AN ILLUSTRATED MONTHLY
Vol. 5, Issue. 28.
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The Prince of Wales at Sandringham.
[The Prince of Wales is, of course, precluded by his position from granting interviews like private persons, but His Royal Highness has been so good as to give us special permission to insert the following extremely interesting article, which we are happy to be able to present to our readers in place of the Illustrated Interview for the present month. The next of the series of Illustrated Interviews, by Mr. Harry How, will appear next month. Sir Robert Rawlinson, the celebrated engineer, whose work saved so many lives in the Crimea, has given Mr. How a most interesting interview, with special illustrations.]
"Far from the busy haunt of man" might be fitly applied to Sandringham; so quiet, and so secluded, is this favourite residence of the heir to England's throne and his beautiful and universally esteemed wife.
Not an ancient castle with tower and moat, not a show place such as would charm a merchant prince, but beautiful in its simplicity and attractive in its homeliness; yet withal, clothed in the dignity inseparable from its owners and its associations; in short, a happy English home, inhabited by a typical English family.
How often have we seen them in the country lanes all squeezed into one wagonette, looking like a jolly village squire and his family; or watched the young Princes and Princesses careering round the park on their favourite steeds, and listened to their merry laughing voices as they emulated each other to come in winner!
When at Sandringham, State and its duties, society and its requirements, are relegated to the dim past and shadowy future; and our Prince is a country gentleman, deep in agriculture and the welfare of his tenantry; and his wife and children pass their time in visiting the schools, the poor, and the sick, working in their dairy, or at their sketching, art and useful needle-work, etc.
Fortunately, the estate is above seven miles from King's Lynn, its nearest town, so that the family are not subjected to the prying gaze of the curious. They have not, however, the inconvenience of this long drive from the railway station, as there is one at Wolferton, a little village of about forty houses, on the estate, and between two and three miles from the "House."
In 1883 the Prince added a suite of waiting-rooms to the building already there: the addition consisting of a large entrance-hall, approached by a covered carriage way, with rooms on either side for the Prince and Princess. These rooms are handsomely and tastefully furnished, and are used not only as waiting-rooms, but occasionally for luncheon, when the Prince and his guests are shooting in the vicinity of Wolferton. The station lies in a charming valley, and emerging from its grounds, you have before you a picturesque drive along a well gravelled road, bordered with velvety turf, and backed with fir, laurel, pine and gorse.
Rabbits in hundreds are popping hither and thither, pheasants are flying over your head, squirrels are scampering up and down trees, there are sounds of many feathery songsters in the branches: while if you pause awhile, you may catch the distant murmur of the sea—certainly you can feel its breezes; and you seem to get the beauty of the Highlands, the grandeur of the sea, and the very pick of English scenery, all in one extensive panorama. The view from the heights is beyond description: an uninterrupted outlook over the North Sea, and a general survey of such wide range, that on clear days the steeple or tower of Boston church (familiarly known as "Boston Stump") can be plainly seen.
Proceeding on your way, you pass the park boundary wall, the residence of the comptroller, the rectory, the little church of St. Mary Magdalene, with its flag waving in the breeze denoting the family are in residence—take a sudden curve in the road, and find yourself in front of the Norwich gates, admitting to the principal entrance. A solitary policeman is here on guard, but he knows his business, and knows every member of the household by sight; and though his duty consists in merely opening and shutting the gates, you may be quite sure he will not open to the wrong one.
These gates are worthy of more than a passing glance, for they are a veritable masterpiece of design and mechanism. They were, in fact, one of the features of the 1862 Exhibition, and were afterwards presented to the Prince by the County of Norwich. On the top is the golden crown, supported by the Prince's feathers. Underneath, held by bronzed griffins, are heraldic shields representing the various titles of the Prince, while the remainder is composed of flowers, sprays, and creeping vines. They are connected with the palisading by rose, shamrock and thistle. The maker was Barnard, of Norwich.
Although this is the chief entrance, it is necessary to proceed up the avenue and diverge to the left, before the front of the building comes into view; then it will be seen to be of modernized Elizabethan architecture; exterior, red brick, with Ketton-stone dressing. Over the door is a carved inscription as follows: "This house was built by Albert Edward Prince of Wales and Alexandra his wife, in the year of Our Lord, 1870." As a matter of fact, the estate had been purchased nine years previous to that date, for a sum of L220,000, but the Old Manor House was in such a condition that, after vainly trying to patch up and add on to, it was found desirable to pull it all down, and build an entirely new residence. Not only did the mansion need re-building, but also the cottages of the tenants and labourers: and much to the honour of the Prince and Princess, these cottages were their first care, and were all re-built and several new ones erected before they took possession of their own home.
An invitation to Sandringham is an honour which few would lightly regard: and if it is your first visit you are in a flutter of anticipation and expectation, making it somewhat difficult to preserve the calm exterior that society demands of you. Now there are two distinct sets invited there; one from Friday to Monday, and one from Monday or Tuesday to Friday; the former generally including a bishop, dean, or canon for the Sunday service, two or three eminent statesmen, and a sprinkling of musical, literary, and artistic celebrities. To this list I will suppose you to belong.
You have found carriages and baggage vans awaiting what is known as the "Royal train"—a special run just when the Prince is in residence—and you and your fellow-visitors have driven up to the principal entrance. There you alight, and are ushered by the footmen into a spacious hall or saloon, where you are received with the distinguished grace and courtesy for which your Royal host and hostess are so justly celebrated.
You have only time for a rapid glance at the massive oak carving and valuable paintings (chief of which is one portraying the family at afternoon tea, by Zichy) before you find yourself being conducted to the handsome suite of apartments you will occupy during your visit. A cup of tea and some light refreshment, and the dinner-hour being 7.30 it is time to prepare. If you have not been here before, let me give you a word of warning, or you will commit the dreadful sin of unpunctuality. Every clock on the place, from the loud-voiced one over the stables to the tiniest of continental masterpieces, is kept half an hour fast. The ringing-out of the hour thirty minutes before you expect it is startling in the extreme; and your maid or man has a bad time of it until you discover the discrepancy.
At last, however, you are ready, and in due time find yourself amidst the company in the grand dining saloon, where dinner is served in state, although not with the frigid formality one is inclined to expect. A certain degree of nervousness must be felt by all on the first occasion they dine with Royalty; but your host and hostess are so extremely affable, and have such a happy gift of putting people at their ease, that you insensibly forget their august position, and find yourself chatting with comfort and enjoyment. You will notice the splendid proportions of this saloon, and the priceless Spanish tapestry with which it is hung—this was the gift of the King of Spain to the Prince. There is also a magnificent display of plate, much of it presentation. The tables are oblong, the Prince and Princess facing each other at the centre; the floor—as are most of them—is of polished oak, this one being freely scattered with costly Turkish rugs. I may here mention that adjoining this saloon is a spacious ante-room, containing a fine collection of tigers' skins, elephants' tusks, etc.: a good record of the travels of His Royal Highness, of much interest to travellers and sportsmen.
When you presently adjourn to the drawing-rooms—of which there are a suite of small ones in addition to the large one—you will find there is no lack of entertainment and amusement; such, indeed, as must suit the most varied tastes. First, however, we will take some note of the rooms themselves. These (the drawing-rooms) are all connected with the entrance-hall by a broad corridor, which is ornamented with pieces of armour, ancient china, stuffed birds, etc.: they face the lakes, and are on the western or front of the building, opening on to the terrace.
The large drawing-room is of beautiful construction, fitted with windows reaching from ceiling to floor. The walls are panelled with pink and blue, with mouldings of gold and cream. The furniture is upholstered in pale blue, with threads of deep crimson and gold; the hangings are of rich chenille; the floor of polished oak, with rich Indian rugs distributed here and there. A plentiful scattering of music and books gives it a home-like appearance, while hand embroidery, sketches, painting on china, and feather screens show the variety of talent and skill of the ladies of the family. In the very centre of the room is a large piece of rockwork, with a tasteful arrangement (carried out under the care of the Princess herself) of choice ferns and beautiful roses in bloom, while rising out of the midst is a marble figure of Venus. The principal conservatory opens from this room. It is rich in palms and ferns, and contains a monument of art to Madame Jerichau, the sculptress, in the shape of a group of bathing girls.
Meanwhile, whatever amusement is to be the order has by this time commenced: perhaps it is music—the ladies of the family are all good musicians—perhaps it is tableaux vivants, or possibly a carpet dance. If your tastes do not lie in these directions, or after you have enjoyed them for a sufficient time, you have the choice of using the billiard-room, the American bowling alley, or the smoking-rooms. The billiard-room will interest you vastly: it is literally lined with arms of all descriptions. The tables, of course, are of the best.
Another room you may perhaps find your way to to-night is the "Serapis" room; it is half library and half smoking-room; in it you will see the entire fittings of the cabin the Prince occupied on his journey to India, in the vessel of the above name. One thing you may rest assured of—that neither on this evening nor at any other time while at Sandringham will you know a dull moment.
In the morning you will find breakfast served at nine o'clock in the dining saloon. As, however, the Prince and Princess generally take theirs in their private apartments, there is no formality, and you do not feel bound to the punctuality imperative when you meet their Royal Highnesses.
Perhaps you have letters to write; and I may as well here remark that the postal arrangements are first-rate. There is a post-office inside the house, which is also a money order office. Three deliveries per day come in that way, while mounted men meet the trains at Wolferton Station. There is also telegraphic communication with Central London, King's Lynn, and Marlborough House; and telephone to Wolferton Station, the stud farm, agents, bailiff, etc.
Before proceeding to outdoor sights—which will not be possible very early, as your host has a multiplicity of business to get through—you had better take the opportunity of seeing some of the rare and beautiful treasures indoors. Of course, all are aware of the extensive travels of the Prince in many countries, and will, therefore, expect to find many mementos of the same in his home; but I think few are prepared to find them so numerous and so valuable. Not only does one see them here and there in various directions, but one room of considerable dimensions is set apart altogether for them, and a day could be profitably spent in their inspection. It is not only their costliness and their beauty, but the associations which make them of so much interest. This one was presented by the King of this place; this one by Prince So-and-so; this by such a town, and this by such an order or society, until the vision is quite dazzled with beauty.
Perhaps as a strong contrast you may get a peep at the Prince's morning-room, a room plainly and usefully fitted and furnished in light oak. There you will see such a batch of correspondence that you will be inclined to wonder when it will be got through, but the Prince is a capital business man, and nothing is lost sight of.
The libraries must not be overlooked: there are quite a suite of them, well stocked with English and French literature more particularly. A large number will be noticed as presentation volumes, in handsome and unique bindings. One of these rooms also contains many mementos of travel and sport in various climes.
Two additional stories have within the last few weeks been completed over the bowling alley and billiard-room, making a total of about eighteen apartments, henceforth to be known as "The Bachelors' Wing."
For some years the large hall at the entrance was made to do duty for a ball-room, and no mean one either; but the Prince thinking it not quite so commodious as he would wish, he, some nine years ago, had a new and larger one built. This, and one or two other rooms, really constitute a new wing. The turret of this wing has just been raised, in order to place therein a clock purchased by the local tradesmen as a memorial to the late Duke of Clarence and Avondale. The ball-room is of immense size and lofty construction, with fine bay windows at either end, and large alcoves on either side, one containing a magnificent fire-place, and the other windows. The walls are artistic triumphs, being finely painted in delicate colours, and on them arranged a fine collection of Indian trophies. The floor is of oak, and kept in such a condition of polish as to be a pitfall and snare to any dancer not in constant practice. More than one or two couples have been known to suddenly subside, even in the most select of the select circles there assembled.
If during your visit one of the annual balls should take place, you are most fortunate. There are three of such—the "County," the "Tenants'," and the "Servants'," the first, of course, bringing the elite; but the two latter sometimes presenting a curious mixture. The tenants, I may say, are allowed to introduce a limited number of friends, a privilege highly valued, and much sought after by the most remote acquaintance of each and every tenant on the estate. A most wonderful display of colours distinguishes these Norfolkites, bright of hue, too, and more often than not dames of fifty got up in the style of damsels of eighteen.
And what appetites these yeomen and cattle-dealers have got, to be sure! And if you had a few tramps across the "Broads" you would not wonder at it, for hunger is soon the predominant feeling. The dancing, too, is a study; country dances, reels, and jigs following each other in such quick succession, that the band in the gallery at the far end do not have any too easy a time of it. Through everything, the same kindly interest is displayed by the Royal host and hostess; their interest never wanes, and their courtesy never flags, but everyone is noticed, and made to feel as much at their ease as it is possible for them to be.
Perhaps the servants' ball is as pretty a sight as one could see in the room—the toilettes of the Royal Family and their visitors, the rich state liveries of the footmen, the scattering of Highland costumes, the green and buff of the gamekeepers, and the caps of the maidservants, all blending into an ever-moving kaleidoscope, picturesque in the extreme.
Few that are familiar with Sandringham can enter this room without thinking of the occasion when the proud and loving mother entered, leaning on the arm of her eldest boy, on the day he attained his majority. The fairest and bravest of all England were there assembled to do him honour; and from all parts of the world "happy returns" and long life were wished for he whom all regarded as their future King. Some of the associations of this home must of necessity be saddening, but on the other hand, much must remind of many little acts of kindness and loving attentions paid; and were this a biography of the late Prince, many little anecdotes of his great thoughtfulness for those around him might be told; but his monument will be in the memories of all who knew him.
To return, however, to description. After the Prince has dispatched his necessary business, he generally takes his visitors round to view the park, gardens, model farm, stables, kennels, or whatever His Royal Highness thinks may interest them most. If you are an enthusiast in farming, you will be immensely interested in the 600 acres of land farmed on scientific principles. Every known improvement in machinery, etc., is introduced, with results of as near perfection as possible in crops. The Prince looks a genuine farmer, as he tramps through the fields in true Norfolk garb of tweed and gaiters; and it does not require much attention to find from his conversation that he quite understands what he is talking about; so it behoves one to rub up his weak points in this direction.
In the stables all are disposed to linger; every one of (I think) sixty stalls being inhabited by first-rate steeds, many of them good racers. The prettiest sight of all is the Princess's stable—a smaller one adjoining; this is tiled white and green, with stalls ornamented in silver. Here are some charming ponies driven by Her Royal Highness, and her favourite mare Vera. On this mare, accompanied by her children on their mounts, the Princess may often be met in the lanes around Sandringham, occasionally also driving in a little pony carriage, and in both cases almost unattended.
The kennels come next in order: they contain dogs of every breed from all parts of the land. The younger members of the family especially have many pets—cats, dogs, and birds; indeed, one of the first things you notice on your arrival is a parrot in the entrance saloon, that invariably greets you with calling for "three cheers for the Queen!"
It is now nearly luncheon time (1.30), and here you all meet again; some of the ladies perhaps having been honoured the first part of the day by spending some time with the Princess. Generally speaking, but not always, their Royal Highnesses join the party for lunch; but in any case, after that meal, forces are united, and the company entire start off, sometimes on foot, commencing with gardens, sometimes in carriages for a more distant inspection. To-day it is fine, and so we commence with emerging on to the west terrace, and into the western gardens.
The terraces are very handsome, and many of the rooms open on to them from French windows or conservatories. First you will notice a Chinese joss-house or temple, made of costly metal, guarded on either side by two huge granite lions from Japan, all of them the gifts to the Prince of Admiral Keppel.
The gardens are tastefully and artistically laid out, with such a wildness, yet with such a wealth of shrubs and pines, aided by artificial rockwork, a cave, and a rushing cascade, that one might well imagine one was in another country.
The Alpine gardens contain flowers and ferns of the choicest; and you presently emerge on the shores of a lake of considerable size. Here boating in the summer and skating in the winter may be indulged in, the latter, especially by torchlight, being a most attractive sight. The illuminations in the trees around, the flaring torches, the lights fixed to the chairs as they glide about like will o' the wisps, and the villagers (who are always invited) standing around, make up a picture not easily forgotten. This lake has recently been supplemented by the excavation of another in the centre of the park, a running stream connecting the two.
Chief, or almost chief, of the Sandringham outdoor sights is a famous avenue of trees. At some future time this avenue will be of even more interest than it is now, and will become, in fact, historical; for every tree there has been planted by some personage of note. On each one you will notice a neat label, stating name of planter and date of planting, chief of the names being Queen Victoria and the Empress Frederick.
The model dairy is a picture; but here again the preference must be given to that owned by the Princess. It is a Swiss cottage, containing five rooms, one of the five being a very pretty tea-room, and here Her Royal Highness sometimes favours her friends with the "cup that cheers," often, too, cutting bread and butter and cake with her own fair hands. Moreover, the same hands have often made the butter that is used—as each of the ladies of the family is skilled in dairy management, and capable of turning out a good honest pat of creamy Norfolk. Merry times they have had in this cottage, arrayed in apron and sleeves, doing the real work, not merely giving directions.
You would not be in any of the villages long before you saw some of the children attending some one of the various schools, clad in their scarlet and Royal blue; they look very comfortable and picturesque. There is a first-rate technical school, in addition to the ordinary ones of each village. The first was founded by the Princess herself, and in each of them Her Royal Highness and her children take a deep interest; often visiting them, taking classes, and asking questions. These schools, then, are shown you this afternoon; and, as a matter of course, you proceed from there to the Working Men's Club—one of which is established in each village. These are open to men above the age of fourteen.[A] Billiards, bagatelle, draughts, etc., are provided, and there is a good stock of newspapers and books. Refreshments may be obtained of good quality, and for a small outlay; and everything is done that can be done to make the men comfortable. Does it keep them from the public-house? you ask. Well—there is not such a thing known as a public-house on the Prince's estate. A man can get his glass of ale at the club—good in quality and low in figure—but he cannot get enough to send him home the worse for coming; so drunkenness is unknown in the villages.
[A] Small men; but is an actual extract from the printed rules hanging in the clubs.
On Sunday morning everybody goes to the little church of St. Mary Magdalene, in the park. The Prince and Princess set the example by their regular and punctual attendance—the Princess and ladies generally driving, the Prince and gentlemen walking by private footway. A quiet, peaceful spot it is, entered by a lych-gate and surrounded by a small "God's acre." If you are wise, you have come early enough to look round. Simplicity is stamped on everything, there not being a single imposing monument there. Several stones have been erected by the Prince in memory of faithful servants of the household, and there are also several placed there by the former proprietors of the estate. To what you are most attracted is the resting-place of the third Royal son. No costly sepulchre, but a simple grassy mound, surrounded by gilt iron railings with a plain headstone, recording the name and date of birth and death of the infant Prince, and the words "Suffer little children to come unto Me" added.
The church itself is of ancient date, and has been twice restored and enlarged by the Prince. It has a font of early times, and some half-dozen stained glass windows. The Prince has caused several monuments, busts, etc., to be placed there, conspicuous being busts to the late Princess Alice and the Emperor Frederick, a medallion to the late Duke of Albany, a stained glass window to the infant Prince, and monuments to the Revs. W. L. Onslow and G. Browne. The most noticeable of anything there, however, is a very handsome brass lectern, placed by the Princess as a thank-offering for the recovery of the Prince from his dangerous illness of typhoid fever. The event is within the memory of most of us, and needs only a brief notice to recall the national anxiety that was displayed on the occasion. The lectern bears the following inscription: "To the glory of God. A thank-offering for His mercy, 14th December, 1871. 'When I was in trouble, I called upon the Lord, and He heard me.'"
The space for worshippers is limited, and is generally quite filled by the household. The Royal Family occupy carved oak seats in the nave. The organ is a very fine one, particularly sweet in tone, and is situated in the rear of the building; it is presided over by a very able musician, who is also responsible for the choir—this consisting of school children, grooms, gardeners, etc. The singing is really good.
I have heard down there of a former organist, who was not a great musician, and, in fact, was more at home in the village shop, of which he was proprietor. Sunday after Sunday he made the most awful mistakes, and, in consequence, was continually warned of his probable dismissal. The Princess, with her invariable kindness, had been the cause of his staying so long as he had; but one Sunday the climax was reached and the Royal patience fairly exhausted. Mr. Gladstone (then in office) was on a visit, and his solemn, grim countenance as he stood in the church quite frightened the poor man, inasmuch as he lost his head completely. The organ left off in the chants, persisted in playing in the prayers, and altogether acted in such an erratic manner, that it was no wonder that anger was depicted on one countenance, sorrow on another, and amusement on a few of the more youthful ones! The old institution had to give way to a new, however, and a repetition of such performances was thus avoided.
The Sunday afternoon is quietly spent in the house or grounds; then in the evening some may, perhaps, drive to West Newton or Wolferton Church—the Prince, Princess and family often do—while others may prefer to stay in for music or reading.
On your way to either place you cannot but notice the prosperous look of the villages and villagers, pointing unmistakably to the certainty of a good landlord. Had you longer time here, you would hear many an anecdote of the kindness and generosity of the Prince and the goodness of the Princess and her daughters. Hardly a cottager but has some anecdote to tell you of the family: how the Princess visits the sick and afflicted, talking to them, reading to them, and helping them in their needs. Every child seems to know and to love the "beautiful lady," and every man and woman seems almost to worship her; and if you heard the anecdotes I have heard there, you would not wonder at it. "Think o' they R'yal Highnesses"—they would say—"making o' things wi' their own 'ands fer sich as us! Did yew ever heerd tell o' sich, says I; none o' yer frames and frimmirks (airs and graces) wi' they." And then they would go on with their "says I" and "says she," and tell you all about summer flower shows for villagers, treats on Royal birthdays, invitations to see sights in the park, how the family have given a wedding present to this one, what they have brought or sent the other one when ill; and so on, and so on, until you come to think what a pity it is a few land-owners, with their wives and families, cannot come here for the lessons so many need, and see how well this family interpret the words: "Am I my brother's keeper?"
Sandringham has saddening associations for its owners, but "Joy cometh in the morning," and as we take our farewell of this favourite residence of the Prince and Princess, we will wish them a bright future and continuance of good health to enjoy their Norfolk home.
Shafts from an Eastern Quiver.
X.—THE HUNTED TRIBE OF THREE HUNDRED PEAKS.
BY CHARLES J. MANSFORD, B.A.
"Are you awake, sahibs?" questioned Hassan, our guide, as he eagerly roused us from sleep one night. "The Hunted Tribe of Three Hundred Peaks is about its deadly work: Listen!"
We sat up and leant forward as he spoke, straining our ears to catch the slightest sound. Across the plain which stretched before us came at intervals a faint cry, which sounded like the hoot of a night bird.
"That is their strange signal," continued the Arab.
We rose, and, going to the door of the tent, scanned the wide plain, but could see no human being crossing it.
"You are mistaken this time, Hassan," said Denviers. "What you heard was an owl hooting."
"The sahib it is who misjudges," answered the Arab, calmly. "I have heard the warning note of the tribe before."
"It seems to come from the direction of Ayuthia," I interposed, pointing to where the faint outlines of the spires of its pagodas rose like shadows under the starlit sky.
"It comes from beyond Ayuthia," responded Hassan, whose keen sense of hearing was so remarkable; "and is as far away as the strange city built on the banks round a sunken ship, which we saw as we floated down the Meinam. Hist! I hear the signal again!"
Once more we listened, but that time the cry came to us from a different direction.
"It is only an owl hooting," repeated Denviers, "which has now flown to some other part of the plain and is hidden from us by one of the ruined palaces, which seem to rise up like ghosts in the moonlight. If Hassan means to wake us up every time he hears a bird screech we shall get little enough rest. I'm going to lie down again." He entered the tent, followed by us, and stretching himself wearily was asleep a few minutes after this, while Hassan and I sat conversing together, for the strange, bird-like cry prevented me from following Denviers' example.
"Coot! Coot!" came the signal again, and in spite of my companion's opinion I felt forced to agree with the Arab that there was something more than a bird hooting, for at times I plainly heard an answering cry.
After our adventure in the northern part of Burmah we had travelled south into the heart of Siam, where we parted with our elephant, and passed down the Meinam in one of the barges scooped out of a tree trunk, such as are commonly used to navigate this river. Disembarking at Ayuthia we had visited the ruins of the ancient city, and afterwards continued on our way towards the mouth of the river. While examining the colossal images which lie amid the other relics of the city's past greatness, Hassan had told us a weird story, to which, however, at that time we paid but scant attention.
On the night when our Arab guide had roused us so suddenly, our tent was pitched at some distance from the bank of the river, where a fantastic natural bridge of jagged white limestone spanned the seething waters of the tumbling rapids below, and united the two parts of the great plain. Sitting close to the entrance of the tent with Hassan, I could see far away to the west the tops of the great range of the Three Hundred Peaks beyond the plain. Recollecting that Hassan had mentioned them in his story, I was just on the point of asking him to repeat it when I heard the strange cry once more. A moment after the Arab seized me by the arm and pointed towards the plain before us.
I looked in the direction which Hassan indicated, and my eyes rested on the dismantled wall of a ruined palace. I observed nothing further for a few minutes, then a dusky form seemed to be hiding in the shadow of the wall. "Coot!" came the signal again, striking upon the air softly as if the one who uttered it feared to be discovered. The cry had apparently been uttered by someone beyond the river bank, for the man lurking in the shadow of the ruin stepped boldly out from it into the moonlit plain. He stood there silent for a moment, then dropped into the high grass, above which we saw him raise his head and cautiously return the signal.
"What do you think he is doing there, Hassan? " I asked the Arab, in a whisper, as I saw his hand wander to the hilt of his sword.
"The hill-men have seen our tent while out on one of their expeditions," he responded, softly. "I think they are going to attempt to take us by surprise, but by the aid of the Prophet we will outwit them."
I felt no particular inclination to place much trust in Mahomet's help, as the danger which confronted us dawned fully upon my mind, so instead I moved quickly over to Denviers, and awoke him.
"Is it the owl again?" he asked, as I motioned to him to look through the opening of the tent. Immediately he did so, and saw the swarthy face of a turbaned hill-man raised above the rank grass, as its owner made slowly but steadily towards our tent, worming along like a snake, and leaving a thin line of beaten-down herbage to show where his body had passed. Denviers drew from his belt one of the pistols thrust there, for we had taken the precaution at Rangoon to get a couple each, since our own were lost in our adventure off Ceylon. I quietly imitated his example, and, drawing well away from the entrance of the tent, so that our watchfulness might not be observed, we waited for the hill-man to approach. Half-way between the ruined palace wall and our tent he stopped, and then I felt Hassan's hand upon my arm again as, with the other, he pointed towards the river bank.
We saw the grass moving there, and through it came a second hill-man, who gradually drew near to the first. On reaching him the second comer also became motionless, while we next saw four other trails of beaten-down grass, marking the advance of further foes. How many more were coming on behind we could only surmise, as we watched the six hill-men who headed them get into a line one before the other, and then advance, keeping about five yards apart as they came on. From the position in which our tent was pitched it was impossible for an attack to be made upon us in the rear, and this circumstance fortunately allowed of undivided attention to the movements of the hill-men whom we saw creeping silently forward.
"Wait till the first one of them gets to the opening of our tent," whispered Denviers to me; "and while I deal with him shoot down the second. Keep cool and take a steady aim as he rises from the grass, and whatever you do, don't miss him."
I held my pistol ready as we waited for them to come on, and each second measured with our eyes the distance which still separated us. Twenty yards from the tent the foremost of the hill-men took the kris or bent poniard with which he was armed from between his teeth, and held it aloft in his right hand as he came warily crawling on a foot at a time followed by the others, each with his weapon raised as though already about to plunge it into our throats. It was not a very cheering spectacle, but we held our weapons ready and watched their advance through thy grass, determined to thrust them back.
I felt my breath come fast as the first hill-man stopped when within half-a-dozen yards of the tent and listened carefully. I could have easily shot him down as he half rose to his feet, and his fierce eyes glittered in his swarthy face. Almost mechanically I noticed the loose shirt and trousers which he wore, and saw the white turban lighting up his bronzed features as he crept right up to our tent and thrust his head in, confident that those within it were asleep. The next instant he was down, with Denviers' hand on his throat and a pistol thrust into his astonished face, as my companion exclaimed:—
"Drop your weapon or I'll shoot you!"
The hill-man glared like a tiger for a moment, then he saw the advantage of following Denviers' suggestion. He sullenly flung his poniard down, gasping for breath, just as I covered the second of our enemies with my pistol and fired. The hill-man raised his arms convulsively in the air, gave a wild cry, and fell forward upon his face, dead!
The third of those attacking us dashed forward, undaunted at the fate of the one he saw shot down, only to be flung headlong on the grass the next instant before the tent, with Hassan kneeling on his chest and the point of the Arab's sword at his throat.
The rest of the enemy did not wait to continue the combat, but rose from the grass and dispersed precipitately over the plain, making for the limestone bridge across the river. I rushed forward to Hassan's assistance, and bound the captive's arms, while the Arab held him down as I knotted tightly the sash I had taken from my waist. Then I made for the tent, to find that Denviers had already secured the first prisoner by lashing about him a stout piece of tent rope. My companion forced his captive from the tent into the open plain, where we held a whispered conversation as to whether the two prisoners should live or die. The safer plan was undoubtedly to shoot them, for we both agreed that at any moment our own position might become a critical one if the rest of the horde made another attempt upon us, as we fully expected would be done.
However, we finally decided to spare their lives, for a time at all events, and while Hassan and Denviers led the captives across the plain, I brought from the tent part of a long coil of rope which we had and followed them. As soon as we neared the river bank we selected two suitable trees from a clump growing there and lashed the prisoners securely to them, threatening instant death if they attempted to signal their whereabouts to any of the hill-men who might be lurking about.
"Get our rifles and ammunition, Hassan," said Denviers to the Arab. Then turning to me, he continued: "We shall have some tough fighting I expect when those niggers return, but we are able to hold our own better out of the tent than in it." Hassan brought our weapons, saying as he handed them to us:—
"The sahibs are wise to prepare for another attack, since the enemy must return this way. They have not gone off towards the far mountain peaks, but crossed yonder limestone bridge instead."
"What do you understand from that movement?" Denviers asked Hassan.
"The sound which we heard at first came from the strange city of which I spoke," he replied. "Some of the fierce hill-men have made a night attack upon it, and will soon return this way. Those we have beaten off have gone to meet them and to speak of the failure to surprise us. What they are doing in the city round the sunken ship will shortly be apparent. The whole band is a terrible scourge to the cities of the Meinam, for, by Allah, as I told the sahibs at Ayuthia, the Hunted Tribe has a weird history indeed."
Trailing our rifles, we walked through the rank grass, then resting upon a fallen column, where the shadow of the ruined palace wall concealed us from the view of the enemy if they crossed the bridge, we listened to Hassan's story. At the same time we kept a careful watch upon the jagged limestone spanning the river, ready at a moment's notice to renew the struggle, and it was well for us that we did so.
"It is a strange, wild story which the sahibs shall again hear of the Hunted Tribe and of its leader," began Hassan, as he rested at our feet with his sword gripped in his hand ready to wield it in our service at any moment; "and thus ye will know why the band is out to-night on its fell errand. Years ago, before the Burmese had overrun Siam, and while Ayuthia was its capital, so famous for its pagodas and palaces, Yu Chan became head of the bonzes or priests of the royal monastery.
"Who the great bonze was by birth none knew, although it was whispered through the kingdom that he sprang from a certain illustrious family which urged his claim to the position to which the ruler reluctantly appointed him. The subject bonzes looked darkly upon him, for he was but young, while many of them were bowed with age and aspired to hold the high office to which Yu Chan had been appointed. Oft they drew together in the gloomy cloisters, and when he swept past in silence, raised their hands threateningly at his disappearing form, though before his lofty, stern-set face they bowed in seeming humility as they kissed the hem of his magnificent robe.
"Among these bonzes was one who especially resented Yu Chan's rule over him, for he was more learned in the subtile crafts of the East than the rest, and the potency of his spells was known and feared throughout Siam. An unbending ascetic, indeed, was the grey-bearded Klan Hua, and the ruler of the country had already promised to him that he should become the head of the bonzes whenever the office was vacated. So much was this ruler influenced by Klan Hua that he built a covered way from his palace by which he might pass at night into the bonze's rude cell to hear the interpretation of his dreams, or learn the coming events of his destiny. Yet, in spite of all this, when the chief bonze died, the ruler of Siam, after much hesitation, gave the coveted office to Yu Chan. Judge, then, of the fierce hatred which this roused in Klan Hua's breast, and ye will understand the reason of the plot which he formed against the one who held the position he so much desired."
"Never mind about the quarrels of these estimable bonzes, Hassan," interrupted Denviers. "Go on and tell us of these hill-men, or you won't get that yarn finished before they return, in which case we may never have the chance to hear the end of it."
"The sahib is always impatient," answered the Arab gravely; then he continued, quite heedless of Denviers' suggestion: "On the nights when the ruler went not to Klan Hua's cell, the latter gathered there several of the other bonzes, and they sat darkly plotting till morning came. Then they crept stealthily back to their own cells, to shift their eyes nervously each time that the stern glance of Yu Chan fell upon them, as he seemed to read there their guilty secret.
"They planned to poison him, but he left the tampered food untasted. Then they drew lots to assassinate him as he slept, but the one whose tablet was marked with a poniard was found lifeless the next day, with his weapon still clutched in his stiffened fingers, and none knew how he died. That day the eyes of Yu Chan grew sterner set than ever, as he gazed searchingly into the face of each bonze as they passed in a long procession before him, while the conspirators grew livid with fear and baffled rage at the cold smile with which he seemed to mock at the failure of their schemes. Then they made one last effort a few days after, and ye shall hear how it ended.
"The stately Meinam, which glitters before us under the midnight sky, yearly overflows and renders the earth about it productive. Far as the history of Siam is recorded in the traditions of the race, it has been the custom to perform a strange ceremony, intended to impress the common people with awe for the ruler. Even now the King of Siam, he who sends the silver tree to China in token of subjection, still adheres to it, and on the day when the waters of the Meinam have reached their highest point he sends a royal barge down the swollen waters manned by a hundred bonzes, who command the turbid stream to rise no higher. So then it happened that the rise of the river took place, and Klan Hua, who was learned in such things, counted to the hour when the barge should be launched, even as he had done for many years. When the ruler visited him one eventful night he declared that the turbid waters would be at their full on the morrow, and so the command to them to cease rising could then safely be given.
"Accordingly the royal barge was launched, amid the cries of the people, whereupon the ruler soon entered it and, fanned by a female slave, leant back upon the sumptuous cushions under a canopy of crimson silk, while by his side was the chief bonze—Yu Chan. Near the ruler was the grey-bearded Klan Hua, with an evil smile upon his face as he saw his rival resting on the cushions in the place which he had hoped so long to fill.
"Out into the middle of the swollen river the royal barge went; then half way between bank and bank the rhythmic music of the oars as they dipped together into the water ceased, and the rowers rested. From his seat Yu Chan arose, and uttered in the priestly tongue the words which laid a spell upon the stream and bade it cease to rise. Scarcely had he done so and sunk back again upon the cushions when Klan Hua threw himself at the monarch's feet and petitioned to utter a few words to him. The ruler raised the bonze, and bade him speak. Holding one hand aloft, the plotting Klan Hua pointed with the other towards the astonished Yu Chan, as he fiercely cried:—
"'Thou false-tongued traitor, thou hast insulted thy monarch to his face!'
"The ruler bent forward from his cushions and looked in surprise from the accuser to the accused.
"'Speak!' he cried to Klan Hua; 'make good thy unseemly charge, or, old as thou art, thy head shall roll from thy shoulders!'
"'Great Ruler of Siam and Lord of the White Elephant,' exclaimed the accuser, giving the monarch his strange but august title, 'I declare to thee that the chief bonze has doomed the country to destruction. Taking advantage of the language in which the exorcism is pronounced, he has done what never the greatest prince under thee would dare to do. This man, the head of our order, has spoken words which will make the people scorn thee and this ceremony, if his command comes to pass. Yu Chan, the traitor, has bidden the waters to rise!'
"The monarch crimsoned with anger, as he turned to Yu Chan, who had already regained his composure, and sat with crossed arms, smiling scornfully at his accuser, and then asked:—
"'Hast thou so misused thy power? Speak!'
"'How can'st thou doubt me, knowing my great descent?' cried Yu Chan, bitterly. 'Even at thy bidding I will not answer a question which casts so much shame upon me.'
"'Thou can'st not deny this charge!' exclaimed the infuriated monarch.
"'Not so,' replied the chief bonze, 'I will not! If thou carest to believe the slanderous words which Klan Hua has uttered, and such that not one in this barge will dare to repeat, so be it!'
"Yu Chan withdrew from his seat at the monarch's side, and taking his rival's place pointed to the one he had himself vacated.
"'There rest thyself, and be at last content,' he said, scornfully: 'thou false bonze, whisper thence more of thy malicious words into the ears of the great ruler of Siam!'
"The monarch was disconcerted for a moment, then motioning one of the other bonzes forward, he exclaimed:—
"'Yu Chan declares that no one in this barge will support his accuser's words. Thou who wert near, tell me, what am I to believe?'
"'Alas!' answered the bonze, with simulated grief, 'Klan Hua spoke truly, great monarch; thy trust in Yu Chan has been sorely abused.'
"One after another the bonzes near came before the monarch and gave the same testimony, for the crafty Klan Hua had so placed the plotters for the furtherance of their subtle scheme. The ruler gazed angrily at Yu Chan, then summoning his rival to his side, bade him rest there.
"'Henceforth thou art chief bonze,' he said; then added threateningly to the fallen one: 'Thou shalt be exiled from this hour, and if the waters rise to-morrow, as thou hast bidden them, I will have thee hunted down, hide where thou mayest, and thy head shall fall.'
"The barge reached the shore, and the people drew back amazed to see the monarch pass on, attended closely by Klan Hua, while he who was as they thought chief bonze flung off his great robe of purple-embroidered silk, and idly watched the bonzes disembark, then moved slowly away across the great plain.
"Two days afterwards Klan Hua was found dead in his cell covered with the robes of his newly-acquired office, and the ruler of Siam had dispatched a body of soldiers to hunt down Yu Chan and to take him alive or dead to Ayuthia. The Meinam had risen still higher the day after the ceremony, not, as the startled monarch thought, because of the deposed one's power, but owing to Klan Hua's deception in regard to the real time when he knew the water would reach its limit.
"Then began the strange events which made the name of Yu Chan so memorable. For some years a band of marauders had taken possession of the far range known as the Three Hundred Peaks, but hitherto their raids in Burmah and Siam had attracted scant attention, while in Ayuthia few knew of their existence. To them the bonze went, and when the half-savage troops sent in search of him were encamped on the edge of the plain the mountaineers unexpectedly swooped down upon them. The remnant which escaped hastened back to the monarch with strange stories of the prowess of the enemy, and especially of Yu Chan, the exile, whom they averred led on the foe to victory. The ruler of Siam, deeply chagrined at their non-success, ordered the vanquished ones to be decapitated for their failure to bring back the bonze or his lifeless body.
"A second expedition was sent against them, but the mountaineers held their fastnesses so well that, in despair of conquering them, the few who survived their second onslaught slew themselves rather than return to Ayuthia to suffer a like fate to that which the monarch had awarded the others. Maddened at these repeated defeats, the ruler himself headed a large army and invested the passes, cutting off the supplies of the mountaineers, in the hope of starving them into subjection. So deeply was he roused against Yu Chan that he offered to pardon the rebels on condition that they betrayed their leader.
"They scornfully rejected such terms, and withdrew to the heart of the mountains to endure all the horrors of famine with a courage which was heroic. At times the brave band made desperate efforts to break through the wall of men which girded them about, and each onset, in which they were beaten back, inspired them to try yet again.
"The Malay who told me their story declared they were reduced to such straits at last that for one dreadful month they lived upon their dead. Never once did they waver from their allegiance to Yu Chan, whose stern-set face inspired them to resist to the last, for well he knew that the monarch's promise could not be trusted, and that surrender for them meant death. Often would they be repulsed at sunset in an attempt to break through the cordon which held them, and yet before nightfall, at the entrance of some precipitous pass, far remote from that spot, swift and sudden the gaunt and haggard band appeared, led on by Yu Chan, sword in hand, as he hewed down those who dared to face him.
"Just when they were most oppressed relief came to the band of a quite unexpected kind, for the Burmese on the border overran Siam, and the soldiers were withdrawn to meet the new enemy. So, for a time, the band was left unmolested; but still none, save their leader, ventured to leave their wild haunts. Before he had been appointed chief of the bonzes who brought about his exile, Yu Chan had been the lover of a maiden of Ayuthia, but the high office which had been bestowed on him kept them apart. No sooner had the robes which he wore as a bonze been exchanged for those of a mountaineer than Yu Chan determined to see this maiden again. On the departure of their enemies he prepared to visit Ayuthia, although strongly counselled not to do so by his devoted band. He was, however, obdurate, and set forth on his perilous enterprise alone.
"Yu Chan crossed the great plain of Siam, and then, resting in a thatched hut upon the bank of the Meinam, dispatched a Malay, who chanced to dwell there, with a message to his beloved to visit him, for he thought it useless to attempt to enter Ayuthia if he wished to live. At nightfall the Malay returned from the island in the middle of the bend of the Meinam, whereon ye know the city is built. He thrust a tablet into Yu Chan's hand, whereon was a desire that the latter would wait the maiden's coming at a part of the bank where often the boat of the lovers had touched at before. Soon the exile beheld the slight craft making for the shore, manned by six rowers muffled in their cloaks, for the night was cold. Happy indeed would it have been for the lovers if the maiden had scanned closely the features of those who ferried her across the river, for the treacherous Malay had recognised Yu Chan, and six of the monarch's soldiers were the supposed boatmen, hurriedly gathered to take the exile or to slay him.
"The maiden stepped from the boat, and, with a glad cry, flung her arms about Yu Chan, who had passed down the narrow path to meet her. Together they climbed up the steep way that led to the plain above the high bank, followed by the muffled soldiers, who lurked cautiously in the shadows of the limestone, through which wound the toilsome path. Once, as they passed along, a slight sound behind them arrested the footsteps of the lovers, and Yu Chan turned and glanced back searchingly, then on they went again. For an hour or more they wandered together over the plain, then, with many a sigh, turned to descend the path once more. Again they heard a sound, and that time on looking round quickly Yu Chan saw the boatmen, whom he had thought awaited the maiden's return by the river brink, stealing closely after him, their faces shrouded in their black cloaks.
"At once his suspicions were aroused, and hastily unsheathing his sword he confronted them just as they flung off their cloaks and the fierce faces of six of the half-savage soldiery of the monarch were revealed to Yu Chan. Slowly the latter retreated till he was a little way down the path with his back to the protecting limestone, then stood at bay to defend the maiden and himself from the advancing foes. Warily they came on, for well they knew the deadly thrusts which he could deal with his keen sword. Yu Chan in fighting at such desperate odds more than once failed to beat down the weapons lunged at him, but though severely wounded he did not flinch from the combat. Three of his assailants lay dead at his feet, when the leader of the monarch's soldiery twisted the sword from Yu Chan's hand, and then the three surviving foes rushed upon the defenceless man. With a cry that pierced the air the maiden flung herself before her lover—to fall dead as her body was thrust through and through by the weapons intended for the heart of Yu Chan!
"Like a boarhound the mountain chief leapt upon his nearest assailant, wrenched the sword dripping with the maiden's blood from his hand, and almost cleaved him in half with one resistless stroke. He turned next upon the remaining two, but they fled headlong down the path, Yu Chan following with a fierce cry at their heels. Into the boat they leapt, nor dared to look behind till they were out in mid-stream; then they saw the wounded chief slowly dragging himself back to where the maiden lay lifeless.
"Yu Chan bent despairingly over her as he saw the fatal stains which dyed her garments and reddened some of the fragrant white flowers fallen from her hair, which lay in masses framing her white, still face. Taking up his own sword, he sheathed it; then he raised the maiden gently in his arms, and, covered himself with gaping wounds, he set out to cross the great plain to the Three Hundred Peaks, where his followers awaited his return. On he struggled for two weary days with his lifeless burden; then at last he reached the end of his journey, and as the mountaineers gathered hastily about him and shuddered to see the ghastly face of their chief, Yu Chan tottered and fell dead in their midst!
"Round the two lifeless forms the hunted tribe gathered, and, looking upon them, knew that they had been slain by their remorseless foes. One by one the mountaineers pressed forward, and amid the deathly silence of the others, each in turn touched the sword of their slain chief and sternly swore the blood-revenge. Fierce, indeed, as are such outbreaks in many eastern lands, that day marked the beginning of dark deeds of requitement that have made all others as nothing in comparison to them. The Burmese came down upon Siam and swept over fair Ayuthia, leaving nothing but the ruins of the city; yet, even in that national calamity, the fierce instinct of murder so fatally roused in the breasts of the mountaineers never paused nor seemed dulled. While the magnificent city lay despoiled, the once hunted tribe fell upon the others about the Meinam, and long after peace reigned throughout the country, still their deeds of pillage and massacre went on, as they do even to this day, so remote from the one when their leader was slain.
"For months the tribe will be unheard of, and lulled by a false sense of security the inhabitants of one of these cities will make preparations for one of their recurring festivals. Even in the midst of such the strange cry of the hunted tribe will be heard, and the coming day will reveal to the awe-struck people the evidence of a night attack, in which men and women have been slain or carried off suddenly to the Three Hundred Peaks."
"The present descendants of the avengers of Yu Chan's death are a cowardly lot, at all events," commented Denviers, as the Arab finished his recital: "they attacked us without reason, and have consequently got their deserts. If they come upon us again——"
"Hist, sahib," Hassan whispered cautiously, as he pointed with his sword towards the fantastic bridge of limestone; "the hunted tribe is returning from its raid, see!" We looked in the direction in which he motioned us, and saw that the mountaineers bore a captive in their midst! Immediately one of the prisoners lashed to the trees gave a warning cry, regardless of the threats which Denviers had uttered. Hassan sprang to his feet, and stood by my side as we raised our rifles, still hidden as we were in the shadow of the ruined palace wall.
"Hassan," whispered my companion to the Arab; "go over to the prisoners there, and if they cry out again shoot them. I don't think that first cry has been heard by the others." As he spoke Denviers thrust a pistol into Hassan's hand and motioned to him to move through the grass towards them. We watched our guide as he neared them and raised the pistol threateningly—a silent admonition which they understood, and became quiet accordingly.
From our position in the shadow of the ruined palace wall we saw a number of the hunted tribe slowly wind over the bridge with their captive, and noticed that in addition they had plenty of plunder with them. Noiselessly they moved towards our tent, and completely surrounded it, only to find it empty. They were evidently at a loss what to do, when one of their number stumbled over the dead mountaineer whom I had shot down as he joined in the attack upon us. A fierce exclamation quickly caused the rest to gather about him, and for some minutes they held a brief consultation. We judged from their subsequent actions that they considered we had made good our escape from the plain, for they made no further search for us, but apparently determined to avenge their comrade's death by slaying their captive. While the rest of the band moved away over the plain, two of their number returned towards the limestone bridge spanning the river. Guessing their fell purpose, Denviers and I crept through the tall grass, and under cover of the trees by the bank moved cautiously towards them.
From tree to tree we advanced with our rifles in our hands, then just when within twenty yards of them we stopped aghast at the movements of the two mountaineers, who were forcing their struggling captive slowly towards the edge of the jagged limestone bridge!
We looked down at the angry waters of the rapid, swirling twenty feet below in the deep bed of the river, which was slowly rising each day, for the time of its inundation was near at hand. For a moment I saw a woman's horror-stricken face in the moonlight and heard her agonizing cry, then the sharp crack of Denviers' rifle rang out, and one of her assailants relaxed his grasp. Before Denviers could take a shot at the second mountaineer, he seized the captive woman and deliberately thrust her over the rocky bridge!
"Quick! To the river!" exclaimed Denviers, as we heard the sound of her body striking the waters below. Down the steep bank we scrambled, steadying ourselves by grasping the lithe and dwarfed trees which grew in its rocky crevices. For one brief moment we scanned the seething torrent, and then, right in its midst, we saw the face and floating hair of the woman as she was tossed to and fro in the rapid, while she vainly tried to cling to the huge boulders rising high in the stream through which her fragile form was hurried.
"Jump into the boat and wait for me to be carried down to you!" cried Denviers, and before I fully realized what he was about to do, he flung his rifle down and plunged headlong into the foaming waters. I saw him battling against the fierce current with all his might, for the rocks in mid-stream prevented the woman from being floated down to us and threatened to beat out her life, as she was borne violently against them. I ran madly towards where our boat had been drawn up, and pushing it into the river strained my eyes eagerly in the wild hope of seeing Denviers alive when his body should be floated down towards me.
I pulled hard against the stream and managed to keep the rude craft from being carried away with the current. A few minutes afterwards I saw that my companion had succeeded in dragging the woman from the grinding channels between the rocks, and was being swept on to where I anxiously awaited him with his burden. The water dashed violently against the boat as I put it across the middle of the rushing stream, then dropped the oars as he was flung towards me. I stretched out my arms over the side in order to relieve him of his burden, and, although he was exhausted, Denviers made one last effort and thrust the woman towards me. I dragged her into the boat just as her rescuer sank back. With a quick but steady grip I caught my companion and hauled him in too, and before long had the happiness to see both become conscious once more.
Leaving the boat to float down the stream, I merely steered it clear of the rocky sides of the river channel, then, seeing some distance ahead a favourable place to land, drew in to the shore with a few swift strokes from the oars. Denviers remained with the woman he had rescued, while I climbed the steep bank again and found that the mountaineers had, fortunately, not returned, although we had fully expected the report of Denviers' rifle to cause them to do so. I thereupon signalled to my companion below that all was safe, and he toiled up to the plain supporting the woman, who was a Laos, judging from her garments and slight, graceful form.
Spreading for her a couch of skins, we left her reclining wearily in the tent, to which Denviers conducted her, then hastened towards Hassan, whom we found still keeping guard over our two captives. The Arab, when he heard of the hazardous venture which Denviers had made, stoutly urged us to put our prisoners to death, as a warning to the hunted tribe that their misdeeds could not always be carried on with impunity. For reply Denviers quietly took the pistol from the Arab's hand, and then we returned towards the tent, outside which we rested till day dawned.
The woman within the tent then arose and came towards us, thanking Denviers profusely for saving her from such a death as had confronted her. She told us that her betrothal to a neighbouring prince had taken place only a few days before, but although every precaution had been taken to keep the affair secret, the news was conveyed to the hunted tribe by some one of the many supporters of the mountaineers. As she was a woman of high rank, this seemed to them a suitable opportunity to strike further terror into the hearts of the people inhabiting the cities about the Meinam. Their plans had been thoroughly successful, for they had despoiled several of the richest citizens, slaying those who opposed them, then snatching the woman up, began to carry her off to live among their tribeswomen, and to become one of them, when we fortunately saved her from that fate. We promised to conduct her to the city whence she had been stolen, which we eventually did, but before setting out for that purpose we visited our prisoners again.
"Hassan," said Denviers, "release the men from the trees." The Arab most reluctantly did so, stoutly maintaining that after Mahomet had helped us so strangely and successfully, we would be wiser either to shoot them or leave them bound till someone discovered and dealt with our prisoners as they deserved.
The ropes were accordingly unbound which fastened them to the trees; then Denviers pointed to the distant range of the Three Hundred Peaks and bade them begone. The two prisoners set forward at a run, being not a little surprised at our clemency. When they had at last disappeared in the distance, we moved towards the city beyond Ayuthia to restore the princess to her people, who had, by our means, been snatched from the power of the hunted tribe.
Weathercocks and Vanes
by Warrington Hogg.
The picturesque quality and almost endless variety of vanes—from the modest arrow to the richly-gilt and imposing heraldic monster—which meet the eye as one wanders through quiet village, busy market town, or sleepy cathedral city, and the traditions which are associated with these distinctly useful, time-honoured, and much consulted adjuncts to church or home, make me hope that the following brief notes and sketches of a few of the many types one sees may not be without interest to some of the numerous readers of THE STRAND MAGAZINE.
That eminent authority on things architectural—the late John Henry Parker, F.S.A.—tells us that vanes were in use in the time of the Saxons, and in after ages were very extensively employed, there being notable development during the prevalence of the Perpendicular and Elizabethan styles.
To anyone vane-hunting—or health-hunting, for the matter of that—I would recommend them to tramp, sketch or note book in hand, over that stretch of country which occupies the most southerly corner of Kent, known as Romney Marsh; and beginning, say, at Hythe—one of the old Cinque Ports, and still a place of considerable importance—they will there find several vanes worthy of note, specially perhaps the one which surmounts the Town Hall, in the High Street. It is in excellent condition, and is contemporary with the building itself, which was erected in 1794.
The country between Hythe and Dymchurch has quite a plethora of rustic vanes—many crippled and others almost defunct—sketches of a few of which I give my readers. Note the one, carved out of a piece of wood and rudely shaped like a bottle, which is stuck on an untrimmed bough of a tree and spliced to a clothes-prop: could anything be more naive? (in justice I would add that this is not at the inn); or the one that is noted just below it—an axe poised on the roof of the local wheelwright's workshop, which aforesaid roof still bears unmistakable evidence of election turmoil. Nevertheless, this original type of vane seemed well fitted to do good service, for one noted that it answered to the slightest breath of wind. The old patched one, too, on the quaint little Norman church at Dymchurch seemed to me to be of interest in many ways, specially when I realized that it looked down on a row of graves, kept in beautiful order, of the nameless dead which the angry sea had given into the keeping of these sturdy village folk.
Working westward past Ivychurch, with its fine Perpendicular tower and beacon-turret, Old and New Romney, Lydd (which was attached to the Cinque Port of Romney), with its dignified Perpendicular church, of which Cardinal Wolsey was once vicar, we come to Rye, which is just over the border-land into Sussex, another of the towns annexed to the Cinque Ports, though, sad to say, like Sandwich and Winchelsea, its prosperity departed when the sea deserted it.
At Rye one cannot help but linger, there is so much to interest; its unique position, its ancient standing, the almost incredible changes in its surroundings owing to the receding of the sea, its chequered history, its delightful, old-world look, and its venerable church of St. Nicholas, all combine to arrest one's attention. Let us look for a few moments at the church itself, which crowns the hill, and upon the tower of which stands the vane depicted in my sketch. It was built towards the close of the twelfth century, and Jeake, the historian, says of it that it was "the goodliest edifice of the kind in Kent or Sussex, the cathedrals excepted." Its first seven vicars were priests of the Church of Rome, and in the church records there are some curious entries, which look as though Passion plays were once performed in Rye. Here is one dated 1522:—
"Paid for a coate made when the Resurrection was played at Easter, for him that in playing represented the part of Almighty God, 1s.; ditto for making the stage, 3s. 4d." During the reign of Edward VI. an entry is made, which reads: "Expended for cleaning the church from Popery, L1 13s. 4d."
If tradition be true, Queen Elizabeth (who once visited Rye) gave the clock, which is said to be the oldest clock actually going in England. Now for the weather-vane, which I venture to think is worthy of its surroundings: it is simple in form, stately in proportion, and in excellent preservation. Through the metal plate of the vane itself are cut boldly, stencil fashion, the letters "A. R." (I was unable to find out to whom they referred—presumably a churchwarden), and immediately below them, the date 1703. The pointer is very thick and richly foliated, and the wrought ironwork which supports the arms, which indicate the four cardinal points of the compass, is excellent in design.
Two miles further west we come to dear old Winchelsea. The church (built between 1288-1292), of which only the choir and chancel, with some portions of the transepts, now remain, was originally dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket, but in the present day is called after St. Thomas the Apostle. It possesses an exceptionally fine vane, perched on a curiously squat, barn-like structure, which does duty for a tower. With its creeper-covered dormer windows and a somewhat convivial-looking chimney-pot sticking up out of one of them on the south side, it looks more picturesque than ecclesiastical; but the beauty of the vane itself at once arrests attention. I think it is one of the most elaborate specimens of wrought ironwork, applied to such a purpose, that I have met with; against a sunny sky it is like so much beautiful filigree—the metal wind-plate is apparently a much later restoration, and is perforated with the letters "W. M." and the date 1868. From the vane you could almost jump into the old tree beneath which John Wesley preached his last sermon. Eastward, but very little beyond the shadow of the vane, is Tower Cottage, Miss Ellen Terry's country retreat. Mr. Harry How, in a recent number of THE STRAND MAGAZINE, has told us in one of his interesting "Interviews" of the quiet home life of the great actress when staying here. What a glorious outlook the old vane has—on the one hand quaint, sleepy Rye and the flat stretches of Romney Marsh; to the north the great Weald of Kent; to the westward beautiful Sussex, and straight in front the open sea of the English Channel.
Folkestone makes a capital centre from which to go a-hunting vanes, but before we start it is well worth while to glance for a few moments at the modern one on the Parish Church of St. Eanswythe. It was designed, about fifteen years ago, by Mr. S. S. Stallwood, the architect, of Reading, who, by-the-bye, is, too, responsible for the fine west window. The vane is of dark metal throughout, save for the gilt arrow, and stands on a turret to the south-west of the Perpendicular embattled tower. It is in excellent condition, notwithstanding its very exposed position to the Channel storms. Down on the harbour jetty, surmounting the lighthouse and hard by where the Boulogne mail-boats come in day by day, is a vane with scrolly arms, well worth noting; and, again, on a house out toward Shorncliffe, are a couple of "fox" vanes, one of which blustering Boreas has shorn of its tail; poor Reynard, in consequence, is ever swirling round and round—a ludicrous object—apparently ever seeking and never finding the aforesaid tail.
About a mile inland, near the Old Hall Farm, on an outhouse or piggery, is the subject of the accompanying sketch. It has certainly seen much better days, and is rather a quaint specimen of the genus weather-vane. It will be noted that rude winds have carried away, almost bodily, three out of the four letters which denote the compass-points, but have in mercy spared poor piggy's curly tail.
A mile or so further on is a daintily-designed but very simple vane, which stands on the north-east corner of the tower of the ancient church of St. Martin at Cheriton. Canon Scott Robertson, the well-known antiquarian, pronounces this tower to be of unusual interest. He tells us that it is probably pre-Norman, but certainly was erected before the end of the 11th century. Traces of characteristic, rough, wide-jointed masonry and a small, round-headed doorway should be specially noted. Let us linger in the church itself for a few moments. In the north Chantry (13th century) we shall find an interesting mural tablet thus inscribed:—
"Here lieth Interred the Body of Mrs. Elizabeth Raleigh, Grand Daughter of the FAMED Sr Walter Raleigh, who died at the Enbrook, 26 day of October, 1716, aged 30 years."
It stands close to a finely carved pulpit four hundred years old. The north porch is a memorial to the first Lord Justice of England—Sir James Lewis Knight-Bruce, who with his wife lies buried almost within its shadow. On an old house close by is a "cow" vane—when I made the sketch given, pigeons by the score from a neighbouring cote kept perching on it in a very friendly and picturesque fashion. Two miles further in the same direction brings us to the village of Newington, which possesses one of the quaintest little churches in Kent. Among other things it boasts some seventeen brasses—some dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries—an ancient dial, on oaken shaft fast mouldering away—and a picturesque wooden belfry surmounted by a vigorously modelled gilt weathercock in capital preservation.
On Sevington spire, near Ashford, is a daintily designed vane, dated 1866. Some storm has given it—as the sailors say—a list to port, but that seems somehow not to take away from but to add to its charm. It is interesting to note that not far from here is the house where once resided Dr. Harvey, the famous discoverer of the circulation of the blood.
A mile on brings us to Hinxhill—a dear, old-world place—its picturesque little church, with ivy-covered walls, moss-grown roof, quaint open-timbered chancel, and fine stained-glass, all go to make a never-to-be-forgotten picture. On the little Early English spire is set a vane simple and good in treatment, and thoroughly in accord with its surroundings.
At Sandgate is a well designed "horse and jockey" vane on a flagstaff, in a garden about fifty yards from where the ill-fated sailing ship, the Benvenue, went ashore and sank, and which was blown up by order of the Admiralty only last autumn.
Dover, too, has its share of interesting vanes; perhaps the one belonging to St. Mary the Virgin is the best. It is attached to an old lead-covered spire surmounting a decorated Norman tower with rich exterior arcading, practically untouched by the unloving hand of the so-called "restorer"; but there are several others in the older streets of the town well worth noting.
The seeker for vanes, quaint and ancient, must on no account miss going down the High Street of Tonbridge. There are three within a stone's throw of each other which must be noted, specially the one locally known as "The Sportsman"—he stands over a dormer window in the red-tiled roof of an old house of the Sheraton period, immediately opposite the famous "Chequers Inn." The house itself is very interesting; it has evidently been, in its early days, of considerable pretension, but has been an ironmonger's shop since 1804. On going within to make inquiries about the vane, I gathered that it is at least 120 years old, probably much more, the oldest part of the house being contemporary with the "Chequers." The vane is cut out of thick sheet copper and strengthened with stout wire in several places to keep it rigid, and the whole is painted in colours (a very unusual feature), in imitation of the costume of the period; and I was shown a curious old print of Tonbridge in the time when the well-to-do farmers wore top-hats and swallow-tailed coats, in which the vane is represented just as it appears at present. Vane number two is a much weathered and discoloured one, almost within touch, on a wooden turret surmounting the Town Hall—a typical Georgian building, lately threatened with demolition, and for the further life of which I noted a vigorous pleading in the pages of The Graphic of November 4th, 1892. Number three is a fox, rudely cut out of flat metal, with a "ryghte bushie tayle," fixed on a house gable overlooking the street.
The Orlestone sketch represents a type of vane practically never to be met with, save on the oast-houses in the hop-growing districts of Kent. The particular one noted stands at the bottom of a garden belonging to an Elizabethan timbered house hard by the church. It will be remarked that the animal, which is about 2 ft. long, is very crude in shape; it represents a fox, and the obvious way Mr. Reynard's tail is joined on is very enjoyable.
Rochester admittedly possesses one of the finest vanes to be found all England over; it is in the main street on the Town Hall (temp. James I.), and surmounts a wooden bell-tower perched on the roof. On the south-west side of the building facing into the street is a tablet, which tells us that "This building was erected in the year 1687. John Bryan, Esquire, then Mayor"; and in quaint numerals the same date is repeated just below the tablet base. The vane is in the form of a ship, in gilt metal: a complete ship in miniature—cordage, blocks, twenty-six cannon, small spars, even a daintily-modelled figurehead: all are there. With the aid of a couple of stalwart constables I clambered up on to the leaden roof, so that I might examine more closely and carefully this splendid example of vane-craft. The ship itself, from the bottom of keel to the top of mainmast, measures over 6 ft., and from jib to spanker boom the total length is 9 ft. It is 18 in. in width, weighs 7-1/2 cwt., and revolves quite easily pivoted on a large bull's-eye of glass. It may be interesting to note that my sketch was made from one of the upper-most windows of the "Bull Inn" (the place where Charles Dickens once lived, and which he has immortalized in the pages of "Pickwick"), which is immediately opposite. A little higher up the street is a large vane, richly decorated in red and gold, on the Corn Exchange. An inscription on its south-west face tells us that "This present building was erected at the sole charge and expense of Sir Cloudsley Shovel, Knight, A.D. 1706. He represented this city in three Parliaments in the reign of King William the Third, and in one Parliament in the reign of Queen Anne."
Maidstone, too, is rich in vanes. There is one specially you can see from all parts of the town. It is on the Medway Brewery, and represents an old brown jug and glass; its dimensions, to say the least of it, are somewhat startling. The jug alone (which is made of beaten copper plate) is 3 ft. 6 in. in height, and in its fullest part 3 ft. in diameter, with a holding capacity of 108 gallons, or three barrels. The glass—also made of copper—is capable of holding some eight gallons. The vane revolves on ball bearings, its height above the roof is 12 ft., its arms extend nearly 7 ft., the whole, I am told, standing 80 ft. from the ground.
On the observatory connected with the Maidstone Museum (which latter was once Chillington Manor House) is a modern vane, much discoloured by damp, but very apt in design; note the perforated sun, moon and stars, and the three wavy-looking pointers, which I take to represent rays of light. Mr. Frederick James, the courteous curator, called my attention to a singularly fine wrought-iron vane, now preserved in the Museum, about which but little is known, but which may possibly have surmounted the place in the olden days—when Chillington Manor was the seat of the great Cobham family.
Space forbids my more than just calling attention to the nondescript gilt monster, with its riveted wings and forked tongue and tail, which glares down on us from its perch above the Town Hall, in the High Street; or to a "cigar" vane (over 2 ft. long and as thick as a bludgeon), large enough to give Verdant Green's famous "smoke" many points, hoisted over an enterprising tobacconist's a little lower down; or to the skewered and unhappy-looking weathercock on the Parish Church; or the blackened griffin in Earl Street, all head and tail, which does duty on an old dismantled Gothic building, once called "The Brotherhood Hall" (it belonged to the fraternity of Corpus Christi, about 1422, and was suppressed in 1547), then afterwards used as a grammar school, and now—tell it not in Gath!—a hop store; or, lastly, the ponderous-looking elephant, painted a sickly blue, if I remember rightly, on a great building on the banks of the Medway.
These rambling notes but touch the fringe—as it were—of a wide and ever-widening subject. A lengthy paper might be written on the different types (and some of great interest) of vanes in and around London alone; but I trust I may be allowed to express the hope that what has been said may haply enlist further interest in these silent, faithful, but somewhat neglected friends of ours, who, "courted by all the winds that hold them play," look down from their "coigne of vantage" upon the hurrying world below.
A DARK TRANSACTION
BY MARIANNE KENT.
If had described myself when I first started in life, it would simply have been as John Blount, commercial traveller. I was employed by a firm of merchants of very high standing, who only did business with large houses. My negotiations took me to all parts of the United Kingdom, and I enjoyed the life, which was full of change and activity. At least I enjoyed it in my early bachelor days, but while I was still quite young—not more than five-and-twenty—I fell in love and married; and then I found that my roving existence was certainly a drawback to domestic happiness. My wife, Mary, was a bright little creature, always ready to make the best of things, but even she would declare pathetically that she might as well have married a sailor as a landsman who was so seldom at home! Still, as I said, she was one to put a bright face on things, and she and my sister made their home together.
It was in the second year after my marriage, when I had been away on my travels for some weeks, that I heard from my sister that a fever had broken out in the neighbourhood of our home, and that Mary was down with it. Kitty wrote hopefully, saying it was a mild attack, and she trusted by the time I was home her patient would be quite convalescent. I had unbounded faith in Kitty, so that I accepted her cheerful view of things. But, a few evenings later, after a long, tiring day, I returned to the hotel where I was then staying, and found a telegram awaiting me. My heart stood still as I saw the ominous yellow envelope, for I knew my sister would not have sent for me without urgent need. The message was to say that, although Kitty still hoped for the best, a serious change had taken place, and I should return at once.
"Don't delay an hour; come off immediately," she said.
I was not likely to delay. I paid up my reckoning at the hotel, directed that my baggage should be sent on next day, and in less than half an hour from the time I had opened the telegram I rushed, heated and breathless, into the primitive little railway station—the only one which that part of the country boasted for miles round. I gained the platform in time to see the red light on the end of the departing train as it disappeared into the mouth of the tunnel a few hundred yards down the line. For a moment I was unable to realize my ill fortune. I stood gazing stupidly before me in a bewildered way. Then the station-master, who knew me by sight, came up, saying sympathetically:—
"Just missed her, sir, by two seconds!"
"Yes," I answered briefly, beginning to understand it all now, and chafing irritably at the enforced delay. "When is the next train?"