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Title: London in the Sixties - with a few digressions
Author: Brigade, One of the Old
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                                          [Picture: Logo of Everett & Co.]

First Edition,     June, 1908.
Second ,,          September, 1908.
Third ,,           March, 1909.
Cheap ,,           March, 1914.

                                London in
                               The Sixties


                                                  (WITH A FEW DIGRESSIONS)

                                * * * * *

  By
  ONE OF THE OLD BRIGADE

London:
EVERETT & CO. LTD.
42 ESSEX STREET,
STRAND, W.C.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                               PAGE
        I.  1860                                         1
       II.  THE TOWER                                   13
      III.  MOTT’S AND CREMORNE                         25
       IV.  KATE HAMILTON’S AND LEICESTER SQUARE        37
        V.  THE NIGHT HOUSES OF THE HAYMARKET           48
       VI.  EVANS’S AND THE DIALS                       61
      VII.  THE RATCLIFF HIGHWAY                        73
     VIII.  THE BOOTHS ON EPSOM DOWNS                   83
       IX.  RACING _par Excellence_                     94
        X.  THE EPIDEMIC OF CARDS                      111
       XI.  THE COUP DE JARNAC                         127
      XII.  THE PUBLIC HANGING OF THE PIRATES          130
     XIII.  THE HOSTELRIES OF THE SIXTIES              140
      XIV.  THE DRAMA (LEGITIMATE AND OTHERWISE)       151
       XV.  MOSTLY “OTHERWISE” (CONTINUED)             163
      XVI.  USURERS AND MILLIONAIRES                   175
     XVII.  SOME CURIOUS FISH OF THE SIXTIES           182
    XVIII.  SPIRITUALISM AND REALISM                   192
      XIX.  THE ROCK AND THE CAPE                      205
       XX.  EASTWARD-HO!                               222
      XXI.  THE GUILLOTINE AND MADAME RACHEL           232
     XXII.  REMINISCENCES OF THE PURPLE                243
    XXIII.  DHULEEP SINGH AND FIFTY YEARS AFTER        257
     XXIV.  THE LAST OF THE OLD BRIGADE                264



CHAPTER I.
1860.


LONDON in the sixties was so different from the London of to-day that,
looking back through the long vista of years, one is astonished at the
gradual changes—unnoticed as they proceed.  Streets have been annihilated
and transformed into boulevards; churches have been removed and flats
substituted; night houses and comfortable taverns demolished and
transformed into plate-glass abominations run by foreigners and Jews,
whilst hulking louts in uniform, electro-plate and the shabby-genteel
masher have taken the place of solid silver spoons and a higher type of
humanity.  So extensive indeed has been the transformation, that, if any
night-bird of those naughty days were suddenly exhumed, and let loose in
Soho, he would assuredly wander into a church in his search of a popular
resort, and having come to scoff, might remain to pray, and so
unwittingly fall into the goody-goody ways that make up our present
monotonous existence.

The highest in the land in those benighted days turned up their coat
collars and rubbed shoulders after dusk with others of their species in
recreations which, if indulged in now, would be tantamount to social
ostracism, or imperilling the “succession.”

It was, in short, the tail end of the days of the Regency, changed,
virtuous reader, for better or worse.  It was, nevertheless, distinctly
enjoyable and straightforward, for it showed its worst, and blinked
nothing in hypocrisy.

The only recommendation for this appearance is its authenticity; every
incident passed within (or very near) my ken, for I was a veritable
“front-rank man” in that long-ago disbanded army—a veteran left behind
when better men have passed away—one of the few who could attend a muster
parade of that vast battalion of roysterers, and who, by sheer physical
strength, has survived what weaker constitutions have succumbed to—a
living contradiction of the theory of the “survival of the fittest.”

It was one morning early in 1860 that I proudly saw my name in the
_Gazette_—as a full-blown ensign.  I had scanned every paper for weeks,
although aware that our late gracious Sovereign (or her deputy) could
hardly have had time to decide the momentous question as to whether I was
to be a fusilier, a rifleman, or a Highlander, so short was the period
between passing my examination and the announcement I so fervently
awaited.  But I had great Army interest, and so it came to pass that,
within six weeks of leaving Chelsea Hospital (where the examinations took
place), I held a commission in a distinguished regiment.

To give the number of the dear old corps would at best be misleading, for
numerals and the prestige that attached to them were wiped out long ago
by one scratch of the pen of that great civilian who remodelled our Army
from what it was when it suppressed the Mutiny to what it became before
the Boer War.

England at this period bristled with soldiers—bronzed old warriors with
beards down to their waists, who had not seen their native shores for
twelve or fifteen or twenty years; who, till they were scraped (in
conformity with St. James’s campaigning ideas), looked fit to do
anything, or go anywhere—men who had survived the trenches and the twenty
degrees of frost in the Crimea, and sweltered twelve months later at
Gwalior, Jhansi, Lucknow, and Delhi, and had at last found their reward,
amidst cocked hats, red tape, recruits’ drill, and discharge, in that
haven of rest, “merrie England.”

My future regiment, then on its way home, was no exception to the rule,
and I remember, as but yesterday, the comparisons I drew a few weeks
later on the Barrack Square of the (then) new barracks at Gosport,
between the pasty-faced “strong-detachment” from the depôt and the grand
old veterans that towered over them.

And every man-jack of them was possessed of valuable jewels.  Where the
worthy rogues had captured the loot needs not to inquire, suffice to say
that oriental stones worth hundreds were retailed for a few shillings,
and found their way to the coffers, and tended to build up the fortune,
of an astute Hebrew who, by “the encouragement of British industries,”
eventually became a knight, and died not long ago in the odour of
sanctity, rich and respected—as all rich men do.

It was amid these surroundings that I began my military career, despite
the fact that every rascal with anything to sell had radiated towards
Gosport from every point of the compass.

Gosport and Portsmouth were in those days the first stepping stones in
the filtration towards Aldershot, after which, and only after a drill
season, the grandest soldiers England ever possessed, were considered as
presentable troops.

The barrack squares in those happy days, after a regiment had landed,
resembled oriental bazaars rather than the starchy, adamant quadrangles
familiar to the present generation.  Every forenoon officers and men were
surrounded by hucksterers of every care and creed, and one’s very
quarters were invaded by Jews and Gentiles anxious to sell or buy
something.

“This is the most arakristic trap in the west of England, so ’elp me
Gawd; isn’t it, Cyril?” one Hebrew would inquire of another, as the
points of an ancient buggy and a quadruped standing in the square were
extolled to ambitious youngsters; and “Yes it is, so ’elp me Gawd,” often
succeeded in selling a rattle-trap that had done duty in every regiment
stationed at Gosport from time immemorial.  Old clothes-dealers, too,
abounded by the score, ready to buy anything for next to nothing.  But
some of us youngsters were not to be caught like the veterans who were
unfamiliar with depôt ways, and the judicious deposit of a farthing in a
pocket now and again resulted in phenomenal prices for cast-off garments
till the hucksterers “tumbled,” and the harvests ended; and so, between
the goose step and a thousand other delights, the happiest days many of
us ever enjoyed (though unaware of it at the time) passed slowly on.

At this period the Volunteers had just come into existence, and, not
having developed the splendid qualities they proved themselves possessed
of during the Boer War, naturally came in for considerable chaff and
ridicule.

As a specimen of the senseless jokes that abounded at the time, I may
quote what was generally mooted in military messes, that at a recent
levée the volunteers who had attended had shown so much _esprit de corps_
that Her Majesty had ordered the windows to be opened; and it is, I
believe, an absolute fact that on one occasion an inspecting officer
nearly had a fit when the major of a gallant corps appeared with the
medal his prize sow had won pinned upon his breast.

It was the Volunteer review in Hyde Park in 1860 that was responsible for
my first appearance in uniform.  Determined that the review should lack
nothing of military recognition, stands had been erected, for which
officers in uniform were entitled to tickets for themselves and their
relations.  In an unlucky moment the announcement had caught the eye of a
sister, with the result that, terribly nervous, nay almost defiant, I was
marched boldly down to Bond Street on the day of the review, and, _nolens
volens_, dressed at Ridpath and Manning’s in my brand new cast-iron
uniform.

Conceive, kind reader, a wretched youth—dressed inch by inch by a
ruthless tailor in broad daylight on a sunny afternoon, incapable of
deceiving the most inexperienced by his amateur attempts of appearing at
home—huddled into the clothes, and then hustled into the street by a
proud sister and father, and some idea of my abject misery will be
apparent to you.

It was at the moment, whilst waiting on the pavement to enter our
carriage, that a huge Guardsman passed and thought fit to “salute.”  My
first instinct was to wring him by the hand and present him with a
sovereign; then all became indistinct, and I tumbled into the carriage.

The excitement was too much for me—I almost fainted.

A splendid specimen of the Hibernian type in my regiment was a man called
Madden (and by his familiars “Payther”), who, as a character, deserves
special mention.  This giant had not long previously been “claimed” by an
elder brother whilst serving in a Highland Regiment, and it was reported
that on one occasion, when on sentry at Lucknow, the general officer
impressed by his six feet three in full Highland costume, having pulled
up and addressed him with, “What part of the Highlands do you come from,
my man?” was considerably nonplussed by being informed, “Oi come from
Clonakilty, yer honour, in the County Cork.”  Our colonel, too, was an
undoubted Irishman by birth; but had succeeded, after forty years’
service, in being capable of assuming the Scotch, Irish, or English
dialect as circumstances seemed to require.  In addition, moreover, to an
excessive amount of _esprit de corps_, he had the reputation of being the
greatest liar in the Army; not a liar be it understood in the offensive
application of the term, but incapable of accuracy or divesting his
statements of exaggeration when notoriety or circumstances gave him an
opening.  This failing of “Bill Sykes,” as he was called, was so
universally known throughout the Army, that one evening a trap was laid
for him by some jovial spirits in the smoking-room of a famous Army club.

“Here comes old Bill,” was remarked by Cootie, of the Bays, as the
Colonel sauntered in with a toothpick in his mouth.  “I’ll bet a fiver
I’ll start a yarn he’ll never be able to cap.”

“Done!” cried Kirby, “and if he doesn’t keep up his reputation I’ll pay
you on the nail, and send in my papers in the morning.”

“Good evening, Colonel,” began Cootie.  “I was just relating a most
extraordinary coincidence that was lately told me by a man whose veracity
I can vouch for—Shute of ours.”

“Indeed,” replied the Colonel, filling a pipe—Bill invariably smoked a
dudeen at the head of the regiment.  “By all means let me hear it.”

“It is simply this.  Coming home on sick leave in a P. and O. not long
ago, the look-out man descried half a mile out at sea what appeared to be
a huge box; a long boat was immediately lowered, and when the derelict
was brought on deck, conceive the astonishment of everybody in
discovering that it was a hencoop, and a live man inside.  It was a case
of shipwreck it appears, and the man saved was the only survivor of some
180 souls.  Rum thing, wasn’t it? but some people have infernal luck.”

“Yes,” replied the Colonel.  “I believe I was horn under a lucky star;
perhaps you will be surprised to hear that _I_ was the man.”

A roar of astonishment greeted this admission, whilst Cootie, hastily
thrusting a fiver into Kirby’s hand, whispered, “I presume you won’t send
in your papers to-morrow?”

But, despite his peculiarity, old Bill was universally popular.  A
splendid billiard player, he had in India created such excitement in a
match for £500, that even Lord Faulkland, the Governor of Bombay, who
never parted with a sixpence without looking at it twice, was said to
have put a gold mohur on it, and in later times I can remember the Club
House at Aldershot being crammed to suffocation when the same redoubtable
warrior licked Curry the Brigade Major, who till our arrival had no
compeer.

One curious experience he had had which he never tired of narrating: “I
was once waiting for the d— packet at Dover to take me over to Calais,
and at the hostelry I met a d— Frenchman, who asked me if I could ‘parley
vous,’ and I said ‘no,’ but offered to play him a game of billiards.  We
had a fiver on it, but I soon discovered that no matter where I left the
balls the d— fellow made a cannon.  I was only about three ahead of him,
so when next I played I knocked a ball off the table.  The first time the
d— fellow sympathised with me, and picked up the ball; after two or three
repetitions the coincidence appeared to puzzle him.  ‘I can’t play if
Mooser does this,’ he said angrily.  ‘I can’t help that,’ I replied, and
ran out with a break.  He declined to go double or quits, so I pocketed
the fiver, and often found myself laughing over it in the d— boat, where
I was d— ill.”

This persistent swearing may sound curious to the student of to-day, but
in those halcyon days everybody swore.  The Iron Duke, it is well known,
never opened his mouth without a superfluous adjective, and General
Pennefather, who commanded at Aldershot in my time, literally “swore
himself” into office.  On one occasion, when the Queen was on the ground,
he wished every regiment so vehemently to the “bottom of the bottomless
pit” that it frightened the gracious lady, who sent an equerry to remind
him of her presence.  The monition had the desired effect for ten
minutes, when the bombardment commenced afresh, and brought the field-day
to an abrupt termination.  The Queen had bolted in sheer trepidation of
an earthquake.

Military examinations for direct commissions in those long-ago days were
held at Chelsea Hospital, and extended over a week.  On the occasion of
my public appearance an extraordinary incident occurred.  Every
precaution, it was stated, had been taken against the papers getting into
unauthorised hands, but hardly had the first day passed when every
candidate was aware that the tout of a sporting tailor was prepared to
sell the paper of the day correctly answered at £2 a head.  The
conspirators met at the “Hans Hotel,” and donkeys incapable of spelling,
and with no knowledge of any language but their own, passed examinations
worthy of a senior wrangler.

The miscreant who thus tampered with Her Majesty’s stationery was one
Pugh, and his employer (if I remember rightly) was one Cutler; but the
golden shower came to an abrupt ending, as on one fateful morning (the
last day) General Rumley ascended the gallery, and amid the silence of
the Catacombs briefly announced:

“The late examination is cancelled; candidates will attend again next
Monday.”

The consternation that ensued is beyond description.  Jolliffe, who, I
believe, had been measured for his uniform, did not join for at least a
year after, and poor old Plummy Ruthven, who couldn’t spell six words
correctly, abandoned all further idea of the Army.  He was sitting next
me on the first day, and I remember as if it were yesterday his whispered
inquiry as to the correct reply to a mathematical question: “At what hour
between two and three are the hands of a clock opposite one another?”
The reply, it is needless to add, had to be “worked out” by figures, but
thinking in the excitement he was asking the time I hurriedly whispered,
“Twenty minutes to one,” and down it went on poor old Plummy’s paper.
During the subsequent days his papers, I fancy, were vastly improved, as
he was a constant visitor at the “Hans Hotel.”

The Aldershot of the sixties was a very different place to what it is
to-day.  Three rows of huts—as the lines of three regiments—constituted
the North Camp, and about an equal number and two blocks of permanent
barracks represented the South Camp.  During the drill season everything
else was under canvas, and heaven help those who ever experienced the
watertight capacity of the regulation bell tent.  I can well remember one
night, when the windows of heaven had been open for days, a dripping
figure in regimental great-coat and billycock hat appearing in the mess
tent with, “The horse is disthroyed, and I don’t know what the Jasus to
do,” and as he dripped at “attention” we realised it was only the
adjutant’s Irish groom that had been washed out of the temporary stable.

These wooden huts were peculiarly adapted for practical joking.  Within a
week of my joining whilst contemplating with admiration, previous to
turning in, my brand new possessions of portable furniture, I was
astonished by a brick rattling down the chimney.  Barely had I dodged it
when bang came another, whilst not a sound disturbed the peaceful repose
of the camp.  “Great heavens,” I thought, “there must be an earthquake,”
and rushing out frantically to give the alarm, I paused, and on second
thoughts returned.  But in the few seconds that had elapsed there must
have been another violent shock, for everything in my room was upside
down—the bedding was capsized, my boots were swimming in the tub,
table-cloths, carpet, everything one huge mass.  It was then that it
dawned upon me, “this is the finger of man,” and I proceeded to adjust my
belongings.  “Anything up?” now sounded through the window, and the
appearance of two brother ensigns explained the rest.  I was never
molested afterwards.

Practical joking, however, occasionally assumed serious proportions, and
ended in courts-martial, as did the Crawley case.  It was on this
occasion that Sir William Harcourt first came prominently to notice by
the brilliant oration he put into his client’s mouth: “Give me back my
sword,” was the dramatic phrase with which the old bully ended his
address.  As if Crawley cared one rap what became of his sword so long as
the £10,000 attached to his commission as colonel of the Inniskillings
was safe.

The Robertson court-martial, of which I was an eyewitness, also created a
stir in the long-ago sixties.  The colonel of the 4th Dragoon Guards was
at the time one Bentinck, who, despite his heirship to the Dukedom of
Portland, was about as uncouth a being as can well be conceived.  As
field officer of the day, no matter how late, he never missed dismounting
and walking through the officers’ guard room without a word, as if he
were inspecting the married quarters, and it was this amiable creature
who eventually prosecuted, in conjunction with Adjutant Harran, as
harmless an individual as ever posed as a sabreur.  Captain Robertson was
the son of a Highland laird, and, if I remember rightly, had a very
handsome wife.  What it was all about I have long since forgotten, though
the cloud of witnesses that radiated towards the Royal barracks is in
many ways impressed on my memory.  Captain Owen—an important witness as
he described himself—was an officer of militia, and, more military than
the military, he revelled in things military.  His staple conversation
was military; a sort of peakless cap his everyday head-dress; his very
dressing-gown was frogged like a light dragoon’s frock coat; for gloves
he affected the buckskin class, and carried glove-trees and pipeclay, at
least whilst in Dublin.  These peculiarities were grafted on my memory by
his having doubled up for six weeks in my solitary room in Dublin.  I had
spoken to him on one occasion, and in a weak moment invited him to mess.
How it all came about I have no recollection beyond finding him located
on me; having every meal at my expense, and incurring a mess bill of over
£8, which I eventually had to pay.  “D— it, old man,” he often said,
“this is like old times” (when the annual training was on, presumably);
“I can’t tear myself away from the bugles.”  And he didn’t, till
peremptorily requested to go.

Other witnesses of a more desirable type also swarmed for weeks at our
mess.  Ginger Durant, who had never been out of London since he left the
12th Lancers, was daily to be heard bellowing “To the rag, to the rag” to
the tune of “Dixey’s Land,” and General Dickson, a grand old warrior
(happily still as fresh as paint) who commanded the Turkish contingent in
the Crimea, champed his bit and cursed the necessity that detained him in
Dublin.

At Aldershot was a regiment that was supposed to have stormed some place
with ours a hundred years before, and in those days of “Regent’s
allowances” and tolerably hard drinking the occasion of again meeting in
camp could not be allowed to pass without various reciprocal
hospitalities.  Their colonel was an old toper who never consumed less
than fifteen brandies-and-sodas after dinner, and well I recollect
hearing a mess waiter, as he helped him on with his coat, expressing the
hope, in a whisper, that if a man came before him in the morning for
being drunk, he would not think it necessary to give him forty-eight
hours cells.  But the interchange of civilities was by no means over with
the dinner, and a dozen of our heroes insisting on seeing their guests
home, deliberately swam the Canal, and their comrades not to be outdone,
insisted on seeing our contingent back, till the innumerable duckings
restored sobriety and every one retired to his respective hut.

Not having been at the storming in the Peninsula, I had retired to bed
early.

The purchase system, however personally delightful, was undoubtedly a
very cruel regulation.  I myself within seven years passed over five men
who had joined when I was two years old; but the injustice of it never
struck me till on one occasion the junior major of a regiment in the same
brigade, who had got his commission on the same day as I had, turned me
out as subaltern of a guard.  But he had not obtained this luck without
risking “Yellow Jack,” for exchanging to a West India regiment and
jumping from bottom to top in every grade by bribing the entire regiment
was a thoroughly recognised arrangement by our amiable authorities.
D’Arcy Godolphin Osborne was an exponent of this brilliant bare-backed
(or bare-faced) vaulting, and despite being the brother of the Duke of
Leeds was not an ideal field officer.

“Purchase” literally killed poor ’Gus Anson, brother of the Earl of
Lichfield.  With a constitution shattered since Lucknow, where he won the
V.C., night after night found him arguing against its abolition in the
House of Commons; and the almost nightly intimations I sent him, at his
request, “that we had enough for Baccarat” did the rest, and I eventually
saw the best and bravest of men on his death-bed at Dudley House.



CHAPTER II.
THE TOWER.


ABOUT this time all England was ringing with what was known as the “Trent
affair”; 10,000 troops had been ordered to Montreal, of which a
considerable portion were Guards, and so it devolved on certain line
battalions to garrison London, and we were ordered to the Tower.

It was the regimental guest-night, and all the plate of which the
regiment was so proud decked the table in the dark wainscoted room of the
Mess House.  In the middle of the table stood a centre-piece displaying
the soldiers in the uniforms of the days of Marlborough, the Peninsular,
and later on, when the hateful Albert Shako did duty as the headgear of
British infantry; extending down each side were scrolls containing the
names of brave men who had fallen with their faces to the enemy at
Quebec, Quatre Bras, and the Redan, whilst flanking the massive trophy
were silver goblets varying in size—from those that held a quart down to
others of more modern dimensions, indicative of presentations on
promotion, marriage, or “selling out.”  It had, indeed, once been a
custom for the last joined ensign to drain the largest tankard on his
first appearance at mess; but that was in the days when four bottles
under a man’s belt was deemed a reasonable amount, and before the
Regent’s allowance enabled every one to consume nightly a half-glass of
port or sherry free of expense.

The Colonel, as may be supposed, was in great form, each of his yarns
exceeding in improbability the one preceding it.  “Yes, gentlemen,” he
was saying, “I remember my father saying how at Quatre Bras the regiment
found itself confronted by the 88th French Infantry Corps, and he
overheard the right-hand man of his company saying, as he bit off the end
of his cartridge, ‘Jasus, boys, here’s a case—here we are opposite the
French Connaught Rangers!’”

“I was saying, gentlemen,” the Colonel’s voice was here heard declaring,
“that I shall never forget”—and then followed a tissue of fabrications
every one had frequently heard before, but which nobody but the worthy
old warrior for one moment believed.

Coffee and cigars had meanwhile made their welcome appearance, and as
guests began to think of home, and others settled down to muff whist, the
ante-room resumed the humdrum appearance so familiar to every one who can
speak from experience.

By the irony of fate, also, the regiment was furnishing the guards on
this special guest-night, a circumstance that claimed more than one
punter; not satisfied with which, the field officer’s “roster” had
apparently joined issue and requisitioned the old Major who, on these
festive occasions was always a sure hand at loo, and who at the identical
moment when he should have been “taking the miss,” was probably bellowing
out “Grand Rounds,” to some distant guard in tones that belied his
amiable genial disposition.

George, on these occasions, was the recognised organiser, and by
herculean efforts had secured some half-dozen recruits to commence loo as
soon as old Hanmer returned.

Games of chance—even in the long-ago sixties—were rarely indulged in in
the ante-room, which was reserved exclusively for solemn whist for
nominal stakes, where the players bottled up trumps, misdealt, and
revoked, regardless of all the canons of the game.

“Damn it, sir!” once exclaimed an irate General at an inspection dinner
to his trembling partner—the assistant surgeon—“Are you aware that 3,000
shoeless men are tramping the streets of the Continent for not leading
trumps?” to which the medico—who was a Kerry man—replied respectfully:

“Oi apalagoise, surr, most humbly; but oi disremembered me abligation.”

“Obligation be d—, sir!” replied the genial old warrior as he lighted a
fresh cheroot.

“The Major’s late,” remarked George to a confirmed loo player; “let us go
up to my room and get the table ready.  Come on,” he continued to four or
five others, “we’ll make a start anyhow; he can’t be long.”

The officers’ quarters in the Tower can hardly be described as spacious,
and so by the addition of chairs from other rooms; with the table lugged
into the centre, and brandy and sodas piled on the bed it was not long
before some half-dozen punters were securely wedged together and
indulging in unlimited loo for stakes that were not always nominal.

The Major, meanwhile, had joined the party and without divesting himself
of either cloak, shako, or sword, dashed into the fray with considerably
greater zeal than he had displayed when going the rounds.  Not that he
was any feather-bed soldier; on the contrary, he had borne his full share
of the trenches, and then often found himself told off to march to
Balaclava with a fatigue party, and eventually to enjoy a few hours’
sleep in wet clothes on wet ground, whilst blankets and boots were
rotting within six miles, and all because brave men were at the front,
and old women were at the back of that rickety machine called the War
Office.

Billy Hanmer, amid the ordinary walks of life, was of a chilly
temperament; the thermometer in his quarters was never permitted to
register less than 65 degrees; he wore flannels all the year round, which
in winter were duplicated, even to his socks; when he became
excited—which never occurred except at loo, or when suddenly called upon
to drill the battalion—the three hairs that were usually pasted across
his martial skull rose like the crest of a cockatoo, and he was apt to
give vent to expressions seldom or never heard at a bishop’s.  Swearing
in those long-ago days was considered a necessary adjunct to military
efficiency, as any one who was under Pennefather when he commanded at
Aldershot can testify, and so it was that the Major was now swearing like
a trooper.  As a fact, he had just been “loo-ed,” and was counting some
forty sovereigns into the pool, and every sovereign was accompanied by an
oath as unique as it was unavailing.

George Hay, sportsman though he was, was also a bad loser, but this
evening, in his capacity as host the Fates had happily protected him.
The grilled bones that appeared at 2 a.m., and the inordinate amount of
brandy and soda that had been consumed, were all put down to him; but the
hundred he had won left ample margin for the hospitality, and towards
five our hero fell into a profound and refreshing sleep, periodically
enlivened by sweet visions of huge pools that he persistently raked in,
whilst Billy Hanmer, divested of cloak, sword, and shako, was swearing
till the old rafters rattled.

In those days the club most affected by subalterns was the “Raleigh,” a
charming night-house, approached by a tunnel, whose portals opened at
dusk and closed reputedly at four a.m., or whenever its members vacated
it.  And the comfort of that long, delightful single room!  Ranged round
its entirety were fauteuils, suitable alike for forty winks, or brandy
and soda, or the only eatables procurable—bacon on toast sandwiches with
a dash of biting sauce.  Here might be seen the best men in London
percolating through at every moment, and exchanging badinage as brilliant
as probably it was naughty—poor old George Lawrence of “Sword and Gown”
fame, and Piggy Lawrence, killed not long after in a regimental
steeplechase; Fred Granville, who assisted at a once celebrated elopement
by waiting at one door of an Oxford Street shop for the beautiful
_fiancée_ of a wealthy landowner whose brougham had deposited her at
another; Freddy Cooper, the best four-in-hand whip of the day; the wicked
Marquis who ran through a fortune almost before he was of age; and young
Wyndham, another Croesus of the duck-and-drake type; Sir Henry de Hoghton
of the red tie and velvet suit who thought he could play ecarté; and
King-Harman, then a sinner, but eventually a saint, who died in the
sanctity of respectability.  These, and a hundred others, all, alas gone
to the inevitable dustbin, and yet the old building exists, _externally_
apparently the same—the haunt of aspiring youths seeking a club with a
past, respectable and cautious to the highest degree, where cheques are
not cashed over £5, and the doors close at one a.m. to the tick.

But even in these long-ago days, the membership increased to such an
extent that elbow-room had to be sought, and so Sally Sutherland’s, a
high-class night-house that abutted on the premises, was eventually taken
in, and became the card room of the old Raleigh.  To see this room in its
glory it was necessary to enter it during the Derby week, where, as far
as the eye could reach (and farther), one dense mass of human faces
watched the proceedings at the card table, and fought and hustled to pass
fivers and tenners and fifties towards building up the mountain of bank
notes that flanked either side of the table.

Seated composedly were the two champions with their bankers alongside
them, then a fringe ten deep of pasty-faced cornets and rubicund old
sinners with sheaves of bank notes in their hands, while beyond were the
“fielders”—landsharks who never played—eagerly watching every turn of the
cards to take advantage of any bet that appeared slightly in their
favour.  “Chalky” White—the master of the Essex as he was ironically
called—because he affected horsy overalls, and was once seen on a screw
at the Boat Race; Captain Mulroony, an Irish buckeen who joined the
“North Corks” to be eligible for “the cloob”; “the Rapparee,” another
warrior with a brogue of a pronounced order, all ready to plunge on a
reasonable certainty and retail their experiences later on, on their
return to Dublin.  Needless to add, we youngsters had put down our names
_en bloc_ for membership as soon as we had settled down at the Tower, and
on the memorable night to which we refer were in great force in the long
room.  George Hay, one of our lieutenants who was being entertained by a
venerable member, was wrapped in contemplation as he watched a decrepit
old gentleman sipping a gin sling.  “That man”—his cicerone was telling
him—“fought the last duel in England; look at him now, about eighty if
he’s a day, and barely able to crawl down here, and yet fifty years ago
he had a drunken brawl with his best friend at Crockford’s, and shot him
dead before breakfast at the back of Ham House.  Wait till the play
begins and you’ll see him ‘fielding’; he never plays, but if he sees a
chance, no matter how slightly in his favour, he still pulls out a
crumpled fiver and invites you to cover it.  He only bets ‘ready,’ and
would probably ‘call you out’ if you suggested ‘booking’ it.  That man in
the blue shirt is the Duke of Hamilton; he only turns up in the Derby
week, and has probably just arrived by special train.  We call him ‘the
butcher,’ because of his shirt and his punching proclivities.  He
plunges, too; wait a bit till the Leviathans turn up.  You’ll see some
sport yet.”

“What are you going to do, George?” inquired a youngster; “why not have a
look in at Kate Hamilton’s?  This is all d— rot, and I’ve put my name
down for 2 a.m.”

Putting one’s name down, it may be explained, was a necessary formality
indicating at what hour an officer intended to return when the wicket at
the Tower was opened and closed, and punctuality was a necessity of the
greatest moment.

On one occasion, indeed when “Payther” Madden was on sentry, the wife of
an officer who gave herself considerable airs having arrived five minutes
late was challenged from inside by “Who goes there?”  “I’m the Major’s
lady,” was the haughty response.  “Divil a bit do I care if ye were the
Major’s wife!” yelled Payther from inside; “you’ll not get in till the
wicket is opened agin.”

And the approaches to the Tower in those days were not the broad and
well-lighted avenues such as the Eastcheap of to-day; tortuous alleys and
dingy, narrow streets had to be traversed, and the garrotter was very
much in evidence.  Officers returning late carried knuckle-dusters and
short blades in their right-hand overcoat pockets, ready to job any
footpad who attempted to seize them from behind.  Men seldom returned but
in parties of twos or threes, and so it was that the Major’s “lady” found
herself constrained to hug the walls of the grim old fortress during the
early hours of that memorable night in the long-ago sixties.

It was the night after the big race, when Caractacus was responsible for
much that followed, that the crowd at the Raleigh was phenomenal, and
champagne was being consumed in tumblers from the entrance hall to the
card room.  Thousands had changed hands within the past dozen hours, and
old Jimmy Jopp with his chocolate wig over his left eye was scrambling
sovereigns from the doorstep amongst the fair guests of our country who
thronged the boulevard.  The card room had not as yet entered on its
usual function, the window was indeed open in an endeavour to dilute the
stifling atmosphere, and a corpulent old lady with a Flemish accent was
half-way in the sacred precincts through the combined efforts of a bevy
of fair compatriots on the pavement.

“Curse these races,” ejaculated Biscoe, “where have the plungers got to?
Nearly one o’clock by G—, and a pile to be got home before daylight.”

This Biscoe was not a favourite in the club; of a hectoring disposition
he added to his unpopularity by the pursuit of sharp practices.  If he
won he invariably found an excuse to retire with his gains, and if he
lost he became cantankerous and offensive in his remarks.  Some there
were, indeed, who went so far as hinting that he was not above unfair
dealings.  He was partial to shuffling the cards with their faces towards
him and placing a king at the bottom of the pack.  This he explained was
mere force of habit, and when remonstrated with—as he often had
been—added that he was superstitious and that one of his superstitions
took this form.  No actual act of foul play had ever been brought home to
him; he was nevertheless under suspicion, and being otherwise unpopular,
his eccentricities assumed a graver form when balanced by hostile
critics.

Cheating in those long-ago days was happily a rare occurrence; a man
about town might beggar his parents, or drive his wife into the
workhouse, and still hold up his head as a man of honour if he met his
card debts on the nail; but “sharping” was practically unknown till some
years later, when a scandal that thrilled Europe and involved a deep
erasure in the Army List was enacted at Nice.

The Raleigh, meanwhile, was gradually simmering down; choice spirits had
started for Cremorne or Mott’s; the more soberly amused had wended their
steps towards Evans’s, and the residue might have been classed as either
punters or puntees—if such base coin will bear alloy.

Seated in the card room, Biscoe still smoked in his solitude; before him
was a gilt-bound volume such as betting men affect, and its contemplation
apparently did not afford unalloyed pleasure.  “Egad,” he muttered,
“£4,000, more or less, and not a hundred to meet it with; to-night it’s
neck or nothing, and if nobody bleeds I shall be unable to face the music
on Monday.  Ah, De Hoghton,” he exclaimed, barely looking up as an
apparition in velvet and red tie appeared, “been at Epsom?  No?  Perhaps
you were wise.”

Paddy was too clever to suggest a game, knowing as he did the eccentric
baronet’s peculiarities.  “Never mind,” he continued, “better luck
to-morrow, perhaps.  I’m half asleep.  Good-night,” and he rose as if
about to depart.

“What’s the hurry?” inquired the new arrival.  “If you want to keep awake
I’ll play you half a dozen games of ecarté, but only for small stakes,
mind.”

Want indeed!  It was what Biscoe had wanted for hours, and as to the
stakes, did he not know from delightful experience that if they began at
£5 it would not be long before the game was for hundreds, and that his
adversary’s rent roll might be counted in thousands?

“My dear Sir Henry,” replied Biscoe, “name your own stakes.  No fear of
making them too low.  I feel in bad form to-night, and your science will
be altogether too much for me.”

“Say a pony then,” continued the baronet, and they cut for deal.

Meanwhile the room began gradually to fill, and as the unmistakable
flutter of crisp notes—for which no resemblance has ever been
discovered—made itself heard in the long room, George Hay and a troop of
others sauntered negligently into the room.

“Sit beside me, Colonel,” De Hoghton requested a grizzly, rubicund
warrior, “you’ll be able to advise me when they make a pool.”

“And, Rapparee, I want you,” exclaimed Biscoe.  “We must show these
English boys how we play at Stephen’s Green,” and a fire-eating
pronounced Hibernian took post alongside his compatriot.

For a considerable time the luck appeared to fluctuate, and if hundreds
were passed across the table on one game, they returned more or less
intact at the subsequent encounter.  Play was now in real earnest, and
stakes were hazarded that were simply appalling.  Biscoe, too, appeared
to be in for a run of luck, and the excited whisperings between him and
the Rapparee left little room for doubt that he contemplated a retreat on
the first defeat.

His winnings, indeed, were considerable, and a smile pervaded his
hitherto scowling face as he contemplated the Monday’s settling with
equanimity.  Again the bank was declared, and a pile of notes larger than
any of its predecessors lumbered each side of the table; eyes,
apparently, had no other vocation than to watch their respective
champion’s hands; the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece became a
nuisance, and the grasshopper literally became a burden; the silence of
the Catacombs pervaded the entire assembly, when a voice, shrill and
excited, was heard: “Do that again, Mr. Biscoe, and I’ll expose you.”

It was the Colonel, who leaning across the table bore down Biscoe’s hands
with a strong right arm as he was in the act of shuffling.

“What am I to understand by this?” inquired Biscoe looking towards the
Rapparee.  “If it’s by way of an insult you’ve met the right boy to
resent it.  Hands off, sir!” he shouted, as shaking off the Colonel’s
hand, he hurled the pack of cards in his face.

“Hold, hold, gentlemen, for God’s sake,” implored De Hoghton, as a dozen
men interposed between the belligerents.  “Some explanation is surely
forthcoming that may avoid a scandal.  Colonel, tell those gentlemen what
you saw, and let them decide on the merits before it gets into the
papers.”

“What I saw I am prepared to prove,” replied the Colonel, excitedly; “but
even that sinks into insignificance, as far as I am personally concerned,
in face of the man’s assault.  Meanwhile, pick up these cards, count them
carefully, and if you don’t find five kings in the pack I’ll apologise to
Mr. Biscoe, and take his assault like a coward.”

And then a scramble on the floor began, which was followed by breathless
silence.

“Count them, please,” requested the Colonel, and sure enough 33 was the
result.

“Now turn the faces towards you, sir,” continued the Colonel; “and
extract the kings.”  And lo! before a dumbfounded crowd, two kings of
hearts were displayed.

“This, gentlemen, is my accusation.  I charge Mr. Biscoe with being a
card-sharper and a cheat.  To-morrow I’ll lay my charge before the
Committee; meanwhile, I retire and will ask you, Hay, to act as my
representative.”

The Rapparee meanwhile had been in whispered conversation with his
friend, and on the Colonel’s departure, addressed himself to Hay.

“Oi presume, surr, your principal will meet my man unless he’s a coward,
and we shall be pleased to let him fix his own day, either before or
afther his complaint to the Committee.”

“This is hardly the time, sir, to enter into such arrangements,” replied
Hay, courteously; “but I vouch for Colonel George doing what is right and
honourable.”

But one of the younger members seemed inclined to treat the matter as a
joke, and turning towards the Rapparee, remarked, “But, surely, sir, you
must see that if it’s a duel you are hinting at, it would hardly be fair
considering that Colonel George is considerably stouter than Mr. Biscoe.
May we assume, sir, that you won’t object to a chalk mark down each side
of the Colonel’s waistcoat, and a hit outside not to count?”

“Surr!” scowled the Rapparee.

“Please,” pleaded Hay; “this is not a joking matter, the honour of the
Club and of every member who was present is at stake till the affair is
cleared up.  I appeal to you, gentlemen, one and all, to retire.”

Turning to the Rapparee, and raising his hat, he continued: “My name,
sir, is Lieutenant Hay, and I’m stationed at the Tower.”



CHAPTER III.
MOTT’S AND CREMORNE.


LONDON in the sixties possessed no music-halls as at present except the
London Pavilion and a transpontine establishment unknown to the West End.
This former had not long previously been transformed from a swimming bath
into an undertaker’s shed, which in its turn gave place to the dingy hall
which eventually made the fortune of a waiter from Scott’s.  But such
excitement (!) hardly met the requirements of progressive civilisation,
which found an outlet in the Argyll, Cremorne, the Café Riche, Sally
Sutherland’s, Kate Hamilton’s, Rose Young’s, and Mott’s.  It seems but
yesterday that one was sipping champagne at Boxall’s stall in the Café
Riche (now a flower shop adjoining the Criterion) waiting for young
Broome the pugilist, who was to pilot one in safety to “the big fight
between King and Heenan.”  In those halcyon days cafés remained open all
night, and three a.m. was the hour appointed for our start for London
Bridge.  What splendid aid was then given legitimate sport by the
authorities, as driving through rows of police across London Bridge one
reached the terminus in comfort by simply displaying one’s ticket.  With
a pork pie in one pocket, and a handkerchief in another, one’s peace of
mind was delightful, and hands in every pocket—aye, and knives to cut one
out if necessary—were accepted only as a portion of a novel and
delightful excitement.

Pitching the ring again in one field and being warned off by the Kent
constabulary, how invigorating the tramp through ploughed fields, till
again we found a spot—this time undisturbed—in the muddy plains of
Sussex.  Wisps of straw provided for the more favoured by the attention
of their punching cicerones, the biting of King’s ear to bring him to
“time,” the two giants half blind, swinging their arms mechanically, the
accidental blow that felled the brave Heenan, and the shameful verdict
that denied him the victory ten minutes previously, the return to the
“Bricklayers’ Arms”—how vivid it all seems!  And yet principals, seconds,
lookers-on, where are they?

The Café Riche of the long-ago sixties was perhaps the most successful
and best regulated of the haunts of vanished London.  Slack to an extreme
till about 11 p.m., the huge mass of humanity as it poured out of the
Argyll made straight for it.  As one traversed the almost impassable
Windmill Street along the narrow path kept by a bevy of police, all
thoughts turned towards the Café Riche, where the best of suppers,
oysters, and champagne prepared one for the more arduous exertions of
Cremorne or Mott’s.  Cremorne in those days was a delightful resort, with
an excellent band, and frequented by the most exalted of men and the most
beautiful of women.  Here might be seen nightly during his stay in London
a late ruling monarch (then Crown Prince) whose moustache the ladies
insisted on twisting; here, too, occasionally big rows took place,
affairs that originated in some trifle, such as the irritation of an
excitable blood on seeing a harmless shop-boy dancing in the ring.
King-Harman probably was the principal originator of these encounters.
Naturally of an amiable but plethoric disposition, a sight such as the
above was like a red rag to a bull, and in no time the fight became
universal and furious.  Gas was turned off, the ringleaders bolted,
pursued by police.  A run as far as Chelsea Hospital with a “bobby” in
full cry was by no means an uncommon occurrence.

On the occasions when exalted foreigners like Prince Humbert were going,
the ground in a way had to be salted.  Intimation was privately conveyed
to certain well-known roysterers at Long’s, the Raleigh, and elsewhere,
that an exalted personage asked them to abstain from rows; a puncher and
two or three bloods were told off to accompany, and a special envoy was
instructed to warn Johnny Baum (the lessee) not to be aware of the angel
he was harbouring and to resist the temptation of any gush and “dutiful”
toadyism; and so on the eventful night Humbert lolled unrecognised
through the revelling crowds, whilst ghastly veterans in harlotry twitted
him on his huge moustache and thrust cards into his fist as tokens of
British hospitality.

Mott’s, too, was a unique institution, select it might almost be termed,
considering the precautions that were taken regarding admittance.  Every
man who entered was known by name or sight.  A man of good birth or
position, no matter how great a roué, was admitted as it were by right,
whilst parvenus, however wealthy, were turned empty away.  It was told
indeed that on one occasion, being importuned for admission by a wealthy
hatter, old Freer, having been requested by the indignant shop-boy to
take his card, had replied, “Not necessary, sir.  Not necessary.  I have
your name in my hat.”  And so the line that divided the classes in the
sixties was religiously respected.  In those benighted days tradesmen
sent in their bills apologetically, and if a tailor began to importune, a
fresh order met the case.  Flats were unbuilt, and people did not hear
what was going on all day and all night at their next door neighbour’s;
inferiors said “Sir,” and “Right you are” was a phrase uncoined; if you
dined at Simpson’s or Limmer’s you were served on silver, and no waiter
ventured to ask you who won the 3.45 race; club waiters literally stalked
one as they approached with a dish, and the caravanserais that now
dominate the entire length of Piccadilly had not pulled down club
averages nor reduced the prestige that attached to club membership.  The
great gulf was fixed as immovably as between Dives and Lazarus when
Abraham was the umpire, and things probably found their level as well as
in these advanced days, when money is everything, and £20,000 judiciously
applied will ensure a baronetcy.

The ladies who frequented Mott’s, moreover, were not the tawdry
make-believes that haunt the modern “Palaces,” but actresses of note,
who, if not Magdalens, sympathised with them; girls of education and
refinement who had succumbed to the blandishments of youthful lordlings;
fair women here and there who had not yet developed into peeresses and
progenitors of future legislators.  Among them were “Skittles,”
celebrated for her ponies, and Sweet Nelly Fowler, the undisputed Queen
of Beauty in those long-ago days.  This beautiful girl had a natural
perfume, so delicate, so universally admitted, that love-sick swains paid
large sums for the privilege of having their handkerchiefs placed under
the Goddess’s pillow, and sweet Nelly pervaded—in the spirit, if not in
the flesh—half the clubs and drawing-rooms of London.

This remnant of old-fashioned homage was by no means unusual, and at
fancy bazaars it was an almost invariable custom to secure the services
of the belle of the hour to sell strawberries at 2s. 6d. apiece, which
the fair vendor placed to her lip and then pushed between the swain’s.
Years later a matronly creature, forgetting that her charms had long
since vanished, essayed to fill the coffers of a charity bazaar by
similar blandishments, and as one looked at the hollow cheeks and
discoloured tusks one was fain to wonder what the effect of the
“treatment” would be on the most robust constitution.

Situated in an unpretentious house in Foley Street, the ballroom at
Mott’s (as it appeared in the sixties) was a spacious octagon with a
glass dome.  At the side, approached by a few steps, was the supper room,
where between 2 and 3 a.m. cold fowl and ham and champagne were
discussed, the fiddlers descending from their loft, and revelry fast and
furious took the place of the valse.

Not many years ago, impelled by an irresistible impulse, I visited the
hall of dazzling light; a greasy drab opened the street door, and
conducted me into a dingy apartment, which she assured me was the old
haunt.  Sure enough, there stood the dilapidated orchestra perch, and,
yet a little way off, the steps that led to the supper room; and whilst I
was contemplating them with something very like a lump in my throat, a
squeaky voice addressed me, and I beheld a decrepit old man—all that was
left of poor old Freer—whom memory associated with an expanse of white
waistcoat, essaying hints such as, “Now, then, lady’s chain,” or
hob-nobbing with some beauty, or remonstrating, “Really, my lord, these
practical jokes cannot be permitted.”  This temple of the past may still
be seen with all the windows smashed and on the eve of demolition.

Lord Hastings in those far-off days was the chief culprit in every
devilry.  Beloved by police and publican, he occupied a privileged
position; nothing vicious characterised his jokes, and he had but one
enemy—himself.  His advent at a ratting match or a badger drawing was a
signal to every loafer that the hour of his thirst was ended, and that
henceforth “the Markis was in the chair.”  Six cases of champagne
invariably formed the first order, and as old Jimmy Shaw shouted, “’Ere,
more glasses there, and dust a chair for ’is Lordship,” the four ale bar
closed in, as it were, and duke and dustman hobnobbed and clinked glasses
with a deferential familiarity unknown in these levelling days.

Lord Hastings selected his companions on facial and other merits, and no
meeker, more guileless-looking youths existed than Bobby Shafto and
Freddy Granville.  “Bobby,” said the Marquis, on one occasion, when he
had arranged a surprise at Mott’s, “we must go round to Jimmy Shaw’s.
I’ve to pick up a parcel there, and, look here, old man, you must smuggle
it in somehow; old Freer always looks carefully at me, but he’ll never
suspect you; you must carry it under your cape, and when we get inside
mind, don’t go down to the supper room.  I’ll run down for a second, and
then join you; you know the spot I showed you near the meter?”

Arriving in Windmill Street, no time was lost in preliminaries.

“Is it all right, Jimmy?” inquired the Marquis, and in reply a cadaverous
individual dressed like a gamekeeper respectfully approached his
lordship.  This was the professional rat-catcher, who traversed the main
drains half the day, and supplied the various sporting haunts with
thousands of rats nightly.

If a dog was backed to kill one thousand rats in a specified time the
supply never failed to be equal to the demand, despite the hundreds that
were pitted nightly against ferrets, or produced at so much a dozen for
young bloods to try their dogs on.

To see this rat-catcher plunge his hand into a sack full of huge and
ferocious sewer rats and extracting them one by one by the tail count the
requisite amount into the pit was a sight beyond description, as
legislators, cabinet ministers, peers, and army men threw sovereigns at
him in payment of the sport supplied.

Carrying a sack in his hand this individual respectfully replied: “All
right, my lud, two hundred as varmint a lot as iver I clapped eyes on.
Thanks, your lordship, good luck to yer,” and he pocketed his fee.

“But are they tied all right?” inquired Bobby, as the parcel was
presented to him.

“Right, sir?  Why, you’ve only to slip this string like, and there you
are.”

“Yes, I know where I should be,” suggested Bobby; “but I mean now.  I’ll
be d—d if I’ll put them under my cloak for a thousand till you make a
regular knot.”

“Well, there you are, sir,” replied the expert with a pitying smile, as
he performed the requisite function.

“Now we’re all right, Bobby,” added the Marquis.  “Come on, we must catch
them at supper.  I’ve got a knife, come on,” and directing the hansom to
Foley Street, the conspirators proceeded on their mission.

“Very quiet!” remarked the Marquis, as Freer received them at the door.

“Supper, my lord, supper; and, beg pardon, my lord, no larks to-night,
please; we’ve a rare lot here to-night, my lord; Lord Londesboro’ is here
with Miss Fowler and no end of toffs.”

“Why, Freer, what are you talking about?  Look at me,” and he displayed
his white waistcoat, “and Mr. Shafto here, he doesn’t know London or your
infernal place.  I’m showing him the rounds, Freer; we shan’t stay long,”
and, preceded by the unsuspecting old sinner, the pair proceeded as
arranged.

Sitting in the deserted room, Bobby scanned the empty orchestra loft,
whilst shouts intermingled with the popping of corks arose from the
supper room beyond, so shifting his position to nearer proximity to the
meter, he awaited the return of his companion.

“All right, old man, they’ll be up in ten minutes, but don’t budge till
the fiddles strike up; here’s the knife, blade open; don’t cut till I say
‘Now,’ and bolt like h— once the gas is out.”

The requisite wait was not of long duration.  First came old Freer, as,
casting a sheep’s eye at the Marquis, he contemplated the orchestra;
next, producing a watch, he shouted, “time, gentlemen,” and half a dozen
seedy instrumentalists ascended the stairs.  The pianist, it was evident,
was in his cups, but no notice was taken of this—it being admitted that
he played better when drunk than when sober, and had even been known to
supply impromptu variations and improvements to the “Mabel Valse” and
“Blue Danube” when under the exhilarating influence of Freer’s brut
champagne.  Then followed a bevy of fair women—Nelly Fowler and her
worshipful lord; “Shoes,” who eventually became Lady W—; Baby Jordan,
Nelly Clifford, the innocent cause of dynastic ructions twelve months
later at the Curragh—closely followed by Fred Granville, Lyttleton,
Chuckles, John Delapont, of the 11th, and a mob of flushed men, and as
the fiddles began to twang, and the dancers took up positions, the
Marquis thought fit to add a word in season.  “Talk away, old man, as if
it was something private, or some one will be coming up and spoiling the
game; go on, man; now then, look out, is the knife all ready?  Shake ’em
well out, old man, they can’t hurt you; look out, are you ready?  Now.”

To describe what followed is impossible.  Two hundred men and women, and
two hundred sewer rats, compressed within the compass of forty feet by
thirty, and in a darkness as profound as was ever experienced in Egypt.

Bobby and Hastings meanwhile were driving towards Cremorne with the
complacency of men who had done their duty.

Cremorne on a Derby night baffles description; progress round the dancing
platform was almost impossible.  The “Hermit’s Cave” and the “Fairy
Bower” were filled to repletion, and to pass the private boxes was to run
the gauntlet of a quartern loaf or a dish of cutlets at one’s head.  Fun
fast and furious reigned supreme, during which the smaller fry of
shop-boys and hired dancers pirouetted within the ring with their various
partners.  But as time advanced, and the wine circulated, the advent of
detachments of roysterers bespoke a not-distant row.  A Derby night
without a row was, in those days, an impossibility, and the night that
our contingent started from the Raleigh was no exception to the rule.

No man in his senses brought a watch, and if his coat was torn and his
hat smashed, what matter?  And if he lost the few shillings provided to
meet cab fare and incidental expenses the loss was not a serious one,
always supposing a cab was to be found, and one was not in the clutches
of the law.

“There’s King-Harman,” remarked Hastings, “let us stick near him; there’s
bound to be a row before morning, and we may as well be together.  Can
you run, Bobby?  Not with that cape, though; you’ll have to chuck that;
but what does it matter, it’s done its duty, and it’s unworthy of a less
honourable distinction?”

“Yes,” replied Bobby.  “I don’t fancy wearing it after those infernal
rats.  But why should there be a row?”

“A row, man,” replied his mentor, “of course there’ll be a row; what did
we come here for but a row?  What did King-Harman come here for, do you
suppose, but a row?  And look here, when they turn the gas out—as they
always do—run like blazes; you’re not safe till you get to Chelsea
Hospital, and don’t run into the arms of a policeman; they sometimes stop
chaps running, on spec.,” and with these words of wisdom they mingled
with the crowd.

The expected dénouement was not long in coming, and in a second, and
without apparent warning, sticks were crashing down on top hats, tumblers
flying in every direction, and fists coming in contact with anything or
anybody whose proximity seemed to suggest it.

The fiddlers had meanwhile made a hasty retreat, the gas was put out, and
with the exception here and there of an illumination (a dip steeped in
oil), the free fight continued till a bevy of police appeared upon the
scene.

_Sauve qui peut_ was then the word, and helter skelter, old and young,
Jew and Gentile, soiled doves and hereditary legislators dashed like the
proverbial herd of swine towards the gates.  Often did this stampede
continue for a mile, till straggling cabs, on their way to their stables,
picked up the stragglers, and landed them in less disturbed districts.
But the night was by no means over, not certainly the Derby night for
roysterers like Lord Hastings.

“We’ll have a rasher of bacon, Bobby,” he explained, as they descended in
Piccadilly Circus.  “Why, it’s barely five o’clock,” and they entered an
unpretentious coffee-house in rear of the colonnade, much frequented by
roysterers and market gardeners.

“_Qui hi_;” shouted a voice as they took their seats in an uncomfortable
pew, and old Jim Stewart, of the 93rd, and a companion hailed them from
behind a mountain of eggs and bacon.

But their adventures were not to end with this wholesome repast, as,
coming out, they espied an empty cart, into which they all proceeded to
climb.

“Hi, master,” shouted the owner, disturbed at his meal, “that be moine.”

“Not it, man,” yelled Hastings; “it’s mine; jump in,” and, without a
murmur, the worthy man obeyed.

“Where to, master?” was the next inquiry.  “I be going for a load of
gravel to Scotland Yard.”  And within half an hour four bucks with white
ties were shovelling in gravel as if their lives depended on it.

Scotland Yard in those days was a public gravel-pit, and its name did not
convey the painful suggestions of after years.

“Where now, master?” inquired the yokel again, and St. John’s Wood was
the order.

Here, before a palatial mansion, the cart pulled up, and the load was
shot on to the steps.  Johnny MacNair, the handsomest man in the Highland
Brigade, who was too “exhausted” to be moved, was then pushed into the
hall, and the cortège again departed.

To describe further would be a physical impossibility.  Exhausted nature,
bad wine, possibly the bacon and eggs, all combined to make memory a
blank.  Suffice that the house was the private residence of a corpulent
ratepayer and respected member of St. Stephen’s Church, who appeared in
the “Court Directory” as Mrs. Hamilton.

The final episode was the appearance of Johnny MacNair at Rawling’s Hotel
at three in the afternoon very irate, and only appeased on being assured
that the episode was a blank to others beside himself.

People may say how scandalous all this reads, and how thankful we ought
to be to be living in these decorous twentieth century days!  But
reflect, virtuous reader.  The sixties, if apparently bad, were not so
bad as the days of the Georges, which again compare favourably with the
golden days when Charles (of blessed memory) was King.  Vigilance
societies did not then exist as now, and fifty institutions with their
secretaries and staff had not to be supported by seekers after morality.
London was not even blessed with a County Council, and John Burns
probably could have robbed a birds’ nest as deftly as the veriest
scapegrace in those long-ago roystering days.

Place a file of the Divorce Court proceedings in the scales, add the
scandals that occasionally get into print, and, having adjusted them
carefully, decide honestly whether the balance is much against the London
of the long-ago sixties.



CHAPTER IV.
KATE HAMILTON—AND LEICESTER SQUARE.


THE entrance to Kate Hamilton’s may best be located as the spot on which
Appenrodt’s German sausage shop now stands, although the premises
extended right through to Leicester Square.

“Don’t go yet, dear,” appealed a sweet siren as Bobby, looking at his
watch, swore that when duty called one must obey, but eventually
succumbed to a voice like a foghorn shouting, “John, a bottle of
champagne,” and the beautiful Kate bowed approvingly from her throne.
Kate Hamilton at this period must have weighed at least twenty stone, and
had as hideous a physiognomy as any weather-beaten Deal pilot.  Seated on
a raised platform, with a bodice cut very low, this freak of nature
sipped champagne steadily from midnight until daylight, and shook like a
blanc mange every time she laughed.

Approached by a long tunnel from the street—where two janitors kept
watch—a pressure of the bell gave instant admittance to a likely visitor,
whilst an alarm gave immediate notice of the approach of the police.

Finding oneself within the “salon” during one of these periodical raids
was not without interest.  Carpets were turned up in the twinkling of an
eye, boards were raised, and glasses and bottles—empty or full—were
thrust promiscuously in; every one assumed a sweet and virtuous air and
talked in subdued tones, whilst a bevy of police, headed by an inspector,
marched solemnly in, and having completed the farce, marched solemnly
out.

What the subsidy attached to this duty, and when and how paid, it is
needless to inquire.  Suffice to show that the hypocrisy that was to
attain such eminence in these latter enlightened days was even then in
its infancy, and worked as adroitly as any twentieth-century policeman
could desire.

“Now we’re all right,” explained the foghorn, as the “salon” resumed its
normal vivacity.  “Bobby, my dear, come and sit next me,” and so, like a
tomtit and a round of beef, the pasty-faced youth took the post of honour
alongside the vibrating mass of humanity.  The distinction conferred upon
our hero was a much-coveted one amongst youngsters, and gave a
“hall-marking” which henceforth proclaimed him a “man about town.”  To
dispense champagne _ad libitum_ was one of its chief privileges—for the
honour was not unaccompanied with responsibilities—and Florrie or Connie
(or whoever the friend for the moment of the favoured one might be) not
only held a _carte blanche_ to order champagne, but to dispense it
amongst all her acquaintances, by way of propitiation amongst the higher
grades, and as an implied claim for reciprocity on those whose star might
be in the ascendant later on.

Bobby, it is needless to say, was a proud man.  But six months ago he had
left school, and it seemed but yesterday that loving hands of mother and
sisters had vied with one another in marking his linen and making brown
holland bags with appropriate red bindings that were to contain his
brushes and other requisites of his toilet.  But these had long since
been discarded as “bad form,” and a dressing case—on credit—with silver
fittings had taken their place.  It had been a question, indeed, whether
the pony chaise would have to be put down to enable the worthy rector to
provide the requisite £100 a year that was essential over and above the
pay of a youngster in the service, and here was a young scamp swilling
champagne like water, whilst the sisters’ allowance had been cut down to
enable their brother to meet necessary expenses, and the boy that cleaned
the knives had to look after the pony vice Simmons, the groom, dismissed.
Not that Bobby was vicious by nature; on the contrary, his follies were
to be attributed to that short-sighted policy that drives a youth on the
curb up to a given moment, and then gives him his head; a lad who had
never tasted anything stronger than an aperient suddenly engulfed in a
deluge of champagne.  In appearance he was delicate almost to effeminacy,
with a gentle, courteous address, fair curly hair waved around his silly
head, and he was popular alike with men and women.  His good looks were
his misfortune, and his amiability of temper led him into numerous
scrapes, such as entanglements with designing chorus girls and the
accompanying folly of too much champagne with too little money to pay for
it.  Not long previous to his arrival in London he had fallen desperately
in love at Taunton with a strolling actress old enough to be his mother,
who played very minor parts, and whose forte was pirouetting and pointing
her huge foot at any patron in front whom she desired to signal out for
honour.  It had taken the combined talents of the adjutant, the rector,
and George Hay to buy the sweet siren off with a promise that her son
(nearly as old as poor Bobby) should get a berth on a sea-going
merchantman.  As a fact, he had promised to marry the charmer, and
eventually to find money to run a company, and it was only by the
accident of the show being in pawn in a Somersetshire village (where
Julia Jemima was playing Juliet to a drunken former admirer’s Romeo) that
an urgent appeal for funds brought the escapade to light.

“Of course,” Julia had once said by way of exciting his enthusiasm, “we
can’t expect you to ‘go on’ all at once, but in time you could play up to
me.  You just study Romeo and get up Rover while you’re about it, and
Hamlet and some of Charlie Matthews’s parts—you can easily knock them
off, and one part do so ’elp another, dear.”  Not that Master Bobby had
been brought to realise at once the histrionic fame in store for him; on
the contrary, he had jibbed considerably at the contemplation of having
to don the spangled velvets and tights that constituted the “property” of
the strollers, and it was only the herculean exertions of the lovely
Julia Jemima—on her benefit night—smiling more bewitchingly, pirouetting
if possible more gracefully, and gliding on one toe across the stage till
the muscles of her calves stood out like a Sandow’s, that poor Bobby
succumbed, and vowed that come who, come what, nothing should tear him
from the divine creature.  Happily our hero had not anticipated the
effects of a combined attack of adjutant and father, and so, being
rescued from one pitfall, we find him sailing steadily towards another
amidst the brilliant scenes at Kate Hamilton’s.

“I’ve been in the profession, dear,” Connie was explaining as Bobby
leaned over the throne to gaze on her, “and I often have half a mind to
go back to it.”  (She had once carried a banner through the run of the
pantomime at the “Vic.”) The word “profession” acted like an electric
shock; the lad blinked as the scales appeared to fall from his eyes;
Julia Jemima appeared visibly before him; the spangles, the tights, and
the muscular calf in mid-air floated through his brain in deadly
proximity, as pulling out his watch with a shudder he bade a hurried
good-bye, and dashed off in the fleetest four-wheeler to join the Major’s
“lady” under the inhospitable walls of the Tower.

In the long, long ago the entertainments provided by Leicester Square
were not of an exciting nature.  The “Sans Souci,” Walhalla, and
Burford’s Panorama (where Daly’s Theatre now stands) divided the honours
till ’51, when Wylde’s Globe occupied the entire enclosure.  This huge
erection was sixty feet in diameter, and remained in existence till 1861,
when it was pulled down to make way for entertainments combining
instruction with pleasure.

In 1863 the “Eldorado” Café Chantant, which was leading a precarious
existence, put up the shutters, when a section of the (non-speculative)
public made the brilliant, loyal, and dutiful suggestion that somebody
should erect a “Denmark” Winter Garden as a memento of the Prince of
Wales’s recent marriage, but the loyal, dutiful, sycophantic proposal did
not commend itself as it no doubt ought to have done, and probably would
to-day.  The requisite capital was not forthcoming, and so not till 1873
did the new era commence, when £50,000 was offered for the Square by that
monument of aspiring greatness, “Baron” Grant, who burst upon the horizon
and then fizzled into space as meteors are wont to do.

It is impossible to deny the fascination that Leicester Square has for a
considerable majority of Londoners.  Up to the days of Charles II. the
entire space was composed of rustic hedge-rows and lanes.  Then Castle
Street, Newport Street, Cranbourne Alley, and Bear Lane came into
existence, the Square was railed round, and all the chief duels of the
day were fought within its historic precincts.

Lord Warwick, Lord Mountford, the Duke of Hamilton, and Lord Mohun (a
professional bully and expert shot), and a host of smaller fry have
avenged their honour within its boundaries—and then adjourned to Locket’s
Coffee House in its immediate vicinity.  This ancient institution must
not be confused with the palatial establishments known as Lockhart’s.

In the days of which we are writing, Leicester Square was a barren waste
surrounded by rusty railings, trodden down in all directions; refuse of
every description was shot into it, whilst in the centre stood a
dilapidated equestrian statue that assumed various adornments as the
freaks of drunken roysterers suggested.  On the north side (where now
stands the Empire) was The Shades, a low-class eating-house in the
basement, approached by steps, where every knife, fork and spoon was
indelibly stamped “Stolen from The Shades” as a delicate hint to its
patrons.  On the opposite side stood a huge wooden pump, of which more
anon.  At the adjoining eastern corner were the “tableaux vivants,”
presided over by a judge in “wig and gown” where more blasphemy and filth
was to be heard for a shilling than would appear possible, all within one
hundred yards of such harmless (if disreputable) haunts as Kate
Hamilton’s, which were overhauled nightly.  It was many years afterwards
(July, 1874) that the barren wilderness was made beautiful for ever by
the generosity of “Baron” Grant.  One can see him now, arrayed in white
waistcoat and huge buttonhole, accompanied by an unpretentious bevy of
councillors and Board of Works men, over whom a few bits of bunting
fluttered, presenting his gift of many thousands in a speech that was
quite inaudible.  But, like medals and decorations, gifts in those days
were not rewarded in the lavish manner of to-day.  Had such a public
benefit been conferred now, the donor would have been dubbed a baronet,
or a privy councillor at least, with every prospect of a peerage should
he again spring £20,000.  Apropos of this gift, there was a peculiar
sequel.  When asked at the time whether he gave or retained the
underground rights in addition to the recreation ground, the great man,
in the zenith of his success, replied, “Yes, yes; I give it all.”  Years
after, however, when poor and friendless, hearing that underground works
had made the subsoil more valuable than the surface, he enquired whether
some remnant could not be claimed by him, but was forcibly reminded of
the follies of his youth by a prompt negative, and left to die in penury
without a helping hand.

Perhaps never was the irony of Fate more clearly exemplified than when,
years after, two yokels who were gazing on Shakespeare’s monument were
heard to say “That’s ’im as give the place.”

Situated exactly on the site of the Criterion Buffet was the “Pic,” a
dancing saloon of a decidedly inferior class, where anybody entering
(except perhaps the Angel Gabriel) was bound to have a row.  Hat smashing
in this delectable spot was the preliminary to a scrimmage, and when it
is recollected what “hats” were in the long-ago sixties, it will be
easily understood that any interference with them was an offence to be
wiped out only with blood.  Hats, it may be asserted without fear of
contradiction, were the Alpha and Omega of dress amongst every section of
the community; the postmen wore hats with their long scarlet coats;
policemen wore hats with their swallow-tails; boys the height of
fourpence in copper wore hats; the entire field at a cricket match wore
flannels and hats; and the yokels and agricultural classes topped their
smocks with hats.  Not hats, be it understood, of the modern silky
limited style, but huge extinguishers, with piles varying from solid
beaver to the substance of a terrier’s coat; and to enter the “Pic” was
tantamount to the annihilation of one of these creations.  The
“Kangaroo,” of whom mention is made elsewhere, was a standing dish at
this establishment, and to such an extent was his position recognised
that many men tipped him on entering to obviate molestation.

The “Pic,” despite its central position, never attained popularity, and
was the resort of pickpockets, bullies, and “soiled doves” of a very
mediocre class.  On Boat Race nights, however, an organised gang of
University “men” invariably raided it, and by smashing everything
balanced the account to a certain extent.

No place of amusement has passed through so many convulsions as the
edifice now known as the Alhambra.  Erected in the sixties, it began life
as a species of polytechnic, where it was hoped that the instruction
afforded by the contemplation of two electric batteries and a diving
bell, in conjunction with the exhilarating air of the neighbourhood,
would attract sufficient audiences to meet rent and expenses; but the
venture not having fulfilled the expectations of its youth, its portals
were closed, and it next came into prominence during the Franco-German
war.  Here “patriotic songs” were the _pièce de résistance_, and towards
11 o’clock a dense throng waved flags and cheered and hooted
indiscriminately the “Marseillaise,” the “Wacht am Rhein,” and everything
and everybody.  Jones, calmly smoking, would, without the slightest
provocation, assault Brown, who was similarly innocently occupied, and
who in turn resented the polite distinction.  Stand-up fights took place
nightly, and, as was anticipated, drew all London to the Alhambra towards
11 o’clock.

These indiscriminate nightly riots attracted, as may be assumed, all the
bullies and sharpers in London, amongst whom stands prominently the
“Kangaroo,” a gigantic black, who was known to everybody in the sixties.
This ruffian, who was admittedly an expert pugilist, was the biggest
coward that hovered round Piccadilly.  No place was free from his
unwelcome visits, and his ubiquity showed itself by his nightly
appearance at the Pavilion, the Alhambra, the Café Riche, Barnes’s, the
“Pic,” the Blue Posts, the Argyll, and Cremorne.  From such places as
Evans’s and Mott’s he was absolutely barred, and the moral effect of the
reception he would have received deterred him—in his wisdom—from making
the attempt.

His _modus operandi_ was simplicity itself; seating himself at some
inoffensive man’s table, he helped himself to anything he might find
within reach; if remonstrated with, he knocked the remonstrator down, and
coolly walked out of the room.

On other occasions he would demand money, and if refused, applied the
same remedy; if a party were seated at the Alhambra watching the
performance, a black arm would suddenly appear over one’s shoulder, and
glass by glass was lifted and coolly drained.  Occasionally he met his
match, when, having pocketed his thrashing, he commenced afresh in an
adjoining night-house.

A plethora of coloured ex-prizefighters roamed about these latitudes in
the long-ago sixties.  Plantagenet Green, an admittedly scientific boxer
unaccompanied by any heart, was everywhere much in evidence, and Bob
Travers, one of the best and pluckiest that ever contested the
middle-weight championship, might have been seen years after selling
chutnee in the streets.  In those unenlightened days prizefighters,
although made much of, never forgot their place, and the illiterate
abortions in rabbit-skin collars that intrude into every public resort at
the present day and dub themselves “professors” were creations happily
unknown.

Needless to add that the Alhambra, with its miscellaneous attractions,
stood very high in the estimation of our subalterns, or a considerable
portion who deferred to Bobby on all matters relating to “form.”

Armed with diminutive flags of every nationality in Europe, a select team
were one evening enjoying the delights that led up to the “patriotic
era,” as sitting around a table on the balcony they agreed upon the
rendezvous should circumstances—and the fights—separate them.  Ladies,
moreover, graced the board, and sipped from time to time the exhilarating
fluid that sparkled in various tumblers.  George Hay meanwhile was
explaining to an interested houri how by an extraordinary coincidence
red, white, and blue predominated in most of the National colours of
Europe, while Bobby was urging some argument on a fair creature in
inaudible tones, when an apparition a yard long, and as black as ebony,
passed over his head and deliberately seized a tumbler.  Dazed for a
moment, and ignorant of the notoriety of the “Kangaroo,” one and all sat
spellbound as the ruffian deliberately emptied the glass and replaced it
on the table.

George was the first to grasp the situation, as, springing from his
chair, he confronted the bully, and inquired: “What are we to understand
by this?”  But, “What you d— please!” was barely out of his mouth when a
swinging blow on the jaw sent him staggering towards the counter.

Dropping his cane and hat, the “Kangaroo” now advanced in an attitude
that meant business, and dashing in his long left arm, essayed to fell
George with one blow.  But his adversary was prepared for this, and
springing back lightly, got beyond danger.  The “Kangaroo’s” arms, when
reposing by his side, reached almost to his knees, and gave him an
incalculable advantage with any but the most nimble.  Realising this
fact, George decided to change his tactics, and to direct all his blows
for the neck or body of his opponent; he had been taught, indeed, that a
negro’s head is practically invulnerable, but that a swinging slog in the
loins would double up the most seasoned.  A shower of blows now rattled
on the black’s sides, as springing out of danger after every onslaught,
the “Kangaroo” began to show signs of distress; standing well out of
range, he appeared but to wait the opportunity, and picking up his hat
and cane, he bolted down the stairs.

The “Kangaroo” had learnt a lesson, and was profoundly ignorant of the
fact that his meek-looking opponent had a heart as big as a lion’s and
was a pupil of Ben Caunt.

But patriotism and loyalism of the blatant type are apt to cloy even on
the most gushing, and the fever pitch having been attained, the cooling
process set in, and then a series of experiments ensued to try and keep
up the demand for the disrated Alhambra.



CHAPTER V.
THE NIGHT HOUSES OF THE HAYMARKET.


IF any of the Bucks of the sixties were suddenly brought to life and
placed in the centre of Piccadilly Circus, no labyrinth could more
completely puzzle them than the structural alterations of to-day.
Abutting on to where Shaftesbury Avenue commences was a dismal row of
houses, with here and there an outlet into the purlieus of more dismal
Soho; where the obstruction for the accommodation of flower-sellers now
raises its useless head, another block of houses ran eastwards, dividing
the present broad expanse into two narrow thoroughfares; the huge
monument to the profitable industry in intoxicating drinks takes the
place of the ancient “Pic,” and the Haymarket, from the exalted position
of centre of the surging mass of nocturnal corruption, has descended to
the status of a dimly-lighted thoroughfare, with here and there an
unlicensed Italian restaurant and a sprinkling of second-class
pot-houses.

Instead of the promenade from which strollers are now hustled off the
pavement by a zealous police, the strip between Windmill Street and the
Raleigh Club was the favoured lounge, and the Haymarket literally blazed
with light (till daylight) from such temples as the “Blue Posts,”
Barnes’s, The Burmese, and Barron’s Oyster Rooms.  This latter place,
although palpably suffering from old age and the ravages of time, and
propped up by beams innumerable, was the nightly rendezvous of
oyster-eaters, where, sandwiched in between “loose boxes” upstairs and
down, champagne and other drinks were consumed to excess.

Often amid these sounds of revelry, ominous cracks and groans warned the
revellers that all was not right, till on one never-to-be-forgotten night
a sound that vibrated like the crack of doom caused a stampede, and
leaving wine, oysters, hats, unpaid bills, every one rushed
helter-skelter into the street.  Old Barron, staring disconsolately from
the pavement at his fast-collapsing house, suddenly appeared to remember
that his cash-box was in the doomed building, and rushing frantically in,
was seen hurrying out with the prized treasure.  And then a crash that
might have quailed the stoutest heart rang through the night, and Barron,
cash-box, and lights, all disappeared in a cloud of dust that ascended up
to heaven.  Days after the old man was found firmly clutching his
treasure.  Let us hope its possession compensated him in his passage
across the Styx.

The decorous Panton Street of to-day was another very sink of iniquity.
Night houses abounded, and Rose Burton’s and Jack Percival’s were
sandwiched between hot baths of questionable respectability and
abominations of every kind.  Stone’s Coffee House was the only redeeming
feature, and, as it existed in those days, was a very spring of water in
a dry land.

But it must not be assumed that, although Percival’s was a “night house,”
it was to be classed with its next door neighbours.  Here the sporting
fraternity radiated after all important events; here Heenan lodged after
his fight with Tom King; and one can see him—as if it were
yesterday—receiving his friends and backers on the following Sunday with
his handsome features incrusted in plaster of Paris and smiling as if he
had been awarded the victory he was undoubtedly choused out of.

But perhaps no spot has undergone more structural and social change than
Arundel Place, an unpretentious court that leads out of Coventry Street.
At one corner now stands a tobacconist’s shop, and at the other an eating
bar, where hunks of provender are devoured at the counter, and cocoa
retailed at a penny a bucket; whilst the court itself is practically
absorbed by the Civil Service Stores, through whose windows “gentlemen”
may be seen weighing out coffee, and “bald-headed noblemen” tying up
parcels.

In the sixties, however, the place had considerably more vitality—after
nightfall.  On the eastern side stood a public-house of unenviable
repute, owned by an ex-prizefighter, to which the fraternity congregated
in considerable numbers; whilst at the end furthest from Coventry Street
was a coffee-house, whose open portals discovered nothing more dangerous
than an oil-clothed floor, chairs and tables over its surface, and an
unassuming counter for the supply of moderate refreshments.  During the
day a spirit of repose pervaded the entire area; the public-house
appeared to be doing little or no trade, whilst the coffee-house was
chiefly remarkable for the persistent scrubbing and emptying of buckets
that went on, as a mechanical charwoman, in the inevitable bonnet,
oscillated to and fro between the door and the pavement.  But for the old
woman, and an occasional apparition in a startling check costume that
flashed in and out between the coffee-house and the pot-house, one might
have imagined the entire place was uninhabited, so subdued and reposeful
was everything.

Tall and angular by nature, with skin-tight overalls and a coat the
colour of a Camden Town ’bus, Jerry Fry was the undisputed landlord of
the unpretentious coffee-house, and recognised director of a gang of
sharpers who made human nature their study, and scoured the highways and
byways nightly in search of profitable quarry.  Not that the above
costume was the sole one in Jerry’s extensive wardrobe, which boasted
amongst others the huge cape and whip associated with rustic drivers, a
clerical outfit, evening clothes, and a white tie the size of a poultice.
Jerry as a strategist was without a rival, and it requires but little
effort of imagination to assume that he has turned in his grave times
innumerable in the contemplation of the sorry sharpers of the present era
who have usurped his functions in the despoiling of their species.  Any
promising subject that appeared on the horizon immediately became the
object of Jerry’s personal solicitude, and once the victim’s besetting
sin was accurately diagnosed, no time was lost in placing a specialist on
his unsuspecting track.  It was not long after the arrival of the “Line”
garrison in London that George Hay was focussed as an inveterate gambler,
and as the “Landed Gentry” vouched for his being the eldest son of a
county magnate, no time was lost in laying lines in every direction in
the hope of catching him.  Not that play—in which he was by no means an
expert—was his only delight; on the contrary, he excelled in every kind
of manly sport, and could hold his own with the gloves with many a man
who had the advantage of him in height and weight.

When in the country cards never entered his mind; in London, however,
with the fascination ever before him, the temptation was irresistible,
and the three fly-blown cards of a racecourse manipulator or _chemin de
fer_ at the Arlington held him like a vice whilst the fever was upon him.

It was a sultry evening in September when everybody (except four
millions) was out of town that George and Bobby elected to stroll to the
West End after an uneventful dinner at mess.  Threading their way through
the slums that abutted on the Tower, nothing worthy of record occurred
till, casually stopping to light a cigar, they were accosted on the
threshold of Leicester Square by a courteous individual who asked for a
light.

George was nothing if he was not a gentleman, and without waiting to
consider why the person should seek a light from him when gas jets were
blazing outside every shop, he considerately acceded.

But the stranger apparently was of a sociable disposition, and persisted
in hanging on to their skirts and essaying remarks on objects on their
way.

“What have we here?” he inquired as, passing Arundel Place, a dense crowd
outside the pot-house riveted his attention.  “The fight, of course,” he
continued, “the seconds and backers are squaring up, I expect.  Will you
step in, gentlemen, it’s all right, but I’d better perhaps go in and
inquire, they all know me; one minute, gents, by your leave,” and he
disappeared into the crowded court.

“Shall we go in, George,” inquired Bobby, “or have a peep at the ‘Pic’?
D— it! we must have some sport after twenty-four hours of the Tower.”

“Go in?  Of course we will if there’s anything to be seen,” answered
George; “I’m half-inclined to shake up my liver by arranging with Ben
Caunt to resume my ‘studies’ at the Tower, and there’s one consolation,
Bobby, it’s not as expensive as the Arlington, and we haven’t much to
lose if they do pick our pockets.”

So summed up the situation Solon George, as their cicerone made his
reappearance.

“Right, gents; step this way,” intimated the stranger; “but we had best
wait awhile in the coffee-house yonder; leave it to me to give you the
tip,” and without further ado they all entered the hostelry.

George, with all his common sense, was a very tyro in the rudiments of
the unwritten law of knavery, and certainly no match for a shrewd London
rascal; to enter into conversation with an absolute stranger appeared
nothing extraordinary to him, and when a punching match was the basis of
the acquaintance, and the chance of meeting certain leading—if
illiterate—lights of the fraternity the prospect, conventionalism with
him was an infinitesimal quantity, and he entered into the sport with the
enthusiasm of a schoolboy.

“But why here?” inquired George, as they found themselves the sole
occupants of the oilclothed room.

“Wait a bit, gents, they’ll come presently,” replied their cicerone;
“I’ve given them the office, but they’re a bit busy just now settling up
the scores for this morning, maybe.”  And then he proceeded with what
purported to be a personal description of the fight, looking frequently
at a huge clock that ticked in the corner, and fervently hoping that
Jerry would not be long.

Bobby meanwhile was champing his bit, and bewailing the time that might
so much more profitably have been passed at the “Pic,” when a man in the
immaculate disguise of a coachman walked hurriedly through the room.
Peering into every corner, and examining crevices that a cat would have
been incommoded in, he hurriedly approached our heroes, and asked
excitedly whether they had seen a gentleman such as he described.
Without waiting for a reply, he next dropped his whip and rug on to a
vacant chair, and whipping out a pack of cards, continued: “It drives me
mad to think I should have lost such a stupid game; but I was drunk,
gentlemen—forgive the admission—yes, drunk; but he has promised me my
revenge here to-night,” and pulling out a watch the size of a frying-pan,
he contemplated it as if wrapt in thought.  Replacing it with a spasmodic
jerk, he continued: “Just fancy, gentlemen, this was the simple thing;
but I was drunk, alas!—happy thought, ’ware drink,” and he gave a halloa
such as foxhunters give on the stage, and proceeded to rattle three
cards.

“Now, gentlemen, just for fun, which is the knave?”  And Bobby, without a
check, selected the correct cardboard.  “Again, gentlemen, if you please,
it will bring my hand into practice; shall we say half a crown?  Thanks!”
and again, with the accuracy of a truffle dog, Bobby discovered the card.

Again and again was this farce perpetrated, till Bobby’s winnings
amounted to £4, and in his generosity he seemed loth to take advantage of
such a greenhorn.

George meanwhile had caught the infection and bet and won as the stakes
were made higher.

“Five pounds for once, gentlemen?  I think I’ve earned my revenge,”
pleaded Jerry, and fickle Fortune as if of the same opinion, decided in
his favour.

Any one but the veriest tyro would have deemed this a favourable
opportunity to stop, but George, as we have seen, had his own ideas of
honour; the fever, moreover, was upon him, and, producing the contents of
his own pocket, he again backed his opinion.

Gone in a twinkling, he next turned to Bobby, and the lad at once
proceeded to supply him with his cash.  Meanwhile their original
acquaintance whispered imploringly to George to have done with it, but he
might as well have spoken to the winds.  “D— it, man, if I’m cleaned out
of ready money I’ve still my ring and sleeve links; go on, sir,” he
continued to Jerry.  “I’ll bet my jewellery against a tenner.”

But fortune was still against our friends, and divested of his trinkets,
in his turn he appealed to his opponent.

“Come, sir, I gave you your revenge, now give me mine, and anything I
lose I’ll give you my cheque for.”

But Jerry was of a practical nature; cheques were occasionally stopped,
and officious detectives might come to hear of it, so he decided to
decline the tempting offer, but promised revenge on the morrow.  The
first stranger meanwhile came to the rescue.  “I know you’re a
gentleman,” he whispered, “and mayn’t like to lose those things, why not
offer the gent to redeem them to-morrow?”

The idea seemed a happy one, and the party dispersed, on the
understanding that at twelve the following day they should all meet at
the Pump in Leicester Square.

But our heroes were not yet done with casual acquaintances, as passing
along the Haymarket they were again accosted by a man.  “Excuse me,
gentlemen,” was the abrupt introduction, “I saw you parting company just
now with two well-known sharpers; I’m Detective Bulger of the police, may
I ask if you’ve been robbed?”

And then the painful truth began to dawn upon the victims that two
officers in Her Majesty’s Service had been overreached at a game that a
Blue-coat boy would have jibbed at.

The sequel is briefly told.  The next day the appointment was punctually
kept by all except Jerry, who, oddly enough, deputed another man to
explain that he was sending off an urgent telegram, and had requested him
(if the coast was clear) to conduct our friends to him.

Followed at a respectful distance by the detective, the jewellery was
duly redeemed; but just as Jerry was pocketing the money, a hand was laid
upon his shoulder, and he found himself in the clutches of Sergeant
Bulger.

George refused to prosecute; his money was however, restored to him, and
binding Bobby to secrecy, he thus escaped the chaff that would have
cleaved to him for life.

The “Kitchen” was situated in St. Martin’s Court, abutting on Castle
Street, now known as Charing Cross Road; adjoining it was a famous _à la
mode_ house kept by two brothers, each of whom could turn the scale at
thirty stone.  It was explained by way of accounting for this
extraordinary freak of nature that, by never leaving the establishment
and inhaling the greasy fumes from night to morning, their pores were
constantly imbibing from a thousand sources the oleaginous vapours that
conduce to obesity; be that as it may, the entire front of an upper
chamber had to be removed to allow of the usual formalities of Christian
burial when one of the firm died, and it is doubtful if the place was not
afterwards demolished.

Here nightly were to be found actors since known to fame; journalists
such as Horace (Pony) Mayhew and his brother Gus, George Augustus
Sala—then writing to measure—and a sprinkling of golden calves with
theatrical proclivities.  The refreshments, of course, left nothing to be
desired on the score of satisfying, and _à la mode_ gravy in pewter pots
stimulated many a jaded reveller during the small hours of the morning.

It was on our way to this refined hostelry that we on one occasion met
Polly Amherst, and the sequel was so absurd that I give the story special
prominence.

Polly was a delightful companion.  Just down from Oxford, he was destined
to take up a fat family living in the neighbourhood of Sevenoaks, but
being seen one night in a bird’s eye tie amid the revels of Cremorne, and
the birds of the air having carried it to his bishop, it was pointed out
to the worthy fellow that free scope for his undoubted talent was
impossible in the Church, and so posterity was the loser of much pulpit
oratory that would doubtless have thrilled the present generation.

As we entered the “Kitchen” Jack Coney—a promoted scene-shifter lately
come into prominence by his marriage with Rose Burton—was retailing to
the assembled revellers the spot which had been kept secret to the last
moment where a big fight was to take place in the morning.

“Of course, I’ll go,” replied George Hay to someone’s inquiry.

“I’m too seedy,” continued Bobby, who had not spared the punch.

“I, too,” added Oliver.

“I should like to, but I daren’t,” chimed in Polly.  And so a detachment
was added to the contingent that were piloted by the irrepressible Coney.

Bobby during the past night had, alas! not followed the paths of
sobriety, and so it came to pass that the blind agreed to lead the blind,
and Polly Amherst and Harry Turner (a genial comedian) agreed to escort
him to the Hummums.

Passing Hart’s Coffee House we, of course, “looked in,” and, sure enough,
there was Hastings and a dozen boon companions; but the night air had
been too much for many of us; we saw a dozen Marquises and only one boon
companion, so taking the wisest resolve we had taken that night, we bade
each other farewell on the steps of the Hummums, and proceeded to our
virtuous couches.

Arising late on the following afternoon, a circumstance occurred that
drove everything else out of my head, and to the elucidation of this
inexplicable coincidence are to be attributed the monotonous details I
have just described.

It was towards three on the following afternoon, when, having completed a
refreshing toilette, my left arm was entering my sleeve that I became
aware of a foreign substance that bulged to an abnormal extent the inner
pocket of my coat; proceeding to examine the cause with that
self-possession for which I was so justly conspicuous, my equanimity was
considerably tried by coming into contact with a watch; extracting it
carefully, I discovered that it was attached to a massive chain adorned
with numerous seals and lockets.  Surprised, I continued my
investigations, my surprise turning to anxiety as a second watch (a
repeater) made its appearance.  By this time thoroughly alarmed, I dived
again, and out came three or four rings and a purse stuffed full of
sovereigns.  Fairly staggered, my _sang-froid_ left me, and reeling
towards the bed, I endeavoured to solve the mystery.

Had I in my cups robbed a jeweller’s?  Had I picked somebody’s pocket?
Had I had a row, and after the fray put on my opponent’s coat?  But every
argument failed to elucidate the mystery, and my thoughts wandered to
such an extent that in it all I saw a distinct judgment on my
back-sliding.

To make matters worse, I knew not where Amherst or Harry Turner resided,
and so resolved to have breakfast and await developments.

But breakfast under such circumstances was a sorry farce; every gulp of
tea appeared to choke me, and in every waiter who approached I recognised
a constable on the track of the burglar.  Flesh and blood could not long
stand this strain, and my pent-up feelings received a still greater shock
by the waiter thrusting a card into my hand.  “Ask him in,” I replied,
and Harry Turner, with a face a yard long, hurriedly shuffled towards me.

“An awful thing has occurred,” began the unhappy mummer, “and I’ve come
to you in the hope that you’ll be able to explain it.  Look at this,” he
continued, as he proceeded to untie a bundle.  “When I was putting on my
coat just now I found two watches, a cheque-book, a ring, and a packet of
papers.  Can you recollect what we did?  By Gad, I’m half disposed to go
and give myself up.  One would get off lighter then, perhaps.”

Whilst we were discussing ways and means, a second card was brought to
me, and again the waiter was requested to “show him in,” and then Polly
Amherst came upon the scene, the ghost of his former self, pale and
haggard, but otherwise externally irreproachable as regards white tie and
High Church clerical attire.  “Billy,” he began, “a terrible thing has
occurred, and I’ve come here in the hopes that you will be able to set my
mind at rest.  Conceive my horror, when opening my eyes this afternoon,
to see at my bedside a watch, a pile of sovereigns, and a valuable ring.
What silly jokes did we indulge in last night, old man?  ’Pon my word as
I came here I shuddered as I passed a policeman.  The matter can’t rest
here.  I’ve locked the accursed things in my portmanteau, and now what’s
to be done?”

But the consolation he received from his dismal companions in no way
tended to allay his anxiety.  “We have neither of us the smallest
conception of how we became possessed of these things,” replied Turner,
“and it seems to me our only course is to walk round to Bow Street and
voluntarily give ourselves up.”

Our teeth had now begun to chatter, and, hoping against hope, we agreed
it would be best to await George Hay’s return, and act as he should
advise.

Three weary hours later, George Hay, Oliver Montagu, the irrepressible
Jack Coney, and Harry Ashley (afterwards of _Pink Dominoes_ fame),
returned from the fight, and it having been arranged that the three
latter should be permitted to depart before the culprits broke the news
to George, a magnum was called for by way of a stirrup cup.

“By the way, Polly,” remarked Montagu, “I may as well relieve you of my
gimcracks, and, by Gad, it’s as well we didn’t take them.  Did you ever
see a rougher lot?” he added, turning to George.

And then a cloud rose from off the countenances of Polly, Harry Turner,
and myself; the magnum that had hitherto tasted like jalap appeared as
nectar to our lips, and we began to recollect that prior to leaving the
“Kitchen” our comrades had entrusted their valuables to us.

We never told our terrible experience.



CHAPTER VI.
EVANS’S AND THE DIALS.


BEFORE the Embankment came into existence, Salisbury Street and Cecil
Street—where the hotel now stands—consisted for the most part of lodging
houses.  Overlooking the river, stairs led to shanties to which wherries
were moored, whilst a verandah, running the entire length of the house in
which I once had rooms, enabled shade and muddy breezes to be indulged in
during the hot summer evenings.  At the side could be seen the arches
known as Fox Hill, which, still visible from the (now) Tivoli Music Hall,
were in those days capable of being traversed for a considerable
distance.

In ancient days the haunt of smugglers and desperadoes, it had not lost
its popularity with the lawless classes even in the more modern long-ago
sixties, and weird stories of murders that had never been discovered, and
crimes of every description, were currently reported as of almost daily
occurrence in the impenetrable “dark arches of the Adelphi.”  No sane
person would have ventured to explore them unless accompanied by an armed
escort, and even Wych Street, Newcastle Street, and Holywell Street were
“out of bounds” after nightfall.

The dead body of a female having one morning been discovered, it was
currently reported that the assassin was in concealment in the “dark
arches;” the police—from information received—were convinced of it, and
the authorities, having a mind to probe the mystery, organised search
parties, which scattered amongst the labyrinths, and eventually emerged
no nearer an elucidation than before.

Passages, it was asserted, led to various exits on the river bank, and
extended in an easterly direction to Whitefriars, all of which in later
years have been gradually filled up till now nothing more pernicious than
a peaceful beer-store a few yards from the entrance and an occasional
board-man who ought to be traversing the street, give signs of vitality
to what was once a sink of iniquity.

It is refreshing after this weird retrospect to turn to the modern
Adelphi Terrace, where years ago I participated in many enjoyable
reunions.  Here each Sunday night such lively company as the late Kate
Vaughan and her husband, Freddy Wellesley, Billy Hill, Marius, Florence
St. John, Sweet Nell Hazel, and other vestals congregated; whilst the
“Savages” have made it their headquarters, and can lean over the balcony
without risking typhoid, and eventually cross the Strand at no greater
risk than an invitation to air their French.

And the changes in the Adelphi suggest the changes that have taken place
in other historical resorts, than which nothing has been more marked than
in the Burlington Arcade.  Here every afternoon, between six and seven,
throngs composed of all that made up the pomp and vanity of this wicked
world disported themselves.  Here Baby Jordan and “Shoes”—since become
the mother of a present-day baronet—Nelly Fowler, and Nelly Clifton held
court with their attendant squires and lords of every degree.  Here at
seven the entire mass surged towards the Blue Posts in Cork street and
indulged in champagne and caviare toast.  Here about the same time
Hastings, Fred Granville, and roysterers of a more pronounced type looked
in for a breakfast of “fixed bayonets” by way of appetite for the dinner
at Limmer’s that most of them would barely touch.  Here (in Cork Street)
a little head might be seen cautiously peeping over the blinds at No. 17
in the hope that some eligible client might seek pecuniary relief before
entering on the night’s enjoyment.  Here in later years the same head,
but transformed into the appearance of a Fitzroy storm signal, might be
seen more shiny, more haughtily posed, dictating terms to Lairds of
Aboyne and owners of Derby favourites.  After which the rich man died,
and the shekels made by usury have gone (as was only right) to bolster up
impecunious subalterns and Christian hospitals.

In the palmy days of Paddy Green, Evans’s provided perhaps the only
tavern where a weary sojourner might sit in peace and realise that he was
surrounded by comfort and tone.  Hovering near the door was the genial
old proprietor, with white hair and rubicund face, a smile for every one,
and capable of passing anywhere for a chairman of directors at least.
Around the walls were the priceless oil paintings belonging to the
Garrick, deposited temporarily after the fire that made havoc with that
historical building; whilst covering the entire floor were tables where
the best (and the best only) of chops, steaks, mealy potatoes, and welsh
rabbits, with wines of heaven knows what age, beer, and spirits were
procurable.

Nor must the old establishment be confounded with the modern fungus that
continued its name under the pilotage of an enterprising Jew, and
eventually got closed by the police for developing into an ordinary night
house.

To see a genuine old English waiter crumble a huge potato with a spotless
napkin creates a pang when one thinks of his German and Italian prototype
asking “’Ow many breads you have?” and on being told “one,” looking as if
he could swear you had had two.

And no accounts were discharged at the time—sit, as one might, from 10 to
2 a.m., and eat and drink variously, and as often as one pleased—all the
reckoning was one’s own as one imparted it on leaving to the most
courteous of butlers at the door.

And then the stage, what comparison is possible between the healthy
singing of glees and solos one then heard and the elephantine wit of the
modern serio-comic?  And poor old Van Joel, who, as the programme
explained, was retained on account of past services, retailing cigars in
the hall and obtaining fancy prices for “Auld Lang Syne”—how a lump comes
even now into one’s knotty, hoary old throat at the recollections of
these long-agos!

Monotonous as all this may sound to the modern up-to-date sightseer,
there was a homeliness and an indescribable delight associated with
Evans’s that surely the recording angel will not fail to remember when he
sums up the sins of the sixties.

Across the market, again, was a hostelry, long since disappeared except
in name, “The Hummums,” and who shall find to-day such rare old English
fare, served on silver by the most typical of English waiters?

The rooms may have been dingy, the smoking-room a little stuffy, but the
spirit of Bob Garnham must surely hover over the modern imitation that
has arisen on its ashes and assumed everything but its indescribable
comfort.

The approaches to Evans’s after dark were by no means free of danger in
the long-ago sixties.  The market porters, who for the most part were
cut-purses and pugilists, were apt to waylay solitary foot passengers
whilst awaiting the arrival of the vegetable vans, and I recollect an
Uxbridge farmer named Hillyard entering the hotel one night with a broken
wrist after being waylaid and robbed in Russell Street.

The old Olympic, hard by, was another nasty place to leave after the
performance, except in a cab.  Within fifty yards the alleys bristled
with footpads, and any foolhardy pedestrian traversing the dimly-lighted
Drury Lane or Newcastle Street was pretty sure not to reach civilisation
without a very rough experience from the denizens of Vinegar Yard and
Betterton Street.

The Forty Thieves were an organised bevy of sirens, whose headquarters
were the Seven Dials, and whose mission it was to entice, decoy, and
cajole any fool who had the temerity to listen to their cooing.

The Clock House on the Dials, now an apparently well-conducted pot-house,
was in those days a hotbed of villainy.  The king of pickpockets there
held his nightly levée, and the half-dozen constables within view would
no more have thought of entering it than they would the cage of a cobra.

If a man lost a dog the reward was offered there; if one’s watch
disappeared it was there that immediate application was desirable; and if
the emissary was not “saucy” he might with luck save it from the
melting-pot that simmered all day and all night within fifty feet of
Aldridge’s horse repository.

The walk through the Dials after dark was an act none but a lunatic would
have attempted, and the betting that he ever emerged with his shirt was
1,000 to 60.  A swaggering ass named Corrigan, whose personal bravery was
not assessed as highly by the public, once undertook for a wager to walk
the entire length of Great Andrew Street at midnight, and if molested to
annihilate his assailants.

The half-dozen doubters who awaited his advent in the Broadway were
surprised about 1 a.m. to see him running as fast as he could put legs to
the ground, with only the remnant of a shirt on him; after recovering his
breath and his courage he proceeded to describe the terrific slaughter he
had inflicted on an innumerable number of assailants.  A scurrilous print
that flourished about this time in its next issue narrated the incident
in verse by: “Oh, pray for the souls that Corrigan kilt,” etc.  Corrigan,
it may be added, was an Irishman, and not a particularly veracious one.

Any list of queer fish would be incomplete without introducing the name
of Bill Holland, who, although he struggled on till the eighties, was in
his zenith in the sixties.  Rosherville being too far, and Vauxhall
having disappeared, the North Woolwich Gardens came into favour with
those who sought recreation of a less boisterous kind than that at
Cremorne.

Bill Holland had all his life been a showman; amusing and full of
exaggerated anecdote, he had catered for the public from time immemorial;
every monstrosity had at some period passed through his hands; every
woman over seven feet, and every man under four, had appeared under his
auspices: the tattooed nobleman, the dog-faced man, the whiskered
lady—all recognised him as master at one period or another.  He had
“directed” the Alhambra, the Surrey, the Blackpool Gardens, and, in later
years, the Battersea Palace, and signally failed with each; but,
sphinx-like, he invariably reappeared irreproachably groomed and waxed,
with some confiding creature ready to finance him.  His constant
companion was Joe Pope, an abnormally fat little man, and a brother of
the Q.C. who not long ago died.  It was the brains of this obese little
man, in conjunction with Bill Holland’s assurance, that kept the wheels
going for over thirty years.

Across the river at Greenwich were the historical Trafalgar and Ship
Taverns, where the famous fish dinners, served in the very best style,
were procurable.  Only fish, but prepared and served in irreproachable
form; beginning with boiled flounder, one progressed by seven stages of
salmon in various forms, filleted sole, fried eel, each with its special
sauce, till whitebait plain and whitebait devilled found the wayfarer
well-nigh exhausted.

It was only then that the folly of ordering dinner on a hungry stomach
became manifest, and when the duckling that the smiling waiter had
suggested made its appearance it was almost with tears that one turned
away from its pleading savour and reluctantly confessed one’s inability
to do it justice.  And then the coffee on the lawn, and the scrambling
for coppers amongst the water arabs in the surging mud below, were
adjuncts that never failed in the completing of enjoyable evenings now
for ever gone.

Why the resort went out of fashion seems an enigma.  Forty, thirty, aye,
twenty years ago both taverns were the almost daily resorts, during the
summer and autumn, of the highest in the land.  In one private room would
be heard Her Majesty’s judges, cracking jokes as if they were incapable
of judicial sternness; in another legislators by the score, who had
travelled down by special steamer to eat and drink as if no such things
as fiscal questions existed; whilst in the public room cosy couples
dined, and roysterers smoked and joked, and yet all has passed like a
pleasant dream.  The Trafalgar has long since been pulled down, the Ship,
if not closed, is very much changed for the worse, and Londoners swelter
annually with the patience of Job, and are apparently indifferent to the
delightful resorts they have lost.

It was during a May meeting, when rural deans and other provincial Church
luminaries were staying at Haxell’s and the Golden Cross Hotels, that
Satan prompted certain roysterers to raid these establishments when the
reverend lodgers might be supposed to have retired to their respective
closets.  It was Nassau Clarke—a subaltern in the Life Guards—who
conceived the brilliant idea, and collecting Jacob Burt, Charlie Buller,
Lennon, and a few other well-known roysterers, we proceeded towards the
Strand.  The joke, if such it may be called, was to change every pair of
boots reposing peacefully outside the various doors, and the
development—which none of us was likely to witness—was the scare that
would ensue at 8 a.m., when sober ecclesiastics might be expected to
swear at the prospect of being late for their platform prayer at 9.
Charlie Buller in those days was reputedly the handsomest man in the
Household Brigade; an excellent bruiser, and not slow of wrath, he was,
moreover, a desirable companion when altercations were likely to occur.

Lennon, on the other hand, was not a cockney, and only up on leave, but
willing to assist in anything original or exciting.  Not many months
previously he had been awarded a brevet-majority and the Victoria Cross
for a conspicuous act of bravery at the Taku Forts.  I lost sight of him
for years, and when I again met him he had left the Army and fallen
apparently on bad times.  In consideration of his past services, he was
nominated years later for a Knight of Windsor; but the poor old fellow
was “not himself” when he went down to be installed, and the appointment
was cancelled.  He was an excellent actor in comic parts, and has a son,
I believe, on the London stage.

The winter of ’61 was an unusually severe one, and the river that washed
the walls of the grim old Tower was covered with a thick coating of ice,
which in its turn afforded a convenient asylum for the dead cats and
other refuse that drifted upon it from the neighbourhood of the adjoining
wharves.  Locomotion in those pre-Embankment and underground railway days
was not so convenient as now, and as cabs had practically ceased running
by reason of the mountains of snow intervening between the Tower and the
Monument, I had, together with a few boon companions, decided that the
time had come for a migration, and went in for “first leave.”

And the choice we had made was by no means an unhappy one, for the
weather that had made existence in London well nigh intolerable had
driven the woodcocks into the coverts, and we all declared that a week of
such surroundings would compensate for all the vicissitudes we had
undergone from Kangaroos, Tower, and five o’clock bacon and eggs in
London.  The “route,” too, had come, and we reasoned, not unwisely, that
the journey to Ireland was at best an unpleasant one, and that if we
delayed, 1000 to 60 were by no means extravagant odds that we might get
no leave at all.

It was about a fortnight after this that, having returned to grimy old
Lane’s, I received a characteristic letter from my old chum, George Hay.
“Most of my time” (he wrote) “is spent in accompanying the old squire on
his various peregrinations over the estate, and by pointing out various
agricultural developments that were absolutely necessary, or structural
alterations that would improve the holdings.  He leads me to understand
that my place was on the spot I would one day inherit, and the fitting
moment would arrive after I got my company.  ‘D— it, sir,’ he would
continue, ‘in my time no eldest son remained longer than a year in the
army unless he was prepared to pay £10,000 over regulation for the
regiment as Cardigan did.’

“‘But in the infantry, sir,’ I suggested, ‘things are different.
Promotion is slower, and I can’t help thinking that the bonds that unite
officers to the regiment are stronger than is usually the case in the
cavalry.  But I see no prospect of my company till we are under orders
for foreign service, and we shan’t be at the top of the roster for
another two years at least.’

“‘I have nothing to say against the line, sir,’ he would reply, ‘except
that your officers can rarely ride to hounds.’

“‘But surely, sir,’ I answered, ‘there are other virtues you will not
deny to the linesman; in garrison towns they at all events appreciate
hospitality, and don’t insult worthy folks by accepting their invitations
only to turn them into ridicule.  You may remember the story of a young
puppy who replied to a kindly hostess by “The King’s never dance, and the
King’s never sing,” and this in a regiment, forsooth, where every
man-jack of them was a shopkeeper’s son, and which was known as the
“Trades Union.”’”

Great excitement meanwhile prevailed at the Tower; the route had come,
the mess was closed, and everybody was packing in preparation for an
early departure for Ireland.  Transports in those long-ago days were not
the floating palaces inaugurated years later by the Indian troopers.
Cranky steamers—whose principal industry was the transporting of pigs and
cattle—were hurriedly chartered by the War Office, and with the men
packed like herrings, and the junior officers billeted amongst the band
instruments, regiments proceeded at five knots an hour from London to the
Irish ports.

The Colonel, during these preparations, lost no opportunity of describing
his experiences when last stationed in Dublin; how he and certain boon
companions were within an ace of being tried for their lives for throwing
into the Liffey an old watchman deposited in a sentry-box; how they
started the “Pig and Whistle” in Sackville Street, run on lines that
would shock you, virtuous reader; their nightly visits to the “Quane’s”
Theatre, where Mikey Duff performed _Hamlet_, and declined to accede to
the demands of the gallery for “Pat Molloy and the roising step” with the
indignant retort: “D— yer oise, what do you expect for toppence;” the
orgies of “Red bank” oysters at Burten Binden’s, and the dinners at the
Bank of Ireland, when the regiment furnished the guard; how old Bill,
after a drinking bout, would stamp through every corner of the
guard-rooms, cursing at everything, and winding up by the consumption of
half-a-dozen brandies and sodas, and “very different to what it was in
the Peninsula!”

“Payther” Madden, too, was holding forth on what he would show them in
Cark, if “plase the Lard the rigimint was quarthered in the ould
station,” and went on to describe how Barny Magee “wad come on and sing
at the Hole in the Wall with a gaythaar in his fist, looking for all the
world like a hamstrung moke,” and how the gallery would shout, “For the
love of dacency, Barny, dhrop yer concertina and pull up yer stockin’,”
and how Mrs. Rooney, bless her soul, would pass yer the toime of day with
that grace—so genteel loike, so obsarvent—as ye paid toll to go in, with:
“God bless you, Carporal, it’s you that has the lip,” or ilse: “Go an wid
ye, Carporal, for a flirrt that ye are.”

“A sort of bloomin’ sing-song,” suggested a cockney comrade, “but give me
London, with ’er bloomin’ orange peel and hashfelt, with ’er boats down
to North Woolwich, with yer gal on yer knee and a new clay in yer face; a
pint of shrimps maybe, and a pint of ale down yer neck, and no bloomin’
guards.”

Amid these conflicting sentiments the regiment quitted the Tower.

And what a delightful station the Dublin of the sixties was; here Lord
Carlisle as Lord-Lieutenant reigned supreme, and though compelled by
usage to keep up the mock court, with its mock “Master of the Horse” and
“Gentlemen at Large,” diffused hospitality like the fine old English
gentleman he was.

Nightly the captain and subaltern of the Castle Guard were invited to the
Viceregal table, during which the kind old man clinked glasses and
invited his every guest to take wine with him.  How His Excellency could
retain his head after all these courtesies was once a marvel till it
transpired that the huge decanter before him was the weakest brandy and
water diluted to the exact colour of Amontillado.  And then the whist
that followed at sixpenny points, when His Excellency rigorously
prevented his partner—and his partner only—from seeing every card in his
hand.  How refreshing it all was!

No contortions short of dislocating their necks could prevent his
adversaries from taking advantage of the dishonest opportunity, for the
old gentleman cracked jokes throughout the entire rubber, and claimed and
paid his sixpences with the scrupulousness of a confirmed gambler.

Among the Viceregal staff were some inflated specimens of
vice-flunkeydom.  Foster, Master of Horse, whose death occurred lately,
was reputed as not knowing one end of a horse from another, and never
ventured on a purchase for the Viceregal stables, at Farrell’s or
Sewell’s, unless fortified by the close proximity of Andy Ryan or some
other horse-coper.  Burke, a Gentleman at Large and an ex-colonel of
militia, was another warrior of the offensive type, and I shall never
forget the scene when a youngster of the 16th Lancers at one of the
levées gave him a peremptory order when he was officially glued to the
staircase, under pretence that he mistook him for a flunkey.  But the
matter was not to end there, and before the réveille had ceased blowing
at Island Bridge he was waited upon by a fiery buckeen to demand
satisfaction on behalf of Kornel Burke.

Captain Stackpool (everybody had a military title) was another Dublin
curiosity.  Member of Parliament for Ennis, he affected Dublin and the
delights of the Unoited Service from one year’s end to the other.
Dublin, he assured me, was the most “car-driving, tea-drinking,
money-spending city in the world,” and he was not far wrong.

Lord Louth, who weighed eighteen stone, and stood five foot seven in his
stockings, had served some years in a kilted regiment; but he, too, has
long since been gathered to his fathers.

About this time an amusing incident occurred to Lord Louth.  The very
best of fellows, his vanity was insatiable, and only London-built clothes
were good enough to set off his graceful figure.

In the 14th Hussars was a diminutive cornet who also patronised the same
tailor as Louth, and both these dandies—as appeared later—had telegraphed
on the same day for a pair of the most bewitching trousers in preparation
for some social event to which they had both been invited.  Conceive the
consternation of the two recipients when at the last moment a pair of
diminutive pants revealed themselves to the enraged peer, and a garment
sufficiently voluminous to engulf three Deal boatmen reached the
expectant cornet.  This latter was known as the “Shunter” from the
extraordinary talents he developed later as a gentleman rider, and still
later as a hanger-on of Abingdon Baird.

One of the most brilliant surgeons that Ireland or any other country has
ever produced was just coming into prominence in those long-ago days.
Dr. Butcher, who in appearance resembled the portraits of Disraeli in his
younger days, was known professionally to nearly every man in the
garrison; of the most enthusiastic type, he thought nothing of producing
two or three stones from his waistcoat pocket and exultantly explaining
that he had that morning taken them from certain patients’ interiors, and
nothing gave him greater offence than refusing to attend one of his
private séances.  But the most marvellous operation he ever performed was
on Billy Deane, of the 4th Dragoon Guards, who, having consulted every
specialist in Europe, appealed to Butcher to save his arm and enable him
to remain in the service.

A fall whilst hunting had resulted in the disease of the elbow-bone of
the left arm.

“Nothing but taking your arm off will save your life,” was the universal
fiat.

“D— nonsense!” was Butcher’s retort, and he cut a square clean out of the
elbow.

Within six months Billy’s bridle arm was stronger than the other.



CHAPTER VII.
THE RATCLIFF HIGHWAY.


SOME months had elapsed since the regiment landed in Ireland, when one of
those inscrutable ways of Providence gave another opportunity of renewing
one’s London experiences, and obtaining a month’s leave in the height of
the drill season for the purpose of visiting the Exhibition of ’62.  The
temptation so gratuitously offered was altogether too much for me, and,
in conjunction with the rest of the Army in Ireland, I gratefully seized
the opportunity of “studying” the various exhibits of foreign countries,
and applied for leave for that specific purpose.

Limmer’s, where a select band took up its quarters, was at this time one
of the chief resorts of young bloods and subalterns, for the most part of
the cavalry, who revelled in sanded floors and eating off the most
massive of silver.

Entering the coffee room on the afternoon of our arrival, I was greeted
by a cheery voice, and descried Hastings lingering over his breakfast.
Truth to say, his lordship had not a robust appetite.  The mackerel bone
fried in gin, and the caviare on devilled toast remained apparently
untouched, whilst a _hors-d’œuvre_, known as “Fixed Bayonets”—of which
the recipe is happily lost—failed to assist his jaded appetite; alongside
him stood a huge tankard of “cup,” and pouring out a gobletful for his
newly-found chum, and gulping down a pint by way of introduction, he
gasped: “By Gad, old man, I’m d— glad to see you!  To begin with, you
must dine with me at 8—here.  I’ve asked Prince Hohenlohe and Baron
Spaum, and young Beust and Count Adelberg, and if you’ll swear on a sack
of bibles not to repeat it, I expect two live Ambassadors—it’s always as
well” (he continued in a confidential tone) “to have a sacred person or
two handy in case of a row with the police.  First we go to Endell
Street—to Faultless’s pit.  I’ve got a match for a monkey with Hamilton
to beat his champion bird, The Sweep, and after that I’ve arranged with a
detective to take us the rounds in the Ratcliff Highway.  No dressing,
old man; the kit you came over in is the ticket, and a sovereign or two
in silver distributed amongst your pockets; you’re bound to have a fist
in every wrinkle of your person—why, if you’re dancing with a beauty
she’ll be going over you all the time.  I often used to laugh and shout
out, ‘Go it, I’m not a bit ticklish!’—still, what the h— does it matter?”
And his lordship sucked down another libation to the gods.

“I suppose you can speak French or German; if not you can try Irish—not
that it matters, for I expect Fred Granville and Chuckle Saunders, and
Hamilton is sure to bring a mob, so I think we may count on having the
best of it if it comes to a row.  How long are you up for?  A month, eh?
Oh, well, then we’re right for the Derby, and I’ll tell you what we’ll
do.  We’ll go down the evening before—the night before the big race
amongst the booths is the nearest approach to hell vouchsafed to unhappy
mortals.”

Punctually to time our party assembled, and it would have been difficult
for the unenlightened to have realised that the gaitered,
flannel-shirted, monkey-jacketed assembly embraced diplomats, peers, and
obscure Army men who have since made their mark in history.  Here might
have been seen Charlie Norton, the youngest and handsomest major in the
service, who years after developed into a Pasha amid the Turkish
gendarmerie; Ned Cunyinghame, in the zenith of his fortune, dilating
(with the dessert) on the superior attributes of Nova Scotia baronets,
and how an ancestor had once told the Regent “it was a title he could
neither give nor take away;” Count Kilmanseg, the best whist player that
ever came out of Hanover; Prince Hohenlohe, a charming attaché just
beginning his career; Baron Spaum, the best of the best, now
Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian Navy, and president of the recent
Anglo-Russian Arbitration in Paris; Count Adelberg, a genial Muscovite,
who considered _menus_ superfluous, and once shocked a very correct
hostess by exclaiming “_Je prends tout_,” and a host of others
unnecessary to enumerate.  Presiding at the head of the table was the
genial young Hastings—not yet a married man—faced, as vice-president, by
Freddy Granville, whose wavy hair, gentle manners, and frank and English
appearance were boring their way into the hearts of the best women and
men in Society, except, perhaps, the strict Exeter Hall school.

To approach a cockpit, even in the long-ago sixties, required a certain
amount of discretion, and so it came to pass that the sporting team broke
up into twos and threes, and by a series of strategical advances by
various routes, arrived within a few minutes of each other at the
unpretentious portals in Endell Street.  Descending into the very bowels
of the earth, the party was considerably augmented by his Grace of
Hamilton’s contingent, and within half an hour, the spurs having been
adjusted and all preliminaries arranged, the two champions faced one
another in the arena.

Ten minutes later it was a piteous sight to see the brave old champion
Sweep attempting to crow, although he seemed aware he had received his
quietus.

Suffice to say Hastings won the wager, and the party hurried eastward,
leaving the brave old bird like a warrior taking his rest.

One of the most popular pastimes of the long-ago sixties was going the
rounds of the dens of infamy in the East End and the rookeries that then
abutted upon the Gray’s Inn Road.  In this latter quarter, indeed, there
was one narrow, tortuous passage that in broad daylight was literally
impassable, and to escape with one’s life or one’s shirt was as much as
the most sanguine could expect.

The Ratcliff Highway, now St. George’s Street East, alongside the Docks,
was a place where crime stalked unmolested, and to thread its deadly
length was a foolhardy act that might quail the stoutest heart.

Every square yard was occupied by motley groups; drunken sailors of every
nationality in long sea-boots, and deadly knives at every girdle; drunken
women with bloated faces, caressing their unsavoury admirers, and here
and there constables in pairs by way of moral effect, but powerless—as
they well knew—if outrage and free fights commenced in real earnest.
Behind these outworks of lawlessness were dens of infamy beyond the power
of description—sing-song caves and dancing-booths, wine bars and opium
dens, where all day and all night Chinamen might be seen in every degree
of insensibility from the noxious fumes.

The detective who was to be our cicerone was known to every evil-doer in
the metropolis.  Entering these dens when not in pursuit of quarry was to
him a pilgrimage of absolute safety, and a friendly nod accompanied by
“All right, lads, only some gents to stand you a drink” extended the
protection to all who accompanied him.  A freemasonry, indeed, appeared
to exist between these conflicting members of society whereby, by some
unwritten code, it was understood that when either side passed its word
every one was on his parole to “play the game.”

The first place the explorers entered was a singsong in the vicinity of
Nile Street, but it was evidently an “off night,” for, with the exception
of a dozen half-drunken men and women, the place was practically empty.
As we entered, however, a sign of vitality was apparent, and the chairman
announced that a gent would oblige with a stave; but the cicerone with
commendable promptitude called out, “Not necessary, thank you all the
same,” and prompted his followers to lay five shillings on the desk.  But
the compliment was not to be denied, and a drunken refrain soon filled
the air, which was absolutely inaudible, except:

    “She turned up her nose at Bob Simmons and me.”

The next place was infinitely more interesting—the “Jolly Sailors,” in
Ship Alley.  “A dozen,” explained our cicerone as he tendered a coin, and
our party awaited admission.  “Keep your money, sergeant,” was the
ominous reply.  “Of course, I know you; but we’ve got a mangy lot here
to-night; they won’t cotton to the gents.  If they ask any of their women
to dance it will be taken as an affront, and if they don’t ask them it
will be taken as an affront; leave well alone, say I.  Most nights it
might do, but not to-night, sergeant; the drink’s got hold of most of
them, and there’s a lot of scurvy Greeks about who will whip out their
knives afore you can say what’s what.”

“Nonsense, man,” cut in Bobby, “we don’t want to have a row, we’ve come
for a spree; there’s the money, we’ll take our chance.”  The Baron also,
who prided himself on his mastery of our vernacular, interposed with:
“Posh, I snaps my finger at eem!  Am I afraid of a tirty Greek?  Posh!
All our intent is larks; we want no rows.  Posh!” And regardless of the
friendly monition, our party trooped into the room.  The scene that
presented itself was not an encouraging one; perched on a rickety stool
was a fiddler scraping with an energy only to be attained by incessant
application to a mug of Hollands that stood at his elbow, and to which he
appeared to resort frequently.  Polkaing in every grotesque attitude were
some twenty couples, the males attired for the most part in sea-boots and
jerseys, their partners with dishevelled hair and bloated countenances,
all more or less under the influence of gin or beer; here and there
couples, apparently too overcome to continue the giddy joy, were propped
against the wall gurgling out blasphemy and snatches of ribald song,
whilst in alcoves or leaning over a trestle table were knots of men,
smoking, cursing, swilling strong drinks, and casting wicked eyes at the
intruders.  “’Aven’t they a leg of mutton and currant dumplin’s at ’ome
wi’out comin’ ’ere?” inquired a ferocious ruffian.  “What for brings ’em
a-messing about ’ere, I’d like to know?”

“Blast me if I wudn’t knife ’em; what say you, lads?” replied a
stump-ended figure, stiffening himself.

“Bide a while, lads; let’s make ’em show their colours.  What cheer,
there?” shouted a huge Scandinavian, as a contingent detaching itself
from the main body lurched towards the explorers.

“What cheer, my hearties?” sang back Hastings, and, with a diplomacy that
might have done credit to a Richelieu, the entire party were fraternising
within a minute.

“The Jolly Sailors” was admittedly the most dangerous of all the dens,
even amid such hotbeds of iniquity as “The King of Prussia,” “The Prince
Regent,” “The Old Mahogany Bar,” “The Old Gun,” “The Blue Anchor,” and
“The Rose and Crown,” and had decoys in all directions to lure drunken
sailors or foolish sightseers within its fatal portals.  Situated at the
extremity of Grace’s Alley, it led directly into Wellclose Square, a _cul
de sac_ it was easier to enter than to leave; but sailors of all
nationalities are admittedly the most impressionable of mortals, and
happily in the present case the _sang-froid_, the unexpected rejoinder,
the devil-may-care bearing, disarmed apparently their rugged hostile
intentions, and within half an hour visitors and regular
customers—Germans, English, Scandinavians, and nondescripts—were
shouting:

    “What’s old England coming to?
       Board of Trade ahoy!”

What any of us knew of the Board of Trade or the Mercantile Marine
history does not say.

The opium dens in this delectable quarter were situated higher up at
Shadwell, but the charms of the “Jolly Sailors” proving too much for our
heroes, they elected to explore no further.

How different is the entire neighbourhood to-day!  The very name Ratcliff
Highway has disappeared, and been replaced by that of Saint George’s
Street East; where constables once patrolled on the _qui vive_ in twos
and threes a solitary embodiment of the law may now be seen, strolling
along in a manner that once would not have been worth an hour’s purchase;
where drunken sailors in sea-boots and knives at every girdle lurched
against inoffensive pedestrians, unwashed women may now be seen at
corners knitting stockings, whilst unsavoury tadpoles are constructing
mud-pies in the gutter; here and there may still be seen an inebriated
foreigner and rows of loafers—with a striking resemblance to the
“unemployed” hanging about the public-houses, but the solitary specimen
in blue seems to exercise a salutary hypnotising effect, all which
(justice demands) shall be placed to the credit of these enlightened
days.  Not that this welcome change has been long arrived at; not four
years ago a respectable tradesman, Abrahams, a naturalist, of 191, St.
George’s Street East, was attacked at 2 p.m., within fifty yards of his
own door, and succumbed to his injuries within twenty-four hours, and
even to-day to ostentatiously show a watch chain passing certain corners,
say Artichoke Lane, would not be without danger; but when all is said and
done, there is much to interest the seeker after novelty by a visit to
the Ratcliff Highway of to-day.  Here at the “Brown Bear” may now be seen
the rooms, once devoted to orgies, filled to their utmost capacity with
canaries sending up songs to heaven purer far than those of the long-ago
sixties.  Continuing along St. George’s Street will be found Jamrach’s
menagerie, whence filter most of the rarities that find their way to the
Zoological Gardens; and the place is no ordinary bird shop, but a museum
of information in more ways than one.  Here one large room will be found
stuffed with bronzes and curios from all parts of the world, which every
American visiting London, who fancies he is a critic, does not fail to
inspect; for Mr. Jamrach—like his father—is an authority, and a
naturalist in the highest acceptation of the term.

Lovers of animals will not regret a pilgrimage to “the Highway,” a
pilgrimage which, by the aid of the District Railway and broad,
electric-lighted streets, is no longer attended with discomfort or
danger.



CHAPTER VIII.
THE BOOTHS ON EPSOM DOWNS.


WHILE racing men have gained by the railway’s close proximity to the
course, others are now deprived of many of the sights there used to be
seen along the road.  From Westminster Bridge to the historical heath was
almost one continuous panorama of life, joviality, cheer, and fun; every
hedgerow was lined with open-mouthed yokels, gaping at the “coves from
Lunnon” of whom they had heard so much, but had never before seen; every
ditch supported a natural artificial cripple; every beerhouse was fronted
by holiday crowds quaffing ale and inviting one to join; and to cap all
this, the miles of vehicles with their accompanying dust gave every one
the complexion of chimney sweeps, despite veil, artificial nose, and
other guises incidental to a real journey by the road.

The party Lord Hastings had organised was a thoroughly representative
one: Fred Granville, Peter Wilkinson, Ginger Durant, Fred Ellis—not yet
blossomed into Howard de Walden—Bobby Shafto, The Baron, Young Broome (on
duty), and a host of smaller fry; all united in one purpose, one aim—to
enjoy life to its uttermost limit, and to lose not one fleeting moment of
the night preceding the first summer meeting at Epsom.  Booths in those
wicked days _were_ booths, not devoted as now to penny shots with pea
rifles and the excitements permitted by our prudish legislature, but
receptacles of every conceivable impropriety, to recount many of which
would shock you, virtuous reader.

Here were gipsies of the old original form, who, if permitted to tell a
modest girl her fortune, invariably wound up by informing her “she’d be
the mother of six,” dancing booths, and tableaux vivants booths; booths
where sparring and booths where drinking might be indulged in freely,
booths where terrible melodramas were given, gambling booths, and thimble
rig booths; roulette and three-card establishments, where every vice come
down from the days of Noah might be indulged in without let or hindrance.

Leaving Limmer’s in the afternoon, and proceeding by easy stages, we
reached the Downs shortly before eight.  No time was lost in commencing
business, and within an hour we were assisting at the erection of a
theatre booth, whilst a “fragment” here and there was being rehearsed.

“And what does your Lordship think of that?” inquired a perky little man
who had known the Marquis as a patron at a dozen other meetings.

“Splendid, Simmons,” replied his patron; “but why such serious scenes,
why not a jolly jig with sailors; poor Nelson, surely he’s out of place?”

“By no means, my Lord; on the contrary, my audiences will ’ave it, and if
only Mr. Fuljome would act up to ’Ardy’s part it would bring down the
’ouse.  It’s this way, my Lord: Nelson says: ‘’Ardy, I’m wounded
mortually,’ and then, of course, ‘’Ardy must say melancholy like: ‘Not
mortually, my Lord?’  But blow me if I can get it right.”

“D— the drama,” replied the kindly Marquis.  “Have you any one to send
for a drink?”  And pulling out two or three sovereigns the party
proceeded on their quest.

“Now, my Lord,” was next shouted from a roulette booth.  “We’re just
ready for the swells.  Step in, gentlemen,” continued a flash-looking
rascal.  “Ah! Mr. Broome,” he added, as he recognised the ex-puncher, “no
need for you, I hope.”

“Perhaps not, Levi,” replied the Marquis.  “But we’ve got some
quarrelsome chaps about; best be prepared.”  And again we proceeded on
our pilgrimage.

“Where are the tableaux vivants, Hastings?” inquired Fred Ellis.  “Damn
it, we must show the Baron.”  But at this moment an unrehearsed incident
occurred which stopped the future legislator’s eloquence.

“A word with you, Mr. Wilkinson,” said one of a couple of very shady
individuals.  “You’ll ’ave to come wi’ us,” he whispered, “a capias at
the suit of Beyfus—£200 with costs.”

“Hang it,” replied Peter, with _sang-froid_.  “Can’t you let it stand
over?  If you nab me now I can’t pay, but if you’ll let me alone till
after the meeting I’ll make it right, not only with Beyfus, but with you.
Now, look here, here’s how it stands.  On Saturday next I’m going down
with Lord Hastings to Castle Donington.  Send one of your chaps after me,
and about eight send a letter in to me.  We shall be at dinner—leave the
rest to me.”

On the following Saturday, the programme was carried out in its entirety.
Peter Wilkinson was staggered by the unexpected blow! and the
much-abused, kindly Hastings paid the claim on the spot.

And this is how boon companions requited the most generous man in
England.  What wonder, the target of friends and foes, the deepest well
at length dried up!  The party meanwhile had moved on, and Peter on
rejoining it found the champagne flying with a vengeance.  The site was a
huge marquee, the audience the entire company that had journeyed from
London, blended with the full strength of the tableaux vivants cast.

Fred Ellis was holding forth in an incoherent speech till, offended by
being told to “shut up,” he walked out of the tent.  Within ten minutes,
shouts of “Help! murder, help!” were wafted into the marquee, and groping
amid tent ropes, the cause was not far to seek.

On his knees, in an attitude of supplication, was the honourable Fred;
standing within a yard of him was a huge white goat.  “Oh, go away; don’t
take me.  Oh, I know he’s come for me at last.  Oh, take the devil away,
I know it’s him, and I swear I’ll never touch wine again.  Help! murder!”
Lanterns meanwhile approaching from various directions, the position
appeared simple enough.  The unhappy man on lurching amid the tent ropes
had unfortunately caught his leg in a harmless goat’s tether; in
endeavouring to extricate himself he had dragged the inoffensive
quadruped close to him, and being at the time in a state (presumedly)
unusual for him, the surroundings, grafted on to a strong religious
tendency, had distorted a very ordinary billy-goat into the devil
specially on his track, and standing over him waiting to waft him to
where—no matter how thirsty—drink was absolutely unattainable.  Fred
Ellis had once won the Grand Military, but that was before—

Luncheon on the Derby and Oaks days in the long-forgotten sixties was an
institution that dwarfs the most ambitious displays of hampers and cold
pies consumed on the tops of drags.  Conceive a huge marquee with tables
the entire length groaning under every delicacy, from plovers’ eggs at a
shilling a-piece to patés and blanc-manges of the Gunter school of
creation.  Imagine vats six feet high around the entire walls distilling
the best champagne into goblets filled by the most expert of footmen.
Conceive all this, free, gratis, and for nothing by simply presenting
your card with the name of your regiment inscribed; behold the genial
host smiling contentedly, as supporting on his arm a live Duchess of
Manchester—now her Grace of Devonshire—he administered to the internal
wants of one of the most beautiful women of the day!

Cynics, not contented with accepting the gifts the gods provided, were
prone to remark that assuming the feast cost Tod Heatly a thousand, he
would gladly have doubled it, if only to enable his fellow-creatures to
feast their eyes on that supreme moment of his life when he piloted his
fair charge across the crowded course.

Tod Heatly, it may be explained, possessed almost the entire monopoly of
supplying champagne to the various messes of the Army.  Amassing wealth
hand over hand by this profitable connection, he returned the compliment
by giving a general invitation to any officer of any regiment who dealt
with his firm.

Incredible as it may appear, no instance ever occurred of enterprising
chevaliers entering without a right, and the delightful custom only
ceased when the usages of society, the abolition of purchase, and our
advanced ideas made it absolutely necessary.

A similar experiment in these enlightened days would require admission by
parole and countersign and a squad of constables within measurable
distance.

Perhaps the most unique individual that has ever risen to a prominent
position on the Turf was Captain Machell, whose death occurred not long
since.

Joining the 14th Foot some time in the fifties, he exchanged as a captain
to the 53rd, and, retiring a few years later, invested his entire
fortune—his commission money—in a pitch at Newmarket.  It was during his
earlier soldiering days that he had the good fortune to be stationed with
the depôt of his regiment at Templemore, a desolate bog in the heart of
Tipperary, where commanded as clever a judge of a horse—Colonel Irwin, of
the Connaught Rangers—as ever came out of “ould Oireland.”  The permanent
staff of depôt battalions in those remote days retained their
appointments indefinitely, a regulation that enabled them to settle down
very cosily, undisturbed by anything more formidable than an annual
inspection conducted on the most comfortable lines.  Needless to add that
Templemore was no exception to the rule.

The drill field adjoining the barracks was converted into a paddock for
brood mares and yearlings; the entire stabling and any superfluous
out-houses became roomy loose boxes; hens cackled, cocks crowed, and pigs
grunted from every point of the compass, and any youngster prepared to
purchase a promising hunter—“a bit rough, but likely to shape well”—from
the Colonel need perform no more arduous duties than eating his dinner in
uniform and chewing a straw all day.

This equine elysium continued till young men began to grizzle and
two-year-olds became “aged”; it might, indeed, have continued much longer
had it not been for the unfortunate Fenian scare and the military
precautions that attended it.  Suffice it to say, that in one single day,
and without the slightest warning, the Commander-in-Chief—Lord
Strathnairn—suddenly appeared in the Square, and within twenty-four hours
the happy community was for ever broken up, the farm produce sent off to
various auction rooms, and the battalion half-way across the Channel.

Machell, when he arrived at the depôt, was not long in ingratiating
himself with the Colonel, and within a year the pair were joint owners of
Leonidas, a chestnut gelding that beat everything at all the surrounding
meetings at Thurles, Cashel, and Tipperary.

Machell, after his retirement, disappeared below the horizon till
summoned to assist at the pulverisation of the unhappy Hastings in the
spring of ’67, and it was after that, with £80,000 to his credit, that he
loomed into sporting publicity.

A splendid judge of a horse, possessed of a wiry frame, an expressionless
face, and a shrewd and calculating temperament, little wonder that he was
more or less associated from ’67 to his death with every wealthy
horse-owner aspiring to a career and every ass desirous of pilotage by
the astutest man of his day.

Machell as a young man had few equals in all feats requiring agility; he
could hop, apparently without effort, on to the mantelpiece in the
smoking-room at Mackin’s Hotel, Dublin; he could out-run most men for any
distance between 100 and 1,000 yards, and as a middle-weight could hold
his own amongst the best of amateur boxers.  It was not until years
after, when he came to blows with Bob Hope-Johnstone, at the “Old Ship,”
Brighton, that the scientific bruiser, hopping round his colossal
opponent, caught a chance blow that felled him like an ox, breaking three
ribs.  “Here, take this carrion away,” shouted the Major, and the
senseless Machell was removed to his rooms in a cab.

But the redoubtable Bob was, not long after, himself the victim of a
cowardly mauling at the hands of two Bond Street Hebrews, who since have
developed into the highest authorities on knick-knacks and articles of
vertu generally.  For even the rugged major, it would appear, had a weak
point near his heart, and seeking on one occasion a fair seducer at the
Argyll, he traced her to Rose Barton’s, and, attacking the two mashers
who were entertaining her, was belaboured with champagne bottles by the
cowardly Israelites, till, bleeding from a score of gashes, he was
removed to the “John o’ Groat” in Rupert Street, a hostelry now known as
Challis’s, after a waiter at Webb’s Coffee House who aspired to
perpetuate his name.

It is satisfactory to be able to add that in terror of possible
consequences, the brothers paid £200 to their victim before he attained
convalescence—a circumstance we have probably to thank for their still
being amongst us.

Machell, from the exigencies of his profession, was unquestionably the
ruin of numerous aspiring punters whose interests clashed with his own.
Beaumont Dixie, whose inclinations tended towards always backing
“Archer’s mounts,” was a notable example, and any one who witnessed the
scene in the paddock after a race where Machell’s horse _did not win_,
will not be likely to forget the ruined Baronet wringing his hands in
despair, and the irate owner standing over him with “Now, Mr. b— Beaumont
Dixie, I’ll teach you to back Archer’s mounts.”  It will be said by many
that Machell was a popular man, that he was generous, and deserving of
every credit for repurchasing an ancestral estate that was supposed to
have once belonged to the family; others, however, will contend that he
was of a selfish and over-bearing disposition, that his charity was
dispensed when and where it was likely to become known, and that no
better or wiser investment than an estate could have been made by a man
whose capital must have been enormous, and who hoped, by becoming a
landed proprietor, to gain the position seldom attained by a landless
man.  Probably Machell was never so good a fellow as when he was hopping
on and off mantelpieces, and when an accident would have broken his neck
and his fortune—the value of his commission—at one blow.

That Machell was born under a lucky star goes without saying, and is
proven by his career from the day he sold out with nothing but his
commission money to his death, when he died worth a quarter of a million.
Popular as a poor man, he every day became more morose as his pile
increased, and his first success through the introduction of his
brother-in-law, Prime (or his wife), to Lord Calthorpe (for whom he
eventually trained), led him by easy stages to Mr. Henry Chaplin, Joe
Aylesford, and finally to Harry McCalmont, where all his paths were
peace.

His marvellous capacity for “out-touting” the touts with which Newmarket
was infested was once exemplified during the trials for the Stewards’ Cup
at Goodwood.  Suddenly dismounting and diving into his pocket he dropped
(apparently) by accident a paper which purported to contain the weights
at which the favourite and others were being tried.  Needless to add, the
list had been carefully prepared, and what if true would have been fatal
to the favourite’s performance was, in fact, a highly satisfactory trial.

Within an hour it was reported at the Victoria Club that the favourite
had gone wrong, and 30 and 40 to 1 against him literally went begging.
Two hours later a pre-arranged telegram reached his agent, and the money
that was piled on by the stable brought a golden harvest at Goodwood.

Doncaster stands out through the long vista of years so prominently with
charms that appealed to every taste that a reference to the old Assembly
Rooms may be pardonable.

Every one who has rambled through the quaint old streets of Doncaster
must have noticed these unpretentious-looking rooms, which, for aught I
know, may still echo during the Leger week with the blatant babble of the
cheap excursion sportsman, but which in ’67 were the nightly rendezvous
of the various house-parties, and where Major Mahan, who did most of
James Merry’s commissions, was the recognised master of ceremonies.

In the smaller room on the left as one entered, hazard, fast and furious,
raged pretty well through the night under the auspices of Atkins, a lank,
white-bearded man, who had an unofficial monopoly at Goodwood and other
meetings which no rival dared to dispute.  During the Sussex week he
rented a large house near where the Brighton Aquarium now stands, and the
best of everything was provided gratis.

Old Mahan, who in his youth had been a well-known duellist, had at this
period simmered down to a fiery punter with a shiny forehead that
extended to the nape of his neck, and a grizzly fringe in the vicinity of
his ears.  Superstitious to a degree, if the dice went against him he
would seize any youngster entering the room whose physiognomy looked
“lucky,” and forcing him into a chair would insist on his calling the
main, and then backing him blindly.  “Aren’t yer surproised at me losing
so incessantly?” he once inquired of Sir Robert Peel, who happened to be
standing at his elbow.

“Not in the least,” was the caustic answer; “but we all wonder where you
get the money to play with.”

Not that sharpers did not occasionally wriggle in, who, after the soberer
players had left, resorted to reckless measures to rook the more
adventurous spirits, who in the small hours were more or less tipsy.

An Irish peer (still living) suspecting on one occasion that the dice
were loaded—as no doubt they were, having been changed—and just sober
enough to pocket them and leave the room, was surprised next morning
after having them broken, to find that they were perfectly genuine, and
thereupon paid his losses, which were considerable.  It transpired later
that the sharpers, who were staying at the same lodgings (hotels were not
patronised in those days), had entered his room whilst he was sleeping
off the night’s debauch and changed the guilty “bones.”

On another occasion a man with large estates in the Riding who had sense
enough to know he was too drunk to play, and had been heard to refuse,
was considerably astonished next day on the course at being accosted by a
gentlemanly stranger, who, producing twenty pounds in bank notes, thanked
him for his courtesy in allowing his debt of overnight to stand over, and
despite his protests of having “no recollection of the transaction,” was
literally forced to accept the money.

Two hours later, however, another stranger approached him and reminded
him of ninety pounds he had won from him overnight, and again R. R.
protested he had no “recollection of the transaction,” when a friend
passing by chance, the matter was referred to him.  He promptly asserted
he was in the rooms all the evening, and distinctly remembered R. R.
refusing to play; whereupon the sharper, threatening to have
satisfaction, walked away, and neither he nor his twenty-pound colleague
was seen again.

It was surprising the number of Scotsmen that came in those long-ago days
to see the Leger run, and who, night after night foregathered in the
Assembly Rooms for no object apparently but to drink “whusky.”

“Come awa, mon, come awa!” I once heard an old Scot insist as he escorted
an inebriated countryman out, and from a discussion that ensued after the
delinquent had disappeared I gleaned that he was an “elder,” and that
“Brother Dalziel was very powerful in prayer.”



CHAPTER IX.
RACING PAR EXCELLENCE.


A VISIT I once paid to Castle Donington had initiated me into many of the
mysteries of racing of which I had hitherto been in profound ignorance.
I had learnt that heavy plungers often deputed minor satellites to bet
according to instructions, and had witnessed “private” trials—which it
was well known were being watched—where ruses were resorted to that would
have impressed the most sceptical by their realism.  I had seen a
“favourite” pulled up, and within half a minute a blood-stained
pocket-handkerchief hurriedly smuggled into the rider’s pocket; I had
witnessed a horse backed for thousands go lame without apparent cause a
week before a race, and hobble through the village as if on its way to
the knacker’s, and I marvelled—till I gradually became more
enlightened—at the profound acumen of those in authority who could bring
such invalids to the post in the best of health and spirits.

I also made the acquaintance of numerous shining lights of the Turf, some
that blazed with universally admitted lustre, and some that emitted a
shady, indescribable glimmer apt to mislead the wayfarer.

Amongst the former none held a more honourable position, or was a greater
favourite, than Mr. George Payne.  A man of likes and dislikes, he had
apparently taken a fancy to me and often gave me hints that sturdier
recipients would have converted into thousands.

Mr. George Payne, although at this period close upon sixty, was the
centre of every fashionable gathering that met for racing or card
playing; a favourite of the highest in the land, he had come direct from
Norfolk to Nice in company with the chief actor in a notorious drama
enacted many years later, and no man had raised his voice with greater
indignation when, _nolens volens_, he found himself in the very centre of
the unsavoury vortex, “By —, sir!  By —, sir!”—an invariable adjunct—“D—
scoundrel!” dominating considerably amid the numerous _pourparlers_ that
ensued.

As a card player his stakes were simply appalling, and it is a well-known
fact that on one occasion he won £30,000 from the late Lord
Londesborough, who immediately afterwards hurried off to be married.
£100 a game was to him a normal stake, and any aspirant attempting to
“cut in” at the table who was not prepared to have an extra hundred on
the game was “By —, sir’d!” _ad infinitum_ for depriving a better man of
the seat.

Opinions on that remarkable meteor—Henry Plantagenet Hastings—who first
came into public notice at the Newmarket Spring Meeting of ’62, will
always differ.  By those who knew him intimately he will be remembered as
a weak, amiable, and generous youngster, terribly handicapped by a
colossal rent roll, a splendid pedigree, a generous, impulsive
disposition, and an entire ignorance of the value of money.  To the
present generation, who have only heard of his escapades, he will appear
as a reckless, unprincipled reprobate, preferring low company to that of
his equals, incapable of restraining his passions in pursuit of the
object of the moment, and sacrificing anything and anybody for their
attainment.  Barely had he left Oxford than he became the target of that
sporting world that pursued him to his grave, and was swindled out of
£13,500 for a “screw” that ended his days in a cab; after which he
settled down to racing as a serious occupation, and had fifty horses in
training; thence (1862) to 1867 he won the Cambridgeshire, the Grand
Prix, the Goodwood Cup, and a host of minor races, besides such a
colossal sum as close upon £80,000 on Lecturer in the Cesarewitch of ’66.

But although the fates had apparently condoned his infringement of the
Tenth Commandment in ’64, Nemesis was even then on his track, and it
would seem that the colt foaled about the very time he was exploiting the
structural merits of Vere Street was to be the humble instrument in the
hands of Providence for the ruin of the wicked Marquis.

It is needless here to repeat the threadbare story that once interested
people of how the most beautiful woman of her day stepped out of a
brougham one fine morning at the Oxford Street entrance to a
linen-draper’s, and emerged from another door in the vicinity of Vere
Street with the Marquis’s boon companion, Fred Granville.  Suffice for
our reminiscences, that if all this had not occurred in ’64, there would
probably have been no “Hermit’s year” in ’67; that Captain Machell would
not have commenced his career by netting £80,000 over the event, and that
poor Hastings would never have lost and paid the 103,000 sovereigns he
did.  One cannot follow the ups and downs of this unhappy sport of
Fortune without comparing the cheers that everywhere greeted him up to
’67 with the execrations with which he was assailed by the same rabble at
Epsom the following year, and all because one of the most generous of
golden calves had been tricked and swindled out of a colossal fortune in
less than six years, and had met every obligation till plucked of his
last feather.

Nor can one forget that the yelpings of his indignant judges (!) were
mingled with the hacking cough that carried him to his grave five months
later; yet nobody who saw him drive off the course would have imagined
that the incident had affected him in the least.  “I did not show it, did
I?” he remarked to an intimate friend almost from his death-bed; “but it
fairly broke my heart,” and so Henry Plantagenet Hastings was gathered to
his fathers at the early age of twenty-six, and almost before the howls
of the mob had ceased to ring in one’s ears.

Whilst on the fascinating but occult science of racing, the licence
invariably accorded by an indulgent public will not it is hoped be here
withheld if one jumps for a moment into the early seventies, an era,
alas! as far removed from the present generation as the long-ago sixties.
With railway facilities very different from those of to-day, it was the
custom of “bloods” to make a week of it at Newmarket during the great
meetings, and so it came to pass that a distinctly representative party
took up their quarters at the residence of Mr. Postans, the courteous
postmaster at Mill Hill, for the Two Thousand festival of ’72.

In those long-ago days class distinctions were religiously observed even
in such trifles, and whilst the “second chop” resorted to the “White
Hart” and other comfortable hostelries, the upper crust engaged houses at
fabulous prices, to the advantage of owner and tenant.

The existence was as regular as it was exciting, the racing being
followed by an excellent dinner and a stroll about nine to “The Rooms.”
It was on the night before the big race that Forbes-Bentley—a lucky dog
who owned a number of horses, and who had recently been left a fortune of
£140,000 conditional on his adding a second barrel to his name—suggested
to a sportsman at dinner that to avoid notice he should put some money on
for him on Prince Charlie for the Two Thousand.

Beginning his racing career in a pure love of the sport, he eventually
developed into a colossal punter, and discovered—it is feared too
late—that the game is not a paying one.  “Tommy,” he whispered to his
next-door neighbour over their cigars, “I want a monkey on Prince
Charlie; will you, like a good fellow, put it on for me with as little
publicity as possible?”

Prince Charlie during the past twenty-four hours had been a little shaky
in the betting, and from being firm at 2 to 1, 5 to 2 was at the moment
being laid, and was to be had to any amount.

Entering the Rooms about midnight the air resounded with “5 to 2
against,” as, cautiously approaching the then leviathan of the Turf,
Tommy inquired: “What price Prince Charlie?”  “I’ll lay you 1000 to 400,
Captain,” was the reply, and the bet being duly booked, he continued:
“And now you can have 3 monkeys to 1 if you like.”  “Put it down,”
replied Tommy, who although exceeding his commission decided that what
was good enough for Forbes-Bentley was good enough for him.

But barely had he left the bookie when up came T. V. Morgan, who had a
score of horses with Joe Dawson, and inquired what he had been doing.

“Your horse is not going well in the betting, old man.  I’ve just taken 3
monkeys to 1,” was the reply.

“My —, there must be something wrong!” he gasped.  “I’ll go at once to
Joe,” and without waiting a moment, he disappeared on his midnight
mission.

Knocking up Joe Dawson, who had long retired to rest, the two proceeded
to the stable, where it was found that the first favourite’s near fore
leg was inflamed, with every indication of a swelling.

“By —, Morgan!” exclaimed the trainer, “this is d— serious; the horse has
been got at, and may be again; we mustn’t stir from here for the
remainder of the night.”  And so the two kept vigil alternately till the
saddling bell rang next afternoon.  The head stable lad meanwhile and
certain helpers were not admitted into the stable, and peremptorily
discharged in the morning, and bonnie Prince Charlie won the Two Thousand
fairly easily.  But during the race there was a critical moment as the
horses entered the Dip and his jockey was seen to move in the saddle.  “A
thousand to a carrot against Prince Charlie!” was now shouted by a
hundred stentorian voices, but the shouts were happily short-lived, as
the grand old roarer shot out of the crowd and won with apparent ease.

Joe Dawson and his colleague Morgan meanwhile were inundated with
congratulations, and when Joe recounted the marvellous escape the good
old horse had had, the congratulations were not unaccompanied by fervent
hopes that the delinquents might yet be discovered and lynched.

On the authority of the late Joe Dawson it may be accepted that what
occurred was of the simplest but most effective nature, and comes briefly
to this: “That the fittest horse if gently tapped with a piece of wood on
the back sinew will become dead lame, and leave no trace of the
nobbling.”

But what led to the discovery appears more marvellous.  If Forbes-Bentley
had not commissioned Tommy to get his money on, and if Morgan had not
casually asked what he was doing, the fact of Prince Charlie’s
unpopularity might never have been brought home to the former; Joe Dawson
might have continued in his undisturbed slumber, and Prince Charlie at
daylight would have been found to be hopelessly lame.

It was the year in which Aventuriere ran for the Oaks that George Payne
told me that he thought she had a chance of winning, and a hint of the
kind meaning a lot from such a man as Mr. Payne, I decided to invest £15
in the hopes of landing £500.  Meeting my friend after the race, I
expressed my fear that the mare had not fulfilled his expectations.
“Wait till you’ve seen her over a long distance,” was the encouraging
reply.  “Don’t repeat what I’m saying, but when the weights are out for
the Cesarewitch get your money back if she carries anything less than
7st.”

Laying this monition to heart, I decided to trust her for a big stake,
but waiting, alas! to see how Alec Taylor’s lot would be quoted before
acting on the hint, I proceeded to Newmarket with a sporting team.

“Come and dine with me to-night,” suggested Fred Gretton, “if you don’t
mind meeting Swindells; you know what he is, but he’s d— amusing.”

Swindells was the owner of the first favourite, The Truth gelding, a
patched-up old crock that had been pulled at every small meeting for
months, and rewarded his enterprising owner by being given a nice light
weight for the Cesarewitch.

“I hope you’re both on my ’orse for to-morrow,” inquired the genial
Swindells.  And I explained I had determined to back Aventuriere.

“What’s she got on?” asked Swindells.  “What, 6st. 12lb.?  D— me if any —
three-year-old has a chance against my ’orse.”

It was then that I faltered, and, impressed with the speaker’s cuteness,
decided to go against my original intention, and backing The Truth
gelding, had the mortification next day of seeing Aventuriere win by a
neck with little Glover up.

“Well, got home, I hope?” inquired Mr. Payne after the race, and when I
told the truth, he added: “Never ask me for a tip again.”

It was thus that I lost the biggest chance of my life.

But it was before the above blow had descended that Mr. Swindells was at
his best, and during the dinner that we have referred to told story after
story which, however creditable to his resourceful genius, would by many
be considered “fishy.”

“Ah, the Chester Cup was the race for getting money on in those days,”
remarked the genial Swindells.  “I once ’ad a crock called Lymington; ah,
a rare useful one, too.  At the October Meeting I put ’im in for an
over-night race, the stable lad up, with orders to pull him up sharp soon
after the start, jump off and wait.  The ’orse was dead lame, of course,
and for why?  The lad ’ad slipped a bit of ’ard stuff into his frog.

“‘Bad case; breakdown,’ everyone said, so we took ’im back to the stables
in a van.  First the local vet. saw him, and then a big pot from London,
and we humbugged ’em both.  Not long after I entered ’im for the Chester
Cup, but told everybody my d— fool of a clerk had made a bloomer of it,
as the ’orse could never be trained, and so when the weights came out he
was chucked in at nix.  My eyes! what a cop! and, my Gawd, didn’t he win!
Oh, no; only as far as from ’ere to nowhere!”

At Doncaster, too, the hospitalities were even of a more lavish style,
and all the principal owners gave dinner parties nightly to their various
friends.

The name of Sir Robert Peel recalls many episodes in the career of that
most blustering baronet.

Beginning as an attaché at Berne, the first performance that brought him
into prominence was an outburst of temper at a local Kursaal, when,
seizing the rake, he belaboured an innocent croupier as the cause of his
run of bad luck.

The Foreign Office, deeming change of air desirable, we next hear of him
following the noble sport of racing, when I had the distinction of coming
within the sphere of his amiable influence.  It was in ’69 that I found
myself on one occasion travelling to Newmarket in the same compartment as
Lord Rosslyn and Sir Robert Peel; in the same train was Lord Rosebery,
making his début as an owner of horses, and still unknown to fame as the
most brilliant of orators and one of the best Foreign Secretaries England
has ever had.

“What kind of fellow is young Rosebery?” inquired Lord Rosslyn; to which
the most opinionated of men replied:

“He looks a fool, but I’m told he’s a bigger one than he looks.”

And this was the verdict of a man whose claims to celebrity were based on
being the son of a brilliant father, on one who, in addition to a most
successful racing career, is universally admired as a sound politician, a
genial friend, and the most versatile of living public men.

It was about the same period that the fates again destined me to be
within measurable distance of the over-bearing baronet, when young Webb,
the jockey, had lost a race through no fault of riding.  As he was fuming
and abusing the unhappy youth, Mr. George Payne, who was present,
protested against the unjust charge, adding that although he had lost
considerably by the race, he in no way blamed Webb, who had carried out
his instructions implicitly.

It was at this point one of the most amiable of men interfered, and
laying his hand on George Payne’s arm, said: “My dear George, it will
take three or four more crosses to get the cotton out of the Peel
family.”

Of a commanding presence, and faultlessly attired in heavy satin cravat
and large-brimmed hat, Sir Robert gave the impression of patrician down
to the heels; it was only—as Sir Joseph Hawley suggested—when the
crustation was tampered with that the plating gave indications of alloy.
Peel was an inveterate gambler, and an admittedly fine whist player, and
even so late as the early eighties might be seen daily at the Turf Club
at the 2 and 10 table, and a pony on the rub.  It was in this most select
of establishments that a fracas occurred between this most irascible of
baronets and a noble marquis (still living), when the pot called the
kettle black.  It ended in both members being suspended, then mutually
apologising, and eventually being restored to the privileges of the fold.

A bad loser, he was deficient in one quality that makes a successful
gambler, and so remained a failure, despite all the advantages that
political interest gave him.

Of a different type was Sir Joseph Hawley; succeeding to a huge fortune
before he was out of his teens, he went through the usual finishing
school of those days, and served a few months in the 9th Lancers, after
which he devoted his attention to yachting and visiting the various
Mediterranean ports in the vain search of the pursuit for which nature
had intended him.

It was at Corfu, then occupied by a small British garrison, that he had a
unique experience.  Entering upon one occasion the chief bakery of the
island, he sought enlightenment on the process by which the bread was
kneaded.  Around a vast room, surrounded by a shelf, sat some half-dozen
swarthy naked natives, whilst here and there lumps of dough were arranged
in piles; on the floor stood two or three youths, whilst suspended from
the ceiling dangled various ropes, which the respective squatters
clutched firmly in their hands.  At a given signal, away they flew,
whilst the urchins deftly turned the dough, and then, with a flop, down
came the naked natives, with eyes starting out of their heads, only again
to fly into space, whilst their next resting-place was being duly
adjusted.

No fear of indigestion where such perfect kneading was in force; indeed,
the bread of Corfu bore an excellent reputation, and the island was
considered one of the most popular of Foreign Stations.

It would be absurd to recount the numerous victories of the “cherry and
black” colours, although the unique experience of Blue Gown being
disqualified at Doncaster for carrying “over weight” in the Champagne
Stakes may come as a surprise to many.

Scotland was represented on the Turf in the sixties by two shining lights
of diametrically different types, the patrician Earl of Glasgow and the
plebeian James Merry (of Glasgow), and whilst the former, during his
fifty years, only once won a classic race—the Two Thousand—the latter
swept the boards of everything over and over again.

Lord Glasgow was not a lovable man; bluff to a degree, and sensitive as
lyddite, the brine that he imbibed in his youth never appears to have
left him, for his lordship was in the Navy when keel hauling was in
vogue, and the sixties found him as foul-mouthed, irritable, and
cross-grained as any British tar ought to be.

Suffice that in those hard-drinking, hard-swearing days, no head was
harder, no répertoire more complete than that of this belted Earl (why
belted?), who, with all his faults, was a grand landmark of what a
patrician of the old days was, as surrounded by his boon companions,
General Peel, George Payne, Lord Derby, and Henry Greville, the magnums
of claret flowed in the historical bay-window at White’s.  But this was
before membership was “invited” by advertisement.

James Merry, on the other hand, was a typical semi-educated Scot, game to
the backbone, but not up to the standard then required in a gentleman.
He came, indeed, before his time; had he lived to-day, a baronetcy, or
certainly the Victorian Order, would have been his reward.

It has been the lot of few men to own such horses as Thormanby, Dundee,
Scottish Chief, MacGregor, Sunshine, Doncaster, and Marie Stuart, and
despite the fact that no suspicion ever rested on James Merry’s fair
name, it is an open secret that when MacGregor was backed for more money
than any Derby favourite before or since, the Ring told him, “If he wins
we are broke”—and he did not win.

Devout Presbyterian though he was, he succumbed, alas, on one occasion,
to French blandishments, and ran a horse on the Sawbath.  Summoned by the
“Elders” of Falkirk to explain the terrible lapse, he freely admitted his
sin, and only obtained absolution by presenting the entire siller to the
Kirk.

But no reference—however superficial—to the Turf in the sixties would be
complete without one word of homage to the great Englishman who did so
much for the honour of old England both in sport and politics.  Not that
his greatest admirer can place Lord Palmerston in the front rank either
as a diplomatist or an owner of racehorses, though none can deny him the
marvellous combination of attributes that endeared him to his countrymen,
whether in office or opposition, as when crying “hands off” when his
prerogative as Prime Minister was being tampered with; or when leaving a
debate to come out and shake hands with his trainer; or when at
Tattersall’s watching the fluctuations in the betting over his hot
favourite, Mainstone, for the Derby; or when twitting his political
opponent (Lord Derby), whom he had just replaced as Prime Minister; or,
again, whilst watching Tom Spring or John Gully punching in the ring long
before any of us were thought of.  Ah, there was a man; an Englishman
without guile, and of a type well nigh extinct!

Lord Palmerston never attained pre-eminence on the Turf, and when
Mainstone—as was suspected—was tampered with before the big race, and
when, on a later occasion, Baldwin broke down in his training, he decided
to abandon the sport; what more noble than the letter he wrote to Lord
Naas giving him his favourite to place at the stud?  No auctioneering, no
huckstering—but a free gift such as only a great Englishman would have
conceived.

And who that frequented the Curragh meetings in the long-ago sixties has
not admired the noble form of this same Lord Naas (assassinated in ’72 in
the Andaman Islands), accompanied by those stalwart Irishmen, the late
Marquises of Conyngham and Drogheda?

England must indeed “wake up”—to quote a phrase as old as the hills—if
such records are to be maintained, and seek—perhaps in vain—for other
giants such as these mighty dead, if we are to be what we were in sport
and politics amongst the nations of the earth.

For like the ripples on a placid lake before some great convulsion of
nature, a Cromwell is succeeded by a Charles, and the Palmerstons make
way for less sturdy clay, and then the great upheaval comes, which ends
in chaos, or the prosperity that is associated with “a great calm.”

Whether these momentous events will occur, simultaneously with the
establishment of a Duma, and a great penny daily in Jerusalem, and the
abandonment of historical English and Scottish seats for castles on the
Rhine, it would require a modern Jeremiah to foretell, but the pendulum
is oscillating ominously, with a throb that is not to be mistaken.

Lord Falmouth, whom no earwig ever ventured to associate with a fishy
act, holds the proud distinction of never having backed his opinion in
his life, if we except the threadbare tale that every biographer sets out
as if it were not known to everybody, of how he once bet sixpence, and
paid it in a coin surrounded by diamonds.

With this attribute universally known, it is perhaps not difficult to
explain the immunity he obtained from innuendo when his horse Kingcraft
won the Derby in the memorable year that the Ring “approached” James
Merry, despite the fact that he only ran third to MacGregor in the Two
Thousand.

That Lord Falmouth was a successful horse-owner may be accepted by the
£300,000 he undoubtedly won in stakes during the twenty years of his
career; that no one begrudged it him is shown by the unanimous regret of
the racing public when he practically retired from the Turf, and that
even so “close” a man as Fred Archer, the jockey, should have subscribed
towards a presentation silver shield speaks volumes for his popularity.

Lord Falmouth, like his grand old naval ancestor, is now a matter of
history, and nothing remains but the two guns outside the family town
house in St. James’s Square to remind the passer-by of two great men, who
in their respective spheres were _sans peur et sans reproche_.

To Fred Archer, as a phenomenon of a later period, who was latterly Lord
Falmouth’s jockey, it is out of the sphere of these annals of the sixties
to refer, but seeing him as I often have over his usual breakfast of hot
castor-oil, black coffee, and a slice of toast, it seems incredible that
he should have lived even to his thirtieth year.

Constantly “wasting” to try and attain 8st. 7lb. his mind and body soon
became a wreck, and then the sad end came by his own hand with which we
are all familiar.

Bob Hope-Johnstone and his brother David (“Wee Davy”) were two as fine
specimens of the genus man as can well be conceived; but like
Napoleon—who, according to experts, ought to have died at Waterloo—Bob
outlived the glory of his youth, and became a morose, cantankerous
wretch, who spent half his time at the hostelry now known as Challis’s,
which in the sixties was the resort of every jockey—straight or
crooked—that held a licence from the Jockey Club.

Another shining light about this period was Prince Soltykoff, whose wife
was one of the handsomest women in England.

It was after her death that he came into prominence as an admirer of
beautiful women in general, and of little Graham of the Opera Comique in
particular, and—later on—of goodness knows how many more.  Many a time
have I seen him at Mutton’s at Brighton, loaded with paper bags full of
every indigestible delight, which the imperious little woman beside him
continued unmercifully to add to.

Lord Glasgow, who was distinguished in the sixties as possessing the
longest string of useless yearlings, was, in addition to other
peculiarities, the most hot-tempered explosive that epoch produced.  Kind
of heart in the bluffest of ways, and throwing money about with a lavish
hand, I remember on one occasion finding myself on the railway station at
Edinburgh as his plethoric lordship was purchasing his ticket.  Tendering
a £5 note, the clerk requested him to endorse it, which, having been done
with a churlish air, his temper rose to fever pitch when the clerk,
returning it, said, “I didn’t ask you where you were going; I want your
name, man!”  A volley of abuse, in which he was a past-master, then
followed, and the abashed official realised that what he had mistaken for
a grazier was the redoubtable Earl of Glasgow.

The sporting critic of the _Morning Post_, who wrote under the name of
“Parvo,” once felt the weight of his indignation for what, after all, was
a fair criticism of the great man’s stud, and when, in ’69, an obituary
article appeared in the _Post_, the incident and the exact wish his
lordship had given expression to were conveyed in flowery symbolism as a
hope “that he might live to water his grave, but not with tears.”

The Earl of Aylesford in the sixties was the owner of Packington Hall,
and a princely income, and it was whilst I was staying with George Graham
(owner of the famous Yardley stud where the great Stirling “stood”) that
a jovial party drove over from Packington.  Luncheon as served in those
days was an important item in the programme, and long before the
Packington party began to think of returning more than one had succumbed
to the rivers of champagne that flowed.  Bob Villiers (a brother of the
then Earl of Jersey) was one of the first to collapse, and as he
disappeared under the table the kindly host’s anxiety was curbed by a
shout from Joe Aylesford, “Never mind, George, he’s only tried himself a
bit too high.”

A few years later Joe was one of the party, selected in company with
Beetroot (as Lord Alfred Paget was affectionately called) and others, to
accompany the Prince of Wales to India, and it was during his absence
that the troubles that culminated in disaster overtook the popular Earl.
“Don’t go to India, Joe, if you value your domestic happiness,” was the
advice of an old friend, but go he did, and then began the intrigues of a
titled libertine, which ended in strong drinks and the mortgaging of the
ancestral acres.

Amid this genial phalanx no better host was to be found than old Fred
Gretton, and it was apropos of the Cambridgeshire that the following
incident occurred.

Seated round the festive board were some dozen sportsmen, young men from
town and old men from the shires; dear old George Graham (the breeder of
Stirling) and his brother; Duffer Bruce (father of the late Marquis of
Aylesbury), deafer than usual, but shouting the house down; myself, Peter
Wilkinson, and three or four worthies of the farmer class who had come in
the wake of Fred Gretton.

“I should like you to win a large stake,” whispered to me a jolly old
squire who had been my neighbour at dinner.

“Nothing would give me greater pleasure,” I replied; “the more so as this
is positively the last meeting I am ever likely to be at before going to
Gibraltar.”

“Eh, lad, and why so?” persisted my well-wisher.  “I should like you to
win a large stake,” and realising that it was now or never, I boldly
replied: “Look here, Mr. Bowden, if you can put me on to a good thing I
shall be eternally grateful.”

“I suppose you’ve never heard of Playfair?” inquired Mr. Bowden.  “He’s
Fred’s horse, and he’s certain to win the Cambridgeshire; he’s only got
6st. 3lb., the acceptances are just out, but, for God’s sake, don’t let
Fred know.  Now, lad, do as I tell you; I’ve taken a liking to you.”

It must be admitted I had never heard of Playfair—very few had—but acting
up to the tenets I had learnt during my two years’ intimacy with the late
Hastings, I boldly took 1,000 to 15 within the hour with the leviathan
Steele.

“What are you backing?” inquired Mr. Gretton, who that moment came
hurriedly up, and on being informed by the bookie, he turned to me and
whispered into my ear, “There’s only one man could have told you, and
that’s that d— drunken old blackguard Bowden; but not a word, mind you,
you keep to that 1,000.”  And so the kind old man toddled off.  Shortly
before the race, at the Bath Hotel, Piccadilly, where he always stayed in
Town, he inquired of the two barmaids if they would like a sovereign each
on his horse; and whilst the foolish virgin expressed a preference for
the coin, the wise virgin elected to be “on,” and after the race received
from the genial punter £35—a sum considerably in excess of the price.

Suffice to say, Playfair won the Cambridgeshire for Mr. Gretton in ’72,
and it is no exaggeration to add that his taking to racing to the extent
he then did suggested the idea—afterwards elaborated—of turning Bass and
Co. into a limited liability company.



CHAPTER X.
THE EPIDEMIC OF CARDS.


THE Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, at the time of which I am writing, was
as crotchety a specimen of the old school as the Peninsular had ever
turned out.  Clean shaved, with a Waterloo expression of countenance, Sir
George Browne was about the last of Wellington’s veterans who held a high
command.  Despotic and vindictive if thwarted, he had a squabble with the
railway companies, and retaliated by vetoing henceforth the transit of
troops by rail, and a regiment ordered from Londonderry to Cork did the
entire distance by route march.  Not that the ordeal was without its
advantages, for it enabled British regiments to form their own opinions
of Irish hospitality and the numerous good qualities of that
much-misunderstood race.  Proceeding in detachments of two and three
companies, every night found them billeted in the towns or villages
through which they passed, and it was no rare occurrence for the landed
proprietors to ride out and insist that every officer should stay at the
Manor House, and to send supplies of comforts wherewith to regale the
men.

Mr. Kavanagh, M.P. for Kilkenny, was a brilliant specimen of a real old
Irish gentleman, and though deformed from his birth, could hold his own
amongst the best.  Without arms, this grand sportsman could ride, drive
four horses, and shoot to perfection, and his prowess in Corfu and other
distant sporting haunts is remembered to this day.

Riding out to welcome the regiment, no refusal was listened to, and
within an hour every officer was comfortably settled at Borris Castle,
and the men fared proportionately as well.

But the monotony of these tedious pilgrimages will not bear narration.
Suffice it that having landed at Cork we received orders, much to our
delight, to proceed direct to Dublin instead of to dismal Templemore.

The craze for punting that we had experienced in London seemed, indeed,
to have crossed the Channel, and when the officers had severally been
elected honorary members, it was found that the Hibernian United Service
Club was the hotbed of about the highest play they had yet encountered.
Nightly, with the precision of a chronometer, ten o’clock found the
spacious card room crammed to its uttermost limits, and Irish banknotes,
varying from one to ten sovereigns in value, were literally stacked a
foot high on either side of the table.  All through the night these
terrible duels continued, and it was no uncommon thing to leave the room
and drive like blazes for morning parade at ten.  The garrison in this
memorable year was an exceptionally “high-play” one, consisting, amongst
others, of the 4th and 11th Hussars, 9th Lancers, the Royal Dragoons,
Highlanders, and Rifle Brigade, and during that winter fabulous sums were
lost by men incapable of meeting their obligations.

The Committee, meanwhile, were roused to action, and peremptory orders
were given that the gas was to be turned off punctually at 2 a.m.; but
the extinction of the gas was the signal for the appearance of
substitutes, and out of some two hundred pockets wax candles were brought
forth, and the game proceeded as vigorously as ever.

Further pressure was now applied, and under pain of expulsion members
were ordered to quit the card room at the prescribed hour; but even this
did not meet the case, and the punters ascended _en bloc_ to the largest
bedroom above.

It may be explained that this really delightful club possessed a dozen
bedrooms, and on the particular occasion of which we are writing, one was
in the occupation of Sir James Jackson, G.C.B., as irritable an old
Peninsular veteran as a merciful Providence had spared to the sixties.  A
cavalry man of the old school, he invariably wore spurs, and no human eye
had ever seen him without these useful appendages—a small blue moustache
carefully waxed, and a bald head with blue tufts on either side completed
the picture of this irritable old warrior who ate his dinner every day in
the club, and never spoke to a soul.

Play, meanwhile, was proceeding apace, with calls of “King,” “Fifty more
wanted this side,” “D— it, blaze away,” “The pool’s made,” gracefully
interspersed, when the door suddenly opened, and an apparition in flowing
dressing-gown, nightcap, slippers, and spurs demanded peremptorily that
the game should cease.  To refuse the colonel-in-chief of the Carabineers
would, of course, have been impossible, and as the old warrior retired to
his couch the punters left the club.

Ruin, meanwhile, had overtaken many an irreproachable man, and L—, of the
Royals, K— of the Rifle Brigade, and a score of others, had no
alternative but to send in their papers, and then the Commander-in-Chief
came upon the scene, and swore, as only a Waterloo veteran could, that if
any officer again transgressed he would send the regiment to the worst
station between Hell and Halifax.

But the wave of punting that appeared to have engulfed the land was by no
means confined to the Arlington, Raleigh, and Hibernian Clubs, and the
“Rag,” and later on the Whist Club—known as the “Shirt Shop”—caught the
infection, and fabulous sums were wagered on the turn of a card night
after night without intermission.

Two-pound points to £10 on the rubber were the staple stakes of even the
sober old Whist, and then one was looked upon as depriving a better man
of the seat unless prepared to bet an extra hundred.  Old fogies, who had
never previously risked a shilling, would cautiously creep to the table,
and nervously tender half-crowns, till frightened out of their lives by
Tony Fawcett, of the 9th Lancers, shouting, “D— it, sir, this isn’t a
silver hell!” and then, not to be beaten, they would club together and
make up the requisite sovereign.

Gus Anson, V.C., M.P., the most popular man of the day, was so
impregnated with the epidemic that although at the time piloting an
important Bill through Parliament, he had given me a standing order that
as soon as a sufficient number were assembled for loo or baccarat, a
telegram was to be despatched to him forthwith, and numerous were the
messages that found their way to the sacred precincts of the House
between ten and twelve at night, addressed to Colonel the Honourable
Augustus Anson, V.C., M.P., presumedly from constituents.

Brighton, too, suffered from the epidemic, and during the Sussex
fortnight the fever spread to an alarming extent.  The London detachments
came down _en bloc_, and all the best houses and leading hotels were
filled with roysterers, and high play was the rule from night till
morning.

Progress along the King’s Road after dusk was a matter of difficulty, and
at every lamp-post one was importuned by eager touters, and invitation
cards thrust into one’s hand to visit this house or that.  Every roof
sheltered punters of a lower strata anxious to emulate their betters, and
the family knick-knacks and the family Bible, left exposed by their
worthy owner in his desire to participate in the golden harvest, might
have been seen huddled together in a corner, or intermingled with cards,
whisky bottles, and tumblers.

In preparation for the nightly orgies that commenced about ten, the
bloods inaugurated a delightful system whereby the maximum of fresh air
with the minimum of exertion might be obtained prior to the inhaling of
the foul currents amid which they proposed to revel for the rest of the
night.

To meet the requirements of the case, every wheelchair was bespoken or
engaged for the entire week at a considerable advance in price, and a
procession, usually headed by George Chetwynd, Billy Milner and Billy
Call—to whom the honour of the inception is credited—might nightly be
seen wending its way to the end of the pier, selecting the most suitable
parts, and generally inconveniencing everybody not of the “inner circle.”

The costume _de rigueur_ on these progresses was white tie, evening
trousers and vest, and silk hat, with the oldest shooting coat in one’s
wardrobe.

Later in the season some Hebrews of imitative dispositions aspired to
emulate the bloods, but although their get-ups were irreproachable, the
fraud was detected, and the jackdaws ruthlessly suppressed.

It is painful to remember the numerous edifices that toppled, and the
many good men that “went under” in the inevitable crash that ensued, and
picturing in one’s mind the huge table and the fifteen or twenty players
that congregated nightly around the board in the various clubs—winners
and losers and lookers-on—a lump rises in one’s throat as one remembers
how few are left!  Carlyon and Augustus Webster, Jauncey, Cootie
Hutchinson, Sam Bachelor, Lord Milltown, Crock Vansittart, La Touche,
Hastings, De Hoghton, Tom Naghten, Sir George O’Donnel, Dick Clayton, Gus
Anson, Freddy Granville, George Lawrence, Jimmy Jop, Jim Coleman, and a
host of others, all good men and true, and all long since swept away into
the inevitable dust-bin.

Not to have known Jinks was not in itself a reproach, but not to have
known Jonas Hunt in the long-ago sixties was to have admitted that one
was without the pale of Society, or certainly that section of it which
gambled, raced, and drank all day and all night, if circumstances
permitted.  A fine horseman of iron nerve and unbounded assurance, he had
ridden in the Balaclava charge before he was out of his teens, and on
retiring from the service a few years later, developed into one of the
best gentleman riders ever seen in England or France.

In a chronic state of impecuniosity—as he insisted on asserting—he never
omitted to add that a good knife and fork was always ready at home.
Jonas had certainly run through pretty well all he had had, but still he
always possessed an income.

Always ready to gamble, and always cheery, Jonas, as may be supposed, was
popular with a certain set, and if he had a fault it was a forgetfulness
in regard to the settlement of small scores, which by some was attributed
to the excitement when he rode in the “six hundred,” and by others to
various causes not sufficiently interesting to enumerate.  Brave as a
lion, he had actually been recommended for the Victoria Cross—in those
days less lavishly awarded than now—and as he was quite ready to “go out”
on the slightest provocation, timid natures preferred to put up with
eccentricities arising out of his forgetfulness rather than risk a
daylight meeting at twelve yards rise.

Whilst riding in France his performances were a revelation to his foreign
critics, and when on one occasion his bridle broke and he steered his
mount to victory with his whip, he received such an ovation at Chantilly
as seldom falls to the lot of a perfidious Briton.

On one occasion, Jonas, who had allowed a comparative stranger to leave
the table without settling, was met by the indignant creditor a few days
later and reminded of his obligation; but Jonas, in no way disconcerted,
let the amazed punter understand that such a demand was highly
ungentlemanly and insulting, offering as an alternative to retire with
him forthwith and fight it out with either pistols or fists.

In the duel between Dillon, a gentleman rider, and the Duc de
Grammont-Caderousse, which created such an unjust scandal in the sixties,
Jonas, as might have been expected, was the former’s second.  Neither man
had ever had a rapier in his hand before, and when on the following
morning both began slashing and thrusting, and Dillon was run through the
heart, a clamour arose as to the butchery of an Englishman by an expert
swordsman; all which was bosh.  Had de Grammont been anything but the
veriest tyro, the regrettable incident could not have occurred.

It was subsequent to the various thrilling incidents we have narrated
that Jonas selected Brighton as his headquarters.

Jinks’ Club was not located in a palatial mansion, nor did it even
present the modest exterior of the local Union Club; as a fact, it was
limited in its dimensions, and consisted of two rooms in an unpretentious
house in Ship Street.

In the front room was a long table and some two dozen chairs, an iron
safe, and a side table, convenient for the support of such light
refreshments as sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, and beverages of a popular
kind.

The back room was more or less a sealed subject, and supposed to contain
club memoranda, Jinks’ books, and to be the spot where the “proprietor”
carried on the business.

Membership of the club was within the reach of all, and a “quorum” of
Jinks and Jonas could on emergency elect a member without general meeting
or ballot; but those specially introduced by Jonas were received with
marked favour.  Nor were there apparently any fixed rules as to meetings,
which were left to circumstances, and an urgent three-lined whip on
emergency.

The procedure in the latter case may briefly be described as follows:—

If Jonas met a “likely” man—from town—he would tell him that his
appearance was the luckiest thing in the world, as that very night a rare
round game was “coming off,” that baccarat would begin at nine, and that
the rendezvous was Jinks’ Club.  This point being settled, an urgent whip
was sent round by the indefatigable Jonas, and by 8.45 a representative
company awaited the desirable plunger from town.

Prior to the commencement of the game, Jonas, it must be conceded, was a
mass of energy.  Attired in evening clothes he would first unlock the
mysterious safe, and after the local members had come one by one,
presumably to deposit money, and returned with counters conspicuously
displayed, he would turn with his most winning smile to the visitor with:
“Now, old man, how much do you want to buy; it saves a lot of bother by
having counters?  You’ve only to plank your counters after it’s over, and
get their value; good rule, don’t you think?  It’s what they do at ‘le
Cercle’ at Nice; saves a lot of bother.”

Occasionally, during the excitement of the game, strangers had been known
to put into the pool brand new crisp notes to save the bother of buying
counters; but these were always exchanged for counters by the
ever-obliging Jonas.  “It’s much better to have one sort of settlement,
don’t you think, old man?” he would add, as stuffing the notes into his
pockets he eagerly rushed into the fray.

“By Jove! it’s later than I thought,” was often a familiar exclamation as
daylight appeared over the pier.  “How many counters have you got, Jack?
Count them, old man, or keep them till morning.  You and I are old pals;
you know where to come in the morning.  Name your own hour; good-night.”
And the genius was round the corner like a hurricane.

An amusing incident once occurred where Jonas was a big winner, and his
debtor Master Fred Granville; Jonas on this occasion was immeasurably
chaffed.  “You’ll never get a bob,” he was told right and left.

“Oh, yes I will, he’s all right,” was the half-hearted reply.

“But he’s going away in the morning,” added another; “you must look
sharp, Jonas.”  And Jonas intimated he had been promised that a cheque
should be sent him in the morning.

Next morning a cab drove rapidly to the Norfolk, and Jonas, jumping out
excitedly, said: “Look here, you chaps,” and he waved a cheque excitedly.

“Let’s have a look at it,” asked Ernest Neville.  “Why, man, it isn’t
signed.”  And Jonas’s face lengthened inordinately as he realised the
terrible omission.

Shouting for a cab after a hurried glance at a railway guide, he in due
time reached the station, and had the satisfaction of seeing the last
carriage slowly receding from view.

It was the winter that Garcia—a Spanish miscreant—who had won colossal
sums at every hell in Europe, had just been detected in a trick that had
long baffled the ingenuity of the world.

The scheme was nothing less than procuring the contract for the supply of
cards at the principal gambling resorts of Nice, Monaco, St. Petersburg,
Homburg, Paris, and Ostend.

Shiploads of his ware thus found their way into every quarter, and
wherever he played he was confronted by his own cards.  Knowing their
backs as well as their faces, the result was obvious, and it was only
after innumerable golden harvests that a clumsy accident brought the
fraud to light in a salon in the Champs-Elysées.

The scare thus created had not been lost upon the Riviera, and every
precaution that ingenuity could devise was taken to make foul play
impossible.

It was during this winter, too, that the culprit, detected cheating at
the Raleigh, put an end to his career.

Le Cercle de la Méditerranée is one of those majestic buildings that
meets the enormous revenue required for its support by making the pastime
of cards an absolute luxury.  On the first floor is a spacious saloon,
with no better light than that afforded by plate-glass panels
communicating with the card room and other chambers; liberally provided
with lounges, weary punters resorted to it for repose, and waiters, when
not otherwise occupied, hovered near it as within easy call of
everywhere.  In the adjoining room cards were usually set for possible
whist and ecarté, or until every available spot was required for the more
exciting claims of chemin de fer.

Biscoe had on more than one occasion rambled through the empty room, and
oblivious of the proximity of the servants, had been seen pocketing a
pack of cards.  This having been duly reported, he was made an especial
object of interest to the committee; though, until he essayed to play, it
was looked upon as the act of a kleptomaniac.

All this, however, was unknown to the culprit, who, with but one object,
one aim in life, laughed at every reverse, and raked in his winnings when
Fortune smiled on him.  His luck as a whole had been fairly good, and
thinking the moment a favourable one, he decided to increase his stakes.

It was now his deal, the “chemin de fer” was with him.  “Come, gentlemen,
let us plunge,” he jokingly remarked, as, producing a pocket-book, he
placed it upon the pack.  “I call twenty-five thousand francs.”
(£1,000).

A keen observer might have detected certain ominous glances that passed
between the polite Count and the bland Professor, but nothing was said,
and amid the silence of the Catacombs, the game proceeded.

Five minutes later Biscoe was raking in £1,000 (in counters).

“Again, gentlemen!” he shouted, as flushed and excited, he had not
observed that two or three players had risen, and the remainder,
bewildered at so unusual a proceeding, stared at one another in blank
astonishment.

“What’s up?” inquired Biscoe.

“D—d if I know,” was the laconic reply, as an Englishman left the table.

“The Committee, sir,” replied the Count, “have decided to count the
cards, and on their authority I take possession of those before you.”

Meanwhile groups discussed the position and ominous expressions, such as
“Il nous faut un agent de police,” and “C’est clair que nous avons été
volés” were bandied about.  A _procès verbal_ also took place, presided
over by the Duc de Richelieu, and within an hour it was known to every
_gamin_ in Nice that an English “milor” had descended to the level of a
thimble-rigger, that his spurs had been hacked off by the fiat of public
opinion, and that henceforth his place would know him no more.

The rest is briefly told.  A dozen extra cards were found in the packs
that had been correct before play commenced; the counters in Biscoe’s
possession were _not_ redeemed by the club, and the “acceptance” was as
far from redemption as ever.

Next morning, as the gardeners were sweeping the grounds, a dead body
with a gun-shot wound in the head was found in a shrubbery.

Within a few yards lay the tideless Mediterranean, calm and sparkling as
the morning sun played upon its waters; whilst here lay an upturned face,
cold and rigid and ghastly white save for a clotted disfigurement on the
brow, and the same sun, in all the irony of its grandeur, was lighting up
all that was left of blighted hopes, fallen greatness, and a tragedy
never to be forgotten.  Later on, the mangled remains were buried at the
expense of the Municipality.

A week or two later a paragraph appeared in a Dublin paper, and there the
matter ended.

This is the usual procedure in these fashionable resorts.  If you’ve lost
your last penny you are provided with railway fare and seen off the
premises; if you blow out your brains, you’re buried out of sight.
Decency must be maintained!  _Faites vos jeux, messieurs_!

A convenient custom obtained at Le Cercle de la Méditerranée whereby a
player temporarily cleaned out was permitted to deposit a pencil on the
table to represent a stake, it being understood that he immediately
proceeded to the bureau to purchase counters to redeem his symbolical
investment.  This was known as “au crayon.”

It was on one occasion that Bob Villiers, who was usually limited as
regards capital, was seen to place his pencil on the table and address
the courteous dealer with, “Cent louis au crayon.”

“By Gad,” whispered George Payne, who stood near me, “Bob Villiers has
put up a hundred louis ‘au crayon,’” and it was in breathless anxiety,
and with an eventual sigh of relief, that we saw him rake up his
winnings.

It was some years later, whilst once standing on the steps of the Hôtel
des Anglais at Nice, at a time when the one topic of conversation was the
terrible scandal that had lately taken place in Le Cercle de la
Méditerranée, that George Payne expounded the irrefutable axiom that
there were only two offences that might not be indulged in with impunity,
and yet how extraordinary it was that men of wealth with every enjoyment
capable of gratification should yet founder on one or other of these two
unspeakable rocks, and instanced the recent H— affair, where the brother
of a peer and major of a crack regiment had resorted to one of the
unpardonable offences.  And then he quoted George Russell, who had
married a duke’s daughter, and Lord de Ros and Lord Arthur
Pelham-Clinton, another ducal branch, all of whom, in a species of
insanity, had fallen from their high estates.

Many will recall the weird rumours that floated around the Clinton case;
how the culprit had died and been duly buried; how weeks later an old
gun-room companion had recognised his former ship-mate in a railway
compartment, and how subsequent inquiry revealed the fact of a coffin
filled with lumber.

And in the H— affair the surroundings were, if possible, more dramatic;
how a youngster of the 7th, at Nice at the time, at once wrote the story
to a brother officer in order that “the first intimation to ‘the
Regiment’ might not come from the papers;” how the recipient intercepted
the commanding officer (Colonel Hale) in the barrack square, and handed
him the letter with: “This, sir, I have just received, and I feel it’s my
duty to show it to you”; how within a week the pen was ruthlessly run
through the culprit’s name, and the nine days’ wonder was forgotten.

That the publicity had been far-reaching, the following from the Paris
_Figaro_ will show:—

“One had hoped that chevaliers of industry were things of the past, but
it is not so; the game goes on as ever, to judge of what occurred last
Monday at le Cercle de la Méditerranée—a place where one always imagined
one only met persons with whom one’s purse would be safe.

“It was last Monday that an amiable personage—whose assumed manners
suggested imbecility—carried on a system with cards which has no
connection with honesty.

“Ever since yesterday Major H— has been the object of a stringent
surveillance, called into existence by the extraordinary fortune of
having ‘passed’ only seventeen times on Sunday last during a game of
chemin de fer.

“Suspicion was all the stronger from the cards when counted being found
to exceed the proper number by twenty-seven.

“It was under these circumstances that the Major bought the bank at
auction last Monday, and lost the first two coups.

“It was evidently sowing to reap, for after the second coup, not having
sufficient on the table to pay the winners, and while still holding the
cards in his left hand, he drew with his right hand a note case from his
pocket under which were a certain number of packed cards.

“He then placed the case and the packed cards on the pack he had already
in his left hand, and putting the entire packet before him, deliberately
opened his note case, whence protruded several notes that had evidently
been exposed with intention.

“At this moment a member who had not lost a single detail of this scene
of ‘prestidigitation,’ stood up and said: ‘Gentlemen, I play no longer,
and if you take my advice you will do the same!’

“The warning was not in vain.

“It was accepted by all but one player, who placed on the table about
sixty Louis.

“The Major H—, in no way disconcerted, again dealt, and turned up nine—a
nine of diamonds.

“There was no further room for doubt, and all the players left their
seats.

“The game was suspended, the cards were counted; there were twenty-seven
too many; and contained five nines of diamonds instead of four.

“Immediately the committee was called together, and the expulsion of
Major H— was unanimously decided upon.  It was also decided that the
Major should be turned out of the room he had occupied in the club for
two days.”  I approve entirely the decision of the committee, but regret
that these Major H—s get off with expulsion, when the proper place would
be the _correctionnelle_.

No more liberal player ever existed than George Hay.

On one occasion at a humdrum station in India, where he had started an
unpretentious club, a sporting tailor who had lost considerably begged
him to continue.  “Give me my revenge,” he implored, and for three days
and three nights, with periodical adjournments for a tub, this amiable
punter continued giving the revenge.  But Fate, alas! was against the
little Snipper, and on the third day the score showed a colossal sum
against him.

“This can’t go on,” pleaded George.  “Why, man, I shall be placed under
arrest for absence without leave; besides which, I can’t keep my eyes
open.”

“Only one more chance,” whined the tailor.

“Very well,” replied George, “you owe me” (and he named a considerable
sum).  “I’ll play you one game double or quits.”

The tailor pondered for some moments, and then replied:

“Look here, Captain Hay, I have a wife and four children, and I can’t
afford to go ‘sudden death,’ but I’ll play you the best out of three,
double or quits.”

Failing to catch the subtlety of this logic, George consented, and the
result was again against the tailor.

“Now,” said this noble punter, “I’ve complied with all your requests.
Nature won’t permit me to continue, but I’ll tell you what I _will_ do,”
and ringing the bell, he ordered the waiter to bring in the list of
members.

Scanning the names and counting the number, he again addressed the
tailor:

“Look here.  We have, I see, fifty-four members; but old Crutchley and
the Chaplain needn’t count.  You shall make every member of the club a
black velvet knickerbocker suit with scarlet hose, and a cap, and
henceforth we are quits.”

Prudes and strict sticklers for propriety may argue that the man was a
gambler, and consequently heartless and good for nothing; but after
events proved that although dire calamity overtook him, he was of a
noble, generous nature.

Despite the above incident, the Pindee Club played a very strict game,
and every member before sitting down carefully adjusted a pair of green
spectacles.



CHAPTER XI.
THE COUP DE JARNAC.


THE importance of the following subject—as many a fool has found to his
cost—entitles it to a chapter to itself.  It’s short, but instructive.

Card-sharping—pure and simple—is such a low and contemptible subject that
we would not presume to present it to our readers were it not
occasionally reduced to a “fine art,” and, as such, worthy of notice,
like the infallible formula that was in vogue in Europe some years ago,
and, for aught we know, may still be practised by the “past-masters” of
the fraternity.

One may dismiss with contempt such fumblers as the scion of a ducal house
who staked and lost his social position some years ago in a high-class
Pall Mall club by what has been described as one of the two unpardonable
offences against society; and were it not for the unique way his clumsy
attempt was accidentally discovered the story would not bear repetition.

There had been a Court function, and Lord Sydney, the Lord Chamberlain,
innocently watching a rubber, was considerably surprised by a card
cannoning against his silk stockings and striking him on the calf.
Whether the fumbler had selected this course of throwing away a card
because he had a bad hand, and so claiming a mis-deal, or was supplied
with a relay like an amateur conjurer, suffice that he was detected and
henceforth disappeared below the horizon.

Nor will we detail how Prince Sapieha, of the 5th Dragoon Guards, playing
écarté with a subaltern of Lancers, at the Raleigh, caught his adversary
in the act of passing the king, and so cut short a promising military
career, for although Sapieha, in his generosity, promised not to disclose
it, conditionally on the culprit never again presuming to play at the
club, the story leaked out, and the inevitable result followed.

Nor will we discuss the questionable taste—considering the company—that
permitted publicity to the silly tactics of an impecunious Baronet who,
by moving a bone counter, endeavoured to realise a few ill-gotten
sovereigns.

But what we propose to do is to place before our readers a formula so
capable of expansion, so incapable of detection, that one is staggered at
the misplaced ingenuity that discovered the combination.

Nor do we here refer to the public casinos of France and Monte Carlo,
where at worst one is playing against about 2½ per cent. above the odds
at roulette, and about 1¾ per cent. at _trente et quarante_, but to those
accursed private parties in Paris, and possibly nearer home, where the
following was in full blast many years ago.

Assuming, then, that we have not all experienced a plucking, the
procedure at (say) baccarat may be given.

Conceive a long oblong table; in the centre sits the banker, whilst
before him are two or three packs of new cards from which he tears the
wrappers, shuffles them, and, placing them on the table, invites a player
to cut.  What fairer than this?  What possibility of sharp practice when
every eye is riveted on him, who, dealing one card to the right and one
to the left, finally deals to himself?

Now study the following table, and realise that the wrappers have been
previously steamed and then re-gummed, and that the cards have been
packed in rotation (face upwards) reading from left to right:—

                        7 0 5 9 0 2 6 0 4 1 3 6 0

                        8 0 1 2 6 9 0 8 7 0 9 7 0

                        4 9 0 2 5 0 4 8 0 3 2 0 8

                        1 1 3 5 5 3 4 0 0 0 6 0 7

                   (0 represents tens and court cards.)

Cut the cards as often as you please, and the sequence and _consequence_
remain unimpaired; before testing this, however, it must be understood
that we refer to experienced players who know when to draw and when to
stand, and it will be found that the dealer never loses, but for decency
occasionally ties.

“Lightning shuffling,” whereby the _artiste_ (!) appears to dislocate
every card whilst really disturbing none is added to complete the
illusion.

Here, then, is a problem worthy of such Solons and “system-mongers” as
Messrs. Wells, Rosslyn, and others, who, having found disciples, are
invariably in pawn within a week.

There is, however, one system one should invariably follow: avoid play,
as a _private_ enterprise, however alluring the surroundings, unless you
are perfectly confident—and how can one be?—that the gentleman who takes
the bank and his familiars have not been educated up to the “Coup de
Jarnac.”



CHAPTER XII.
THE PUBLIC HANGING OF THE PIRATES.


IN the sixties “hangings” were done in public, and anything of an unusual
kind attracted large parties from the West End; this was as recognised a
custom as the more modern fashion of making up a party to go to the Boat
Race or to share a _coupé_ on a long railway journey.

And so it came about that the phenomenal sight of the execution of the
seven _Flowery Land_ pirates in ’64 created, in morbid circles, a stir
rarely equalled before or since.  Members of the Raleigh, as may be
supposed, mustered in considerable numbers, and days before the fatal
morning trusty agents had visited the houses that face Newgate Gaol and
secured every window that gave an unobstructed view of the ghastly
ceremony.

The prices paid were enormous, varying from twenty to fifty guineas a
window, in accordance with the superiority of the perspective from “find
to finish.”

The rendezvous was fixed for 10 p.m. on Sunday at the Raleigh, but as it
was raining in torrents it was a question with many whether to face the
elements, or content themselves with a graphic description in the next
day’s papers.  But the sight of three or four cabs, a couple of servants,
and a plentiful supply of provender decided the question, and the
procession started on its dismal journey.

Cursing the elements, the sightseers little knew in what good stead the
downpour served them, and with nothing worse than being drenched to the
skin the party arrived safely.

A cab-load of young Guardsmen, however, preferring to wait till the storm
abated, never got beyond Newgate Lane—where they were politely invited to
descend, and, after being stripped to their shirts, were asked where the
cabman should drive them to.

The scene on the night preceding a public execution afforded a study of
the dark side of nature not to be obtained under any other circumstances.

Here was to be seen the lowest scum of London densely packed together as
far as the eye could reach, and estimated by _The Times_ at not less than
200,000.  Across the entire front of Newgate heavy barricades of stout
timber traversed the streets in every direction, erected as a precaution
against the pressure of the crowd, but which answered a purpose not
wholly anticipated by the authorities.

As the crowd increased, so wholesale highway robberies were of more
frequent occurrence; and victims in the hands of some two or three
desperate ruffians were as far from help as though divided by a continent
from the battalions of police surrounding the scaffold.

The scene that met one’s view on pulling up the windows and looking out
on the black night and its still blacker accompaniments baffles
description.  A surging mass, with here and there a flickering torch,
rolled and roared before one; above this weird scene arose the voices of
men and women shouting, singing, blaspheming, and, as the night advanced
and the liquid gained firmer mastery, it seemed as if hell had delivered
up its victims.  To approach the window was a matter of danger; volleys
of mud immediately saluted one, accompanied by more blaspheming and
shouts of defiance.  It was difficult to believe one was in the centre of
a civilised capital that vaunted its religion, and yet meted out justice
in such a form.

The first step towards the morning’s work was the appearance of workmen
about 4 a.m.; this was immediately followed by a rumbling sound, and one
realised that the scaffold was being dragged round.  A grim, square,
box-like apparatus was now distinctly visible, as it slowly backed
against the “debtors’ door.”  Lights now flickered about the scaffold—the
workmen fixing the cross-beams and uprights.  Every stroke of the hammer
must have vibrated through the condemned cells, and warned the wakeful
occupants that their time was nearly come.  These cells were situated at
the corner nearest Holborn, and passed by thousands daily, who little
knew how much misery that bleak white wall divided them from.  Gradually
as the day dawned the scene became more animated, and battalions of
police surrounded the scaffold.

Meanwhile, a little unpretending door was gently opened; this was the
“debtors’ door,” and led direct through the kitchen on to the scaffold.
The kitchen on these occasions was turned into a temporary mausoleum and
draped with tawdry black hangings, which concealed the pots and pans, and
produced an effect supposed to be more in keeping with the solemn
occasion.  From the window opposite everything was visible inside the
kitchen and on the scaffold, but to the surging mass in the streets below
this bird’s-eye view was denied.

Presently an old and decrepit man made his appearance, and cautiously
“tested” the drop; but a foolish impulse of curiosity leading him to peep
over the drapery, a yell of execration saluted him.  This was Calcraft,
the hangman, hoary-headed, tottering, and utterly past his usefulness for
the work.

The tolling of St. Sepulchre’s bell about 7.30 a.m. announced the
approach of the hour of execution; meanwhile a steady rain was falling,
though without diminishing the ever-increasing crowd.  As far as the eye
could reach was a sea of human faces.  Roofs, windows, church-rails, and
empty vans—all were pressed into service, and tightly packed with human
beings eager to catch a glimpse of seven fellow-creatures on the last
stage of life’s journey.  The rain by this time had made the drop
slippery, and necessitated precautions on behalf of the living if not of
those appointed to die, so sand was thrown over a portion, not of the
drop (that would have been superfluous), but on the side, the only
portion that was not to give way.  It was suggestive of the pitfalls used
for trapping wild beasts—a few twigs and a handful of earth, with a
gaping chasm below.  Here, however, all was reversed; there was no need
to resort to such a subterfuge to deceive the chief actors who were to
expiate their crime with all the publicity that a humane Government could
devise.  The sand was for the benefit of the “ordinary,” the minister of
religion, who was to offer dying consolation at 8 a.m., and breakfast at
9.

The procession now appeared, winding its way through the kitchen, and in
the centre of the group walked a sickly, cadaverous mob securely
pinioned, and literally as white as marble.  As they reached the platform
a halt was necessary as each was placed one by one immediately under the
hanging chains.  At the end of these chains were hooks which were
eventually attached to the hemp round the neck of each wretch.  The
concluding ceremonies did not take long, considering how feeble the aged
hangman was.  A white cap was first placed over every face, then the
ankles were strapped together, and finally the fatal noose was put round
every neck, and the end attached to the hooks.  One fancies one can see
Calcraft now laying the “slack” of the rope that was to give the fall
lightly on the doomed men’s shoulders so as to preclude the possibility
of a hitch, and then stepping on tiptoe down the steps and disappearing
below.  At this moment a hideous _contretemps_ occurred, and one poor
wretch fell fainting, almost into the arms of the officiating priest.

The reprieve was, however, momentary, and, placed on a chair, the
inanimate mass of humanity awaited the supreme moment in merciful
ignorance.  The silence was now awful.  One felt one’s heart literally in
one’s mouth, and found oneself involuntarily saying, “They could be saved
yet—yet—yet,” and then a thud that vibrated through the street announced
that the pirates were launched into eternity.  One’s eyes were glued to
the spot, and, fascinated by the awful sight, not a detail escaped one.
Calcraft, meanwhile, apparently not satisfied with his handiwork, seized
hold of one poor wretch’s feet, and pressing on them for some seconds
with all his weight, passed from one to another with hideous composure.
Meanwhile, the white caps were getting tighter and tighter, until they
looked ready to burst, and a faint blue speck that had almost immediately
appeared on the carotid artery gradually became more livid, till it
assumed the appearance of a huge black bruise.  Death, I should say, must
have been instantaneous, for hardly a vibration occurred, and the only
movement that was visible was that from the gradually-stretching ropes as
the bodies kept slowly swinging round and round.  The hanging of the body
for an hour constituted part of the sentence, an interval that was not
lost upon the multitude below.  The drunken again took up their ribald
songs, conspicuous amongst which was one that had done duty pretty well
through the night, and ended with

    “Calcraft, Calcraft, he’s the man,”

but the pickpockets and highwaymen reaped the greatest benefit.  It can
hardly be credited that respectable old City men on their way to
business—with watch-chains and scarf-pins in clean white shirt-fronts,
and with unmistakable signs of having spent the night in bed—should have
had the foolhardiness to venture into such a crowd; but they were there
in dozens.  They had not long to wait for the reward of their temerity.
Gangs of ruffians at once surrounded them, and whilst one held them by
each arm, another was rifling their pockets.  Watches, chains and
scarf-pins passed from hand to hand with the rapidity of an eel;
meanwhile their piteous shouts of “Murder!” “Help!” “Police!” were
utterly unavailing.  The barriers were doing their duty too well, and the
hundreds of constables within a few yards were perfectly powerless to get
through the living rampart.

Whilst these incidents were going on 9 o’clock was gradually approaching,
the hour when the bodies were to be cut down.  As the dismal clock of St.
Sepulchre’s chimed out the hour Calcraft, rubbing his lips, again
appeared, and, producing a clasp knife, proceeded to hug the various
bodies in rotation with one arm whilst with the other he severed the
several ropes.  It required two slashes of the feeble old arm to complete
this final ceremony, and then the heads fell with a flop on the old man’s
breast, who staggering under the weight, proceeded to jam them into
shells.

And then the “debtors’ door” closed till again required for a similar
tragedy, the crowd dispersed, and the sightseers sought their beds to
dream of the horrors of the past twelve hours.

After the trapeze performance we have just read of, given by the
venerable Calcraft to a delighted audience in front of Newgate Gaol, it
appears to have dawned upon the “Hanging Committee” of the Home Office
that, although much of the solemnity of the “painful” performance would
be lost by the removal of the patriarchal beard, counter advantages might
be attained by the substitution of a younger man to fill the Crown
appointment so popular amongst the masses.  A new era was thenceforth
inaugurated.  Instead of the length of the drop being left to the
discretion of the _artiste_, the exact measurement was not only fixed,
but the rope itself supplied by the Hanging Committee, after a careful
calculation by dynamics of the height and weight of the principal
performer.  But the immediate successor of the venerable Calcraft was
found wanting in certain material qualifications, and although admittedly
an expert operator, had a habit of talking when under the genial
influence of stimulants.

An unrehearsed incident, when the head rolled off at a private execution,
thus got into the papers, and it became apparent that a combination of
expertness and reticence was the desideratum to be sought and found.

It was thus that the hero we are discussing came upon the scene some few
years later.

Marwood allowed nothing to interfere with business, and he would as soon
have hanged his grandmother—if duly instructed—as the most brutal ruffian
that ever passed through his hands.  To arrive over-night with a modest
carpet-bag and be up betimes the following morning were to him matters of
routine; to truss his subject with a kicking strap 6 in. wide and then
drop into the procession with a face like a chief mourner’s were to him
sheer formalities; to give evidence later in the day before an
enlightened but inquisitive coroner’s jury was to him a matter of
courteous obligation; and to step into the street half an hour afterwards
with the same bag—but with evidently less hemp in it—all came to him as
part of a routine to be henceforth cast from memory till the service of
his country again demanded his undivided and best attention.

Any one looking at the retiring little man, dressed in the most funereal
of clothes, clutching a pint pot with his long and nervous fingers, would
have found it difficult to associate him with anything more formidable
than a bagman hawking samples for “the firm,” and it was only when a sort
of intimacy had been struck up and a certain quantity of swipes had been
consumed that, yielding to pressure, the great man launched out upon his
unique experiences.

Marwood’s invariable resort was the Green Dragon in Fleet Street, and so
certain as a malefactor met his doom at eight so certain was the hangman
to be found at twelve in the “select” section of the pub.  This
peculiarity, of course, by degrees got to be known, and so it came to
pass that young bloods with a thirst for knowledge resorted thither, and
“hanging days” raised the “takings” of the fortunate house in Fleet
Street.

Incredible as it may appear, this morbid craving is by no means confined
to a few, and large sums used to be paid by reckless young scamps thirty
years ago to assist at these ghastly functions.  It is an undeniable
fact, moreover, that a baronet still alive posed as the hangman’s
assistant at numerous executions.

But with the reaction that came as regards public hangings, the
stringency connected with the private performances made these hobbies
impossible, and the present era may take credit for having advanced
considerably in this respect on the usages of the long-ago sixties.

Before quitting this dislocating subject, it may interest the student of
ancient days to know that where now stands an imposing public-house, next
St. Giles’s Church, Bloomsbury, was once the Beer House where every cart
freighted with living victims from Newgate to Tyburn pulled up for their
“last drink.”  After which, wending their way along Oxford Road (Street),
they alighted at Tyburn Tree, now the garden of 1, Connaught Place,
opposite the Marble Arch.

Surely no passer-by can walk under the porch of Gilbey’s offices in
Oxford Street without shuddering at the many sad scenes that ancient
portico and that ancient street have witnessed.

It was beneath it that De Quincey nightly waited for poor Anne when both
were on the verge of starvation; and it was there that he poured out his
lamentations of the stony-hearted stepmother—Oxford Street.

The same miseries exist in the present day, and every night bundles of
human rags lie huddled together under its inhospitable shelter; whilst
within, the old Pantheon—delight of our childhood when it was a huge
bazaar—blazes with electric light as the headquarters of a certain whisky
which, advertisements tell us, may be procured of 3,000 agents.

The trial and execution of Müller in ’64 for the murder of Mr. Briggs in
one of the tunnels on the Brighton Railway, created more universal
excitement than anything before or since, except, perhaps, the case of
Mrs. Maybrick.  On the night before his execution, the German Ambassador
was closeted with the Home Secretary at the urgent request of his
Government, and petitions innumerable were presented; but the Home
Secretary was a firm man, and the culprit was duly hanged next morning in
front of Newgate.  Personally, I was sceptical of his guilt, and so
interested was I that I obtained an order to visit Newgate, and by the
judicious expenditure of a shilling, peeped through the observation hole
of the condemned cell; later on I saw him hanged, and it was only on his
confession to the Lutheran minister, just before the bolt was drawn, that
I admitted the justice of the sentence.  But the fair-haired Saxon youth
of refined and prepossessing appearance had got on my nerves, and when, a
week later, his effigy was advertised as having been added to Tussaud’s
Wax-works, I determined to again see the youth, whom I had last seen
being jerked into eternity.

In those days the exhibition was in the Baker Street Bazaar, and if the
premises were not as roomy as the present palatial building, they
certainly appeared to me “snugger.”  The Chamber of Horrors was snugness
itself.

It was whilst exploring this dismal chamber that an attendant told me
that wax figures were the most improvident creatures in the world; that
they ran their toes through their stockings with reckless unconcern, and
that two or three people were constantly employed darning and mending the
belongings of these weird beings.

As I left the building I pondered over what I had seen and heard, and
soon discovered I had not heard the last of Müller yet.  This is what I
saw, or fancied I saw, in my dreams:

As I entered the Chamber of Horrors a few nights after, Müller—whose pose
is of the meekest and most becoming—suddenly shot out his arm, and,
pointing at me, exclaimed in a loud and guttural voice: “Seize him, seize
him; the man!”  Then Rush and Greenacre and a host of others yelled and
execrated me, and Mrs. Manning (whose crime was probably the cruellest on
record) shrieked like a curlew: “Seize him, seize him!”  On this I
dropped my umbrella—a weakness that I trust will be deemed
pardonable—under the circumstances—and immediately followed it with a
terrific flop on the floor; so terrific, indeed, was it that it brought
me to my senses, and I awoke in a cold perspiration in Jermyn Street.



CHAPTER XIII.
THE HOSTELRIES OF THE SIXTIES.


LONG’S Hotel, in Bond Street, as it appeared in the sixties, was a
species of adjunct to half the clubs in London.  Men playing till three
or four in the morning in clubs that aspired to being considered
“correct” usually adjourned to Long’s, and one man having engaged a
bedroom, the rest trooped in after him.  To such an extent, indeed, was
this recognised, that a commodious bedroom on the ground floor was
especially set apart for these nocturnal emergencies, and within five
minutes of entering the most methodical of night porters produced cards,
candles, and the inevitable brandy and sodas.  Here play of a very high
order frequently took place, and here also drunken rows and card disputes
often ensued, unrestrained by the unwritten sanctity of a high-class
club.  It was here that a well-known baronet—long since dead—had a
barging match with a peer still above the horizon, but rarely visible to
the naked eye, where, after strong language, blows were exchanged, and a
meeting arranged across the Channel, which happily never came off, the
belligerents agreeing, after calm reflection, that dirty linen was best
washed at home, as their respective laundry baskets were considerably
overfreighted as it was and needed no further handicapping in the way of
publicity; it was here that a young ass—still living—paid £4,000 for a
broken-down ex-Derby horse that would have been dear at £100.

It was here that poor old Jim Stewart—seldom sober, and long since
dead—gave a baccarat party to some twenty plungers, where it was agreed
that no deal should commence after 6 a.m., at which hour he was the
winner of £1,500, and where, yielding to the earnest request of a heavy
loser, he consented to extend the time to 6.30, and rose a loser of
£5,000; it was here that the fastest and best men in London lounged in
and out of the coffee room from breakfast time till well on in the
afternoon, and smoked, drank champagne, talked horsy, and swore loudly.

Not that Long’s was not a highly-respectable hotel; on the contrary, the
entire upper part was conducted on strictly correct lines, and patronised
by the best county people of the day, and the latitude granted to the
ground floor must be set down rather as a desire of the management to
please all parties, and bow before the inevitable there was no resisting.

An amusing story may here be introduced of Colonel Oakes, of the 12th
Lancers, the most irascible of cavalry officers, with a command of
language that few, if any, could excel, and who invariably put up at
Long’s.

Stationed at Aldershot, the Colonel about this time got married, and,
anxious to avoid publicity, he decided to bring his bride up to London
and, to make matters still less noticeable, to bring his soldier-servant
with him.

Things went happily till the faithful attendant, who was an Irishman,
knowing the Colonel’s impatient nature, and considering the luggage was a
long time coming up, put his head over the banisters and shouted: “Will
you be plased to bring up the Colonel’s and Miss Black’s boxes?”

The tableau half an hour later in the Colonel’s apartments may reasonably
be left to the reader’s imagination: the politest of landlords expressing
his astonishment, the most irritable of Dragoons cursing his impudence,
and the innocent cause of this comedy of errors trembling for the
consequences.

Colonel Oakes was admittedly a good soldier, and second only to Valentine
Baker as a cavalry leader; popular with both officers and men, he was one
of the last of the old swaggering school, a man of likes and dislikes,
who, although free and easy and very plain-spoken, was a martinet in
other ways.

“R—,” he once said to one of his officers (who certainly was not the
accepted ideal of a sabreur), after an inspection, “the General asked me
if you had come from the infantry,” and when the remark failed to elicit
the reply he desired, he continued: “D— it, sir, you spoil the look of my
regiment.  I wish to — you’d exchange!” and when the culprit lost his
temper and said he considered he was insulted, and that he was the son of
a baronet, the irresponsible Colonel shouted: “D— it, sir, I’m the son of
a shoemaker, and I wish to — you’d leave my regiment!”

On another occasion, strolling into the stables, he overheard two
recruits discussing him: “I say, Bill,” remarked one of the warriors,
“the Colonel’s a d— rum old buffer.”  To which the other acquiescing, the
Colonel advanced, and standing before the trembling culprits, began:
“Yes, I heard what you said—that I was a d— rum old buffer—and I tell you
what it is; if you had drunk as much as I have in the last thirty years
you’d be a d— rum old buffer.”

Despite all these circumstances, no smarter regiment existed than the
12th in the long-ago sixties, although it was commanded by a “d— rum old
buffer.”

Jack Peyton, who commanded the 7th Dragoon Guards, was another patron of
Long’s.  Shortly after his second marriage with a wealthy widow, his boon
companion, Tom Phillips, of the 18th, asked him, “Is she good-looking,
Jack?”  “No, by —, Tom,” was the reply, “d— near as ugly as yourself.”

The fashion of dining at restaurants had not taken root in those days,
and the feeding resorts were few and good and very far between.

Their numbers, indeed, were to be counted on one’s fingers, and were
resorted to either for lunch or supper, and seldom, as now, for the more
serious ceremony of dinner.

People dined at their hotels, for the plate-glass abominations that now
cumber the ground at every point of vantage had not suggested themselves
to undesirable aliens and our own home-grown Israelites.

When the (present) Berkeley Hotel first started the new idea under the
auspices of the renowned Soyer, the separate-table system was a nine
days’ wonder, and people were impressed when it was currently reported
that Lady Blantyre and her most unimaginative of husbands might be seen
nightly at the next table to Skittle’s enjoying the creations of that
most marvellous of chefs.

It was here that that distinguished siren once rebuked a waiter who had
clumsily splashed her with some viand, by: “You infernal lout, if I
wasn’t a lady I’d smack your ugly face!” and it was at St. James’s (as it
was then called) she was nightly entertained by her numerous worshippers.

A noble marquis—eventually a duke, and lately deceased—was for years
supposed to be her lawful husband, but the devotion of a life-time and
subsequent events have since given the lie to this evident _canard_.

“The Guildhall Tavern,” “The Albion,” and Simpson’s long reigned supreme
as places where saddles and sirloins, marrow-bones and welsh rabbits were
to be obtained in perfection; but all have now disappeared, except in
name, nor will the expenditure of fortunes in their resurrection ever
bring back the indescribable air of solid comfort that characterised
these hostelries of the Sixties.

It was in the last-named house, even then on the wane, that my solitary
(active) interest in the drama afforded me numerous occasions of delight.

Off the entrance hall was an unpretentious room, and here every day for
weeks a divine being from the Gaiety partook of a hurried lunch in the
company of my enraptured self.

Nothing could have been more decorous than the tone that pervaded our
frugal meal; nothing so incapable of giving offence to Exeter Hall
opposite; the door of our retreat was intentionally kept ajar, yet
despite these precautions I was one day informed that the manager
declined to let the room for two, but that three would always be welcome.

“The School Board is on the warpath,” was my inward comment, and I never
entered the place again.  The “correct” old hypocrite is long since dead;
the scene of these innocent repasts has long since been demolished, and
the sweet lady who honoured me with her company has long since had a
prefix to her name and become the proud mother of a subaltern in the
Guards.

The inauguration of the Civil Service Stores, and the subsequent
appearance of the Army and Navy Stores, gave the first fillip to that
union between the Army and trade which the abolition of purchase and the
changes in public opinion have since developed to such an extent.

Captain MacRae, late director-general in Victoria Street, who in the
sixties was a plodding captain of foot, set the fashion by turning his
sword into a tape-measure, and having taken the plunge lost no time in
converting a general officer (some say his parent) into a laundry-man.
Then followed the rush that saw bonnet shops and costumiers springing up
in every fashionable street, and as Kitties and Reillys and Madges looked
favourably on the military, the crop of Mantalinis increased and
multiplied, and penniless officers became well-to-do men-milliners and
accepted authorities on things military amid their new clientèle.  And so
the last nail was driven into that class distinction that was one of the
chief characteristics of the long-ago Sixties.

Whilst on the subject of hostelries, a reference to Lane’s will not be
amiss.  This unique establishment was in St. Alban’s Place, and was
affected by the rowdier class of youngsters, with a sprinkling of
permanent residents in various stages of delirium tremens.  Dirty and
apparently never swept, the rooms might best be described as cosy.  The
beds, however, were scrupulously clean, and as the majority of the
lodgers spent a considerable portion of their existence between the
sheets, apple-pie order reigned in this department, ready for any
emergency by night or day.

The ruling spirit was old John, an octogenarian in shiny snuff-coloured
tail suit and slippers, who apparently never slumbered nor slept, and
whom no human eye had ever seen otherwise attired.  Assisted by two
youngsters of fifty—Charles and Robert—this extraordinary trio knew the
habits and tastes of every one; not that eating was extensively indulged
in; and beyond the best of joints for dinner, and bacon and eggs for
breakfast, the staple consumption for all day and all night might briefly
be described as brandy and soda, rum and milk, whilst the more sedate
confined themselves to sherry and bitters before breakfast, and a glass
of brandy in their tea.  How human nature stood such persistent floodings
of the system seems beyond comprehension, yet nothing seemed to occur
beyond revellers being periodically chaperoned to bed, and now and then
an ominous long box being smuggled upstairs, and one hearing a day or so
after that “the Captain” had had his last drink, and had been duly
gathered to his fathers.

Even in those long-ago days the brevet rank was frequently assumed by
ex-militia ensigns, but not to the same extent nor by such sorry
specimens as twirl their moustaches in these more enlightened times and
stand on the doorstep of the Criterion.

Whisky at this period was literally an unknown beverage in
London—possibly because the supply could never have equalled the demand,
or more probably because science had not yet evolved the diabolical
concoctions that now do duty for the wine of bonnie Scotland.  And so it
came to pass that the staple drink at Lane’s was brandy and soda.  Come
in when one chose, there stood battalions of soda with brandy in reserve,
and rarely did a wayfarer return at the small hours without calling for a
libation from old Peter.  Occasionally, after an unusual run, the supply
might become exhausted, but no temptation could induce the old janitor to
retail what had been reserved on “special order.”  “What, give you that
one?  Why, it’s the Captain’s; every morning at five I takes it to his
bedside, and if he’s asleep in the smoking-room I gives him a sniff of
it, and he follows me to his room like a dog.”

Visiting the “Cheshire Cheese” not long since, I was struck by the
marvellous change that the advance of civilisation (!!) had effected in
that most cosy and unconventional of rooms.  The steaks and puddings are
still as good as ever, but the rollicking Bohemians, bristling with wit,
with churchwardens and brown ale that one met at every table, have long
since been replaced by their modern prototypes who sip their beer out of
a glass, call for a _serviette_ in evidence of a trip to Boulogne, and
bolt after depositing a penny on the table.  And where are the jolly old
waiters in rusty tail-coats, shambling along in their carpet slippers,
who never inquired how many “breads” you had had nor what had won the
3.40 race?  And the Americans who now invade the place are not an
unalloyed blessing, as males and females appear to consider it a _sine
quâ non_ to flop on to the seat where Doctor Johnson is once supposed to
have sat, in order to be able to tell poppa and momma in the old Kentucky
home how, if they could not rub shoulders with the mighty living, they
had at least rubbed something with the mighty dead.  This aspiration is
indeed almost a disease with these Transatlantic trotters, and one rich
and pronounced snob, despite his wealth, who lives amongst us, is known
to pay for reliable information of the movements of European
heirs-apparent in order to meet them by accident (!) and perhaps secure
some fragment of recognition.  The sequel is usually to be found in an
inspired paragraph (4d. a word) hinting at possible alliance between the
two families, which in its turn is flatly contradicted!

“Blood,” some genius discovered, “is thicker than water”—and the most
unobservant must admit that some of it is very thick indeed.

And apropos of Doctor Johnson, what evidence is there that the great
lexicographer’s rhinoceros laugh ever vibrated through the “Cheshire
Cheese”?  Boswell makes no reference to it, and surely such an omission
would be impossible in the chronicles of that irrepressible toady—but
when all’s said and done, what importance attaches to it so long as the
fare maintains its pristine excellence and the American bumpings are
restrained within reasonable limits?

When Piccadilly did not consist almost entirely of clubs, public
billiard-rooms were patronised by many who would not enter a modern one.
Many of these were run on the very best lines, and a regular clientele
met every afternoon for sixpenny and half-crown pools.

The best was Phillips’s, at 99, Regent Street, where Edmund Tattersall,
Lord St. Vincent, Colonel Dawes, Attenborough, the king of pawnbrokers,
and a few members of 14, St. James’s Square Club never missed
resorting—wind and weather permitting—from three to seven of an
afternoon.

No goat from an alien flock dared hope to browse on that
jealously-guarded pasture, and if, as occasionally, one wandered in, he
speedily wandered out under the withering glances of old Phillips and his
son.

Almost opposite were Smith’s rooms, where pool of a high class (in
execution) was indulged in, and any amateur with a local reputation who
took a ball soon disabused his mind of any exalted idea of his play.

Dolby’s, near the Marble Arch, had also its regular patrons, and even in
the select region of Portman Square such correct old gentlemen as Sir
James Hamilton, Mr. Burgoyne, and other residents in the neighbourhood
met daily at an unpretentious tobacconist’s in King Street and played
pool in a dingy room behind the shop.

But in the clubs of those long-ago days the most cold-blooded
inhospitality obtained.  If you called upon a friend you had to wait on
the door-mat, and the offering of a glass of sherry was attended by the
risk of expulsion.  Smoking-rooms—if tolerated—were placed in the attics,
and a “strangers’ room” was an innovation that only came into existence
years after.

For long many clubs held out against the recognition of “strangers,” and
only within the last few years have the “Senior” and the more exclusive
establishments over-ruled the snarling objections of the few old fossils
who use a club from morning to night without adding one cent to its
revenue.

It was the privilege of the Army and Navy Club to make the first drastic
move in the right direction, and to Louis Napoleon’s frequent visits for
luncheon and its attendant cigarette and coffee may be traced the present
accepted theory that “clubs were made for man, and not man for clubs.”

The best tobacconists also supplied the need now provided by the
ubiquitous club, and Harris’s, Hoare’s, Benson’s, Hudson’s, Carlin’s in
Oxford Street and Regent Street, each had their following, where every
afternoon such men as Lord William Lennox, Lord Huntingtower, Mr. George
Payne, the Marquis of Drogheda, Lord Henry Loftus, and Colonel Fitzgerald
might be seen seated on tobacco tubs and cigar chests, smoking big cigars
and drinking sherry which flowed from casks around the shop.

This last-named individual was a morose, fire-eating Irishman, whose life
had been soured by the seduction of his wife by his own colonel, and
later by the ravages of small-pox that had seared his once-handsome face.

The son of a famous duellist of the days of the Regency, it was told how
on one occasion on entering the Cocoa Tree a comparative stranger
exclaimed: “I smell an Irishman!”  To which “Fighting Fitz” replied: “You
shall never smell another!” and sliced off his nose on the spot.



CHAPTER XIV.
THE DRAMA—LEGITIMATE AND OTHERWISE.


THE tercentenary of Shakespeare in ’64 suggested an experience that many
of us were anxious to participate in.  That we were likely to be
successful was by no means certain, for numerous meetings, held at the
Café de l’Europe, Haymarket—where motions innumerable and brandy _ad
libitum_ were proposed and carried—had decided that an event so strictly
dramatic should not be diluted by outside association, but rather that
scene shifters, stage carpenters, actors, everything and everybody
strictly “legit.” should have the preference of guzzling and swilling to
the memory of the immortal poet.  But if our claims were weak, our
advocates were strong, and so it came to pass that on the eventful
evening we found ourselves awaiting the feast in the banqueting room of
the Freemason’s Tavern.

That the thing was to be unique we were not long in discovering, as Ben
Webster began grace by “For what we are about to receive may the spirit
of Shakespeare hover over us.”

Whether it was Shakespeare’s spirit or the more powerful libations
included in the dinner ticket must be left to greater dramatic
authorities; suffice that long before the speeches began, practical jokes
were in full blast, and eventually developed into a free fight.

It appears that some scene shifters with voracious appetites were sending
again and again for a slice more ’am, till wags of a higher grade, who
acted as croupiers, worn out and disgusted, piled plates with meats,
custards, oranges, and mustard till the blood of every carpenter rose as
one man, and dishes began to fly right, centre, and left.  Even the
waiters joined in the tournament, and one, in the act of placing a plate
before me, yelled out, “Wait till I give this — his grub, and then I’ll
let you know.”  “Damn it,” whispered one of our party, “this isn’t
Shakespearian, surely!  For God’s sake let us clear out.”  But “clearing
out” was by no means so easy, for at that moment two or three repulsive
ruffians in leather coats and rabbit-skin caps came upon the scene,
whilst one, scowling in strictly melodramatic style, confronted us with
“Well, what’s the matter with _you_?”  But we managed to slip out without
giving the desired explanation, and so ended the tercentenary and the
spirit Ben Webster had invoked.

People nowadays would hardly realise that theatregoers in those long-ago
days could wade through alleys and side streets by no means safe after
dark to visit the (then) Prince of Wales’s in a slum off the Tottenham
Court Road.  With an excellent company, however, and with houris since
translated to the peerage and knightage, the little house was nightly
crammed, and white ties by the score blocked the thoroughfare in the
vicinity of the modest stage door as resolutely as in later years they
besieged the Philharmonic and the Gaiety.

Valentine Baker at the time was running the show, or a material portion
of it, and much of the profits of his wife’s soap-boiling industry, it
was said, found their way into the coffers of the unpretentious little
temple in the slum.  A wealthy cabinet maker, also in the vicinity, whose
profits permitted the luxury of a four-in-hand, might usually be seen
worshipping at the shrine, and a tag-rag and bobtail of less wealthy but
aspiring young bloods fought and hustled for one glance, one sign of
recognition, from the bevy beyond the footlights.

When Valentine Baker began casting sheep’s eyes at the demure maiden
reading the _Family Herald_ in a South-Western compartment, he little
realised that the price he was paying might have been commuted elsewhere
by the judicious expenditure of a five-pound note.  Twenty thousand in
hard cash, the command of a great regiment, and social annihilation—for
what?  And when Mr. Justice Brett began his charge to the jury by “a man
we looked to to protect our women and children,” there was not an Army
man present (and the Croydon Court House was crammed with them) that did
not internally vow that henceforth, be it in a first-class or a
third-class compartment, be it Piccadilly Circus or the British Museum,
woman should be his constant care, and, if necessary, any tadpole that
lawfully pertained to her.

The rumour came like a thunderbolt, and in every Army club the whispered
communication ran: “Valentine Baker is arrested, by Gad!”

No man at this time had such a universal personality—the colonel of the
crackest of all crack regiments; the admittedly best cavalry leader of
the day; the patron of the drama, and in intimate touch with the Prince
of Wales’s Theatre, then under the management of Marie Wilton, since
developed into a pillar of Holy Church—the thing seemed incredible, and
curiosity ran high to gaze upon the houri that had been so fatally
misread by this experienced veteran.

The crowds that surrounded the Court House made access impossible; to
hope for admission was the aspiration of a lunatic, when “Come this way,
my lord”—as my companion was recognised—reached our ears, and we found
ourselves under an open window, ten feet from the ground, at the back of
the court.

“I’ll stand next the wall,” continued our guide, “and you get on my
shoulders,” and then an acrobatic performance took place that would have
insured an engagement at any music-hall.

The sequel is matter of history.

Years after—in ’94—I met him in Cairo, an altered, broken man, in daily
expectation of being appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Army.
But Nemesis had not done with him yet—prudery, hypocrisy,
blue-stockingism were still rampant, and a telegram from London vetoed
the intended appointment.

The official explanation was that a “cashiered man” could not command
full-pay British officers with which the Egyptian Army swarmed, whilst
the universal opinion was that a brave man was being hounded to his death
under the cloak of that charity that flourished in its prime during the
days of the Inquisition.

Next year he died in Egypt—broken in health and broken in heart—and those
that knew his brilliant attainments, and the heights they would assuredly
have led to, agreed that—like Napoleon—he should have died years before
at the head of his men.

The Strand Theatre also was a highly popular resort, run exclusively by
the Swanborough family and their numerous sisters, cousins, and aunts.

To “The Old Lady,” rightly or wrongly, was attributed every _malaprop_
that ingenious wits invented, and in later years, when the Doré Gallery
and the Criterion Restaurant simultaneously came into existence, she was
reputed to have expressed intense admiration of the Doré masterpiece,
“Christ leaving the Criterium.”

A pothouse—pure and simple—across the Strand was a favourite
after-theatre resort of this (then) brightest of companies, and in a
specially reserved room might nightly be seen sweet Nelly Bromley, young
as ever, despite her youthful brood of dukes and duchesses and his Grace
of Beaufort; Eleanor Bufton, Fanny Josephs, Fanny Hughes, and a host of
others, all charming, clever, and young, and, alas! all passed away.

The proprietor of this unpretentious hostelry was a pimply, fly-blown
individual, who before you had been five minutes in his company told you
that _he_ was the rightful Duke of Norfolk, who by some legal jugglery
had been choused out of his birthright; he, too, has long been swept
away, and so the present peer remains unmolested in his title.

Passing through the Strand not long since, I was attracted by the new
Tube station, and entering its portals for “auld lang syne” I was
distressed, but not surprised, to find nothing of the happy hum that once
characterised the transformed spot.  For here stood the little Strand
Theatre of the sixties in all the glory of its original popularity before
it was improved (?) and modernised, only to find it had become out of the
perspective, and so to be handed over to eternal obliteration.

The old Strand may surely claim to be the root of the theatrical
genealogical tree, for from its original stock (company) sprang every
sprig that struck root elsewhere to became famous either through
theatrical enterprise, matrimonial enterprise, or any of the lucrative
channels that commend themselves to commercial talent.

For the phalanx that once worked as a whole, would according to present
custom, be split into a dozen “one-part” companies, with the necessary
embroidery of Bodega men, motor-cum-masher women, and a sprinkling of
earnest artistes by way of cohesion.

A few years later the family grouping that originally characterised the
Strand was intruded upon by one H. B. Farnie, whose forte was the
adaptation of opera-bouffe.  Unquestionably an adept in this particular
line, the man was a libertine of a pronounced character, with the result
that the chorus at the Strand and the Opera Comique was the very
daintiest conceivable.  If a houri yielded to this Blue Beard’s
blandishments, her advancement was assured, and she was fitted to minor
parts; if his overtures fell on deaf ears, nothing was too bad for her,
and her lot was not a successful one.  Occasionally, as a consequence,
the hum-drum routine of a rehearsal was enlivened by such unrehearsed
incidents as the appearance of an irate brother, and, on one occasion, an
exasperated fishmonger from the Theobald’s Road (the combination sounds
boisterous), burst in at a critical period of a comic duet and belaboured
the unhappy impresario to within an inch of his life.

These cases are, happily, rare at the present day, although, if rumour is
correct, a Hebrew of dramatic tastes, who, a few years ago, developed
into theatre owner, and staged his own pieces, could tell of a similar
experience which practically led to his abandonment of the active pursuit
of the drama.

When the fair Lardy Wilson, whom we last heard of at the Surrey, had
risen into prominence by reason of her exalted connection, she joined the
old Philharmonic, at Islington, in the zenith of its glory; so privileged
indeed had this darling of Alfred become that, appearing in the “green
room” on one occasion with an infant swaddled in purple and fine linen,
the manager, band conductor, principals—male and female—and the chorus
_en bloc_, are said to have bowed down and worshipped, as was only meet
and proper and to be expected of a “loyal and dutiful” people.

“Wiry Sal” was also a delightful member of the company, and soon obtained
European fame by being able to kick higher, in a graceful, abandoned way,
than any exponent of the art before or since.

Pretty little Camille Dubois, who eventually developed into a Stanhope,
was also at this delightful house.  Her father at the time was conductor
at the Opera Comique, and on one occasion having congratulated him on the
execution of an excruciating _morceau_ that I was aware had emanated from
his inspired brain, I expressed a desire to procure a copy.

“Ach, mein Gott!” he replied, “it is a gavotte in F.”

Gavottes in F are, happily, rare inspirations!

For although burlesque lent itself to the display of a bevy of beautiful
choristers, mashing had not then attained its present barefaced
dimensions, and the cab outside and the calf (just) inside were the
exception, not the rule, in those jovial days.

But when Ada and Lizzie—as sometimes occurred—were sisters, it often
happened that some system was necessary to insure a properly balanced
larder, for from a conversation once overheard, two hams had come from
the guardsman and the lordling, whereas the smallest forethought would
have insured otherwise.

But the belle of the show was one Laura, who, discovered in the purlieus
of Islington, developed into the rage of London, and her beautiful face
was to be seen on Easter eggs, Egyptian cigarettes, and at the picture
shops, as Connie Gilchrist, the Countess of Lonsdale, and other beauties
figured at a later day.

Her personality attracted—as may be assumed—all the front rank mashers,
and Harry Tyrwhitt, Douglas Gordon, and Jimmy Douglas were nightly
imploring D’Albertson and Hitchins to present them to the goddess.

But this fatal beauty led to a row, and the jealous swain who was
responsible for the fair Laura’s well-being was not long in bringing
matters to an issue.

It was on Ash Wednesday, when our national hypocrisy—since taken other
shapes—closed the theatres, with the exception of the Alhambra, that the
fair chorister decided to “visit her parents.”  Nothing loth to encourage
such filial piety, her inamorato put her into a cab, and then—with an eye
to business—judiciously followed.

The sequel was a sad disillusionment, for getting out at the stage door,
she proceeded towards the Embankment, and there by easy
stages—accompanied by an admirer—the pair proceeded to a private box at
the Alhambra.

The rest is briefly told; a thundering knock at the box door, shouts of
“Hush!” from all parts of the house, the orchestra stopped, old Jacobi
standing in his stirrups, and an ignominious exit for all concerned.

Later the sweet girl went on tour with one of Alec Henderson’s companies,
and met a bagman she eventually married.

The bagman has since developed into one of the largest shopkeepers in
Knightsbridge, and so good came out of evil, and the course “true love”
usually runs in marrying an Italian waiter and living on macaroni was
diverted, and everything a real “loidy” should have became hers for life.

And the development of the fair creature’s life was frequently under my
observation.  Beginning with a preference for a “steak and a glass of
stout,” she soon developed into an authority on champagne; instead of
worsted gloves—or no gloves—nothing but Dumont’s mauve mousquetaires
would satisfy her, and so blasée did she become during her nightly visits
to Romano’s that she could not sum up sufficient energy to remove her
sixteen-franc gloves when picking an artichoke.  One marvels at the true
origin of these phenomena when under observation during the transition
state from gutter to Debrett, for although all of us have seen the
mothers, no human eye has ever seen the male progenitor of any of these
extraordinary beings, who toil not neither do they spin, yet rise to the
highest positions, have their babies kissed by the Kaiser, and all by
sheer superficial excellence.

Yet another face arises before me, and sweet Grace O—, resisting every
blandishment of Jew and Gentile, stands prominently out in the simple
attire of a modest maiden, amid the sables and baubles by which she was
surrounded.  No adorers waited for her, although the bombardment by
letter and overture was incessant; smirky acting-managers enlisted
against her, reminded her that no stalls were booked by her _clientèle_,
parcels at the stage door remained as they were left, and nightly the
sweet girl trudged across Waterloo Bridge to her humble abode at
Kennington, whilst half a dozen broughams only awaited the chance of
flicking her to a _cabinet particulier_ at the Café Riche or Kettner’s.
Often, as she told me at a later period, she entered her hovel tired and
hungry with nothing better than a herring and a crust with which to
fortify herself for the monotonous routine of next day and every day, the
lot then, and now, of many a tender plant in uncongenial soil.

But every created thing has its breaking point—the balloon overflated
will eventually burst, and the egg pressed too hard will assuredly break;
and sweet Grace, no exception to the unalterable law of Nature, like a
lily before the hurricane, bent before the assault that assailed her on
every side.

It was like an ironclad charging an outrigger, when men of the Farnie
type entered the lists against an honest and attractive chorister, and
the sequel of short duration in Ashley Place was told me by the unhappy
girl.  Gold at this stage was lavished upon her, and a miniature brougham
and tiger—intended as a surprise—was scornfully ignored as it waited for
her at the Royalty, and was eventually on sale—as unused as on the day it
left its builders—in Long Acre.  “I can endure this gilded cage so long
as no one knows it, but the shame of the brougham!  I would rather have
dropped than enter it.”  So spoke the woman, and within a month she
walked out of the palatial establishment to revert to her humble life.

It was a perky Jew, enormously rich, with great back-door theatrical
influence, that sought to shape this phenomenal disposition into a regard
for his uncongenial charms.  But manly beauty of such matured and
pronounced types, with its Malacca canes and vulgar jewellery—like olives
and a love for babies—are acquired tastes, and not the baits to allure
the “Graces” of this sordid world, and years after, when chance again
threw me across her path, our heroine was the happy wife of a worthy City
clerk, and Ashley Place and the Jew and the brougham had long since been
forgotten like the incidents of a hideous nightmare.

This is no overdrawn fairy tale, and what existed then exists now, at
least in one popular resort, and two sisters with youth, good looks, and
stage experience now “resting,” could tell how the only accomplishment of
which they were deficient was their inability to fill a few stalls—on
terms.

In later years the infant phenomenon became the craze, and Topsey, of the
Royalty, and Connie, of the music-halls, and a cloud of imitators all bid
for recognition.  Some—like Esther—had the golden sceptre held out, and
“came and sat beside the king,” whilst others less fortunate fulfilled
their natural destiny and became the wives of the local tobacconist or
greengrocer, and many of them would now be shocked if asked the number of
yards between the pond and the Hampstead Fever Hospital, or the
sensations of dancing to a hurdy-gurdy on the boulevards of Camden Town.

And so history is made, and pedigrees traced to “de” something—who came
over with the Conqueror—with here and there a stiffening from a Chicago
pork butchery, and it only remains for you and me, my brother snobs, to
pray that whatever trials the Fates may have in store for us, we may not
be bereft of our old nobility.

The recent death of the once-popular Chief of the Fire Brigade, Eyre
Shaw, recalls many stirring scenes that lit up the West End in the
long-ago sixties, when theatres bore a considerable share of the
conflagrations that partially or entirely destroyed some of our most
notable playhouses.

It was in ’65 that the old Surrey was in flames, to be replaced later on
by the present structure, more familiar to the present generation as
associated with the début of such popular artistes as Lardy Wilson, Nelly
Moon, Val Reece (Lady Meux of the 20th century), Rose Mandeville, and
others under the management of Bill Holland, and the distinguished
patronage of names too sacred to mention save with bated breath and in
reverential tones.

Three years later the Oxford Music Hall was burned down, but those caves
of harmony were less pretentious in those days, and so the conflagration,
except as a sight, did not provoke much interest.  But a blaze that
occurred in December, ’67, roused all London, and as a “spectacle”
surpassed anything that had ever been depicted on its stage, and put in
the shade the Guy Fawkes celebrations of the previous month.

In that memorable year Her Majesty’s Theatre, without any apparent rhyme
or reason, burst into flame, and despite herculean efforts was soon a
heap of cinders.  For the construction, as may be supposed, was wood and
old, and those chiefly interested were probably gainers by the drastic
accident, except perhaps Mapleson, who was said to have lost £12,000, and
Madame Tietjens, £2,000.  But Tod Heatly, the ground landlord, could
hardly have regretted it, for it opened up possibilities of improving the
site which, after many years, culminated in the present establishment,
with its profitable addenda of an hotel with its “lardy-da” luncheon and
supper rooms.

In those remote days the Metropolitan Board of Works was the controlling
authority, and bone counters which emanated from them passed the holders
within the cordon on any of these interesting occasions.

Eyre Shaw, too, about this time was appointed chief officer, and being an
enthusiastic patron of the Gaiety (then only a precocious infant with
every promise of its present development) little wonder that the bone
counters were in considerable evidence amongst the present-day old ladies
who then represented the Connies and Dollies and Lizzies of burlesque.

Contemplating the still-smouldering ruins, how complete appeared the
obliteration of many notable incidents.  Here Mario—approaching
seventy—was acclaimed to the echo by a gushing house, after having been
hissed off the stage in Paris for mumbling what he once used to sing;
here Giulini thrilled the world with the purest tenor ever heard, and
died in the madhouse in the zenith of his fame; here later, Moody and
Sankey bellowed in solo and in duet, and stopped the traffic by the eager
crowds that sought admission (free) to bellow in the chorus; here, too,
sweet little Chiomi essayed to make her début in _Lucia_ and failed; and
here Lord Dudley, Carpenter, Vandeleur-Lee, Goodenough, and a host long
since swept into the universal dust-bin, beamed nightly on Tietjens and
Fanchelli with expressions supposed to denote familiarity with the text;
here under its dismal porticoes sights of distress and
starvation—forgotten in slumber—were nightly to be met with, as painful
as anything that ever appealed to De Quincey outside the Oxford Street
Pantheon, and here old Leader, prince of Bohemians and managing director
of the Alhambra in the zenith of its pranky days, had a box office till
he dropped from old age; here on one occasion on the son of one of the
celebrated Irish Army agents being presented to him, the Royal George
patronisingly greeted him with, “Oh, indeed, a son of ‘Borough and
Armit,’” and received the explanatory reply: “No, sir, only of Armit;”
and on the ghosts of all these departed memories not one stone now stands
upon another to bridge, as it were, the present with the glorious past.

In these latter days, a conflagration such as this would, of course, be
impossible, as witness the blaze not long since in Holborn.  But then
that was a _fire proof_ construction.



CHAPTER XV.
MOSTLY “OTHERWISE” (continued).


IN the long-ago sixties the Artillery Ball at Woolwich was the most
select and the most sought after function that the dancing community
yearned for, and about the same time Major Goodenough, a popular officer
of this distinguished regiment—although close upon eighteen stone—fell
desperately in love with Tietjens, herself of large pattern.  Rumour,
indeed, asserted that the ponderous couple were engaged, and so it came
to pass that poor old Goody was nonplussed almost to distraction when his
application for a ticket for his fiancée was politely but firmly refused.

“But she’s engaged to me,” the poor old chap pleaded.

“And when she’s Mrs. Goodenough we shall always he delighted to see her,”
was the stern, uncompromising reply.

Such exclusiveness—which shows that snobbery was even then approaching
with gigantic strides—contrasts amusingly with what was then the
composition of many of our “crack” regiments.

Otway Toler—a brother of the Earl of Norbury—was one of the best amateur
musicians, and it was through his kindly offices that I became acquainted
with Giulini and other leading opera singers in London.

No such voice as that gifted being’s has ever been heard before or since,
and it is sad to recollect that whilst yet in the zenith of his fame he
was ruthlessly struck down by insanity, and eventually died in a
madhouse.

It was during this painful period that his voice is said to have reached
a pitch of pathos that far exceeded anything it attained when he thrilled
London nightly.

To compare it with any tenor that may suggest itself to the reader would
be as absurd as comparing an English concertina to the most glorious
notes of the most fluty instrument, and yet this divine voice was
silenced without apparent cause, and the world—the operatic world—will
never hear its like again.

As an old lady in tears was once overheard to say to her unmusical spouse
at the opera: “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man,” to which her
phlegmatic better-half replied: “Bosh, you should hear Sims Reeves; he
can go an octave higher.”

Sims Reeves, indeed!  But no matter—may they both rest in peace.

To go to an unpretentious Italian eating-house in Old Compton Street,
Soho, that has long disappeared, was as good as attending the opera—if
one was in the magic circle.  Here all day, and every day, congregated
the leading exponents, male and female, of Italian opera.  At a piano on
the first floor finishing touches were given to morceaux, duets were
tried over, and, in addition to the vocalists, soloists of the highest
order “ran through” special passages of their scores, while below, viands
of the strictest Italian type were being consumed from morning to night.

Here osso-buco, and minestrone, and spaghetti were to be found as
undiluted as at Savini’s in Milan, and washed down with such productions
of the vine as Chianti, Lacrima Christi, and Capri.

No abominations in imitation of French cookery were to be found here.  No
half-crown dinners of half-a-dozen courses, with their deadly
accompaniments of artichokes fried in tallow (_au Cardinal_) would have
been permitted here; no New Zealand mutton garnished with turnip-tops
(_ris dé veau garni aux truffes_) could have showed its unhallowed head
in those sacred precincts and lived, for no mashers of the present-day
type existed, and shop boys and shop girls knew their places too well to
venture into such reserved pastures, even with the prospect of eating a
veritable dinner as served on the Continong.

One cannot leave the subject of music without a reference to the
promenade concerts that came into being about this period at the Queen’s
in Long Acre.

It was here that the first public exhibition of the telephone was given,
and when a series of grunts had vibrated through the hall and a
bald-headed old patriarch had told us that the sound actually came from
Westminster, the surprise and delight of the enraptured audience was
intense, and we marvelled where such discoveries would end.

And the fun and the frolic at these gatherings was beyond description,
often more delectable than correct, but nevertheless delightful and
invigorating.  The orchestra, moreover, was superb, and the vocalists the
best that money could provide, and all these delights were presided over
by one Rivière, a pushing musical instrument-maker in Leicester Square,
who by sheer impudence had forced himself into prominence before an
ignorant public whilst all the time incapable of reading the most
ordinary score at sight.

So far as execution and diabolical contortions were concerned he was
immense, and as big an impostor as Jullien himself.

When Offenbach was all the rage, and Schneider (under Lord C.’s wing) was
his principal exponent, I had the honour of being one of a privileged
half-dozen who did homage to the Diva at a dinner party in a private room
at Limmer’s.  Although in the zenith of her fame, her personal charms at
the time were unquestionably on the wane, and I can recollect her
comments on popularity and what it was worth as she told us how ten years
previously, when young and beautiful, she had appeared in London only to
be ignored, and that now everybody was at her feet.  And then she
shrugged her shoulders with an indescribable fascination peculiarly her
own, and complacently puffed away at her cigarette.

It may have been a few years later that Major Carpenter, a wealthy
amateur musician, introduced to the operatic world a charming English
girl, who, under cover of the Italian name of Chiomi, was to electrify
London with her singing.

The opera the fair débutante selected was probably the most formidable a
nervous subject could have chosen; and so one night every one attended at
Her Majesty’s to hear _Lucia_ expounded.  Everything went well up to the
mad scene, when, unaccompanied by orchestra, the unhappy heroine has to
sing and toss straws about amid a series of impossible runs and shakes.
With the straw tossing no fault could be found, but the voice that should
have been moving us all to tears was a series of gurgles that eventually
subsided into silence.

Sir Michael Costa meanwhile sat grim and immovable, when a few bars would
probably have nerved up the fluttering victim, but _that_ to that
orthodox Italian would have been “trifling with the text,” and so no aid
was forthcoming, and the trumpet blasts that had emanated from Ashley
Place ended in a fiasco, and sweet little Chiomi was heard of no more.

That the drama is occasionally unjustly disparaged is nothing new; that
it occasionally produces indirect beneficial effects and even prolongs
life may be gleaned from the example of a deceased colonel of the Bays,
who, returning from India in the sixties with a life not worth six
months’ purchase, married a lady connected with the Canterbury Music
Hall, and, after increasing the music-hall population, literally died of
senile decay within the last year or two.

It was my privilege, on one occasion, in the company of Otway Toler, who
knew all the stars, to visit the great tenor Mario and his wife, the
equally celebrated Grisi, who had a house during the opera season in the
vicinity of Cavendish Square.  Grisi, it may be explained, at the time of
her marriage, was the proud mother of two children who, by one of those
extraordinary freaks of nature one occasionally meets with, resembled in
a remarkable degree the family that followed.

“These,” pointing to one group, was Grisi’s usual introduction, “are the
_Marionettes_, and these”—indicating the others—“are the _Grisettes_.”

Incredible as it may appear, one of the purest tenors the world has ever
produced did not know one note of music, and everything had to be drummed
into him by a fiddle.  It was at the house at Eaton Place of one of the
leading ladies of society that one often met the great tenor, where music
alternated with the cotillon and other delights of one’s youth.

About this time the Alhambra, which for some years had been waning in
public estimation, obtained a new lease of popularity under the
broad-minded direction of one Leader.

This worthy man, to use the familiar expression, “grasped the situation,”
and with the able co-operation of his co-directors—Nagle, head of a
celebrated firm of bill-stickers; Willing, an enlightened philanthropist
and patron of the drama; Captain Fryer (who was accorded that title
because he had a second cousin in the Dragoons)—inaugurated an
enlightened policy that seemed to provide “a want long felt,” and met the
requirements of their numerous patrons (_vide_ daily papers, etc.).

The directors’ box was a huge omnibus capable of holding goodness knows
how many, and consisted of partitions innumerable that had been dealt
with by the carpenters; a convenient door led to the stage, and to the
managing-director’s room—the objective of all visitors—as was only to be
expected in a well-conducted theatre.  Here were to be met nightly Alfred
Paget, a septuagenarian lord, who, when not in attendance at Court, as
was supposed, seemed to spend his declining years in wandering from one
green room to another.  Harmless to a degree, it was pitiable to see the
dyed old sinner, chewing a cigar, and indulging in such antics as an
occasional double-shuffle with any chorus girl he had selected for his
attention.

The Maharajah Dhuleep Singh, too, was in nightly attendance, and never
failed to bring some gimcrack which he displayed in the green room with
the inquiry: “What nice little girl going to have this?”  This, however,
was before he had concentrated his affections on pretty Polly Ash, who
appearing nightly in white kids up to her elbows gave mortal offence to
her fellow-choristers by showing up the cotton “sevens” supplied by the
management.  Polly, however, was not devoid of common sense, and retired
shortly after into a sumptuous flat in Covent Garden and an annuity that
survived the donor.

The green room of the old Alhambra was of extensive dimensions, and
contained more deal tables than probably any green room before or since.
By a magnanimous minute of the directors, ladies of the chorus and ballet
had the entrée, and, although none of the plainer members of the company
appeared to take advantage of the privilege, every table was fully
furnished with champagne (brand doubtful), and giggling artistes and
their adorers.  Every one smoked like a donkey-engine, and the genial
managing director percolated amongst his guests with a kindly inquiry as
to how you were getting on.  History does not make it quite clear whether
any of the fair members were eventually translated to the Upper House;
but whether as fortunate in this respect as Mott’s and in later years the
Gaiety, it was undeniable that no more beautiful bevy of women were to be
found than the representatives of the drama at the Alhambra in those
long-ago days.

Captain (!!) Fryer as a director was in considerable demand during the
orgies, and a youthful ensign on one occasion (when under the
fraternising influence of the stock champagne) having invited the
“Captain” to mess, was considerably put about on being informed by the
colonel that he was at once to cancel the invitation.  With the ingenuity
of youth, however, he wriggled out of the difficulty by changing the venu
to Limmer’s, and taking him and a select party to Mott’s.

In appearance the Captain gave the idea of having just missed being a
gentleman; with a waist abnormally small, and a waistcoat abnormally
tight, his shoulders stood out by the aid of whalebone in a manner
intended to convey herculean proportions.  When he walked it was with the
swinging motion attributed by “Ouida” to heroes who crumple pint pots
without knowing it, and kick garden rollers about as one would a pebble;
he stamped also occasionally with one foot as heavy dragoons once did
when they desired to clink their spurs, but which, after all, may only
have been a habit contracted by the contemplation of his second cousin
who had been in the cavalry.

“Do come here, you provoking Captain,” and “Did you hear what that absurd
Captain just said?” and Captain this, and Captain that vibrated through
the room to the no small annoyance of the “civilians” present.  From all
which it will be seen that he was a very fine fellow indeed, and the idol
of the ladies of the ballet.  But Bobby and some of the youngsters also
swore by him to a man; to have the run of the entire back premises, and
to be introduced to any siren their fickle fancies desired, was not a
privilege to be lightly appraised, and they vowed, till forbidden by the
adjutant, that he would be the life and soul of the mess on the next
guest night, and that the very rafters would tingle as he recounted his
multifarious experiences.

Another theatre that afforded amusement of a different type was the
Grecian, and night after night parties of from ten to twenty were made up
during the pantomime season to witness the best of pantomimists in his
incomparable part.  Not that such a privilege was lightly undertaken,
for, to begin with, Conquest had to be warned to knock two or three boxes
into one, then dinner in the (private) Octagon Room of the “Ship and
Turtle” in Leadenhall Street had to be ordered, and then—and then
only—the organised party proceeded eastwards in a private omnibus about 5
p.m.

It may seem silly and suggestive of senile decay to descant on such
frivolities, but who of the present generation can realise the homely,
sumptuous repast that awaited one at the famous old hostelry of the
sixties?  The milk-punch specially served by Painter himself, the
incomparable turtle soup and turtle steaks, the saddle of mutton one felt
it a sin to mutilate, and the honest English pancakes washed down with
port—fifty years old—and champagne in magnums were one and all
incomparable; and then the start as the omnibus pulled up at the door,
and the smoking of cigars of brands now unknown, till one alighted at the
portals of the Grecian in the City Road, adjoining the celebrated
“Eagle,” made famous by the antics of the eccentric weasel that we are
assured went “pop” every time it entered its hospitable doors.  Can
anything of to-day compare with it?  But the days of regret for these
honest old enjoyments are sadly out of place in these enlightened times,
where comic opera has superseded the transformation scene with its
adjuncts of clown, pantaloons, and harlequin.  The performance and the
historian are alike out of perspective.

“Come, Mabel, shall we go to the Covent Garden ball?”

Let us extend our ramble to merry Islington and peep in at the
Philharmonic, where now stands the Grand; and although we take a leap
into the seventies for the nonce, the “long ago” is sufficiently distant
to be beyond the ken of many of our readers.

The rage for Offenbach was at this time at its height, and Soldene and
Dolaro drew all the golden calves from the West to gaze on the things of
beauty that were provided for their delectation.

A sporting bookmaker—Charley Head—who ran the show, realising that the
majority of his patrons were incapable of distinguishing “Hunkey Dorum”
from the National Anthem (“The Honeysuckle and the Bee” was, happily,
unknown in those days), decided that if the principals were of the
highest class, the chorus might fairly be selected for perfection of form
rather than perfection of voice, and some seventy of the most beautiful
girls in London were engaged to add _éclat_ to the performance.

It was currently reported that half their weekly salary of three
shillings was paid in counters, to be expended in the salon after the
performance; and the roaring trade in champagne that ensued amply repaid
the astute manager’s calculations.

The drama, run on these lines, naturally produced impresarios of a
questionable class, and Leo Egremont, in an expanse of white waistcoat
and a stripe down his trousers, was nightly ubiquitous and effusively
gushing in his attendance on the golden calves.  A ballad singer (at the
Cave of Harmony) before he lost his voice—a basso of the deepest dye—he
had lately opened a “bureau” and advertised for novelties which he
“placed”—as he termed it—as the demand and circumstances suggested.

The streaky nobleman and the toothless lady who could sing three octaves
had been presented through his enterprise to an East-end audience, and
when the “Phil” opened under such unique auspices, Egremont lost no time
in securing a footing.

He also belonged to the “Howlers,” a half club, half pot-house, in the
vicinity of the Strand.

But the poor old “Phil” has long since been burnt to the ground, Egremont
has disappeared below the horizon, and the memories of the seventies are
gone to join the mountain of reminiscences of the long-ago Sixties.

Across the river, the Surrey—run on broader lines—was also responsible
for the hatching of numerous future hereditary legislators, and during
the pantomime season might be found such goddesses as Val Reece, Lardy
Wilson, and a score of others, many of whom have since swelled the pages
of Debrett and similar works of our religion.

It is no more than the truth to assert that this latter lady—for she had
a way with her not strictly histrionic—very nearly upset by her
personality a certain Anglo-Russian marriage at a critical period of the
negotiations.

The Lamp of Burlesque had not yet been lighted, nor even trimmed, in the
future Gaiety—which at the time was a “rub-a-dub” of the lowest class—and
so the rumours of duels that filled the air years later between a
military attaché and an _off-shoot_ of the noble House of Clanricarde
still slumbered in the womb of futurity, only to be roused to vitality by
the nimble graces of Kate Vaughan and sweet little Nell Farren.

Passing the Charing Cross Hotel one day, an old semi-theatrical warrior
returned visibly to my mind, and I could again see Alfred Paget
descending the stairs after one of those informal meetings of directors
that occasionally took place in Edward Watkins’s rooms.  For the would-be
juvenile on the high road to senile decay that the present generation may
remember was a very different man to the Lord Alfred of the Sixties, or,
looking further back, to the handsome young equerry who pranced beside
the late Queen’s carriage in all the glory of manhood.  And then
incidents long forgotten were re-enacted in my muddled brain; how as a
director of the South-Eastern he claimed, or obtained, or arranged, that
all repairs on his steam yacht should be done by the artificers and
engineers of the company.  And then, by no great effort, the _Santa
Maria_ appeared lying off Margate Pier, and Old Alfred—as he was
gradually becoming—faultlessly attired on “post captain” lines, waiting
for his boon companion, Alec Henderson, or possibly a “Poppit,” as all
his “frivolities” were christened.  And then the launch lying at the
steps, and the revels on board, and the grateful “poppits” going over the
side after being presented with a straw hat or some article of female
attire found in the state cabin, belonging to heaven knows who, during
the more respectable cruises.  And then the trips to Boulogne and the
stocking the store-room with cheap wines, which the genial old sinner
chuckled would thus evade duty and come in handy at second-chop
gatherings.  For with all his display his lordship was undoubtedly
thrifty, and could have stated blindfolded the exact number of cigars or
cigarettes that were lying about, no matter how apparently negligently.

Lord Alfred had been a yachtsman all his life, and he would tell how our
late Queen—with that characteristic woman’s tact that never left
her—wrote to him on the occasion of a former yacht being run down by a
Channel mail packet, “You must not be ashamed to accept the enclosed £500
as a gift from the Sovereign to a subject.”

“Mighty different woman now,” he would add, pouting his lips, and then
toddling off with a six-foot telescope to take the harmless bearings of
any “poppits” within hail.

His chum “Alec” was a charming man, and when he and Lionel Brough—as on
one occasion—began capping one reminiscence by another on the deck of the
_Santa Maria_ the show was as good as anything to be seen at the Opera
Comique or Strand, or any of the various theatres of which he was lessee.
Years before he had married Lydia Thompson, a name that conveys nothing
to the present generation, but who in the sixties was the cleverest and
prettiest of burlesque actresses, and there was not a youngster worth his
salt that was not desperately in love with her.  Lydia Thompson was aunt
to Violet Cameron, who attained a certain position in the later seventies
at the Strand, but was overshadowed by Florence St. John, one of the very
few who, in addition to being the most chic of actresses, possessed a
pure and cultivated voice.



CHAPTER XVI.
USURERS AND MILLIONAIRES.


WHEN “Purchase” was in full blast the chosen race had some data to go
upon as regards the “possibilities” of their clients, who for the most
part were Army men, and when the mystic P appeared after a name in the
Army List, they felt fairly safe that their investments were recoverable;
many, however, found to their cost that “charging” one’s commission was
not recognised by the Horse Guards, and that despite the production of a
sackful of mortgages, Cox dared not part with a cent of the commission
money to any one but the actual reprobate.  Barely had a name appeared in
the _Gazette_ when a squad of these harpies hustled each other before the
modest portals in Craig’s Court, and “the widows of Asher were loud in
their wail” when they heard that their co-religionists had been turned
empty away.  In the citadel itself they, of course, had numerous paid
spies, who “posted” them as to any imminent appearance in the _Gazette_,
and no one earned more shekels by this illicit traffic than a clerk, who
eventually had to leave, but who may still be seen shambling about
Leicester Square in the futile endeavour to raise small loans for his
shoddy clientèle.  In pot-houses that he “uses” he is known as “the
Captain,” and affects the old dragoon limp.  For the human species, as
everybody is aware, is composed but of two distinct races: the men who
borrow, and the men who lend; under which two original diversities may be
reduced all those impertinent classifications we are familiar with, such
as Celtic and Gothic origin, white men, black men, red men, and such
like.  It is of the latter class during the sixties we propose to speak.

At the head of the list was Callisher—known in the family as Julius—then
followed Bob Morris (“Jellybelly”) and a bad third was Sam Lewis, only
then emerging from the status of a traveller in cheap jewellery, who
addressed one as “Sir,” and ready at a moment’s notice to produce a
ten-pound note and draw out a bill for £15, with which his pockets were
invariably lined.

An undoubtedly leading usurer of the sixties was Bob Morris, who—it was
no secret—was originally financed by Sir Henry De Hoghton, an eccentric
baronet referred to elsewhere.  “Jellybelly,” as he was familiarly known,
transacted business in the vicinity of the Raleigh.  A noiseless bell in
a blaze of brass, and a door that opened without any visible agency, were
the first objects that struck one on the threshold of the outer world.
Introduced first into an ante-room, a client—subject to satisfactory
scrutiny—was filtered into the presence of the great man.

No indecent hurry was permitted during these important preliminaries, and
one might as reasonably have hoped to enter the library of a bishop as to
approach Bob Morris without a scrupulous regard to decorum.

Numerous applicants were to be found at all hours in meek and becoming
attitudes waiting for the moving of the waters, some to be rebuffed by
deputy, and others only to be admitted and immediately bowed out.

A second waiting-room above relieved the congestion of the one below when
unusual circumstances taxed its resources; it was heavily curtained,
dark, on Turkish bath lines, and it was considered a bad sign—as the
precursor to a snub—when one was promoted to this retreat.

“Jellybelly” was strictly honourable according to his lights; if he could
get 100 per cent. he preferred it to 80, and if 80 was not forthcoming he
would accept 60 on the security of the Consols.  The variety of his
transactions would have embarrassed a less brilliant mind, and at one
time or another he had found himself owner (by mortgage) of the three
first favourites for the Derby, the foundations and a partially completed
wing of a skating-rink, and two miles of a submarine tunnel on which work
had been stopped.  That such multifarious responsibilities might
reasonably be supposed to tax the patience of an ordinary mortal would
have been matter of no surprise, but nothing appeared to give him the
least concern.

It was Sam Lewis’s pluck that obtained him the colossal fortune he
eventually died possessed of, and, ever ready to run the most infernal
risks, it was seldom he did not come out top.  During Goodwood week he
did business in his bedroom at the “Grand,” and a telegram from the other
end of the kingdom, followed by an acceptance, invariably produced
banknotes by return post.

It was only after he began to feel his legs and to dabble in title deeds,
that he abandoned the genial habits of his youth, became _Mr._ Lewis,
could be seen only by appointment, and assumed an expression between that
of a bank director and an Egyptian sphinx.

When I “met” him first he was not above a swap, and a bill for, say, £50,
paid in £20 cash and the balance in tawdry gimcracks, was the usual style
of transaction.  At the time I refer to he lived in an unpretentious
house in Gower Street; later on, as a younger generation are aware, he
possessed a mansion in Grosvenor Square; rode in the Park at daylight
during the Season, and gave dinner parties where any one from a member of
the Victorian Order upwards was always assured of a hearty welcome.  So
keen, indeed, was the little man (or his wife) to be considered members
of the fringe of Society that an enterprising young man—related to the
noble House of Somerset—was unquestionably on a fixed scale of
remuneration, and given _carte blanche_ to bring any sprig of nobility at
prices ranging from a guinea upwards.  In addition, a few minor
under-strappers, such as the late lamented Patty Coleman and others, had
a free hand to produce “desirables.”

The little man—as we all know—is now a matter of history, his widow not
long after again married and then followed him, though her memory is
still cherished in the Synagogue as “Lewis of the Guards.”

Of the smaller fry, Fitch of Southwark; Sol Beyfus; Finney Davis of Mount
Street; Lazarus of Dublin; Cook of Warwick Street, all assisted in
spoiling the Egyptians; whilst their sons, almost without exception, have
risen in the minor social scale as attorneys or chartered accountants,
and their sons will assuredly figure in “Debrett’s” or the “Landed
Gentry,” as instanced in a glaring case, where a railway navvy—who left
his three sons a million sterling each in the Sixties—we are now informed
in the peerage was undoubtedly descended from de—, who came over with the
Conqueror, and that his genealogy is lost in antiquity—not always an
unmixed evil.

In the old days the usurer used his own name, now they cull the peerage
for the most historical they can find.  But

    “Brown, Jones, or Moses
    Can change their names but not their noses.”

Perhaps no more marvellous example of Nature’s constant care for the
wants of her needy creations is to be found than in the periodical
appearance above the horizon of some nobody who, having amassed a
colossal fortune, is henceforth ordained by a merciful Providence to
rescue impecunious lords from the slough of despair, level-up princes who
have exceeded their income, and to put upon their legs livery stablemen;
authorities on horseflesh and their superiors generally by birth and
education.

In the long-ago Sixties these providential phenomena were not appreciated
as much as in these more enlightened days, and, even in such sinks of
iniquity as Mott’s, an impecunious gentleman was assessed as a
considerably more desirable quantity than knighted shop-boys, “H”-less
capitalists, or promoted horse copers.

That even then they existed goes without saying; that they did not assist
in making history is equally undeniable.

Amongst these one of the most remarkable was one Hirsch—Baron of
somewhere—but whose untimely death before he attained to Debrett makes
his genealogy difficult to trace with any degree of accuracy.  Suddenly
springing into prominence, he at once broke out into horseflesh; and
although probably not knowing one end of a horse from another, soon
collected a magnificent stud, and being surrounded by disinterested!
councillors of the highest attainments, soon swept the board in most of
the classic races.  But the subject that brought him chiefly into
prominence was his solicitude for his co-religionists: first, he proposed
to buy Jerusalem, but meeting with obstacles that even money could not
overcome, he contemplated a “personally-conducted tour,” whereby the Holy
City should again become the habitation of the chosen race.  But his
premature death, alas! nipped all these aspirations in the bud, and the
gimcrack shops in Bond Street still flourish, and the successors of
Callisher, Bob Morris, and Sam Lewis continue to batten on Christian
flesh.  The sums that he expended and bequeathed on this desirable object
were not without significance, and the leaves of the Talmud were
ransacked to show that he was the undoubted 666, or some equally
unintelligible hieroglyphic that had been predicted by the Prophets; and
then death entered Bath House and snapped the various theories—_Quod erat
demonstrandum_.

Baron de Forest, whom we occasionally hear of as one of the shining
lights of modern Society, inherited a considerable portion of the
deceased “nobleman’s” fortune, and is said to be related to him.

A phenomenon of another type was Colonel North.  Soldier, philanthropist,
and nitrate expert, it matters not what regiment had the privilege of
being commanded by him; it was in the latter industry that he endeared
himself to his species.  Liberal, bluff, and accessible to all, his daily
free lunches at the “Woolpack” were partaken of by all the halt and the
maim—and occasionally the blind—within the four-mile radius.

Impecunious Irish lords, with ancestral bogs sadly in need of re-digging,
now saw their opportunity, and a huge industry sprang into existence,
where, for a consideration—in shares—the meteor was introduced to certain
higher lords who, holding broad theories on “meum and tuum,” in their
turn arranged dinner parties where the most exalted were to be met with.
Often did the rafters of Connaught Place rattle during these festive
gatherings, and sheaves of shares changed hands till no one was sent
empty away, and so by the aid of nitrate, “the Colonel” was wafted amid
the highest pinnacles of Society.  Occasionally a false note was struck
when some over-eager recipient put his shares on the market—but even
these _faux pas_ were soon forgotten, for “the Colonel,” if not
“Plantagenet blood,” had the instincts of a gentleman.  That the owner of
such vast wealth must needs own racehorses goes without saying, upon
which ’bus drivers and unsuccessful authorities on horseflesh came upon
the scene, and thus the sphere of Nature’s bountiful providence became
more extended.  North, however, never attained prominence in a pursuit he
was probably utterly indifferent to, though his colours were frequently
to be seen (last) at the various race meetings.

It was a sad day in Bohemia Minor when “the Colonel” was gathered to his
fathers; and the diminution in white waistcoats and immaculate attire in
Gracechurch Street and Northumberland Avenue was lamentably apparent; the
rockets that had temporarily fizzled gradually expended themselves, their
very sticks were soon untraceable; straw hats and macintoshes (during the
dog days) gradually resumed their ascendency, and Society recovered from
the topsy-turveydom with which it was once temporarily threatened.



CHAPTER XVII.
SOME CURIOUS FISH OF THE SIXTIES.


SIR Henry De Hoghton, a wealthy baronet who was above the horizon in the
Sixties, though possessed of a fine estate and a palatial residence,
preferred the hand-to-mouth existence of an hotel, and lived at
Meurigy’s, now the supper-house yclept the Chatham.  Never visible to the
naked eye by day, he wandered into the Raleigh about midnight, and
casting furtive glances in various directions, would settle down without
a word.  To punters he was a very oasis in a dry land, for, although the
very worst écarté player in Christendom, no stakes were too high for him,
and after losing a game or two his proposals were literally appalling.

To ask him to play was the signal for his abrupt departure; to ignore his
presence was tantamount to £100 a game within twenty minutes.

Fred Granville, who about this period was considerably out of his depth,
had a peculiar experience with him.  On one occasion, having lost to the
eccentric baronet some £3,000, De Hoghton, who evidently knew that a
settlement was precarious, said, “Why don’t you go to ‘Jellybelly’?”

What occurred at the suggested interview it is difficult to arrive at,
but within the week it was generally known that De Hoghton financed the
Hebrew money-lender, and by such disinterested advice as above was
invariably paid, leaving the onus of recovery to the astute Bob Morris.

Another drunken baronet who lived in Eaton Square, and had married an
houri of a very inferior type, had for his chief hobby the surrounding
himself with pugilists and comic singers.

Living entirely on the ground floor, the drawing-room, which was
carpetless, was got up like a cockpit.  Here nightly orgies were held, to
the annoyance of every one within hearing, and when too much port—with
which the cellars were filled—had done its duty, rows were not infrequent
between this disreputable couple.  On one occasion I can recollect her
drunken ladyship—very lightly clad—ordering a powdered six-foot flunkey
to put out the lights instantly, and her drunken spouse’s rejoinder, “If
you dare to touch a candle, you leave my house this moment.”  After which
a domestic scrimmage and a stampede ensued, and, seizing hats and coats,
the guests hurriedly departed.

An eccentric old lady who died about this time left her large fortune to
a distant relative on the condition that she was never to be put below
earth.

To obviate the slightest risk of losing the legacy, the astute recipient
immediately purchased a house in London, and with all the pomp worthy of
the occasion, placed the mass of corruption, securely boxed, on the roof,
after which it was soldered on to the leads and encased in a glass shade.

The eyesore has long disappeared, but twenty years ago it was an object
of interest to strollers in Kensington Gardens.

Ned Deering was a well-known figure in Pall Mall in the long-ago Sixties.
The heir to one of the oldest baronetcies in the kingdom, he distorted
his handsome features by wearing his hair down to his shoulders in
imitation of Charles I. (of blessed memory), whom he imagined he
resembled.

Eccentric to a degree, he married a few years later the lady known to
posterity as Mrs. Bernard Beere, and great was the consternation in Kent
lest a “small Beer” might eventually be enrolled in their local patrician
ranks; but the scare was short-lived, and Ned, who meanwhile had turned
Papist—as he would have turned Mohammedan had he lived in Morocco—died in
a picturesque cottage with garden in front in Jermyn Street, imbibing
buckets of champagne to the last, and with the encouraging assurance of a
sure and joyful resurrection.  The spot is now represented by the back
entrance of the Criterion Theatre.  No more amusing companion existed
than Ned Deering, when the spirit moved him.

Amongst military characters, Lord Mark Kerr must assuredly be given the
palm.  Of overwhelming family interest, he ruled the 13th Somersetshire
Light Infantry as a veritable despot.  Mad as any March hare, he
frequently appeared on parade with his shako reverse-ways on his head,
and if his eagle-eye spotted some awkward-looking recruit, he would
paralyse him by, “Ha! you come from Bath, eh?  I suppose you consider
yourself a Bath brick?  But I consider you a Bath—”  In the mess, too, he
was equally harmlessly autocratic, and no officer was expected to take
his seat till Lord Mark had said, “Be seated, gentlemen.”  But there was
no vice in this eccentric branch of the house of Lothian.  Whether he
would have been tolerated in these later days is another affair.

Major Francis, who was on the Smoking Room Committee of the Turf Club,
was an admitted authority on cigars.  Small in stature, the little man
carried a cigar-case in every pocket of his numerous coats; not a cigar
entered the docks but was sampled as a labour of love for the large
importers by this unquestionable expert.  And often have I accompanied
him to St. Mary Axe, where box after box has been opened, and cigar after
cigar lighted for our delectation, only to be laid aside after one whiff
as we passed on to other brands.  “But what becomes of all these wasted
samples?” I inquired of Mr. Dodswell.  “They’re not wasted,” he replied;
“they become ‘Regalia Britannicas,’ such as these,” and he handed me a
gilt-edged box of the most approved pattern that might well deceive any
but an expert.

Major Francis created a revolution in the cigars that were supplied at
the Turf, and instead of the “Golden Eagles” such as Dicky Boulton
considered cheap at three shillings apiece, and others assessed as dear
at any price, the finest exports of the Havanas were to be had for less
than half the money.

Every youngster aspiring to importance in those days affected the
possession of countless thousands of two-shilling cigars, and the walls
of a large establishment in Bond Street were covered with boxes bearing
in conspicuous type the various names and designations.

It may be stated, however, that the venture was a “credit” one, which,
whilst pandering to the vanity of the owner, in no way injured the
tradesman, who delicately withdrew any surplus stock where settlement
appeared doubtful.

Lord Alexander Russell—a brother of the Duke of Bedford—when in command
of the Rifle Brigade invariably smoked a short clay when at the head of
his regiment, and Colonel Warden, another eccentric, who commanded the
19th Foot, seldom rose till one or two in the afternoon, and would keep
the whole regiment dangling about the orderly room for hours, to the
amusement of the rest of the camp.

But this was in the days when every regiment was a principality ruled by
a despot, who, twice a year at most, underwent formal inspection by some
amiable old gentleman, who received £600 a year for wearing a cocked hat
as commander of such and such a regiment.

That the state of preparedness that often then existed would hardly meet
the requirements of the present-day alertness may best be exemplified by
what I once assisted at.

The Inspecting General was Sir Percy Douglas, who had expressed the
desire of seeing and hearing that instructive manœuvre, a _feu de joie_.
Proudly did the commanding officer give the requisite command, and with
one accord 800 muzzle-loading barrels pointed defiantly heavenwards; then
pop here, pop there a hundred yards down the line, a charge here and
there exploded.

Every barrel was choked with mutton fat—a favourite recipe against rust
amongst the old warriors of England.

Some startling stories of the mad Marquis of Waterford might be
introduced, if their production were possible.  One or two incidents,
however, of the Sixties may not be amiss.  Constantly was this privileged
lunatic to be seen walking the Haymarket at breakneck speed, and being
known to every cabman, waterman, and policeman, his antics attracted
little attention.  On one occasion he appeared in an exceptionally
dishevelled condition, and a constable remonstrating with him in a
friendly tone, he produced a large knife, and, hacking off what purported
to be a finger, threw it into the street.

His lordship had apparently been exploiting the shambles, and brought
away a blade-bone for possible emergency.

On another occasion he had been annoyed by being overcrowded in a railway
carriage, and retaliated a few days after by appearing at the station
with a chimney-sweep in full canonicals, for whom he purchased a
first-class ticket, and whom he took with him into the carriage.  His
lordship and his companion were on this occasion in no way incommoded.

Sir Charles Ross, a wealthy Highland baronet, visited London every season
for exactly fourteen days, accompanied by a gillie.  At the old
“Tavistock,” where he invariably stayed, his daily meals consisted of
mutton chops and steaks; his gillie, by express order, was to be given
“anything”—salmon and grouse were good enough for him.

On one occasion he imagined he had dropped a sixpence in the
entrance-hall, and half the staff of the hotel were employed for two
hours at half-a-crown an hour, with express orders to _find_ it.

A substitute was eventually found, and the routine of the establishment
resumed its normal condition.

Some years later his eccentricities assumed a more serious form, and
having nearly frightened an old woman out of her life by suddenly rising
in his birthday suit with his ribs painted black from among furze bushes,
he was placed under restraint, and, I believe, died in a madhouse.

Lord Ernest Bruce, who eventually blossomed into Marquis of Ailesbury,
had a chronic deafness that apparently descended to his sons—“The
Duffer,” long since dead, and the present holder of the title (Henry)—and
it was better than any play to see the father and two sons narrating
anecdotes to one another, with their hands to their respective ears, and
bellowing like fog-horns, and then roaring like rhinoceroses as their
jokes permeated their skulls over the family gatherings that periodically
took place at Boodle’s.

At this time an excellent foreign restaurant had made its appearance in a
side street of Soho, and many of the foreign attachés gave it their
(private) patronage.

A joke that obtained was the scrambling for coppers from the window of a
private room, and it was on one occasion when Baron Spaum was revelling
in the excitement that the crowds became so dense that an appeal from the
landlord necessitated a resort to a ruse.

A suitable (!) person who was dining in the public room kindly consented
to don the Baron’s light overcoat and to scramble coppers that had been
provided as he leisurely left the premises.  The deception succeeded
admirably, as the crowd followed the supposed benefactor.  The assumption
of the Baron’s coat was also a profound success, at least so all but the
Baron agreed.  He never saw his paletot again.

An old member of the Conservative, who was well known during the Sixties
and Seventies, made it an invariable practice to sip brown sherry for two
or three hours every afternoon.  So monotonous were the constant
applications to his pocket that he directed the total should be paid in
one instalment before he left.

Fifteen and twenty glasses were the old toper’s average, but on one
occasion when his consumption amounted to twenty-five, he fixed a glazed
eye on the footman, and gurgled out: “Ten probable, eighteen possible,
but twenty-five, _never_!”  After which he paid up, and toddled into the
attendant four-wheeler.

It was during the sixties that Mr. Justice Maule was in the zenith of his
fame.  Devoted to his profession, and to the old port of his Inn, no
dinner of his brother benchers would have appeared complete without the
adjunct of his beaming countenance, when, having stowed away three
bottles under his belt, he would “tack” the few yards to his chambers in
Paper Buildings, and hang a man in the morning with the decorum only to
be attained by experience.

It was after one of these festive gatherings that Paper Buildings was
burnt to the ground.  The Judge, it appears, was a great reader; whether
he always understood what he read (or did) under given circumstances is
not quite clear, suffice that, having popped into bed and adjusted a vase
conveniently on a chair, he proceeded to place a moderator lamp under his
couch, after which the only reliable evidence obtainable was that the old
gentleman woke with a start to find himself enveloped in flames.

As he himself described it, he thought he was dead and that he had _not_
been carried to Abraham’s bosom.  He never, indeed, got over the shock,
and, moderating his partiality for old port, he exhibited more serious
tendencies, and so good came out of evil, and the occupiers of the
present palatial chambers are indebted to Mr. Justice Maule for having
gone to bed tipsy and burnt down the crazy old buildings.

Mr. Justice Maule had a grim humour of his own, and Serjeant Ballantine
used to tell of how on one occasion during the Guildford Assizes a murder
case hinged on the evidence of a child to which the Crown attached
importance, but to which the prisoner vehemently objected.

“Come here, my little girl,” said his lordship.  “Now, if you were to
tell a story do you know where you would go to?”

“No, sir,” was the candid reply.

“Neither do I,” was the judicial endorsement; “an excellent answer; swear
the witness.”

But that was before the “shock” that brought him to his senses.

Every Army man in the sixties will remember George Goddard.  A cheery
Irishman, full of anecdotage, universally popular, but, alas! with the
proverbial lack of the one thing needful.  Appointed by Tod Heatly as one
of his touts, he combined business with pleasure by radiating between the
various regiments and billeting himself on any one he knew at the Raleigh
or Army Clubs.

“Now, Major,” he once said to Gussy Brown after a hilarious mess dinner,
“you see that stain on the floor?  I bet you I’ll remove it without
touching it.”

“Impossible,” replied the little man.  “I’ll bet a fiver you don’t,” and
before the astonished audience could say “Jack Robinson” the gallant
Gussy had been seized by his spurs and smeared across the floor.

But all this was in the days of practical joking.

Gussy Brown, although the most diminutive of cavalry field officers, was
also the most pompous, and on one occasion when the 4th were invited to a
humdrum dance at Brighton the little man, to show his displeasure, walked
slowly round the room with his “Gibus” under his arm, and making three
stately bows to the astonished hostess slowly left the room.

On the occasion of the Goddard joke, his only remark was, “D— stupid!”

At this period touting for brewers and wine merchants was the curse of
the Army.  Every club contained retired colonels and others who
buttonholed one on every occasion.  Before a troopship entered the
harbour a tout came on board with the pilot; dining at an Army club, the
man at the next table inquired if your regimental canteen was well
served; indeed, they penetrated the most sacred precincts with the
pertinacity of a sandstorm.

As a cranky old general once exclaimed “D— it, I thought we were safe
when militia men were not eligible; but these touts and store-keepers and
bonnet-shop keepers will make the Rag a den of thieves, by Gad!”

The association of these respective vocations in the old warrior’s mind
was evidently based on the legend that then obtained that when the
captain was inspecting the front rank of the Tower Hamlets the rear rank
was faced about by way of precaution.

Every one who knew Jonas Hunt must have been astonished to read that he
left over £35,000 at his death a few months ago.  As brave as a lion, he
would assuredly—had he not been such a rip—have received the Victoria
Cross for his share in the Balaclava charge, and when he sold out two
years later, he was literally without a shilling, and continued in the
same happy condition for twenty years after—not that Jonas stinted
himself in anything, on the contrary, he would plunge to any extent,
dunning you if chance made him your creditor, and forgetting any debt
almost as soon as contracted.  A bruiser of no mean class, he invariably
suggested a round if any one had the temerity to remind him.

A highly objectionable individual, whose father was a buggy master in
Calcutta, and actually got a commission in the “Blues” till ordered to
sell out for writing anonymous letters to a celebrated beauty of the
Sixties not long since dead, once had the impudence to remind Jonas of a
debt, and was replied to as follows: “I should have thought it more in
your line to have written anonymously to my wife, but if you prefer to
settle the matter with your fists I am entirely at your disposal.”  The
man who procured the retirement of the anonymous letter-writer was at the
time an officer in the Guards, and though still to be seen radiating
between minor restaurants and 100 per cent. bureaus, has nothing left of
his former self but a fly-blown prefix to his name, and even that has
lost its commercial value amongst Hebrew financiers of shady enterprises.



CHAPTER XVIII.
SPIRITUALISM AND REALISM.


THE craze for “table-turning,” “spirit-rapping,” and every conceivable
trash connected with the occult sciences, was in full blast in the
long-ago Sixties, and old ladies would form tea parties and sit all day
and half through the night at round tables with their knotty old mittened
thumbs pressed convulsively against those of their neighbours waiting for
the moving of the waters.  Lord Ashburton, who lived near Portman Square,
was the arch-priest and arch-culprit that disseminated this fashionable
twaddle, and there was not a spinster in that (then) highly-fashionable
district that did not devour the leaflets that were periodically issued
broadcast by the inspired old humbug.  Occasionally invitations were
issued for séances, when refreshments (more or less light) were provided
to fortify poor human nature against possible unearthly attacks after the
lights had been judiciously lowered.

It was at one of these functions that I on one occasion found myself,
and, possessing in those days an appetite like a cormorant, was terribly
disillusioned after two hours’ waiting for the “spirits” to hear his
lordship order the butler to “bring in the urn.”  (In those long-ago days
tea without an urn the dimensions of a safe was an absolute
impossibility.)  Nor did spiritualism end here, for numerous haunted
houses were in the market where apparitions and unearthly sounds could be
seen and heard and which no one would rent.

It is the experience of a man I knew intimately that I will now—without
expressing an opinion—relate, as far as I can recollect, in his own
words:

    “Looking for a house with plenty of elbow room and of reasonable
    rent, my attention was attracted by a dilapidated building—with
    garden in front and noseless statues liberally besprinkling
    it—situated in the Marylebone Road.  Proceeding to the agent’s, I was
    considerably surprised by his terms.  ‘The house,’ he began, ‘has a
    bad name; no caretaker will live on the premises.  In a word, sir,
    here’s the key, and if you are willing to occupy it you shall have it
    rent free for six months.’  I at once closed with his offer, and
    seeking out a chum—lately ordained—we spent the next night in the
    haunted house.  It was in the dining-room we proposed to make a first
    night of it, and barely had we settled down for a chat when footsteps
    were distinctly heard in the hall.  ‘Our lantern!’ I whispered as we
    excitedly opened the door.  Nothing was to be seen, nothing to be
    heard.  ‘Hush!’ whispered my friend, ‘I hear something behind me.’  I
    heard the sound also.  ‘Who’s there?’ I called out.  ‘Who’s there?’ I
    repeated; but still the silence of the Catacombs.  Then the sound of
    footsteps ascending the uncarpeted stairs was unmistakable till they
    gradually died away in the attics.  A moment of indescribable
    stillness followed; a cold blast chilled the very marrow of our
    bones, and our lantern went out like the crack of a pistol.

    “We returned to our armchairs after carefully locking the door, but
    we heard no more.  And so we sat till welcome daylight made its
    appearance, and as the kettle simmered on the hob and the sound of
    awakening life made itself manifest in the Marylebone Road, it seemed
    impossible to realise the weird manifestations we had witnessed.

    “‘—,’ said my friend, ‘we have learnt a terrible experience; Satan
    has been unloosed amongst us.  Let us pray.’”

The house has long since been pulled down; majestic flats now occupy the
site, and instead of the sepulchral moans of disembodied souls the
untrained, throaty voice of lovely woman may be heard shrieking to the
accompaniment of a hired piano, and producing a discord as damnable, if
more up-to-date, than ever was heard in a haunted house.

In Surrey Street there was a house that rumour asserted had been
hermetically sealed, and was not to be re-opened till a hundred years had
passed, where, in the eighteenth century, a terrible tragedy had occurred
during the progress of a bridal feast, and the distracted bridegroom,
rushing out, had commanded that God’s sun should not again settle on the
accursed board till the generation yet unborn was in being.  And I have a
vague recollection of having read, years later, a description of what was
seen as the portals were thrown back after their century of peace, and
light and air had percolated through the room.  One can picture the table
decked with its moth-eaten cloth, the piles of dust that represented the
viands, the chairs pushed back in weird array, and the odour of the tomb
that pervaded everything!

To all which, my enlightened twentieth-century reader, there is probably
another side.  The whole thing may be an absolute fable.

In the days before Trade had made those gigantic strides which have since
dumped its votaries amid the once sacred pages of Debrett, when knights
were not as common as blackberries, and the Victorian Order had not
become a terror in the land, when buttermen sold butter, and
furniture-men sold furniture, and before huge emporiums for the sale of
everything had come into existence, it was “bazaars” that supplied the
maximum of selection with the minimum of locomotion, such as to-day is to
be found in the huge caravanserai yclept “Stores” and in Tottenham Court
Road and Westbourne Grove in particular.

In Soho Square, on the western side, where to-day—and all day—men with
pronounced features, forbidding countenances, and of usurious tendencies
may be seen in a first floor window exchanging views on the iniquitous
restrictions associated with stamped paper, a bazaar existed in the
long-ago sixties where dogs that squeaked and elephants that wagged their
tails might have been bought by children of tender years who, for aught
we know, may have since been plucked of their last feather by the
vultures that now hover over those happy hunting grounds.

Turning into Oxford Street there was the Queen’s Bazaar, afterward
converted into the Princess’s Theatre, still with us, with its dismal,
dingy frontage and limited shelter for ladies with guttural voices;
whilst almost opposite was the Pantheon, with perhaps the most chequered
career of all, having been, in turn, the National Opera House, the
accepted Masquerade house, a theatre, and a bazaar till 1867, when it
attained its present proud position as the main tap for the supply of
Gilbey’s multifarious vintages.

Still further west was the St. James’s Bazaar, built by Crockford, and
soon converted into a hell, where more monies changed hands and more
properties were sold than in all the other bazaars in the universe.

But perhaps the most tenacious of life was the Baker Street Bazaar.  In
its spacious area was situated an unpretentious shop (since spread half
up the street) with two or three windows in Baker Street, while on the
hinterland was the bazaar, and over it Tussaud’s Waxworks.  Entering from
King Street was the area occupied annually by the Cattle Show, whilst
still further space was available—as we were lately informed by the
police reports—for empty coffins, false beards, volatile dukes, lead and
bricks in bulk, sleeping and reception rooms, scores of flunkeys, and
addenda too multifarious to mention.  Never having seen the subterranean
Duke nor the bewhiskered Druce, one may be permitted to marvel where all
this ghastly conglomeration found shelter, and whether the confusion that
must have occurred amongst the Dutch dukes, the English shopmen, the
cattle, and the Waxworks can in any way be held responsible for the
startling contradictions with which we have lately been regaled.

But does any one who traverses the historic area between Soho Square and
Charing Cross give a thought to the interest that once clustered round
where Crosse and Blackwell’s factory now stands?  Does any one realise
whilst “held up” in a broken-down “Vanguard” in Shaftesbury Avenue that
the neighbourhood once echoed with the Royalist battle-cry “So-ho” in the
days of that greatest of Englishmen—Cromwell?  Does any one ever give it
a thought that Charing Cross was not so very long ago a resort of
footpads, and that even so late as the Sixties the sweet waters of the
somewhat putrid Thames oozed and bubbled where the District railway
station now stands?  And how few are aware that, when Drummond’s Bank was
in course of construction, fossils of mammoth, cave lions, rhinoceros,
and Irish deer were found; and that in future ages, excavations will
probably unearth skeletons of hybrids we all try to dodge and whom
naturalists will describe as voracious, living on suction, apt to beg,
borrow, or steal, migratory to a limited extent, and usually to be met
with between Charing Cross and St. Paul’s or on the plateaus that abut on
the Criterion?

As an observant judge once remarked to one of these pariahs who filled up
his cup of iniquities by snatching a fowl from a confiding poulterer’s,
“God has given you intelligence; your parents have given you a good
education; your country has provided you with excellent prospects both
for the present and future, instead of which you go about stealing
ducks.”

Passing still further west along the Strand, the changes of time and idea
become more apparent as one contemplates that stronghold of
Christianity—Exeter Hall—plastered with bills and lately passed into
alien hands; and the period, the surging crowd, all lend themselves to
the illusion, and one might almost fancy one heard the echo of 1,000
years ago, “Not this man, but Barabbas.”

Oh, the irony of Fate! methought; truly does Time turn the old days to
derision; and one knows not whither one’s vapourings might have landed
one as a zealous constable fixed his official eye upon the stoic who,
deeming it advisable to “move on,” sought consolation, but found none, in
an adjoining tobacconist’s by indulging in one of Salmon and Gluckstein’s
real Havanas (five for a shilling).

Skimming (not wading through) the report of the Court of Inquiry lately
dragging its monotonous length in the vicinity of the Chelsea embankment,
one was struck by the change that has come over these senseless
preliminaries, which occasionally end in smoke and sometimes in legalised
military or civil tribunals.  For such courts are as old as the hills,
and are convened on every possible excuse.  If a soldier loses a
shoebrush it is (or was) a Court of Inquiry that established the
interesting fact; if an officer was accused of a more heinous offence, it
was a Court of Inquiry that heard what was to be said.

The only difference is that, whereas the old style cost no more than a
few sheets of foolscap and the unnecessary lumbering of regimental
records, the identical luxury cannot now be indulged in without an array
of Old Bailey lawyers, who harangue the old warriors that constitute the
court for hours, utterly oblivious of the fact that they are better
judges of things military, and not likely to be carried away by those
bursts of eloquence that so impress the twelve jack-puddings of which our
bulwarks and liberties are said to be composed.

The earliest of these Courts of Inquiry was in ’41, when Lord Cardigan
killed Captain Tucket in a duel—and ended in his trial and acquittal by
his brother peers.

Later on, in ’44, Lord William Paget and the same bellicose Earl had a
domestic squabble in which the former said “he had,” and the latter said
“he hadn’t,” and this began by a Court of Inquiry and culminated in the
High Court.

Again, in ’54 Lieutenants Perry and Greer were hailed before a Court of
Inquiry for practical jokes of a pronounced character, but the inquiry
ended in smoke, as it was “revised” by the Minister of War.

In ’61 was the Court of Inquiry in the 4th Dragoon Guards which,
disclosing undoubted bullying on the part of Colonel Bentinck (the
present Duke of Portland’s father), ended in a court martial, when
nothing but interest saved the old gentleman’s bacon.

Later on, there was the Mansfield affair, when a disagreement arose
between Sir William Mansfield (afterwards Lord Sandhurst), or his wife,
and an aide-de-camp that elicited much that was amusing in regard to
purloined jams and other preserves, for which her ladyship was supposed
to be celebrated; all which instances ended in the usual way after an
infinity of positive assertion met by flat contradiction.

Whether the farce lately enacted, with its lawyers and their speeches,
affected the result, or benefited anybody except the lawyers, is a point
upon which most people will agree; all which, however, sinks into
insignificance in comparison with the question as to when and how did
this interference with military tribunals first become tolerated, and how
can our Military Council or our Military anything, or the officers
constituting the Court, submit to be harangued by “only a civilian,” as
one of Robertson’s plays describes outsiders?

In all the military tribunals of the past such an innovation was unheard
of.  Colonel Crawley, on his trial, had words put into his mouth by Sir
William Harcourt (whose reputation as an orator it made), but he was not
permitted to address the Court.  In the Robertson Court Martial it was
the same, and in the Navy to-day a prisoner is defended by “a friend,”
but no civilian would be permitted to “quarter deck it” in that
conservative service.

Even Colonel Dawkins—who, by the way, was a Household Brigade man—amongst
all his eccentric experiences, never got so far as suggesting that a
civilian should bridge the chasm that has hitherto existed between the
Law Courts and the Horse Guards by all this special pleading, and one
wonders what old Sir George Browne or General Pennefather would have said
(or sworn) if such a suggestion had been proposed to them!  It may be too
much to say there would have been an earthquake, but the foundations of
the house would certainly have vibrated.

And it is the ignorance of what the present privileges of the Guards are
that makes it difficult to form any opinion on the merits of the case.
The friction that these “privileges” used to cause when a Household
regiment was occasionally brigaded at Aldershot or Dublin or the Curragh
with regiments of the line was, however, undeniable.

It pained old captains with Crimean and Indian medals to be “turned out”
by a field officer with a fluffy upper lip and a youthful voice that had
not long before sounded at Eton; it was irritating (at least) for
colonels commanding distinguished regiments to see a Guard’s sentry
fumbling with his rifle and deliberately coming to the “carry,” and five
minutes after “presenting” to a brevet major of the Guards, who was
trundling a hoop when the old warrior was in the trenches before
Sebastopol; it was annoying to read in general orders special reminders
as to the prohibition regarding imperials and capricious shaving, and to
see half-a-dozen Guards officers with beards like pioneers; it was
amusing to hear (as one did) the son of old Sir Percy Douglas (who was
for a little season in the Guards) inform a distinguished field officer
that the “executive” command could only be given by a Guardsman to a
Guardsman; and still more amusing to hear the retort which made mincemeat
of the privilege, at least, on that occasion—all which nonsense has,
however, been considerably modified.  By all means let the Guards retain
their privileges and licences—but let them in mercy be “consumed on the
premises.”  And if the physique of these favoured regiments is not as
fine as of yore, no one will deny that their “marching past” and their
“dressing” are far superior to that of the line and “pretty” enough to
please even Admiral Scott himself.

It may further be conceded without fear of contradiction that the Queen’s
Company of the Grenadiers in 1862 was a magnificent specimen of physique
and drilled to perfection under Lord Henry Percy and Micky Bruce.

Beards, indeed, have always been a cause of offence.  In the tropics
(except in India) a man is compelled to shave; with the thermometer below
zero, the same regulation is rigidly enforced.

It was Colonel Crealock’s beard at Gibraltar that was the indirect cause
of an officer being tried by Court Martial; it was Prince Edward of
Saxe-Weimar’s and Colonel Phillip’s beards that led to invidious remarks
in the Dublin Division; and, until the razor is abolished beyond the
precincts of the four-mile radius, so long will a link remain between the
grand old days of the muzzle loader and cold steel and the modern
requirements for potting an enemy at a thousand yards rise.

When the Metropolitan Board of Works was at the zenith of its power, and
thoroughfares were being projected, and whole streets were disappearing
and ancient rookeries being demolished, it was incredible the leakage
that appeared to exist, and how the friends of indiscreet or dishonest
employés reaped a harvest by acquiring dilapidated buildings for a song,
and standing out for huge compensation when the day for demolition drew
nigh.

An astute former hanger-on at Faultless’s cock-pit in Endell Street
surprised me considerably on one occasion as he stood at the door of a
dilapidated beer-house in Covent Garden by informing me that he had
bought it for a trifle, and six months later I was literally staggered by
again meeting the rascal shovelling out potatoes at a little greengrocery
shop where now stands the London and Westminster Bank opposite the Law
Courts.

He explained that he had a brother in a humble but trusted position at
Spring Gardens, and that his old beer-house had ceased to exist, and he
expected his “present property” would “come down” before long.

Green Street, leading from Leicester Square, was another channel for the
acquisition of large profits, and when every house was a bug-walk, and
demolition a matter of a few months, the news was actually “offered” to a
man I knew well able to find the requisite purchase money, but rejected
from misplaced prudential motives.

The present London Pavilion was another glaring instance of jobbery, and
years before it was necessary to hustle the ex-Scott’s waiter from the
cosy nest-egg he so diligently nursed, the Board of Works descended on
him like an avalanche with a peremptory notice to quit.

At this stage one Villiers comes upon the scene, but whether he was a
scion of the noble house of Jersey or Clarendon is not clear.  Suffice
that tradition credited him with having once been a considerable actor
who had made a great hit in a minor part in the _Overland Route_ at the
Haymarket during the fifties.  Later, he appears to have become lessee of
the transpontine Canterbury Hall, where he was a dismal failure, and
spent the latter portion of his tenancy in bed—a victim of gout and the
importunities of irrepressible bill-stickers.

It was in these darkest hours that the Board of Works entered into his
life, and in an incredibly short space of time he had enlisted the
co-operation of a sporting furrier, had hustled the unhappy Loibel out,
and was in undisputed possession of the London Pavilion.  How the
£103,000 was found to pay the out-going man is of no particular
importance, suffice that so indecent was the haste that an auction was
deemed superfluous; the entire contents were turned over at a valuation,
and as Loibel toddled out Villiers toddled in, and—undisturbed by
parochial or other demands—he gradually rose to affluence, periodically
visited Continental watering-places, was a person to be reckoned with in
a mushroom political club, and died recently worth a considerable
personalty.

The juggle over the Pavilion never attracted much interest, and the
gladiators being respectively a German and a Jew the transaction was
forgotten almost at its inception.

Passing through the Opera Colonnade I tried not long ago to locate the
exact shop—once a cigar merchant’s—in which the Raleigh, originally known
as the “Old Havana Cigar Club,” may be said to have had its being, for it
was whilst sitting on tubs one afternoon in the fifties that three or
four Mohawks of the first order persuaded Tod Heatly—the ground
landlord—to provide some sort of superior night-house which, by opening
its doors at 10 p.m. and not closing them till the last roysterer had
reeled home, would “meet a want long felt,” as modern advertisements
occasionally describe their worthless wares.

It was later—in the early seventies—that the proprietorship changed
hands, and was worked on more commercial lines by the Brothers Ewen
(triplets), who, believing in quantity rather than quality, periodically
sat as a committee under the chairmanship of an amiable old gentleman
(Lord Monson) and elected everything and everybody capable of producing
the increased subscription.

It was in the solitary long room of the Tod Heatly era that details were
arranged for the duel (which never came off) in regard to an accusation
of foul play that was made in a Pall Mall club, when an old gentleman,
who was in Court dress, was considerably astonished at receiving a flip
on his calf from an erratic trump.  And in this room, too, enough
Justerini’s brandy was consumed of a night to float the motors which now
lumber that once-sacred chamber.  For whisky and other emanations of the
potato were then practically unknown and only heard of by the privileged
few who had seen an illicit Boucicault still on the stage.

Proceeding yet further west I passed the College of Surgeons—presented by
George IV. in a fit of after-dinner generosity to that distinguished body
to be held for all time on a pepper-corn rent.  One can almost picture
the burst of humble gratitude that gushed forth at the gracious act, and
the bland smile that illumined the anointed features at the consciousness
of having done a generous deed without being one penny the worse for it.
It was condescensions such as this that endeared “the first gentleman” to
a loyal and dutiful people.  And then across the square, where
Northumberland House once stood, I wondered if one human being could
locate the spot within fifty yards, and whether the old lion that topped
it pointed his tail to the east or west, a subject on which more bets
have been made than ever fell to the lot of man or beast.



CHAPTER XIX.
THE ROCK AND THE CAPE.


THE providential success of Playfair in the Cambridgeshire of ’72 had
released more than one of our clique from the jaws of the usurer, and
Bill Stourton, by the judicious investment of a fiver, was in expectation
of being the proud owner of £300 on the following Monday.

Dashing down to Somersetshire overflowing with filial duty and in
anticipation of our early embarkation for Gibraltar, a considerable scare
was created one morning by a groom running up to the house and reporting
that the sheriff’s carriage and two grimy beaks from Taunton had pulled
up at the “George” and were making tender inquiries as to Mr. William’s
whereabouts.

All this occurred on Monday, when, as it happened, Billy was speeding
towards London to realise at Tattersall’s the result of his sagacity at
Newmarket.  And so, when the oleaginous visitors inquired at the
ancestral porch, the reply they received was discouraging in the extreme.

“That is Mr. William’s bedroom,” pointing to a window, was the ingenuous
servitor’s reply; “you can go and examine it if you wish; but I give you
my word he left for London this morning.”  And so it came to pass that
the astute “Fitch and Son,” of Southwark, failed to serve the capias, and
the rascally Israelite who had made “affidavit” as to his intention of
“leaving the kingdom” (as embarking with the regiment might certainly be
construed by a quibble) had to pay the cost of the imposing coach that
had been provided for his conveyance to Taunton.

The faithful butler had omitted to add that the young reprobate was
returning the same evening, and that the dog-cart was to meet him at
nine.

But the reprieve was not of long duration, and within a year Bill had
sold his commission and become a full private in the Blues.

Passing into the Horse Guards one day a former brother officer chanced to
inquire of the sentry the way to the military secretary’s, and was
considerably startled by the reply, “First door to the left, Polly.”

The sentry was ex-Lieutenant Stourton.

Gibraltar then—as now—was a favourite winter resort, and the “Club House
Hotel” opposite the main guard did a roaring trade.

Here Lady Herbert of Lea and her youthful son, the present Lord Pembroke,
sojourned for some weeks in the Sixties, and it was to the inquiring turn
of mind of the young nobleman’s tutor that Gibraltar was almost indebted
for a very promising row.

In one room, it appears, a cantankerous Irishman and his wife were
staying, in the next the tutor, and whilst the Irishman positively swore
he had one morning seen the prying tutor’s face glued to the fanlight as
vehemently did the pedagogue swear on a sack of bibles that he had never
glued his nose to a fanlight in his life.

What there was to peep at was not quite clear, for the supposed “object”
in any costume was not fair to look upon, and so after mutual
recriminations and mutual apologies the affair was hushed up, and
expectant Gibraltar was robbed of a lawful excitement.

A fly-leaf that appeared weekly—why, no one could explain—although less
original than one might have wished, yet possessing a symbolism that was
unquestionable, on one occasion appeared with a verbatim extract from a
Spanish paper of the escapades of an adventurer who was exploiting the
neighbourhood of Madrid.

Weeks apparently had elapsed before it had caught the eye of our
lynx-eyed editor, and one day when Ansaldo invited certain of us to
compare a recent resident at his hotel with the description in the very
latest “local intelligence” it became apparent to all that a lately
departed wayfarer was the redoubtable personage referred to.  “By Jove! I
lost fifty to him last week at loo, and then gave him a shakedown,”
remarked one; and, “D—d if I didn’t lend him my horse to go as far as
Cadiz, and it’s not to be back till to-morrow,” added another; and then
the local tailor came running down to the Club House, and Ansaldo
remembered he had paid his hotel bill by a cheque, and within a week a
dozen victims realised that they had assisted in one way or another to
make the gentleman’s Mediterranean trip a pleasant one.

But money at the Rock was literally a drug, thanks to the existence of
Sacconi, a Genoese grocer.  This extraordinary man was everybody’s
banker; if one lost at the races it was Sacconi who settled the account;
mess bills were paid by Sacconi; fifty—one hundred Isabels—were only to
be asked for to be obtained by initialling the amount at the shop.

Apparently indifferent to risk, the astute Italian was, however, working
on a certainty.  Immediately a regiment was under orders for the Rock, a
list of every officer’s “length of tether” was transmitted by Perkins,
his London agent, a city knight; whilst, in addition to the value of
one’s commission, the impossibility of leaving the Rock without his
knowledge, and the “Moorish Castle” frowning on the heights, enabled
Sacconi to amass a huge fortune, to marry his daughters to officers of
the garrison, and be an honoured guest in after years at the “Convent,”
the Governor’s official residence.

But all this was in the days of purchase.

Meeting the ex-Governor, Sir William Codrington, one day in Bond Street
on the point of being run over, he jocosely remarked, as I went to his
assistance, “Different from Gibraltar, eh?”

To any but enthusiasts of riding, Gibraltar was (and probably is) a most
overrated station, with nothing to recommend it but its proximity to
London.  Every afternoon was devoted to couples riding to the Cork woods,
and returning from its shaded glades just before gun-fire.

No one ever dreamt of riding with his own wife; indeed, so accepted was
this custom that on one occasion a couple having been seen riding
together, an excited newsmonger rushed about inquiring, “What’s up?
Holroyd has been seen riding with his own wife!”

But the advent of Fitzroy Somerset gave an immense fillip to sport, and
when, later, six couples of cast hounds came direct from Badminton every
jack-pudding purchased a screw and became an ardent fox-hunter.

A German apothecary, who had not straddled a quadruped since he left the
Vaterland, became an enthusiastic rider, and thrilled the less daring
horsemen by descriptions of runs, and how “der ’orse svearved to him
right, and I ’it ’im on the ’ead to his left, and den he svearved to the
left, and I ’it ’im on the ’ead to his right,” till everybody became more
or less horsy, and not to keep a crock with four legs, or three, was
tantamount to an admission that one was literally past praying for.

Every youngster purchased a quadruped—some vicious and young, others
blind and in the last stage of senile decay—and Staines, an assistant
surgeon, was so frequently sent whirling into space that his animal was
christened “Benzine-Collas,” because it was “warranted to remove
Staines.”

Here, too, was a fox-hunting chaplain known as “Tally-ho Jonah,” who
ended his days as shepherd of a peculiarly desirable flock amidst the
rich pastures of the Midlands.

On his death-bed some years ago, his valet consoled him with the
assurance that he was going to a better land, to which the worthy divine
replied: “John, there’s no place like old England.”  R.I.P.

But the mania by no means ended here, and Grant, the Principal Medical
Officer—a bony Scot with the largest feet ever inflicted on man—literally
paralysed a group who one day saw him in the distance leisurely
approaching on horseback.

“Great heavens!” was the universal exclamation as he came nearer, “why,
it’s ‘Benzine-Collas’ going as quiet as a lamb,” and it was agreed that
the fiery little Mogador stallion was being imposed upon by old Grant,
under the impression that he was between the shafts.

Across the bay was Tangier, and many found an inexhaustible store of
delight in visiting that most Oriental of towns.

Within four days of Paris, it seemed incredible that here was a spot that
civilisation had apparently overlooked, and which still retained all the
barbaric pomp of a thousand years ago.  Fowls with their throats cut lay
about the streets awaiting preparation for pilau; malefactors for the
most trifling offences had their hands hacked off in the leading
thoroughfares; whilst under the windows of the Sherif of Wazan’s palace
half a dozen naked musicians blew their insides out from morning to
night, and discoursed a series of diabolical sounds that made the
contemplation of anything but their music impossible.

Here Martin—late messman of the _Racoon_—had started the “Royal Hotel,”
and after providing his visitors with an excellent dinner, favoured them
with morceaux on a flute, of which he prided himself on being a virtuoso.

Martin was as black as the blackest hat, and from the suspicious slits in
his ears justified the assumption that he was a liberated West Indian
slave.  The music he emitted with eyes closed, possibly the most soulful,
was certainly the most doleful, and had evidently been picked up when
watching the anchor being weighed on H.M.S. _Racoon_.

“Where do you come from, Martin?” on one occasion inquired an inquisitive
officer.

“Devonshire,” was the unexpected reply; “but I left home in my infancy.”

He had made this assertion so often that there is no doubt he believed
it.

Returning from Tangier on one occasion, I brought with me a quantity of
Kuss-Kuss cloth, which catching the eye of a voracious brother subaltern
he inquired where I had got it.

“Oh,” I said, “the Sherif of Wazan sent it over for distribution in
return for the guard of honour we supplied last month when he was here.”

“Then I’m entitled to some?” he remarked.

“I’m afraid it’s all been claimed,” I replied, and to keep up the
illusion I got half a dozen youngsters to cross and re-cross the square
with a piece under their arms and deposit it somewhere, for another to
fetch it and leave it elsewhere.  It seemed, indeed, that the traffic was
never to end, and next morning an official complaint was made by the
aggrieved one, and he discovered he had been the victim of a practical
joke.

Apropos of this class of grumbler, an amusing story was once told me by
the captain of a P. and O.  It was in the days that the skipper “messed”
the passengers, and it was this officer’s habit to have a saucerful of
porridge every morning about seven on the bridge.

The feeding on a P. and O. is proverbially liberal, yet not content with
the enormous breakfast provided, certain grumblers complained that
considering the price they paid they surely were entitled to porridge.
Inwardly chuckling, the skipper reluctantly consented, with the result
(as he told me) that instead of devouring two mutton chops, eggs, and
marmalade _ad libitum_ at eight, he was a considerable gainer by the
satisfying effect of two-pennyworth of porridge at seven.

During my two years at Gibraltar cholera appeared, and anything more
terrible than such a visitation in such a circumscribed spot can hardly
be conceived.  With a strict “cordon” established, there was no getting
away from it, and men who the night before were in rude health were often
buried at gun-fire.

To be afraid of it was tantamount (so doctors asserted) to courting it,
and so regimental bands were ordered to play daily on the Alameda by way
of diverting the public mind, and not a drum was heard at the numerous
military funerals that wended their way towards the north front.

By night the “corpse-lights” over the burial ground emitted a weird glow,
and many a subaltern visiting the sentries before daylight would shiver
and his teeth rattle as he skirted the unearthly illumination.

To such an extent did downright funk seize upon some that an officer now
living in London—a C.B. of overwhelming interest—asked everybody the best
preventive, and jokes were indulged in at his expense, and he swallowed
tablespoonfuls of salt and raw porpoise liver, as this or the other
prescribed.

Distracted, one afternoon he sought consolation by proceeding to the
house of a fair scorpion (persons born on the Rock) he had known in
happier days, and literally collapsed as he met her coffin emerging from
her door.

Apropos of this terrible scourge, an instance that many can vouch for
occurred some years previously in India.

My regiment was being decimated by cholera, and corpses were hurriedly
placed in an outhouse that was infested with rats.

The sentries had orders to periodically tap with their rifles on the
door, and on one occasion tapping too hard, the door opened, and the
Armourer Sergeant, who had been brought in a few hours previously, was
seen sitting up on the trestle.

Years after I saw the man daily, and he completed his twenty-one years’
service instead of being buried alive, as many a poor wretch has been.

Colonel Zebulon Pike was by way of being a consul representing the United
States in South Africa and the most amusing liar I have ever had the good
fortune to meet.

The embodiment of generosity, no yarn he ever spun could have injured a
fly; that there never was a word of truth in them was an accepted axiom.

“Yes, sir,” as he invariably prefixed his remarks, “it was when I was
commanding my regiment during the rebellion that Captain Crusoe reported
to me he had captured a spy.  ‘Bring him before me,’ I said sternly, and
when the rascal appeared I pointed to the sun, saying: ‘Before yon
luminary disappears behind yon hills you die’; and turning to Crusoe, I
added: ‘Remove him, Colonel Crusoe.’  ‘Colonel, sir?’ inquired he.  ‘Yes,
sir,’ said I, ‘you’re colonel from this very moment.’”

The Colonel once expressed a desire to attend the Governor’s levée; but
bewailing the fact that he had not brought his uniform, he proceeded to
describe it.

“The pants, sir, are a rich blue, with a broad lace stripe down their
sides; my tunic is also blue, and my breast is covered with medals—I have
a drawerful of them.  Around my waist, sir, is a crimson sash, and in my
hat a long ostrich feather sweeps down to my shoulder.”

“But that’s all easily arranged, Colonel,” we explained, and on the
eventful day we proceeded to truss him.

Never was a more imposing sight, and as the guard of honour marched down
to Government House the Colonel stood on the pavement, immovable as a
rock, with hand to his feathered billycock.  And the men (as had been
arranged) came to the “carry,” and passed him with all the “honours of
war.”

“My God, sir, it brought tears to my eyes,” he afterwards told us in his
pride, “to see yon fine fellows swinging past; it reminded me of my own
regiment.  I thank you, gentlemen, for the compliment you paid a
comrade.”

These colonial levées of the past were often held of an evening to enable
the introduction of refreshments, without which the attendance would
certainly have been meagre.

The local grandees liberally prepared for the coming feast, and having
eaten to repletion proceeded to fill their pockets.

“You may as well have the sauce,” once interposed an irate A.D.C. as he
saw a native pocketing a fowl, and he deliberately poured the contents of
a tureen into his lap.

At these “go-as-you-please” functions, speeches more or less impromptu
invariably took place, and it was then that the “Colonel” was literally
in his element.

Panting for his opportunity, it was only after some wag had proposed his
health, and described how we had “one amongst us who had seen the mighty
buffalo on its native prairie” (which he assuredly never had), etc., that
the Colonel rose and delighted his hearers with a string of most amusing
lies.

Lady Shand, the wife of the Chief Justice, once sitting near him, after
one of his flowery orations, began to tell him of her own native home in
Scotland, and of the loch that stretched for miles before the ancestral
hall, and was considerably surprised by the Colonel’s rejoinder: “Aye,
and the swans; I can see them now.”

“But there were no swans, Colonel,” she gently corrected; but henceforth
held her peace when the staggering retort was given: “Oh, yes there were;
at least, in my time.”

No function was considered complete without “the Colonel,” and he was a
frequent guest at one place or another.  Apparently capable of dispensing
with sleep, no matter how late the night’s orgy daylight found him on the
verandah with a green cigar, after which he proceeded towards the Grand
river ostensibly to bathe.

“Can’t do without my morning swim,” he once told a man who met him with a
bath-towel over his arm; but the towel showed no signs of having been
used, and it was recognised that the Colonel never stripped, and that his
ablutions were primitive to a degree.

But the Cape Town of to-day has undergone quite as much change as our
modern Babylon, and where a railway station as big as St. Pancras now
exists, a wooden shanty with a single line fifty miles long was all that
represented railway enterprise in the long-ago sixties.

It was by the courtesy of Captain Mills, the Assistant Colonial
Secretary—afterwards Sir Charles Mills, agent general in London—that a
delightful party was organised for the shooting of the “Sicker Vlei,” a
vast expanse of water in the vicinity of Wellington.

This magnificent lake is the resort of every kind of wild beast and bird.
Strings of flamingoes wade leisurely about it, whilst wild geese and
swans of enormous proportions float lazily over one’s head; antelopes and
buck of every description come down to water, and the Cape leopard—the
most treacherous and cowardly of four-footed creatures—is to be met with
in considerable numbers as day begins to break.  The procedure that
obtains is similar to that in all ordinary mountain loch shooting, with
the solitary exception that it necessitates a start about 3 a.m., so that
every one is posted amongst the rushes at two hundred yards’ intervals an
hour before daybreak.  The excitement, the delight, the profound silence
of that hour when Nature seems to rouse itself for its daily routine of
activity, requires an abler pen than mine to describe.

With a rifle in hand and a shot gun at one’s side, there is, however,
nothing for it but to wait for daybreak, wondering whether buck or
antelope, cheetah or wild fowl will be the first to come within range.

“Trekking” with our span of oxen to a farmhouse, where only two cots were
available, it was our nightly custom to play “nap” as to who should
occupy the beds and who the kitchen table and dresser, and the excitement
ran just as high as it did in the days when fifties and hundreds were at
stake in the card room of the old Raleigh.

But the losers did not lose much, for almost before one was asleep it was
time to be up for our usual 3 a.m. start.

With me was placed dear old Arthur Barkly, the worst shot and most
passionate of good fellows, last Governor of Heligoland, and long since
gone over to the majority, and it evokes a smile when even now I think of
how, having missed with both barrels two huge wild geese that leisurely
floated twenty yards over his head, he threw a cartridge box and then a
ramrod in his passion at the unoffending birds.

But the shot had scared other denizens of the plain, and bang, bang in
every direction indicated that all our guns were in action as cheetahs
and antelopes might be seen scuttling on all sides.  Nothing further
being left for us, we proceeded to count our bag and return to the
farmstead.

After a few days devoted to “braying” the skins and “curing” the antelope
meat for future consumption, we resumed our dreary bumping “trek” into
the interior in the hope of meeting with big game.

Lions are occasionally, but rarely, met with in these parts, and it is
with reference to a dramatic incident that might have ended fatally that
I will confine my present remarks.  Returning one evening to our
location, with literally only three ball cartridges amongst us, one of
the Kaffir boys descried in the distance a lion and lioness and three
cubs.  With bated breath and excitement running high, a council of war
was hastily convened, and the pros and cons., the direction of the wind,
and the dearth of ammunition having been variously discussed, it was
decided that to attack them would be unwise, if not absolutely foolhardy.
A wounded lion or lioness with its cubs is probably as dangerous as a
man-eating tiger; yet, despite all our entreaties to the contrary, one
daring spirit determined to attempt to stalk them.

Loading both barrels of his rifle with ball, with the other solitary
cartridge placed handily in his pocket, and divested of all other
impediments, he hastily retired to make a circuit and so get within shot
against the wind.

Suddenly we heard the sharp report of his rifle, and then, after a
second, we saw the lion make for the spot whence the smoke had come,
whilst the lioness and the cubs scampered off in the opposite direction.

Again there was a report, and next we saw Fellowes running with all his
might, followed by the lion.

What ensued may best be given in his own words, as narrated to us that
night.

“I had evidently missed my first shot, and whilst putting in my other
cartridge, I saw the brute making for me; again I fired, and I saw it
staggered him, but still he came on, and seeing a small pond a few yards
off I decided to make for that.  Barely had I risen to my feet when, with
a roar, the brute was close behind me, and at the very moment I dashed
into the pond he aimed a blow at me which grazed my forehead, and I fell
prostrate into it.  On recovering I cautiously peeped, and there the
brute stood on the edge within three yards of me.  Again I submerged, but
every time I moved for air he roared, although afraid to enter the water.
This went on for an hour, when conceive my delight at seeing him roll
over from loss of blood.

“Cautiously approaching, I found he was stone dead.”

Fellowes had literally escaped death by a hair’s breadth; but the scar he
carried with him to his grave affected his brain, and he was never the
same man again.  Had the lion been one inch nearer his skull would have
been smashed like an egg shell.  Years after I saw the lion’s head and
shoulders at a well-known naturalist’s in Piccadilly, depicted life-like
dashing out of the rushes that encircled the African pond.

Our excitement for big game being temporarily satiated after our
comrade’s narrow escape, we decided to direct our steps towards more
peaceful pastures in the neighbourhood of Stellenbosch.  Here large
ostrich farms exist, and it was a unique experience to watch drafts of
these huge birds being transferred from one farm to another.  The
procedure is original.  Two or three mounted Kaffirs with long driving
whips circle round and round the twenty or thirty birds, lashing them
unmercifully on their bare legs till they start into a trot, which
eventually ends in a pace that the riders at full gallop have difficulty
in keeping up with.  In my search for information I was assured that the
feathers so much in demand for “matinee hats” were moulted from the
birds; but this I found to be not strictly accurate, and much cruel
“plucking” passed under my own observation.  Ostrich egg omelette is
delicious; six of us breakfasted off _one_ egg, and my sensations were as
if I had swallowed an omnibus.

But perhaps the most ridiculous experience to be obtained in South Africa
is associated with the (apparently) inoffensive penguin.  Any one looking
at these sedate creatures at the Zoological Gardens would hardly believe
that they can bite and take a piece out of one’s calf with the dexterity
of a bull-terrier.  It was shortly after the experience above related
that we turned our steps towards Penguin Island, which lies to the south
of Table Bay.  We had been offered a “cast over” in one of the fishing
boats that proceed there periodically in the interests of the lessee who,
renting this valuable island for a few pounds a year, makes an enormous
income by the sale of the guano.

We had landed cheerily, and were roaring at the absurd attitudes taken up
under every ledge and stone by these pompous old birds, when poor Bobby,
going a little too close, was seized by the leg with the grip of a
rat-trap.

When the guano parties visit the island they combine another industry,
and collect some thousands of eggs, which are considered a delicacy by
the Africander gourmets.

Personally, I found them too strong, although I plead guilty to having
massacred some fifty penguins by knocking them on the head for the sake
of their breasts.  The oil that exhales from them for months, despite the
alum and sifted ashes, is incredible; but they will repay the trouble,
and after scientific manipulation by a London furrier are highly
appreciated for muffs and boas.

The albatross that swarm in the vicinity of Table Bay, and which are
caught in large numbers by the Malay fishermen, enabled me to create a
new industry.  Finding that the flesh only was used by the Malays, I
offered the handsome price of one penny for every pair of pinion bones
duly delivered at the barracks; these I forthwith filed off at each end,
and tying them into bundles, stuffed them into ants’ nests.  Within a
week they were as clear as whistles, and within a month I possessed a
fagot of some hundreds.  The recital of an absurd sequel may not be
amiss.  Albatross quills of twelve and fifteen inches are a popular
species of pipe stem, which, when encircled with a threepenny silver band
attached to a shilling amber mouthpiece, may be seen in leading
tobacconists’ labelled twenty shillings.  Entering a palatial
establishment in Regent Street on my return home, I got the proprietor
into conversation, and was assured that they were very difficult things
to procure, and that he would gladly “pay anything” if only he could get
some more.  Having thoroughly compromised him, I returned next day with a
cab full, and although exceptionally long and perfect, I was surprised to
hear they were by no means up to the mark, and in my desperation accepted
a box of cigars in exchange for what he probably cleared £50 on.

Yet another experience—not strictly of a sporting character—was connected
with sticks.  On my return home I brought with me some hundreds of the
rarest specimens from Ceylon, Mauritius, and the Cape.  Conceive my
disappointment, after an animated barter with Briggs, of St. James’s
Street, to be grateful to accept any three of my own sticks mounted to
order in exchange for what must have supplied half the golden calves of
the West End with sticks varying from two to three guineas a-piece.

The above two incidents exemplify what is described as the encouragement
of British industries.

At the risk of wearying the reader I will give an absurd incident that
once occurred in India.  We had organised a party to hunt up a tiger that
had been seen near the village of Dharwar, not far from Belgaum.  On our
way to the rendezvous—where the serious search was to commence—one of our
party who had wandered a little out of his course rushed frantically up
to us, exclaiming: “I came suddenly within thirty yards of the brute fast
asleep at the foot of the nullah.”

“Well,” we all asked, “why didn’t you shoot him?”

“’Pon my word, I had half a mind to,” was the heartfelt reply—“but, so
help me bob, I funked it.”

Touching the fringe of these vast hunting grounds will, I hope, be
forgiven me, for although six thousand miles from London, they
nevertheless bring up very happy memories of the long-ago sixties.

Sir John Bissett, afterwards commanding the Infantry Brigade at
Gibraltar, but at the time a resident at Grahamstown, was the Great
Nimrod of the Cape.

It was he that organised the elephant hunts for the Duke of Edinburgh, at
one of which the Prince shot the immense beast whose head confronted one
on entering Clarence House.  Although I did not actually see it shot, I
was not far distant at the time.

It was weeks after our party’s return to Cape Town that Colonel Zebulon
Pike brought me two splendid stuffed specimens of the boatswain bird, the
rarest of the gull tribe.

As I admired their mauve and white plumage and the two long scarlet
feathers that constitute their tail, I could not resist remarking: “Why,
Colonel, where did you get these?”  To which he replied: “I shot them one
morning after bathing, before you fellows were up.”

There was not a boatswain bird within fifty miles of where we had been,
and the specimens had evidently been cured for years.

It was only a righteous lie, such as the generous “Colonel” could never
resist.



CHAPTER XX.
EASTWARD HO!


PERHAPS no ingredients are more certain to produce an explosion in a
limited space than a Post Captain proceeding as a passenger on the ship
of an officer some months his junior.  It was my privilege once to watch
one of these preliminary simmerings during the latter sixties and the
subsequent inevitable dénouement.

George Malcolm, who in his younger days had had a distinguished career as
flag-lieutenant at Portsmouth, but for a decade had lived the indolent
life of a German at Frankfort, being compelled by the regulations to put
in sea time as a Post Captain, was proceeding with a new crew to
recommission the _Danae_ on the West Indian station.  It was not long
before he developed his Teutonic acquirements.  Smoking half the night in
his cabin, he intimated to his crew that they might smoke when they
pleased.  Keeping his lights burning after hours, he next came into
collision with the master-at-arms, who reported the irregularity to the
captain, a peremptory order being issued that Malcolm was not to be made
an exception, and that the regulations were to be enforced.  The little
man—Captain Grant, of the _Himalaya_—who thus entered the lists at the
first challenge was well-known throughout the Navy as a veritable tartar.
Standing little over five feet high, he had the body of a giant; his
lower proportions were short and far from comely.  These were the
combatants for whom the arena was now cleared.  Malcolm opened the attack
by repeating the light-burning after hours.  Grant retorted by ordering
the master-at-arms to enter if necessary and carry out his orders.  Next
morning the two captains met in presence of their respective first
lieutenants, and abused and accused each other of insubordination and
mutiny.

The crews meanwhile took up the quarrel, and some of the _Danae_ men had
the temerity to cheek the master-at-arms.  To this little Grant replied
by tying up six of them to the shrouds, and giving them four dozen apiece
with the cat.  This checked the effervescence, and a few days later the
ship entered Port Royal.

Then followed reports.  But the admiral was one of the psalm-singing
school, and not possessing sufficient character to adjudicate upon it
himself, referred the matter home.  Meanwhile the _Danae_ was
recommissioned and sailed away, the _Himalaya_ returned to Portsmouth,
and so the matter ended.

A flogging in the old days was a very “thorough” affair, and lost nothing
in the matter of detail.  Four stalwart boatswains stripped to their
shirts stood like statues, on the deck reposed four green baize bags,
each containing a cat.

When all was ready the captain’s warrant was read—for it may or may not
be generally known that every skipper, from battleship to pigboat, is a
justice of the peace, and has the power of life and death on the high
seas—and then the operation began.  Occasionally some genius, having
prearranged to outwit the authorities, would feign collapse by suddenly
tucking up his legs; but a feel of the pulse and a nod soon adjusted
matters, and the culprit was in “full song.”  And then the little man
made a speech, not too long, but very much to the point: “Now, my lads,
when you want any more, you know where to come for it.”  After which he
cocked his cap, and descended to his cabin with his sword clanking
behind.  It’s a way they had in the Navy.

All this, of course, was before the central authority was transferred
from Whitehall to Whitechapel, and without expressing an opinion on the
merits or demerits of corporal punishment, one may be permitted to ask:
Are the bluejackets of to-day any better than Peel’s Naval Brigade in the
Crimea, or the tough old tars that helped to quell the Mutiny?  Are the
specimens one occasionally meets smoking cigarettes and Orange Blossom
tobacco superior to the old sea dogs that chewed what would have killed a
rhinoceros and rolled quids of ’baccy saturated in rum?  Perhaps yes,
perhaps no.  Be that as it may, flogging has ever been found the only
deterrent for a certain class of scum which occasionally rises to the
surface even in the Navy.

On another occasion, when I was embarking at Portsmouth, barely had the
_Himalaya_ left the side of the quay when the Honourable Mrs. Montmorency
(afterwards Lady Frankfort), accompanied by her father, Sir John Michel,
and a crowd of sisters, cousins, and aunts, might have been seen rushing
frantically towards the slowly-moving trooper; but the cries fell on deaf
ears, and the good ship continued her course.

Next night in Queenstown Harbour a bumboat might have been seen
struggling against wind and tide to reach the trooper lying a mile out at
sea, which, on getting alongside, was found to contain the lady, who,
since we last saw her, had undertaken a journey of four hundred miles,
attended by every discomfort that travelling flesh is heir to, and all
because she did not know little Grant, and expected to impress him by
arriving five minutes late.  The same lady very nearly had a similar
experience a month later at St. Helena, and only just reached the deck as
the “blue Peter” was being hauled down.

It was on this same voyage that a subaltern, whose duties compelled him
to be on deck at daylight, remarked to the navigating-lieutenant later in
the day: “How splendid the sun looked this morning rising over the
hills.”  “Oh! yes,” was the snubbing reply, “we call that Cape Flyaway.
Why, man, we are five hundred miles from the West coast.”

That night, when hammocks were being issued, a cry of “Land on the port
bow” brought all hands on deck, and lo! we were steaming full speed for
land with 1,400 souls on board.  Almost in front of us was an angry surf,
a little beyond it tropical foliage was distinctly visible, and then
followed the silence as when engines are stopped, and with extra hands at
both wheels, the shout of “Hard a-starboard!” pierced the darkness, and
we were going full speed in the opposite direction.

Cape Flyaway cost poor little Piper a reprimand and half-pay for life,
and an innocent wife and family—God help them—may still be suffering for
that disregarded sunrise.

When dear old Admiral Commerell succeeded Purvis as Commander-in-Chief at
the Cape, things at Government House hummed as they had never done
before, and the energy that the little man put into his hospitality was
as conspicuous as when fighting on sea or on land.  With more than the
lives attributed to a cat, it is incredible that he should have survived
a blunderbuss full of slugs on the Prah a few years later, which, fired
point blank, drove half a monkey-jacket into his lungs.  Though brought
to Cape Town on the _Rattlesnake_, more as a formality than with any
hopes of recovery, and for months after spitting up pieces of blue serge,
he rallied as he had often done before, and the last time I saw him was
in a Maxim gun show-room in Victoria Street, where, as “Managing
Director,” he explained the intricacies of the weapon to every ’Arry that
chose to look in, and so trade laid hands in his declining years on as
brave a recipient of the Victoria Cross as ever trod a quarter-deck.

When the flying squadron under Beauchamp Seymour was expected at
Ascension on its return from the Cape, great excitement prevailed from
the possibility of a visit, and a trooper that was “laying off” was in
such deadly fear of any want of smartness being observable that the
washing by the soldiers’ wives that had been permitted was made short
work of, and petticoats, shirts, and socks that were fluttering in the
breeze were ruthlessly ordered down, for fear some signalman should
detect a strange signal and note it in the log-book.  For this lynx-eyed
race is incapable of being hoodwinked; indeed, so dexterous did they
become in the Channel Squadron some years ago (and doubtless are so
still) that they read the signals for fleet manœuvres before the flags
were broken, necessitating the entire bunch being rolled into one, and so
giving every ship an equal chance of displaying their smartness.  Of the
turtle we discussed recently, the “last phase” is to be seen in the
smoking-room of a well-known hostelry in Leadenhall Street, where,
peeping through the tanks, numerous specimens may be seen blinking and
winking as if in reproach at the unfair advantage taken of them by
perfidious Albion in leading them into captivity when guests of the
nation and in an interesting condition.

Ascension, as most of us are aware, is on the direct road to the Cape and
within easy distance of St. Helena—a by no means unpleasant place,
despite an unjust prejudice that attaches to it.

It was on board a Union steamer that the absurd incident I witnessed took
place, when the diamond fields were coming into notice and attracting
speculators in every kind of ware likely to find favour amongst the
natives, who had not then been educated in Houndsditch ways to the extent
they have since arrived at.  The genius who contemplated a rich harvest
not discounted by any such absurd formalities as paying “duty,” declaring
contraband, or propitiating officials apt to be too inquisitive, was a
Hebrew jeweller of a pronounced type with the unusual adornment of
carroty hair, who afterwards developed into a Bond Street shopkeeper, and
may still be seen shorn of his sunny locks, which nevertheless still
retain a pleasing suspicion of the blaze they once emitted.  The chief
officer was a shrewd individual, who long before we arrived at Table Bay
had taken his passenger’s measure, and what added insult to injury was a
presentation to him of a wretched ring the wholesale price of which could
not have exceeded ten shillings.  Had he pressed a five-pound note into
his hand it would have proved a less expensive procedure.  The sequel was
disastrous, as, passing through the dock gates, ’Enery was requested to
turn out his pockets, and the percentage to the informant amounted to a
very handsome sum.  Who the informant was—actuated by duty!—it is
needless to discuss, but our friend got to the Fields at last and turned
a considerable profit on his “Brummagem” wares.

Years later his enterprise again brought him into notice by providing a
young ass (whom many will recollect), who had come into £70,000 on
attaining his majority, not only with a flat, but completely furnishing
it, and then smothering him with bracelets and bangles for personal wear,
and trinkets and gimcracks that made him rattle to a greater extent than
the historical lady of Banbury Cross.

The sequel was more melodramatic.  Within a year the entire £70,000 was
gone, within another year the prodigal was in his grave, and, despite the
strenuous efforts of an elder brother to recover a trifle from the
clutches of a philanthropist, a feather merchant, and dramatic author—all
since gathered into Abraham’s bosom—the shekels never changed
hands—s’help me—and ’Enery is still one of the most respected Elders in
Israel.

It was in ’65 on the island of Ascension, where I happened temporarily to
be, that an awful tragedy was on the verge of being investigated by a
Court of Inquiry, but it was realised that the terrible Atlantic rollers
that perpetrated the cruel deed and the innocent children that were the
victims had left no data for the groundwork of the conventional farce.

It was on that dismal rock whose only merits are its strategical coaling
position and its inexhaustible supply of turtle that during the season
when those insidious rollers of unbroken water, without sound, without
warning, suddenly spread over the sandy beach, two or three children of
an officer of Marines were suddenly swept off their legs and carried by
the back-wash with the velocity of a millstream towards the coral reefs a
hundred yards out at sea, where death awaited them.

On the one side an expanse of sand that forthwith resumed its placid,
shining surface, on the other a ripple literally bristling with fins of
the most voracious species of shark known to naturalists.

In a second it was all over, and the crimson pall that covered the face
of the blue Atlantic told all there was to tell of the terrible
catastrophe.

The few observation boxes containing niggers on the look-out for turtle
had seen nothing, heard nothing; the only eye-witness was the helpless
nursemaid, and only because there was nothing to tell was the farce of a
“Court of Inquiry” abandoned.

The turtle industry is simplicity itself: so soon as one advances
sufficiently inland a couple of niggers rush out and turn her over and
lug her into the tank, when her laying days are over, for it is the
female only that is captured as she comes to deposit her eggs, and no
human eye has ever seen nor any alderman ever guzzled amid the green fat
of the male animal.

Ascension is best described as the most God-forsaken spot in creation,
except perhaps Aden, to which must be given the palm.  Here the naval
garrison seem to have grown into a mechanical routine, and only change
their monotonous wading through sand by an occasional day’s leave to
Green Mountain, on whose summit the only three blades of grass on the
island struggle for existence.  How these gallant men are chosen for this
dreary duty it is difficult to say; no alien princeling attached to the
British Navy ever appears to have his turn; and one must assume that
“merit tempered with non-interest” is the qualification that controls the
roster.  Of the turtle there can be no two opinions; in unlimited
supplies, two huge tanks, through which the tide ebbs and flows, contain
some hundreds of these delectable creatures, delectable only with the aid
of the highest embellishments, but the most nauseous sickening of
“_plats_” in the shape of rations.  Every man-of-war calling at Ascension
is compelled to ship a dozen, which lie for weeks on deck, their heads
resting on a swab, and the hose playing on them of a morning, while a
stench more insidious than the vapours of a fried-fish shop attaches
itself to everything; one’s hair-brush reeks like a turtle fin, and
whether one eats, drinks, or smokes, it’s _toujours tortue_.

During the Ashanti war, Ascension appeared at its best; in its
comfortable hospital the wounded from spear and slug, and the dying from
West Coast fever, obtained the best of attendance.  In it I saw Thompson,
of the Inniskilling Dragoons, just brought down from the Prah—one of the
most popular men in the Army—die; whilst from it many a brave man has
been carried to his last home, and many a sufferer who has entered its
portals in apparently the last stage of fever and ague has been pulled
round, and put on board with renewed life to return to England to bless
the surgeons and curse Ascension.

It was on my return home in ’69 that I met old Toogood (whom everybody
knew) at Aden—who, rushing up to me, whispered, “Come along, I’ve secured
a carriage,” and following with that glee that all who have crossed the
Desert will appreciate, I was horrified to find he had all his bundles in
the quarantine carriage.

“Great heavens,” I exclaimed, “do you know what this means?” and he
hardly gave me time to explain the pains and penalties before he was in
full cry after the rascally Egyptian guard, who, realising he was dealing
with a novice, had accepted a sovereign for placing him in a carriage by
himself.

In those long-ago days—and possibly still—every train had a quarantine
carriage, entering which meant vigorous isolation till fumigation had
taken place, and “even betting” that one’s cabin in the trooper at Cairo
would have remained vacant homeward bound.

When the Japanese were airing their aspirations at becoming the great
naval power they now are, I witnessed one of their virgin attempts at
navigating a warship under the control of British officers.  Confident of
their ability, and fretting to show what they could do, they one day
insisted on landing their instructors and assuming temporary control of
the ship.  The development was not long in coming.  Away flew the ship,
in graceful circles round and round the bay, when suddenly a dashing
manœuvre beyond the comprehension of the most enlightened observer, and,
lo! she was steaming full speed for the shore.  Within the hour she was
well wedged on a sandy bottom, and a tidal wave not long after having
considerately lifted her a few hundred yards higher up, the hull was
converted into an hotel, and for years gave ocular proof of Japan’s first
triumph in navigation.  That was in the later sixties, when Togo was
still in the womb of futurity.

In those long-ago days, Yokohama had not attained its present respectable
civilisation; top hats were sought after as the daintiest of fashionable
attainments; every battered specimen on board fetched its weight in gold;
open baths for mixed bathing were to be met with in the public
thoroughfares; British regimental guards disarmed fanatics before
allowing them to enter the town; inlaid bronzes, miniature trees, and
genuine curios were procurable; massive Birmingham products had not
become an industry wherewith to catch the unwary; public crucifixions by
transfixing with bamboo stakes (such as I witnessed in the case of the
murder of a British officer) were still in full blast, and the sweetest
little girls were to be bought for domestic service, and sent to be dealt
with by the nearest magistrate on the breath of a suspicion of breach of
fidelity.  To go a mile beyond the Treaty Port was to court certain
death, whilst to remain peacefully within the town and visit the various
day and night entertainments was as delightful an existence as the most
blasé reprobate could desire.



CHAPTER XXI.
THE GUILLOTINE AND MADAME RACHEL.


ON one of my numerous visits to Paris a notorious
poisoner—Le-Pommerais—was awaiting execution by the guillotine.

I am not of a cruel disposition, but I confess that certain sights afford
me a morbid gratification, the more so as I know that one witness more or
less can in no way affect the victim, who, in nine cases out of ten, is
dazed, despite the bravado that is sometimes assumed.

I had seen Müller and the pirates hanged in London, and a man “garrotted”
at Barcelona; I had seen two soldiers shot at Bregenz on the Lake
Constance, and now for the first time in my life I was within measurable
distance of the Place de la Grève, where the most hideous drama,
accompanied by all the pomp that a dramatic nation can introduce, was to
be enacted one morning.  But what morning?  There was the rub, for the
French are nothing if not original, and whilst permitting the unhappy
victim to drink and smoke and play cards till 2 a.m. ruthlessly rouse him
a couple of hours later, and roughly proceed to prepare his toilette.

Inquire as I did, nobody could give me the day, and although on more than
one occasion I had driven to the accursed spot and waylaid officials
likely to know, their replies were invariably the same; nobody knew,
nobody cared, it would be time enough when the fateful morning arrived,
and then _voilà_; a rush of two powerful men on a defenceless, trussed
fellow-creature; a shove with unnecessary violence on to a plank, a strap
or two unnecessarily tight to secure the unresisting wretch; a jerk and a
flash of burnished steel; a quivering trunk, and a head squirting blood
yards high, and the handful of sawdust, and the roar of a delighted
multitude as “Monsieur de Paris” leisurely proceeds to light a cigarette,
and within five minutes the whole ghastly paraphernalia has disappeared
within the gloomy parallelograms of La Roquette.

Terrible as all this sounds, is it not less terrible than the secret
executions indulged in by our own merciful laws?  There at least
excitement must for the time hold the victim till the supreme moment
arrives, whilst here the granite walls, the grim officials, the parson
mumbling prayers, divest the function of everything but strict
officialism, which to the culprit must indeed be the very bitterness of
death.

When the name of Count La Grange was more familiar to English ears than
it is in these forty years later days, it was my delightful privilege to
know—if not the redoubtable Count himself—a fair and important member of
the distinguished sportsman’s family circle.  I had, indeed, seen
“Waterloo avenged” at Epsom in the June of 1864, when Gladiateur left the
field miles behind; but it was only in the following autumn that I made
the personal acquaintance of the goddess who professed a kind of
allegiance to the sporting Frenchman, and re-avenged, as it were, the
vengeance that had been meted out to my country the previous summer.

I was in Paris under the wing of Bob Hope-Johnstone, the terrible major,
whose dislike was a thing to be avoided, and whose blow, as a certain
bric-à-brac pair of Israelite brothers once discovered to their cost, was
like the kick of a horse.  We had dipped pretty freely into the delights
of that most delightful of cities, when, sipping our coffee one evening
on the terrace of the Café de la Paix, we were transfixed—at least, I
was—by what appeared a heavenly being stepping out of a brougham.  In
those benighted days a brisk trade was done in the “Cabinets particulier”
that extended over the upper floors of the historical café, and night
after night the best men and the loveliest women of the Third Empire
resorted thither by battalions and indulged in every delight that the
best of cookery and the best of wines never failed to stimulate.

An obliging _maître d’hôtel_ had informed me who the lady was, and
possessing a reserve of assurance, since happily simmered down into a
reserved and retiring disposition, I sent up my name without further ado
and craved permission to pay my homage.  It would be absurd and nauseous
to repeat the beautiful phrases one poured into the ear of a being who,
if alive now—which is doubtful—has probably not a tooth in her head;
suffice to say she was a superb écarté player, and initiated me into the
rudiments of the game.  It seemed marvellous to me that such a goddess
should strive so laboriously to overcome in me the violation of every
canon of the game, but in those long-ago days I was fair of hair and of a
ruddy countenance, and the coincidence may not have been so extraordinary
after all.  Often of an afternoon I visited her hotel in the Bois de
Boulogne, and it was only when La Grange was known to be in Paris that my
going in and coming out was in the least circumscribed.

Sitting at a table, with his blubber lips lingering over a glass of
absinthe, was our old acquaintance, “Jellybelly,” who, noticing the late
Duke of Hamilton and Claud de Crespigny within hail, bellowed out, “Will
your Grace tell me the French for crab, I feel itching for one at
dinner?” and on being told a species—not of the sea—shouted in his purest
Franco-Houndsditch, “_Garsong_, _apporty moir un morphion rôti_.”

As the police have lately been somewhat in evidence over the commission
as to whether they are as corrupt as some people consider them, an
instance of over-zeal that occurred long ago will, I trust, be laid to
heart in future criticisms.

Lord Chief Justice Cockburn and his boon companion, Serjeant Ballantine,
once witnessed an act of unnecessary brutality towards a female in the
Haymarket.

“Why this unnecessary violence, my man?” inquired the amiable Sir
Alexander.

“Mind your own business, or I’ll show you,” was the reply of the zealous
constable, and within a trice the female was forgotten and her two
champions found themselves in Vine Street.

“Name,” inquired a priggish inspector of the Lord Chief Justice, and on
being informed, he added: “No doubt—we’ve heard this kind of thing
before.”

“Yours,” he continued, addressing the great serjeant.  “Quite so,” he
added, on being told, and nothing but the entry of an official who
recognised them prevented the two great legal luminaries from spending a
night in the cells.

As every one is aware, neither of these distinguished men were saints,
but they respected the ordinary laws of humanity, and did not admit that
every poor wretch who had stooped to folly was the legitimate target for
kicks and cuffs and lying testimony.

Although a leap into the seventies is necessary, the sensation that the
so-called “Great Turf Fraud” caused must excuse a brief reference to it.
It was in 1877 that an old lady with ample means conceived the brilliant
idea of adding to her income by speculating on the Turf.  Her choice of
colleagues, however, was not a happy one, and before long she was led
blindly by a genius known to posterity as Benson.  Amongst his staff was
a brilliant phalanx, the two brothers Carr, Murray, Bates, and the
inevitable solicitor, one Froggatt.

A house in Northumberland Street, since pulled down, was where these
worthies matured their plans, and by the irony of fate, in the very next
house lived Superintendent Thompson, of Bow Street, who, astute as he was
reputed to be, was oblivious of the cauldron that was simmering for
months under his very nose.

It was in the suitable month of April—possibly the first—that the old
lady (Madame Goncourt) opened the ball by paying out in driblets £13,000.
When the sum rose to £40,000 she became sceptical, and took her first
sensible step and consulted a lawyer.

At this point the police came on the scene, and again the genius of
Benson appears, for he, grasping the situation, bought up certain
Scotland Yard inspectors who, for a consideration—and a large
one—undertook to warn the chief culprits how and when danger was to be
avoided.

Consultations in Northumberland Street were now deemed risky, so the
venue was changed to the “Rainbow Tavern” (now known as the “Argyll”), a
pot-house abutting on Oxford Street, and there the original conspirators
and their solicitor, augmented by Inspectors Druscovitch, Meiklejohn, and
Palmer, arranged for telegrams and other details to defeat the ends of
justice.

The commonplace sequel will suggest itself to most people.  Benson, the
two Carrs, Bates, and Froggatt were sent to penal servitude for fifteen
and ten years respectively.  Later on Benson “peached” on his police
allies, who in November were tried, Druscovitch and Meiklejohn receiving
two years each, and Palmer being acquitted.

Madame Goncourt, it may be added, was still without her profits.

After his fifteen years, Benson was currently supposed to have burst out
as the director of numerous shops in the metropolis, where electric
appliances for the instant cure of gout and inhalers warranted to contain
“compressed Italian air” and to make everybody a Patti or a Mario were to
be had for a guinea; whilst a further guinea entitled the purchaser to a
consultation with the specialist.

This, however, did not last long, and Benson ended his career shortly
after by throwing himself over the balustrade of an American gaol.

Surely never was a commonplace affair dignified with such a high-sounding
title!  ’Twas the novelty that did it.

Where one voracious old woman existed in the seventies, the twentieth
century could produce a dozen, and where two policemen were caught
accepting blackmail, a battalion exists to-day, only their tactics have
marched with the times, and instead of receiving their levies in
pot-houses, they secrete themselves in cupboards and receive “hush money”
from alien brothel-keepers.  At the same time, they affect the sorry
appearance associated with badly cut frock-coats and brimless tall hats.
The boots, however, beat them.

Very few of the _dramatis personæ_ appear to be left.

Druscovitch for some years was employed as a Strand hotel detective.
Meiklejohn may occasionally be seen, unkempt and down-at-heel, in the
vicinity of mediocre saloon bars (glasses only), and Madame Goncourt has
long since explained to the Recording Angel that though she was the
first, she certainly won’t be the last, who has missed the certainties
that go begging on the Turf.

But the sixties were celebrated for a much more amusing and widespread
example of human credulity and vanity than the humdrum so-called “Turf
frauds,” with their unsavoury, commonplace ingredients of a voracious old
woman, a bevy of sharpers, and a file of flat-footed police-inspectors.

It was in 1868 that London heard that a divine being was amongst them,
coming no one knew whence, and whose age no one could guess, gifted with
the power of arresting Time, restoring youth and beauty, and ready—for a
consideration—to impart these blessings to all who sought her aid.

It was in the narrowest part of Bond Street that the goddess pitched her
tent, and to say that the traffic was impeded would convey but a poor
idea of the congestion that retarded locomotion in that worst-built of
thoroughfares.  Old men desirous of enamelling their bald old pates,
ponderous females with scratch wigs and asthma, and girls, pretty and
ugly, with defects capable of improvement, hustled and tussled to pay the
fee of the wonderful enchantress who guaranteed to restore youth to old
age and make one and all “beautiful for ever.”

Madame Rachel was a bony and forbidding looking female, with the voice of
a Deal boatman and the physique of a grenadier.  The robes she affected
when receiving her clients, and the crystals and gimcracks that clattered
at her girdle, might well inspire awe, as, emerging from behind massive
curtains, she approached her victim with some phrase suggestive of
“knowing all about it,” which, indeed, was part of the system when time
and opportunity permitted, or the status of the client justified it.

Rachel rarely smiled; when she laughed—which was rarer still—it was the
laugh of a rhinoceros.  Assisting her was a beautiful girl, of the
_beauté du diable_ type, with the suspicion of a cast in one of her
heavy-lashed eyes, which made her more bewitching than ever.

“How old do you think my daughter?” once inquired the arch-impostor of a
man from whom I had it direct.  He having replied “Seventeen,” she turned
to the siren with, “Tell this gentleman, my child, what you saw during
the French Revolution, and how I took you to see the execution of Marie
Antoinette.”

And then “Alma,” coached to perfection, turned her bewitching eyes as if
peering into eternity, and began a string of twaddle that ought not to
have deceived a Bluecoat boy.

Everybody consulted Madame Rachel.  If a youth got a black eye at young
Reed’s sparring rooms (at the “Rising Sun” in Whitehall) it was in Bond
Street he was made presentable for any fashionable function in the
evening, and in every conceivable walk of life one met evidence of the
universal sway of enamel; whilst nightly at the Opera, Rachel and her
daughter occupied a box on the grand tier and surveyed the battalions of
old men and old women, youths and maidens, who had passed through their
hands.

But despite Alma’s charms, she had a narrow squeak of being implicated
with her mother in the prosecution that followed later on—instead,
however, she was taken in hand by Lady Cardigan, and made a success in
Grand Opera.  But her troubles were not yet over, and aspirants to her
heart and hand (enamelled and otherwise) were in considerable evidence
nightly at the Opera house in Paris.

It was at the hands of one of these she met her fate.  Carried away by
jealousy or scorn, he shot her from the stalls, though, happily, not
fatally.  After this she disappeared, but not before displaying a
magnanimity that was refreshing in the reputed daughter of the
flint-hearted Rachel, for she refused to prosecute her assailant, who
escaped with a nominal imprisonment.

A controversy afterwards ensued in the daily Press as to the becoming
height of female dress; some advocated up to the shoulder, others below,
some a tape, some nothing; but the important question has not yet been
set at rest, and never will be, despite County Council edicts in the name
of propriety, or the hypocrisy and flunkeydom that stalk over the land.

Alma in all her glory had her own ideas, and appeared invariably and
literally in “semi-nude.”

Years after she was recognised by a former adorer at the Concordia Music
Hall in Constantinople, but all the _beauté du diable_ had vanished; the
cast still remained, but failed to ravish—Nature had worked through the
enamel with which her skin had been saturated, and Alma pure and simple
remained—a living example of how “Time turns the old days to derision.”

Madame Rachel’s experiences were of a more prosy description, and,
prosecuted a few years later by a Mrs. Pearce—said to have been a
daughter of Mario’s—whose jewels she had annexed in addition to a
considerable sum, she was relegated to five years’ penal servitude.

But the most amusing incident has yet to be told, although it seems
incredible that even so foolish a woman should court publicity by joining
in the prosecution.  The report of the trial in any old paper of the
period will convince the most sceptical of the absence of exaggeration in
this ungarnished recital.

Mrs. Borrodale was a frivolous old lady of some forty years, whose
wealth, vanity, and frequent visits to Bond Street marked her out as a
desirable client to the astute Rachel.

“You’ve won the heart of a great lord,” was her greeting one day, “who
desires to see you in your natural beauty.”

Mrs. Borrodale, having first blushed through her enamel, was not long in
consenting, and having stipulated for a subdued light, and that the
“view” should be through a curtain, proceeded to be enamelled from head
to foot.  On a given day she posed in all the beauty of her birthday
suit, and Lord Ranelagh, who was the reputed admirer, peeped through a
slit in the tapestry—and, let us hope, then fled.

His lordship, it may be added, eventually died a bachelor.  The very
title is extinct, and the enamelled old Venus never assumed a coronet.
After this, the old sinner was known as “Peeping Tom,” and the foal by a
thoroughbred stallion of repute, Peeping Tom (which, however, never
attained any position on the Turf), was christened Ranelagh.

Incredible as it may appear, this silly old woman capped her indiscretion
by joining in the prosecution instituted by the stockbroker’s wife, and
so published to a gaping world what might have better been left to the
imagination.

Rachel has, it is currently reported, two sons at the present moment
practising as solicitors under high-sounding names, who not long ago
wriggled out of a nasty case by the skin of their teeth, whilst their
less acute Christian colleagues suffered the penalty attendant on
blackmailing.

But the Rachel establishment was by no means the only type that
flourished in the long-ago sixties by pandering to human frailty, and the
premises occupied by Madame Osch, situated at the corner of Piccadilly
and St. James’s Street—and now, like Babylon, with not one stone standing
upon another—could have told some curious tales of wards in Chancery and
Hebrew jewellers, and of Tommy and John, and of how Tommy was arrested as
he started for Monte Carlo, and how John, smelling a rat, evaded ill
effects; but the recitation would only bore a twentieth-century reader,
for human nature then is the same nature as now, and what flourished then
in one shape still flourishes in another, and the only reflection worthy
of consideration is that, if these things were done in the green tree,
what is being done in the dry?



CHAPTER XXII.
REMINISCENCES OF THE PURPLE.


THE death of the Duke of Cambridge recalled many instances of the kindly
nature of the old warrior.  Abused and ridiculed by the ignorant and
unwashed for actions—more or less imaginary—that he was supposed to have
been guilty of in the Crimea, it is established on the testimony of
eye-witnesses that no man showed more personal bravery at Inkerman than
the late illustrious Duke.  Oblivious to danger, and literally wandering
in and out amongst the dense masses of Russians, he seemed to bear a
charmed life, and if on any occasion he selected an umbrella—which is by
no means admitted—what greater proof of absolute indifference to danger?
As well might one accuse Fred Burnaby of cowardice for confronting the
Dervishes in the Soudan with a simple blackthorn.  But royalty has its
penalties as well as its advantages, and if the grandson of George III.
was subject to intense excitement verging on delirium under exceptionally
trying circumstances, let us be fair, gentlemen, and give the bluff old
warrior his dues.

In the zenith of his career, so unable was his Highness to refuse almost
any personal request, that it was found necessary to chain a bulldog of
the most pronounced Peninsular type on the very threshold of the
Commander-in-Chief’s office.

For this service General MacDonald was selected as military secretary,
and any one who had the capacity of passing his meshes was enabled to
present himself at his Royal Highness’s next levée.

These functions were divested of all formality; an extension of leave, a
request to go to the depôt, an application to join the service companies,
was invariably more successful if preferred personally, and “Well, sir,
what is it?” with a kindly shake of the hand saved many a heart-burning
and protracted filtration through a dozen departments, usually ending in
a snub.

Seated in the room was his aide-de-camp—the solitary specimen in uniform.
Colonel Fraser, V.C., had commanded for years the celebrated
“Cherry-bobs” (11th Hussars), and if a little unsociable whilst in actual
command, the mannerism had entirely disappeared in the courteous
mouthpiece of the Duke.

Gazing one afternoon on the placid features of the “Royal George” before
the new War Office, the occasion on which he once visited a station not
100 miles from London and told the colonel and officers generally that he
didn’t believe a word they said, and stamped and fumed and swore and
threatened, came vividly to my mind.  There had been a fracas in the
canteen during the officers’ mess hour, which eventually developed into a
riot, and then was quelled.  No one in the mess-house appears to have
heard it, and it was only next morning that the matter, after
investigation, was reported to the Horse Guards.  The “Royal George,” who
was distinctly apoplectic, ran many such chances of combustion in his
younger days, for the old warrior was by no means mealy-mouthed and was
not above playing to the gallery, as represented by the Press, and
although he could never aspire to rank with General Pennefather, he
could, when circumstances demanded, swear like any trooper.

It was the 11th that Lord Cardigan brought to such a wonderful state of
perfection and for the command of which he had paid upwards of £20,000
over regulation.  It was in the 11th that the fire-eating Colonel shot a
captain of his regiment dead in a duel, and only saved his commission by
his overwhelming interest.  It was a regiment in which every private was
dressed and redressed at his Captain’s expense as if his uniform had been
made by Poole, and where the overalls and sleeves were so tight that one
marvelled how officers or men ever got in or out of them.

What a beautiful regiment it was in the old sixties.  And one felt it was
a national crime to send such troops to India.  But all that, alas! is
long since changed; the Pimlico Clothing Works, economy, and paternal
letters to _The Times_ have done the rest; and the abolition of purchase,
the breech-loader, and the new type of British officer have completed the
inauguration of the “slops” period, and abolished once and for ever
well-dressed regiments and _esprit de corps_.

Whilst on this delicate subject memory suggests many presumptuous
reminiscences.

When Prince Alfred was a supernumerary Lieutenant of the _Racoon_, what
an ideal brick he was!  Scraping on a fiddle, myself at the piano, and
Arthur Hood (lately become Viscount Bridport) with a brass instrument of
deafening intensity, what harmonious discord has not shaken the rafters
of the old Casemates at Gibraltar; and when the Prince seated himself at
the piano and sang “In ancient days there lived a squire,” one forgets
the retiring potentate that eventually ruled over Gotha.

It was on one of these occasions that during a lull in the festivities a
steady tramp outside was wafted to our musical ears, and going out to
discover the cause, I was horrified to see an elderly gentleman, ablaze
with decorations, in evening attire, who, with numerous apologies, was
conducted into the room.

He was in fact the Duc d’Alençon’s equerry, who had honoured the private
concert with his presence, and for the past hour had sat a transfixed
witness of our marvellous harmony.  At this time the _Racoon_ was
commanded by Count Gleichen—a nephew of the late Queen’s—who once
happened to be on the P. and O. at the same time as myself, both
returning from leave to Gibraltar.

In those days life on a P. and O. was a mass of enjoyment: youngsters
joining their regiments, old officers—naval and military—returning from
leave, the ship’s officers, all joined nightly in harmless jokes, and as
lights were put out and the steward’s room closed, each roysterer
ascended to the upper deck and songs and what-not ensued.  No one entered
into the revelry more than Count Gleichen, as, with a tumbler of
contraband grog, he quaffed and laughed as only a British sailor can.

Years later, when the Duke of Edinburgh commanded the _Galatea_, he still
remembered his musical colleague, and a pretty snake ring with a
turquoise in the head that he presented to me was lost in an accident
that nearly cost me my life.

Boating has never been my forte, and in endeavouring on one occasion to
enter a boat, it drifted with the impact, and, with one leg on the jetty
and another in the boat, I soused into six feet of the muddiest “old
Mole” water.  Eventually I was hooked out, more “mud than alive,” but the
ring was gone, and still reposes in the turgid waters of the
Mediterranean.

Amongst the ship’s officers was Lord Charles Beresford, at the time the
most inveterate Fourth Lieutenant of practical jokers.  After a function
at which the Duke and the ship’s company were on one occasion present,
the local Inspector-General of Police, who had deemed his presence
necessary, was staggered next morning by shouts of laughter as he
peacefully slumbered in his bungalow.

Rushing to the window, conceive his horror on seeing Charlie Beresford,
in his full uniform, strutting about and giving words of command in
imitation of the original.  But he was a bumptious buckeen, and no one
sympathised with his discomfiture.

When the King was doing his goose-step at the Curragh, it was my high
reflexed privilege to be doing mine in the next lines.

It was during this season that a march for the whole division was ordered
to Maryborough, twenty-two miles distant.

The Prince, who was attached to the Grenadiers, accompanied us to and
fro, and even after the fatiguing march might later on have been seen in
the streets of Maryborough, accompanied by “his governor,” General Bruce,
as if nothing unusual had occurred.  It was lamentable the effect it had
on those splendid types of humanity, the 1st Grenadiers, and their superb
“Queen’s Company,” every man six feet and upwards.  But the misfortune
can hardly be laid to their charge; suddenly transferred from their sweet
pastures in London, what wonder that the good things they had revelled in
should seek an outlet on the dusty plains of Kildare!  And so it came to
pass that every ditch contained a guardsman, and long before the
twenty-two miles had been covered every ambulance in the division was
filled by the warriors.

The Vansittart family in those long-ago days were represented by some
interesting scions.

“The Croc,” in many ways perhaps the most unique, was a remnant of a past
generation who adapted surroundings to modern requirements, and was the
terror of gouty old members who dined before four when “table money” came
into force, consumed a loaf in a sixpenny bowl of soup, and drank their
beer for nothing.

“Pop,” on the other hand, was of the highly-refined class, had a flat in
Paris, and only occasionally flashed upon London immaculately clothed in
ultra-fashionable attire.  But the gem of the family was the dear old
Admiral, who combined apparently the better points of “The Croc” and
“Pop” in his own weather-beaten person.  At the time I knew him he was in
command of the _Sultan_, and had the reputation—in conjunction with
Admiral Hornby—of being the highest authority on ironclads.  But what
brought him into notice was a combination of fearless seamanship and
bluff loyalty whilst in command of the _Hector_ that convoyed the Prince
of Wales from Canada.  For days the weather had been rough till, coming
up Channel, Vansittart hailed a fishing smack, and possessing himself of
the pick of the last haul, bore down upon the _Serapis_.  Attached to her
yard-arm was a basket, and as the spars of the two frigates literally
rattled against one another, down dropped the offering at the feet of the
heir-apparent.

No greater exhibition of nerve and seamanship can well be conceived; had
the manoeuvre resulted in accident no explanation would have satisfied
“my lords,” for a nasty sea was running and sea room was advisable,
however commendable the motive.  It was an action worthy of association
with Sir Harry Keppel sailing out of Portsmouth Harbour in sheer devilry
with every stitch of canvas set, and showed Admiral Vansittart as in
every way worthy of being bracketed with that grand old bluejacket of the
past.

The man who commanded the _Galatea_ and afterwards the _Sultan_, was a
very different person to the lieutenant of the _Racoon_, and genial and
adventurous as he once was, the captain soon developed into a morose and
unpopular commander.

On board the _Galatea_ was the pick of the Navy, whilst the social
addenda associated with the supposed requirements of Royalty were
represented by the present Lord Kilmorey, Eliot Yorke, Arthur Haig, and
sprigs of nobility, “interest,” and nonentity.  Of the two equerries
Eliot Yorke’s forte may best be described as of the delicate type; so
delicate, indeed, that it may be left to the imagination.  Arthur Haig,
on the other hand, was of the firm and reliable sort—a reasonable
proportion of “suaviter” with a superabundance of the other thing.  It
was he whose daily duties included an epitome of the events of the day,
intended for no eyes but those of the Queen, and carefully included in
every “bag” that left the ship.  Haig, in short, had been nominated by
the Queen, and was the only man on board of whom the Prince had a
wholesome dread.  Eliot Yorke, on the other hand, was the selection of
the Royal Alfred.  Not that the Prince was without his appreciation of a
practical joke, and when a fat old gentleman that had been specially
invited to a farewell lunch at one of the foreign stations suddenly
discovered that the ship was under way and a jump into the bumboat
imperative, no laugh was heartier nor louder than that of the Royal
joker.

The Duke, it was said, was one of the best commanders of an ironclad; he
had the technique at his fingers’ ends, and knew every bolt and screw
from the keel to the upper deck; some toadies even asserted he was
superior to Hornby or Vansittart, and was a typical British tar in the
truest acceptation of the term.  His sympathies, as I have heard him
assert, however, were German to the backbone, and his eyes would fill
with tears when singing some guttural sonnet of the Vaterland.  His
marriage brought things to a head, and the curtain was rung down on Lardy
Wilson and all other workers of iniquity after the garden party at
Clarence House in honour of his wedding.

With an excellent piper like Farquharson, engaged to combine grooming and
boot cleaning with occasional pibrochs and reels, it may be accepted that
H. R. H. was a thorough believer in the precept that “it is more blessed
to receive than to give.”

His proficiency as a musician was another fable, and though he
“graciously condescended” to be first violin at the Albert Hall
Orchestral Society (founded by himself), uncharitable people are known to
have asserted that the royal bow was soaped.  But a point on which no two
opinions can exist was the questionable taste he displayed on one
occasion when entering Simon’s Bay.  Every commander, as is well known,
is bound to salute the commodore’s flag after taking up moorings; but the
Prince had run up the Royal Standard—and so the commodore had to salute
first.  Etiquette demanded that this should be done—after, and not
before—and the “reports” that followed ended as might be expected, and
the good old sailor was shelved, and a scandal hushed up that some
attributed to von-Kümmel and others to less potent causes.

It was the most beautiful woman of the day in the long-ago fifties—the
Empress of the French—that introduced the diabolical “appanage” known as
the crinoline to conceal her “interesting condition,” and the peg-top
heels that followed as a consequence, to give height to the unpleasant
beam the crinoline involved on the wearer, were answerable for more
accidents, _faux pas_, and unpleasantries than any combination of female
adornments before or since.

Once at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square, whose incumbent was known as Saint
Barnabas, a fair worshipper was noticed still in a devotional attitude
when the rest of the congregation had settled down to the fashionable
discourse their souls thirsted for, but the posture continuing, the
verger delicately approached, and found that nothing more serious had
occurred than that her heels had caught in the hoops and that she was
unable to move a peg.  The hopes of an advertisement over a fashionable
proselyte were thus shattered, and his reverence resumed his theme.

On another occasion, returning from Cremorne at 2 a.m., when every cab
had been taken, my attention was attracted by a handsome young cavalier
tenderly supporting a fair sinner, who was leaning trustfully on his
shoulder.  It appears he had found her motionless and in tears on an area
grating, her heel through her hoop, and the heel itself wedged as in a
vice.  Nothing but prompt action could save the situation, and the last I
saw of the interesting couple was progressing by easy stages and heading
towards Oakley Square.

The same young cavalier might have been recognised not long since as a
grim old warrior, munching a sandwich in the vestibule of Stafford House
after the levée in honour of the Mutiny heroes!

And the charming lad who was responsible for the introduction of the
diabolical appendage.  We all remember the shock that literally smote
every heart when the news of the Prince Imperial’s untimely death reached
England.

A youth divested of every suspicion of affectation, possessing to an
inordinate degree that fascination of manner rarely to be found except
amongst the old nobility of France, discarding every comfort to fight in
the ranks of an alien army, to be assegaied by a handful of Zulus!  Was
ever such irony of fate for the great-nephew of Bonaparte, who, had he
lived, would assuredly by his charm have eventually won back his throne.

One voice only struck a discordant note, the overrated Quaker Solon of
Rochdale.  “Perish India,” he once said in his wisdom.  “He went out to
kill the Zulus, and the Zulus killed him” was this time his funeral
oration.

It was in the early seventies—if I remember rightly—that I had many
acquaintances amongst the various embassies and legations, which
frequently brought me to the St. James’s, the club of the foreign
attachés generally.  My most intimate friend was Baron Spaum—at the time
naval attaché at the Austrian Embassy—and at the present moment
Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Austrian Navy.  I was also familiar
with Prince Hohenlohe and Count Mongela, of the same embassy, and, in a
lesser degree, with Count Beust, son of the Austrian Ambassador.  Amongst
the Russians I knew Count Adelberg well, and it was through his
representations that I eventually came into contact with that wonderful
man Count Schouvaloff.  Count Paul Schouvaloff at the time was Russian
Ambassador in London.  An intimate and trusted friend of the Czar, his
Excellency had filled every office in his country that called for
administrative and diplomatic talents of the first order.  As Chief of
the Secret Police his power was literally absolute and irresponsible; as
governor of a vast province he had ruled almost as an independent
sovereign; and in later years was the ruling spirit—and certainly the
most difficult nut to crack—at the Congress of Berlin, when Lord
Beaconsfield was accredited with having returned with “Peace with
Honour.”

It was as the guest of this historical personage that I one day found
myself at Chesham House, eating the most delightful lunch, drinking the
rarest Crimean wines, and marvelling at the courteous, retiring-mannered
man who plied me with the most delicate attentions.

His English, as may be supposed, was faultless, and so it was that my
admiration was turned to astonishment when a personage to whom I assumed
there could be nothing new under the sun asked me if I would do for him
the great favour of piloting him amongst the sights of London.

Not many nights later a muster of some dozen souls paraded at my rooms in
Charles Street, and as all were scrupulously attired in pot hats and
shooting coats it would have been difficult for the most observant to
have sorted ambassadors or attachés from the less diplomatic clay made in
England.

The muster roll contained the Russian Ambassador, Count Adelberg, Count
Beust, Count Mongela, Baron Spaum, Prince Hohenlohe, Colonel (Charlie)
Norton, Sir Edward Cunynghame (Ned), the Duke of Hamilton, and my humble
self.

The programme had been settled prior to all this with the assistance of
an ex-detective, who made a princely addition to his slender pension by
piloting exploration parties to latitudes where much depended on
diplomacy.

Our first visit was to Turnham’s, a pot-house in Newman Street, where
extensive arrangements had been made for some badger drawing under the
personal auspices of Bill George.  In later years this canine authority
developed into a trusted dog-provider to the nobility, and resided in the
vicinity of Kensal Green; at the time of which I write his transactions
in dog-flesh were of a more miscellaneous character, and, as he once told
me with pride, a letter addressed “Bill George, Dog Stealer, London,”
would reach him without delay.

Our next move was to Jimmy Shaw’s, but whether it was to Windmill Street
or to a new house he took when his old place was demolished (next to the
stage door of the Lyric Theatre) I cannot recollect.

Here rats in sackfuls were awaiting us, amongst others a rough-haired
mongrel terrier, which not long previously had performed the astounding
feat of killing 1,000 rats in an incredibly short space of time.

To see 1,000 sewer rats not long in captivity together in a pit, after
having seen each one counted out by an expert rat-catcher diving into a
sack, is something my enlightened twentieth-century reader will never
again see in London.

For, although not absolutely prohibited, the shadow of Exeter Hall was
already spreading over the land, and the police—already tainted—were not
to be trusted, even when a live ambassador was present.

Tom King—ex-champion—had also consented, for a consideration, to again
put on the gloves, and brought with him a burly opponent; the slogging
that ensued was really splendid, and Count Schouvaloff was literally in
ecstasies.

Our next move was to Endell Street, and here greater precautions were
necessary, for cock-fighting was the unpardonable sin, and the pains and
penalties terrible.  So we split into twos and threes, and going by
different ways eventually found ourselves in the cock-pit below ground.

Tom Faultless was the last of the old type of British bulldog sportsman.
Over seventy years old, he had in his youth assisted at bull-baiting,
dog-fights, cock-fighting, and every sport that once gave unalloyed
delight to high and low.

To his able hands the conduct of this particular department was
entrusted; nor were we long in realising that the supply was more than
enough to meet the most extravagant demands, as, banging the door to, we
were assailed by the defiant crows of a dozen gladiators, and this not
far from midnight, when the denizens of that virtuous quarter were
courting gentle sleep, and sounds carried like steam whistles.

It was close upon 2 a.m. before we again resumed our pilgrimage, and with
the aid of half a dozen four-wheelers wended our way towards the Mint.

It is unnecessary here to repeat what is fully set out in a previous
chapter, suffice to say our experiences on this occasion were equally as
interesting of those of ’62, and that his Excellency vowed that amid all
his miscellaneous experiences nothing so unique had ever equally
delighted him.

Five o’clock was striking as we drove past Covent Garden, and having
suggested that excellent eggs and bacon were to be obtained at Hart’s
Coffee House, all alighted and all ate as only diplomatists and night
birds can.

As we drove still further West the strings of market carts wafted the
odours of country life and green things into our debauched nostrils, and
we slunk away to our respective homes more or less delighted with our
adventures.

Whilst on the subject of Russian diplomatists a deafening experience I
had a few years later may not be without interest.

It was on the Grand Duke Alexis’s flagship that I had the honour of
finding myself one of some sixty guests.  In addition to the Russian
battleship there were men-of-war of England, France, and Sweden in the
harbour, and the Grand Duke was presiding at the table.

Needless to describe the excellent cookery—for Russian cookery is very
difficult to beat—nor the choice Crimean wines, many of which are
unobtainable except at the Imperial table, but when the dinner was over
the row _literally_ began.

First the Grand Duke proposed the Czar’s health, smashing the glass so
that no less worthy toast should again defile it, and 101 guns began a
salute on the deck immediately over our heads.

Barely had it ceased when the battleships of England, France, and Sweden
followed—not simultaneously, but one after another—and again the Grand
Duke arose and proposed the Queen of England to a repetition of the same
diabolical accompaniment.  And then followed the toast to the rulers of
France and Sweden till the viands we had consumed seemed to rattle in
their astonishment, and our heads to whirl with after-dinner loyalty.

And when the adjournment to the main deck for coffee and cigarettes took
place, it is no exaggeration to assert that we waded ankle deep through
broken glass.

The impetus given to that industry must have been enormous!



CHAPTER XXIII.
DHULEEP SINGH—AND FIFTY YEARS AFTER.


WE must pass back to the fifties to introduce a personage who figures
conspicuously in the sixties and seventies, both in comedy and tragedy,
and then shuffled off this mortal coil and has long since been forgotten.

It was in ’56 when England had annexed Oude, that the ex-Queen and a
considerable retinue arrived in London to “protest”—a process that must
have enlightened, if it did not benefit, them in the ways of Imperial
Policy.

Half-a-dozen houses in Marylebone Road were secured as a temporary
palace, and it was thither, as a lad, that I accompanied my father, who
had once held high office in the Punjaub.

The exact spot was where the Baker Street station now stands, and as one
is nothing unless one is accurate, conceive entering the present dismal
premises and finding in the “reception room” two or three beds, in one of
which was the Queen; about the floor various courtiers were littered,
whilst the atmosphere was so sour that one felt thankful the old woman’s
reign had been cut short, and that henceforth sanitary arrangements, a
tub, and other adjuncts of Christianity would prevail in Oude after the
family had realised that “No mistakes were rectified after leaving the
counter,” and that “Don’t you wish you may get it?” embodied our
beneficent policy in the abstract.

Baker Street at the time swarmed with Mohammedans, for, by a coincidence,
Lord Panmure, the Earl of Dalhousie, and Sir John Lawrence—all more or
less associated with India—had houses in that then fashionable
neighbourhood, and so enabled the “protesters” to combine business with
pleasure at comparatively slight physical inconvenience.

Dhuleep Singh, another reputed Punjaubee, had also at this time been
brought to England, and, although then pursuing the ordinary course of a
schoolboy under General Oliphant, it was only later, as a Norfolk
landlord, a masher, a burlesque conspirator, and the owner of the finest
emeralds in the world, that he came into prominence.

It is in these latter roles that we purpose to interest our readers.

During the minority of this most fortunate Asiatic the savings out of his
annuity of £40,000 a year had amounted to a colossal sum, and so Dhuleep
Singh first comes into prominence, on attaining his majority, as a
Norfolk squire and the owner of Elvedon Hall.

An excellent shot, it was some few years later that he made the
sportsmanlike wager with Lord Sefton to slaughter a thousand head of game
within a day.  Rabbits were included in the bet, and impossible as such a
feat may appear, the tameness of the pheasants in the over-stocked home
preserves made it quite feasible.  For some reason, however, it never
came off.

At this period the Maharajah was in high favour at Court; his children,
after his marriage with the unpretentious little lady he wooed and won at
Singapore, were permitted to play with British Royal sprigs, and the
Heir-apparent invariably had a week’s shooting with his dusky neighbour
and a suitably selected party in the autumn.

But despite the glamour these reunions may be supposed to have spread
over him Dhuleep Singh had ever an eye to business, and a contract was
made with Baily, the poulterer in Mount Street, for a shilling a head all
round for all surplus hares, rabbits, pheasants, and what-not slaughtered
at Elvedon Hall.

The Maharajah’s behaviour meanwhile was all that was desirable.  At Court
functions he was resplendent in emeralds and diamonds, and the slab, six
inches by four, on his swordbelt was said to be the finest emerald in the
world.

The jewellers to whom was deputed the task of cutting, setting, and
otherwise improving the barbaric gems of the youthful prince are said to
trace their present Bond Street position to this fortunate selection.

It was only when his Highness assumed evening dress that visions of
Mooltan, Chilianwallah, and Goojerat faded from one’s brain, and a podgy
little Hindoo seemed to stand before one, divested of that physique and
martial bearing one associates with either warriors or Sikhs, and only
requiring, as it were, a chutnee-pot peeping out of his pocket to
complete the illusion.

During the sixties and seventies Dhuleep Singh was in evidence
everywhere.  An excellent whist player amongst such admitted champions as
Goldingham, Dupplin, “Cavendish” (on whist), and others, he was to be
found every afternoon at the Marlborough, or East India, or Whist Club
backing his opinion, and damning his partner if he ignored his “call for
trumps;” whilst every evening found him at the Alhambra graciously
accepting the homage of the houris in the green-room, and distributing
9-carat gimcracks with Oriental lavishness.

During this period apparently the Punjaub occupied only a secondary
position in his mind, and we next find him occupying a spacious flat in
King Street, Covent Garden, and it was there, doubtless, that visions of
charging at the head of the splendid horsemen of the Punjaub and the
wresting of India from British rule first entered his romantic brain; for
the Maharajah was a poet, though happily none of his effusions appear to
have been preserved.  He may also have recollected that the Koh-i-noor
was once a crown jewel of Runjeet Singh, and his Highness was
passionately found of baubles.

Often have I seen him of an evening pacing to and fro outside the “Shirt
Shop” (as the Whist Club was affectionately called) maturing those
foolish plans that deprived him of his income for a while and led him
into straits that it is painful to realise.  Occasionally, indeed, he
would rave at the injustice of the beggarly income the Government of
India accorded him, and then it was he conceived the brilliant idea of
coquetting with Russia for the simultaneous rising of the Punjaub and a
Russian invasion of India.

Not that one Sikh would have stirred at his call, and his proclamation
fizzed and went out like any squib at a Brock benefit.  Added to this,
Russia rucked on him and his Highness fell into disgrace.

But still his vanity led him on, and he essayed to start for India, and
shipped as Pat Casey, though why Pat, and what part of Ireland Casey
hailed from will ever remain an unfathomable mystery.

The hero, however, never got beyond Aden, where he was politely invited
to retrace his steps.  The “last phase” was as brief as it was
lamentable.  Settling in Paris he again married.  Then poverty
necessitated the sale of his jewels, sickness overtook him, and, broken
in body and mind, he asked and received pardon for his many foolish acts.

After his escapades in Paris he is said to have written to the British
Government, “_Capivi_,” evidently intending to reiterate the cypher
telegram attributed to Sir Charles Napier, the conqueror of Scinde,
“_Peccavi_” (a mot that will appeal to all classical readers).  Thereupon
he was forgiven, and shortly after he died, and so the race of the “Lion
of the Punjaub” went out like a lamb.

What became of the second wife I never heard, what became of the Alhambra
lass and the dusky tadpoles that drove about the King’s Road at Brighton
history does not tell, for “Love is a queer thing, it comes and it goes,”
and all that remains to the present generation is the nebulous tale of a
misguided man who kicked down wealth, position, and a happy old age in
the reckless pursuit of a silly ambition.



FIFTY YEARS AFTER.


I cannot permit this opportunity to pass without reminding every reader
of the momentous issues that were for ever set at rest by the incredible
heroism of our army during the Mutiny in September fifty years ago, and
without encroaching on the beautiful story by W. H. Fitchett, within the
reach of everybody for 4½d., one may legitimately ask why many incidents
that then occurred have never been explained.

What is the _true_ version of the “_Stone_ Bridge” being left _open_ at
Lucknow?

Why is it invariably confused with the “_Iron_ Bridge?”

What was the _true_ reason of the Cawnpore reverse?

No history yet written has ever explained these points, which, however
justifiable at the time, may surely, after fifty years, have light thrown
upon them, and if Lord Roberts would give his version, many—including the
old brigade—would have their curiosity set at rest.

And touching those glorious days, what return has a grateful (!) country
made to the remnant that remains?  An invitation to a levée and a
sandwich and a photographed group afterwards!  A 5th Class Victorian
Order would have left nothing to be desired.  For my part if I pass a
drummer boy of the brave 93rd I feel an irresistible inclination to raise
my hat in homage to a successor of those invincible Highlanders.  And
then the irony of it!  MacBean, the adjutant who passed through those
continuous hurricanes of shot and shell without a scratch, died of
lock-jaw, when in command of the regiment some twenty years after, from
cutting a corn.

Every patriot will forgive a digression on the day (December 6th) these
lines are being written, for it is a landmark in the annals of the Army
as recording the _last_ occasion (fifty years ago) that British infantry
advanced in line in old Peninsular formation—in slow time—halting
periodically and dressing on their coverers as we see on a Hyde Park
parade, under a terrific fire of shot and shrapnel, and then, breaking
into the old-fashioned charge, the irresistible cheer, and cold steel as
a climax.

For on that decisive day the Gwalior contingent, 80,000 strong,
splendidly drilled, the flower of the Sepoy Army, was shattered by Colin
Campbell and his handful of 3,400 men, and the neck of the great Mutiny
was broken.

No man living to-day who heard that crumpling sound and that avenging
cheer can ever—will ever—forget it, and it behoves you, my masters, to
remember, when you see the red and white-striped ribbon on the mendicant
selling matches, or his more fortunate comrade patrolling outside a shop
door, that in the words of Colin Campbell: “Every man of them that day
was worth his weight in gold to England.”

And here one is reminded of a German prejudice of the Dowager Queen
Adelaide (whom we all prayed for in our youth), who at levées and Court
functions insisted on kilted officers appearing in “trews”—the absence of
the “breeks” being too shockingly shocking.

And whilst on this subject I am reminded, by the recent death of George
FitzGeorge at Lucerne, of many incidents more or less military.

At Gibraltar as late as ’65 was a sentry posted on a promontory that
originally commanded a view of the Straits—but which a high wall had
subsequently obliterated—whose orders were “To keep a sharp look out and
immediately to report if the Spanish fleet was in sight.”

The Governor at the time was Sir Richard Airey, the most courteous of the
old English school of gentlemen, but probably the worst
Quartermaster-General that ever permitted boots and blankets to
accumulate at Balaclava and brave men to freeze and starve at the front.
It was an inspiration of his to utilise the stores with which Gibraltar
is permanently provisioned by a periodical issue of salt pork rations
that had accumulated since the Crimean War.  Needless to add, much was
mouldy, and many the complaints, and on one occasion when a vehement
report reached him, he replied: “Leave it here, it shall be seen to.”
Not long after invitations were issued for a dinner at the Convent, to
which the “Board” on the rotten pork were invited.

The banquet was the finest a French cook could produce, and one dish with
“_Sauce Robert_” especially appreciated.

“That, gentlemen, is your rotten pork, and shows you how some men are
never satisfied,” was his Excellency’s appropriate (!) comment.  But
there is not a _cordon bleu_ in every regimental cook-house.



CHAPTER XXIV.
THE LAST OF THE OLD BRIGADE.


I WILL now relate as a fitting end to these long reminiscences what I
witnessed forty years ago in the island of Mauritius, when death was
having a fine harvest by the ravages of a plague, and how a
hurricane—terrific in even that so-called focus of hurricanes, and
compared with which the storms we occasionally encounter in Merrie
England are but gentle zephyrs—obliterated all the germs of infection.

It was in ’67 that a terrible epidemic—new to science—burst without
warning on the beautiful island of Mauritius.  Its very symptoms were
unfamiliar to the faculty, and so, for a better name, it was called
jungle fever.  Fever and ague were its chief characteristics, followed by
absolute prostration, and death with alarming rapidity.

Like its dread ally cholera, its first appearance was irresistible; then
the attack became less formidable, and as the atmosphere became saturated
with its poisonous germs, every living thing suffered from exhaustion,
and man and beast literally dragged one leg after another, and almost
prayed for release.

The scourge, it was supposed, had been introduced by the 100,000 Madras
coolies who worked on the sugar plantations under conditions as nearly
approaching slavery as our beneficent Government would admit.

It was under these depressing circumstances that a British regiment, 800
strong, and in the best of health, was landed, and within a month not 100
would have been available for duty.  Not daring to keep them in Port
Louis, where the deaths were some 400 a day, the regiment was split into
fragments and billeted wherever an empty outhouse or a few obsolete tents
could afford temporary shelter.  But the ingenuity of the inefficient
staff in no way averted the danger, and within a month a dozen minor
centres were created, where British soldiers succumbed and died who ought
never to have been disembarked.

Not an officer who was sufficiently well but had to read the burial
service almost daily over Protestant and Catholic comrades, and not a
drum was heard whilst the scant ceremony was being repeated and repeated
in its terrible monotony.

To make matters worse quinine, which ordinarily costs a few pence, was
selling at auction at £30 per ounce.  Then the supply ran out, and so
valuable did the drug become that the dose a dying man’s stomach could
not retain was carefully bottled up for the next urgent case.

Soon the very wood for coffins ran short, and the carpenters who made the
ghastly necessaries were themselves dead or dying, so long trenches were
improvised in which the dead were laid in rows.

Every house bewailed a departed relative, for there was no pitying angel
to sprinkle the door-posts in that remote isle of the sea, and the sound
of wailing went up from Indian compound and European cantonment alike as,
smiting their breasts, the cry ascended to Brahmah and the God of the
Christians to stay the hand of the destroying angel.

Truly the grasshopper had become a burden and desire failed, when a
change as sudden as the arrival of the terrible scourge ensued, and a
hurricane, unprecedented in its violence, swept over the island for days.

Fields of sugar cane, ripe for the sickle, were laid low in a twinkling;
houses were unroofed, and tents blown into space; huge bridges were
twisted like corkscrews, and bolts weighing a ton were hurled about like
cricket balls.  A heavily-laden goods train, standing outside the station
(as instanced by the Governor in his official report), was turned on its
side, and, joy of joy, the terrible plague and its insidious germs were
wafted into eternity.  And when the death roll was called a few months
later, what a cloud of victims did it show!  Bishop Hatchard, not long
arrived, whose funeral I attended; the General, who came home to die; the
wives and daughters of many it is needless to recapitulate, and brave
soldiers innumerable discharged as medically unfit or still sleeping in
that distant oasis of the Indian Ocean.

But even this awful drama has associations that lend themselves to
comedy.  A representative of a Deep Sea Cable Company, who was
conspicuous for his flowing mane and superabundant hair, emerged from his
illness as smooth as a billiard ball, and the local snuff-coloured wig he
donned to hide his nakedness was as bewildering as it was irresistible.

The coolies, too, desirous of apprising their friends in Madras of their
safety, and thinking it a favourable opportunity to defraud the Revenue,
would slip unstamped letters into the post, oblivious of the columns of
names that appeared weekly in the local paper as not having been
forwarded in consequence of insufficient postage.  And then the Creoles—a
snuff-and-butter combination of English, French, and Indian—desirous of
airing their European pretensions, would hail one with: “Ah, the
plague—we are now far from IT,” or, anxious to be polite, would add: “I
have heard your name with great advantage.”

Sitting round a blazing fire some few years ago at Christmas, in the
comfortable chambers (since demolished) at the corner of Hanover Square
and George Street, three friends were discussing the various changes they
had witnessed together in the past forty years.  Not that the
conversation was unattended with drawbacks, for a gang of “waits” were
disseminating discord through the still hours of the night.  An asthmatic
harmonium was the chief culprit, and bore on its back the blasphemous
inscription, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord,” the
remainder of the orchestra being a clarionet and a fiddle; all the
operators had red noses, and the instruments suffered accordingly.  A
public-house within measurable distance may explain the welcome silence
that occasionally intervened and justify the assumption that it was
responsible for the discord.

Be that as it may, “The voice that breathed o’er Eden”—with whisky
variations—does not lend itself to concentration of thought or deed, save
of an irreverent kind, so I will conclude by describing my companions
whom we’ve frequently met in our various rambles.

Of these, one was a country-looking squire with grey hair and cropped
beard, who, on closer inspection, was recognisable as the wiry bruiser
who had thrashed the “Kangaroo” thirty years previously at the Alhambra;
the other was Bobby Shafto, still erect and soldier-like, but divested of
the curly locks that had won their way into everybody’s favour a decade
previously.

For Bobby had only just left the Service, after holding a series of
personal staff appointments through the influence of powerful friends of
the days of his youth.

So great, indeed, had been his interest at the Horse Guards
that—admittedly, the worst of company officers—he was discovered to
possess military talents of the highest order.  He was “a born leader of
men” it was asserted; he had a “capacity for organisation” and for
“licking a hopeless rabble into a military force.”  Had he continued
soldiering he would doubtless have been covered with “orders,” appointed
Governor of one of our important fortresses, given the command of an Army
Corps, or created a peer—as many an amiable donkey with interest has been
before and since.

But both these good fellows have since passed away, and I—only
I—remain—like a modern Elijah—to commune within myself of the various
incidents with which we were associated in the long-ago sixties.

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

        _Printed at The Chapel River Press_, _Kingston_, _Surrey_





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