AN ILLUSTRATED MONTHLY
Vol. 5, Issue. 30.
* * * * *
Pierre and Baptiste
BY BECKLES WILLSON.
I once knew two industrious mechanics named Pierre and Baptiste. They dwelt in a ramshackle tenement at Sault aux Beloeuil, where each had half-a-dozen children to support, besides their wives; who, it is grievous to relate, were drones. They were only nominally acquainted with that godly art commonly associated with charwomen.
Pierre and Baptiste were hard workers. They worked far into the night and, occasionally, the thin mists of dawn had begun to break on the narrow city pavements before their labours would cease. No one could truthfully say that theirs was not a hard-earned pillow. Sometimes they did not toil in vain. It depended largely upon the police.
It was early one November that this horny-handed pair planned the burglary of a certain safe located in a wholesale establishment in St. Mark Street. On the particular evening that Pierre and Baptiste hit upon for the deed, the head book-keeper had been having a wrangle with his accounts.
"I can't make head or tail of this!" he declared to his employer, the senior member of the firm, "yet I am convinced everything must be right. An error of several hundred dollars has been carried over from each daily footing, but where the error begins or ends, I'm blessed if I can find out."
The fact was that the monthly sales had been unusually heavy, and a page of the balance had been mislaid. The head book-keeper spent upwards of an hour in casting up both the entries of himself and his subordinates after the establishment had closed its doors for the day.
Then he went home to supper, determined to return and locate the deficit, if he didn't get a wink of sleep until morning.
Book-keepers, it must be borne in mind, have highly sensitive organisms, which are susceptible to the smallest atom reflecting upon their probity or skill. At half-past eight the book-keeper returned and commenced anew his critical calculations. He worked precisely three hours and a half; at the end of which period he suddenly clapped his hand to his forehead and exclaimed:—
"Idiot! Why haven't you looked in the safe for a missing sheet? Ten chances to one they have been improperly numbered!"
He turned over the pages of the balance on his desk, and, sure enough, the usual numerical mark or designation in the upper left-hand corner which should follow eleven was missing. Page twelve, in all likelihood, had slipped into some remote corner of the safe.
The safe was a large one, partially receding into the wall and containing all the papers, documents, and several day receipts in cash and drafts of the firm.
The head book-keeper, in his efforts at unearthing the lost page of the cash balance, was obliged to intrude his entire person into the safe. Fearful lest the candle he held should attract attention from the street, showing out as it did against the black recesses of the safe, upon entering he drew the door slightly ajar.
As he stepped in the tail of his coat caught on an angle of the huge riveted lock; the massive gate swung to as if it weighed no more than a pound, and the book-keeper was a prisoner.
He heard a resonant click—that was all. His candle went out.
The book-keeper at the outset lost his presence of mind. He fought like a caged animal. He first exerted almost superhuman strength against the four sides of the iron tomb. Then his body collapsed and, not for an instant losing consciousness, he found himself sitting in a partially upright posture, unable to so much as stir a muscle.
It was almost at the same moment, although hours seemed to have passed, that the drum of his ear, now abnormally sensitive, was almost split into fragments. A frightful monotonous clangour rent the interior of the safe.
The book-keeper used to observe afterwards that a single second's deviation of characteristic thought and he would have gone mad. Stronger minds in a parallel situation would have indeed collapsed. But a weaker man can never confront the inevitable, but clings more stubbornly to hope. They are only weak individualities who, in the act of drowning, catch at straws.
As the book-keeper felt himself gradually growing faint for want of air to breathe, his revivified hope led him to deliberately crash his fist into the woodwork with which the interior of the safe was fitted, in secretaire fashion, one drawer being built above another. This gave him a few additional cubic feet of air.
As may have been conjectured, the noise which smote the book-keeper's ear was that of a drill. Although acutely discerned within, the sound was practically smothered on the outside of the vault.
At one end of the drill was a cavity, rapidly growing larger, in one of the steel panels. At its other end was a heavy, warty fist, part of the anatomy of Baptiste, the industrious mechanic. Baptiste held the drill while his comrade, Pierre, pounded it in.
Soon the two burglars became aware that some sort of animal commotion was going on within the safe. It nearly drove them into convulsions of astonishment. Baptiste was so startled that he dropped the drill.
"It is a ghost," he said.
Baptiste was for throwing up the job uncompromisingly on the spot, but this proposal met with obstacles. His fellow workman, who was of stiffer courage, rejected it with scorn, as savouring too much of the superstitious. Pierre had a large family to support, he argued. He spoke frankly. They could not afford to throw away the opportunities of Providence. To his friend and co-labourer, the burden of his remarks was:—
"Lache! Go hon! You make me tired wiz yer ghosts an' tings. Let's not have no beast foolin'—see? De job is commence: Allons!"
The upshot of this was that Pierre and Baptiste went back to work. At the third crack of the drill, Pierre crossed himself, and said:—
"Baptiste, dere's a man in dat safe!"
Both men grew pale as death at the very suggestion. Baptiste, for instance, was so frightened he couldn't utter a syllable. His tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. However, Pierre, as usual, was the first to recover. He applied his ear, first to the lock and then to the drill-hole.
"Hey, in dere!" he cried, yet not so loud as to be heard on the side-walk. To this there came a faint response—a very faint shout indeed; it sounded as if it were a mile away:—
"For God's sake, give me air! I am locked in here. Try and burst open the safe!"
The two burglars did not stop to talk, but went at once to work as if their own lives depended on the result, instead of the life of the mysterious occupant of the vault. In less than four minutes they had a hole, somewhat smaller than the business end of a collar-button, knocked into the panel of the vault.
Then Pierre and Baptiste paused to wipe the sweat from their brows. The man inside breathed.
It was now that the pair began to muse on the denouement. Could this be a member of the firm or an employe? This hypothesis jeopardized the success of the night's adventure, unless, when they had permitted the prisoner to emerge, they bound and gagged him into silence.
On the other hand, this course would have an ugly look. If he resisted it might mean murder in the end; whereas, if they did not let him out at all, they would stand no chance of profiting by the pecuniary contents of the safe. Besides, as the man could scarcely live thus until morning, they would be responsible for his taking off. Thus reasoned Pierre and Baptiste.
These were not highly comforting reflections, but there was still another and a better in reserve. What if, after all, the man were himself a felon? Might he not be a companion crib-cracker? In that case they would merely have to divide the spoils.
"Hey, in dere," cried Pierre, suddenly struck with an idea. "What is de combination hof de safe?"
"Fifteen—three—seventy-three!" came back in sepulchral tones.
It was evidently growing harder and harder to draw breath through the tiny aperture.
Thus it transpired that at the expiration of fifteen seconds the lock of the vault gave back the same resonant click it had rendered eight minutes previously. Thanks to the timely advent of Pierre and Baptiste it opened as lightly, as airily, and as decisively as it had closed 480 seconds before on the unhappy accountant.
The head book-keeper gasped once or twice, but without any assistance stepped out into the free air. He was very pale and his dress was much rent and disordered when his feet touched the floor. But this pallor quickly made way for a red flush at perceiving the two burglars, with the implements of their profession strewn around them.
Meanwhile Pierre and Baptiste themselves stood transfixed by the sheer novelty of the situation.
Without any kind of speech or warning, or without making any attempt at bravado, the book-keeper walked deliberately to his desk and rang an electric call for the police. Simultaneously it seemed, for so rapid and quiet was the action, he opened a drawer, took out a small revolver, and covered both burglars with a fatal precision. As he did so he uttered these remarkable words:—
"Gentlemen, I would, indeed, be the basest of men if I did not feel profoundly grateful for the service you have just rendered me. I shall always regard you as any right-minded man should regard those who have saved his life with imminent peril to themselves or, which is just the same, to their liberty. Any demand in reason you make of me I shall make an effort to perform—but my duty to my employers I regard as paramount. I have accumulated a little money, and with it I propose to engage the best counsel in your defence, which is certainly marked by mitigating circumstances. If, on the other hand, you are convicted——"
Here the officers of justice entered, having broken open the door with a crash.
Future Dictates of Fashion
BY W. CADE GALL.
An elderly gentleman of our acquaintance, whose reading has been rather desultory than profound, and tending rather to the quaint and speculative, was astonished recently at coming across a volume in his library of whose very existence he had been completely unaware. This volume was oblong in shape, was bound in mauve morocco, and was called "Past Dictates of Fashion; by Cromwell Q. Snyder, Vestamentorum Doctor."
Glancing his eye downwards past a somewhat flippant sub-title, the elderly gentleman came, with intense amazement, to understand that the date of this singular performance was 1993. Other persons at a similar juncture would have pinched themselves to see if they were awake, or have tossed the book into the street as an uncanny thing. But our elderly gentleman being of an inquisitive and acquisitive turn of mind, despite his quaintness, recognised the fact that if he was not of the twentieth century the volume obviously was; seized pen and paper, and began to make notes with the speed of lightning. Being also something of a draughtsman he was able to embellish his notes with sketches from the engravings with which "Past Dictates of Fashion" was copiously furnished. These sketches appear with the present article.
Fashion in dress, according to the twentieth century author, notwithstanding its apparent caprice, has always been governed by immutable laws. But these laws were not recognised in the benighted epoch in which we happen to live at present. On the contrary, Fashion is thought a whim, a sort of shuttlecock for the weak-minded of both sexes to make rise and fall, bound and rebound with the battledore called—social influence. But it will interest a great many people to learn that Fashion assumed the dignity of a science in 1940. Ten years later it was taken up by the University of Dublin. By the science as taught by the various Universities later on were explained those points in the history, manners, and literature of our own ancestors which were formerly obscure and, in fact, unknown. They were also, by certain strict rules, enabled to foretell the attire of posterity. Here is a curious passage from the introductory chapter to the book:—
"Cigars went out of fashion twenty years ago. Men and women consumed so much tobacco that their healths were endangered. The laws of Nature were powerless to cope with the evil. Not so the laws of Fashion, which at once abated it. It will, however, return in thirty-one years. In 1790 Nature commanded men to bathe. They laughed at Nature. In 1810 Fashion did the same thing. Men complied, and daily cold baths became established. In 1900 it was pushed to extremes. The ultra-sect cut holes in the ice and plunged into the water. The fashion changed. For forty years only cads bathed."
The following table is also interesting, and should be borne in mind in considering the accompanying cuts. It professes to exhibit the sartorial characteristics of an epoch:—
TABLE OF WAVES.
Type. Tendency. 1790 to 1815 Angustorial Wobbling 1815 " 1840 Severe Recuperative 1840 " 1875 Latorial Decided 1875 " 1890 Tailor-made Opaque 1890 " 1915 Ebullient Bizarre 1915 " 1940 Hysterical Angustorial
The first plate in the book is dated 1893, and serves as a frontispiece. The costumes of the lady and gentleman are familiar enough, although we note with surprise that the gentleman's coat-talks seem to have a crinoline cast, and if the turned-up bottoms of his trousers are a little mortifying, it is atoned for by a triumphant attitude which disarms hypercriticism. Also the lady's posture makes it difficult for us to tell whether it is a stick or an umbrella she is carrying.
There is a pictorial hiatus of some years, but the text notes that crinoline for women enjoyed a sway of some years' duration. For, taking the tracings from the plates in the order in which they are given in the book, we find a subdued form of the article in the female costume for 1905. The ladies may well regard this plate as astounding. There is even a suggestion of "bloomer" about its nether portion, and if the hat is not without precedent in history, the waist is little short of revolutionary.
The next plate displays a gentleman's habit for the year 1908. The tailors, fifteen years hence, seemed to have borrowed, in the construction of the coat, very liberally from the lady's mantle of 1893. Apropos of this and the ensuing three plates, it is pleasing to be told, as we are by the author of this book, that the long reign of black is doomed. Towards the close of April, 1898, Lord Arthur Lawtrey appeared in the Park attired literally in purple and fine linen, i.e., in a violet coat, with pale heliotrope trousers.
Yet, in spite of the opposition to Lord Arthur, the wave was due, and the affection for colour spread. The new century, at its birth, saw black relegated to the past—also to the future. This was midway in the Ebullient Age. Pent up for decades, mankind naturally began to slop over with sartorial enthusiasm. In 1920 its bizarrerie became offensive, and an opposition crusade was directed against it. Something had to be conceded. Trousers, which had been wavering between nautical buttons and gallooned knees—or, in the vernacular of the period, a sail three sheets in the wind and a flag at half-mast—were the items sacrificed. Knee-breeches enjoyed vogue for a time, but only for a time; for they vanished suddenly in 1930 and were replaced by tights or shapes. Boots made way for Elizabethan slippers. Hats had long since gone the way of the superannuated. Taught by the Darwinian theory, society discovered whence its tendency to baldness originated. They had recourse by degrees to flexible tiles of extraordinary cut.
A further glance at the costume for the swells between 1902 and 1912 reveals the existence of an entirely novel adjunct to male attire. Silk bows have been worn about the neck for nearly, if not quite, a century, but never in the body of the attire. It is true the gentleman as early as 1910 adorns his nether garments with a plain silk band, but in the elderly party of 1911 he has assumed gay ribbons for his shoes as well as at his knees and throat. In this plate we greet the presence of an unmistakable umbrella as a good omen. But it is only a short-lived rapture, for the spruce young party in the next sketch is balancing lightly between thumb and forefinger what we take to be nothing more or less than a shepherd's crook. This is hardly an edifying prospect. Yet if we do not altogether mistake the two wing-shaped objects projecting from his person, it is not the only feature of gentlemen's fashions twenty years hence which will occasion a shock. Nor must we overlook the frivolity of the lady of the same period who is doing her utmost to look pleasant under the most trying conditions. Yet it must be confessed that in spite of its intricate novelty and perplexity, the costume must still be called plain. One might be forgiven for surmising that the kerchief-shaped article covering a portion of the lady's bust is formed of riveted steel, for surely nothing else could support the intolerable load she is so blandly carrying off.
Female costume seems to have always been regulated by the same waves and rules which governed male costume, but in a different degree. In the Ebullient period it is chiefly distinguished by head-dress and the total abolition of stays. Crinoline, in spite of certain opposition, enjoyed a slight revival in the present day, and in 1897 the divided skirt threatened to spread universally. But it passed off, and nothing of a radical order was attempted in this direction until the revolution which brought in trousers for women in 1942.
Meantime, in the next plate of a lady's costume, which is dated 1922, we have presented a very rational and beautiful style of dress. The skirt, it is true, is short enough to alarm prim contemporary dames, and it is scarcely less assuring to find in the whole of the remaining plates only three periods when it seems to have got longer. But doubtless the very ample cloak, which is so long that it even trails upon the ground, extenuated and in some degree justified its shortness.
The plate dated 1920 exhibits a very gorgeous and yet altogether simple set of garments for the male of that period. We are told that the upper portion was of crimson plush, and the lower part of a delicate pink, with white stockings and orange boots. It were well had the leaders of fashion stopped at this, but it would appear that either their thirst for novelty was insatiable or the Hysterical Wave too strong for them, for in the incredibly short space of six years fashion had reached the stage depicted in the following plate. Yet, even then, the depth of folly and ugliness does not appear to have been sounded, for three years later, in 1929, we are favoured with a plate of what is presumably a husband and wife on their way to church or perchance upon a shopping excursion. The lady is evidently looking archly back to see if anybody is observing what a consummate guy her spouse is making of himself, for with all her sartorial short-comings she has certainly the best of the bargain. The prudes, too, seemed to have gained their point, for the skirt is considerably less scanty in the region of the ankles.
This skirt seems to have been rather a weak point with our posterity of the female persuasion, for in the next three or four plates we find it rising and falling with the habitual incorrigibility of a shilling barometer. The Oriental influence is easily traced in the fashions from 1938 to 1945, but it cannot but make the judicious grieve to note that trousers seem to have been adopted by the women at the same time that they were discarded by the men.
A further detail which might interest the student concerns the revival of lace, which transpired so early as 1905. Curiously enough, this dainty adjunct to the attire had fallen into desuetude among women. More curiously still, it remained for the sterner sex to revive it. For it was in that year that the backbone of stiff white collars and cuffs was broken. A material being sought which would weather the existing atmospheric conditions, it was yielded in lace, which continued in vogue for at least two generations.
If we look for the greatest donkey in the entire collection, it is obvious that we shall find him in the middle-aged party of 1936, who is gadding about in inflated trunks and with a fan in his hand. If it were not for the gloves and polka-dot neck-wear we should assume that this costume was a particularly fantastic bathing-suit. The youth of the ensuing year, in the next plate, is probably a son of the foregoing personage, for it is not difficult to detect a strong family likeness. As to the costume itself for 1937, barring the shaved head and Caledonian cap, there is nothing particular to be urged against it. It seems clearly a revival of the dress of the Middle Ages.
It is at least consoling to feel that only a very small minority of those who read this is destined to enliven our thoroughfares with such grotesque images as is furnished by the plate for 1945. The confidently asinine demeanour of this youth is hardly relieved by the absurdity of a watch suspended by a chain from the crown of his hat. That society protested against this aspect of idiocy is evinced by the harmonious costume for 1950, in which a complete revolution is to be noted. We hasten to observe that the latter plate—the one for 1948—is that of a clergyman.
There is very little beauty about the lady's costume for 1946, or in that of the child in the plate. That for 1950 is a great improvement. The exaggerated chignon has disappeared, and two seasons later we find the costume fascinating to a degree, although certainly partaking more of the male than of the female order of dress. Without the cape it is not so captivating, as shown by the plate dated 1955-6, where both a lady and gentleman are shown, although to accord praise to either's hideous style of head-dress would be to abandon permanently all reputation for taste.
The policeman shown in the drawing for 1960 seems to have a very easy time of it, for no man's person can be considered in danger from the mob who habitually offers so many points a saisir as this policeman's head displays. We may likewise suspect the military gentleman depicted in the plate for 1965. It is not customary in the present day for army officers to affect umbrellas, but seventy years hence it may be found necessary to protect one's head-dress.
Mawkish describes the attire of the civilian of the same year, but in 1970 we notice a distinct change for the better, although personally many of us would doubtless strenuously object to wearing neckties of the magnitude here portrayed. In 1975 costume seems to have taken a step backward, and the literary young gentleman, who is the hero of the engraving, may well be carrying about his MSS. inside his umbrella. Whatever may be the merits of the spring fashions for 1978, it would appear to have been universal (to speak of the future in the past tense), for both these young gallants are dressed precisely alike. Of the three remaining designs, that of 1984 appears to us to exhibit the contour of the lady's figure most generously, and to have certain agreeable and distinctive traits of its own which are not only lacking in the gentleman's apparel, but are absent from the inane conception which appears to have obtained vogue five years later.
As to the last plate in the series, we can only remark that if the character of our male posterity after four or five generations is to be as effeminate as its attire, the domination by the fair sex cannot be many centuries distant. The gentleman appears to be lost in contemplation of a lighted cigar. If he possessed the gift of seeing himself as others now see him, he would probably transfer his attentions to another and not less contiguous quarter.
In a general review of the costumes of the forthcoming century the Doctor observes:—
"The seventeenth is famous as the brown; the eighteenth is with us the yellow; and the nineteenth we term the black century. I am asked my opinion of the twentieth. It is motley. It has seen the apotheosis of colour. Yet in worshipping colour we do not confound the order of things. As is the twentieth, so was the fifteenth."
The author furthermore observes that "the single article of apparel which stands out most silhouetted against the background of the 19th century's dress is its hard, shiny, black head-gear. It is without a parallel. It is impossible for us to conceive of a similar article surviving for so long a period; and I venture to say, versed as I am in the science, nothing more absurd and irredeemably inappropriate, or more openly violating in texture and contour every rational idea on the subject, was ever launched. In 1962 the neck was left bare, in the neglige fashion, in imitation of Butts, the aesthete who the year previously had discovered the North Pole. In 1970, however, ruffs were resumed and are still worn, and I regret to say are growing in magnitude, until they threaten to eclipse precedent."
At this juncture the notes and nap together terminated, for our elderly gentleman woke up.
Shafts from an Eastern Quiver.
XII.—THE DAUGHTER OF LOVETSKI THE LOST.
BY CHARLES J. MANSFORD, B.A.
"Our journey seems to have no end, Harold," remarked Denviers, as he lashed the horses which drew our sledge over the dreary plain; "for a week we have been pressing on, night and day almost, in the hope of coming across the hut near the road over which the exiles pass. If that mujik told us the truth, we certainly ought to have seen it by this time."
"We have had a long, desolate ride since we parted with him," I assented; "yet the snow lies in such drifts at times that we can hardly be surprised to find ourselves still driving onwards."
"See, sahibs!" exclaimed Hassan, as he pointed to where the snow-clad plain was at last broken by a distant forest of stunted pines. "There is surely the landmark of which the mujik spoke, and the peasant woman's dwelling cannot be far off."
After wandering through the outlying provinces of China, we determined to visit the vast plains beyond, being anxious to see a Russian mine. To all our requests for such permission we met with refusals, until Denviers pressed a number of roubles into the hand of an official, who eventually helped us to effect our purpose, after evincing some reluctance. Staying a few days after this at a peasant's hut, we had been fortunate enough to win his goodwill, and it was in consequence of what he told us that we promised to undertake our present expedition.
No sooner did the keen eyes of Hassan discover the forest far ahead than we dashed onwards quicker than ever, as our exhaled breath froze in icy particles and the biting wind struck right through the heavy sheepskin wraps which we had purchased on entering Russia. Away across the snow our foam-flecked horses sped, until we saw the blue smoke curling upward in the frosty air from a low log hut, situated so that the pine forest sheltered it somewhat from the icy winds.
"Someone evidently lives here," said Denviers, as he beat with the handle of his whip against the low door. We heard a footstep cross the floor, then the noise of a bar being removed as a woman opened the door cautiously and peered into our faces. Bent as she was with age, with hair that hung in white masses about her shoulders, there was an unsubdued look which rested upon us from her dark eyes that contrasted forcibly with the dull, patient glance of the average Russian peasant.
"Who is it crossing the plains? Are you servants of the Czar?" she asked, in a tone of hesitation at our unexpected appearance, and glancing strangely at Hassan, who had secured our steeds and joined us.
"We are travellers crossing the Siberian wastes with our guide, and come to you for shelter," I answered, although we had a deeper purpose in visiting her.
"It is yours," the woman replied, and having shaken our sheepskin wraps, we entered the hut and accepted the invitation to gather about the pine-wood fire which burnt in one corner of the rude dwelling.
"You are not a Russian peasant?" remarked Denviers, in a tone of inquiry, for the woman spoke English with some fluency.
"I am not, for my people are the Lost Ones, of whom you may have heard," she answered, with a dreary smile.
"We do not understand you," Denviers responded, as we waited for her explanation.
"If you were men of this country my words would be lucid enough. Among all those who were overcome in the many Polish struggles for liberty, none have ever returned who once trod the road by which the exiles passed to join those whom we call Our Lost."
"You have a motive for living here?" I remarked quietly, watching attentively to see what effect my words would have upon her.
"I am friendless and alone, choosing rather to dwell here within sight of the way to Tomsk, than in the great city from which I came. The Czar is merciful, and permits this."
"Then the mujik who directed us here was mistaken," I persisted. "He related strange stories to us of fugitives, whom the peasants whisper——"
"Hush!" she cried, looking nervously round. "What was the mujik's name?" For reply I placed in her hand a scrap of paper, upon which the man had scrawled a message. She glanced keenly at us after reading the missive, then answered:—
"He may be mistaken in you, for you are Englishmen, and do not understand these things. A piece of black bread—what is it that it should be denied to an enemy, even of the Czar, who has escaped from the mines and wanders for refuge over these frozen wastes?"
"You may trust us fully in this matter," said Denviers. "We have given our word to the mujik to render all the help we can."
"It is a terrible day to traverse the plain," the woman replied, as she rose and threw open the rough door to the icy blast, which was only imperfectly kept out before. We followed to where she stood, then watched as she raised her hand and pointed at a distant object.
"See!" the woman cried, bitterly; "yonder pine cross marks the spot where a brave man fell, he who was the lover of the daughter of Lovetski, one of our Lost Ones. By it, before the day is ended, will pass the long train of exiles guarded by the soldiery and headed by the one who hates to see that monument of his own misdeeds, but fears to remove it, for, persecuting the living, he dreads the dead." She closed and barred the door again; then, after some hesitation, spoke of the one to help whom we had gone so far.
"It was the night of a masquerade at the Winter Palace, long to be remembered by many, for on the following day another rising of the Poles had been planned to take place. A number of the leading citizens of St. Petersburg were involved in it, but so well apparently was their secret kept, that they ventured to accept the invitations issued to them. Amid the mad revel the plotters moved, making occasionally a furtive sign of recognition to each other, or venturing at times to whisper as they passed the single word which told of all their hopes and fears—'To-morrow!' Chief among them was Count Lovetski, who murmured the watch-word more hopefully than any of those concerned whenever his keen eyes searched out those sworn to take part in the revolt so near at hand.
"For three hours the gay crowd moved through the salons, then Lovetski, as he leant against a carved pillar, saw one of the revellers who was clad in strange attire approach several of the masqueraders and smilingly whisper something in their ears. At last the Count saw the stranger move close to himself, and a moment after he heard a mocking laugh from behind the black mask, as the unknown one stooped and uttered the preconcerted word. Lovetski looked doubtfully at the man's sombre garb, for the glance from his eyes was by no means reassuring.
"'To-morrow!' repeated the masker. 'Count Lovetski, you do not respond. Have you forgotten?'
"'Lower your voice, or we shall be heard by others,' said the Count, with a warning gesture. 'Who are you?'
"'One of the three hundred citizens who are sworn to revolt to-morrow. The appointed day is fast drawing near, for in ten minutes the great clock will chime the midnight hour, and then, Count Lovetski—Siberia!'
"His listener stared in blank amazement, then, regaining his composure, he replied:—
"'So the plot is discovered? I am no coward. When is it settled for me to set out?'
"'At the last stroke of the hour a drosky will await you at the main entrance. The palace is guarded by the soldiery. The others do not start immediately; you are the leader, and will be ready, doubtless.'
"'Quite,' answered Lovetski, for he knew resistance would be useless. He quietly passed his sword to the masker, who took it, smiled again, and disappeared in the crowd. One by one the followers of the Count were singled out by the strange messenger of the Czar, and when the masquerade was over three hundred exiles followed the track of the sledge in which their leader had been hurried away a couple of hours before them on the long, dreary journey to Tomsk.
"Lovetski was refused the privilege of communicating his whereabouts to his wife, who shortly after this event died, leaving their daughter to the care of strangers. Before long a rumour reached the capital that the Count had been shot while attempting to escape in disguise, and this was eventually found to be true.
"Scarcely had Marie Lovetski reached womanhood when she joined a political movement, fired with a mad resolve to avenge her father's death, and within a year her name appeared among those on the list of suspects, whose every action was closely observed. A Russian officer of high rank, Paul Somaloff, who had more than once made her an offer of marriage, begged her to remember the fate which overtook Count Lovetski, but the bare mention of it only made the woman more inexorable. The end which everyone foretold soon came, for, seated one day in the midst of treasonable correspondence, Marie Lovetski was surprised by three gendarmes, who burst into her apartment. She tore the letter into fragments before they could stop her, then scattered the pieces over the floor. One of the gendarmes, motioning to his companions to pick them up, moved towards her and attempted her arrest. For one moment the woman stood at bay, then thrust the cold barrel of a pistol into the gendarme's ear.
"'Raise but a hand or move an inch nearer and I will shoot you!' she cried, warningly. Her would-be captor shrunk back, and before he had recovered from his surprise Marie Lovetski darted past him towards the door. She seized the handle to wrench it open, then saw that all was lost. The door was locked and the gendarme had removed the key. There was a fierce struggle, in which one of the officers was dangerously wounded, but eventually they secured her, and within two months Marie Lovetski set out to traverse the same dreary road over which the Count had gone long before when she was a mere child.
"Ivan Rachieff, the masquerader who had whispered into Count Lovetski's ear the fate to which he was consigned, was at that time a young attache at the Court of the Czar. The zeal which he displayed in hunting down the autocrat's enemies rapidly brought promotion, so that when Marie Lovetski was exiled he had risen to be a general of the Russ army, and specially chosen for the duty of heading the Cossacks who conducted the exiles over the Siberian wastes, while among his subordinates was Paul Somaloff, who held a position scarcely inferior to his own.
"Convicted of a double offence, Marie Lovetski was condemned to walk the whole of that wearisome distance among criminals bound for the mines, while the political exiles were somewhat less harshly treated. General Rachieff had been warned that a band of discontents had threatened to attempt the rescue of the prisoners, and special powers of life and death were granted to him. By long forced marches he hurried the exiles on, scarcely giving them a few hours' rest each night when they arrived at their halting-places on the route.
"It was with a deep feeling of sorrow at his inability to lessen her sufferings that Paul Somaloff glanced many times on the way at Marie Lovetski. In spite of the strange position in which he found himself, his love for the woman was by no means lessened, but increased each day as he saw to his dismay how plainly her strength was failing as he looked upon the woman's haggard countenance, who was wearily dragging her limbs forward over the frozen wastes. One day Marie Lovetski's condition became so serious that Somaloff begged General Rachieff to order the fetters which bound her wrists to be removed, receiving in reply a refusal as contemptuous as it was decisive. All that day the exile's secret lover walked moodily on, racking his brains for some method by which to save the woman from dying before even the terrible journey was ended.
"Not far from the hut in which you are now resting, the weary exiles were halted that night, and soon sank down in the log building into an exhausted sleep. After a severe conflict between his love and his allegiance to the Czar, Paul Somaloff rose, and, stealing carefully among the unconscious ones, he bent at last over the form of Marie Lovetski, stretched upon a straw pallet.
"'Marie,' he whispered softly, as he cautiously awakened her. ''Tis I, Paul Somaloff—I come to save you.'
"He remained by the woman's side till he had deftly removed the manacles from her wrists, then stole to the entrance as she silently followed him. Once he was outside the log building, Somaloff made for where his general's horse was stabled, and quickly untethering it led it forth. For one brief moment he clasped the exile to his breast, then lifted her into the saddle and placed the reins in her hand with a few hurried words as to the best course to pursue to avoid pursuit.
"Suddenly Paul Somaloff felt a heavy hand grip him by the shoulder, and turning round he found himself face to face with Ivan Rachieff, his general! At the same time the woman was dragged from the horse and held by three of the Cossacks.
"'Your traitorous plan was well thought out,' said Rachieff, as he smiled in derision at its failure. 'Paul Somaloff, you have broken your oath to the Czar, and I swear you shall die for this.'
"'You may do your worst,' replied the young officer. 'You would not listen to my repeated appeals for a slight act of clemency for Marie Lovetski, and so have turned a loyal subject of the Czar into a traitor.'
"'Insolent!' cried General Rachieff. 'At sunrise you shall be knouted to death.'
"'Coward that you are,' retorted Somaloff, 'that is a punishment you dare not inflict upon one who wears a decoration given to him by the august Czar. I am a soldier, General, and, at the hands of my comrades, will die a soldier's death.'
"'So be it,' answered Rachieff, calmly; 'you shall be shot at sunrise,' and he motioned to the soldiers who had gathered about him to take Somaloff into their charge, then turned on his heel and strode away, humming an idle air.
"The grey morning had scarcely dawned when brave young Somaloff was blindfolded and led forth to be shot in sight of the exiles, while the woman whom he had failed to save looked helplessly on.
"A few minutes afterwards, Paul Somaloff knelt on the snow-covered plain, the report of a dozen rifles rang out on the morning air, and the exiles saw his arms raised as he clutched convulsively at his breast, then he fell forward, dead!
"The wild, despairing cries of the exiles were quelled with threats of the knout, and then the prisoners were hurried on, as they had been for so many days and weeks past. Ten days later a large number of Polish insurrectionists, ill-armed, and accompanied by a throng of even worse accoutred peasants carrying a red banner, flung themselves upon the line of march, and made a futile effort to break through the soldiers who guarded the exiles. The trained troopers of the Czar thrust them back and, as they broke and fled into the forest, chased and cut them down like sheep, till the snow turned to a crimson hue with their hearts' blood.
"The exiles made desperate efforts to avail themselves of the opportunity to escape which the confusion presented. Those who were unbound fought with branches, which they tore from the stunted trees, while the others madly thrust the shackles upon their wrists into the faces of the brutal soldiery, who knouted or cut down men and women indiscriminately. Long will that massacre be remembered, and the dreadful sufferings which the survivors endured at the command of Ivan Rachieff. When at last Tomsk was reached, only a handful of decrepit exiles passed into the city out of all those who started on the long journey."
"And Marie Lovetski?" I interrupted, "did she live to complete the distance, or what was her fate?"
"It was reported that she was cut down during the massacre," the woman replied, slowly; "for nothing has been heard of her since by General Rachieff, although her body could not be found among the slain."
I glanced at the woman thoughtfully as she concluded her story, and Denviers, who had listened in silence throughout, asked:—
"Where is Marie Lovetski? You are aware that she is alive—nay, more, you know her place of concealment."
Surprised at the directness of the question, the woman involuntarily rose, and then, seeing that we suspected the fugitive was hidden in the log hut, she answered:—
"Marie Lovetski is not here, yet if the mujik has rightly judged your courage, within a week he will see your sledge return with one more occupant than when it started. Once she is carried there her escape is assured, for——" She stopped suddenly and pointed to the door. We listened attentively as the sound of footsteps drew near, then a heavy blow smote the barred entrance and a voice exclaimed:—
"Open, in the Czar's name!" The woman's face turned ashy pale as she muttered faintly:—
"That is the voice of Ivan Rachieff, who is again in command of the exiles," and she drew away the heavy bar to admit him. We rose to our feet in an instant as the door was flung open and General Rachieff entered and stood before us.
For a moment the Russian officer stared at us without speaking, then throwing back his heavy sealskin cloak and revealing the military garb which he wore beneath, he asked the woman sternly:—
"What does the presence of these men in your hut mean?"
"We are travellers, who have asked for shelter. Our guide is an Arab; we are Englishmen," responded Denviers, quietly but decisively.
"Spies, I do not doubt," said Rachieff, as he bit his heavy moustache.
"My word is accustomed to be believed," replied my companion, sharply. "If you doubt what I have said, read that," and he flung a package containing our passports upon the table as he spoke.
The officer took out our passports, which we had been careful to obtain. He glanced through them, then tossed the papers on to the table again as he remarked, in a morose tone:—
"You would not be the first Englishmen who have made their way into the Czar's territory only to discredit it."
"You have chosen a curious method of displaying your pleasantry," retorted Denviers, glancing sternly at the heavy-bearded Russian who had so wantonly insulted us. Rachieff drew a chair to the table, and, sitting down, leant his head upon his hands, narrowly scrutinizing our features.
"I saw some horses and a sledge in the shed without," he continued; "are they yours?"
"They are," answered my companion, laconically.
"Where was your last stopping-place before you reached here?" Rachieff asked, as if he were examining some prisoners.
"We are neither Russian subjects nor refugees," Denviers replied. "You may save your inquiries for others, since we have no intention of satisfying your ill-timed curiosity." My companion turned his back to Rachieff, and raising a blazing piece of pine-wood which had fallen, tossed it again among the glowing embers, taking no more notice of the discomfited officer. Rachieff was nonplussed; he frowned heavily, then rising, moved to the door. He turned as he held it partly open, saying:—
"If you were a Russian gentleman instead of an English spy, I would call you out for your insolence to an officer in the Czar's service."
I saw the blood mount to Denviers's forehead as he snatched the driving whip which Hassan held and, striding forward, struck the Russian a blow across his face with it.
"If I were an exile, no doubt you would knout me for that," he said, quietly. "You can do nothing as it is, since our papers are in order, except fight me."
"I am in command of the exiles," answered Rachieff. "They are now passing yonder; when the halting-place is reached to-night I will leave my subordinate in charge of them and return here with an officer as my second. If you are not a coward you will be here awaiting me at mid-day."
"I shall be here," replied Denviers. "Choose your own weapons; you have brought this meeting about entirely unprovoked, and to-morrow you or I will fall."
"Adieu till then!" cried Rachieff, with a bitter smile of hatred, then he turned his face away, upon which was a long livid mark where the whip had fallen, and we saw him stride towards the exiles passing over the plain before us.
"Ivan Rachieff is one of the most skilful duellists with sword or pistol in the Czar's army," said the woman, who had been an attentive observer of all that passed between the two men. "He will kill you with as little remorse as he ordered Paul Somaloff to be shot by the soldiers."
"Paul Somaloff!" exclaimed Denviers. "Ah! I had forgotten his fate for a moment; but to-morrow, when Rachieff and I stand face to face, I will surely remember it."
"Allah and Mahomet help the sahib," cried Hassan. "If the bearded Russ should chance to win, he shall fight the Arab afterwards."
"Never mind Rachieff, Hassan," said Denviers; "we must at once make our plans for the purpose of helping Marie Lovetski to escape from Siberia. Whatever happens to me, she must be saved at all hazards."
"Where is the woman concealed?" I asked the one who was our hostess.
She rose and questioned us:—
"Will you swear by the memorial which I have raised over Paul Somaloff's resting-place never to speak of what you may see in the strange hiding-place to which I may conduct you?"
"We will," I answered briefly, as Denviers joined in assenting.
We lost little time after Rachieff's departure, but drew together and discussed the probabilities of various plans succeeding, and at last decided on that which seemed to promise success. The dusk rapidly closed in upon us as we sat in thoughtful conversation, after which the woman rose, and, having scanned the plain near the hut as well as she could in the gloom, motioned to us to follow her.
Hassan remained in the hut while we set out, and making our way through a part of the pines and firs close to the dwelling in which we had sought shelter, we found ourselves groping blindly along, following each other like phantoms in the darkness which enveloped us. So far there was little need for the woman to have sworn us to secrecy, for neither going nor returning did we get a glimpse of anything likely to indicate the spot to us again at any future time. At last we felt what appeared to be a rough flight of stone steps beneath our feet, then our guide lit a pine-wood torch which she carried.
Holding up the flickering light before us, the woman led us into what we conjectured to be one of the catacombs of an ancient city. On both sides of us as we moved along the red flare of the pine-wood revealed many bodies of the dead, each stretched in a niche cut for it in the red rock, while at intervals between these we saw the resting-places of others distinguished by various strange emblems. One of these niches was silently guarded by two carved figures of horsemen with their white steeds caparisoned, and each of the riders held in his uplifted hand a sword such as the Damascenes use.
"A strange resting-place that," I remarked to Denviers, as it stood out weird and ghastly in the light of the torch. "No Russian soldiery ever wear such accoutrements as are depicted there, I am certain."
"They wear the garb of boyars of the time of Ivan the Terrible," our guide said, as she pointed to the mounted horsemen. "Where the pine forest about us is now there stood more than four hundred years ago one of the many cities built by that extraordinary monarch, but it has long been blotted out, and the Russ have forgotten its very existence. None now know of its catacombs save those of us who form a secret band, and whose object is to help the exiles who may escape and seek shelter and a safe hiding-place. Even now it would be impossible for you to find the one you seek, and if you wish to go farther it must be done blindfolded, or I will not lead you."
We stood by the strangely carved horsemen, and having consented to the woman's request, allowed her to fasten our sashes securely over our eyes; then, led by her, we slowly advanced through what appeared to be a labyrinth of ways until we were stopped by someone who spoke to the woman in a calm, grave tone. There was a whispered conversation between the two, directly following which our eyes were uncovered, and we found ourselves facing a strangely-robed hermit. His long white beard fell almost to his waist, contrasting forcibly with the black garment which covered him, while his high forehead and the steadfast look directed towards us seemed to be in keeping with the hermit's strange surroundings. A heap of blazing pine-wood lit up his retreat and served to lessen the intense coldness of the air.
"You are Englishmen, and have promised to help Marie Lovetski to escape from here to our next station of refuge," he said. "Since the day when she fled she has been hidden in various of our secret places. Six months ago she was brought here, yet so dangerous is the risk that we have waited for the mujik's messengers, telling us that all is safe for her to be conveyed there. He says in his message that you can be trusted, and doubtless your passports will help you to accomplish the task more easily than Russ or Pole could do. We trust, then, in your honour, that once Marie Lovetski is in your keeping, you will die in her defence rather than surrender her to the horrors of a mine."
We explained to the hermit the difficulty which the approaching duel between Denviers and Rachieff might cause, and discussed with him the possibility of overcoming it. Denviers was emphatic in his determination to meet the Russian on the morrow, and so it was arranged that at a certain hour Marie Lovetski should leave the catacombs and secretly watch the result of the duel. If Denviers escaped uninjured we were to mount our sledge and make for the spot where she would be stationed, and hiding her beneath the wraps, to start on our long journey back to the mujik who had intrusted us with the task of saving her.
"You will, of course, allow us to see this exile?" Denviers remarked, as soon as everything was arranged. "It was for that purpose that we were brought here to-night."
"Then your visit has been made in vain," was the unexpected reply. "It will be time enough for you to do so if your duel with Rachieff is successful."
We endeavoured to overcome the hermit's objection, but, although the woman who had guided us there spoke strenuously on our behalf, the strange guardian of Marie Lovetski was not to be persuaded from following his own cautious plan. Finding our protests useless, we consented to be blindfolded once more, and were led back through the catacombs into the forest, and before long we had entered the log hut again. There we threw ourselves on our sheepskin wraps in front of the pine-wood fire, and laid down upon them to sleep; then, when daylight came, the woman awoke us and we passed the morning vaguely wondering what the result of the duel would be.
Denviers urged upon our guide, Hassan, and myself the necessity of attempting to save the woman so long shut up in the dismal catacombs, and at last I gave a reluctant consent to do so if he fell, instead of making an attempt to avenge him. The Arab stolidly refused to do this, and justified his position by numerous quotations from the Koran, while declaring that Mahomet would certainly come to my companion's assistance, which, in spite of the gravity of his position, provoked a smiling retort from Denviers. Little did we know what the termination of the fight would be, or the strange part in it which Marie Lovetski was to have.
"Hark, sahibs!" exclaimed Hassan. "Although noon has not yet come, the Russian is approaching to keep his promise to fight."
We threw open the door of the hut and distinguished the ringing sound of the bells of a distant sledge. A few minutes after this the cracking of a whip and the neighing of horses were heard, and finally we saw the sledge appear before us. There were three occupants, and as it drew near we distinguished among them General Rachieff as the one who was urging on the horses. The conveyance dashed up to the hut; then one of the officers sprang out and restrained the animals, while a second, who carried a couple of swords, followed close behind Rachieff, with whom Denviers was soon to try conclusions.
"The weapons are here," said General Rachieff, frigidly, as Denviers approached and bowed slightly. "There is no time to lose: we fight with swords as you see. Choose!" and he motioned to his second, who held them out. Following out the plan which we had determined to adopt, Hassan quickly placed our horses in our own sledge and drew them a little ahead, so that the conveyance should be ready for us to enter when the duel was ended, if my companion did not fall in the encounter.
"We fight there," said Denviers calmly, as he motioned to the part of the plain to the right of where Hassan had already stationed our sledge.
"As you will," responded Rachieff indifferently, and, accompanied by his second, he moved to the spot Denviers pointed out. There the usual formalities were settled by the other officer and myself, whereupon the two duellists made ready and waited for the signal to begin, which fell to my lot to give.
I fluttered a handkerchief in the biting air for a moment, dropped it, and the swords were rapidly crossed. The reputation which Rachieff had won as a duellist was certainly well deserved, since his feints and thrusts were admirable, while Denviers, whose coolness in critical circumstances never deserted him, acted mainly on the defensive, parrying his enemy's lunges with remarkable skill.
More than once the duellists stopped as if by mutual consent, to regain breath, then quickly facing each other again, fought more determinedly than ever. Rachieff saw that for once he had apparently met his match with the sword, and grew by degrees more cautious than he had been when the fight began; yet repeatedly he failed to completely ward off the quick lunges from my companion's weapon, and I saw the crimson stains of blood which marked where the sword point had touched him. Then he rained in his blows with lightning speed, pressing hard upon Denviers several times, and glaring furiously at him, while his distorted features showed plainly enough the mark of the blow he had received from the whip the day previous.
"Rachieff wins!" cried the Russian's second, and I saw, to my dismay, Denviers's weapon suddenly twisted from his hand and flung into the air, while an exultant exclamation burst from Rachieff's lips as he rushed upon his defenceless opponent! Before he could make use of the advantage which he had unexpectedly gained, Marie Lovetski uttered a wild, mournful cry, and started forward from the pine forest, standing pale with momentary fear before him!
The superstitious Russian stared incredulously, his sword-arm dropped to his side, while he gasped out:—
"Lovetski's daughter, and yet she is surely dead!"
Taking full advantage of the Russian's dismay, Denviers instantly flung himself upon his foe, dashing him backwards to the ground. Kneeling upon his enemy's chest and gripping him by the throat, as he held the sword he had seized before the startled Russian, my companion hissed in his ear:—
"Yield, or you are a dead man!"
The Russian's face turned to a purple hue as he almost choked for breath, then he muttered brokenly the exiled woman's name.
"She is living!" cried Denviers, as he lowered the point of the sword till it touched the Russian's breast. "Swear that you will not attempt to hinder her flight, and I will release your throat."
General Rachieff raised his hand in sign of assent, for his voice had failed him. Denviers rose, whereupon the Russian staggered to his feet, then, mad at his defeat, moved over to where his sledge was.
"Get the woman into our sledge," cried Denviers to me. I started forward to where Hassan was; we snatched up the exile and immediately drove off.
"After them, men!" cried Rachieff, caring nothing for his promise. "We will take Marie Lovetski, or shoot her down!"
"Never trust a Russ, sahibs!" exclaimed Hassan, as he lashed our horses on, while our enemies followed furiously behind. "The only way to secure his silence would have been a sword thrust through the false one's heart."
Away our sledge was whirled across the plain, faster and faster still, yet Rachieff, whose horses were more numerous than our own, drew gradually nearer. Marie Lovetski, who had forgotten her alarm now that Denviers was safe, turned her pale-set countenance towards our pursuers, and, as she did so, the report of a pistol rang out, while a bullet whizzed past her head! I saw Rachieff holding the smoking weapon in his hand as Denviers cried to me:—
"If he fires again, I will shoot him like the dog that he is!"
"No," cried Marie Lovetski, snatching a pistol from my sash before I could prevent her. "Rachieff slew Somaloff, my lover, and I will avenge him." She pointed the weapon full at the Russian, and I barely had time to brush her arm aside before the frenzied exile fired. Fortunately, the shot was deflected, and Rachieff was saved from the fate that he certainly deserved.
"Shoot their horses!" exclaimed Denviers, and as our own dashed along he leant over towards the pursuing sledge and fired at the foremost of them. The animal reared for a moment, then fell dead, throwing the rest into confusion. Out the Russians sprang, and cut the traces through, and having in this way speedily managed to disencumber their steeds of the dead one, they immediately began the pursuit again. We waited for them to get near again, then fired in quick succession and brought down their other horses, in spite of the bullets which the Russians rained upon us, and which, fortunately, struck none who were in the sledge. Baffled in their pursuit, we saw our enemies standing knee-deep in the snow watching us as we dashed along.
"Well," remarked Denviers, as we slackened our speed at last, "we have had a strange running fight, such as I least of all expected."
"The sahibs have saved the woman," said our guide. "Their slave the Arab believes that even the Great Prophet would approve of what they have done. The promise to convey Marie Lovetski to the mujik's hut will now surely be kept"; and so it came about, for the daughter of Lovetski the Lost lived to find freedom hers on another soil and under another flag.
No. XXIII.—MR. HARRY FURNISS.
It is the proud boast of every married man, and more particularly so when his quiver is fairly full, that he presides over the happiest home in the land. But there is a corner of Regent's Park where stands a house whose four walls contain an amount of fun and unadulterated merriment, happiness, and downright pleasure that would want a lot of beating. The fact is that Mr. Harry Furniss is not only a merry man with his pencil. Humour with him may mean a very profitable thing—it unquestionably does; fun and frolic as depicted on paper by "Lika Joko" brings in, as Digby Grant would put it, many "a little cheque." But I venture to think that the clever caricaturist would not have half as many merry ideas running from the mind to the pencil if he sold all his humour outside and forgot to scatter a goodly proportion of it amongst his quartette of children.
I had not been in the house five minutes before they made their presence known. I had not been there a quarter of an hour before the discovery was made that they were small but impressive editions of their father. Have you heard of Harry Furniss's little model—"My Little Model"? She is Dorothy, who sits for all the little girls in her father's pictures. A clever, bright young woman of thirteen, with glorious auburn tresses. For two or three years past she has not forgotten to write her father a story, illustrated it herself, and duly presented it on his birthday. "Buzzy," for that is her pet name, is retained as a model at a modest honorarium per sitting. Should she be indisposed, she must find a substitute! Then there is Frank, the eldest, home for his holidays just now from Cheltenham; young Lawrence, who also draws capitally; and little Guy, the youngest, who creeps into the pictures occasionally. Guy is a very fidgety model. "I have drawn him in twenty different moves, when trying to bribe him with a penny to sit!" said Mr. Furniss. And it seemed to me—and one had an excellent opportunity of judging during a too-quickly-passed day spent at Regent's Park—that not a small amount of Mr. Furniss's humour was caught from the children. He has brought them up to live a laughing life, he ignores the standing-in-the-corner theory, and believes that a penny discreetly bestowed on a youngster during a troubled moment will teach him a better lesson than a shilling's-worth of stick. It is also evident that the brightness and jollity of the children are inherited, not only from father, but mother as well; and it was easy to discern, from the remarks that fell from the subject of my interview, that the touches of artistic taste to be seen about the place were due to the "best of wives and mothers"—immaculate housewife and capital hostess—Mrs. Furniss. And, as Mr. Furniss himself acknowledges, half the battle of life is overcome for a hard-worked professional man by the possession of a sympathetic and careful wife.
Just run through this budget of letters from father to children. When I arrived at Regent's Park—ten minutes before my time, by-the-bye—Mr. Furniss was out riding, a very favourite exercise with him. "Buzzy" and Frank and Lawrence and Guy brought out their treasured missives. When "Lika Joko" gets a pen or pencil in his hand he can't help caricaturing. These juvenile missives were decorated with sketches in every corner. Here is a particularly merry one. Frank writes from Cheltenham for some fret-work patterns. Patterns are sent by return of post—the whole family is sent in fret-work. Mr. Furniss goes away to Hastings, suffering from overwork. He has to diet himself. Then comes a letter illustrated at the top with a certain gentleman greatly reduced in face and figure through following Dr. Robson Roose's admirable advice. There are scores of them—all neatly and carefully kept with their envelopes in scrap-books.
Some few days afterwards I discovered that Mr. Furniss delights in "illustrating" his letters to others besides his children. My photo was needed by Mr. Furniss for the purpose of making a sketch. I sent him a recent one. He wanted a "profile" too. The "profile" was taken when I was sadly in need of the application of the scissors of the tonsorial artist. I posted the "profile" with a request that perhaps Mr. Furniss would kindly apply his artistic shears and cut off a little of the surplus hair. By return comes an illustrated missive. I am sitting in a barber's chair, cloth round neck; the artist is behind me with the customary weapon, and laying low the locks. The whole thing probably only took a minute or two to do, but it is a capital little bit of drawing. It is reproduced at the end of this article.
This quarter of an hour spent with the youngsters over their paternal letters was not lost. It prepared me for the man himself, it gave me the true clue to his character, and when he rushed into the house—riding boots and whip included—it was just the one the children had unanimously realized for me. A jolly, hearty, "give us your hand" sort of individual, somewhat below the medium height, with a face as merry as one of his own pages in Punch. He is restless—he must be always at it. He thinks and talks rapidly: there is no hesitation about him. He gets a happy thought. Out it comes—unique and original in its unvarnished state. He is as good and thorough a specimen of an Englishman as one would meet—frank and straight-spoken, says what he thinks and thinks what he means. An Englishman, notwithstanding the fact that he was born in Ireland, his mother was a Scotchwoman, and he married a lady of Welsh descent! But, then, his father was a Yorkshireman! So much for the man—and much more. Of his talents we will speak later.
We all sat down to lunch, and the children simply did for me what I could not have done for myself. Frank ran his father on funny stories. Then it all came out. Mr. Furniss is an excellent actor—had he not been a caricaturist he must have been a comedian. His powers of imitation are unlimited. He will give you an Irish jarvey one moment and Henry Irving the next, and the children led him on. But it all at once dawned upon Mr. Furniss that it was interfering with the proper play of knife and fork, so we dispensed with the mimicry and went on with the mutton.
"Lika Joko" is suggested at once on entering the hall. Here are a quartette of quaint Japanese heads, which their owner calls his "Fore Fathers!" His Fellowship of the Zoo is typified by pictures of various animals. A fine etching of St. Mark's, at Venice, is also noticeable, the only two portraits being a Rembrandt and Maroni's "Tailor."
"I always hold that up as the best portrait ever painted," said Mr. Furniss, as he glances at Maroni's masterpiece.
In the dining-room Landseer, Herkomer, Alma Tadema, and Burton Barber are represented—little Lawrence was the original study for the child in the latter artist's "Bethgelert." Fred Barnard's work is here, and some quaint old original designs on wood by Boyd Haughton are pointed out as curios. Punch is to the front, notably in Du Maurier, by himself, which cost its possessor thirty guineas; a portrait group of the staff up the river, some delicate water-colours by C. H. Bennett, and a fine bit of work by Mr. Furniss of the jubilee dinner of the threepenny comic at the Ship Hotel, Greenwich. Upstairs the children's portraits, and pictures likely to please the youngsters, reappear. The nursery is full of them, though perhaps the most interesting apartment in this part of the house is the principal bedroom. It is full of the original caricatures of M.P.'s and other notabilities, and the occupant of the bed has Bradlaugh and the Baron de Worms on either side of him, whilst from a corner the piercing eye of Mr. George Lewis is constantly on the watch.
A striking portrait of Mr. F. C. Burnand recalls to Mr. Furniss the first time he sketched him.
"I was making a chalk drawing of him," said the caricaturist. "He sat with his back to me for half-an-hour writing, and suddenly turned round and wanted to know if I had finished! Perceiving a piece of bread for rubbing-out purposes in my hand, he objected to my having lunch there! And finally, when I induced him to turn his head my way and I finished the sketch, he looked at it critically and cried out, 'Splendid likeness, remarkable features, fine head, striking forehead, characteristic eyebrow, splendid likeness; somebody I know, but I can't remember who!' Encouraging, wasn't it?
"But I remembered it. Some years after I gave a dinner at the Garrick Club to the Punch staff and some friends. Burnand sat at the head of a long table. It was understood that there was to be no speaking. Suddenly I saw the editorial eyebrows wriggling. I knew what it meant—Burnand was going to make a speech. I hurriedly got about a dozen sheets of note-paper, and tore them in bits. I jumped up very nervous, produced 'notes'; terrible anxiety on part of diners—suppressed groans. I spoke, got fearfully muddled, constantly losing notes, etc. 'Art amongst the Greeks,' I said—notes; 'yes, your sculptors of Athens were, unquestionably'—notes again. 'And what of it? Punch is a—Punch is a—well, you all know what Punch is!' Then it began to dawn upon them that this was a little lark. So I hurriedly threw notes under the table and suggested that on an occasion like the present it was our duty to first propose the health of the Queen! We did. Then the Prince of Wales, the Army and Navy, the Reserve Forces, the Bishops and Magistrates. All these were replied to, and Burnand didn't get a chance!"
There are many delightful water-colours in the drawing-room, bronzes and quaint Japanese ivories. The first meet of the "Two Pins Club" at Richmond, June 8th, 1890, gives excellent back views of Sir Charles Russell, F. C. Burnand, Frank Lockwood, Q.C., Linley Sambourne, Chas. Matthews, Q.C., and the caricaturist himself. The "Two Pins" is a riding club named after Dick Turpin and Johnny Gilpin. Works by Goodall and Rowlandson are here, a fine Albert Duerer, and a most ingenious bit of painting by a man who never had a chance to get to the front—he has used his brush with excellent effect on the back of an old band-box. Mary Anderson has written on the back of a photo, "Better late than never," for the picture was a long time coming; another excellent example of photographic work being a large head of Mr. Irving as "Becket," bearing his autograph. In a corner is a queer-looking wax model of Daniel O'Connell addressing the crowd, and amongst a hundred little odds and ends spring flowers are peeping out. Mr. Furniss finds little time now to use his paint-box. The example—an early one, by-the-bye—he has contributed to this apartment is by no means prophetic. It is a trifle in water-colours—a graveyard of a church with countless tombstones! Now, who would associate the caricaturist with tombstones?
Passing down a glass corridor—from the roof of which the grapes hang in great and luscious clusters in the autumn—you reach the studio. It is a big, square room. Run your eyes round the walls, try to take in its thousand and one quaint treasures. You can see humour in every one of them—merriment oozes out of every single item. Stand before this almost colossal statue of Venus. She of the almost faultless waist and fashion-plate divine rests on a coal-box. Sit down on the sofa. It is the stuffed lid of another receptacle for fuel. Golf is one of the artist's hobbies, and he invariably plays with clergymen—excellent thing for the character. We light our cigars from a capital little match-stand modelled out of a golf-ball, and the next instant "Lika Joko" is juggling with three or four balls. A clever juggler, forsooth. And the battledore and shuttlecock? Excellent exercise. After a long spell of work, the battledore is seized and the shuttlecock bounces up to the glass roof. It went through the other day, hence play has been postponed owing to the numerous engagements of the local glazier. Fencing foils are in a corner; a quaint arrangement of helmets, masks, and huge weapons a la Waterloo suggests "scalping trophies." The china is curious—there is even an empty ginger jar—picked up in country places, of a rare and valuable old-fashioned type. He has the finest collection of old tinsel pictures of the Richard III. and Dick Turpin order in the kingdom, and values an old book full of tinsel patterns of the most exquisite design and workmanship. Old glass pictures are scattered about, "Lord Nelson's Funeral Car," and Joey Grimaldi grins at you from the far corner of the room.
All this and much more is characteristic of the humour of the famous caricaturist. We look at "Lika Joko's" skits and laugh; we take a delight in picking out from his ingenious pictorial mazes our own particular politician or favourite actor; we roar at "Lika Joko's" comicality, and only know him as a caricaturist. But there is another side to this studio picture—Mr. Harry Furniss's pencil is such that it can make you weep; so realistic, indeed, that when in his early days he was sent to sketch scenes of distress and misery, they were so terribly real and dramatic that the paper in question dared not publish them. No artist appreciates a "situation" better than he. I looked through portfolio after portfolio, drawer after drawer—full of character studies and work of a serious character done in all parts of the world. These have never been given to the public. Should they ever be published, Mr. Harry Furniss will at once be voted as serious and dramatic an artist as he is an eminently refined yet outrageously humorous caricaturist. He is a great reader—he once collected first editions. We begin to talk seriously, when he suddenly closes the portfolio with a bang, shuts up once more his hidden and unknown talents, and hastens to inform you that he is a member of the Thirteen Club—Irving and he were elected together—and believes in helping other people to salt, dining thirteen on the thirteenth, with thirteen courses, etc. Always passes under ladders, and swears by peacocks' feathers.
We stand before the great easel in the middle of the room—though not much work is done there. He prefers to work standing at a desk. He draws all his pictures very large; they are studies from life. It prevents the work from getting cramped. The same model has stood for all his principal people for the last ten years, and he has a wardrobe of artistic "props" big enough to fit out every member of the House of Commons. He is a perfect business man. His ledger is a model book. Every one of his pictures is numbered. In this book spaces are ruled off for—Subject, Publisher, When delivered, Published, Price, When paid, When drawing returned, Price of original, and What came of it. Humour by no means knocks system out of a man. Look at the score of pigeon-holes round the studio. As we are talking together now his secretary is "typing off" his illustrated weekly letter which finds a place in the St. James's Budget, New York World, Weekly Scotsman, Yorkshire Weekly Post, Liverpool Weekly Post, Nottinghamshire Guardian, South Wales Daily News, East Anglian Times, and in Australia, India, the Cape, etc. He writes children's books and illustrates them. His impressions of America are in course of preparation. There is his weekly Punch work; he is dodging about all over the country giving his unique "Humours of Parliament" entertainment, and he found time to make some special sketches for this little article.
We sat down. Tea was brought in—he believes in two big breakfast cups every afternoon—and with "Bogie," the Irish deerhound—so called owing to his very solemn-looking countenance—close by, Mr. Furniss went back as far as he could possibly remember, to March 26th, 1854. That is the date of his birthday.
"I am always taken for an Irishman," said Mr. Furniss. "Nothing of the kind. My father was a Yorkshireman. He was in Ireland with my mother, and I believe I arrived at an unexpected moment. Possibly my artistic inclinations came through my mother. Her father was AEneas Mackenzie, a well-known literary man of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and proprietor of several newspapers. He founded the Newcastle School of Politics, and Mr. Joseph Cowen—as a boy—got his first tuition in politics from sitting at the knee of my grandfather. A bust of him is in the Mechanics' Institute—which he founded."
Little Harry was brought up in Wexford. He remembers being held up in his nurse's arms to see the Great Eastern pass on its first voyage, whilst an incident associated with the marriage of the Prince of Wales is vividly impressed upon his mind. He was struck on the top of his hat by a "fizzing devil" made out of moist powder, which burnt a hole through it. He says that he would rather have this recollection on his mind now, than the "fizzer" on his head at the time. The young artist in embryo was a rare young pugilist at school. He was forced to use his fists, as friction was strong between the Irish and English lads at the school he went to. But he did well in athletic sports, and was never beaten in a hundred yards race. He firmly believes that this early athletic training is responsible for the rapid way in which he does everything to-day—be it walking or talking, eating or working, all is done on the hundred yards principle—to get there first.
He was a spoilt boy—first of all because he was sent to a girls' school, but mainly from a very significant incident which happened at the Wesleyan College School in Dublin—a collegiate establishment from which pupils (not necessarily Wesleyans, for Mr. Furniss is not of that sect) passed to Trinity College—where he obtained all his education. He was not a studious lad. He found the editing, writing, illustrating, publishing, and entire bringing-out of a small journal he founded far more agreeable to his taste than Latin verbs and algebraical problems.
"I was in knickerbockers at the time," he said, "and introduced to the schoolboy public—The Schoolboy's Punch. It sounds strangely prophetic as I think of it now. The entire make-up of it was a la Punch, and it had its cartoon every week. At that time the Davenport Cabinet Trick was all the rage, and the very first cartoon I drew was founded on that. Here is the picture: myself—as a schoolboy—being tied up with ropes depictive of Greek, Latin, Euclid, and other cutting and disagreeable items. I am placed in the cabinet—the school. The head-master, whom I flattered very much in the drawing, opens another cabinet and out steps the young student covered with glory and scholastic honours thick upon him! From that moment my school-master spoiled me. I left school and started work. I got a pound for my first drawing. A. M. Sullivan started a paper in Ireland on very similar lines to Punch. There was a wave in Ireland of better class journalism at this time which had never existed before or since. I slipped in. For some years I drew on wood and engraved my own work. I was given to understand that all black and white men engraved their own efforts, so I offered myself as an apprentice to an engraver.
"He said: 'Don't come as an apprentice. If you will undertake to look after my office, I'll teach you the art of engraving.'"
It meant a hard struggle for young Furniss. He was loaded down with clerical work, but in his own little room, when the day's labours were done, he would sit up till two and three in the morning. There was no quenching his earnestness. Work then with him was a real desire. It is so to-day. To rest is obnoxious to him.
He worked away. The feeling in Ireland against Englishmen at that time was very strong. Tom Taylor, then the editor of Punch, saw some of his sketches in Dublin, and advised him to go to the West of Ireland to make studies of character. He was in Galway, and he had persuaded a number of Irishmen who were breaking stones to pause in their work and let him sketch them. They consented. The overseer came up.
"What d'yer mane," he cried, "allowing this hathen Saxon to draw yer?"
"I've never been out of Ireland in my life," said the artist; but the overseer had seized him, and but for the intervention of the men, whom he had paid liberally for the "sitting," he would have thrown him into the river.
Then a great trouble came. His father was stricken with blindness. The young man came to London, and with something more than the proverbial half-crown in his pocket. He was nineteen years of age when he hurried out of Euston Station one morning and stood for a moment thinking—for he did not know a soul in the Metropolis. But he soon found an opportunity.
"My first work was on London Society, for Florence Marryat," he said; "then for the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. The Illustrated London News employed me. I did such things as the Boat Race, Eton and Harrow cricket match, and similar subjects—all from a humorous point of view. I have had as many as three full pages in one number. Then came that terrible distress in the mining districts. I was married that year. I was sent away to "do" the Black Country, and well remember eating the first Christmas dinner of my married life alone in a Sheffield hotel.
"Those sketches were never published. They were too terribly real. The people dying in rooms with scarcely a stick of furniture, the children opening the cupboards and showing them bare, appealed to me, and my pencil refused to depict anything else. It was the same kind of thing that was afterwards made notorious by Sims and Barnard in "How the Poor Live." I came back and was selected to do some electioneering work for the same paper. This necessitated the putting off of a little dinner party to some friends, and I wired one of the invited to that effect. When I was starting, imagine my surprise to meet a Graphic artist on the platform, and to hear that my friend had unwisely given away the contents of my telegram! However, we chummed up. He stayed with friends—I at an hotel. I sat up all that night working after attending the meetings. At four o'clock I heard a knock at the door. A journalist. I was just about to put into my picture the large figures. I made him very much at home, and told him I would give him any information I knew as to the previous night's proceedings if he would act as my model. He did. We worked on till breakfast time, and we sat down together. I sent off my page—it was in a week before the Graphic! It was a good return. I had started on the Tuesday, got home on the Thursday, and never had my boots off the whole time! I'd rather keep my boots on for a week than disappoint an editor."
I asked Mr. Furniss if Tom Taylor helped him to any considerable extent. Oh! dear, no. Tom Taylor wrote a terrible fist, spattered the page all over with ink, and invariably replied on the back of the letter sent him. At least, it was so in Mr. Furniss's case. He would send sketches to Punch; they were acknowledged as "unsuitable." They invariably turned up a week or so later—the idea re-drawn by a member of the staff! He began to despair. But that first cartoon in the schoolboy's periodical was always before him.
"When Mr. Burnand became editor," continued Mr. Furniss, "I was working on the Illustrated London News. He saw one of the sketches and asked me to call—the result was that I have worked for them ever since. I started at very small things; my first was a small drawing of Temple Bar. Then, when Parliament opened, Mr. H. W. Lucy commenced Toby—by-the-bye, Lucy and I both joined the Punch table, the weekly dinner, together—and I worked with him. I have special permission at the House; as a matter of fact, I have the sanction of the Lord Great Chamberlain to sketch anywhere in the precincts of Westminster. My right there is an individual one."
"But supposing, Mr. Furniss," I said, "they put a stop to you and your pencil entering?"
"I'd go into Parliament!" came the ready reply. And, indeed, he has been approached on this subject by constituencies two or three times.
We spoke of some of the eminent statesmen and others Mr. Furniss has caricatured. Mr. John Morley is the most difficult. He is not what an artist would call a black and white man. You must suggest the familiar red tie in your picture and then you have "caught" him.
"I have seen Mr. Morley look a boy, a young man, and an old man—and all in an hour," said Mr. Furniss. "Mr. Asquith is difficult, too. But I don't think I have ever missed him, as there's a Penley look about his face and a decided low comedian's mouth that help you immensely. Sir Richard Temple is the easiest. Many members have some characteristic action which assists you materially. For instance, Mr. Joseph Arch always wipes his hands down his coat before shaking hands with you, whilst Mr. Goschen delights to play with his eye-glass when speaking. Lord Randolph Churchill likes to indulge in a little acrobatic exercise and balance himself on one foot, whilst Mr. Balfour hangs on persistently to the lapel of his coat when talking. All these little things help to 'mark' the man for the caricaturist. I invented Gladstone's collar and made Churchill small. Not because he is small, but because I think it is the caricaturist's art not so much to give an absolutely correct likeness, but rather to convey the character and value of the man through the lines you draw. Gladstone! A wonderful man for the caricaturist, and one of the finest. I have sat and watched the rose in his coat droop and fade, his hair become dishevelled with excitement, and his tie get round to the back of his neck."
"And what do the wives of our estimable M.P.'s think of all this?" I hinted.
"Oh! I get most abusive letters from both sides. Wives of members write and ask me not to caricature their husbands. One lady wrote to me the other day, and said if I would persist in caricaturing her husband, would I put him in a more fashionable coat? Now, this particular member is noted for the old-fashioned cut of the coats he wears. Another asked me to make the sharer of her joys and sorrows better looking; whilst only last week a lady—the wife of a particularly well-known M.P.—addressed a most plaintive letter to me, saying that since some of the younger members of her family had contrived to see my pictures they had become quite rude to their papa!
"Why, members often ask me to caricature them. One member was very kindly disposed to me, and suggested that I should keep my eye on him. I did. Yet he cut me dead when he saw his picture! It's so discouraging, don't you know, when you are so anxious to oblige."
I asked Mr. Furniss if he thought there was anything suggestive of cruelty in caricature.
"Not in this country," he replied; "in Spain, Italy, and France—yes. Caricaturists there score off their cruelty. Listen to this. One night I was in the House. Mr. Gladstone rose to speak. He held his left hand up and referred to it as 'This old Parliamentary hand.' I noticed a fact—which men who had sat in that House for years had never seen. On that left hand Mr. Gladstone has only three fingers! Think of it—think of what your caricaturist with an inclination towards cruelty might have made of that fact, coupled with those significant words! I ask you again—think of it!"
He spoke in thorough earnestness. He told me that he looked forward to the time when he should consign to the rag-basket the famous Gladstone collar and cease to play with Goschen's eye-glass. He is striving to accomplish something more—he would do it now, but it isn't marketable. Mr. Furniss is a sensible man. He caricatures to live; and, if the laughs follow, well, so much the better.
The afternoon passed rapidly, and the studio became darker and darker. Venus on the coal-box looked quite ghostly, and a lay figure in the far corner was not calculated to comfort the nervously-inclined when amongst the "props" of an artist's studio. "Buzzy" merrily rushed in and announced dinner, and "Bogie" jumped up and barked his raptures at the word. "Bogie" knew it meant scraps. Mrs. Furniss and the children met us at the dining-room door. The youngsters' faces were as solemn as the Court of Queen's Bench. Little Lawrence looked up at me very demurely, the others waiting anxiously.
"Please could you tell us what a spiral staircase is?" he asked.
A dead silence.
"Oh!" I answered, anxious to show a superior knowledge of these peculiarly constructed "ups and downs," "It's—it's—it's one of those twirley-whirley"—here I illustrated my meaning by twirling my finger round and round.
A shout of laughter went up.
If the reader will try this little joke on a score of people, by the time the twentieth is arrived at he will then discover why the happiest quartette of youngsters in the immediate vicinity of Primrose Hill laughed so gaily.
Then we all went in to dinner. How well the shirt-cuff story went down with the soup.
"Pellegrini," said the artist, "used to remark somewhat sarcastically to his brother artists: 'Ah, you fellows are always making sketches. I carry all mine here—here in my brain!' Pellegrini wore very big cuffs. He made his sketches on them. Until this came out we thought his linen always dirty!"
Then Burnand came on with the beef. The two fellow-workers on Punch—Mr. Burnand and Mr. Furniss—run pretty level in their ideas. A happy thought is often suggested to both of them through reading the same paragraph in a newspaper, and they cross in the post. We spoke of Punch's Grand Old Man—John Tenniel—of clever E. J. Milliken, whose really wonderful work is yet but little known. Mr. Milliken wrote "Childe Chappie"—and is "'Arry." Of Linley Sambourne, whom Mr. Furniss once saw walking down Bond Street, and had the strange intuition that he was the artist, connecting his work, and walk, and bearing together. He had never seen or spoken to him before. Charles Keene's name was mentioned. It was always the hardest matter to get Keene to make a speech. He far preferred the famous stump of a pipe to spouting. Mr. Furniss hurt Keene's feelings once with the happiest and kindest of compliments. It was at a little dinner party, and Mr. Furniss linked Keene's name with that of Robert Hunter—who did so much to provide open spaces for the people. He referred to Keene as "the greatest provider of open spaces!" Keene said he was never so grossly insulted—he never forgave Mr. Furniss. He failed to see the truly charming inference to be drawn from this remark.
We went into the drawing-room, and together ran through the pages of a huge volume. It contained the facsimiles of the pictures which comprised one of Mr. Furniss's biggest hits—what was in reality an attack on the Royal Academy. His "Artistic Joke"—a sub-title given to this exhibition by the Times in a long preliminary notice—created a sensation six years ago. He attacked the Royal Academy in a good-natured way, because he was not himself a member of that influential body. But there was a more solid and serious reason. "I saw how cruel they were to younger men," he said; "the long odds against a painter getting his work exhibited, the indiscriminate selection of canvases."
This really great effort on the part of Mr. Furniss—this idea to caricature the style of the eminent artists of the day—kept him at work for more than two years. There were eighty-seven canvases in all. His friends came and went, but they saw nothing of the huge canvases hidden away in his studio. He worked at such a rate that he became nervous of himself. He would go to bed at night. He would wake to find himself cutting the style of an R.A. to pieces in his studio at early morn—in a state of semi-somnambulism. He fired his "Artistic Joke" off, the shot went home, and the effect was a startler for many people and in many places. It advanced Mr. Furniss in the world of art in a way he never expected, and did not a little for those he sought to benefit. One of these "jokes"—and a very dramatic one—is reproduced in these pages.
The hour or two passed in the little drawing-room after dinner was delightful. We had his unique platform entertainment. Mr. Furniss was induced by the Birmingham and Midland Institute to appear on the platform as a lecturer. This was followed by his lecturing for two seasons all over the country, but finding that the Institutes made huge profits out of his efforts, and that his anecdotes and mimicry were the parts most relished, he abandoned the role of lecturer for that of entertainer with "The Humours of Parliament." As soon as he had crushed the idea that it was a lecture, people flocked to hear his anecdotes and to watch his acting, the result of his first short tour resulting in a clear profit of over L2,000.