which the gas was being assiduously pumped began to assume a pear-like shape, and sway to and fro in the light air of the autumn afternoon.
About this time the heroes of the hour, Monsieur and Madame Duruof walked into the enclosure, accompanied by Mr. Coxwell and Mr. Glaisher. A little work was being extensively sold in the Palace bearing on the title-page, over the name "M. Duruof," a murderous-looking face, the letter-press purporting to be a record of the life and adventures of the French aeronauts. Happily M. Duruof bore but the slightest resemblance to this portrait, being a young man of pleasing appearance, with a good, firm, frank-looking face.
By a quarter to five o'clock the monster balloon was almost fully charged, and was swaying to and fro in a wild, fitful manner, that could not have been beheld without trepidation by any of the thirty gentlemen who had so judiciously booked seats in advance. The wickerwork car now secured to the balloon was half filled with ballast and crowded with men, whilst others hung on to the ropes and to each other in the effort to steady it.
But they could not do much more than keep it from mounting into mid-air. Hither and thither it swung, parting in swift haste the curious throng that encompassed it, and dragging the men about as if they were ounce weights. The wind seemed to be rising and the faces of the experienced aeronauts grew graver and graver, answers to the constantly repeated question, "Where is it likely to come down?" becoming increasingly vague. At last Mr. Glaisher, looking up at the sky and round at the neighbouring trees bending under the growing blast, put his veto upon Madame Duruof's forming one of the party of voyagers.
"We are not in France," he said. "The people will not insist upon a woman going up when there is any danger. The descent is sure to be rough, will possibly be perilous, so Madame Duruof had better stay where she is."
Madame Duruof was ready to go, but was at least equally willing to stay behind, and so it was settled that she should not leave the palace grounds by the balloon. I cast a lingering thought on the military cloak and the seal-skin gloves, in safe keeping in a remote part of the building. If Madame was not going there might be room for a substitute. But again Mr. Coxwell would not listen to the proposal. There were at least thirty prior applicants; some had even paid their money, and they must have the preference.
At five o'clock all was ready for the start. M. Wilfrid de Fonvielle, a French aeronaut and journalist, took off his hat, and in full gaze of a sympathising and deeply interested crowd deliberately attired himself in a Glengarry cap, a thick overcoat, and a muffler. M Duruof put on his overcoat, and Mr. Barker, Mr. Coxwell's assistant, seated on the ring above the car, began to take in light cargo in the shape of aneroids, barometers, bottles of brandy and water, and other useful articles. M. Duruof scrambled into the car, one of the men who had been weighing it down getting out to make room for him. Then M. de Fonvielle, amid murmurs of admiration from the crowd, nimbly boarded the little ship, and immediately began taking observations. There was a pause, and Mr. Coxwell, who stood by the car, prepared for the rush of the Thirty. But nobody volunteered. Names were called aloud; only the wind, sighing amongst the trees made answer.
"Il faut partir," said M. Duruof, somewhat impatiently. Then a middle-aged gentleman, who, I afterwards learned, had come all the way from Cambridge to make the journey, and who had only just arrived breathless on the ground, was half-lifted, half-tumbled in, amid agonised entreaties from Barker to "mind them bottles." The Thirty had unquestionably had a fair chance, and Mr. Coxwell made no objection as I passed him and got into the car, followed by one other gentleman, who brought the number up to the stipulated half-dozen. We were all ready to start, but it was thought desirable that Madame Duruof should show herself in the car. So she was lifted in, and the balloon allowed to mount some twenty feet, frantically held by ropes by the crowd below. It descended again, Madame Duruof got out, and in her place came tumbling in a splendid fellow, some six feet four high, broad-chested to boot, who instantly made supererogatory the presence of half a dozen of the bags of ballast that lay in the bottom of the car.
It was an anxious moment, with the excited multitude spread round far as the eye could reach, the car leaping under the swaying balloon, and the anxious, hurried men straining at the ropes. But I remember quite well sitting at the bottom of the car and wondering when the new-comer would finish getting in. I dare say he was nimble enough, but his full arrival seemed like the paying out of a ship's cable.
This was Fred Burnaby, only Captain then, unknown to fame, with Khiva unapproached, and the wilds of Asia Minor untrodden by his horse's hoofs. His presence on the grounds was accidental, and his undertaking of the journey characteristic. He had invited some friends to dine with him that night at his rooms, then in St. James's Street. Hearing of the proposed balloon ascent, he felt drawn to see the voyagers off, purposing to be home in time to dress for dinner. The defection of the Thirty appearing to leave an opening for an extra passenger, Burnaby could not resist the temptation. So with a hasty Au revoir! to his companion, the Turkish Minister, he pushed his way through the crowd and dropped into the car.
I always forgot to ask him how his guests fared. As it turned out, he had no chance of communicating with his servant before the dinner hour. The arrival of Burnaby exceeded by one the stipulated number of passengers, and Coxwell was anxious for us to start before any more got in. For a minute or two we still cling to the earth, the centre of an excited throng that shout, and tug at ropes, and run to and fro, and laugh, and cry, and scream "Good-bye" in a manner that makes our proposed journey seem dreadful in prospect. The circle of faces look fixedly into ours; we hear the voices of the crowd, see the women laughing and crying by turns, and then, with a motion that is absolutely imperceptible, they all pass away, and we are in mid-air where the echo of a cheer alone breaks the solemn calm.
I had an idea that we should go up with a rush, and be instantly in the cold current of air in view of which the preparation of extra raiment, the nature of which has been already indicated, had been made. But here we were a thousand feet above the level of the Palace gardens, sailing calmly along in bright warm sunlight, and no more motion perceptible than if we were sitting on chairs in the gardens, and had been so sitting whilst the balloon mounted. It was a quarter past five when we left the earth, and in less than five minutes the Crystal Palace grounds, with its sea of upturned faces, had faded from our sight. Contrary to prognostication, there was only the slightest breeze, and this setting north-east, carried us towards the river in the direction of Greenwich. We seemed to skirt the eastern fringe of London, St. Paul's standing out in bold relief through the light wreath of mist that enveloped the city. The balloon slowly rose till the aneroid marked a height of fifteen hundred feet. Here it found a current which drove it slightly to the south, till it hovered for some moments directly over Greenwich Hospital, the training ship beneath looking like a cockle boat with walking sticks for masts and yards. Driving eastward for some moments, we slowly turned by Woolwich and crossed the river thereafter steadily pursuing a north-easterly direction.
Looking back from the Essex side of the river the sight presented to view was a magnificent one. London had vanished, even to the dome of St. Paul's, but we knew where the great city lay by the mist that shrouded it and shone white in the rays of the sun. Save for this patch of mist, that seemed to drift after us far away below the car, there was nothing to obscure the range of vision. I am afraid to say how many miles it was computed lay within the framework of the glowing panorama. But I know that we could follow the windings of the river that curled like a dragon among the green fields, its shining scales all aglow in the sunlight, and could see where it finally broadened out and trended northward. And there, as M. Duruof observed with a significant smile, was "the open sea."
There was no feeling of dizziness in looking down from the immense height at which we now floated—two thousand feet was the record as we cleared the river. By an unfortunate oversight we had no map of the country, and were, except in respect of such landmarks as Greenwich, unable with certainty to distinguish the places over which we passed.
"That," said Burnaby from his perch up in the netting over the car, where he had clambered as being the most dangerous place immediately accessible, "is one of the great drawbacks to the use of balloons in warfare. Unless a man has natural aptitude, and is specially trained for the work, his observations from a balloon are of no use, a bird's-eye view of a country giving impressions so different from the actual position of places."
This dictum was illustrated by the scene spread out beneath us. Seen from a balloon the streets of a rambling town resolve themselves into beautifully defined curves, straight lines, and various other highly respectable geometrical shapes.
We could not at any time make out forms of people. The white highways that ran like threads among the fields, and the tiny openings in the towns and villages which we guessed were streets, seemed to belong to a dead world, for nowhere was there trace of a living person. The strange stillness that brooded over the earth was made more uncanny still by cries that occasionally seemed to float in the air around us, behind, before, to the right, to the left, but never exactly beneath the car. We could hear people calling, and had a vague idea they were running after us and cheering; but we could distinguish no moving thing. Yes; once the gentleman from Cambridge exclaimed that there were some pheasants running across a field below; but upon close investigation they turned out to be a troop of horses capering about in wild dismay. A flock of sheep in another field, huddled close together, looked like a heap of limestone chippings. As for the fields stretched out in wide expanse, far as the eye could reach, they seemed to form a gigantic carpet, with patterns chiefly diamond shape, in colour shaded from bright emerald to russet brown.
At six o'clock the sun began to drop behind a broad belt of black cloud that had settled over London. The mist following us ever since we crossed the river had overtaken us, even passed us, and was strewed out over the earth, the sky above our heads being yet a beautiful pale blue. We were passing with increased rapidity over the rich level land that stretches from the river bank to Chelmsford, and there was time to look round at each other. Burnaby had come down from the netting and disposed his vast person amongst us and the bags of ballast. He was driven down by the smell of gas, which threatened to suffocate us all when we started. M. Wilfrid de Fonvielle, kneeling down by the side of the car, was perpetually "taking observations," and persistently asking for "the readings," which the gentleman from Cambridge occasionally protested his inability to supply, owing either to Burnaby having his foot upon the aneroid, or to the Captain so jamming him up against the side of the car that the accurate reading of a scientific instrument was not only inconvenient but impossible.
When we began to chat and exchange confidences, the fascination which balloon voyaging has for some people was testified to in a striking manner. The gentleman from Cambridge had a mildness of manner about him that made it difficult to conceive him engaged in any perilous enterprise. Yet he had been in half a dozen balloon ascents, and had posted up from his native town on hearing that a balloon was going up from the Crystal Palace. As for Burnaby, it was borne in upon me, even at this casual meeting, that it did not matter to him what enterprise he embarked upon, so that it were spiced with danger and promised adventure. He had some slight preference for ballooning, this being his sixteenth ascent, including the time when the balloon burst, and the occupants of the car came rattling down from a height of three thousand feet, and were saved only by the fortuitous draping of the half emptied balloon, which prevented all the gas from escaping.
At half-past six we were still passing over the Turkey carpet, apparently of the same interminable pattern. Some miles ahead the level stretch was broken by clumps of trees, which presently developed into woods of considerable extent. It was growing dusk, and no town or railway station was near. Burnaby, assured of being too late for his dinner party, wanted to prolong the journey. But the farther the balloon went the longer would be the distance over which it would have to be brought back and Mr. Coxwell's assistant was commendably careful of his employer's purse. On approaching Highwood the balloon passed over a dense wood, in which there was some idea of descending. But finally the open ground was preferred, and, the wood being left behind, a ploughed field was selected as the place to drop, and the gas was allowed to escape by wholesale. The balloon swooped downward at a somewhat alarming pace, and if Barker had had all his wits about him he would have thrown out half a bag of ballast and lightened the fall. But after giving instructions for all to stoop down in the bottom of the car and hold onto the ropes, he himself promptly illustrated the action, and down we went like a hawk towards the ground.
As it will appear even to those who have never been in a balloon, no advice could have been worse than that of stooping down in the bottom of the car, which was presently to come with a great shock to the earth, and would inevitably have seriously injured any who shared its contact. Fortunately Burnaby, who was as cool as if he were riding in his brougham, shouted out to all to lift their feet from contact with the bottom of the car, and to hang on to the ropes. This was done, and when the car struck the earth it merely shook us, and no one had even a bruise.
Before we began to descend at full speed the grappling iron had been pitched over, and, fortunately, got a firm hold in a ridge of the ploughed land. Thus, when the balloon, after striking the ground, leapt up again into the air and showed a disposition to wander off and tear itself to pieces against the hedges and trees, it was checked by the anchor rope and came down again with another bump on the ground. This time the shock was not serious, and after a few more flutterings it finally stood at ease.
The highest altitude reached by the balloon was three thousand feet, and this was registered about a couple of miles before we struck Highwood. For some distance before completing this descent we had been skimming along at about a thousand feet above the level of the fields, and the intention to drop being evident, a great crowd of rustics gallantly kept pace with the balloon for the last half-mile. By the time we were fairly settled down, half a hundred men, women, and children had converged upon the field from all directions, and were swarming in through the hedge.
Actually the first in at the death was an old lady attired chiefly in a brilliant orange-coloured shawl, who came along over the ridges with a splendid stride. But she did not fully enjoy the privilege she had so gallantly earned. She was making straight for the balloon, when Burnaby mischievously warned her to look out, for it might "go off." Thereupon the old lady, without uttering a word in reply, turned round and, with strides slightly increased in length, made for the hedge, through which she disappeared, and the orange-coloured shawl was seen no more.
All the rustics appeared to be in a state more or less dazed. What with having been running some distance, and what with surprise at discovering seven gentlemen dropped out of the sky into the middle of a ploughed field, they could find relief only in standing at a safe distance with their mouths wide open. In vain Barker talked to them in good broad English, and begged them to come and hold the car whilst we got out. No one answered a word, and none stirred a step, except when the balloon gave a lurch, and then they got ready for a start towards the protecting hedges. At last Burnaby volunteered to drop out. This he did, deftly holding on to the car, and by degrees the intelligent bystanders approached and cautiously lent a hand. Finding that the balloon neither bit nor burned them, they swung on with hearty goodwill, and so we all got out, and Barker commenced the operation of packing up, in which task the natives, incited by the promise of a "good drink," lent hearty assistance.
We had not the remotest idea where we were, and night was fast closing in. Where was the nearest railway station? Perhaps if we had arrived in the neighbourhood in a brake or an omnibus, we might have succeeded in getting an answer to this question. As it was, we could get none. One intelligent party said, after profound cogitation, that it was "over theere," but as "over theere" presented nothing but a vista of fields—some ploughed and all divided by high hedges—this was scarcely satisfactory. In despair we asked where the high-road was, and this being indicated, but still vaguely and after a considerable amount of thought, Burnaby and I made for it, and presently succeeded in striking it.
The next thing was to get to a railway station, wherever it might be, and as the last train for town might leave early, the quicker we arrived the better. Looking down the road, Burnaby espied a tumble-down cart standing close into the hedge, and strode down to requisition it. The cart was full of hampers and boxes, and sitting upon the shaft was an elderly gentleman in corduroys intently gazing over the hedge at the rapidly collapsing balloon, which still fitfully swayed about like a drunken man awaking out of sleep.
"Will you drive us to the nearest railway station, old gentleman?" said Burnaby cheerily.
The old gentleman withdrew his gaze from the balloon and surveyed us, a feeble, indecisive smile playing about his wooden features; but he made no other answer.
"Will you drive us to the nearest railway station?" repeated Burnaby. "We'll pay you well."
Still no answer came from the old gentleman, who smiled more feebly than ever, now including me in his intelligent purview. After other and diverse attempts to draw him into conversation, including the pulling of the horse and cart into the middle of the road, and the making of a feint to start it off at full gallop, it became painfully clear that the old gentleman had, at sight of the balloon, gone clean out of such senses as he had ever possessed, and as there was a prospect of losing the train if we waited till he came round again, nothing remained but to help ourselves to the conveyance. So Burnaby got up and disposed of as much of himself as was possible in a hamper on the top of the cart. I sat on the shaft, and taking the reins out of the old gentleman's resistless hand, drove off down the road at quite a respectable pace.
After we had gone about a mile the old gentleman, who had been employing his unwonted leisure in staring at us all over, broke into a chuckle. We gently encouraged him by laughing in chorus, and after a brief space he said,—
"I seed ye coming."
As I had a good deal to do to keep the pony up and going, Burnaby undertook to follow up this glimmering of returning sense on the part of the old gentleman, and with much patience and tact he succeeded in getting him so far round that we ascertained we were driving in the direction of "Blackmore." Further than this we could not get, any pressure in the direction of learning whether there was a railway station at the town or village, or whatever it might be, being followed by alarming symptoms of relapse on the part of the old gentleman. However, to get to Blackmore was something, and after half an hour's dexterous driving we arrived at the village, of which the inn standing back under the shade of three immemorial oak trees appeared to be a fair moiety.
We paid the old gentleman and parted company with him, though not without a saddening fear that the shock of the balloon coming down under his horse's nose, as it were, had permanently affected his brain. At Blackmore we found a well-horsed trap, and through woods and long country lanes drove to Ingatestone, and as fast as the train could travel got back to civilisation.
This was the beginning of a close and intimate friendship, that ended only with Burnaby's departure for the Soudan. He often talked to me of himself and of his still young life. Educated at Harrow, he thence proceeded to Germany, where, under private tuition, he acquired an unusually perfect acquaintance with the French, Italian, and German languages, and incidentally imbibed a taste for gymnastics. At sixteen he, the youngest of one hundred and fifty candidates, passed his examination for admission to the army, and at the mature age of seventeen found himself a cornet in the Royal Horse Guards. At this time his breast seems to have been fired by the noble ambition to become the strongest man in the world. How far he succeeded is told in well-authenticated traditions that linger round various spots in Windsor and London. He threw himself into the pursuit of muscle with all the ardour since shown in other directions, and the cup of his joy must have been full when a precise examination led to the demonstration of the fact that his arm measured round the biceps exactly seventeen inches. He could put 'Nathalie' (then starring it at the Alhambra) to shame with her puny 56-lb. weight in each hand, and could 'turn the arm' of her athletic father as if it had been nothing more than a hinge-rusted nut-cracker. His plaything at Aldershot was a dumb-bell weighing 170 lbs., which he lifted straight out with one hand, and there was a standing bet of 10 pounds that no other man in the Camp could perform the same feat. At the rooms of the London Fencing Club there is to this day a dumb-bell weighing 120 lbs., with record of how Fred Burnaby was the only member who could lift it above his head.
There is a story told of early barrack days which he assured me was quite true. A horsedealer arrived at Windsor with a pair of beautiful little ponies he had been commanded to show the Queen. Before exhibiting them to her Majesty he took them to the Cavalry Barracks for display to the officers of the Guards. Some of these, by way of a pleasant surprise, led the ponies upstairs into Burnaby's room, where they were much admired. But when the time came to take leave an alarming difficulty presented itself. The ponies, though they had walked upstairs, could by no means be induced to walk down again. The officers were in a fix; the horsedealer was in despair; when young Burnaby settled the matter by taking up the ponies, one under each arm and, walking downstairs, deposited them in the barrack-yard. The Queen heard the story when she saw the ponies, and doubtless felt an increased sense of security at Windsor, having this astounding testimony to the prowess of her Household Troops.
Cornet Burnaby was as skilful as he was strong. He was one of the best amateur boxers of the day, as Tom Paddock, Nat Langham, and Bob Travers could testify of their well-earned personal experience. Moreover, he fenced as well as he boxed, and the turn of his wrist, which never failed to disarm a swordsman, was known in more than one of the capitals of Europe. Ten years before he started for Khiva, there was much talk at the Rag of the wonderful feat of the young Guardsman, who undertook for a small wager to hop a quarter of a mile, run a quarter of a mile, ride a quarter of a mile, row a quarter of a mile, and walk a quarter of a mile in a quarter of an hour, and who covered the mile and a quarter of distance in ten minutes and twenty seconds.
Fred Burnaby had, whilst barely out of his teens, realised his boyish dream, and become the strongest man in the world. But he had also begun to pay the penalty of success in the coin of wasted tissues and failing health. When a man finds, after anxious and varied experiments, that a water-ice is the only form of nourishment his stomach will retain, he is driven to the conviction that there is something wrong, and that he had better see the doctor. The result of the young athlete's visit to the doctor was that he mournfully laid down the dumb-bells and the foil, eschewed gymnastics, and took to travel.
An average man advised to travel for his health's sake would probably have gone to Switzerland or the South of France, according to the sort of climate held to be desirable. Burnaby went to Spain, that being at the time the most troubled country in Europe, not without promise of an outbreak of war. Here he added Spanish to his already respectable stock of languages, and found the benefit of the acquisition in his next journey, which was to South America, where he spent four months shooting unaccustomed game and recovering from the effects of his devotion to gymnastics. Returning to do duty with his regiment, he began to learn Russian and Arabic, going at them steadily and vigorously, as if they were long stretches of ploughed land to be ridden over. A second visit to Spain provided him with the rare gratification of being shut up in Barcelona during the siege, and sharing all the privations and dangers of the garrison. Whilst in Seville during a subsequent journey he received a telegram saying that his father was seriously ill. France was at the time in the throes of civil war, with the Communists holding Paris against the army of Versailles. To reach England any other way than via Paris involved a delay of many days, and Burnaby determined to dare all that was to be done by the Communists. So, carrying a Queen's Messenger's bag full of cigars in packets that looked more or less like Government despatches, he passed through Paris and safely reached Calais.
A year later he set forth intending to journey to Khiva, but on reaching Naples was striken with fever, spent four months of his leave in bed, and was obliged to postpone the trip. In 1874 he once more went to Spain, this time acting as the special correspondent of the Times with the Carlists, and his letters form not the least interesting chapter in the long story of the miserable war. In the early spring of 1875 he made a dash at Central Africa, hoping to find "Chinese Gordon" and his expedition. He met that gallant officer on the Sobat river, a stream which not ten Englishmen have seen, and having stayed in the camp for a few days, set out homeward, riding on a camel through the Berber desert to Korosko, a distance of five hundred miles. After an absence of exactly four months he turned up for duty at the Cavalry Barracks, Windsor, with as much nonchalance as if he had been for a trip to the United States in a Cunard steamer.
It was whilst on this flight through Central Africa that the notion of the journey to Khiva came back with irresistible force. It had been done by MacGahan, but that plucky journalist had judiciously started in the spring. Burnaby resolved to accomplish the enterprise in winter; and accordingly, on November 30th, 1875, he started by way of St. Petersburg, treating himself, as a foretaste of the joys that awaited him on the steppes, to the long lonely ride through Russia in midwinter. At Sizeran he left civilisation and railways behind him, and rode on a sleigh to Orenburg, a distance of four hundred and eighty miles. At Orenburg he engaged a Tartar servant, and another stretch of eight hundred miles on a sleigh brought him to Fort No. 1, the outpost of the Russian army facing the desert of Central Asia. After this even the luxury of sleigh-riding was perforce foregone, and Burnaby set out on horseback, with one servant, one guide, and a thermometer that registered between 70 degrees and 80 degrees below freezing point, to find Khiva across five hundred miles of pathless, trackless, silent snow.
Two Cossacks riding along this route with despatches had just before been frozen to death. The Russians, inured to the climate, had never been able to take Khiva in the winter months. They had tried once, and had lost six hundred camels and two-thirds of their men before they saw the enemy. But Fred Burnaby gaily went forth, clothed-on with sheepskins. After several days' hard riding and some nights' sleep on the snow, he arrived in Khiva, chatted with the Khan, fraternised with the Russian officers, kept his eyes wide open, and finally was invited to return by a telegram from the Commander-in-Chief, who had been brought to understand how this strange visitor from the Cavalry Barracks at Windsor had fluttered the military authorities at St. Petersburg.
This adventure might have sufficed an ordinary man for a lifetime. But in the very next year, whilst his Ride to Khiva remained the most popular book in the libraries, he paid a second visit to the Turcomans, seeking them now, not on the bleak steppes round Khiva, but in the more fertile, though by Europeans untrodden, plains of Asia Minor. He had one other cherished project of which he often spoke to me. It was to visit Timbuctoo. But whilst brooding over this new journey he fell in love, married, settled down to domestic life in Cromwell Gardens, and took to politics. It was characteristic of him that, looking about for a seat to fight, he fixed upon John Bright's at Birmingham, that being at the time the Gibraltar of political fortresses.
The last time I saw Fred Burnaby was in September 1884. He was standing on his doorstep at Somerby Hall, Leicestershire, speeding his parting guests. By his side, holding on with all the might of a chubby hand to an extended forefinger, was his little son, a child some five years old, whose chief delight it was thus to hang on to his gigantic father and toddle about the grounds. We had been staying a week with Burnaby in his father's old home, and it had been settled, on the invitation of his old friend Henry Doetsch, that we should meet again later in the year, and set out for Spain to spend a month at Huelva. A few weeks later the trumpet sounded from the Soudan, and like an old war-horse that joyously scents the battle from afar, Burnaby gave up all his engagements, and fared forth for the Nile.
At first he was engaged in superintending the moving of the troops between Tanjour and Magrakeh. This was hard work admirably done. But Burnaby was always pining to get to the front. In a private letter dated Christmas Eve, 1884, he writes: "I do not expect the last boat will pass this cataract before the middle of next month, and then I hope to be sent for to the front. It is a responsible post Lord Wolseley has given me here, with forty miles of the most difficult part of the river, and I am very grateful to him for letting me have it. But I must say I shall be better pleased if he sends for me when the troops advance upon Khartoum."
The order came in due course, and Burnaby was riding on to the relief of Gordon when his journey was stopped at Abu-Klea. He was attached to the staff of General Stewart, whose little force of six-thousand-odd men was suddenly surrounded by a body of fanatical Arabs, nine thousand strong. The British troops formed square, inside which the mounted officers sat directing the desperate defence, that again and again beat back the angry torrent. After some hours' fighting, a soldier in the excitement of the moment got outside the line of the square, and was engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict with a cluster of Arabs. Burnaby, seeing his peril, dashed out to the rescue—"with a smile on his face," as one who saw him tells me,—and was making irresistible way against the odds when an Arab thrust a spear in his throat, and he fell off his horse dead. He sleeps now, as he always yearned to rest, in a soldier's grave, dug for him by chance on the continent whose innermost recesses he had planned some day to explore.
The date of his death was January 17th, 1885. His grave is nameless, and its place in the lonely Desert no man knoweth.
"Brave Burnaby down! Wheresoever 'tis spoken The news leaves the lips with a wistful regret We picture that square in the desert, shocked, broken, Yet packed with stout hearts, and impregnable yet And there fell, at last, in close melee, the fighter Who Death had so often affronted before; One deemed he'd no dart for his valorous slighter Who such a gay heart to the battle-front bore. But alas! for the spear thrust that ended a story Romantic as Roland's, as Lion-Heart's brief Yet crowded with incident, gilded with glory And crowned by a laurel that's verdant of leaf. A latter-day Paladin, prone to adventure, With little enough of the spirit that sways The man of the market, the shop, the indenture! Yet grief-drops will glitter on Burnaby's bays. Fast friend as keen fighter, the strife glow preferring, Yet cheery all round with his friends and his foes; Content through a life-story short, yet soul-stirring And happy, as doubtless he'd deem, in its close."
Thus Punch, as it often does, voiced the sentiments of the nation on learning the death of its hero.
A NIGHT ON A MOUNTAIN
There are not many English abroad this morning on the top of the hill. In fact, unless they had passed the night here it would not be easy for them to present themselves, seeing that San Salvatore, though a very modest mound, standing as it does in the neighbourhood of the Alps, is high enough to lift its crest out of the curtain of mist that lies over the lower world. Lugano, its lake, and its many small towns—as like each other when seen from a distance as if they had been turned out of a mould—are understood to lie at some uncertain depth beneath the mist. In truth, unless they have wholly disappeared in the night, we know that they are there, for we walked up in the late afternoon with intent to sleep here.
The people of Lugano, more especially the hotel-keepers, were much exercised at this undertaking. Nobody in recent recollection had been known to spend the night on San Salvatore, and if the eccentricity were permitted and proved enjoyable, no one could say that it might not spread, leaving empty beds at Lugano. There was, accordingly, much stress laid on possible dangers and certain discomforts. Peradventure there was no bed; assuredly it would be hard and damp and dirty. There would be nothing to eat, nor even to drink; and in short, if ever there was madness characteristic of the English abroad, here was the mid March of its season.
But the undertaking was not nearly so mad as it looked. I had been up Salvatore on the previous day and surveyed the land. It is a place that still holds high rank in the Romish calendar of Church celebrations. Many years ago a chapel was built on its summit, and pilgrimages instituted. These take place at Ascension and Pentecost, when the hillside swarms with devout sons and daughters of Italy, and the music of high mass breaks the silence of the mountains. Even pilgrims must eat and drink and sleep, and shortly after the chapel was built there rose up at its feet, in a sheltered nook, a little house, a chapel-of-ease in the sense that here was sold wine of the country, cheese of the district, and jambon reputed to come across the seas from distant "Yorck." A spare bedroom was also established for the accommodation of the officiating priests, and it was on the temporary reversion of this apartment that I had counted in making those arrangements that Lugano held to be hopelessly heretical.
When, on my first visit to the top of San Salvatore, I reached the pilgrimage chapel, I found an old gentleman standing at the door of the hostelry by which the pilgrim must needs pass on his way to the chapel—a probably undesigned but profitable arrangement, since it brings directly under his notice the possibility of purchasing "vins du pays, pain, fromage, saucissons, and jambon d'Yorck."
When I broached the subject of the night's entertainment the landlord was a little taken aback, and evidently inclined to dwell upon those inconveniences of which Lugano had made so much. But the more he thought of it, the more he liked the idea. As I subsequently learned, the hope of his youth, the sustenance of his manhood, and the dream of his old age was to see his little hut develop into a grand hotel, with a porter in the hall, an army of waiters bustling about, and himself in the receipt of custom. It was a very small beginning that two English people should propose to lodge with him for a night. Still, it was something, and everything must have a beginning. Monte Generoso, among the clouds on the other side of the lake, began in that way; and look at it now with its chambres at eight francs a day, its table d'hote at five francs, and its bougies dispensed at their weight in silver!
"Si, signor"; he thought it might be done. He was sure—nay, he was positive.
As the picture of the hotel of the future glowed in his mind he became enthusiastic, and proposed that we should view the apartments. The bedroom we found sufficiently roomy, with both fireplace and one of the two windows bricked up to avoid draughts. The mattress of the bed, it is true, was stuffed with chopped straw, and was not free from suspicion of harbouring rats. But there was a gorgeous counterpane, whose many colours would have excited the envy of Joseph's brethren had their pilgrimage chanced to lead them in this direction. The floor was of cement, and great patches of damp displayed themselves on the walls. Over the bed hung a peaceful picture of a chubby boy clasping a crook to his breast, and exchanging glances of maudlin sentimentality with a sheep that skipped at his side. The damp had eaten up one of the legs of mutton, and the sheep went on three legs. But nothing could exceed the more than human tenderness with which it regarded the chubby boy with the crook.
We soon settled about the bed, and there remained only the question of food. On this point also our host displayed even an increase of airy confidence. What would signor? There were sausage, ham of York, and eggs, the latter capable of presentation in divers shapes.
This, it must be admitted, engendered a feeling of discouragement. We had two days earlier tasted the sausage of the country when served up in a first-class hotel as garnish to a dish of spinach. It is apparently made of pieces of gristle, and when liberated from the leather case that enshrines it, crumbles like a piece of old wall. Sausage was clearly out of the question, and the ham of York does not thrive out of its own country, acquiring a foreign flavour of salted sawdust. Eggs are very well in their way, but man cannot live on eggs alone.
Our host was a man full of resources. Why should we not bring the materials for dinner from Lugano? He would undertake to cook them, whatever they might be. This was a happy thought that clenched the bargain. We undertook to arrive on the following day, bringing our sheaves with us, in the shape of a supply of veal cutlets.
The ostensible object of spending a night on San Salvatore is to see the sun set and rise. The mountain is not high, just touching three thousand feet, an easy ascent of two hours. But it is a place glorious in the early morning and solemn in the quiet evening. Below lies the lake of Lugano, its full length visible. Straight before you, looking east, is the long arm that stretches to Porlezza, with its gentle curves where the mountains stand and cool their feet in the blue water. To the west, beyond a cluster of small and nameless lakes that lie on the plain, we see the other arm of the lake, with Ponte Tresa nestling upon it, and still farther west the sun gleams on the waters of Lago Maggiore. Above Porlezza is Monte Legnone, and far away on the left glint the snow peaks of the Bernina. High in the north, above the red tiles and white walls of the town of Lugano are the two peaks of Monte Camoghe, flanked by something that seems a dark cloud in the blue sky, but which our host says is the ridge of St. Gothard. The sun sets behind the Alps of the Valais among which towers the Matterhorn and gleam the everlasting snows of Monte Rosa.
These form the framework of a picture which contains all the softness and richness of the beauty of a land where the grape and the fig grow, and where in these October days roses are in full bloom, and heliotropes sweeten every breath of air. Yesterday had opened splendidly, the morning sun rising over the fair scene and bringing out every point. But as we toiled up the hill this afternoon, carrying the cutlets, the sun had capriciously disappeared. The mountains were hid in clouds, and the lake, having no blue sky to reflect, had turned green with chagrin. There was little hope of visible sunset; but there was a prospect of sunrise, and certainty of a snug dinner in circumstances to which the novelty of the surroundings would lend a strange charm.
It was rather disappointing on arriving to find that our acquaintance of yesterday had disappeared. I have reason to believe the excitement of our proposed visit had been too much for him, and that he had found it desirable to retire to rest in the more prosaic habitation of the family down in the town. He had selected as substitute the most stalwart and capable of his sons, a man of the mature age of thirty-five. This person had the family attribute of readiness of resource and perfect confidence. The enthusiasm which had been too dangerously excited in the breast of his aged parent had been communicated to him. He was ready to go anywhere and cook anything, and having as a preliminary arranged a napkin under his arm, went bustling about the table disturbing imaginary flies and flicking off supposititious crumbs, as he had seen the waiter do in the restaurant at the hotel down in the town.
"Signor had brought the cutlets? Si, and beautiful they were! How would signor like to have them done? Thus, or thus, or thus?" in a variety of ways which, whilst their recital far exceeded my limited knowledge of the language, filled me with fullest confidence in Giacommetti.
That was his name, he told me in one of his bursts of confidence; and a very pretty name it is, though for brevity's sake it may be convenient hereafter to particularise him by the initial letter.
As I was scarcely in a position to decide among the various appetising ways of cooking suggested by G., I said I would leave it to him.
But, then, the signor could not make a dinner of cutlets. What else would he be so good as to like? Sausage, ham of York, and eggs—eggs a la coque or presented as omelettes. No? Then signor would commence with soup? Finally potage au riz was selected out of the embarrassment of riches poured at our feet by the enthusiastic G.
There being yet an hour to dinner, we ascended the few steps that led to the summit of the hill on which the chapel is perched, a marvel to all new-comers by the highway of the Lake. The door was open, and we walked in. There was no light burning on the altar, nor any water in the stone basin by the door. But there was all the apparatus of worship—the gaudy toyshop above the grand altar, the tiny side chapels, with their pictures of the dying Saviour, and the confessional box, now thick with dust, and echoless of sob of penitent or counsel of confessor. It was evidently a poorly endowed chapel, the tinsel adornments being of the cheapest and the candles of the thinnest. But in some past generation a good Catholic had bestowed upon it an altarcloth of richest silk, daintily embroidered. The colours had faded out of the flowers, and the golden hue of the cloth had been grievously dimmed. Still it remained the one rich genuine piece of workmanship in a chapel disfigured by an overbearing hankering after paper flowers and tinsel.
Early the next morning, whilst reposing under the magnificent counterpane on the bed of chopped straw, I was awakened by hearing the chapel bell ring for mass. I thought it must be the ghost of some disembodied priest, who had come up through the darkness of the night and the scarcely more luminous mist of the morning to say a mass for his own disturbed soul. But, as I presently learned, they were human hands that pulled the bell-rope, and a living priest said mass all by himself in this lonely chapel whilst dawn was breaking over a sleeping world.
I saw him some hours later sitting on the kitchen dresser, in the sanctum where G. worked the mysteries of his art. He was resting his elbows on his knees as he leaned forward, and had in his mouth a large pipe, from which he vigorously puffed. I found him a very cheerful old gentleman, by no means unduly oppressed with the solemnity of this early mass in the lonely chapel. He lived down at Barbeng, at the back of the hill, and had come up this morning purely as a matter of business, and in partial fulfilment of a contract entered into with one of his parishioners, whose husband had been lost at sea whilst yet they were only twelve months married. The widow had scraped together sufficient money to have a due number of masses said on San Salvatore for the repose of the soul of her young husband. So once a week, whilst the contract ran, the old priest made his way up through the morning mist, tolled the bell, said the mass, and thereafter comforted himself with a voluminous pipe seated on the dresser in G.'s kitchen.
This is a digression, and I confess I have rather lingered over it, as it kept the soup waiting.
The preparation was brought in in a neat white bowl gracefully carried aloft by G., who still insisted upon going about with a napkin under his arm. Everything was in order except the soup. I like to think that the failure may have been entirely due to myself. G. had proposed quite a dozen soups, and I had ignorantly chosen the only one he could not make. The liquid was brown and greasy, smelling horribly of a something which in recognition of G.'s good intention I will call butter. The rice, which formed a principal component part, presented itself in conglomerate masses, as if G., before placing it in the tureen, had squeezed portions of it in his hand.
Perhaps he had, for he was not in the humour to spare himself trouble in his effort to make the banquet a success.
We helped ourselves plentifully to the contents of the tureen, which was much easier to do than to settle the disposition of the soup. G. was in an ecstasy of delight at things having gone on so well thus far. He positively pervaded the place, nervously changing the napkin from arm to arm, and frantically flicking off imaginary crumbs. At length it happily occurred to him that it would be well to go and see after the cutlets. Whereupon we emptied the soup back into the tureen, and when G. returned were discovered wiping our lips with the air of people who had already dined.
After all, there were the cutlets, and G. had not indulged in exaggerated approval of their excellence when in a state of nature. They were those dainty cuts into which veal naturally seems to resolve itself in butcher's shops on the Continent. We observed with concern that they looked a little burned in places when they came to the table, and the same attraction of variety was maintained in the disposition of salt. There were large districts in the area of the cutlet absolutely free from savouring. But then you came upon a small portion where the salt lay in drifts, and thus the average was preserved. We were very hungry and ate the cutlets, which, with an allowance of bread, made up the dinner. There were some potatoes, fried with great skill, amid much of the compound we had agreed to call butter. But, as I explained to G. in reply to a deprecatory gesture when he took away the floating mass untouched, I have not for more than three years been able to eat a potato. One of my relations was, about that date, choked by a piece of potato, and since then I have never touched them, especially when fried in a great deal of butter.
We had some cheese, for which Earl Granville's family motto would serve as literal description. You might bend it, but could not break it. I never was partial to bent cheese, but we made a fair appearance with this part of the feast, owing to the arrival of G.'s dog, a miserable-looking cur, attracted to the banquet-hall by unwonted savours. He seemed to like the cheese; and G., when he came in with the coffee, was more than ever pleased with our appreciation of the good things provided for us.
"Rosbif and chiss—ha!" he said, breaking forth into English, and smiling knowingly upon us.
He felt he had probed the profoundest depths of the Englishman's gastronomical weakness.
With the appearance of the coffee the real pleasure of the evening commenced. Along nearly the whole of one side of the banquet-hall ran a fireplace, a recess of the proportions of a spare bedroom in an ordinary English house. There were no "dogs" or other contrivance for minimising the spontaneity of a fire. There are granite quarries near, and these had contributed an enormous block which formed a hearth raised about six inches above the level of the floor. On this an armful of brushwood was placed; and the match applied, it began to burn with cheerful crackling laughter and pleasant flame, filling the room with a fragrant perfume. For all other light a feeble oil lamp twinkled high up on the wall, and a candle burned on the table where we had so luxuriantly dined.
The fitful light shone on the oil paintings which partly hid the damp on the walls. There was a picture (not a bad one) of St. Sebastian pierced with arrows, and in his death-agony turning heavenward a beautiful face. There was the portrait of another monk holding on to a ladder, each rung of which was labelled with a cardinal virtue. There was a crucifixion or two, and what elsewhere might well pass for a family portrait—an elderly lady, with a cap of the period, nursing a spaniel. The damp had spared the spaniel whilst it made grave ravages upon the lady, eating a portion of her cheek and the whole of her left ear.
G. having the dinner off his mind, and having, as was gathered from a fearsome clattering in the back premises, washed up the dishes, wandered about the shadows in the background and showed a disposition for conversation. It was now he unfolded that dream of the hotel some day to be built up here, with the porter in the hall, the waiters buzzing round, the old man, his father, in the receipt of custom, and he (G.) exercising his great natural talents in supervising the making of soup, the frying of potatoes, and the selection of elastic cheeses. He showed, with pardonable pride, a visitors' book in which was written "Leopold, Prince of Great Britain and Ireland." His Royal Highness came here one rainy day in 1876, riding on a mule, and escorted by a bedraggled suite.
Did they partake of any refreshments?
No; the father, G. frankly admits, lost his head in the excitement of the moment—a confession which confirms the impression that, on a much less auspicious occasion, it has been thought desirable that a younger and stronger man should assume the direction of affairs. To proffer Royalty potage au riz on such brief notice was of course out of the question. But the fatuous old gentleman had permitted a Prince of Great Britain and Ireland to descend the mountain without having tasted any other of the comestibles which were doubtless on hand at the time, and portions of which most probably remain to this day.
About eight o'clock there were indications from the shadowy portions of the banqueting chamber that G. was getting sleepy, and that the hour had arrived when it was usual for residents to retire for the night. Even on the top of a mountain one cannot go to bed at eight o'clock, and we affected to disregard these signals. Beginning gently, the yawns increased in intensity till they became phenomenal. At nine o'clock G. pointedly compared the hour of the day as between his watch and mine.
It was hard to leave a bright wood fire and go to bed at nine o'clock; but G. was irresistible. He literally yawned us out of the room, up the staircase, and into the bed-chamber. There was a key hanging by the outside of the door the size of a small club, and weighing several pounds. On the inside the keyhole, contrary to habitude, was in the centre of the door. From this point of approach it was, however, useful rather for ventilation than for any other purpose, since the key would not enter. Looking about for some means of securing the door against possible intrusions on the part of G. with a new soup, I discovered the trunk of a young tree standing against the wall. The next discovery was recesses in the wall on either side of the door, which suggested the evident purpose of the colossal bar. With this across the door one might sleep in peace, and I did till eight o'clock in the morning.
G. had been instructed to call us at sunrise if the morning were fair. As it happened, our ill luck of the evening was repeated in the morning. A thick mist obscured all around us, though as we passed down to civilisation and Lugano the sun, growing stronger, lifted wreaths of white mist, and showed valley, and lake, and town bathed in glorious light.
THE PRINCE OF WALES
We in this country have grown accustomed to the existence of the Prince of Wales, and his personality, real and fabulous, is not unfamiliar on the other side of the Atlantic. But if we come to think of it, it is a very strange phenomenon. The only way to realise its immensity is to conceive its creation today, supposing that heretofore through the history of England there had been no such institution. A child is born in accidental circumstances and with chance connections that might just as reasonably have fallen to the lot of some other entity. He grows from childhood through youth into manhood, and all the stages, with increasing devotion and deference, he is made the object of reverential solicitude. All his wants are provided for, even anticipated. He is the first person to be considered wherever he goes. Men who have won renown in Parliament, in the camp, in literature, doff their hats at his coming, and high-born ladies curtsey.
It is all very strange; but so is the rising of the sun and the sequence of the moon. We grow accustomed to everything and take the Prince of Wales like the solar system as a matter of course.
Reflection on the singularity of his position leads to sincere admiration of the manner in which the Prince fills it. Take it for all in all, there is no post in English public life so difficult to fill, not only without reproach, but with success. Day and night the Prince lives under the bull's-eye light of the lantern of a prying public. He is more talked about, written about, and pulled about than any Englishman, except, perhaps, Mr. Gladstone. But Mr. Gladstone stands on level ground with his countrymen. If he is attacked or misrepresented, he can hit back again. The position of the Prince of Wales imposes upon him the impassivity of the target used in ordinary rifle practice. Whatever is said or written about him, he can make no reply, and the happy result which in the main follows upon this necessary attitude suggests that it might with advantage be more widely adopted.
Probably in the dead, unhappy night when the rain was on the roof and the Tranby Croft scandal was on everybody's tongue, the Prince of Wales had some bad quarters of an hour. But whatever he felt or suffered, he made no sign. To see him sitting in the chair on the bench in court whilst that famous trial was proceeding, no one, not having prior knowledge of the fact, would have guessed that he had the slightest personal interest in the affair. There was danger of his even over-doing the attitude of indifference. But he escaped it, and was exactly as smiling, debonair and courtly as if he were in his box at the theatre watching the development of some quite other dramatic performance. He has all the courage of his race, and his long training has steeled his nerves.
It would be so easy for the Prince of Wales to make mistakes that would alienate from him the affection which is now his in unstinted measure. There are plenty of precedents, and a fatal fulness of exemplars. Take, for example, his relations with political life. It would not be possible for him now, as a Prince of Wales did at the beginning of the century, to form a Parliamentary party, and control votes in the House of Commons by cabals hatched at Marlborough House. But he might, if he were so disposed, in less occult ways meddle in politics. As a matter of fact, noteworthy and of highest honour to the Prince, the outside public have not the slightest idea to which side of politics his mind is biassed. They know all about his private life, what he eats, and how much; how he dresses, whom he talks to, what he does from the comparatively early hour at which he rises to the decidedly late one at which he goes to bed. But in all the gossip daily poured forth about him there is never a hint as to whether he prefers the politics of Tory or Liberal, the company of Lord Salisbury or Mr. Gladstone.
In a country where every man in whatever station of life is a keen politician, this is a great thing to say for one in the position of the Prince of Wales.
This absolute impartiality of attitude does not arise from indifference to politics or to the current of political warfare. The Prince is a Peer of Parliament, sits as Duke of Cornwall, and under that name figures in the division lists on the rare occasions when he votes. When any important debate is taking place in the House, he is sure to be found in his corner seat on the front Cross Bench, an attentive listener. Nor does he confine his attention to proceedings in the House of Lords. In the Commons there is no more familiar figure than his seated in the Peers' Gallery over the clock, with folded hands irreproachably gloved, resting on the rail before him as he leans forward and watches with keen interest the sometimes tumultuous scene.
Thus he sat one afternoon in the spring of the session of 1875. He had come down to hear a speech with which his friend, Mr. Chaplin, was known to be primed. The House was crowded in every part, a number of Peers forming the Prince's suite in the gallery, while the lofty figure of Count Munster, German Ambassador, towered at his right hand, divided by the partition between the Peers' Gallery and that set apart for distinguished strangers. It was a great occasion for Mr. Chaplin, who sat below the gangway visibly pluming himself and almost audibly purring in anticipation of coming triumph. But a few days earlier the eminent orator had the misfortune to incur the resentment of Mr. Joseph Gillis Biggar. All unknown to him, Joseph Gillis was now lying in wait, and just as the Speaker was about to call on the orator of the evening, the Member for Cavan rose and observed,—
"Mr. Speaker, Sir, I believe there are strangers in the house."
The House of Commons, tied and bound by its own archaic regulations, had no appeal against the whim of the indomitable Joey B. He had spied strangers in due form, and out they must go. So they filed forth, the Prince of Wales at the head of them, the proud English Peers following, and by another exit the Envoy of the most potent sovereign of the Continent, representative of a nation still flushed with the overthrow of France—all publicly and peremptorily expelled at the raising of the finger of an uneducated, obscure Irishman, who, when not concerned with the affairs of the Imperial Parliament, was curing bacon at Belfast and selling it at enhanced prices to the Saxon in the Liverpool market.
The Prince of Wales bore this unparalleled indignity with the good humour which is one of his richest endowments. He possesses in rare degree the faculty of being amused and interested. The British workman, who insists on his day's labour being limited by eight hours, would go into armed revolt if he were called upon to toil through so long a day as the Prince habitually faces. Some of its engagements are terribly boring, but the Prince smiles his way through what would kill an ordinary man. His manner is charmingly unaffected, and through all the varying duties and circumstances of the day he manages to say and do the right thing. It is not a heroic life, but it is in its way a useful one, and must be exceedingly hard to live.
Watching the Prince of Wales moving through an assemblage, whether it be as he enters a public meeting or as he strolls about the greensward at Marlborough House on the occasion of a garden party, the observer may get some faint idea of the strain ever upon him. You can see his eyes glancing rapidly along the line of the crowd in search of some one whom he can make happy for the day by a smile or a nod of recognition. If there were one there who might expect the honour, and who was passed over, the Prince knows full well how sore would be the heart-burning.
There is nothing prettier at the garden party than to see him walking through the crowd of brave men and fair women with the Queen on his arm. Her Majesty used in days gone by to be habile enough at the performance of this imperative duty laid upon Royalty of singling out persons for recognition. Now, when he is in her company, the Prince of Wales does it for her. Escorting her, bare-headed, through the throng; he glances swiftly to right or left, and when he sees some one whom he thinks the Queen should smile upon he whispers the name. The Queen thereupon does her share in contributing to the sum of human happiness.
It is, as I began by saying, all very strange if we look calmly at it. But, in the present order of things, it has to be done. It is the Prince of Wales's daily work, and it is impossible to conceive it accomplished with fuller appearance of real pleasure on the part of the active agent.
A HISTORIC CROWD.
"I very much regret that so much of your valuable time has been absorbed," said the Lord Chief Justice, speaking to the Tichborne Jury, as the massive form of the Claimant vanished through the side door, never more to enter the Court of Queen's Bench; "but it will be a consolation to you to think that your names will be associated in history with the most remarkable trial that has ever occurred in the annals of England."
There was another jury outside Sir Alexander Cockburn's immediate observation that always struck me, and I saw a good deal of it, as not the least notable feature in the great trial that at one time engrossed the attention of the English-speaking race. That was the crowd that gathered outside the Courts of Justice, then still an adjunct of Westminster Hall.
As there never was before a trial like that of the Claimant, so there never was a crowd like this. It had followed him through all the vicissitudes of his appeal to the jury of his countrymen, and of his countrymen's subsequently handing him over to another jury upon a fresh appeal. It began to flood the broad spaces at the bottom of Parliament Street in far-off days when the case of Tichborne v. Lushington was opened in the Sessions House, and it continued without weariness or falling-off all through the progress of the civil suit, beginning again with freshened zeal with the commencement of the criminal trial.
Like the Severn, Palace Yard filled twice a day whilst the blue brougham had its daily mission to perform, the crowd assembling in the morning to welcome the coming Claimant, and foregathering in the evening to speed him on his departure westward. It ranged in numbers from 5000 down to 1000. Put the average at 3000, multiply it by 291, the aggregate number of days which the Claimant was before the Courts in his varied character of plaintiff and defendant, and we have 873,000 as the total of the assemblage.
As a rule, the congregation of Monday was the largest of the week. Why this should be, students of the manners of this notable crowd were not agreed. Some held that the circumstance was to be accounted for by the fact that two days had elapsed during which the Claimant was not on view, and that on Monday the crowd came back, like a giant refreshed, to the feast, which, by regular repetition, had partially palled on Friday's appetite. Others found the desired explanation in the habit which partly obtains among the labouring classes of taking Monday as a second day of rest in the week, and of devoting a portion of it to the duty of going down to Westminster Hall to cheer "Sir Roger."
Probably both causes united to bring together the greater crowd of Monday afternoons. It must not be supposed that the mob was composed wholly or principally of what are called the working classes. When an hon. member rose in the House of Commons, and complained of the inconvenience occasioned to legislators by the "Tichborne crowd," another member observed that, relative numbers considered, the House of Commons contributed as much to swell the throng as any other section of the people. During the last months of the trial, if any class predominated it was that which came from the provinces. The Claimant was undoubtedly one of the sights of London and before his greater attraction the traditional Monument which elsewhere—
"Lifts its tall head and like a bully lies,"
sank into absolute insignificance. Not to have seen the Claimant, argued the London of the period unknown. Fashionably dressed ladies and exquisitely attired gentlemen battled for front places upon the pavement with sturdy agriculturists who had brought their wives and daughters to see "Sir Roger," and who had not the slightest intention of going back till they had accomplished their desire.
It came to pass that there were some two hundred faces in the crowd familiar to the police as daily attendants at the four o'clock festival in Palace Yard. Day after day, they came to feast their eyes on the portly figure of "Sir Roger," and, having gazed their fill, went away, to return again on the morrow. There was one aged gentleman whose grey gaiters, long-tailed coat, and massive umbrella were as familiar in Palace Yard as are the features on the clock-face in the tower. He came up from somewhere in the country in the days when Kenealy commenced his first speech, and, being a hale old man, he survived long enough to be in the neighbourhood when the learned gentleman had finished his second. At the outset, he was wont to fight gallantly for a place of vantage in the ranks near the arch-way of the Hall. Then, before the advances of younger and stouter newcomers, he faded away into the background. Towards the end, he wandered about outside the railings in Bridge Street, and, as the clock struck four, got the umbrella as near as its natural obstructiveness would permit to the carriage-gate whence the Claimant's brougham was presently to issue.
At first the police authorities dealt with the assembly in the ordinary manner, a more or less sufficient force being told off for the duty of keeping the thoroughfare clear. It soon became manifest that the Tichborne crowd, like everything else in connection with the trial, required especial treatment, and accordingly a carefully elaborated scheme was prepared. Superintendent Denning had under his command, for the preservation of peace and order in Palace Yard and the adjacent thoroughfares, not less than sixty men. One or two were stationed in the justice-chamber itself, and must by the time the verdict had been delivered have got pretty well up in the details of the case. Others guarded the entrance-door; others lined the passage into the yard, others were disposed about the yard itself; whilst, after three o'clock, two strong companies stood in reserve in the sheds that flank the entrance to the Hall. At half past three the crowd began to assemble, building itself up upon the little nucleus that had been hanging about all day. The favourite standpoint, especially in the cold, uncertain winter weather that marked the conclusion of the trial, was inside Westminster Hall, where the people were massed on the far side of a temporary barricade which the Tichborne case called into being, the railing of which was worn black by the touch of the hands of the faithful.
Outside, in the yard, the crowd momentarily thickened till it formed a dense lane, opening out from the front of the Hall, and turning to the left down to the south carriage-gate. The railings in Bridge Street and St. Margaret's Street were banked with people, and ranks were formed on the pavement in front of the grass-plot. At a quarter to four the policemen under the shed received the word of command, and marched out into St. Margaret's Street, some filing off to take charge of the gates, whilst the rest were drawn up on the pavement opposite and at the corner of Bridge Street, with the mission of preventing rushes after the Claimant's carriage as it drove through. A few minutes later the distinguished vehicle itself—a plain, dark-blue brougham, drawn by a finely bred bay mare—drove into the yard, and, taking up its position a little on one side of the entrance to the Hall, became the object of curious and respectful consideration. As the great clock boomed four strokes, the doors of the Court opened, and the privileged few who had been present at the day's proceedings issued forth.
The excitement increased as the Court emptied, culminating when, after a brief lull, the Claimant himself appeared, and waddled down the living lane that marked the route to his carriage. There was much cheering and a great amount of pocket-handkerchief waving, which "Sir Roger" acknowledged by raising his hat and smiling that "smile of peculiar sweetness and grace" which Dr. Kenealy brought under the notice of the three judges and a special jury. As the Claimant walked through the doorway, closely followed by the Inspector, the policemen on guard suddenly closed the doors, and the public within Westminster Hall found themselves netted and hopelessly frustrated in what was evidently their intention of rushing out and sharing the outside crowd's privilege of staring at the Claimant, as he actually stepped into his carriage.
The outside throng in Palace Yard, meanwhile, made the most of their special privilege, crowding round "Sir Roger" and cheering in a manner that made the bay mare plunge and rear. With the least possible delay, the Claimant is got into the brougham, the door is banged to, and the bay mare is driven swiftly through the Yard, the crowd closing in behind. But when they reach the gates, and essay to pass and flood the streets beyond, where the gigantic umbrella of the aged gentleman looms uplifted over the shoulders of the line of police like the section of a windmill sail, the iron gates are swung to, and this, the second and larger portion of the crowd, is likewise safely trapped, and can gaze upon the retreating brougham only through iron bars that, in this instance at least, "do make a cage." There are not many people outside, for it is hard to catch even a passing glimpse of the occupant of the carriage as it drives swiftly westward to Pimlico, finally pulling up in a broad street of a severely respectable appearance, not to be marred even by the near contiguity of Millbank convict prison.
Here also is a crowd, though only a small one, and select to wit, being composed chiefly of well-dressed ladies, forming part of a band of pilgrims who daily walked up and down the street, waiting and watching the outgoing and incoming of "Sir Roger." They are rewarded by the polite upraising of "Sir Roger's" hat, and a further diffusion of the sweet and gracious smile; and having seen the door shut upon the portly form, and having watched the brougham drive off, they, too, go their way, and the drama is over for the day.
But the crowd in and about Palace Yard have not accomplished their mission when they have seen the blue brougham fade in the distance. There is the "Doctor" to come yet, and all the cheering has to be repeated, even with added volume of sound. When the Claimant has got clear away, and the crowd have had a moment or two of breathing-time, the "Doctor" walks forth from the counsels' entrance, and is received with a burst of cheering and clapping of hands, which, "just like Sir Roger", he acknowledges by raising his hat, but, unlike him, permits no trace of a smile to illumine his face. Without looking right or left, the "Doctor" walks northward, raising his hat as he passes the caged and cheering crowd in Palace Yard. With the same grave countenance, not moved in the slightest degree by the comical effect of the big men in the crowd at his heels waving their hats over his head, the "Doctor" crosses Bridge Street, and walks into Parliament Street, as far as the Treasury, where a cab is waiting. Into this he gets with much deliberation, and, with a final waving of his hat, and always with the same imperturbable countenance, is driven off, and Parliament Street, subsiding from the turmoil in which the running, laughing, shouting mob have temporarily thrown it, finds time to wonder whether it would not have been more convenient for all concerned if the "Doctor's" cab had picked him up at the door of Westminster Hall.
Slowly approached the end of this marvellous, and to a succeeding generation almost incredible, and altogether inexplicable, phenomenon. It came about noon, on Saturday, the final day of February, 1874.
A few minutes before ten o'clock on that morning the familiar bay mare and the well-known blue brougham—where are they now?—appeared in sight, with a contingent of volunteer running footmen, who cheered "Sir Roger" with unabated enthusiasm. As the carriage passed through into the yard, a cordon of police promptly drew up behind it across the gateway, and stopped the crowd that would have entered with it. But inside there was, within reasonable limits, no restraint upon the movements of the Claimant's admirers, who lustily cheered, and wildly waved their hats, drowning in the greater sound the hisses that came from a portion of the assemblage. The Claimant looked many shades graver than in the days when Kenealy's speech was in progress. Nevertheless, he smiled acknowledgment of the reception, and repeatedly raised his hat. When he had passed in, the throng in Palace Yard rapidly vanished, not more than a couple of hundred remaining in a state of vague expectation. Westminster Hall itself continued to be moderately full, a compact section of the crowd that had secured places of vantage between the barricade and the temporary telegraph station evidently being prepared to see it out at whatever hour the end might come.
For the next hour there was scarcely any movement in the Hall, save that occasioned by persons who lounged in, looked round, and either ranged themselves in the ranks behind the policemen, or strolled out again, holding to the generally prevalent belief that if they returned at two o'clock they would still have sufficient hours to wait. In the Yard a thin line extended from the side of the Hall gateway backwards to the railings in St. Margaret's Street, with another line drawn up across the far edge of the broad carriage-way before the entrance. There was no ostentatious show of police, but they had a way of silently filing out from under the sheds or out of the Commons' gateway in proportion as the crowd thickened, which conveyed the impression that there was a force somewhere about that would prove sufficient to meet any emergency. As a matter of fact, Mr. Superintendent Denning had under his command three hundred men, who had marched down to Westminster Hall at six o'clock in the morning, and were chiefly disposed in reserve, ready for action as circumstances might dictate.
At half-past eleven, there being not more than three or four hundred people in Palace Yard, a number of Press messengers, rushing helter-skelter out of the court and into waiting cabs, indicated the arrival of some critical juncture within the jealously guarded portals. Presently it was whispered that the Lord Chief Justice had finished his summing up, and that Mr. Justice Mellor was addressing the jury. A buzz of conversation rose and fell in the Hall, and the ranks drew closer up, waiting in silence the consummation that could not now be far distant.
The news spread with surprising swiftness, not only in Palace Yard, but throughout Bridge Street and St. Margaret's Street, and the railings looking thence into the yard became gradually banked with rows of earnest faces. Little groups formed on the pavement about the corners of Parliament Street. Faces appeared at the windows of the houses overlooking the Yard, and the whole locality assumed an aspect of grave and anxious expectation. A few minutes after the clock in the tower had slowly boomed forth twelve strokes it was known in the Bail Court, where a dozen rapid hands were writing out words the echo of which had scarcely died away in the inner court, that the Judges had finished their task, and that the Jury had retired to consider their verdict. It was known also in the lobbies, where a throng of gowned and wigged barristers were assembled, hanging on as the fringe of the densely packed audience that sat behind the Claimant, and overflowed by the opened doorway. Thence it reached the crowd outside, and after the first movement and hum of conversation had subsided, a dead silence fell upon Westminster Hall, and all eyes were fixed upon the door by which, at any moment, messengers might issue with the word or words up to the utterance of which by the Foreman of the Jury the great trial slowly dragged its length.
Half an hour later the door burst open, and messengers came leaping in breathless haste down the steps and across the Hall, shouting as they ran,—
"Guilty! Guilty on all counts!" The words were taken up by the crowd, and passed from mouth to mouth in voices scarcely above a whisper. It was a flock of junior barristers, issuing from the court, radiant and laughing, who brought the next news.
"Fourteen years! Fourteen years!" they called out.
This time the crowd in Westminster Hall took up the cry in louder tones, and there was some attempt at cheering, but it did not prevail. The less dense crowd in the Yard received the intelligence without any demonstration and after a brief pause made off with one consent for the judges' entrance in St. Margaret's Street, where, peradventure, they might see the prisoner taken away, or at least would catch a glimpse of the judges and counsel.
From this hour up to nearly four o'clock the crowd, in numbers far exceeding those present at the first intimation of the verdict and sentence, hung about St. Margaret's Street and Palace Yard waiting for the coming forth of the prisoner, who had long ago been safely lodged in Newgate. They did not know that as soon as the convict was given in charge of the tipstaff of the court he was led away by Inspector Denning, along a carefully planned and circuitous route that entirely baffled the curiosity of the waiting crowd. Through the Court of Exchequer the prisoner and his guards went, by the members' private staircase, across the lobby, along the corridor, through the smoking-room into the Commons Courtyard, where a plain police omnibus was in waiting with an escort of eleven men. In this the prisoner took his seat, and was driven through the Victoria Tower gate en route for Newgate. He accompanied his custodians as quietly as if they were conducting him to his brougham, and only once broke the silence of the journey to Newgate.
"It's very hot," he said, as he panted along the passages of the House of Commons, "and I am so fat."
WITH PEGGOTTY AND HAM.
A careful survey of the map of Kent will disclose Lydd lying within four miles of the coast, in the most southerly portion of the promontory tipped by Dungeness. Lydd has now its own branch line from Ashford, but when I first knew it the nearest point by rail on one hand was Folkestone, and on the other Appledore. Between these several points lies a devious road, sometimes picking its way through the marshes, and occasionally breaking in upon a sinking village, which it would probably be delightful to dwell in if it did not lie so low, was not so damp, and did not furnish the inhabitants with an opportunity for obtaining remarkably close acquaintance with the symptoms of the ague. Few of the marsh towns are more picturesque than Lydd, owing to the sturdy independence shown by the architects of the houses, and to the persistent and successful efforts made to avoid anything like a straight line in the formation of the streets. The houses cluster "anyhow" round the old church, and seem to have dropped accidentally down in all sorts of odd nooks and corners. They face all ways, and stand at angles, several going the length of turning their backs upon the streets and placidly opening out from their front door into the nearest field.
In the main street, through which her Majesty's cart passes, and along which all the posting is done, a serious attempt has made at the production of something like an ordinary street. But even here the approach to regularity is a failure, owing to some of the houses along the line putting forth a porch, or blooming into a row of utterly unnecessary pillars before the parlour windows. In short, Lydd, being entirely out of the tracks of the world, cares little for what other towns may do, and has just built its houses where and how it pleased. Between Dungeness and Lydd there is an expanse of shingle which makes the transit an arduous undertaking, and one not to be accomplished easily without the aid of "backstays" (pronounced "backster"), a simple contrivance somewhat upon the principle of snowshoes. When the proneness to slip off the unaccustomed foot has been overcome, backstays are not so awkward as they look. A couple of flat pieces of inch-thick wood, four inches wide by six long, with a loop of leather defectively fastened for the insertion of the foot went to make up the pair of "backsters" by whose assistance I succeeded in traversing two miles of rough, loose shingle that separates the southern and eastern edge of Lydd marsh from the sea.
The lighthouse stands on the farthest point, jutting into the sea, and has at the right of it West Bay, and on the left East Bay. A signboard on the top of a pole stuck in the shingle, almost within hail of the lighthouse, announces the proximity of "The Pilot." "The Pilot" is a small shanty run up on the shingle, and possessed of accommodation about equal in extent to that afforded by the residence of the Peggottys. Reminiscences of the well-known abode on the beach at Yarmouth are further favoured, as we draw nearer, by the appearance of the son of the house, who comes lounging out in a pilot-cloth suit, with a telescope under his arm, and a smile of welcome upon his bright, honest face. This must be Ham, who we find occupies the responsible position of signalman at this station, and frequently has the current of his life stirred by the appearance of strange sail upon the horizon. Peggotty, his father, is the proprietor of "The Pilot," which hostelry drives a more or less extensive trade in malt liquor with the eight men constituting the garrison of a neighbouring fort, supplemented by such stray customers as wind and tide may bring in.