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Title: A Journalists Note-Book
Author: Moore, Frank Frankfort
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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A JOURNALISTS NOTE-BOOK

By Frank Frankfort Moore

Author of “Forbid the Banns,” “Daireen,’” “A Gray Eye or So,” etc.

London: Hutchins On And Co., Paternoster Row

1894

[Illustration: 0001]

[Illustration: 0008]

[Illustration: 0009]



CHAPTER I.--PAST AND PRESENT.


_Odd lots of journalism--Respectability and its relation to
journalism--The abuse of the journal--The laudation of the
journalist--Abuse the consequence of popularity--Popularity the
consequence of abuse--Drain-work and grey hairs--“Don’t neglect
your reading for the sake of reviewing”--Reading for pleasure or
to criticise--Literature--Deterioration--The Civil List Pension--In
exchange for a soul._


SOME years ago there was an auction of wine at a country-house in
Scotland, the late owner of which had taken pains to gain a reputation
for judgment in the matter of wine-selecting. He had all his life been
nearly as intemperate as a temperance orator in his denunciation of
whisky as a drink, hoping to inculcate a taste for vintage clarets upon
the Scots; but he that tells the tale--it is not a new one--says that
the man died without seriously jeopardizing the popularity of the
native manufacture. The wines that he had laid down brought good prices,
however; but, at the close of the sale, several odd lots were “put
up,” and all were bought by a local publican. A gentleman who had been
present called upon the publican a few days afterwards, and found
him engaged in mixing into one huge cask all the “lots” that he had
bought--Larose, Johannisberg, Château Coutet.

“Hallo,” said the visitor, “what’s this mixture going to be, Rabbie?”

“Weel, sir,” said the publican, looking with one eye into the cask and
mechanically giving the contents a stir with a bottle of Sauterne which
he had just uncorked--“Weel, sir, I think it should be port, but I’m no
sure.”

These odd lots of journalistic experiences and recollections may be
considered a book, “but I’m no sure.”

*****

After all, “a book’s a book although”--it’s written by a journalist.
Nearly every writer of books nowadays becomes a journalist when he has
written a sufficient number. He is usually encouraged in this direction
by his publishers.

“You’re a literary man, are you not?” a stranger said to a friend of
mine.

“On the contrary, I’m a journalist,” was the reply.

“Oh, I beg your pardon, I’m sure,” said the inquirer, detecting a
certain indignant note in the disclaimer. “I beg your pardon. What a
fool I was to ask you such a question!”

“I hope he wasn’t hurt,” he added in an anxious voice when we were
alone. “It was a foolish question; I might have known that he was a
journalist, _he looked so respectable_.”

We are all respectable nowadays. We belong to a recognised profession.
We may pronounce our opinions on all questions of art, taste, religion,
morals, and even finance, with some degree of diffidence: we are at
present merely practising our scales, so to speak, upon our various
“organs,” but there is every reason to believe that confidence will come
in due time. Are not our ranks being recruited from Oxford? Some years
ago men drifted into journalism; now it is looked on as a vocation.
Journalism is taken seriously. In a word, we are respectable. Have
we not been entertained by the Lord Mayor of London? Have we not
entertained Monsieur Emile Zola?

*****

People have ceased to abuse us as they once did with great freedom: they
merely abuse the journals which support us. This is a healthy sign; for
it may be taken for granted that people will invariably abuse the paper
for which they subscribe. They do not seem to feel that they get the
worth of their subscription unless they do so. It is the same principle
that causes people to sneer at a dinner at which they have been
entertained. If we are not permitted to abuse our host, whom may we
abuse? The one thing that a man abuses more than to-day’s paper is the
negligence of the boy who omits to deliver it some morning. Only in one
town where I lived did I find that a newspaper was popular. (It was
not the one for which I wrote.) The fathers and mothers taught their
children to pray, “God bless papa, mamma, and the editor of the
_Clackmannan Standard_.”

I met that editor some years afterwards. He celebrated a sort of
impromptu Comminution Service against the people amongst whom he
had lived. They had never paid for their subscriptions or their
advertisements, and they had thus lowered the _Standard_ of Clackmannan
and of the editor’s confidence in his fellow-men.

*****

The only newspaper that is in a hopeless condition is the one which is
neither blessed at all nor cursed at all. Such a newspaper appeals to no
section of the public. It has always seemed to me a matter of question
whether a man is better satisfied with a paper that reflects (so far
as it is possible for a paper to do so) his own views, or with one that
reflects the views that he most abhors. I am inclined to believe that
a man is in a better humour with those of his fellow-men whom he has
thoroughly abused, than with the one whom he greets every morning on the
top of his omnibus.

It is quite a simple matter to abuse a newspaper into popularity. One
of the Georges whose biographies have been so pleasantly and touchingly
written by Thackeray and Mr. Justin M’Carthy, conferred a lasting
popularity upon the man whom he told to get out of his way or he would
kick him out of it.

The moral of this is, that to be insulted by a monarch confers a greater
distinction upon a man living in Clapham or even Brixton than to be
treated courteously by a greengrocer.

*****

But though people continue to abuse the paper for which they subscribe,
and for which they are usually some year or two in arrears in the matter
of payment, still it appears to me that the public are slowly beginning
to comprehend that newspapers are written (mostly) by journalists.
Until recently there was, I think, a notion that journalists sat round
a bar-parlour telling stories and drinking whisky and water while the
newspapers were being produced. The fact is, that most of the surviving
anecdotes of the journalists of a past generation smell of the
bar-parlour. The practical jesters of the fifties and the punsters
of the roaring forties were tap-room journalists. They died hard.
The journalists of to-day do not even smile at those brilliant
sallies--bequeathed by a past generation--about wearing frock-coats and
evening dress, about writing notices of plays without stirring from the
taproom, about the mixing up of criticisms of books with police-court
reports. Such were the humours of journalism thirty or forty years ago.
We have formed different ideas as to the elements of humour in these
days. Whatever we may leave undone it is not our legitimate work.

*****

It was when journalism was in a state of transition that a youth,
waiting on a railway platform, was addressed by a stranger (one of those
men who endeavour to make religious zeal a cloak for impertinence)--“My
dear young friend, are you a Christian?”

“No,” said the youth, “I’m a reporter on the _Camberwell Chronicle_.”

On the other hand, it was a very modern journalist whose room was
invaded by a number of pretty little girls one day, just to keep him
company and chat with him for an hour or so, as it was the day his
paper--a weekly one--went to press. In order to get rid of them, he
presented each of them with a copy of a little book which he had just
published, writing on the flyleaf, “With the author’s compliments.” Just
as the girls were going away, one of them spied a neatly bound Oxford
Bible that was lying on the desk for editorial notice.

“I should so much like that,” she cried, pouncing upon it.

“Then you shall have it, my dear, if you clear off immediately,” said
the editor; and, turning up the flyleaf, he wrote hastily on it, “_With
the author’s compliments_.”

Yes, he was a modern journalist, and took a reasonable view of the
authoritative nature of his calling.

*****

Our position is, I affirm, becoming recognised by the world; but now and
again I am made to feel that such recognition does not invariably extend
to all the members of our profession. Some years ago I was getting my
hair cut in Regent Street, and, as usual, the practitioner remarked in a
friendly way that I was getting very grey.

“Yes,” I said, “I’ve been getting a grey hair or so for some time. I
don’t know how it is. I’m not much over thirty.” (I repeat that the
incident occurred some years ago.)

“No, sir, you’re not what might be called old,” said he indulgently.
“Maybe you’re doing some brain-work?” he suggested, after a pause.

“Brain-work?” said I. “Oh no! I work for a daily paper, and usually
write a column of leading articles every night. I produce a book a year,
and a play every now and again. But brain-work--oh no!”

“Oh, in that case, sir, it must be due to something else. Maybe you
drink a bit, sir.”

I did not buy the bottle which he offered me at four-and-nine. I left
the shop dissatisfied.

This is why I hesitate to affirm that modern journalism is wholly
understanded of the people.

But for that matter it is not wholly understanded of the people who
might be expected to know something about it. The proprietor of a
newspaper on which I worked some years ago made use of me one day to
translate a few lines of Greek which appeared on the back of an old
print in his possession. My powers amazed him. The lines were from an
obscure and little-known poem called the “Odyssey.”

“You must read a great deal, my boy,” said he.

I shook my head.

“The fact is,” said I, “I’ve lately had so much reviewing to do that I
haven’t been able to read a single book.”

“That’s too hard on you,” said he gravely. “Get some of the others of
the staff to help you. You mustn’t neglect your reading for the sake of
reviewing.”

I didn’t.

Upon another occasion the son of this gentleman left a message for
me that he had taken a three-volume novel, the name of which he had
forgotten, from a parcel of books that had arrived the previous day,
but that he would like a review of it to appear the next morning, as his
wife said it was a capital story.

He was quite annoyed when the review did not appear.

*****

But there are, I have reason to know, many people who have got no more
modern ideas respecting that branch of journalism known as reviewing.

“Are you reading that book for pleasure or to criticise it?” I was asked
not so long ago by a young woman who ought to have known better. “Oh, I
forgot,” she added, before I could think of anything sharp to say by way
of reply--“I forgot: if you meant to review it you wouldn’t read it.”

I thought of the sharp reply two days later.

So it is, I say, that some of the people who read what we write from
day to day, have still got only the vaguest notions of how our work is
turned out.

Long ago I used to wish that the reviewers would only read the books I
wrote before criticising them; but now my dearest wish is that they will
review them (favourably) without reading them.

*****

I heard some time ago of a Scot who, full of that brave sturdy spirit
of self-reliance which is the precious endowment of the race of North
Britons, came up to London to fight his way in the ranks of literature.
The grand inflexible independence of the man asserted itself with such
obstinacy that he was granted a Civil List Pension; and while in receipt
of this form of out-door relief for poets who cannot sell their poetry,
he began a series of attacks upon literature as a trade, and gave to the
world an autobiography in a sentence, by declaring that literature and
deterioration go hand in hand.

This was surely a very nasty thing for the sturdy Scotchman, who had
attained to the honourable independence of the national almshouse,
to say, just as people were beginning to look on literature as a
profession.

But then he sat down and forthwith reeled off a string of doggerel
verses, headed “The Dismal Throng.” In this fourth-form satirical
jingle he abused some of the ablest of modern literary men for taking a
pessimistic view of life. Now, who on earth can blame literary men for
feeling a trifle dismal if what the independent pensioner says is true,
and success in literature can only be obtained in exchange for a
soul? The man who takes the most pessimistic view of the profession of
literature should be the last to sneer at a literary man looking sadly
on life.



CHAPTER II.--THE OLD SCHOOL.


_The frock-coat and muffler journalist--A doomed race--One of the
specimens--A masterpiece---“Stilt your friend”--A jaunty emigrant--A
thirsty knave--His one rival--Three crops--His destination--“The
New Grub Street”--A courteous friend--Free lodgings--The foreign
guest--Outside the hall door--The youth who found things--His ring--His
watch--The fruits of modesty--Not to be imitated--A question for
Sherlock Holmes--The liberty of the press--Deadheads._


I HAVE come in contact with many journalists of the old school--the
frock-coat and muffler type. The first of the class whom I met was for
a few months a reporter on a newspaper in Ireland with which I was
connected. He had at one time been a soldier, and had deserted. I tried,
though I was only a boy, to get some information from him that I might
use afterwards, for I recognised his value as the representative of a
race that was, I felt, certain to become extinct. I talked to him as
I talked--with the aid of an interpreter--to a Botjesman in the South
African veldt: I wanted to learn something about the habits of a doomed
type. I succeeded in some measure.

The result of my researches into the nature of both savages was to
convince me that they were born liars. The reporter carried a pair
of stage whiskers and a beard with him when sent to do any work in a
country district; the fact being that the members of the Royal Irish
Constabulary in the country barracks are the most earnest students
of the paper known as _Hue and Cry_, and the man said that, as his
description appeared in every number of that organ, he should most
certainly be identified by a smart country policeman if he did not wear
a disguise. Years afterwards I got a letter from him from one of her
Majesty’s gaols. He wanted the loan of some money and the gift of a hat.

This man wrote shorthand admirably, and an excellent newspaper English.

*****

Another specimen of the race had actually attained to the dizzy eminence
of editor of a fourth-class newspaper in a town of one hundred thousand
inhabitants. In those days Mr. Craven Robertson was the provincial
representative of Captain Hawtree in _Caste_, and upon the Captain
Hawtree of Craven Robertson this “journalist” founded his style. He
wore an eyeglass, a moustache with waxed ends, and a frock coat very
carefully brushed. His hair was thin on the top--but he made the most of
it. He was the sort of man whom one occasionally meets on the Promenade
at Nice, wearing a number of orders on the breast of his coat--the order
of Il Bacio di St. Judæus, the scarlet riband of Ste. Rahab di Jericho,
the Brazen Lyre of SS. Ananias and Sapphira. He was the sort of man whom
one styles “Chevalier” by instinct. He was the most plausible knave in
the world, though how people allowed him to cheat them was a mystery to
me. His masterpiece of impudence I have always considered to be a letter
which he wrote to a brother-editor, from whom he had borrowed a sum of
money, to be repaid on the first of the next month. When the appointed
day came he chanced to meet this editor-creditor in the street, and
asking him, with a smile as if he had been on the lookout for him, to
step into the nearest shop, he called for a sheet of paper and a pen,
and immediately wrote an order to the cashier of his paper to pay Mr. G.
the sum of five pounds.

“There you are, my dear sir,” said he. “Just send a clerk round to our
office and hand that to the cashier. Meantime accept my hearty thanks
for the accommodation.”

Mr. G. lost no time in presenting the order; but, as might have been
expected, it was dishonoured by the cashier, who declared that the
editor was already eight months in advance in drawing his salary. Mr. G.
hastened back to his own office and forthwith wrote a letter of furious
upbraidings, in which I have good reason to suspect he expressed
his views of the conduct of his debtor, and threatened to “take
proceedings,” as the grammar of the law has it, for the recovery of his
money.

The next day Mr. G. received back his own letter unopened, but inside
the cover that enclosed it to him was the following:--

“My dear Mr. G.,--

“You may perhaps be surprised to receive your letter with the seal
unbroken, but when you come to reflect calmly over the unfortunate
incident of your sending it to me, I am sure that you will no longer be
surprised. I am persuaded that you wrote it to me on the impulse of
the moment, otherwise it would not contain the strong language which,
I think I may assume, constitutes the major portion of its contents.
Knowing your natural kindness of disposition, and feeling assured that
in after years the consciousness of having written such a letter to me
would cause you many a pang in your secret moments, I am anxious that
you should be spared much self-reproach, and consequently return your
letter unopened. You will, I am certain, perceive that in adopting this
course I am acting for the best. Do not follow the next impulse of your
heart and ask my forgiveness. I have really nothing to forgive, not
having read your letter.

“With kindest regards, I remain

“Still your friend

“A. Swinne Dell.”

If this transaction does not represent the high-water mark of
knavery--if it does not show something akin to genius in an art that has
many exponents, I scarcely know where one should look for evidence in
this direction.

Five years after the disappearance of Mr. A. Swinne Dell from the scene
of this _coup_ of his, I caught a glimpse of him among the steerage
passengers aboard a steamer that called at Madeira when I was spending
a holiday at that lovely island. His frock-coat was giving signs (about
the collar) of wear, and also (under the arms) of tear. I could not see
his boots, but I felt sure that they were down at the heel. Still,
he held his head jauntily as he pointed out to a fellow-passenger the
natural charms of the landscape above Funchal.

Another of the old school who pursued a career of knavery by the light
of the sacred lamp of journalism was, I regret to say, an Irishman. His
powers of absorbing drink were practically unlimited. I never knew but
one rival to him in this way, and that was when I was in South Africa.
We had left our waggon, and were crouching in most uncomfortable
postures behind a mighty cactus on the bank of a river, waiting for the
chance of potting a gemsbok that might come to drink. Instead of the
graceful gemsbok there came down to the water a huge hippopotamus. He
had clearly been having a good time among the native mealies, and had
come for some liquid refreshment before returning to his feast. He did
not plunge into the water, but simply put his head down to it and began
to drink. After five minutes or so we noticed an appreciable fall in the
river. After a quarter of an hour great rocks in the river-bed began to
be disclosed. At the end of twenty minutes the broad stream had dwindled
away to a mere trickle of water among the stones. At the end of half an
hour we began to think that he had had as much as was good for him--we
wanted a kettleful of water for our tea--so I put an elephant cartridge
[‘577) into my rifle and aimed at the brute’s eye. He lifted up his head
out of pure curiosity, and perceiving that men with rifles were handy,
slouched off, grumbling like a professional agitator on being turned out
of a public house.

That hippopotamus was the only rival I ever knew to the old-school
journalist whose ways I can recall--only he was never known to taste
water. Like the man in one of H. J. Byron’s plays, he could absorb any
“given”--I use the word advisedly--any given quantity of liquor.

“Are you ever sober, my man?” I asked of him one day.

“I’m sober three times a day,” he replied huskily. “I’m sober now. This
is one of the times,” he added mournfully.

“You were blind drunk this morning--I can swear to that,” said I.

“Oh, yes,” he replied promptly. “But what’se good of raking up the past,
sir? Let the dead past burits dead.” He took a step or two toward the
door, and then returned. He carefully brushed a speck of dust off the
rim of his hat. All such men wear the tallest of silk hats, and seem to
feel that they would be scandalised by the appearance of a speck of dust
on the nap. “D’ye know that I can take three crops out of myself in the
day?” he inquired blandly.

“Three crops?”

“Three crops--I said so, of drunk. I rise in morn’n,--drunk before
twelve; sleep it off by two, and drunk again by five; sleep it off by
eight--do my work and go to bed drunk at two a.m. You haven’t such a
thing as half-a-crown about you, sir? I left my purse on the grand piano
before I came out.”

I was under the impression that this particular man was dead years ago;
and I was thus greatly surprised when, on jumping on a tramcar in a
manufacturing town in Yorkshire quite recently, I recognised my old
friend in a man who had just awakened in a corner, and was endeavouring
to attract the attention of the conductor. When, after much incipient
whistling and waving of his arms, he succeeded in drawing the conductor
to his side, he inquired if the car was anywhere near the Wilfrid Lawson
Temperance Hotel.

“I’ll let you down when we come to it,” said the conductor.

“Do,” said the other in his old husky tones.

“Lemme down at the Wellfed Laws Tenpence Otell.”

In another minute he was fast asleep as before.

*****

At present no penal consequences follow any one who calls himself a
literary man. It is taken for granted, I suppose, that the crime brings
its own punishment.

One of the most depressing books that any one straying through the
King’s Highway of literature could read is Mr. George Gissing’s “The New
Grub Street.” What makes it all the more depressing is the fact of its
carrying conviction with it to all readers. Every one must feel that
the squalor described in this book has a real existence. The only
consolation that any one engaged in a branch of literature can have on
reading “The New Grub Street,” comes from the reflection that not one of
the poor wretches described in its pages had the least aptitude for the
business.

In a town of moderate size in which I lived, there were forty men and
women who described themselves for directory purposes as “novelists.”
 Not one of them had ever published a volume; but still they all
believed themselves to be novelists. There are thousands of men who
call themselves journalists even now, but who are utterly incapable of
writing a decent “par.” I have known many such men. The most incompetent
invariably become dissatisfied with life in the provinces, and hurry
off to London, having previously borrowed their train fare. I constantly
stumble upon provincial failures in London. Sometimes on the Embankment
I literally stumble upon them, for I have found them lying in shady
nooks there trying to forget the world’s neglect in sleep.

Why on earth such men take to journalism has always been a mystery to
me. If they had the least aptitude for it they would be earning money by
journalism instead of trying to borrow half-crowns as journalists.

*****

I knew of one who, several years ago, migrated to London. For a long
time I heard nothing about him; but one night a friend of mine mentioned
his name, and asked me if I had ever known him.

“The fact is,” said he, “I had rather a curious experience of him a few
months ago.”

“You were by no means an exception to the general run of people who have
ever come in contact with him,” said I. “What was your experience?”

“Well,” replied he, “I came across him casually one night, and as he
seemed inclined to walk in my direction, I asked him if he would mind
coming on to my lodgings to have a bottle of beer. He found that his
engagements for the night permitted of his doing so, and we strolled
on together. I found that there was supper enough for two adults in
the locker, and our friend found that his engagements permitted of his
taking a share in the humble repast. He took fully his share of the
beer, and then I offered him a pipe, and stirred up the fire.

“We talked until two o’clock in the morning, and, as he told me he
lived about five miles away--he didn’t seem quite sure whether it was
at Hornsey or Clapham--I said he could not do better than occupy a spare
truckle that was in my bedroom. He said he thought that I was right, and
we retired. We breakfasted together in the morning, and then we walked
into Fleet Street, where we parted. That night he overtook me on my way
to my lodgings, and in the friendliest manner possible accompanied me
thither. Here the programme of the night before was repeated. The third
night I quite expected to be overtaken by him; but I was mistaken. I was
not overtaken by him: he was sitting in my lodgings waiting for me.
He gave me a most cordial welcome--I will say that for him. The night
following I had a sort of instinct that I should find him waiting for me
again in my sitting-room. Once more I was mistaken. He was not waiting
for me; he had already eaten his supper--_my supper_, and had gone to
bed--_my bed_; but with his usual thoughtfulness, he had left a short
note for me upbraiding me, but in a genial and quite a gentlemanly way,
for staying out so late, and begging me not to awake him, as he was very
tired, and--also genially--inquiring if it was absolutely necessary
for me to make such a row in my bath in the mornings. He was a light
sleeper, he said, and a little noise disturbed him. I did not awake him;
but the next morning I was distinctly cool towards him. I remarked that
I thought it unlikely that I should be at home that night. He begged
of me not to allow him to interfere with my plans. When I returned that
night, I found him sitting at my table playing cards with a bleareyed
foreigner, whom he courteously introduced as his friend Herr Vanderbosch
or something.

“‘Draw your chair to the table, old chap, and join in with us. I’ll see
that you get something to drink in a minute,’ said he.

“I thanked him, but remarked that I had a conscientious objection to all
games of cards.

“‘Soh?’ said the foreigner. ‘Das is yust var yo makes ze mistook. Ze
game of ze gards it is grand--soblime!’

“He added a few well-chosen sentences about sturm und drang or
something; and in about five minutes I found myself getting a complete
slanging for my narrow-minded prejudices, and for my attempt to curtail
the innocent recreation of others. I will say this for our friend,
however: he never for a moment allowed our little difference on what was
after all a purely academic question, to interfere with his display of
hospitality to myself and Herr Vanderbosch. He filled our tumblers, and
was lavish with the tobacco jar. When I rose to go to bed he called me
aside, and said he had made arrangements for me to sleep in the truckle
for the night, in order to admit of his occupying my bed with Herr
Vanderbosch--the poor devil, he explained to me with many deprecating
nods, had not, he feared, any place to sleep that night. But at this
point I turned. I assured him that I was constitutionally unfitted for
sleeping in a truckle, or, in fact, in any bed but my own.

“‘All right,’ he cried in a huff, ‘I’ll sleep in the truckle, and I’ll
make up a good fire for him to sleep before on the sofa.’

“Well, we all breakfasted together, and the next night the two gentlemen
appeared once more at the door of the house. They were walking in as
usual, when the landlady asked them where they were going.

“‘Why, upstairs, to be sure,’ said our friend. “‘Oh no!’ said the
landlady, ‘you’re not doing that. Mr. Plantagenet has left his rooms
and gone to the country for a month--maybe two--and the rooms is let
to another gent.’ “Well, our friend swore that he had been treated
infernally, and Herr Vanderbosch alluded to me as a schweinhund--I heard
him. I fancy the word must be a term of considerable opprobrium in the
German tongue. Anyhow, they didn’t get past the landlady,--she takes a
large size in doors,--and after a while our friend’s menaces dwindled
down to a request to be permitted to remove his luggage.

“‘I’ll bring it down to you,’ said the landlady; and she shut the hall
door very gently, leaving them on the step outside. When she brought
down the luggage--it consisted of three paper collars and one cuff with
a fine carbuncle stud in it--they were gone.

“Our friend told some one the other day of the disgraceful way I had
treated him and his foreign associate. But he says he would not have
minded so much if the landlady had not shut the door so gently.”

*****

Another remarkable pressman with whom I came in contact several years
ago was a member of the reporting staff of an Irish newspaper. One day I
noticed him wearing what appeared to me to be an extremely fine ring.
It was set with an antique polished intaglio surrounded by diamonds. The
ring was probably unique, and would be worth perhaps £70 to a collector.
I have seen very inferior mediaeval intaglios sold for that sum. I
examined the diamonds with a lens, and then inquired of the youth where
he had bought it, and if he was anything of a collector.

“I picked it up going home one wet night,” he replied. “I advertised for
the owner in all the papers for a week--it cost me thirty shillings in
that way,--but no one ever came forward to claim it. I would gladly have
sold the thing for thirty shillings at the end of a month; but then I
found that it was worth close upon a hundred pounds.”

“You’re the luckiest chap I ever met,” said I.

In the course of a short time another of the reporters asked me if I had
ever seen the watch that the same youth habitually wore. I replied that
I had never seen it, but should like to do so. The same night I was
in the reporters’ room, when the one who had mentioned the watch to me
asked the wearer of the article if ten o’clock had yet struck. The youth
forthwith drew out of his pocket one of the most charming little watches
I ever saw. The back was Italian enamel on gold, both outside and
within, and the outer case was bordered with forty-five rubies. A black
pearl about the size of a pea was at the bow, right round the edge of
the case were diamonds, and in the rim for the glass were twenty-five
rubies and four stones which I fancied at a casual glance were pale
sapphires. I examined these stones with my magnifier, and I thought I
should have fainted when I found that they were blue diamonds.

                   “Le Temps est pour l’Homme,

                   L’Eternité est pour l’Amour”

was the inscription which I managed to make out on the dial.

I handed back the watch to the reporter--his salary was £120 per
annum--and inquired if he had found this article also.

“Yes,” he said, with a laugh. “I picked that up, curiously enough,
during a trip that I once made to the Scilly Islands. I advertised it in
the Plymouth papers the next day, for I believed it to have been dropped
by some wealthy tourist; but I got no applicant for it; and then I came
to the conclusion that the watch had been among the treasures of some of
the descendants of the smugglers and wreckers of the old days. It keeps
good enough time now, though a watchmaker valued the works at five
shillings.”

“Any time you want a hundred pounds--a hundred and fifty pounds,” said
I, “don’t hesitate to bring that watch to me. Have you found many other
articles in the course of your life?” I asked, as I was leaving the
room.

“Lots,” he replied. “When I was in Liverpool I lived about two miles
from my office, and through getting into a habit of keeping my eyes
on the ground, I used to come across something almost every week.
Unfortunately, most of my finds were claimed by the owners.”

“You have no reason to complain,” said I.

I was set thinking if there might not be the potentialities of wealth in
the art of walking with one’s eyes modestly directed to the ground; and
for three nights I was actually idiot enough to walk home from my
office with looks, not “commercing with the skies,” but--it was purely
a question of commerce--with the pavements. The first night I nearly
transfixed a policeman with my umbrella, for the rain was coming down
in torrents; the second, I got my hat knocked into the mud by coming in
contact with the branch of a tree overhanging the railings of a square,
and the third I received the impact of a large-boned tipsy man, who was,
as the idiom of the country has it, trying to walk on both sides of the
road at once.

I held up my head in future.

The reporter left the newspaper in the course of a few months, and I
never saw him again. But quite recently I was reading Miss Dougall’s
novel “Beggars All,” and when I came upon the account of the reporter
who carries out several adroit schemes of burglary, the recollection of
the remarkable “finds” of the young man whose ring and watch had
excited my envy, flashed across my mind; and I began to wonder if it
was possible that he had pursued a similar course to that which Miss
Dougall’s hero found so profitable. I should like to consult Mr.
Sherlock Holmes on this point when he returns from Switzerland--we
expect him every day.

At any rate, it is certain that the calling of a reporter would afford
many opportunities to a clever burglar, or even an adroit pickpocket.
A reporter can take his walks abroad at any hour of the night without
exciting the suspicion of a policeman; or, should such suspicion be
aroused, he has only to say “Press,” and he may go anywhere he pleases.
The Press rush in where the public dare not tread; and no one need be
surprised if some day a professional burglar takes to stenography as an
auxiliary to the realisation of his illegitimate aims.

*****

One of the countless St. Peter stories has this privilege of the Press
for its subject, and a reporter for its hero. This gentleman was walking
jauntily through the gate of him “who keeps the keys,” but was stopped
by the stern janitor, who inquired if he had a ticket.

“Press,” said the reporter, trying to pass.

“What do you mean by that? You know you can’t be admitted anywhere
without a ticket.”

“I tell you that I belong to the Press; you don’t expect a reporter to
pay, do you?”

“Why not? Why shouldn’t you be treated the same as the rest of the
people? I can’t make flesh of one and fish of another,” added St. Peter,
as if a professional reminiscence had occurred to him.

The reporter suddenly brightened up. “I don’t want exceptional
treatment,” said he. “Now that I come to think of it, aren’t they all
_deadheads_ who come here?”

I fancy that reporter was admitted.



CHAPTER III.--THE EDITOR OF THE PAST.


_Proprietary rights--Proprietary wrongs--Exclusive rights--The
“leaders” of a party--The fossil editor--The man and the dog and the
boar--An unpublished history--The newspaper hoax--A premature obituary
notice--The accommodating surgeon--A matter of business--The death of
Mr. Robinson--The quid pro quo_’.

IT is only within the past few years that the Editor has obtained
public recognition as a personality; previously his personality was
merged in the proprietor, and when his efforts were successful in
keeping a Corporation from making fools of themselves--this is assuming
an extreme case of success--or in exposing some attempted fraud that
would have ruined thousands of people, he was compelled to accept his
reward through the person of the proprietor. The proprietor was made
a J.P., and sometimes even became Mayor or Chairman of the Board of
Guardians, when the editor succeeded in making the paper a power in the
county. Latterly, however, the editors of some provincial journals have
been obtaining recognition.

They have been granted the dubious honour of knighthood; and the public
have discovered that the brains which have dictated a policy that
has influenced the destinies of a Ministry, may be entrusted with the
consideration of sewage and main drainage questions on a Town Council,
or with the question of the relative degrees of culpability of a man who
jumps upon his wife’s face and is fined ten shillings, and the boy
who steals a raw turnip and is sent to a reformatory for five years--a
period quite insufficient for the adequate digestion of that comestible,
which it would appear boys are ready to sacrifice years of their liberty
to obtain.

I must say that, with one exception, the proprietors whom I have met
were highly competent business men--men whose judgment and public
spirit were deserving of that wide recognition which they nearly
always obtained from their fellow-citizens. One, and one only, was not
precisely of this type. He used to write with a blue pencil across an
article some very funny comments.

I have before me at this moment a letter in which he asked me to
abbreviate something; and he gave me an example of how to do it by
cutting out a letter of the word--he spelt it _abrievate_.

He had a perfect passion for what he called “exclusives.” The most
trivial incident--the overturning of a costermonger’s barrow, and the
number of the contents sustaining fatal injuries; the blowing off of
a clergyman’s hat in the street, with a professional opinion as to the
damage done; the breaking of a window in a private house--he regarded as
good foundation for an “exclusive”; and indeed it must be said that the
information given to the public by the organ of which he was proprietor
was rarely ever to be found in a rival paper. At the same time, upon
no occasion of his obtaining a really important piece of news did he
succeed in keeping it from the others. This annoyed him extremely He was
in great demand as chairman of amateur reciting classes--a distinction
that was certainly dearly purchased. I never knew of one of these
reciting entertainments being refused a full report in his newspaper
upon any occasion when he presided. He also aspired to the chairmanship
of small political meetings, and once when he found himself in such a
position, he said he would sing the audience a song, and he carried out
his threat. His song was probably more convincing than his speech would
have been. He had a famous story for platform use. It concerned a donkey
that he knew when they were both young.

He said it made people laugh, and it surely did. At a public dinner he
formulated the plausible theory that to be a good player of golf was to
be a gentleman. He was a poor golfer himself.

*****

Now, regarding London editors I have not much to say. I am not
personally acquainted with any one of them. But for twelve years I
read every political article that appeared in each of the six principal
London daily papers; I also read a report of every speech made in the
House of Commons, and of every speech made by a statesman of Cabinet
rank outside Parliament; and I am prepared to say that the great
majority of these speeches bore the most unmistakable evidence of
being--well, not exactly inspired by, but certainly influenced by some
leading article. In one word, my experience is that what the newspapers
say in the morning the statesmen say in the evening.

Of course Mr. Gladstone must not be included in the statesmen to whom
I refer. His inspiration comes from another direction. That is how he
succeeds in startling so many people.

The majority of provincial editors include, I have good reason to know,
some of the best men in the profession. Only here and there does one
meet with a fossil of journalism who is content to write a column of
platitudes over a churchwarden pipe and then to go home to sleep.

With only one such did I come in contact recently. He was connected with
a newspaper which should have had unbounded influence in its district,
but which had absolutely none. The “editor” was accustomed to enter his
room about noon, and he left it between seven and eight in the evening,
having turned out a column of matter of which he was an earnest reader
the next morning. And yet this same newspaper received during the night
sometimes twelve columns of telegraphic news and verbatim reports of the
chief speeches in Parliament.

The poor old gentleman had never been in London, and never could see
why I should be so constantly going to that city. He was under the
impression that George Eliot was a man, and he one day asked me what
the Royal Academy was. Having learned that it was a place where pictures
that richly deserved exposure were hung, he shortly afterwards
assumed that the French Academy was a gallery in which naughty French
pictures--he assumed that everything French was naughty--were exhibited.
He occasionally referred to the _Temps_ phonetically, and up to the
day of his death he never knew why I laughed when I first heard his
pronunciation of the name of that organ.

The one dread of his life was that I might some time inadvertently
suggest that I was the editor of the paper. As if any sane human being
would have such an aspiration! His opportunity came at last. A cabinet
photograph of a man and a dog arrived at the office one day addressed
to the editor. He hastened to the proprietor and “proved” that the
photograph represented me and my dog, and that it had been addressed “to
the editor.” The proprietor was not clever enough to perceive that
the features of the portrait in no way resembled those with which I
am obliged to put up, and so I ran a chance of being branded as a
pretender.

Fortunately, however, the fascinating little daughter of the proprietary
household contrived to see the photograph, and on being questioned as
to its likeness to a member of the staff, declared that there was no one
half so goodlooking connected with the paper. On being assured that the
original had already been identified, she expressed her willingness to
stake five pounds upon her opinion; and the injured editor accepted her
offer.

Now, all this time I had never been applied to by the disputants, though
I might have been expected to know something of the matter,--people
generally remember a visit to their photographer or their
stockbroker,--but just as the young lady was about to appeal to me as
an unprejudiced arbiter on the question at issue, the manager of the
advertisement department sent to inquire if any one on the editorial
staff had come upon a photograph of a man and a collie. An advertisement
for a lost collie had, he said, been appearing in the paper, and a
postcard had just been received from the owner stating that he had
forwarded a photograph of the animal, in order that, should any one
bring a collie to the office and claim the reward, the advertising
department would be in a position to see that the animal was the right
one.

The young lady got her five pounds, and, having a considerable interest
in the stocking of a farm, purchased with it an active young boar which,
in an impulse of flattery, she named after me, and which, so far as I
have been able to gather, is doing very well, and has already seen his
children’s children.

When I asked the young lady why she had called the animal after me, she
said it was because he was a bore. She had a graceful wit.

In a weak moment this editor confided to me that he was engaged in
writing a book--“A History of the Orange” was to be the title, he told
me; and he added that I could have no idea of the trouble it was causing
him; but there he was wrong. After this he was in the habit of writing
a note to me about once a week, asking me if I would oblige him by doing
his work for him, as all his time was engrossed by his “History.”
 It appears to me rather melancholy that the lack of enterprise among
publishers is so great that this work has not yet been given a chance
of appearing. I looked forward to it to clear up many doubtful points of
great interest. Up to the present, for instance, no intelligent effort
has been made to determine if it was the introduction of the orange
into Great Britain that brought about the Sunday-school treat, or if the
orange was imported in order to meet the legitimate requirements of this
entertainment.

*****

Human nature---and there is a good deal of it in a large manufacturing
centre--could not be restrained in the neighbourhood of such a relic of
a past generation, and, consequently, that form of pleasantry known
as the hoax was constantly attempted upon him. One morning the
correspondence columns, which he was supposed to edit with scrupulous
care, appeared headed with an account of the discovery of some ancient
pottery bearing a Latin inscription--the most venerable and certainly
the most transparent of newspaper hoaxes.

It need scarcely be said that there was an extraordinary demand for
copies of the issue of that day; but luckily the thing was discovered
in time to disappoint a large number of those persons who came to the
office to mock at the simplicity of the good old soul, who fancied he
had found a congenial topic when he received the letter headed with an
appeal to archæologists.

Is there a more contemptible creature in the world than the newspaper
hoaxer? The wretch who can see fun in obtaining the publication of some
filthy phrase in a newspaper that is certain to be read by numbers of
women, should, in my mind, be treated as the flinger of a dynamite bomb
among a crowd of innocent people. The sender of a false notice of a
marriage, a birth, or a death, is usually difficult to bring to justice,
but when found, he--or she--should be treated as a social leper. The
pain caused by such heartless hoaxes is incalculable.

*****

Sometimes a careless reporter, or foreman printer, is unwittingly the
means of causing much annoyance, and even consternation, by allowing an
obituary notice to appear prematurely. On every well-managed paper there
is a set of pigeon-holed obituaries of eminent persons, local as well as
national. When it is almost certain that one of them is at the point of
death, the sketch is written up to the latest date, and frequently put
in type, to be ready in case the news of the death should arrive when
the paper is going to press. Now, I have known of several cases in which
the “set-up” obituary notice contrived to appear before the person
to whom it referred had breathed his last. This is undoubtedly a very
painful occurrence, and in some cases it may actually precipitate the
incident which it purports to record. Personally, I should not consider
myself called on to die because a newspaper happened to publish an
account of my death; but I know of at least one case in which a
man actually succumbed out of compliment to a newspaper that had
accidentally recorded his death.

That person was not made of the same fibre as a certain eminent surgeon
with whom I was well acquainted. He was thoughtful enough to send for
a reporter on one Monday evening, and said that as he did not wish
the pangs of death to be increased by the reflection that a ridiculous
sketch of his career would be published in the newspapers, he thought
he would just dictate three-quarters of a column of such a character
as would allow of his dying without anything on his mind. Of course the
reporter was delighted, and commenced as usual:--

“It is with the deepest regret that we have to announce this morning the
decease of one of our most eminent physicians, and best-known citizens.
Dr. Theobald Smith, M.Sc., F.R.C.S.E., passed peacefully away at o’clock
{last night/this morning} at his residence, Pharmakon House, surrounded
by the members of the family to whom he was so deeply attached, and to
whom, though a father, he was still a friend.”

“Now, sir,” said the reporter, “I’ve left a space for the hour, and I
can strike out either ‘last night,’ or ‘this morning,’ when I hear of
your death.”

“That’s right,” said the doctor. “Now, I’ll give you some particulars of
my life.”

“Thanks,” said the reporter. “You will not exceed three-quarters of a
column, for we’re greatly crushed for space just now. If you could put
it off till Sunday, I could give you a column with leads, as Parliament
doesn’t sit on Saturday.”

It seemed a tempting offer; but the doctor, after pondering for a few
moments, as if trying to recollect his engagements, shook his head, and
said he would be glad to oblige, but the matter had really passed beyond
his control.

“But there’ll surely be time for you to see a proof?” cried the
reporter, with some degree of anxiety in his voice.

“I’ll take good care of that,” said the doctor. “You can send it to me
in the morning. I think I’ll die between eleven and twelve at night.”

“That would suit us exactly,” said the reporter genially. “We could then
send the obituary away in the first page at one o’clock. The foreman
grumbles if he has to put obituaries on page 5, which goes down to the
machine at half-past three.”

The doctor said that of course business was business, and he should do
his best to accommodate the foreman.

He died that night at twenty minutes past eleven.

*****

I have suggested the possibility of the record of a death in a public
print having a disastrous effect upon a sick man, and the certainty
of its causing pain to his relatives. This view was not taken by the
eccentric proprietor to whom I have already alluded. Upon one occasion
he heard casually that a man named Robinson had just died. He hastened
to his office, found a reporter, and told him to write a paragraph
regretting the death of Mr. Richard Robinson. He assumed that it was
Richard Robinson who was dead, but it so happened that it was Mr. Thomas
Robinson, although Mr. Richard Robinson had been in feeble health for
some time. Now, when the son of the living Mr. Robinson called upon the
proprietor the next day to state that his father had read the paragraph
recording his death, and that the shock had completely prostrated him,
the proprietor turned round upon him, and said that Mr. Robinson and
his family should rather feel extremely grateful for the appearance of
a paragraph of so complimentary a character. Young Mr. Robinson, fearing
that the next move on the part of the proprietor would be to demand
payment for the paragraph at scale rates, begged that his intrusion
might be pardoned; and hurried away congratulating himself at having
escaped very easily.

*****

Editors are always supposed to know nearly everything, and they
nearly always do. In this respect they differ materially from the
representatives of other professions. If you were to ask the average
clergyman--if there is such a thing as an average clergyman--what he
thought of the dramatic construction of a French vaudeville, he would
probably feel hurt; but if an editor failed to give an intelligent
opinion on this subject, as well as upon the tendencies to Socinianism
displayed in the sermon of an eminent Churchman, he would be regarded
as unfit for his business. You can get an intelligent opinion from
an editor on almost any subject; but you are lucky if you can get an
intelligent opinion on any one subject from the average professional
man--a lawyer, of course, excepted.

But undoubtedly curious specimens of editors might occasionally have
been found in the smaller newspaper offices in the provinces long ago.
More than twenty years have passed since the sub-editor of a rather
important paper in a town in the Midlands interviewed, on a matter of
professional etiquette, the editor--he was an Irishman--of a struggling
organ in the same town.

It appeared that the chief reporter of the sub-editor’s paper had given
some paragraph of news to a brother on the second paper, and yet when
the latter was respectfully asked for an equivalent, he refused it;
hence the need for diplomatic representations.

“I say that our reporters must have a _quid pro quo_ in every case where
they have given a par. to yours,” said the sub-editor, who was entrusted
with the negotiations.

“Must have a what?” asked the Irish editor. “A _quid pro quo_,” said the
sub-editor. “Now I’ve come here for the _quid_ and I don’t mean to go
until I get it.”

The editor looked at him, then felt for something in his waistcoat
pocket. Producing a piece of that sort of tobacco known as Limerick
twist, he bit it in two, and offered one portion to the sub-editor,
saying, “There’s your quid for you; but, so help me Gad, I’ve only got
what you see in my mouth to last me till morning.”



CHAPTER IV.--THE UNATTACHED EDITOR.


_The “casual” word--The mighty hunter--The retort discourteous--How the
editor’s chair was broken--An explanation on a clove--The master of
a system--A hitch in the system--The two Alhambras--A parallel--The
unattached parson--Another system--A father’s legacy--The sermon--The
imagination and its claims--The evening service--Saying a few
words--Antique carved oak--How the chaplain’s doubts were dispersed--A
literary tinker--A tinker’s triumph--The two Joneses._


THE “scratch” editor also may now and again be found to possess
some eccentricities. He is the man who is taken on a newspaper in an
emergency to fill the place of an editor who may perhaps be suffering
from a serious illness, or who may, in an unguarded moment, have died.
There is a class of journalists with whom being out of employment
amounts almost to a profession in itself. But the “unattached” editor is
usually no more brilliant a man than the unattached gentleman “in holy
orders”--the clergyman who appears suddenly at the vestry door carrying
a black bag, and probably with his nose a little red (the result of a
cold railway journey), and who introduces himself to the sexton as ready
to do duty for the legitimate, but temporarily incapacitated, incumbent,
whose telegram he had received only the previous day.

As the congregation are glad to get any one who can read the prayers
with an air of authority in the absence of their pastor, so the
proprietors of a newspaper are sometimes pleased to welcome the
“scratch,” or casual, editor.

I have met with a few of the class, but never with one whose chronic
unattached condition I could not easily account for, before we had been
together long. Most of them hated journalism---and everything else
(with one important exception). All of them boasted of their feats as
journalists. A fine crusted specimen was accustomed to declare nightly
that he had once kept hunters; another that he had not always been
connected with such a miserable rag as the journal on which he was
temporarily employed.

“I’ve been on the best papers in the three kingdoms,” he shouted one
night.

“That’s only another way of saying that you’ve been kicked off the most
influential organs in the country,” remarked a bystander.

“If you don’t look out you’ll soon be kicked off another.”

No verbal retort is possible to such brutality of language. None was
attempted.

When I was explaining, the next day, to the proprietor how the chair in
the editor’s room came to be broken, and also how the silhouette of an
octopus came to be executed so boldly in ink upon the wall of the
same apartment, the “scratch” editor (his appellation had a double
significance this day) entered suddenly. He said he had come to explain
something.

Now when a literary gentleman appears with long strips of sticking
plaster loosely adhering to one side of his face, as white caterpillars
adhere to a garden wall, and when, moreover, the perfume that floats on
the air at his approach is that of a peppermint lozenge that has been
preserved from decay in alcohol, any explanation that he may offer
in regard to a preceding occurrence is likely to be received with
suspicion, if not with absolute distrust. In this case, however, no
opportunity was given the man for justifying any claim that he might
advance to be credited.

The proprietor assured him that he had already received an account of
the deplorable occurrence of the night before, and that he hoped mutual
apologies would be made in the course of the day, so that, in diplomatic
language, the incident might be considered closed before night.

The “scratch” man breathed again--heavily, alcoholically,
peppermintally. And before night I managed to sticking-plaster up a
peace between the belligerents.

At the end of a month some busybody outside the paper had the bad taste
to point out to the proprietor that one of the leading articles--the one
contributed by the “scratch” man--in a recent issue of the paper, was
to a word identical with one which had appeared a fortnight before in a
Scotch paper of some importance. The “scratch” man explained--on alcohol
and a clove--that the Scotch paper had copied his article. But the
proprietor expressed his grave doubts on this point, his chief reason
for adopting this course being that the Scotch paper with the article
had appeared ten days previously. Then the “scratch” man said the matter
was a singular, but by no means unprecedented, coincidence.

The proprietor opened the office door.

*****

One of the most interesting of these “casuals” had been a clergyman (he
said). I never was quite successful in finding out with what Church he
had been connected, nor, although pressed for a reply, would he ever
reveal to me how he came to find himself outside the pale of his
Church--whatever it was. He had undoubtedly some of the mannerisms of a
clergyman who is anxious that every one should know his profession, and
he could certainly look out of the corners of his eyes with the best of
them. Like the parson who is so very “low” that he steadily refuses to
cross his t’s lest he should be accused of adopting Romish emblems, he
declined to turn his head without moving his whole body.

He wore rusty cloth gloves.

He was also the most adroit thief whom I ever met; and I have lived
among some adroit ones in my time.

I never read such brilliant articles as he wrote nightly--never, until I
came upon the same articles in old files of the London newspapers, where
they had originally appeared. The original articles from which his were
copied _verbatim_ were, I admit, quite as brilliant as his.

His _modus operandi_ was simplicity itself. He kept in his desk a
series of large books for newspaper cuttings, and these were packed with
articles on all manner of subjects, clipped from the best newspapers.
Every day he spent an hour making these extracts, by the aid of a pot of
paste, and indexing them on the most perfect system of double entry that
could be conceived.

At night I frequently came down to my office and found that he had
written two columns of the most delightful essays. One might, perhaps,
be on the subject of Moresco-Gothic Architecture and its influence
on the genius of Velasquez, another on Battueshooting and the
Acclimatisation of the Bird of Paradise in English coverts; but both
were treated with equal grace. That such erudition and originality
should be associated with cloth gloves astonished me. One day, however,
the man wrote a column upon the decoration of one of the courts of the
Alhambra, and a more picturesque article I never read--up to a certain
point; and this point was reached when he commenced a new paragraph as
follows:--

“Alas! that so lovely a piece of work should have fallen a prey to the
devastating element that laid the whole structure in ruins, and eclipsed
the gaiety, if not of nations, at any rate of the people of London, who
were wont to resort nightly to this Thespian temple of Leicester Square,
feeling certain that under the liberal management of its enterprising
_entrepreneur_ some brilliant stage spectacle would be brought before
their eyes. Now, however, that the company for the restoration of the
building has been successfully floated, we may hope for a revival of the
ancient glories of the Alhambra.”

I inquired casually of the perpetrator of the article if he had ever
heard of the Alhambra?

“Why, I wrote of it yesterday,” he said.

“I’ve been in it; it’s in Leicester Square.”

“Did you ever hear of another Alhambra?”

I asked blandly.

“Yes; there’s one in Glasgow.”

“Did you ever hear of one that wasn’t a music-hall?”

“Never. Maybe the temperance people give one of their new-fashioned
coffee places the name to attract sinners on false pretences.”

“Did you ever hear of an Alhambra in Spain?”

“You don’t mean to say that they have music-halls in Spain? But why
shouldn’t they? Spaniards are fond of dancing, I believe.”

“Why not indeed?” said I.

The next day he had an explanation to offer to the chief of the staff.
In the evening he told me that he was going to leave the paper.

“How is that?” I inquired.

“I don’t like it,” he replied. “My ideas are cribbed, cabined, and
confined here.”

“They are certainly cribbed,” said I. “Did you never hear of the Alhambra
at Grenada?”

“Never; that’s what played the mischief with the article. You’ll see how
the mistake arose. There was a capital article in the _Telegraph_ about
the Alhambra--I see now that it must have referred to the one in
Spain--about four years ago; well, I cut it out and indexed it. A year
ago, when the Alhambra in Leicester Square was about to re-open, there
was an article in the _Daily News_. I found it in my index also, and
incorporated the two articles in mine. How the mischief was I to know
that one referred to Grenada and the other to London? These writer chaps
should be more explicit. What do they get their salaries for, anyway?”

*****

I have referred to a certain resemblance existing between the unattached
parson and the unattached editor. This resemblance is the more impressed
on me now that, after recalling a memory of an appropriator of another
man’s literary work by the “casual” editor, I can recollect how I lived
for some years next door to a “casual” parson, who had annexed a bagful
of sermons left by his father, one of which he preached whenever he
obtained an engagement. It was said that on receiving the usual telegram
from a disabled rector on Saturday evening, he was accustomed to go to
the sermon-sack, and, putting his hand down the mouth, take out a sermon
with the same ease and confidence as are displayed by the professional
rat-catcher in extracting from his bag one of its lively contents for
the gratification of a terrier. It so happened, however, that upon
a fine Sunday morning, he set out to do duty for a clergyman at a
distance, having previously felt about the sermon-sack until he found
a good fat roll of manuscript, which he stuffed into his pocket. He
reached the church--in which, it should be mentioned, he had never
before preached--and, bustling through the service with his accustomed
celerity, ascended the pulpit and flattened out with a slap or two
the sermon on the cushion in front of him. The sermon proved to be the
valedictory one preached by his father in the church of which he had
been rector for half a century. It was unquestionably a very fine
effort, but it might seem to some people to lack local colour. Delivered
in a church to which the preacher was a complete stranger, it had a
certain amount of inappropriateness about it which might reasonably be
expected to diminish from its effect.

“It is a solemn moment for us all, my dear, dear friends. It is a solemn
moment for you, but ah! how much more solemn for me! Sunday after Sunday
for the past fifty years I have stood in the pulpit where I stand to-day
to preach the Gospel of Truth. I see before me now the well-known faces
of my flock. Those who were young when I first came among you are now
well stricken in years. Some whom I baptised as infants, have brought
their infants to me to be baptised; these in turn have been spared to
bring their infants to be admitted into the membership of the Church
Militant. For fifty years have I not taken part in your joys and your
sorrows, and now who shall say that the hour of parting should not be
bitter? I see tears on the faces before me----”

And the funny part of the matter was that he did. No one present
seemed to see anything inappropriate in the sermon; and at the pathetic
references to the hour of parting, there was not a dry eye in the
church--except the remarkably bright pair possessed by a female scoffer,
who told the story to me. It was not to be expected that the clergyman
would become aware of the mistake--if it was a mistake--that he had
made: he had for years been a preaching machine, and had become as
devoid of feeling as a barrel organ; but it seemed to me incredible that
only one person in the church should discover the ludicrous aspect of
the situation.

So I remarked to my informant, and she said that it was all the same a
fact that the people were weeping copiously on all sides.

“I asked the doctor’s wife the next day what she thought of the sermon,”
 added my informant, “and she replied with a sigh that it was beautifully
touching; and when I put it straight to her if she did not think it was
queer for a clergyman who was a total stranger to us to say that he had
occupied the pulpit for fifty years, she replied, ‘Ah, my dear, you’re
too matter of fact: sermons should not be taken too literally. _You
should make allowance for the parsons imagination_.’”

It is told of the same “casual” that an attempt was made to get the
better of him by a parsimonious set of churchwardens upon the occasion
of his being engaged to do duty for the regular parson of the parish.
The contract made with the “casual” was to perform the service and
preach the sermon in the morning for the sum of two guineas. He turned
up in good time on the Sunday morning and performed his part of the
contract in a business-like way. In the vestry, after he had preached
the sermon, he was waited on by the senior churchwarden, who handed him
his fee and expressed the great satisfaction felt by the churchwardens
at the manner in which the work had been executed. He added that as the
clergyman’s train would not leave the village until half-past eight at
night, perhaps the reverend gentleman would not mind dining with him,
the senior churchwarden, and performing a short evening service at six
o’clock.

“That will suit me very well indeed,” said the reverend gentleman. “I
thank you very much for your hospitable offer. I charge thirty shillings
for an evening service with sermon.”

The hospitable churchwarden replied that he feared the resources of the
church would not be equal to such a strain upon them. He thought that
the clergyman might not object under the circumstances to give his
services gratis.

“Do you dispose of your excellent cheeses gratis?” asked the clergyman
courteously. The churchwarden was in the cheese business.

“Well, no, of course not,” laughed the churchwarden. “But still--well,
suppose we say a guinea for the evening service?”

“That’s my charge for the service, leaving out the sermon,” said the
clergyman.

He explained that it was the cheapest thing in the market at the time.
It was done with only the smallest margin of profit. Allowing for the
wear and tear, it left hardly anything for himself.

The churchwarden shook his head. He feared that they would not be able
to trade on the terms, he said. Suddenly, however, he brightened up.
Could the reverend gentleman not give them a good, sound, second quality
sermon? he inquired. They did not expect an A-1, copper-fastened,
platinum-tipped, bevelled-edged, full-calf sermon for the money; but
hadn’t the reverend gentleman a sound, clump-soled, celluloid-faced,
nickel-plated sermon--something evangelical that would do very well for
one evening?

The clergyman replied that he had nothing of the sort in stock.

“Well, at any rate, you will say a few words to the congregation--not
a sermon, you know--after the service, for the guinea?” suggested the
churchwarden.

“Oh, yes, I’ll say a few words, if that’s all,” said the clergyman.

And he did.

When he had got to that grand old Amen which closes the Evening Service,
he stood up and said,--

“Dear brethren, there will be no sermon preached here this evening.”

*****

Having entered upon the perilous path that is strewn with stories of
clergymen, I cannot leave it without recalling certain negotiations
which a prelate once opened with me for the purchase of an article
of furniture that remained at the palace when he was translated (with
footnotes in the vernacular by local tradesmen) to a new episcopate. I
have always had a weakness for collecting antique carved oak, and the
prelate, being aware of this, called my attention to what he termed an
“antique carved oak cabinet,” which occupied an alcove in the hall. He
said he thought that I might be glad to have a chance of purchasing it,
for he himself did not wish to be put to the trouble of conveying it to
his new home--if a palace can be called a home. Now, there had been a
three days’ auction at the palace where the antiquity remained, and,
apparently, all the dealers had managed to resist the temptation that
was offered them of acquiring a rare specimen of old oak; but, assuming
that the dignitary had placed a high reserve price upon it from which
he might now be disposed to abate, I replied that it would please me
greatly to buy the cabinet if it was not too large. By appointment
I accompanied a seemingly meek domestic chaplain to the dis-.mantled
palace; and there, sure enough, in a dark alcove of the long and narrow
hall--for the palace was not palatial--I saw (dimly) a huge thing like
a wardrobe with pillars, or it might have been a loose box, or perhaps a
bedstead gone wrong, or a dismantled hearse.

“That’s a dreadful thing,” I remarked to the meek chaplain.

“Dreadful, indeed,” he replied. “But it’s antique carved oak, so I
suppose it’s a treasure.”

“Have you a match about you?” I asked, for the place was very dark.

The meek chaplain looked scandalised--it was light enough to allow of
my seeing that--at the suggestion that he carried matches. He said he
thought he knew where some might be had. He walked to the end of the
passage, and I saw him take out a box of matches from a pocket. He came
back, saying he recollected having seen the box on a ledge “down there.”
 I struck a match and held the light close to the fabric. I gave a
portion of it a little scrape with my knife, and then tested the carving
by the same implement.

“How did his lordship describe this?” I inquired.

“He said it was antique carved oak,” said the meek chaplain.

“Did you ever hear of Cuvier and the lobster?” I inquired further.

He said he never had.

“That being so, I may venture to say that his lordship’s description
of this thing is an excellent one,” I remarked; “only that it is not
antique, it is not carved, and it is not oak.”

“What do you mean?” asked the meek chaplain..

I struck another match, and showed him the white patch that I had
scraped with my knife, and he admitted that old oak was not usually
white beneath the surface. I showed him also where the carving had
sprung up before the point of my knife, making plain the ‘fact that the
carving had been glued to the fabric.

“His lordship got that made by a local carpenter twenty-five years ago,”
 said I; “and yet he tries to sell it to me for antique carved oak. It
strikes me that in Wardour Street he would find a congenial episcopate.”

The meek chaplain stroked his chin reflectively; then, putting his
umbrella under one arm, he joined the tips of his fingers, saying,--

“Whatever unworthy doubts I may once have entertained on the difficult
subject of Apostolic succession are now, thank God, set at rest.”

“What do you mean?” I inquired.

“Is it possible,” he asked, “that you do not perceive how strong an
argument this incident furnishes in favour of our Church’s claim to the
Apostolic succession of her bishops?”

I shook my head.

“St. Peter was a Jew,” said the meek chaplain.

*****

Another of the casual ward of editors who appears on the tablets of my
memory was a gentleman who came from Wales--and a large number of other
places. He had a rooted objection to write anything new; but he was the
best literary tinker I ever met. In Spitzhagen’s story, “Sturmfluth,”
 there is a most amusing account of the sculptor who made the statues of
distinguished Abstractions, which he had carved in his young days, do
duty for memorial commissions of lately-departed heroes. A bust of Homer
he had no difficulty in transforming into one of Germania weeping for
her sons killed in the war, and so forth. The sculptor’s talent was the
same as that of the editor. He had the draft of about fifty articles,
and three obituary notices. These he managed to tinker up, chipping a
bit off here and there, and giving prominence to other portions, until
his purpose of the moment was served. I have seen him turn an article
that purported to show the absurdity of free trade, into an attack upon
the Irish policy of the Government; and in the twinkling of an eye upon
another occasion he made one on the Panama swindle do duty for one on
the compulsory rescue of Emin by Stanley. With only a change of a line
or, two, the obituary notice of Gambetta was that which he had used for
Garibaldi; and yet when the Emperor Frederick died, it was the same
article that was furbished up for the occasion. Every local medical man
who died was dealt with in the appreciative article which he had written
some years before on the death of Sir William Gull; and the influence of
the career of every just deceased local philanthropist was described in
the words (slightly altered to suit topography) that had been written
for the Earl of Shaftesbury.

It was really little short of marvellous how this system worked. It was
a tinker’s triumph.

I must supplement my recollections of these worthies by a few lines
regarding a man of the same type who, I believe, never put pen to paper
without being guilty of some extraordinary error. A high compliment was
paid to me, I felt, when I had assigned to me, as part of my duties,
the reading of his proof sheets nightly. In everyone that I ever read
I found some monstrous mistake; and as he was old enough to be my
grandfather, and extremely sensitive besides, I was completely exhausted
by my expenditure of tact in pointing out to him what I called his
“little inaccuracies.” One night he laid his proof sheet before me,
saying triumphantly, “You’ll not find any of the usual slips in that,
I’m thinking. I’ve managed to write one leader correct at last.”

I read the thing he had written. It referred to a letter which Mr. Bence
Jones had contributed to _The Times_ on the subject of the Irish Land
League Agitation. After commenting on this letter, he wound up by
saying that Mr. Bence Jones had proved himself to be as practical an
agriculturalist as he was an expert painter.

“Are you certain that Bence Jones is a painter?” I asked.

“As certain as I can be of anything,” was the reply. “I’ve seen his work
referred to dozens of times. I believe there’s a picture of his in
the Grosvenor Gallery this very year. I thought you knew all about
contemporary art,” he added, with a sneer.

“Art is long,” said I, searching for a Grosvenor Gallery catalogue,
which I knew I had thrown among my books. “Now, will you just turn up
the picture you say you saw noticed, and I’ll admit that you know more
than I do?”

I handed him the catalogue. He adjusted his spectacles, looked at the
index, gave a triumphant “Ha! I have you now,” and forthwith turned up
“The Golden Stair,” by E. _Burne_ Jones.



CHAPTER V.--THE SUB-EDITORS.

_The old and the new--The scissors and paste auxiliaries--A night’s
work--“A dorg’s life”--How to communicate with the third floor--A modern
man in the old days--His migration--Other migrants--Some provincial
correspondents--Forgetful of a Town Councillor--The Plymouth Brother
as a sub-editor--A vocal effort--“Summary” justice--Place aux Dames--A
ghost story--Suggestions of the Crystal Palace--The presentation._

IT would give me no difficulty to write a book about sub-editors
with illustrations from those whom I have met. It is, perhaps, in this
department of a newspaper office that the change from the old _regime_
is most apparent. The young sub-editors are frequently graduates of
universities; but, in spite of this, most of them are well abreast
of French and German as well as English literature. They bear out my
contention, that journalism is beginning to be taken seriously. The new
men have chosen journalism as their profession; they have not, as was
the case with the men of a past age, merely drifted into journalism
because they were failures in banks, in tailors’ shops, in the drapery
line, and even in the tobacco business--one in which failure is almost
impossible.

I have met in the old days with specimens of such men--men who fancied,
and who got their employers to fancy also, that because they had failed
in occupations that demanded the exercise of no intellectual powers for
success, they were bound to succeed in something that they termed “a
literary calling.” They did not succeed as a rule. They glanced over
their column or two of telegraphic news,--in those days few provincial
papers contained more than a double column of telegrams,--they glanced
through the country correspondence and corrected such mistakes in
grammar as they were able to detect: it was with the scissors and paste,
however, that their most striking intellectual work was done. In this
department the brilliancy of the old sub-editor’s genius had a chance
of being displayed. It coruscated, so to speak, on the rim of the paste
pot, and played upon the business angle of the scissors, as the St.
Elmo’s light gleams on the yard-arms.

“Ah!” said one of them to me, with a glow of proper pride upon his face,
as he ran the closed scissors between the pages of the _Globe_. “Ah,
it’s only when it comes to a question of cutting out that your true
sub-editor reveals himself.”

And he forthwith annexed the “turn-over,” without so much as acquainting
himself with the nature of the column.

“Do you never read the thing before you cut it out?” I inquired timidly.

He smiled the smile of the professor at the innocent question of a tyro.

“Not likely, young fellow,” he replied. “It’s bad enough to have to read
all the cuttings when they appear in our next issue, without reading
them beforehand.”

“Then how do you know whether or not the thing that you cut out is
suitable for the paper?” I asked.

“That’s where the instinct of your true subeditor comes in,” said he.
“I put in the point of the scissors mechanically and the right thing is
sure to come between the blades.”

In a few minutes he had about thirty columns of cuttings ready for the
foreman printer.

I began to feel that I had never done full justice to the sub-editor or
the truffle hunter.

*****

I have said that in those old days not more than two columns of wired
news ever came to any provincial paper--_The Scotsman_, the _Glasgow
Herald_, and a Liverpool and Manchester organ excepted. The private wire
had not yet been heard of. In the present day, however, I have seen
as many as sixteen columns of telegraphic news in a very ordinary
provincial paper. I myself have come into my office at ten o’clock to
find a speech in “flimsy,” of four columns in length, on some burning
question of the moment. I have read through all this matter, and placing
it in the printers’ hands by eleven, I have written a column of comment
(about one thousand eight hundred words), read a proof of this column
and started for home at half-past one. I may mention that while waiting
for the last slips of my proof, I also made myself aware of the contents
of the _Times_, the _Telegraph_, the _Standard_, and the _Morning Post_,
which had arrived by the midnight train.

I suppose there are hundreds of editors throughout the provinces to whom
such a programme is habitually no more a thing to shrink from than it
was to me for several years of my life. But I am sure that if any one
of the sub-editors of the old days had been required to read even five
columns of a political speech, and eight of parliament, he would have
talked about slave-driving and a “dorg’s life” until he had fallen
asleep--as he frequently did--with his arms on his desk and the
“flimsies” on the floor.

Some time ago I was in London, and had written an article at my rooms,
with a view of putting it on the special wire at the Fleet Street end
for transmission to the newspaper on which I was then employed. It so
happened, however, that I was engaged at other matters much longer than
I expected to be that night, so that it was past one o’clock in the
morning when I drove to the office in Fleet Street. The lower door was
shut, and no response was given to my ring. I knew that the editor had
gone home, but of course the telegraph operator was still in his room--I
could see his light in the topmost window--and I made up my mind to
rouse him, for I assumed that he was taking his usual sleep. After
ringing the bell twice without result, it suddenly occurred to me that
I might place myself in connection with him by some other means than the
bell-wire. I drove to the Central Telegraph Office, and sent a telegram
to the operator at the Irish end of the special wire, asking him to
arouse the Fleet Street operator and tell him to open the street door
for me.

When I returned to Fleet Street I found the operator waiting for me
at the open door. In other words, I found that my easiest plan of
communicating with the third floor from the street was by means of an
office in Ireland.

I do not think that any of the old-time subeditors would have been
likely to anticipate the arrival of a day when such an incident would be
possible.

*****

The only modern man of the old school, so to speak, with whom I came in
contact at the outset of my journalistic life, now occupies one of the
highest places on the London Press. I have never met so able a man since
I worked by his side, nor have I ever met with one who was so accurate
an observer, or so unerring a judge of men. He was everything that
a subeditor should be, and if he erred at all it was on the side of
courtesy. I have known of men coming down to the office with an action
for libel in their hearts, and bitterness surpassing the bitterness of
a Thomson whose name has appeared with a p, in the account of the
attendance at a funeral, and yet going back to their wives and families
quite genial, owing to the attitude adopted toward them by this
subeditor; yes, and without any offer being made by him to have the
mistake, of which they usually complained, altered in the next issue.

He was one of the few men whom I have known to go to London from the
provinces with a doubt on his mind as to his future success. Most of
those to whom I have said a farewell that, unfortunately, proved to
be only temporary, had made up their minds to seek the metropolis on
account of the congenial extent of the working area of that city. A
provincial town of three hundred thousand inhabitants had a cramping
effect upon them, they carefully assured me; the fact being that any
place except London was little better than a kennel--usually a good deal
worse..

I have come to the conclusion, from thinking over this matter, that,
although self-confidence may be a valuable quality on the part of a
pressman, it should not be cultivated to the exclusion of all other
virtues.

The gentleman to whom I refer is now managing editor of his paper, and
spends a large portion of his hardly-purchased leisure hours answering
letters that have been written to him by literary aspirants in his
native town. One of them writes a pamphlet to prove that there never has
been and never shall be a hell, and he sends it to be dealt with on the
following morning in a leader in the leading London newspaper. He,
it seems, has to be written to--kindly, but firmly. Another wishes a
poem--not on a death in the Royal Family--to be printed, if possible,
between the summary and the first leader; a third reminds the managing
editor that when sub-editor of the provincial paper eleven years before,
he inserted a letter on the disgraceful state of the footpath on one of
the local thoroughfares, and hopes that, now that the same gentleman
is at the head of a great metropolitan organ, he will assist him, his
correspondent, in the good work which has been inaugurated. The footpath
is as bad as ever, he explains. But it is over courteously repressive
letters to such young men--and old men too--as hope he may see his way
to give them immediate and lucrative employment on his staff, that most
of his spare time and all his spare stamps are spent.

Ladies write to him by the hundred--for it seems that any one may become
a lady journalist--making valuable suggestions to him by means of which
he may, if he chooses, obtain daily a chatty column with local social
sketches, every one guaranteed to be taken from life.

He doesn’t choose.

The consequence is that the ladies write to him again without the loss
of a post, and assure him that if he fancies his miserable paper is
anything but the laughing-stock of humanity, he takes an absurdly
optimistic view of the result of his labours in connection with it.

*****

About five years after he had left the town where we had been located
together, I met a man who had come upon him in London, and who had
accepted his invitation to dinner.

“We had a long talk together,” said the man, recording the transaction,
“and I was surprised to find how completely he has severed all his
former connections and old associations. I mentioned casually the names
of some of the most prominent of the people here, but he had difficulty
in recalling them. Why, actually--you’ll scarcely believe it--when I
spoke of Sir Alexander Henderson, he asked who was he! It’s a positive
fact!”

Now Sir Alexander Henderson was a Town Councillor.

*****

The provincial successor to the sub-editor just referred to was
undoubtedly a remarkable man. He was a Plymouth Brother, and without
guile. He was, for some reason or other, very anxious that I should
join “The Church” also. I might have done so if I had succeeded in
discovering what were the precise doctrines held by the body. But it
would seem that the theology of the Plymouth Brethren is not an exact
science. A Plymouth Brother is one who accepts the doctrines of the
Plymouth Brethren. So much I learned, and no more.

He possessed a certain amount of confidence in the correctness of his
views--whatever they may have been, and he never allowed any pressman to
enter his room without writing a summary on some subject; for which, it
may be mentioned, he himself got credit in the eyes of the proprietor.
He had no singing voice whatsoever, but his views on the Second Advent
were so deep as to force him to give vocal expression to them thus:--

“Parlando. The Lord shall come. Will you write me a bit of a summary?”

[Illustration: 0092]

The request to anyone who chanced to be in the room with him, following
so hard upon the vocal assertion of the most solemn of his theological
tenets, had a shocking effect; more especially as the newspaper offices
in those old days were constantly filled with shallow scoffers and
sceptics; and, of course, persons were not wanting who endeavoured to
evade their task by assuring him that the Sacred Event was not one that
could be legitimately treated within a lesser space than a full column.

He usually offered to discuss with me at 2 a.m. such subjects as the
Immortality of the Soul or the Inspiration of Holy Writ. When he would
signify his intention of proving both questions, if I would only wait
for four hours.

I was accustomed to adopt the attitude of the schoolboy who, when the
schoolmaster, after drawing sundry lines on the blackboard, asserted
that the square described upon the diagonal of a double rectangular
parallelogram was equal to double the rectangle described upon the other
two sides, and offered to prove it, said, “Pray don’t trouble yourself,
sir; I don’t doubt it in the least.”

I assured the sub-editor that there was nothing in the somewhat
extensive range of theological belief that I wouldn’t admit at 2 a.m.
after a long night’s work.

*****

The most amusing experience was that which I had with the same gentleman
at the time of the Eastern crises of the spring of 1878. During the
previous year he had accustomed himself to close his nightly summary of
the progress of the war between Russia and Turkey and the possibility of
complications arising with England, with these words:--“Fortunate
indeed it is that at the present moment we have at our Foreign Office so
sagacious and far-seeing a statesman as Earl Derby. Every confidence may
be reposed in his judgment to avert the crisis which in all probability
is impending.”

Certainly once a week did this summary appear in the paper, until I
fancy the readers began to tire of it. As events developed early in the
spring, the paragraph was inserted with feverish frequency. He was at it
again one night--I could hear him murmur the words to himself as he went
over the thing--but the moment he had given out the copy I threw down in
front of him a telegram which I had just opened.

“That will make a good summary,” I said. “The Reserves are called out
and Lord Derby has resigned.”

He sprang to his feet, exclaiming, like the blameless George,
“What--what--what?”

“There’s the flimsy,” said I. “It’s a good riddance. He never was worth
much. The idea of a conscientious Minister at the Foreign Office! Now
Beaconsfield will have a free hand. You’d better write that summary.”

“I will--I will,” he said. “But I think I’ll ask you to dictate it to
me.”

“All right,” said I. “Heave ahead. ‘The news of the resignation of Earl
Derby will be received by the public of Great Britain with feelings akin
to those of relief.... The truth is that for several months past it was
but too plain to even the least sagacious persons that Lord Derby at the
Foreign Office was the one weakness in the _personnel_ of the Ministry.
In colloquial, parlance he was the square peg in the round hole. Now
that his resignation has been accepted we may say farewell, a long
farewell, to a feeble and vacillating Minister of whose capacity at such
a serious crisis we have frequently thought it our duty to express our
grave doubts.’”

He took a shorthand note of this stuff, which he transcribed, and
ordered to be set up in place of the first summary. For the next three
months that original metaphor of the square peg and the round hole
appeared in relation to Lord Derby once a week in the political summary.

*****

Among the minor peculiarities of this subeditor of the old time was
an apparently irresistible desire for the companionship of his wife at
nights. Perhaps, however, I am doing him an injustice, and the evidence
available on this point should only be accepted as indicating the desire
of his wife for the companionship of her husband. At any rate, for some
reason or other, the lady occupied an honoured place in her husband’s
room certainly three nights every week.

The pair never exchanged a word for the six or seven hours that
they remained together. Perhaps here again I am doing one of them an
injustice, for I now remember that during at least two hours out of
every night the door of the room was locked on the inside, so they
may have been making up their arrears of silence by discussing the
immortality of the soul, or other delicate theological points, during
this “close” season.

The foreman printer was the only one in the office who was in the habit
of complaining about the presence of the lady in the sub-editor’s room.
He was the rudest-voiced man and the most untiring user of oaths ever
known even among foremen printers, and this is saying a great deal. He
explained to me in language that was by no means deficient in force,
that the presence of the lady had a cramping and enervating effect upon
him when he went to tell the sub-editor that he needn’t send out any
more “copy,” as the paper was overset. How could any conscientious
foreman do himself justice under such circumstances? he asked me.

*****

The same sub-editor had a ghost story. He was the only man whom I ever
met who believed in his own ghost story. I have come in contact with
several men who had ghost stories in their _répertoire_, but I never met
any but this one who was idiot enough to believe in the story that he
had to tell. I am sorry that I cannot remember its many details. But
the truth is that it made no more impression on me than the usual ghost
story makes upon a man with a sound digestion. As a means of earning a
livelihood the journalistic “spook” occupies a legitimate place among
the other devices of modern enterprise to effect the same praiseworthy
object; but a personal and unprofessional belief in the possibility of
the existence in visible form of a “ghost” is the evidence either of
a mind constitutionally adapted to the practice of imposture, or of a
remarkable capacity for being imposed upon. My friend the sub-editor had
not a heart for falsehood framed, so I believed that he believed that
he had seen the spirit of his father make an effective exit from
the apartment where the father had died. This was, I recollect, the
foundation of his story. I remember also that the spirit took the form
of a small but compact ball of fire, and that it rolled up the spout--on
the outside--and then broke into a thousand stars.

The description of the incident suggested a lesser triumph of Messrs.
Brock at the Crystal Palace rather than the account of the solution of
the greatest mystery that man ever has faced or ever can face. When I
had heard the story to the end--up to the moment that the old nurse came
out of the house crying, “He’s gone, he’s gone!” preparatory to throwing
her apron over her head--I merely asked,--

“How many nights did you say you had been watching by your father?”

“Three,” he replied. “But I don’t think that I said anything to you
about watching.” Neither had he. Like the witness at the mysterious
murder trial who didn’t think it worth while mentioning to the police
that he had seen a man, who had a grudge against the deceased, leaving
the room where the body was found, and carrying in one hand a long knife
dripping with blood, my friend did not think that the circumstance
of his having had no sleep for three nights had any bearing upon the
question of the accuracy of his eyesight.

Of course I merely said that the story was an extraordinary one.

I have noticed that Plymouth Brotherhood, vegetarianism, soft hats, bad
art, and a belief in at least one ghost usually are found associated.

This sub-editor emigrated several years ago to the South Sea Islands
with evangelistic intentions. On his departure his colleagues made him
a graceful and appropriate gift which could not fail to cause him to
recall in after years the many pleasant hours they had spent together.

It took the form of an immense marble chimney-piece clock, weighing
about a hundredweight and a half, and looking uncomfortably like an
eighteenth-century mural tomb. It was such a nice present to make to an
evangelist in the neophyte stage, every one thought; for what the gig
was in the forties as a guarantee of all that was genteel, the massive
marble clock was in the eyes of the past generation of journalists. I
happen to know something about the sunny islands of the South Pacific
and their inhabitants, and it has often occurred to me that the
guarantees of gentility which find universal acceptance where the
hibiscus blooms, may not be wholly identical with those that were in
vogue among journalists long ago. Should these unworthy doubts which now
and again occur to me when I am alone, be well founded, I fear that the
presentation to my friend may repose elsewhere than on a chimney-piece
of Upolu or Tahiti.

As a matter of fact, I read a short time ago an account of a remarkable
head-dress worn by a native chief, which struck me as having many points
in common with a massive dining-room marble clock.



CHAPTER VI--THE SUB-EDITORS (continued).


_The opium eater--A babbler o’ green fields--The “Brither Scots”--A
South Sea idyl--St. Andrew Lang Syne--An intelligent community--The
arrival of the “Bonnie Doon,” Mackellar, master--Captain Mackellar “says
a ‘sweer’”--A border raid on a Newspaper--It pays--A raid of the wild
Irish--Naugay Doola as a Newspaper editor--An epic--How the editor
came to buy my emulsion--The constitutionially quarlsome sub-editor--The
melancholy man--Not without a cause--The use of the razor._


ANOTHER remarkable type of the subeditor of the past was a middle-aged
man whom it was my privilege to study for some months. No one could
account for a curious _distrait_ air which he frequently wore; but I had
only to look at his eyes to become aware of the secret of his life. I
had seen enough of opium smokers in the East to enable me to pronounce
decisively on this “case.” He was a most intelligent and widely-read
man; but he had wrecked his life over opium. He could not live without
it, and with it he was utterly unfit for any work. Night after night
I did the wretched man’s work while he lay in a corner of the room
wandering through the opium eater’s paradise. After some months he
vanished, utterly from the town, and I never found a trace of him
elsewhere.

*****

He was much to be preferred to a curious Scotsman who succeeded him. It
was not the effects of opium that caused this person to lie in a
corner and babble o’ green fields upon certain occasions, such as the
anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, the anniversary of the death
of the same poet, the celebration of the Annual Festival of St. Andrew,
the Annual Dinner of the Caledonian Society, the Anniversary Supper
of the Royal Scottish Association, the Banquet and Ball of the Sons
of Scotia, the “Nicht wi’ Our Ain Kin,” the Ancient Golf Dinner, the
Curlers’ Reunion, the “Rink and Drink” of the “Free Bowlers”--a local
festival--the Pipe and Bagpipe of the Clans Awa’ Frae Harne--another
local club of Caledonians. Each of these celebrations of the
representatives of his nation, which took place in the town to which he
came--I need scarcely say it was not in Scotland--was attended by him;
hence the babbling o’ green fields between the hours of one and three
a.m. He babbled once too often, and was sent forth to fresh fields by
his employer, who was not a “brither Scot.” I daresay he is babbling up
to the present hour.

In spite of the well-known and deeply-rooted prejudices of the Scottish
nation against the spirit of what may be termed racial cohesion, it
cannot be denied that they have been known now and again to display a
tendency--when outside Scotland--to localise certain of their national
institutions. They do so at considerable self-sacrifice, and the result
is never otherwise than beneficial to the locality operated on. No more
adequately attested narrative has been recorded than that of the
two Shanghai merchants--Messrs. Andrew Gareloch and Alexander
MacClackan--who were unfortunate enough to be wrecked on the voyage to
England. They were the sole survivors of the ship’s company, and
the island upon which they found themselves was in the middle of the
Pacific, and about six miles long by four across. In the lagoon were
plenty of fish, and on the ridge of the slope cocoanuts, loquats,
plantains, and sweet potatoes were growing, so that there was no
question as to their supplies holding out. After a good meal they
determined that their first duty was to name the island. They called it
St. Andrew Lang Syne Island, and became as festive and brotherly--they
pronounced it “britherly”--as was possible over cocoanut milk: it was
a long time since either of them had tasted milk. The second day they
founded a local Benevolent Society of St. Andrew, and held the inaugural
dinner; the third day they founded a Burns Club, and inaugurated the
undertaking with a supper; the fourth day they started a Scottish
Association, and with it a series of monthly reunions for the discussion
of Scotch ballad literature; the fifth day they laid out a golf links
with the finest bunkers in the world, and instituted a club lunch
(strictly non-alcoholic); the sixth day they formed a Curling Club--the
lagoon would make a braw rink, they said, if it only froze; if it didn’t
freeze, well, they could still have the annual Curlers’ supper--and they
had it; the Seventh Day they _kept_. On the evening of the same day a
vessel was sighted bearing up for the island; but, of course, neither
of the men would hoist a signal on the Seventh Day, and they watched the
craft run past the island, though they were amazed to find that she
had only her courses and a foresail set, in spite of the fact that
the breeze was a light one. The next morning, when they were sitting
together at breakfast discussing whether they should lay the foundation
stone--with a commemorative lunch--of a free kirk, a U.P. meeting-house,
or an Auld Licht meeting-house--they had been fiercely discussing the
merits of each at every spare moment during the previous twenty years at
Shanghai--they saw the vessel returning with all sail set and a signal
flying. To run up one of their shirts to a pole at the entrance to the
lagoon was a matter of a moment, and they saw that their signal was
responded to. Sail was taken off the ship, she was steered by signals
from the shore through the entrance to the lagoons and dropped anchor.

She turned out to be the _Bonnie Doon_, of Dundee, Douglas Mackellar,
master. He had found portions of wreckage floating at sea, and had
thought it possible that some of the survivors of the wreck might want
passages “hame.”

“Nae, nae,” said both the men, “we’re no in need o’ passages hame just
the noo. But what for did ye no mak’ for the passage yestere’en in the
gloaming?”

“Ay,” said Captain Mackellar, “I ran by aboot the mirk; but hoot
awa’--hoot awa’, ye wouldn’t hae me come ashore on the Sawbath Day.”

“Ye shortened sail, tho’,” remarked Mr. MacClackan.

“Ay, on Saturday nicht. I never let her do more than just sail on the
Sawbath. Why the eevil didn’t ye run up a bit signal, ye loons, if ye
spied me sae weel?”

“Hoot awa’--hoot awa’, ye wouldn’t hae us mak’ a signal on the Sawbath
day.”

“Na’, na’, no regular signal; but ye might hae run up a wee bittie--just
eneugh tae catch my e’en. Ay, an’ will ye nae come aboard?”

“We’ll hae to talk owre it, Captain.”

Well; they did talk over the matter, cautiously and discreetly, for a
few hours, for Captain Mackellar was a hard man at a bargain, and he
would not agree to give them a passage at anything less than two pound
a head. At last negotiations were concluded, the men got aboard the
_Bonnie Doon_ and piloted her out of the lagoon. They reached the Clyde
in safety, having on the voyage found that Captain Mackellar was a
religious man and never used any but the most God-fearing of oaths at
his crew.

“Weel, ma freends,” said he, as they approached Greenock--“Weel, I’m in
hopes that ye’ll be paying me the siller this e’en.”

“Ay, mon, that we will, certes,” said the passengers. “In the meantime,
we’d tak’ the liberty o’ calling your attention to a wee bit claim we
hae japped doon on a bit slip o’ paper. It’s three poon nine for
harbour dues that ye owe us, Captain Mackellar, and twa poon ten
for pilotage--it’s compulsory at yon island, so maybe ye’ll mak’
it convenient to hand us owre the differs when we land. Ay, Douglas
Mackellar, ye shouldn’a try to get the better o’ brither Scots.”

Captain Douglas Mackellar was a God-fearing man, but he said “Dom!”

I once had some traffic with a newspaper office that had suffered from
a border raid. In the month of June a managing editor had been imported
from the Clyde, and although previously no “hand” from north of the
Tweed had ever been located within its walls, yet before December had
come, to take a stroll through any department of that office was like
taking a walk down Sauchiehall Street, or the Broomielaw. The foreman
printer used weird Scotch oaths, and his son was the “devil”--pronounced
_deevil_. His brother-in-law was the day foreman, and his
brother-in-law’s son was a junior clerk. The stereotyper was the
stepson of the night foreman’s mother, and he had a nephew who was
the machinist, with a brother for his assistant. The managing editor’s
brother was sub-editor, and the man to whom his wife had been engaged
before she married him, was assistant-editor. The assistant-editor’s
uncle became the head of the advertising department, and he had three
sons; two of them became clerks with progressive salaries, and the third
became the chief reporter, also with a progressive salary. In fact, the
paper became a one-family show--it was like a “nicht wi’ Burns,”--and no
paper was ever worked better. It never paid less than fifteen per cent.

A rather more amusing experience was of the overrunning of a newspaper
office by the wild Irishry. The organ in question had a somewhat
chequered career during the ten months that it existed. At one
period--for even as long as a month--it was understood to pay its
expenses; but when it failed to pay its expenses, no one else paid them;
hence in time it came to be looked upon as a rather unsound property.
The original editor, a man of ability and culture, declined to be
dictated to in some delicate political question by the proprietor, and
took his departure without going through the empty formality--it was,
after all, only a point of etiquette--of asking for the salary that was
due to him. For some weeks the paper was run--if something that scarcely
crawled could be said to be run--without an editor; then a red-headed
Irishman of the Namgay Doola type appeared--like a meteor surrounded
by a nimbus of brogue--in the editor’s room. His name was O’Keegan, but
lest this name might be puzzling to the English nation, he weakly gave
in to their prejudices and simplified it into O’Geogheghoiran. He was a
Master of Arts of the Royal University in Ireland, and a winner of gold
medals for Greek composition, as well as philosophy. He said he had
passed at one time at the head of the list of Indian Civil Service
candidates, but was rejected by the doctor on account of his weak lungs.
When I met him his lungs had apparently overcome whatever weakness they
may once have had. He had a colloquial acquaintance with Sanscrit, and
he had also been one of the best billiard markers in all Limerick.

I fancy he knew something about every science and art, except the
art and science of editing a daily newspaper on which the payment of
salaries was intermittent. In the course of a week a man from Galway
had taken the vacant and slightly injured chair of the sub-editor, a man
from Waterford said he had been appointed chief of the reporting staff,
a man from Tipperary said he was the new art editor and musical critic,
and a man from Kilkenny said he had been invited by his friend Mr.
O’Geogheghoiran to “do the reviews.” I have the best of reasons for
knowing that he fancied “doing the reviews” meant going into the park
upon military field-days, and reporting thereupon.

In short, the newspaper _staff_ was an Irish blackthorn.

It began to “behave as sich.”

The office was situated down a court on my line of route homeward; and
one morning about three o’clock I was passing the entrance to the court
when I fancied I heard the sound of singing. I paused, and then, out of
sheer curiosity, moved in the direction of the newspaper premises.
By the time I had reached them the singing had broadened into
recrimination. I have noticed that singing is usually the first step
in that direction. The members of the literary staff had apparently
assembled in the reporters’ room, and, stealing past the flaring gas jet
on the very rickety stairs, I reached that window of the apartment which
looked upon the lobby. When I rubbed as much dust and grime off one of
the panes as admitted of my seeing into the room, I learned more
about fighting in five minutes than I had done during a South African
campaign.

A dozen or so bottles of various breeds lay about the floor, and a
variety of drinking vessels lay about the long table at the moment of my
glancing through the window. Only for a moment, however, for in another
second the editor had leapt upon the table, and with one dexterous
kick--a kick that no amount of Association play could cause one to
acquire; a kick that must have been handed down, so to speak, from
father to son, unto the third and fourth generations of backs--had
sent every drinking vessel into the air. One--it was a jug--struck
the ceiling, and brought down a piece of plaster about the size of a
cart-wheel; but before the mist that followed this transaction had risen
to obscure everything, I saw that a tumbler had shot out through the
window that looked upon the court. I heard the crash below a moment
afterwards. A mug had caught the corresponding portion of the anatomy of
the gentleman from Waterford, and it irritated him; a cup crashed at the
open mouth of the reviewer from Kilkenny, and, so far as I could see,
he swallowed it; a tin pannikin carried away a portion of the ear of
the musical critic from Tipperary--it was so large that he could easily
spare a chip or so of it, though some sort of an ear is essential to the
conscientious discharge of the duties of musical critic.

For some time after, I could not see very distinctly what was going on
in the room, for the dust from the dislodged plaster began to rise,
and “friend and foe were shadows in the mist.” Now and again I caught
a glimpse of the red-head of the Master of Arts and Gold Medallist
permeating the mist, as the western sun permeates the smoke that hangs
over a battle-field; and wherever that beacon-fire appeared devastation
was wrought. The subeditor had gone down before him--so much I could
see; and then all was dimness and yells again--yells that brought down
more of the plaster and a portion of the stucco cornice; yells that
chipped flakes off the marble mantelpiece and sent them quivering
through the room; yells that you might have driven tenpenny nails home
with.

Then the dust-cloud drifted away, and I was able to form a pretty good
idea of what was going on. The meeting in mid-air of the ten-light
gasalier, which the dramatic critic had pulled down, and the iron
fender, which the chief of the reporting staff had picked up when he saw
that his safety was imperilled, was epic. The legs of chairs and stools
flying through the air suggested a blackboard illustration of a shower
of meteors; every now and again one crashed upon a head and cannoned off
against the wall, where it sometimes lodged and became a bracket
that you might have hung a coat on, or else knocked a brick into the
adjoining apartment.

The room began to assume an untidy appearance after a while; but I
noticed that the editor was making praiseworthy efforts to speak. I
sympathised with the difficulty he seemed to have in that direction.
It was not until he had folded in two the musical critic and the chief
reporter, and had seated himself upon them without straightening them
out, that his voice was heard.

“Boys,” he cried, “if this work goes on much longer I fear there’ll be
a breach of the peace. Anyhow, I’m thirsty. I’ve a dozen of porter in my
room.”

The only serious accident of the evening occurred at this point. The
reviewer got badly hurt through being jammed in with the other six in
the door leading to the editor’s room.

The next morning the paper came out as usual, and the fact that the
leaders were those that had appeared on the previous day, and that
the Parliamentary report had been omitted, was not noticed. I met the
red-haired editor as he came out of a chemist’s shop that afternoon. I
asked, as delicately as possible, after his health.

“I’d be well enough if it wasn’t for the sense of responsibility that
sometimes oppresses me,” said he. “It’s a terrible weight on a single
man’s shoulders that a daily paper is, so it is.”

“No doubt,” said I. “Do you feel it on your shoulders now?”

“Don’t I just?” said he. “I’ve been buying some emulsion inside to see
if that will give me any ease.”

He then told me a painfully circumstantial story of how, when walking
home early in the morning, he was set upon by some desperate miscreant,
who had struck him twice upon his left eye, which might account, he
said, for any slight discolouration I might notice in the region of that
particular organ if I looked closely at it.

“But what’s the matter with your hair?”

I inquired. “It looks as if it had been powdered.”

“Blast it!” said he, taking off his hat, and disclosing several
hillocks of red heather with a patch of white sticking-plaster on their
summits--like the illustration of the snow line on a geological model
of the earth’s surface. “Blast it! It must have been the ceiling. It’s a
dog’s life an editor’s is, anyhow.”

I never saw him again.

*****

Of course, the foregoing narrative is only illustrative of the
exuberance of the Irish nature under depressing circumstances; but I
have also come in contact with sub-editors who were constitutionally
quarrelsome. They were nearly as disagreeable to work with as those who
were perpetually standing on their dignity--men who were never without a
complaint of being insulted. I bore with one of this latter class longer
than any one else would have done. He was the most incompetent man whom
I ever met, so that one night when he growled out that he had never been
so badly treated by his inferiors as he was just at that instant, I had
no compunction in saying,--

“By whom?”

“By my inferiors in this office,” he replied.

“I’d like to know where your inferiors are,” said I. “They’re not in
this office--so much I can swear. I doubt if they are in any other.”

He asked me if I meant to insult him, and I assured him that I
invariably made my meaning so plain when I had occasion to say anything,
there was no excuse for asking what I meant.

He never talked to me again about being insulted.

*****

Another curious specimen of an extinct animal was subject to remarkable
fits of depression and moroseness. He offered to make me a bet one night
that he would not be alive on that day week. I took him up promptly, and
offered to stake a five-pound note on the issue, provided that he did
the same. He said he hadn’t a five-pound note in the world, though he
had been toiling like a galley slave for twenty years. I pitied the poor
fellow, though it was not until I saw his wife--a mass of black
beads and pomatum--that I recognised his right to the consolation
of pessimism. I believe that he was only deterred from suicide by an
irresistible belief in a future state. He had heard a well-meant but
injudicious sermon in which the statement was made that husband and
wife, though parted by death, would one day be reunited. Believing this
he lived on. What was the use of doing anything else?

*****

I met with another sub-editor on whom for a period I looked with some
measure of awe, being _in statu pupillari_ at the time.

Every night he used to take a razor out of his press and lay it beside
his desk, having opened it with great deliberation and a hard look upon
his haggard face. I believed that he was possessed of strong suicidal
impulses, and that he was placing the razor where it would be handy in
case he should find it necessary to make away with himself some night or
in the early hours of the morning.

I held him in respect for just one month. At the end of that time I saw
him sharpening his pencil with the razor, and I ventured to inquire if
he usually employed the instrument for that purpose.

“I do,” he replied. “I lost six penknives in this room within a
fortnight; those blue-pencilled reporters use up a lot of knives, and
they never buy any, so I brought down this old razor. They’ll not steal
that.”

And they didn’t.

But I lost all respect for that sub-editor.



CHAPTER VII.--SOME EXTINCT TYPES.


_A perturbed spirit--The loss of a fortune--A broken bank--A study
in bimetallism--Auri sacra fames--A rough diamond--A friend of the
peerage--And of Dublin stout--His weaknesses--The Quarterly Review--The
dilemma--An amateur hospital nurse--A terrible night--Benvenuto
Cellini--A subtle jest--The disappearance of the jester--An appropriated
leaderette--An appropriated anecdote--An appropriated quatrain._


ONCE I saw a sub-editor actually within easy reach of suicide. It was
not the duplicating of a five-column speech in flimsy, nor was it that
the foreman printer had broken his heart. It was that he had been the
victim of a heartless theft. His savings of years had been carried off
in the course of a single night. So he explained to me with “tears in
his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,” when I came down to the office one
evening. He was walking up and down his room, with three hours’ arrears
of unopened telegrams on his desk and a _p.p.c._ note from the foreman
beneath a leaden “rule,” used as a paper weight; for the foreman, being,
as usual, a conscientious man, invariably promised to hand in his notice
at sundown if kept waiting for copy.

“What on earth is the matter?” I inquired.

“Is it neuralgia or----”

“It’s worse--worse!” he moaned. “I’ve lost all my money--all--all!
there’s the tin I kept it in--see for yourself if there’s a penny left
in it.” He threw himself into his chair and bowed down his head upon his
hands.

Far off a solitary (speaking) trumpet blew.

“If the hands are to go home you’ve only got to say so and I release
them,” was the message that was delivered into my ear when I went to the
end of the tube communicating with the foreman.

“Three columns will be out inside half an hour,” I replied. Then I
turned to the sobbing sub-editor. “Come,” said I, “bear it like a man.
It’s a terrible thing, of course, but still it must be faced. Tell me
how many pounds you’ve lost, and I’ll put the matter into the hands of
the police.”

He looked up with a vacant white face.

“How many--there were a hundred and forty pence in the tin when I went
home last night. See if there’s a penny left.”

A cursory glance at the chocolate tin that lay on the table was quite
sufficient to convince me that it was empty.

“Cheer up,” I said. “A hundred and forty pence. It sounds large in
pence, to be sure, but when you think of it from the standard of the
silver currency it doesn’t seem so formidable. Eleven and eightpence. Of
course it’s a shocking thing. Was it all in pence?”

“All--all--every penny of it.”

“Keep up your heart. We may be able to trace the money. I suppose you
are prepared to identify the coins?”

He ran his fingers through his hair, and I could see that he was
striving manfully to collect his thoughts.

“Identify? I could swear to them if I saw them in the lump--one hundred
and forty--one--hundred--and--forty--pence! Yes, I’ll swear that I could
swear to them in the lump. But singly--oh, I’ll never see them again!”

“Tell me how it came about that you had so much money in this room,”
 said I, beginning to open the telegrams. “Man, did you not think of the
terrible temptation that you were placing in the way of the less opulent
members of the staff? Eleven and eight in a disused chocolate tin! It’s
a temptation like this that turns honest men into thieves.”

Then it was that he informed me on the point upon which I confess I was
curious--namely, how he came to have this fortune in copper.

His wife, he said, was in the habit of giving him a penny every rainy
night, this being his tramcar fare from his house to his office. But--he
emphasised this detail--she was usually weak enough not to watch to see
whether he got into the tramcar or not, and the consequence was that,
unless the night was very wet indeed, he was accustomed to walk the
whole way and thus save the penny, which he nightly deposited in the
chocolate tin: he could not carry it home with him, he said, for his
wife would be certain to find it when she searched his waistcoat pockets
before he arose in the morning.

“For a hundred and forty times you persevered in this course of
duplicity for the sake of the temporary gain!” said I. “It is this
craving to become quickly rich that is the curse of the nineteenth
century. I thought that journalists were free from it; I find that they
are as bad as Stock Exchange gamblers or magazine proprietors. Oh,
gold! gold! Go on with your work or there’ll be a blue-pencilled row
to-morrow. Don’t fancy you’ll obtain the sympathy of any human being in
your well-earned misfortune. You don’t deserve to have so good a wife.
A penny every rainy night--a penny! Oh, I lose all patience when I think
of your complaining. Go on with your work.”

He went on with his work.

Some months after this incident he thought it necessary to tell me that
he was a Scotchman.

It was not necessary; but I asked him if his wife was one too.

“Not exactly,” said he argumentatively. “But she’s a native of
Scotland--I’ll say that much for her.”

I afterwards heard that he had become the proprietor of that very
journal upon which he had been sub-editor.

I was not surprised.

*****

My memories of the sub-editor’s room include a three months’ experience
of a remarkable man. He imposed upon me for nearly a week, telling me
anecdotes of the distinguished persons whom he had met in the course of
his career. It seemed to me--for a week--that he was the darling of the
most exclusive society in Europe. He talked about noble lords by their
Christian names, and of noble ladies with equal breezy freedom. Many
of his anecdotes necessitated a verbatim report of the replies made by
marquises and countesses to his playful sallies; and I noticed that,
so far as his recollection served him, they had always addressed him as
George; sometimes--but only in the case of over-familiar daughters of
peers--Georgie. I felt--for a week--that journalism had made a sensible
advance socially when such things were possible. Perhaps, I thought,
some day the daughter of a peer may distort my name, so that I may not
die undistinguished.

I have seen a good many padded peeresses and dowdy duchesses since those
days, and my ambition has somehow drifted into other channels; but while
the man talked of his intimacies with peers, and his friendship--he
assured me on his sacred word of honour (whatever that meant) that it
was perfectly Platonic--with peeresses.

I was carried away--for a week.

He was an undersized man, with a rooted prejudice against soap and the
comb. He spoke like a common man, and wore clothes that were clearly
second-hand. He posed as the rough diamond, the untamed literary lion,
the genius who refuses to be trammelled by the usages--most of them
purely artificial--of society, and on whom society consequently dotes.

What he doted on was Dublin stout. If he had acquired during his
intercourse with the aristocracy their effete taste in the way of
drinking, he certainly managed to chasten it. He drank six bottles of
stout in the course of a single night, and regretted that there was not
a seventh handy.

For a month he did his work moderately well, but at the end of that time
he began to put it upon other people. He made excuse after excuse to
shirk his legitimate duties. One night he came down with a swollen face.
He was suffering inexpressible agony from toothache, he said, and if
he were to sit down to his desk he really would not guarantee that some
shocking mistake would not occur. He would, he declared, be serving the
best interests of the paper if he were to go home to his bed. He only
waited to drink a bottle of stout before going.

A few days after his return to work he entered the office enveloped in
an odoriferous muffler, and speaking hoarsely. He had, he said, caught
so severe a cold that the doctor was not going to allow him to leave his
house; but so soon as he got his back turned, he had run down to tell
us that it was impossible for him to do anything for a night or two. He
wanted to bind us down in the most solemn way not to let the doctor know
that he came out, and we promised to let no one know except the manager.
This assurance somehow did not seem to satisfy him. But he drank a
bottle of porter and went away.

The very next week he came to me in confidence, telling me that he had
just received the proofs of his usual political article in the
_Quarterly_, and that the editor had taken the trouble to telegraph to
him to return the proofs for press without fail the next day. Now, the
only question with him was, should he chuck up the _Quarterly_, for
which he had written for many years, or the humble daily paper in the
office of which he was standing.

I did not venture to suggest a solution of the problem.

He did.

“Maybe you wouldn’t mind taking a squint”--his phraseology was that
of the rough genius--“through the telegrams for to-night,” said he. “I
don’t like to impose on a good-natured sonny like you, but you see how
I’m situated. Confound that _Quarterly!_”

“Do you do the political article for the _Quarterly?_” I asked.

“Man, I’ve done it for the past eleven years,” said he. “I thought every
one knew that. It’s editor of the _Quarterly_ that I should be to-day
if William Smith hadn’t cut me out of the job. But I bear him no
malice--bless your soul, not I. You’ll go over the flimsies?”

I said I would, and he wiped a bath sponge of porter-froth off his beard
in order to thank me.

I knew that he was telling me a lie about the _Quarterly_, but I did his
work.

Less than a week after, he entered my room to express the hope that I
would be able to make arrangements to have his work done for him once
again, the fact being that he had just received a message from Mrs.
Thompson--the wife of young Thompson, the manager for Messrs. Gibson,
the shippers--to ask him for heaven’s sake to help her to look after her
husband that night. Young Thompson had been behaving rather wildly of
late, it appeared, and was suffering from an attack of that form of
heredity known as _delirium tremens_. He had been held down in the bed
by three men and Mrs. Thompson the previous night, my informant said,
and added that he himself would probably be one of a fresh batch on whom
a similar duty would devolve inside an hour or so.

He had scarcely left the office--after refreshing himself by the
artificial aid of Guinness--before a knock came to my door, and the next
moment Mr. Thompson himself quietly entered. I saw that the poker was
within easy reach, and then asked him how he was.

“I’m all right,” he replied. “I merely dropped in to borrow the _Glasgow
Herald_ for a few minutes. I heard to-day that a ship of ours was
reported as spoken, but I can’t find it in any paper that has come to
us.”

“You can have the _Herald_ with pleasure,” said I. “You didn’t go to the
concert last night?”

“No,” said he. “You see it was the night of our choir practice, and I
had to attend it to keep the others up to their work.”

The next night I asked the sub-editor how his friend Mr. Thompson was,
and if he had experienced much difficulty in keeping him from making an
onslaught upon the snakes.

He shook his head solemnly, as if his experiences of the previous night
were too terrible to be expressed in ordinary colloquialisms.

“Sonny,” said he, “pray that you may never see all that I saw last
night.”

“Or all that Thompson saw,” said I. “Was he very bad?”

“As bad as they make them,” he replied. “I sat on his head for hours at
a stretch.”

“When he was off his head you were on it?”

“Ay; but every now and again he would, by an almost superhuman effort,
toss me half way up to the ceiling. Man, it was an awful night! It’s
heartless of me not being with the poor woman now; but I said I’d do a
couple of hours’ work before going.”

“All right,” said I. “Maybe Thompson will call here and you can walk up
with him.”

“Thompson call? What the blue pencil do you mean?”

“Just what I say. If you had waited for five minutes last night you
might have had his company up to that pleasant little _séance_ in which
you turned his head into a chair. He called to see the _Glasgow Herald_
before you could have reached the end of the street.”

He gave a little gasp.

“I didn’t say Thompson, did I?” he asked, after a pause.

“You certainly did,” said I.

“I’ll be forgetting my own name next,” said he. “The man’s name is
Johnston--he lives in the corner house of the row I lodge in.”

“Anyhow, you’ll not see him to-night,” said I.

*****

The fellow failed to exasperate me even then. But he succeeded early the
next month. He came to me one night with a magazine in his hand.

“I wonder if the boss”--I think I mentioned that he was a rough
diamond--“would mind my inserting a column or so of extracts from this
paper of mine in the _Drawing Room_ on Benvenuto Cellini?” He pronounced
the name “Selliny.”

“On whom is the paper?” I inquired.

“Selliny--Benvenuto Selliny. I’ve made Selliny my own--no man living can
touch me there. I knocked off the thing in a hurry, but it reads very
well, though I say it who shouldn’t.”

“Why shouldn’t you say it?” I inquired.

“Well when you’ve written as much as me,”--he was a rough
diamond--“maybe you’ll be as modest,” he cried, gaily. “When you can
knock off a paper----”

“There’s one paper that you’ll not knock off, but that you’ll be pretty
soon knocked off,” said I; “and that paper is the one that you are
connected with just now. If lies were landed property you’d be one of
the largest holders of real estate in the world. I never met such a liar
as you are. You never wrote that article on Benvenuto Cellini--you don’t
even know how to pronounce the man’s name.”

“The boy’s mad--mad!” he cried, with a laugh that was not a laugh. “Mr.
Barton,”--the managing editor had entered the room,--“this fair-haired
young gentleman is a bit off his head, I’m thinking.”

“I’m not off my head in the least,” said I. “Do you mean to say, in the
presence of Mr. Barton, that you wrote that paper in the _Drawing Room_
on Benvenuto Cellini?”

“Do you want me to take my oath that I wrote it?” said he. “What makes
you think that I didn’t write it?”

“Nothing beyond the fact that I wrote it myself, and that this slip
of paper which I hold in my hand is the cheque that was sent to me
in payment for it, and that this other slip is the usual form of
acknowledgment--you see the title of the article on the side--which I
have to post to-morrow.”

There was a silence in the room. The managing editor had seated himself
in my chair and was scribbling something at the desk.

“My fair-haired friend,” said the sub-editor, “I thought that you would
have seen from the first the joke I was playing on you. Why, man, the
instant I read the paper I knew it was by you. Don’t you fancy that I
know your fluent style by this time?”

“I fancy that there’s no greater liar on earth than yourself,” said I.

“Look here,” he cried, assuming a menacing attitude. “I can stand a lot,
but----”

“And so can I,” said the managing editor, “but at last the breaking
strain is reached. That paper will allow of your drawing a
month’s salary to-morrow,”--he handed him the paper which he had
scribbled,--“and I think that as this office has done without you for
eleven nights during the past month, it will do without you for the
twelfth. Don’t let me find you below when I am going away.”

He didn’t.

*****

I cannot say that I ever met another man connected with a newspaper
quite so unscrupulous as the man with whom I have just dealt. I can
certainly safely say that I never again knew of a journalist laying
claim to the authorship of anything that I wrote, either in a daily
paper, where everything is anonymous, or in a magazine, where I employed
a pseudonym. No one thought it worth his while doing so. A man who
was not a journalist, however, took to himself the honour and glory
associated with the writing of a leaderette of mine on the excellent
management of a local library. The man who was idiot enough to do so was
a theological student in the Presbyterian interest. He began to frequent
the library without previously having paid his fare, and on being
remonstrated with mildly by the young librarian, said that surely it was
not a great concession on the part of the committee to allow him the
run of the building after the article he had written in the leading
newspaper on the manner in which the institution was conducted. It so
happened, however, that the librarian had, at my request, furnished me
with the statistics that formed the basis of the leaderette, and he
had no hesitation in saying of the divinity student at his leisure what
David said of all men in his haste. But after being thrust out of the
library and called an impostor, the divinity student went home and wrote
a letter signed “Theologia,” in which he made a furious onslaught upon
the management of the library, and had the effrontery to demand its
insertion in the newspaper the next day.

He is now a popular and deservedly respected clergyman, and I hear that
his sermon on Acts v., 1-11 is about to be issued in pamphlet form.

*****

Curiously enough quite recently a man in whose chambers I was
breakfasting, pointed out to me what he called a good story that had
appeared in a paper on the previous evening.

The paragraph in which it was included was as follows:--

“A rather amusing story is told by the _Avilion Gazettes_ Special
Commissioner in his latest article on ‘Ireland as it is and as it would
be.’ It is to the effect that some of the Irish members recently wished
to cross the Channel for half-a-crown each, and to that end called on a
boat agent, a Tory, who knew them, when the following conversation took
place:--

“‘Can we go across for half-a-crown each?’

“‘No, ye can’t, thin.’

“‘An’ why not?’

“‘Because’tis a cattle boat.’

“‘Nevermind that, sure we’re not particular.’

“‘No, but the cattle are.’”

That was the entire paragraph..

“It’s a bit rough on your compatriots,” said my host. “You look as if
you feel it.”

“I do,” said I; “I feel it to be rather sad that a story that a fellow
takes the trouble to invent and to print in a pamphlet, should be picked
up by an English correspondent in Dublin, printed in one of his letters
from Ireland, and afterwards published in a London evening paper without
any acknowledgment being made of the source whence it was derived.”

And that is my opinion still. The story was a pure invention of my own,
and it was printed in an anonymous skit, only without the brogue. It
was left for the English Special Commissioner to make a feature of the
brogue, of which, of course, he had become a master, having been close
upon two days in Dublin.

But the most amusing thing to me was to find that the sub-editor of the
newspaper with which I was connected had actually cut the paragraph out
of the London paper and inserted it in our columns. He pointed it out to
me on my return, and asked me if I didn’t think it a good story.

I said it was first rate, and inquired if he had ever heard the story
before. He replied that he never had.

That was, I repeat, the point of the whole incident which amused me
most; for I had made the sub-editor a present of the original pamphlet,
and he said he had enjoyed it immensely.

He also hopes to be one day an ordained clergyman.

*****

When in Ireland during the General Election of 1892, I got a telegram
one night informing me that Mr. Justin M’Carthy had been defeated in
Derry that day by Mr. Ross, Q.C.

It occurred to me that if a quatrain could be made upon the incident it
might be read the next day. The following was the result of the great
mental effort necessary to bring to bear upon the task:--

               “That the Unionists Derry can win

                   Is a matter to-day beyond doubt;

               For Ross the Q.C. is just in,

                   And the one that’s Justin is just out.”

I put my initials to this masterpiece, and I need scarcely say that I
was dizzy with pride when it appeared at the head of a column the
next morning. Now, that thing kept staring me in the face out of every
newspaper, English as well as Irish, that I picked up during the next
fortnight, only it appeared without my initials, but in compensation
bore as preface, lest the reader might be amazed at coming too suddenly
upon such subtle humour, these words:--

“The following epigram by a Dublin wit is being widely circulated in the
Irish metropolis.” Some months afterwards, when I chanced to pay a visit
to Dublin, the author of the epigram was pointed out to me.

“So it was he who wrote that thing about just in and just out?” I
remarked.

“It was,” said my friend. “I’d introduce you to him only, between
ourselves, though a nice enough fellow before he wrote that, _he hasn’t
been very approachable since_.”

I felt extremely obliged to the gentleman. I thought of Mary Barton,
the heroic lady represented by Miss Bateman long ago, who had accused
herself of the crime committed by another.



CHAPTER VIII.--MEN, MENUS, AND MANNERS.


_A humble suggestion--The reviewer from Texas--His treatment of the
story of Joseph and his Brethren--A few flare-up headings--The
Swiss pastor--Some musical critics--“Il Don Giovanni”--A subtle
point--Newspaper suppers--Another suggestion--The bitter cry of the
journalist--The plurality of porridge--An object lesson superior to
grammatical rules--The bloater as a supper dish--Scarcely an unequivocal
success._


I HOPE I may not be going too far when I express the hope in this place
that any critic who finds out that some of my jottings are ancient will
do me the favour to state where the originals are to be found. I have
sufficient curiosity to wish to see how far the jottings deviate from
the originals.

In the preparation of stories for the Press it is, I feel more impressed
every day, absolutely necessary to bear in mind the authentic case of
the young sailor’s mother who abused him for telling her so palpably
impossible a yarn about his having seen fish rise from the water and fly
along like birds, but who was quite ready to accept his account of the
crimson expanse of the Red Sea. Some of the most interesting incidents
that have actually come under my notice could not possibly be published
if accuracy were strictly observed as to the details. They are “owre
true” to obtain credence..

In this category, however, I do not include the story about the
gentleman from Texas who, after trying various employments in Boston to
gain a dishonest livelihood, represented himself at a newspaper office
as a journalist, and only asked for a trial job. The editor, believing
he saw an excellent way of getting rid of a parcel of books that had
come for review, flung him the lot and told him to write three-quarters
of a column of flare-up head-lines, and a quarter of reviews, and maybe
some fool might be attracted to the book column. Now, at the top of the
batch there chanced to be the first instalment of a new Polyglot Bible,
after the plan so successfully adopted by Messrs. Bagster, about to
be issued in parts, and the reviewer failed to recognise the Book of
Genesis, which he accordingly read for fetching head-lines. The result
of his labours by some oversight appeared in the next issue of the
paper, and attracted a considerable amount of interest in religious
circles in Boston.

[Illustration: 0136]

The remaining quarter of a column was occupied by a circumstantial
and highly colloquial account of the incidents recorded in the Book of
Genesis, and it very plainly suggested that the work had been published
by Messrs. Hoskins as a satire upon the success of the Hebrew race in
the New England States. The reviewer even made an attempt to identify
Joseph with a prominent Republican politician, and Potiphar’s wife with
the Democratic party, who were alleged to be making overtures to the
same gentleman.

But I really did once meet with a sub-editor who had reviewed “The Swiss
Family Robinson” as a new work. He commenced by telling the readers
of the newspaper that the book was a wholesome story of a worthy Swiss
pastor, and so forth.

I also knew a musical critic who, on being entrusted with the duty of
writing a notice of _Il Don Giovanni_, as performed by the Carl Rosa
Company, began as follows: “Don Giovanni, the gentleman from whom the
opera takes its name, was a licentious Spanish nobleman of the past
century.” The notice gave some account of the _affaires_ of this
newly-discovered reprobate, glossing over the Zerlina business rather
more than Mozart thought necessary to do, but being very bitter against
Leporello, “his valet and confidant,” and finally expressing the opinion
somewhat dogmatically that “few of the public would be disposed to say
that the fate which overtook this callous scoundrel was not well earned
by his persistence in a course of unjustifiable vice. The music is
tuneful and was much encored.”

Upon the occasion of this particular representation I recollect that I
wrote, “An Italian version of a Spanish story, set to music by a German,
conducted by a Frenchman, and interpreted by a Belgian, a Swiss, an
Irishman and a Canadian--this is what is meant by English Opera.”

My notice gave great offence; but the other was considered excellent.

The moral tone that pervaded it was most praiseworthy, the people said.

And so it was.

I have got about five hundred musical jottings which, if provoked, I
may one day publish; but, meantime, I cannot refrain from giving one
illustration of the way in which musical notices were managed long ago.

Madame Adelina Patti had made her first (and farewell) appearance in the
town where I was located. I was engaged about two o’clock in the morning
putting what I considered to be the finishing touches to the column
which I had written about the diva’s concert, when the reporter of the
leading paper burst into the room in which I was writing. He was in
rather a dishevelled condition, and he approached me and whispered that
he wanted to ask me a question outside--there were others in the room. I
went through the door with him and inquired what I could do for him.

“I was marked for that blessed concert, and I went too, and now I’m
writing the notice,” said he. “But what I want to know is this--_Is
Patti a soprano or a contralto?_”

*****

I have just now discovered that it would be unwise for me to continue
very much farther these reminiscences of editors and sub-editors, the
fact being that I have some jottings about every one of the race whom
I have ever met, and when one gets into a desultory vein of anecdotage
like that in which I now find myself for the first time in my life,
one is liable to exhaust a reader’s forbearance before one’s legitimate
subject has become exhausted. I think it may be prudent to make a
diversion at this period from the sub-editors of the past to the suppers
of the newspaper office. Gastronomy as a science is not drawn out to its
finest point within these precincts. There is still something left to be
desired by such persons as are fastidious. I have for long thought that
it would be by no means extravagant to expect every newspaper office to
be supplied with a kitchen, properly furnished, and with the “good plain
cook,” who so constantly figures in the columns (advertising), at hand
to turn out the suppers for all departments engaged in the production of
the paper.

It is inconvenient for an editor to be compelled to cook his own supper
at his gas stove, while the flimsies of the speech upon which he is
writing are being laid on his desk by the sub-editor, and the foreman’s
messenger is asking for them almost before they have ceased to flutter
in the cooling draught created by opening the door. Equally inconvenient
is it for the sub-editor and the reporters to get something to prevent
them from succumbing to starvation. The compositors in some offices
have lately instituted a rule by which they “knock off” for supper at
half-past ten; but what sort of a meal do they get to sustain them until
four in the morning? I have no hesitation in pronouncing it to be almost
as indifferent as that upon which the editor is forced to subsist for,
perhaps, the same period. I have seen the compositors--some of them
earning £5 a week--crouching under their cases, munching hunches
(the onomatopæia is Homeric) of bread, while their cans of tea--that
abomination of cold tea warmed up--were stewing over their gas burners.

In the sub-editors’ room, and the reporters’ room, tea was also being
cooked, or bottles of stout drunk, the accompanying, comestibles being
bread or biscuits. After swallowing tea that has been stewing on its
leaves for half-an-hour, and eating a slab of office bread out of one
hand while the other holds the pen, the editor writes an article on
the grievances of shopmen who are only allowed an hour for dinner and
half-an-hour for tea; or, upon the slavery of a barmaid; or, perhaps,
composes a nice chatty half-column on the progress of dyspepsia and the
necessity for attending carefully to one’s diet.

Now, I affirm that no newspaper office should be without a kitchen. The
compositors should be given a chance of obtaining all the comforts of
home at a lesser cost than they could be provided at home; and later on
in the night the reporters, sub-editors, and editor should be able to
send up messages as to the hour they mean to take supper, and the dish
which they would like to have. Here is an opportunity for the Institute
of Journalists. Let them take sweet counsel together on the great
kitchen question, and pass a resolution “that in the opinion of the
Institute a kitchen in complete working order should form part of every
morning newspaper office; and that a cook, holding a certificate from
South Kensington, or, better still, Mrs. Marshall, should be regarded as
essential to the working staff as the editor.”

I do not say that a box of Partagas, or Carolinas, should be provided
by the management for every room occupied by the literary staff; though
undoubtedly a move in the right direction, yet I fear that public
feeling has not yet been sufficiently aroused by the bitter cry of the
journalist, to make the cigar-box and the club chair probable; but I do
say that since journalism has become a profession, those who practise it
should be treated as if they were as deserving of consideration as the
salesmen in drapers’ shops. Surely, as we have sent the bitter cry into
all the ends of the earth on behalf of others, we might be permitted the
luxury of a little bitter cry on our own account.

*****

This brings me down to the recollections I retain of the strange ideas
that some of the staff of journals with which I have been connected,
possessed as to the most appropriate menu for supper. One of these
gentlemen, for instance, was accustomed to make oatmeal porridge in a
saucepan for himself about two o’clock in the morning. When accused of
being a Scotchman, he indignantly denied that he was one. He admitted,
however, that he was an Ulsterman, and this was considered even worse
by his accusers. He invariably alluded to the porridge in the plural,
calling it “them.” I asked him one night why the thing was entitled to
a plural, and he said it was because no one but a blue-pencilled fool
would allude to it as otherwise. I had the curiosity to inquire farther
how much porridge was necessary to be in the saucepan before it became
entitled to a plural; if, for instance, there was only a spoonful,
surely it would be rather absurd to still speak of it as “them.” He
replied, after some thought, that though he had never considered the
matter in all its bearings, yet his impression was that even a spoonful
was entitled to a plural.

“Did you ever hear any one allude to brose as ‘it’?” he asked.

I admitted that I never had.

“Then if you call brose ‘them,’ why shouldn’t you call stirabout
‘them’?” he asked, triumphantly.

“I must confess that I never had the matter brought so forcibly before
me,” said I.

As he was going to “sup them,” as he termed the operation of ladling the
contents of the saucepan into his mouth, I hastily left the room. I have
eaten tiffin within easy reach of a dozen lepers on Robben Island in
Table Bay, I have taken a hearty supper in a tent through which a camel
every now and again thrust its nose, I have enjoyed a biltong sandwich
on the seat of an African bullock waggon with a Kaffir beside me, I have
even eaten a sausage snatched by the proprietor from the seething panful
in the window of a shop in the Euston Road--I did so to celebrate the
success of a play of mine at the Grand Theatre--but I could not remain
in the room while that literary gentleman partook of that simple supper
of his.

On my return when he had finished I never failed to allow in the most
cordial way the right of the preparation to a plural. It was to be
found in every part of the room; the table, the chairs, the floor, the
fireplace, the walls, the ceiling--all bore token to the fact that it
was not one but many.

In the hands of a true Ulsterman stirabout “are” a terrible weapon.

As a mural decorative medium “they” leave much to be desired.

*****

Only one man connected with the Press did

I ever know addicted to the bloater as a supper dish. The man came among
us like a shadow and disappeared as such, after a week of incompetence;
but he left a memory behind him that not all the perfumes of Arabia can
neutralise. It was about one o’clock in the morning--he had come on duty
that night--that there floated through the newspaper office a dense blue
smoke and a smell--such a smell! It was of about the same density as
an ironclad. One felt oneself struggling through it as though it were a
mass of chilled steel plates, backed with soft iron. On the upper floor
we were built in by it, so to speak. It arose on every side of us like
the wall of a prison, and we kept groping around it for a hole large
enough to allow of our crawling through. Two of us, after battering at
that smell for a quarter of an hour, at last discovered a narrow passage
in it made by a current of air from an open window, and having squeezed
ourselves through, we ran downstairs to the sub-editors’ room.

Through the crawling blue smoke we could just make out the figure of
a man standing in his shirt sleeves in front of the fire using a large
two-pronged iron fork as a toothpick. On a plate on the table lay the
dislocated backbone of a red herring (_harengus rufus_).

The man was perfectly self-possessed. We questioned him closely about
the origin of the smoke and the smell, and he replied that, without
going so far as to pronounce a dogmatic opinion on the subject, and
while he was quite ready to accept any reasonable suggestion on
the matter from either of us, he, for his part, would not be at all
surprised if it were found on investigation that both smoke and smell
were due to his having openly cooked a rather bloated specimen of the
Yarmouth bloater. He always had one for his supper, he said; critically,
when not too pungent--he disliked them too pungent--he considered that
a full-grown bloater, well preserved for its years and considering the
knocking about that it must have had, was fully equal to a beefsteak.
There was much more practical eating in it, he should say, speaking as
man to man. And it was so very simple--that was its great charm.

For himself, he never could bear made-up dishes; they were, he thought,
usually rich, and he had a poor-enough digestion, so that he could not
afford to trifle with it.

Just then the foreman loomed through the dense smoke, and, being
confronted with the hydra-headed smell, he boldly grappled with it, and
after a fierce contest, he succeeded in strangling one of the heads and
then set his foot on it. He hurriedly explained to the subeditor that
all the hands who had lifted the copy that had been sent out were
setting it up with bowls of water beside them to save themselves the
trouble of going to the water-tap for a drink.

The next day the clerks in the mercantile department were working with
bottles of carbolic under their noses, and every now and again a note
would be brought in from a subscriber ordering his paper to be stopped
until a new consignment of printers’ ink should arrive, in which the
chief ingredient was not so pungent.

At the end of a week the sub-editor was given a month’s salary and an
excellent testimonial, and was dismissed. The proprietor of the journal
had the sub-editors’ room freshly painted and papered, and made the
assistant-editor a present of two pounds to buy a new coat to replace
the one which, having hung in the room for an entire night, had to be
burnt, no cleaner being found who would accept the risk of purifying it.
The cleaners all said that they would not run the chance of having all
the contents of their vats left on their hands. They weren’t as a rule
squeamish in the matter of smells; they only drew the line at creosote,
and the coat was a long way on the other side.

Seven years have passed since that sub-editor partook of that simple
supper, and yet I hear that every night drag-hounds howl at the door of
the room, and strangers on entering sniff, saying,--

“Whew! there’s a barrel of red herrings somewhere about.”



CHAPTER IX.--ON THE HUMAN IMAGINATION.


_Mr. Henry Irving and the Stag’s Head--The sense of smell--A personal
recollection--Caught “tripping”--The German band--In the pre-Wagnerian
days--Another illustration of a too-sensitive imagination--The doctor’s
letter--Its effects--A sudden recovery--The burial service is postponed
indefinitely_.


IT might be as well, I fancy, to accept with caution the statement made
in the last lines of the foregoing chapter. At any rate, I may frankly
confess that I have always done so, knowing how apt one is to be carried
away by one’s imagination in some matters. Mr. Henry Irving told me
several years ago a curious story on this very point, and in regard also
to the way in which the imagination may be affected through the sense of
smell.

When he was very young he was living at a town in the west of England,
and in one of the streets there was a hostelry which bore a swinging
sign with a stag’s head painted upon it, with a sufficient degree of
legibility to enable casual passers-by to know what it was meant to
simulate. But every time he saw this sign, he had a feeling of nausea
that he could overcome only by hurrying on down the street. Mr. Irving
explained to me that it did not appear to him that this nausea was
the result of an offended artistic perception owing to any indifferent
draughtsmanship or defective _technique_ in the production of the sign.
It actually seemed to him that the painted stag possesses some influence
akin to the evil eye, and it was altogether very distressing to him.
After a short time he left the town, and did not revisit it until he had
attained maturity; and then, remembering the stag’s head and the curious
way in which it had affected him long before, he thought he would look
up the old place, if it still existed, and try if the evil charm of
the sign had ceased to retain its potency upon him. He walked down the
street; there the sign was swinging as of old, and the moment he saw it
he had a feeling of nausea. Now, however, he had become so impregnated
with the investigating spirit of the time, that he determined to search
out the origin of the malign influence of the neighbourhood; and then he
discovered that the second house from the hostelry was a soap and candle
factory, on a sufficiently extensive scale to make a daily “boiling”
 necessary. It was the odour arising from this enterprise that induced
the disagreeable sensation which he had experienced years before, and
from which few persons are free when in the neighbourhood of tallow in a
molten state.

I do not think that this story has been published. But even if it has
appeared elsewhere it scarcely requires an apology.

*****

Though wandering even more widely than usual from my text--after all,
my texts are only pretexts for unlimited ramblings--I will give another
curious but perfectly authentic case of the force of imagination. In
this case the imagination was reached through the sense of hearing.

At one time I lived in a town at the extremity of a very fine bay, at
the entrance to which there was a small village with a little bay of
its own and a long stretch of sand, the joy of the “tripper.” I was
a “tripper” of six in those days, and during the summer months
an excursion by steamer on the bay was one of the most joyous of
experiences. But the steamer was a very small one, and apt to yield
rather more than is consistent with modern ideas of marine stability
to the pressure of the waves, which in a north-easterly wind--the
prevailing one--were pretty high in our bay. The effect of this
instability was invariably disastrous to a maiden aunt who was supposed
to share with me the enjoyment of being caught “tripping.” With the
pertinacity of a man of six carrying a model of a cutter close to his
bosom, I refused to “go below” under the circumstances, with my groaning
but otherwise august relative, and she was usually extremely unwell.
It so happened, however, that the proprietors of the steamboat were
sufficiently enterprising to engage--perhaps I should say, to permit--a
German band to drown the groans of the sufferers in the strains of the
beautiful “Blue Danube,” or whatever the waltz of the period may have
been--the “Blue Danube” is the oldest that I can remember. Now, when
the “season” was over, and the steamer was laid up for the winter, the
Germans were accustomed to give open-air performances in the town; so
that during the winter months we usually had a repetition on land of
the summer’s _répertoire_ at sea. The first bray that was given by the
trombone in the region of the square where we lived was, however, quite
enough to make my aunt give distinct evidence of feeling “a little
squeamish”; by the time the oboe had joined hands, so to speak, with the
parent of all evil, the trombone, she had taken out her handkerchief and
was making wry faces beneath her palpably false scalpet. But when the
wry-necked fife, and the serpent--the sea-serpent it was to her--were
doing their worst in league with, but slightly indifferent to, the
cornet and the Saxe-horn, my aunt retired from the apartment amid the
derisive yells of the young demons in the schoolroom, and we saw her no
more until the master of the music had pulled the bell of the hall-door,
and we had insulted him in his own language by shouting through the
blinds “schlechte musik!--sehr schlechte musik!” We were ready enough to
learn a language for insulting purposes, just as a parrot which declines
to acquire the few refined words of its mistress, will, if left within
the hearing of a groom, repeat quite glibly and joyously, phrases
which make it utterly useless as a drawing-room bird in a house where a
clergyman makes an occasional call. For years my aunt could never hear
a German band without emotion, since the crazy little steamer had danced
to their strains. In this case, it must also be remarked, the feeling
was not the result of a highly-developed artistic temperament. The
blemishes of the musical performances were in no way accountable for
my relative’s emotions, though I believe that the average German band
frequenting what theatrical-touring companies call “B. towns,” might
reasonably be regarded as sufficient to precipitate an incipient
disorder. No, it was the force of imagination that brought about my
aunt’s disaster, which, I regret to say, I occasionally purchased, when
I felt that I owed myself a treat, for a penny, for this was the lowest
sum that the _impresario_ would take to come round our square and make
my aunt sick. The sum was so absurdly low, considering the extent of the
results produced, I am now aware that no really cultured musician, no
_impresario_ with any self-respect, would have accepted it to bring
his band round the corner; but when one reflects that the sum on the
original _scrittura_ was invariably doubled--for my aunt sent a penny
out when her sufferings became intense, to induce the band to go
away--the transaction assumes another aspect.

We hear of the enormous increase in the salaries paid to musical artists
nowadays, and as an instance of this I may mention that a friend of mine
a few months ago, having occasion for the services of a German band--not
for medicinal purposes but for a philological reason--was forced to pay
two shillings before he could effect his object! Truly the conditions
under which art is pursued have undergone a marvellous change within a
quarter of a century. I could have made my aunt sick twenty-four times
for the sum demanded for a single performance nowadays. And in the
sixties, it must also be remembered, Wagner had not become a power.

*****

Strong-minded persons, such as the first Lord Brougham, may take a
sardonic delight in reading their own obituary notices, and such persons
would probably scoff at the suggestion made in an earlier chapter, that
the shock of reading the record of his death in a newspaper might have a
disastrous effect upon a man, but there is surely no lack of evidence to
prove the converse of “_mentem mortalia tangunt_.”

I heard when in India a story which seemed to me to be, as an
illustration of the effects of imagination, quite as curious as the
well-known case of the sailor who became cured of scurvy through
fancying that the clinical thermometer with which the surgeon took his
temperature was a drastic remedy. A young civil servant at Colombo felt
rather fagged after an unusually long stretch of work, and made up his
mind to consult the best doctor in the place. He did so, and the doctor
went through the usual probings and stethoscopings, and then looked
grave and went over half the surface again. He said he thought that
on the whole he had better write his opinion of the “case” in all its
particulars and send it to the patient.

The next morning the patient received the following letter:--

“My dear Sir,--I think it only due to the confidence which you have
placed in me to let you know in the plainest words what is the result of
my diagnosis of your condition. Your left lung is almost gone, but
with care you might survive its disappearance. Unhappily, however,
the cardiac complications which I suspected are such as preclude the
possibility of your recovery. In brief, I consider it to be my duty to
advise you to lose no time in carrying out any business arrangements
that demand your personal attention. You may of course live for some
weeks; but I think you would do wisely to count only on days.

“Meantime, I would suggest no material change in your diet, except the
reduction of your brandy pegs to seven per diem.”

This letter was put into the hands of the unfortunate man when he
returned from his early ride the next morning. Its effect was to
diminish to an appreciable degree his appetite for breakfast. He sat
motionless on his chair out on the verandah and stared at the letter--it
was his death-warrant. After an hour he felt a difficulty in breathing.
He remembered now that he had always been uneasy about his lungs--his
left in particular. He put his hand over the place where he supposed
his heart to lie concealed. How could he have lived so many years in the
world without becoming aware of the fact that as an every-day sort of an
organ--leaving the higher emotions out of the question altogether--his
heart was a miserable failure? Sympathy, friendship, love, emotion,--he
would not have minded if his heart were incapable of these, if it only
did its business as a blood pump; but it was perfectly plain from the
manner in which it throbbed beneath his hand, that it was deserving of
all the reprobation the doctor had heaped upon it.

His difficulty of respiration increased, and with this difficulty he
became conscious of an acute pain under his ribs. He found when he
attempted to rise that he could only do so with an effort. He managed
to totter into his bedroom, and when he threw himself on his bed, it was
with the feeling that he should never rise from it again.

His faithful Khânsâmah more than once inquired respectfully if the
Preserver of the Poor would like to have the Doctor Sahib sent for, and
if the Joy of the Whole World would in the meantime drink a peg. But the
Preserver of the Poor had barely strength to express the hope that the
disappearance of the Doctor Sahib might be effected by a supernatural
agency, and the Joy of the Whole World could only groan at the
suggestion of a peg. The pain under his ribs was increasing, and he
had a general nightmare feeling upon him. Toward evening he sank into a
lethargy, and at this point the Khânsâmah made up his mind that the time
for action had come; he went for the doctor himself, and was fortunate
enough to meet him going out in his buggy to dine.

“What on earth have you been doing with yourself?” he inquired, when he
had felt the pulse of the patient. “Why, you’ve no pulse to speak of,
and your skin--What the mischief have you been doing since yesterday?”

“How can you expect a chap’s pulse to be anything particular when he has
no heart worth speaking of?” gasped the patient.

“Who has no heart worth speaking of?”

The patient looked piteously up at him.

“That’s kicking a man when he’s down,” he murmured.

“What’s the matter with you anyway?” said the doctor. “Your heart’s all
right, I know--at least, it was all right yesterday. Is it your liver?
Let me have a look at your eyes.”

He certainly did let the doctor have a look at his eyes. He lay staring
at the good physician for some minutes.

“No, your liver is no worse than it was yesterday,” said the doctor,

“Do you mean to say that your letter was only a joke?” said the patient,
still staring.

“A joke? Don’t be a fool. Do you fancy that I play jokes upon my
patients? I wrote to you what was the exact truth. I flatter myself I
always tell the truth even to my patients.”

“Oh,” groaned the patient. “And after telling me that I hadn’t more than
a few days to live you now say my heart’s all right.”

“You’re mad, my good fellow, mad! I said that you must go without the
delay of a day for a change--a sea voyage if possible--and that in a
week you’d be as well as you ever were. Where’s the letter?”

It was lying on the side of the bed. The patient had read it again after
he had thrown himself down.

“My God!” cried the doctor, when he had brought it over to the lamp. “An
awful thing has happened. This is the letter that I wrote to Lois Perez,
the diamond merchant, who visited me yesterday just before you came.
My assistant must have put the letter that was meant for Perez into the
envelope addressed to you, and your letter into the other cover. Great
heavens!”

The patient was sitting up in the bed.

“You mean to say that--that--I’m all right?” he gasped.

“Of course you’re all right. You told me you wanted a sea voyage, and
naturally I prescribed one for you to give you a chance of getting your
leave without any trouble.”

The patient stared at the doctor for another minute and then fell back
upon his pillow, turned his face to the wall, and wept.

Only for a few minutes, however; then he suddenly sprang from the bed,
caught the doctor by the collar of his coat, looked around for a weapon
of percussion, picked up the pillow and forthwith began to belabour the
physician with such vehemence that the Khânsâmah, who hurried into the
room hearing the noise of the scuffle, fled from the compound, being
certain that the Joy of the Whole World had become a maniac.

After the lapse of about a minute the doctor was lying on the floor with
the tears of laughter streaming down his cheeks and on to his disordered
shirt-front, while the patient sat limp on a chair yelling with
laughter--a trifle hysterically, perhaps. At the end of five minutes
both were sitting over a bottle of champagne--not too dry--discussing
the extraordinary effect of the imagination upon the human frame.

“But, by Jingo! I mustn’t forget poor Lois Perez,” cried the doctor,
starting up. “You may guess what a condition he is in when you know that
the letter you read was meant for him.”

“By heavens, I can make a good guess as to his condition,” said the
patient. “I was within measurable distance of that condition half an
hour ago. But I’m hanged if you are going to make any other poor devil
as miserable as you made me. Let the chap die in peace.”

“There’s something in what you say,” said the doctor. “I believe that
I’ll take your advice; only I must rescue your letter from him. If it
were found among his effects after his death next week, I’d be set down
as little better than a fool for writing that he was generally sound but
in need of a long sea voyage.”

He drove off to the house of the Portuguese dealer in precious stones,
and on inquiring for him, learned that he had left in the afternoon by
the mail steamer to take the voyage that the doctor had recommended.
He meant to call at the Andamans, and then go on to Rangoon, the man in
charge of the house said.

“There’ll be an impressive burial service aboard that steamer before it
arrives at the Andaman Islands,” said the doctor to his wife as he told
her what had occurred. The doctor was in a very anxious state lest
the letter which the Portuguese had received should be found among his
papers. His wife, however, took a more optimistic view of the situation.
And she was right; for Lois Perez returned in due course from Rangoon
with a very fine collection of rubies; and five years afterwards he had
still sufficient strength left to get the better of me in the sale of a
cat’s-eye to which he perceived I had taken a fancy that was not to be
controlled.



CHAPTER X--THE VEGETARIAN AND OTHERS.


_“Benjamin’s mess”--An alluring name--Scarcely accurate--A frugal
supper--Why the sub-editor felt rather unwell--“A man should stick
to plain homely fare”--Two Sybarites--The stewed lemon as a
comestible--The midnight apple--The roasted crabs--The Zenana
mission--The pibroch as a musical instrument--A curious blunder--The
river Deccan--Frankenstein as the monster--The outside critics--A
critical position--The curate as critic--A liberal-minded
clergyman--Bound to be a bishop--The joy-bells._


TO return to the sub-editors and their suppers, I may say that I never
met but one vegetarian pressman. He was particularly fond of a supper
dish to which the alluring name of Benjamin’s Mess was given by the
artful inventor. I do not know if the editor of this compilation had any
authority--Biblical or secular--for assuming that its ingredients were
identical with those with which Joseph, with the best of intentions, no
doubt, but with very questionable prudence, heaped upon the dish of
his youngest brother. I am not a profound Egyptologist, but I have a
distinct recollection of hearing something about the fleshpots of Egypt,
and the longing that the mere remembrance of these receptacles created
in the hearts of the descendants of Joseph and his Brethren, when
undergoing a course of enforced vegetarianism, though somewhat different
in character from that to which, at a later period, Nebuchadnezzar--the
most distinguished vegetarian that the world has ever known--was
subjected. Therefore, I think it is only scriptural to assume that the
original mess of Benjamin was something like a glorified Irish stew, or
perhaps what yachtsmen call “lobscouce,” and that it contained at least
a neck of mutton and a knuckle of ham--the prohibition did not exist in
those days, and if the stew did not contain either ham or corned beef
it would not be worth eating. But the compilation of which my friend was
accustomed to partake nightly, and to which the vegetarian cookery book
arrogates the patriarchal title, was wholly devoid of flesh-meat. It
consisted, I believe, of some lentils, parsnips, a turnip, a head of
cabbage or so, a dozen of leeks, a quart of split peas, a few vegetable
marrows, a cucumber, a handful of green gooseberries, and a diseased
potato to give the whole a piquancy that could not be derived from the
other simple ingredients.

I was frequently invited by the sub-editor to join him in his frugal
supper, but invariably declined. I told him that I had no desire to
convert my frame into a costermonger’s barrow.

Upon one occasion the man failed to come down to the office when he
was due. He appeared an hour later, looking very pale. His features
suggested those of an overboiled cauliflower that has not been
sufficiently strained after being removed from the saucepan. He
explained to me the reason of his delay and of his overboiled
appearance.

“The fact is,” said he, “that I did not feel at all well this morning.
For my breakfast I could only eat one covered dishful of peasepudding,
a head or two of celery and a few carrots, with a tureen of lentil soup
and a raw potato salad; so my wife thought she would tempt me with
a delicacy for my dinner. She made me a bran pie all for
myself--thirty-two Spanish onions and four Swedish turnips, with
a beetroot or two for colouring, and a thick paste of oatmeal and
bran--that’s why it’s called a bran pie. Confound the thing! It’s too
fascinating. I can never resist eating it all, and scraping the stable
bucket in which it is cooked. I did so to-day, and that’s why I’m late.
Well, well, perhaps I’ll gain sense late in life. I don’t feel quite
myself even yet. Oh, confound all those dainty dishes! A man should
stick to plain homely fare when he has work to do.”

But on reflection I think that the most peculiar supper menus of the
sub-editorial staff were those partaken of by two journalists who
occupied the same room for close upon a year--a room to which I had
access occasionally. One of these gentlemen was accustomed to place in
a saucepan on the fire a number of unpeeled lemons with as much water
as just covered them. After four hours’ stewing, this dainty midnight
supper was supposed to be cooked. It certainly was eaten, and with very
few indications, all things considered, of abhorrence, by the senior
occupant of the sub-editor’s room. He told me once in confidence that
he really did not dislike the stewed lemons very much. He had heard
that they were conducive to longevity, and in order to live long he was
prepared to make many sacrifices. There could be little doubt, he said,
that the virtue attributed to them was real, for he had been partaking
of them for supper for over three years, and he had never suffered from
anything worse than acute dyspepsia. I congratulated him. Nothing worse
than acute dyspepsia!

His stable companion, so to speak, did not believe in heavy hot suppers
such as his colleague indulged in. He said it was his impression that
no more light and salutary supper could be imagined than a single apple,
not quite ripe.

He acted manfully up to his belief, for every night I used to see him
eating his apple shortly after midnight, and without offering the fruit
the indignity of a paring. The spectacle was no more stimulating than
that of the lemon-eater. My mouth invariably became so puckered up
through watching the midnight banquets of these Sybarites, it was only
with difficulty that I could utter a word or two of weak acquiescence in
their views on a question of recognised difficulty.

It is somewhat remarkable that the apple-eating sub-editor should be
the one who was guilty of the most remarkable error I ever knew in
connection with an attempted display of erudition. He had set out to
write a lively little quarter-of-a-column leaderette on a topic which
was convulsing society in those days--namely, the cruelty of boiling
lobsters alive. I am not quite certain that the question has even yet
been decided to the satisfaction either of the humanitarian who likes
lobster salad, or of the lobster that finds itself potted. Perhaps the
latter may some day come out of its shell and give us its views on the
question.

At any rate, in the year of which I write, the topic was almost a
burning one: the month was September, Parliament had risen, and as
yet the sea-serpent had not appeared on the horizon. The apple-eating
sub-editor was doing duty for the assistant-editor, who was on his
holidays; and as evidence of his light and graceful erudition, he
asserted in his article that, however inhuman modern cooks might be
in their preparation of Crustacea for the fastidious palates of their
patrons, quite as great cruelty--assuming that it was cruelty--was in
the habit of being perpetrated in cookery in the days of Shakespeare.
“Readers of the immortal bard of Avon,” he wrote, “will recollect how,
in one of the charming lyrics to ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost,’ among the
homely pleasures of winter it is stated that ‘roasted crabs hiss in the
bowl.’

“This reference to the preparation of crabs for the table makes it
perfectly plain that it was quite common to cook them alive, for were it
otherwise, how could they hiss? That listening to the expression of the
suffering of the crabs should be regarded by Shakespeare as one of the
joys of a household, casts a somewhat lurid light upon the condition of
English Society in the sixteenth century.”

*****

It was the lemon-eating sub-editor who, on being requested by the editor
to write something about the Zenana Mission, pointing out the great good
that it was achieving, and the necessity there was for maintaining it in
an efficient condition, produced a neat little article on the subject.
He assured the readers of the paper that, among the many scenes of
missionary labour, none had of late attracted more attention than the
Zenana mission, and assuredly none was more deserving of this attention.
Comparatively few years had passed since Zenana had been opened up to
British trade, but already, owing to the devotion of a handful of men
and women, the nature of the inhabitants had been almost entirely
changed. The Zenanese, from being a savage people, had become, in a
wonderfully short space of time, practically civilised; and recent
travellers to Zenana had returned with the most glowing accounts of the
continued progress of the good work in that country. The writer of the
article then branched off into the “labourer-worthy-of-his-hire” side of
this great evangelisation question--in most questions of missionary
enterprise this side has a special interest attached to it--and the
question was aptly asked if the devoted labourers in that remote
vineyard were not deserving of support. Were civilisation and
Christianity to be snatched from the Zenanese just when both were within
their grasp? So on for nearly half a column the writer meandered in the
most orthodox style, just as he had done scores of times before when
advocating certain missions.

I found him the next day running his finger down the letter Z, in the
index to the Handy Atlas, with a puzzled look upon his face. I knew then
that he had received a letter from the editor, advising him to look out
Zenana in the Atlas before writing anything further about so ticklish a
region.

*****

I also knew a sub-editor who fancied that the pibroch was a musical
instrument widely circulated in the Highlands.

But who can blame a humble provincial journalist for making an odd
blunder occasionally, when a leading London newspaper, in announcing the
death, some years ago, of Captain Wallace, son of Sir Richard Wallace,
stated that the sad event had occurred while he was “playing at
bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne”? It might reasonably have been
expected, I think, that the sub-editor of the foreign news should know
of the existence of the historic mansion Bagatelle, which the Marquis
of Hertford left to Sir Richard Wallace with the store of art treasures
that it contained.

What excuse, one may also ask, can be made for the Dublin Professor who
referred in print “to those populous districts of Hindostan, watered by
the Ganges and the Deccan”?

*****

In alluding to Frankenstein as the monster, and not merely the maker
of the monster, the mistakes made by provincial journalists of the old
school may certainly also be condoned, when we find the same ridiculous
hallucination maintained by one of the most highly representative of
modern journalists, as-well as by the editor of a weekly paper of large
circulation, who enshrined it in the preface to a book for which he was
responsible. In this case the writer could not have been pressed
for time. But the marvel is, not that so many errors are run into by
provincial journalists, but that so few can be laid to their charge.
With telegrams pouring in by private wire, as well as by the P.A. and
C.N., to say nothing of Baron Reuter’s and Messrs, Dalziel’s special
services; with the foreman printer, too, appearing like a silent spectre
and departing like one that is not silent, leaving the impression
behind him that no newspaper, except that composed by a hated rival, can
possibly be produced the next morning;--with all these drags upon the
chariot wheels of composition, how can it be reasonably expected that
an editor or a sub-editor will become Academic in his erudition? When,
however, it is discovered the next day by some tenth-rate curate, who
probably gets a free copy of the paper, that the quotation “_O tempora!
O mores!_” is attributed to Virgil instead of Cicero, in a leading
article a column in length, written upon a speech of seven columns, the
writer is at once referred to as an ignorant boor, and an invitation is
given to all that curate’s friends to point the finger of scorn at the
journalist.

A long experience has convinced me that the curate who gets a free copy
of the paper, and who is most velvet-gloved in approaching any member
of the staff when he wants a favour, such as a leaderette on the Zenana
Mission, in which several of his lady friends are deeply interested, or
a paragraph regarding a forthcoming bazaar, or the insertion of a letter
signed “Churchman,” calling attention to some imaginary reform which
he himself has instituted--this very curate is the person who sends
the marked copies of the paper to the proprietor with a gigantic _Sic_
opposite every mistake, even though it be only a turned letter.

I put a stop to the tricks of one of the race who had annoyed me
excessively. I simply inserted verbatim a long letter that he wrote on
some subject. It was full of mistakes, and to these the next day, in a
letter which he meant to be humorous, he referred as “printer’s errors.”
 I took the liberty of appending an editorial note to this communication,
mentioning that the mistakes existed in the original letter, and adding
that I trusted the writer would not think it necessary to attribute
to the printer the further blunders which appeared in the humorous
communication to which my note was appended.

The fellow sought an interview with me the next day, and found it. He
was furiously indignant at the course which I had adopted, and said I
had taken advantage of the haste in which he had written both letters. I
brought out of my desk forthwith a paper which he had taken the trouble
to re-edit with red ink for the benefit of the proprietor, who had,
naturally, handed it to me. I recognised the handwriting of the red-ink
editor the moment I received the first of his letters.

“Did you make any allowance for the haste of the writers of these
passages that you took the trouble to mark and send to the proprietor?”
 I inquired blandly.

He said he did not know what it was that I referred to; and added that
it was a gratuitous assumption on my part to say that he had marked and
sent the paper.

“Very well,” said I. “I’ll assume that you deny having done so. May I do
so?”

“Certainly you may,” he replied. “I have something else to do beside
pointing out the blunders of your staff.”

“Then I ask your pardon for having assumed that you marked the paper,”
 said I. “I was too hasty.”

“You were--quite too hasty,” said he, going to the door.

“I’ve acknowledged it,” said I. “And therefore I’ll not go to your
rector until to-morrow evening to prove to him that his curate is a
sneak and a liar as well as an extremely ignorant person.”

He returned as I sat down.

“What paper is it that you allude to?” he asked.

“I showed it to you,” said I. “It was the paper that you re-edited in
red ink and posted anonymously to the proprietor.”

“Oh, that?” said he. “Why on earth didn’t you say so at once? Of course
I sent that paper. My dear fellow, it was only my little joke. I meant
to have a little chaff with you about the mistakes.”

“Go away--go away,” said I. “Go away, _Stiggins_.”

And he went away.

*****

I need scarcely say that such clergymen are not to be interviewed every
day. Equally exceptional, I think, was the clergyman who was good enough
to pay me a visit a few months after I had joined the editorial staff
of a daily paper. Although I had never exactly been the leader of the
coughers in church, yet on the other hand I had never been a leader of
the scoffers outside it; and somehow the parson had come to miss me.
I had an uneasy feeling when he entered my room that he had come on
business--that he might possibly have fancied I was afflicted with
doubts on, say, the right of unbaptised infants to burial in consecrated
ground, and that he had come prepared to lift the burden from my soul;
but he never so much as spoke of business until he had picked up his hat
and gloves, and had said a cheerful farewell. Only then he remarked, as
if the thing had occurred to him quite suddenly,--

“Oh, by the way, I don’t think I noticed you in church during the past
few Sundays. I was afraid that you were indisposed.”

“Oh, no,” said I. “I was all right; but the fact is, you see, that I’ve
become a sort of editor, and as I can never get to bed before three
or four in the morning, it would be impossible for me to rise before
eleven. To be sure I’m not on duty on Saturday nights, but the force of
habit is so great that, though I may go to bed in decent time on that
night, I cannot sleep until my usual hour.”

“Oh, I see, I see,” said he, beginning to draw on his gloves. “Well,
perhaps on the whole--all things considered--the--ah--” here he was
seized with a fit of coughing, and when he recovered he said he had
always been an admirer of old Worcester, and he rather thought that some
cups which I had on a shelf were, on the whole, the most characteristic
as regards shape that he had ever seen.

Then he went away, and I perceived from the appearance that his back
presented to me, that he would one day become a bishop. A clergyman with
such tact as he exhibited can no more avoid being made a bishop than the
young seal can avoid taking to the water.

Before five years had passed he was, sure enough, raised to the Bench,
and every one is delighted with him. The celery from the Palace garden
invariably takes the first prize at the local shows; his lordship smiles
when you congratulate him on his repeated successes with celery, but
when you talk about chrysanthemums he becomes grave and shakes his head.

This is his tact.

*****

The church of which he was rector was situated in a fashionable suburb
of the town, and it possessed one of the noisiest peals of bells
possible to imagine. They were the terror of the neighbourhood.

Upon one occasion an elderly gentleman living close to the church
contracted some malady which necessitated, the doctor said, the
observance of the strictest quiet, even on Sundays. A message was sent
to the chief of the bellringers to this effect, the invalid’s wife
expressing the hope that for a Sunday or two the bells might be
permitted to remain silent. Of course her very reasonable wish was
granted. The chief of the ringers thoughtfully called every Sunday
morning to inquire after the sufferer’s condition, and for three weeks
he learned that it was unchanged, and the bells consequently remained
silent. On the fourth Sunday, he was told that the man had died during
the night. He immediately hastened off to the other seven bellringers,
worse than the first, and telling them that their prohibition was
removed, they climbed the belfry and rang forth the most joyous peal
that had ever annoyed the neighbourhood.

“Ah,” said the lady with whom I lodged, “there are the joy bells once
more. Poor Mr. Jenkins must be dead at last.”



CHAPTER XI.--ON SOME FORMS OF SPORT.


_An invitation to shoot rooks--The sub-editors gun--A quotation
from “The Rivals”--The rook in repose--How the gun came to be
smashed--Recollections of the Spanish Main--A greatly overrated
sport--The story of Jack Burnaby’s dogs--A fastidious man--His keeper’s
remonstrance--The Australian visitor---A kind offer--Over-willing
dogs--The story of a muzzle-loader--How Mr. Egan came to be alive--Why
Patsy Muldoon smiled--The moral--Degrees of dampness--Below the
surface--The chameleon blackberry--A superlative degree of thirst._


A FRIEND of mine once came to my office to invite me to an afternoon’s
rook-shooting. I was not in my room and he found me in the sub-editor’s.
I inquired about the trains to the place where the slaughter was to be
done, and finding that they were satisfactory, agreed to join him on the
following afternoon.

Then he turned to the sub-editor--a pleasant young fellow who had ideas
of going to the bar--and asked him if he would care to come also. At
first the sub-editor said he did not think he would be able to come,
though he would like very much to do so. A little persuasion was
sufficient to make him agree to be one of our party. He had not a gun of
his own, he said, but a friend had frequently offered to lend him
one, so that there would be no difficulty so far as that matter was
concerned.

The next day I managed, as usual, just to catch the train as it began to
move-away from the platform. My colleague on the newspaper had the
door of the compartment open for me, and I could see the leather of his
gun-case under the seat. I put my rook rifle--it was not in a case--in
the network, and we had a delightful run through the autumn landscape
to the station--it seemed miles from any village--where my friend was
awaiting us in his dogcart, driving tandem. The drive of three miles
to the rook-wood was exhilarating, and as we skirted some lines of
old gnarled oaks, I perceived in a moment that we could easily fill a
railway truck with birds, they were so plentiful. I made a remark to
this effect to my friend, who was driving, and he said that when we
arrived at the shooting ground and gave the birds the chance to which
they were entitled we mightn’t get more than a couple of hundred all
told.

The shooting ground was under a straggling tree about fifty yards from
the ruin of an old castle, said to have been built by the Knights
Templar. Here we dismounted from the dogcart, sending it a mile or two
farther along the road in charge of the man, and got ready our rifles.

“What on earth have you got there?” my friend inquired of the
sub-editor, who was working at the gun-case.

“It’s the gun and cartridges,” replied the young man; “but I’m not quite
certain how to make fast the barrels to the stock.”

“Great heavens!” cried my friend. “You’ve brought a double-barrelled
sporting gun to shoot rooks!”

And so he had.

We tried to explain to him that for any human being to point such a
weapon at a rook would be little short of murder, but he utterly failed
to see the force of our arguments. He very good-humouredly said that,
as we had come out to shoot rooks, he couldn’t see how it
mattered--especially to the rooks--whether they were shot with his gun
or with our rook rifles. He added that he thought the majority of the
birds were like Bob Acres, and would as lief be shot in an ungentlemanly
as a gentlemanly attitude.

Of course it is impossible to argue with such a man. We only said that
he must accept the responsibility for the butchery, and in this he
cheerfully acquiesced, slipping cartridges into both barrels--the friend
from whom he had borrowed the weapon had taught him how to do this.

We soon found that at this point the breaking-strain of his information
was reached. He had no more idea of sport than a butcher, or the
_Sonttag jager_ of the _Oberlander Blatter._

As the rooks flew from the ruins to the belt of trees my friend and I
brought down one each, and by the time we had reloaded, we were ready
for two more, but I fired too soon, so that only one bird dropped. I
saw the eyes of the man with the shot-gun gleam, “his heart with lust
of slaying strong,” and he forthwith fired first one barrel and then the
other at an old rook that cursed us by his gods, sitting on a branch of
a tree ten yards off.

The bird flapped heavily away, becoming more vituperative every moment.

“Look here,” I shouted, “you mustn’t shoot at a bird that’s sitting on a
branch.”

“Oh. yes,” said my friend, with a grim smile. “Oh, yes, he may. It’ll do
him no more harm than the birds.”

Not a bird did that young sportsman fire at except such as had assumed
a sitting posture, and, incredible though it may seem, he only succeeded
in killing one. But from the moment that his skill was rewarded by
witnessing the downward flap of this one, the lust for blood seemed
to take possession of him, as it does the young soldiers when their
officers have succeeded in preventing them from blazing away at the
enemy while still a mile off. He continued to load and fire at birds
that were swaying on the trees beside us.

“There’s a chance for you,” said my friend, “sarkastik-like,” pointing
to a rook that had flapped into a branch just above our heads.

The young man, his face pale and his teeth set, was in no mood for
distinguishing between one tone of voice and another. He simply took
half a dozen steps into the open and, aiming steadily at the bird,
fired both barrels simultaneously. Down came the rook in the usual way,
clawing from branch to branch. It remained, however, for several seconds
on a bough about eight feet from the ground; then we had a vision of the
sportsman clubbing his gun, and making a wild rush at his prey--and
then came a crash and a cheer. The sportsman held aloft in one hand
the tattered rook and in the other a double-barrelled gun with a broken
stock.

He had never fired a shot in his life before this day, and all his ideas
of musketry were derived from the stories of pirates and buccaneers
of the Spanish Main--wherever that may be--which had come to him for
review. He thought that the clubbing of his weapon, in order to prevent
the escape of the rook, quite a brilliant thing to do.

He had, however, completely smashed the gun, and that, my friend said,
was a step in the right direction. He could not do any more butchery
with it that day.

It cost him four pounds getting that gun repaired, and he confessed to
me that, according to his experience, fowling was a greatly overrated
sport.

*****

It was while we were driving to the train that my friend told me the
story of Jack Burnaby’s dogs--a story which he frankly confessed he had
never yet got any human being to believe, but which was accurate in
all its details, and could be fully verified by affidavit. He did
not succeed in obtaining my credence for it. There are other forms of
falsehood besides those verified by an affidavit, and I could not have
given more implicit disbelief than I did to the story, even if it had
formed the subject of this legal method of embodying a fiction.

It appeared that never was there a more fastidious man in the matter
of his sporting dogs than one Algy Grafton. Pointers that called
for outbursts of enthusiasm on the part of other men--quite as good
sportsmen as Algy--failed to obtain more than a complimentary word from
him, and even this word of praise was grudgingly given and invariably
tempered by many words which were certainly not susceptible of a
eulogistic meaning.

Among his friends--such as declined to resent the insults which he put
upon their dogs--there was a consensus of opinion that the animal which
would satisfy him would not be born--allowing a reasonable time for the
various processes of evolution--for at least a thousand years, and then,
taking into consideration the growth of radical ideas, and the decay of
the English sport, there would be little or no demand for a first-class
dog in the British Islands.

Algy Grafton had just acquired the Puttick-Foozler moor, and almost
every post brought him a letter from his head-keeper describing the
condition of the birds and the prospects of the Twelfth. Though the
letters were written on a phonetic principle, the correctness of which
was, of course, proportionate to the accuracy of a Scotchman’s ear,
and though the head-keeper was scarcely an optimist, still there was
no mistaking the general tone of the information which Algy received
through this source from the north: he gathered that he might reasonably
look forward to the finest shoot on record.

Every letter which he got from the moor, however, contained the
expression of the keeper’s hope that his master would succeed in his
search for a couple of good dogs. The keeper’s hope was shared by Algy;
and he did little else during the month of July except interview dogs
that had been recommended to him. He travelled north and south, east and
west, to interview dogs; but so ridiculously fastidious was he that at
the close of the first week in August he was still without a dog. He was
naturally at his wit’s end by this time, for as the Twelfth approached
there was not a dog in the market. He telegraphed in all directions in
the endeavour to secure some of the animals which he had rejected during
the previous month, but, as might have been expected, the dogs were no
longer to be disposed of: they had all been sold within a day or two
after their rejection by Mr. Grafton. It was on the seventh of August
that he got a letter from his correspondent on the moor, and in this
letter the tone of mild remonstrance which the keeper had hitherto
adopted in referring to his master’s extravagant ideas on the dog
question, was abandoned in favour of one of stern reprimand; in fact,
some sentences were almost abusive. Mr. Donald MacKilloch professed to
be anxious to know what was the good of his wearing out his life on the
moor if his master did not mean to shoot on it. He hoped he would not
be thought wanting in respect if he doubted the sanity of the policy of
waiting without a dog until it pleased Providence--Mr. MacKilloch was
a very religious man--to turn angels into pointers and saints into
setters, a period which, it seemed to Mr. MacKilloch, his master was
rather oversanguine in anticipating.

It was not surprising that, after receiving this letter from the
Highlands, Algy Grafton was somewhat moody as he strolled about his
grounds on the morning of the eighth, nor was it remarkable that,
when the rectory boy appeared with a letter stating that the Reverend
Septimus Burnaby was anxious for him to run across in time to lunch at
the rectory, to meet Jack Burnaby, who had just returned from Australia,
Algy said that the rector and his brother Jack and all the squatters in
the Australian colonies might be hanged together. Mrs. Grafton, however,
whose life had not been worth a month’s purchase since the dog problem
had presented itself for solution, insisted on his going to the rectory
to lunch, and he went. It was while smoking a cigar in the rectory
garden with Jack Burnaby, who had spent all his life squatting, but with
no apparent inconvenience to himself, that Algy mentioned that he was
broken-hearted on account of his dogs. He gave a brief summary of his
travels through England in search of trustworthy animals, and lamented
his failure to obtain anything that could be depended on to do a day’s
work.

“By George! you don’t mean to say there’s not a good dog in the market
now?” said Mr. Burnaby, the squatter.

“But that’s just what I do mean to say,” cried Algy, so plaintively that
even the stern and unbending MacKilloch might have pitied him. “That’s
just what I do mean to say. I’d give fifty pounds to-day for a pair
of dogs that I wouldn’t have given ten pounds for a month ago. I’m
heart-broken--that’s what I am!”

“Cheer up!” said Mr. Burnaby. “I have a couple of sporting dogs that
I’ll lend to you until I return to the Colony in February next--the best
dogs I ever worked with, and I’ve had some experience.”

“It was Providence that caused you to come across to me to-day,
Grafton,” said the rector piously, as Algy stood speechless among the
trim rosebeds.

“You’re sure they’re good?” said Algy, his old suspicions returning.

“Good?--am I sure?--oh, you needn’t have them if you don’t like,” said
the Australian.

“I beg your pardon a thousand times,” cried Algy. “Don’t fancy that I
suggest that the dogs are not first rate. Oh, my dear fellow, I don’t
know how to thank you. I am--well, my heart is too full for words.”

“There’s not a man in England except yourself that I’d lend them to,”
 said Mr. Burnaby. “I give you my word that I’ve been offered forty
pounds for each of them. Oh, there isn’t a fault between them. They’re
just perfect.”

Algy was delighted, and for the remainder of the evening he kept
assuring his poor wife that he was not quite such a fool as some people,
including the Scotch keeper, seemed to fancy that he was.

He had felt all along, he said, that just such a piece of luck as
had occurred was in store for him, and it was on this account he had
steadily refused to be gulled into buying any of the inferior animals
that had been offered to him.

Oh, yes, he assured her, he knew what he was about, and he’d let
MacKilloch know who it was that he had to deal with.

The Australian’s dogs were in the custody of a man at Southampton, but
he promised to have them sent northward in good time. It was the evening
of the eleventh when they arrived at the lodge. They were strange wiry
brutes, and like no breed that Algy had ever seen. The head-keeper
looked at them critically, and made some observations regarding
them that did not seem grossly flattering. It was plain that if Mr.
MacKilloch had conceived any sudden admiration for the dogs he contrived
to conceal it. Algy said all that he could say, which was that Mr.
Burnaby knew perfectly well what a dog was, and that a dog should be
proved before it was condemned. Mr. MacKilloch, hearing this excellent
sentiment, grunted.

The next day was a splendid Twelfth so far as the weather was concerned.
Algy and his two friends were on the moor at dawn. At a signal from the
head-keeper the dogs were put to their work. They seemed willing enough
to work. Under their noses rose an old cock. To the horror of every one
they made a snap for him, and missing him they rushed full speed through
the heather in the direction he had taken, setting up birds right and
left, and driving them by the score into the next moor. Algy stood
aghast and speechless. It would be inaccurate to describe the attitude
of Donald MacKilloch as passive. He was not silent. But in spite of his
shouts--in spite of a fusi-lade of the strongest “sweers” that ever came
from a God-fearing Scotchman with well-defined views of his own on the
Free Kirk question, the two dogs romped over the moor, and the air was
thick with grouse of all sorts and conditions, from the wary cocks to
the incipient cheepers.

To the credit of Algy Grafton it must be stated that he resolutely
refused to allow a gun to be put into the hands of Donald MacKilloch.
There was a blood-thirsty look in the keeper’s eyes as now and again one
of the dogs appeared among the clumps of purple heather. When they were
tired out toward evening they were captured by one of the keepers, and
led off the moor, Algy following them, for he feared that they might
meet with an accident. He sent a telegram that night to their owner, and
the next morning received the following reply:--

“The infernal idiot at Southampton sent you the wrong dogs. The right
ones will reach you to-morrow. You have got a pair of the best
kangaroo hounds in the world--worth five hundred guineas. Take care of
them.--Burnaby.”

“_Kangaroo hounds! kangaroo hounds!_” murmured Algy with a far-away look
in his eyes.

It seems that he is not quite so fastidious about dogs as he used to be.

*****

When in the west of Ireland some years ago, pretending to be on the
look-out for “local colour” for a novel, I heard, with about ten
thousand others, a very amusing story regarding a gun. It was told to
me by a man who was engaged in grazing a cow along the side of a ditch
where I sat while partaking of a sandwich, fondly hoping that at sundown
I might be able to look a duck or two straight in the face as the “fly”
 came over the smooth surface of the glorious lake along which the road
skirted.

“Your honour,” said the narrator--he pronounced the words something
like “yer’an’r,” but the best attempts to reproduce a brogue are
ineffective--“Your honour will mind how Mr. Egan was near having an
accident just as he drew by the bit of stone wall beyond the entrance to
his own gates?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I remember hearing that he was fired at by some
ruffian, and that his horse ran away with him.”

“It’s likely that that’s the same story only told different. Maybe you
never heard tell that it was Patsy Muldoon that was bid to do the job
for Mr. Egan, God save him!”

“I never heard that.”

“Maybe not, sir. Ay, Patsy has repented for that shot, for it knocked
the eye of him that far into the inside of his head that the doctors had
no machine long enough to drag for it in the depths of his ould skull.
Patsy wasn’t a well-favoured boy before that night, and with the loss of
his ear and the misplacement of his eye--it’s not lost that it is, for
it’s somewhere in the inside of his head--he’s not a beauty just now.
You see, sir, Patsy Muldoon, Conn Moriarty, Jim Tuohy, and Tim Gleeson
was all consarned in the business. They got the lend of a loan of ould
Gleeson’s gun, and the powder was in a half-pint whisky-bottle with a
roll of paper for a cork, and every boy was supposed to bring his own
bullets. Well, sir, ould Gleeson, before going quiet to his bed, had put
a full charge of powder and a bullet down the throat of the gun, and had
left her handy for Tim in the turf stack. But when Tim got a hoult of
the wippon, he didn’t know that the ould man had loaded her, and so
he put another charge in her, and rammed it home to make sure. Then
he slipped the bottle with the rest of the powder into his pocket and
strolled down to the bit of dead wall--I suppose they call them dead
walls, sir, because they’re so convanient for such-like jobs. Anyhow, he
laid down herself and the powder-bottle handy among the grass, and went
back to the cabin, so as not to be suspected by the polis of interferin’
with the job that was Patsy’s by right. Well, sir, my brave Conn was the
next to come to the place, just to see that Tim hadn’t played a thrick
on him. He knew that it was all right when he saw herself lying among
the grass, and as he didn’t know that Tim had loaded her, he gave her a
mouthful of powder himself and rammed down the lead. After him came my
bould Tuohy, and, by the Powers, if he didn’t load herself in proper
style too. Last of all came Patsy that was to do the job--he’d been
consalin’ himself in the plantation, and it was barely time he had
to put another charge into the ould gun, when Mr. Egan came up on his
horse. Patsy slipped a cap on the nipple, and took a good aim from the
side of the wall. When he pulled the trigger it’s a dead corp that the
gentleman would ha’ been only for the accident that occurred just
then, for by some reason or other that nobody can account for, herself
burst--a thing she’d never done before--and Patsy’s eye was druv into
his head, and he was left searching by the aid of the other for the half
of his ear, while Mr. Egan was a mile away on a mad horse. That’s the
story, your honour, only nobody can account to this day for the quare
way that Patsy smiles when he sees a single barr’l gun with the barr’l a
bit rusty.”

*****

It was, I recollect, on the day following the rehearsal of this pretty
little tale--the moral of which is that no man should shoot at a fellow
man from the shelter of a crumbling wall, without having ascertained the
exact numerical strength of the charges already within the barrel of
the gun--that I was caught on the mountain in a shower of rain which
penetrated my two coats within half-an-hour, leaving me in the condition
of a bath sponge that awaits squeezing. While I was trickling down to
the plains I met with the narrator of the story just recorded, and to
him I explained that I was wet to the skin.

“And if your honour’s wet to the skin, and you with an overcoat on, how
much worse amn’t I that was out through all the shower with only a rag
on my back?”

It is said that it was in this neighbourhood that the driver of one
of the “long cars,” on being asked by a tourist what was the name of a
berry growing among the hedges, replied, “Oh, them’s blackberries, your
honour.”

“Blackberries?” said the tourist. “But these are not black, but pink.”

“Oh, yes, sir; but blackberries is always pink when they’re green,” was
the ready explanation.

I cannot guarantee the novelty of this story; but I can certainly affirm
that it is far more reasonable than the palpable invention regarding the
nervous curate who is said to have announced that, “next Tuesday,
being Easter Monday, an open air meeting will be held in the vestry,
to determine what colour the interior of the schoolhouse shall be
whitewashed outside.”

*****

“Am I dhry? Is it am I dhry, that you’re afther askin’ me?” said a car
driver to a couple of country solicitors, whom he was “conveying” to a
court-house at a distant town on a summer’s day. “Dhry? By the Powers!
I’m that dhry that if you was to jog up against me suddint-like, the
dust would fly out of my mouth.”



CHAPTER XII.--SOME REPORTERS.


_An important person--The mayor-maker--Two systems--The puff and
the huff--“Oh that mine enemy were reported verbatim!”--Errors of
omission--Summary justice--An example--The abatement of a nuisance--The
testimony of the warm-hearted--The fixed rate--A possible placard--A
gross insult--Not so bad as it might have been--The subdivision of an
insult--An inadequate assessment--The Town Councillor’s bribe--Birds
of a feather--A handbook needed--An outburst of hospitality--Never
again--The reporters “gloom”--The March lion--The popularity of the
coroner._


THE chief of the reporting staff is usually the most important person
connected with a provincial newspaper. It is not too much to say that
it is in his power to make or to annihilate the reputation of a Town
Councillor, or even a Poor Law Guardian. He may do so by the adoption of
either of two systems: the first is persistent attention, the second is
persistent neglect. He may either puff a man into a reputation, or
puff him out of it. There are some men who become universally abhorred
through being constantly alluded to as “our respected townsman”; such a
distinction seems an invidious one to the twenty thousand townsmen who
have never been so referred to. If a reporter persists in alluding to a
certain person as “our respected townsman,” he will eventually succeed
in making him the most highly disrespected burgess in the municipality,
if he was not so before.’ On the other hand a reporter may, by judicious
neglect of a burgess who burns for distinction, destroy his chances of
becoming a Town Councillor; and, perhaps, before he dies, Mayor. But my
experience leads me to believe that if a reporter has a grudge against a
Town Councillor, a Poor Law Guardian, or a Borough Magistrate, and if he
is really vindictive, the most effective course of vengeance that he can
adopt is to record verbatim all that his enemy utters in public. The man
who exclaimed, at a period of the world’s history when the publishing
business had not attained its present proportions, “Oh that mine enemy
had written a book!” knew what he was talking about. “Oh that mine enemy
were reported verbatim!” would assuredly be the modern equivalent of the
bitter cry of the patriarch. The stutterings, the vain repetitions, and
the impossible grammar which accompany the public utterances--imbecile
only when they are not commonplace--of the average Town Councillor or
Poor Law Guardian, would require the aid of the phonograph to admit of
their being anly when they are not commonplace--of the average Town
Councillor or Poor Law Guardian, would require the aid of the phonograph
to admit of their being adequately depreciated by the public.

The worst offenders are those men who are loudest in their complaints
against the reporters, and who are constantly writing to correct what
they call “errors” in the summary of their speeches. A reporter puts in
a grammatical and a moderately reasonable sentence or two the ridiculous
maunderings and wanderings of one of these “public men,” and the only
recognition he obtains assumes the form of a letter to the editor,
pointing out the “omissions” made in the summary. Omissions! I should
rather think there were omissions.

I have no hesitation in affirming that the verbatim reporting of their
speeches would mean the annihilation of ninety-nine out of every hundred
of these municipal orators.

Only once, on a paper with which I was connected, had a reporter the
courage to try the effect of a literal report of the speech of a man
who was greatly given to complaining of the injustice done to him in
the published accounts of his deliverances. Every “haw,” “hum,” “ah,”
 “eh--eh;” every repetition, every reduplication of a repetition, every
unfinished sentence, every singular nominative to a plural verb, every
artificial cough to cover a retreat from an imbecile statement, was
reported. The result was the complete abatement of this nuisance. A
considerable time elapsed before another complaint as to omissions in
municipal speeches was made.

*****

To my mind, the ability and the judgment shown by the members of the
reporting staff cannot be too warmly commended. It is not surprising
that occasionally attempts should be made by warm-hearted persons to
express in a substantial way their recognition of the talents of this
department of a newspaper. I have several times known of sums of money
being offered to reporters in the country, with a view of obtaining the
insertion of certain paragraphs or the omission of others. Half-a-crown
was invariably the figure at which the value of such services was
assessed. I am still of the opinion that this was not an extravagant sum
to offer a presumably educated man for running the risk of losing his
situation. Curiously enough, the majority of these offers of money came
from competitors at ploughing matches, at exhibitions of oxen and swine,
and at flower shows. Why agriculturalists should be more zealous to show
their appreciation of literary work than the rest of the population it
would be difficult to say; but at one time--a good many years ago--I
heard so much about the attempted distribution of half-crowns in
agricultural districts, I began to fear that at the various shows
it would be necessary to have a placard posted, bearing the words:
“GRATUITIES TO REPORTERS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.”

Many years ago I was somewhat tired of hearing about the numerous
insults offered to reporters in this way. A head-reporter once told me
that a junior member of his staff had come to him after a day in the
country, complaining bitterly that he had been grossly insulted by an
offer of money.

“And what did you say to him?” I inquired.

“I asked him how much he had been offered,” replied the head-reporter,
“and when he said, ‘Half-a-crown,’ I said, ‘Pooh! half-a-crown! that
wasn’t much of an insult. How would you like to be offered a sovereign,
as I was one day in the same neighbourhood? You might talk of your
insults then.’ That shut him up.”

I did not doubt it.

“You think the juniors protest too much?” said I.

The reporter laughed shrewdly.

“You remember _Punch’s_ picture of the man lying drunk on the pavement,
and the compassionate lady in the crowd who asked if the poor fellow
was ill, at which a man says, ‘Ill? ‘im ill? I only wish I’d alf his
complaint’?”

I admitted that I had a vivid recollection of the picture; but I
added that I could not see what it had to say to the subject we were
discussing.

Again the reporter smiled.

“If you had seen the chap’s face to-day when I talked of the sovereign
you would know what I meant; his face said quite plainly, ‘I wish I had
half of that insult.’”

That view was quite intelligible to me some time after, when a reporter,
whose failings were notorious, came to me with the old story. He had
been offered half-a-crown by a man in a good social position who had
been fined at the police court that day for being drunk and assaulting a
constable, and who was anxious that no record of the transaction should
appear in the newspaper.

“Great heavens!” said I, “he had the face to offer you half-a-crown?”

“He had,” said the reporter, indignantly. “Half-a-crown! The low hound!
He knew that if I included his case in to-morrow’s police news he would
lose his situation, and yet he had the face to offer me half-a-crown.
What hounds there are in the world! Two pounds would have been little
enough.”

*****

I never heard of a Town Councillor offering a bribe to a reporter; but
I have heard of something more phenomenal--a Town Councillor indignantly
rejecting what he conceived to be a bribe. He took good care to boast of
it afterwards to his constituents. It happened that this Councillor
was the leader of a select faction of three on the Corporation, whose
_métier_ consisted in opposing every scheme that was brought forward by
the Town Clerk, and supported by the other members of the Corporation.
Now the Town Clerk had hired a shooting one autumn, and as the birds
were plentiful, he thought that it would be a graceful act on his part
to send a brace of grouse to every Alderman and every Councillor. He did
so, and all the members of the Board accepted the transaction in a right
spirit--all, except the leader of the opposition faction. He explained
his attitude to his constituents as follows:

“Gentlemen, you’ll all be glad to hear that I’ve made myself formidable
to our enemies. I’ve brought the so-called Town Clerk down on his knees
to me. An attempt was made to bribe me last week, which I am determined
to expose. One night when I came home from my work, I found waiting for
me a queer pasteboard box with holes in it. I opened it, and inside I
found a couple of fat _brown pigeons_, and on their legs a card printed
‘With Mr. Samuel White’s compliments.’ ‘Mr. Samuel White! That’s the
Town Clerk,’ says I, ‘and if Mr. Samuel White thinks to buy my
silence by sending me a pair of brown pigeons with Mr. Samuel White’s
compliments, Mr. Samuel White is a bit mistaken;’ so I just put the
pigeons back into their box, and redirected them to Mr. Samuel White,
and wrote him a polite note to let him know that if I wanted a pair of
pigeons I could buy them for myself. That’s what I did.” (Loud cheers.)

When it was explained to him some time after that the birds were grouse,
and not pigeons, he asked where was the difference. The principle
would be precisely the same, he declared, if the birds were eagles or
ostriches.

*****

It has often occurred to me that for the benefit of such men, a complete
list should be made out of such presents as may be legitimately received
from one’s friends, and of those that should be regarded as insultive in
their tendency. It must puzzle a good many people to know where the line
should be drawn. Why should a brace of grouse be looked on as a graceful
gift, while a pair of fowl--a “yoke,” they are called in the West of
Ireland--can only be construed as an affront? Why should a haunch of
venison (when not over “ripe”) constitute an acceptable gift, while a
sirloin of prime beef could only be regarded as having an eleemosynary
signification? Why may a lover be permitted to offer the object of his
attachment a fan, but not a hat? a dozen of gloves, but not a pair of
boots? These problems would tax a much higher intelligence--if it would
be possible to imagine such--than that at the command of the average
Town Councillor.

*****

It was the same member of the Corporation who, one day, having
succeeded--greatly to his astonishment--in carrying a resolution
which he had proposed at a meeting, found that custom and courtesy
necessitated his providing refreshment for the dozen of gentlemen
who had supported him. His ideas of refreshment revolved round a
public-house as a centre; but when it was explained to him that the
occasion was one that demanded a demonstration on a higher level, and
with a wider horizon, he declared, in the excitement of the moment, that
he was as ready as any of his colleagues to discharge the duties of host
in the best style. He took his friends to a first-class restaurant,
and at a hint from one of them, promptly ordered a couple of bottles
of champagne. When these had been emptied, the host gave the waiter a
shilling, telling him in a lordly way to keep the change. The waiter
was, of course, a German, and, with a smile and a bow, he put the
coin into his pocket, and hastened to help the gentlemen on with their
overcoats. When they were trooping out, he ventured to enquire whom the
champagne was to be charged to.

The hospitable Councillor stared at the man, and then expressed the
opinion that all Frenchmen, and perhaps Italians, were the greatest
rogues unhung.

“You savey!” he shouted at the waiter--for like many persons on the
social level of Town Councillors, he assumed that all foreigners are a
little deaf,--“You savey, I give you one shilling--one bob--you savey!”

The waiter said he was “much oblige,” but who was to pay for the
champagne?

The gentlemen who had partaken of the champagne nudged one another, but
one of them was compassionate, and explained to the Councillor that the
two bottles involved the expenditure of twenty-four shillings.

“Twenty-eight shillings,” the waiter murmured in a submissive,
subject-to-the-correction-of-the-Court tone. The wine was Heidsieck of
‘74, he explained.

The Councillor gasped, and then smiled weakly. He had been made the
subject of a jest more than once before, and he fancied he saw in the
winks of the men around him, a loophole of escape from an untenable
position.

“Come, come,” said he, “I’ve no more time to waste. Don’t you flatter
yourselves that I can’t see this is a put-up job between you all and the
waiter.”

“Pay the man the money and be hanged to you!” said an impetuous member
of the party.

Just then the manager of the restaurant strolled up, and received with a
polite smile the statement of the hospitable. Councillor regarding what
he termed the barefaced attempt to swindle on the part of the German
waiter.

“Sir,” said the manager, “the price of the wine is on the card. Here it
is,”--he whipped a card out of his pocket. “‘Heidsieck--1874--14s.’”

The generous host fell back on a chair speechless.

Had any of his friends ever read Hamlet they would certainly not have
missed quoting the lines:

                   “Indeed this (Town) Councillor

               Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,

               Who was in life--”

Well--otherwise. However, _Hamlet_ remained unquoted.

After a long pause he recovered his powers of speech.

“And that’s champagne--that’s champagne!” he said in a weak voice,
“Champagne! By the Lord Harry, I’ve tasted better ginger-beer!”

He has lately been very cautious in bringing forward any resolutions
at the Corporation. He is afraid that another of them may chance to be
carried.

*****

The reporter who told me the story which I have just recorded, was an
excellent specimen of the class--shrewd, a capital judge of character,
and a good organiser. He had, however, never got beyond the stereotyped
phrases which appear in every newspaper--indeed, there was no need for
him to get beyond them. Every death “cast a gloom” over the locality
where it occurred; and a chronicle of the weather at any time during
the month of March caused him to let loose the journalist’s lion upon an
unsuspecting public.

Once it occurred to me that he went a little too far with the gloom that
he kept, as Captain Mayne Reid’s Mexicans kept their lassoes, ready to
cast at a moment’s notice.

He wrote an account of a fire which had caused the death of two persons,
and concluded as follows:--

“The conflagration, which was visible at a distance of four miles, and
was not completely subjugated until a late hour, cast a gloom over the
entire quarter of the town, that will be felt for long, more especially
as the premises were wholly uninsured.”

Yes, I thought that this was carrying the gloom a little too far.

I will say this for him, however: it was not he who wrote: “A tall but
well-dressed man was yesterday arrested on suspicion of being concerned
in a recent robbery.”

Nor was it he who headed a paragraph, “Fatal Death by Drowning.”

*****

In a town in which I once resided the coroner died, and there was quite
a brisk competition for the vacant office. The successful candidate was
a gentleman whose claims had been supported by a newspaper with which I
was connected. Three months afterwards the proofreader brought under the
notice of the sub-editor in my presence a paragraph which had come from
the reporter’s room, and which had already been “set up.” So nearly as
I can remember, it was something like this:--“Yesterday, no fewer than
three inquests were held in various parts of this town by our highly
respected coroner. Indeed, any doubts that may possibly have existed as
to the qualification of this gentleman for the coronership, among those
narrowminded persons who opposed his selection, must surely be dispelled
by reference to the statistics of inquests held during the three months
that he has been in office. The increase upon the corresponding quarter
last year is thirteen, or no less than 9.46 per cent. Compared with
the immediately preceding quarter the figures are no less significant,
showing, as they do, an increase of seventeen, or 12.18 per cent.
In other words, the business of the coroner has been augmented by
one-eighth since he came into office. This fact speaks volumes for the
enterprise and ability of the gentleman whose candidature it was our
privilege to support.”

Of course this paragraph was suppressed. The sub-editor told me the next
day that it had been written by a junior reporter, who had misunderstood
the instructions of his chief. The fact was that the coroner wanted an
increase of remuneration,--he was paid by a fixed salary, not by “piece
work,” so to speak,--and he had suggested to the chief reporter that
a paragraph calling attention to the increase of inquests in the town
might have a good effect. The chief reporter had given the figures to
a junior, with a few hasty instructions, which he had somehow
misinterpreted.



CHAPTER XIII--THE SUBJECT OF REPORTS.


_The lecture society--“Early Architecture”--The professional
consultation--Its result--“Un verre d’eau”--Its story--Lyrics as
an auxiliary to the lecture--The lecture in print--A well-earned
commendation--The preservation of ancient ruins--The best
preservative--“Stone walls do not a prison make”--The Parnell
Commission--A remarkable visitor--A false prophet--Sir Charles
Russell--A humble suggestion--The bashful young man--Somewhat
changed--“Ireland a Nation”--Some kindly hints--The “Invincibles” in
court--The strange advertisement--How it was answered--Earl Spencer as a
patron--“No kindly act was ever done in vain!”_


A REPORTER is now and again compelled to exercise other powers than
those which are generally supposed to be at the command of the writer
of shorthand and the paragraphist. I knew a very clever youth who in a
crisis showed of what he was capable. There was, in the town where we
lived, a society of very learned men and equally learned women. Once
a fortnight a paper was read, usually on some point of surpassing
dulness--this was in the good old days, when lectures were solemn and
theatres merry. Just at present, I need scarcely say, the position of
the two is reversed: the theatres are solemn (the managers, becoming
pessimistic by reason of their losses, endeavour to impress their
philosophy upon the public), but the lecture-room rings with laughter
as some _savant_ treats of the “Loves of Coleoptera” with limelight
illustrations, or “The Infant Bacillus.” The society which I have
mentioned had engaged as lecturer for a certain evening a local
architect, who had largely augmented his professional standing by a
reputation for conviviality; and the subject with which he was to deal
was “Early Architecture.” A brother professional man, whose sympathies
were said to extend in many directions, had promised to take the chair
upon this occasion. It so happened, however, that, owing to his pressing
but unspecified engagements, the lecturer found himself, on the day for
which the lecture was announced, still in doubt as to the sequence that
his views should assume when committed to paper. About noon on this day
he strolled into the office of the gentleman who was advertised to take
the chair in the evening, and explained that he should like to discuss
with him the various aspects of the question of Early Architecture, so
that his mind might be at ease on appearing before the audience.

They accordingly went down the street, and made an earnest inspection of
the interior of a cave-dwelling in the neighbourhood--it was styled
“The Cool Grot,” and tradition was respected by the presence therein of
shell-fish, oat-cake, and other elementary foods, with various samples
of alcohol in a rudimentary form. In this place the brother architects
discussed the subject of Early Architecture until, as a reporter would
say, “a late hour.” The result was not such as would have a tendency to
cause an unprejudiced person to accept without some reserve the theory
that on a purely æsthetic question, a just conclusion can most readily
be arrived at by a friendly discussion amid congenial surroundings.

A small and very solemn audience had assembled some twenty minutes or so
before the lecturer and chairman put in an appearance, and then no time
was lost in commencing the business of the meeting. The one architect
was moved to the chair, and seconded, and he solemnly took it. Having
explained that he occupied his position with the most pleasurable
feelings, he poured himself out a glass of water with a most
unreasonable amount of steadiness, and laid the carafe exactly on the
spot--he was most scrupulous on this point--it had previously occupied.
He drank a mouthful of the water, and then looked into the tumbler
with the shrewd eye of the naturalist searching for infusoria. Then he
laughed, and told a story that amused himself greatly about a friend of
his who had attended a temperance lecture, and declared that it
would have been a great success if the lecturer had not automatically
attempted to blow the froth off the glass of water with which he
refreshed himself. Then he sat down and fell asleep, before the lecturer
had been awakened by the secretary to the committee, and had opened his
notes upon the desk. For about ten minutes the lecturer made himself
quite as unintelligible as the most erudite of the audience could have
desired; but then he suddenly lapsed into intelligibility--he had
reached that section of his subject which necessitated the recitation of
a poem said to be in a Scotch dialect, every stanza of which terminated
with the words, “A man’s a man for a’ that!” He then bowed, and,
recovering himself by a grasp of the desk, which he shook as though it
were the hand of an old schoolfellow whom he had not met for years, he
retired with an almost supernatural erectness to his chair.

In a moment the chairman was on his feet--the sudden silence had
awakened him. In a few well-chosen phrases he thanked the audience for
the very hearty manner in which they had drunk his health. He then told
them a humorous story of his boyhood, and concluded by a reference to
one “Mr. Vice,” whom he trusted frequently to see at the other end
of the table, preparatory to going beneath it. He hoped there was no
objection to his stating that he was a jolly good fellow. No absolute
objection being made, he ventured on the statement--in the key of B
flat; the lecturer joined in most heartily, and the solemn audience
went to their homes, followed by the apologies of the secretary to the
committee.

The chairman and the lecturer were then shaken up by the old man who
came to turn out the lights. He turned them out as well.

Now, the reporter who had been “marked” for that lecture found that he
had some much more important business to attend to. He did not reach
the newspaper office until late, and then he seated himself, and
thoughtfully wrote out the remarks which nine out of every ten chairmen
would have made, attributing them to the gentleman who presided at
the lecture; and then gave a general summary of the lecture on “Early
Architecture” which ninety-nine out of every hundred working architects
would deliver if called on. He concluded by stating that the usual vote
of thanks was conveyed to the lecturer, and suitably acknowledged
by him, and that the audience was “large, representative, and
enthusiastic.”

The secretary called upon the proprietor of the paper the next day,
and expressed his high appreciation of the tact and judgment of the
reporter; and the proprietor, who was more accustomed to hear comments
on the display of very different attainments on the part of his staff,
actually wrote a letter of commendation to the reporter, which I think
was well earned.

The most remarkable point in connection with this occurrence was the
implicit belief placed in the statements of the newspaper, not only
by the public--for the public will believe anything--but also by the
architect-lecturer and the architect-chairman. The professional standing
of the former was certainly increased by the transaction, and till the
day of his death he was accustomed to allude to his lecture on “Early
Architecture.” The secretary to the committee, for his own credit’s
sake, said nothing about the fiasco, and the solemn members of the
audience were so accustomed to listen to incomprehensible lectures in
the same room that they began to think that the performance at which
they had “assisted” was only another of the usual type, so they also
held their peace on the matter.

*****

Having introduced this society, I cannot refrain from telling the story
of another transaction in which it was concerned. The ramifications of
the society extended in many directions, and a more useful organisation
could scarcely be imagined. It was like an elephant’s trunk, which can
uproot a tree--if the elephant is in a good humour--but which does not
disdain to pick up a pin--like the boy who afterwards became Lord Mayor
of London. The society did not shrink from discussing the question “Is a
Monarchy or a Republic the right form of Government?” on the same
night that it dealt with a new stopper for soda-water bottles. The
Carboniferous Future of England was treated of upon the same evening as
the Immortality of the Soul; perhaps there is a closer connection
than at first meets the eye between the two subjects. It took ancient
buildings under its protection, as well as the most recently fabricated
pre-historic axe-head; and it was the discharge of its functions
in regard to ancient buildings that caused the committee to pass a
resolution one day, calling on their secretary to communicate with the
owner of a neighbouring property, in the midst of which a really fine
ruin of an ancient castle, with many interesting associations, was
situated, begging him to order a wall to be built around the ruins, so
as to prevent them from continuing to be the resort of cows with a fine
taste in archaeology, when the summer days were warm and they wanted
their backs scratched.

The property was in Ireland, consequently the landlord lived in England,
and had never so much as seen the ruins. It was news to him that
anything of interest was to be found on his Irish estates; but as his
son was contemplating the possibility of entering Parliament as the
representative of an Irish borough, he at once crossed the Channel,
had an interview with the society’s secretary, and, with the president,
visited the old castle, and was delighted with it. He sent for his
bailiff, and told him that he wanted a wall four feet high to be built
round the field in the centre of which the ruins lay--he even went so
far as to “peg out,” so to speak, the course that he wished the wall to
take.

The Irish bailiff stared at his master, but expressed the delight it
would give him to carry out his wishes.

The owner crossed to England, promising to return in three months to see
how the work had been done.

He kept his word. He returned in three months, and found, sure enough,
that an excellent wall had been built on the exact lines he had
laid down, but every stone of the ruins of the ancient castle had
disappeared.

The bailiff stood by with a beaming face as he explained how the ruins
had gone.

_He had caused the wall to be built out of the stones of the ancient
castle, to save expense._

*****

If reporters were only afforded a little leisure, any one of them who
has lived in a large town could compile an interesting volume of his
experiences. I have often regretted that I could never master the art
of shorthand. I worked at it for months when a boy, and made sufficient
progress to be able to write it pretty fairly; but writing is not
everything. The capacity for transcribing one’s notes is something to be
taken into account; and it was at this point that I broke down, and was
forced to become a novelist--a sort of novelist. The first time that I
went up country in Africa, my stock of paper being limited, I carried
only two pocket-books, and economised my space by taking my notes in
shorthand. I had no occasion to refer to these notes until I was writing
my novel “Daireen,” and then I found myself face to face with a hundred
pages of hieroglyphs which were utterly unintelligible to me. In despair
I brought them to a reporter, and he read them off for me much more
rapidly than he or anyone else could read my ordinary handwriting
to-day. In fact, he read just a little too fast,--I was forced to beg
him to stop. There are some occurrences of which one takes a note in
shorthand in one’s youth in a strange country, but which one does not
wish particularly to offer to the perusal of strangers years afterwards.

But although I could never be a reporter, I now and again availed myself
of a reporter’s privileges, when I wished to be present at a trial that
promised some interesting features to a student of good and evil. It
seemed to me that the Parnell Commission was an epitome of the world’s
history from the earliest date. No writer has yet done justice to that
extraordinary incident. I have asked some reporters, who were
present day after day, if they intended writing a real history of the
Commission; not the foolish political history of the thing, but the
story of all that was laid bare to their eyes hour after hour,--the
passions of patriotism, of power, of hate, of revenge; the devotion to
duty, the dogged heroism, the religious fervour; every day brought to
light such examples of these varied attributes of the Irish nature as
the world had never previously known.

The reporters said they had no time to devote to such thankless work;
and, besides, every one was sick of the Commission.

Often as I went into the court and faced the scene, it never lost its
glamour for me. Every day I seemed to be wandering through a world of
romance. I could not sleep at night, so deeply impressed was I with the
way certain witnesses returned the scrutiny of Sir Charles Russell; with
the way Mr. Parnell hypnotised others; with the stories of the awful
struggle of which Ireland was the centre.

Going out of the courts one evening, I came upon an old man standing
with his hat off and with one arm uplifted in an attitude of
denunciation that was tragic beyond description. He was a handsome old
man, very tall, but slightly stooped, and he clearly occupied a good
position in the world.

We were alone just outside the courts. I pretended that I had suddenly
missed something. I stood thrusting my hands into my pockets and feeling
between the buttons of my coat, for I meant to watch him. At last I
pulled out my cigarette-case and strolled on.

“You were in that court?” the old man said, in a tone that assured me I
had not underestimated his social position.

He did not wait for me to reply.

“You saw that man sitting with his cold impassive face while the tears
were on the cheeks of every one else? Listen to me, sir! I called upon
the Most High to strike him down--to strike him down--and my prayer was
heard. I saw him lying, disgraced, deserted, dead, before my eyes; and
so I shall see him before a year has passed. ‘Mene, mene, tekel,
upharsin.’”

Again he raised his arm in the direction of the court, and when I saw
the light in his eyes I knew that I was looking at a prophet.

Suddenly he seemed to recover himself. He put on his hat and turned
round upon me with something like angry surprise. I raised my hat. He
did the same. He went in one direction and I went in the opposite.

He was a false prophet. Mr. Parnell was not dead within the year. In
fact, he was not dead until two years and two months had passed. In
accordance with the thoughtful provisions of the Mosaic code, that old
gentleman deserved to be stoned for prophesying falsely. But his manner
would almost have deceived a reporter.

*****

Having introduced the subject of the Parnell Commission, I may perhaps
be permitted to express the hope that Sir Charles Russell will one day
find sufficient leisure to give us a few chapters of his early history.
I happen to know something of it. I am fully acquainted with the nature
of some of its incidents, which certainly would be found by the public
to possess many interesting and romantic elements; though, unlike the
romantic episodes in the career of most persons, those associated with
the early life of Sir Charles Russell reflect only credit upon himself.
Every one should know by this time that the question of what is
Patriotism and what is not is altogether dependent upon the nature of
the Government of the country. In order to prolong its own existence for
six months, a Ministry will take pains to alter the definition of the
word Patriotism, and to prosecute every one who does not accept the
new definition. Forty years ago the political lexicon was being daily
revised. I need say no more on this point; only, if Sir Charles Russell
means to give us some of the earlier chapters of his life he should
lose no time in setting about the task. A Lord Chief Justice of England
cannot reasonably be expected to deal with any romantic episodes in his
own career, however important may be the part which he feels himself
called on now and again to take in the delimitation of the romantic
elements (of a different type) in the careers of others of Her Majesty’s
subjects.

*****

It may surprise some of those persons who have been unfortunate enough
to find themselves witnesses for the prosecution in cases where Sir
Charles Russell has appeared for the defence, to learn that in his
young days he was exceedingly shy. He has lost a good deal of his early
diffidence, or, at any rate, he manages to prevent its betraying itself
in such a way as might tend to embarrass a hostile witness. As a
rule, the witnesses do not find that bashfulness is the most prominent
characteristic of his cross-examination. But I learned from an early
associate of Sir Charles’s, that when his name appeared on the list to
propose or to respond to a toast at one of the dinners of a patriotic
society of which my informant as well as Sir Charles was a member, he
would spend the day nervously walking about the streets, and apparently
quite unable to collect his thoughts. Upon one occasion the proud duty
devolved upon him of responding to the toast, “Ireland a Nation!”
 Late in the afternoon my informant, who at that time was a small
shopkeeper--he is nothing very considerable to-day--found him in a
condition of disorderly perturbation, and declaring that he had no
single idea of what he should say, and he felt certain that unless
he got the help of the man who afterwards became my informant he must
inevitably break down.

“I laughed at him,” said the gentleman who had the courage to tell the
story which I have the courage to repeat, “and did my best to give him
confidence. ‘Sure any fool could respond to “Ireland a Nation!”’ said I;
‘and you’ll do it as well as any other.’ But even this didn’t give him
courage,” continued my informant, “and I had to sit down and give him
the chief points to touch on in his speech. He wrung my hand, and in the
evening he made a fine speech, sir. Man, but it was a pity that there
weren’t more of the party sober enough to appreciate it!”

I tell this tale as it was told to me, by a respectable tradesman whose
integrity has never been questioned.

It occurred to me that that quality in which, according to his
interesting reminiscence of forty years ago, his friend Russell was
deficient, is not one that could with any likelihood of success be
attributed to the narrator.

*****

If any student of good and evil--the two fruits, alas! grow upon the
same tree--would wish for a more startling example of the effect of a
strong emotion upon certain temperaments than was afforded the people
present in the Dublin Police Court on the day that Carey left the dock
and the men he was about to betray to the gallows, that student would
indeed be exacting.

I had been told by a constabulary officer what was coming, so that,
unlike most persons in the court, I was not too startled to be able
to observe every detail of the scene. Carey was talking to a brother
ruffian named Brady quite unconcernedly, and Brady was actually smiling,
when an officer of constabulary raised his finger and the informer
stepped out of the dock, and two policemen in plain clothes moved to his
side. Carey glanced back at his doomed accomplices, and muttered some
words to Brady. I did not quite catch them, but I thought the words
were, “It’s half an hour ahead of you that I am, Joe.”

Brady simply looked at his betrayer, whom it seems he had been anxious
to betray. There was absolutely no expression upon his face. Some of the
others of the same murderous gang seemed equally unaffected. One of them
turned and spat on the floor. But upon the faces of at least two of the
men there was a look of malignity that transformed them into fiends. It
was the look that accompanies the stab of the assassin. Another of them
gave a laugh, and said something to the man nearest to him; but the
laugh was not responded to.

The youngest of the gang stared at one of the windows of the court-house
in a way that showed me he had not been able to grasp the meaning of
Carey’s removal from the dock.

In half-an-hour every expression worn by the faces of the men had
changed. They all had a look that might almost have been regarded as
jocular. There can be no doubt that when a man realises that he has been
sentenced to death, his first feeling is one of relief. His suspense is
over--so much is certain. He feels that--and that only--for an hour or
so. I could see no change on the faces of these poor wretches whom the
Mephistophelian fun of Fate had induced to call themselves Invincible,
in order that no devilish element might be wanting in the tragedy of the
Phoenix Park.

*****

I do not suppose that many persons are acquainted with the secret
history of the detection of the “Invincibles.” I think I am right in
stating that it has never yet been made public. I am not at liberty
to mention the source whence I derived my knowledge of some of the
circumstances that led to the arrest of Carey, but there is no doubt in
my mind as to the accuracy of my “information received” on this matter.

It may, perhaps, be remembered that, some months after the date of the
murders, a strange advertisement appeared in almost every newspaper in
Great Britain. It stated that if the man who had told another, on the
afternoon of May 6th, 1882, that he had once enjoyed a day’s skating on
the pond at the Viceregal Lodge, would communicate with the Chief of the
Detective Department at Dublin Castle, he would be thanked. Now beyond
the fact that May 6th was the date of the murders, and that they had
taken place in the Phoenix Park, there was nothing in this advertisement
to suggest that it had any bearing upon the shocking incident; still
there was a general feeling that it had a very intimate connection with
the efforts that the police were making to unravel the mystery of the
outrage; and this impression was well founded.

I learned that the strangely-worded advertisement had been inserted in
the newspapers at the instigation of a constabulary officer, who had, in
many disguises, been endeavouring to find some clue to the assassins
in Dublin. One evening he slouched into a public-house bespattered as
a bricklayer, and took a seat in a box, facing a pint of stout. He had
been in public-house after public-house every Saturday night for several
weeks without obtaining the slightest suggestion as to the identity of
the murderers, and he was becoming discouraged; but on this particular
evening he had his reward, for he overheard a man in the next box
telling some others, who were drinking with him, that Lord Spencer was
not such a bad sort of man as might be supposed from the mere fact of
his being Lord-Lieutenant. He (the narrator) had been told by a man in
the Phoenix Park on the very evening of the murders that he (the man)
had not been ashamed to cheer Lord Spencer on his arrival at Dublin that
day, for when he had last been in Dublin he had allowed him to skate
upon the pond in the Viceregal grounds.

The officer dared not stir from his place: he knew that if he were at
all suspected of being a detective, his life would not be worth five
minutes’ purchase. He could only hope to catch a glimpse of some of the
party when they were leaving the place. He failed to do so, for some
cause--I cannot remember what it was--nor could the barmaid give any
satisfactory reply to his cautiously casual enquiries as to the names of
any of the men who had occupied the box.

It was then that the advertisement was inserted in the various
newspapers; and, after the lapse of some weeks, a man presented himself
to the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, saying that he
believed the advertisement referred to him. The man seemed a respectable
artisan, and his story was that one day during the last winter that Earl
Spencer had been in Ireland, he (the man) had left his work in order
to have a few hours’ skating on the ponds attached to the Zoological
Gardens in the Phoenix Park, but on arriving at the ponds he found that
the ice had been broken. “I was just going away,” the man said, “when
a gentleman with a long beard spoke to me, and enquired if I had had a
good skate. I told him that I was greatly disappointed, as the ice had
all been broken, and I would lose my day’s pay. He took a card out of
his pocket, and wrote something on it,” continued the man, “and then
handed it to me, saying, ‘Give that to the porter at the Viceregal
Lodge, and you’ll have the best day’s skating you have had in all your
life.’ He said what was true: I handed in the card and told the porter
that a tall gentleman with a beard had given it to me. ‘That was His
Excellency himself,’ said the porter, as he brought me down to the pond,
where, sure enough, I had such a day’s skating as I’ve never had before
or since.”

“And you were in the Phoenix Park on the evening of the murders?” said
the Chief of the Department.

“I must have been there within half-an-hour of the time they were
committed,” replied the man. “But I know nothing of them.”

“I’m convinced of it,” said the officer. “But I should like to hear if
you met any one you knew in the Park as you were coming away.”

“I only met one man whose name I knew,” said the other, “and that was a
builder that I have done some jobs for: James Carey is his name.”

This was precisely the one bit of evidence that was required for the
committal of Carey.

An hour afterwards he offered to turn Queen’s Evidence.



CHAPTER XIV.--IRELAND AS A FIELD FOR REPORTERS.


_The humour of the Irish Bench--A circus at Bombay--Mr. Justice
Lawson--The theft of a pig--“Reasonably suspected”--A prima facie case
for the prosecution--The defence--The judge’s charge--The scope of a
judge’s duties in Ireland--Collaring a prisoner--A gross contempt of
court--How the contempt was purged--The riotous city--The reporter as
a war correspondent--“Good mixed shooting”--The tram-car driver
cautioned--The “loot” mistaken for a violin--The arrest in the
cemetery--Pommelling a policeman--A treat not to be shared--A case of
discipline--The German infantry--A real grievance--“Palmam qui meruit
ferat.”_


THERE is plenty of light as well as gloom to be found in the law
courts, especially in Ireland. Until recently, the Irish Bench included
many humorists. Perhaps the last of the race was Mr. Baron Dowse.
Reporters were constantly giving me accounts of the brilliant sallies of
this judge; but I must confess it seemed to me that most of the examples
which I heard were susceptible of being regarded as evidence of the
judge’s good memory rather than of his original powers.

Upon one occasion, he complained of the misprints in newspapers, and
stated that some time before, he had made the quotation in court,
“Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay,” but the report of
the case in the newspaper attributed to him the statement, “Better fifty
years of Europe than a circus at Bombay.”

He omitted giving the name of the paper that had so ill-treated him
and Lord Tennyson. He had not been a judge for fifteen years without
becoming acquainted with the rudiments of story-telling.

*****

Mr. Justice Lawson was another Irish judge with a strong vein of humour
which he sometimes repressed, for I do not think that he took any great
pleasure in listening to that hearty, spontaneous, and genial outburst
of laughter that greets every attempt at humour on the part of a judge.
It is a nasty thing to say, but I do believe that he now and again
doubted the sincerity of the appreciation of even the junior counsel.
A reporter who was present at one Cork Assizes when Lawson was at his
best, told me a story of his charge to a jury which conveys a very good
idea of what his style of humour was.

A man was indicted for stealing a pig--an animal common in some parts
of Ireland. He was found driving it along, with no more than the normal
amount of difficulty which such an operation involves; and on being
spoken to by the sergeant of constabulary, he stated that he had bought
the pig in a neighbouring town, and that he had paid a certain specified
sum for it. On the same evening, however, a report reached the police
barrack that a pig, the description of which corresponded with the
recollection which the sergeant retained of the one which he had seen
some hours before, had been stolen from its home in the neighbourhood.
The owner was brought face to face with the animal that the sergeant had
met, and it was identified as the one that had been stolen. The man in
whose possession the pig was found was again very frank in stating where
he had bought it; but his second account of the transaction was not
on all fours with his first, and the person from whom he said he had
purchased it, denied all knowledge of the sale--in fact, he was able to
show that he was at Waterford at the time he was alleged to be disposing
of it.

All these facts were clearly proved; and no attempt was made to
controvert them in the defence. The counsel for the prisoner admitted
that the police had a good _prima facie_ case for the arrest of his
client; there were, undoubtedly, some grounds for suspecting that
the animal had disappeared from the custody of its owner through the
instrumentality of the prisoner; but he felt sure that when the jury
had heard the witnesses for the defence, they would admit that it was
utterly impossible to conceive the notion that he had had anything
whatever to do with the matter.

The parish priest was the first witness called, and he stated that he
had known the prisoner for several years, and had always regarded him as
a thrifty, sober, hard-working man, adding that he was most regular in
his attendance to his religious duties. Then the episcopal clergyman
was examined, and stated that the prisoner was an excellent father and
a capital gardener; he also knew something about the care of poultry.
Several of the prisoner’s neighbours testified to his respectability
and his readiness to oblige them, even at considerable personal
inconvenience.

After the usual speeches, the judge summed up as follows:--

“Gentlemen of the jury, you have heard the evidence in the case, and
it’s not for me to say that any of it is false. The police sergeant met
the prisoner driving the stolen pig, and the prisoner gave two different
accounts as to how it had come into his possession, but neither of these
accounts could be said to have a particle of truth in it. On the other
hand, however, you have heard the evidence of the two clergymen, to whom
the prisoner was well known. Nothing could be more satisfactory than
the character they gave him. Then you heard the evidence given by the
neighbours of the prisoner, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that
nothing could be more gratifying than the way they all spoke of his
neighbourly qualities. Now, gentlemen, although no attempt whatever has
been made by the defence to meet the evidence given for the prosecution,
yet I feel it necessary to say that it is utterly impossible that you
should ignore the testimony given as to the character of the prisoner
by so many witnesses of unimpeachable integrity; therefore, gentlemen,
I think that the only conclusion you can come to is that the pig was
stolen by the prisoner and that he is the most amiable man in the County
Cork.”

*****

Mr. Justice Lawson used to boast that he was the only judge on the
Bench who had ever arrested a man with his own hand. The circumstances
connected with this remarkable incident were related to me by a reporter
who was present in the court when the judge made the arrest.

The _locale_ was the court-house of an assize town in the South of
Ireland. For several days the Crown had failed to obtain a conviction,
although in the majority of the cases the evidence was practically
conclusive; and as each prisoner was either sent back or set free, the
crowds of sympathisers made an uproar that all the ushers in attendance
were powerless to suppress. On the fourth day the judge, at the opening
of the court, called for the County Inspector of Constabulary, and, when
the officer was brought from the billiard-room of the club, and bustled
in, all sabre and salute, the judge, in his quiet way, remarked to him,
“I’m sorry for troubling you, sir, but I just wished to say that as the
court has been turned into a bear-garden for some hours during the past
three days, I intend to hold you responsible for the maintenance of
perfect order to-day. Your duty is to arrest every man, woman, or child
that makes any demonstration of satisfaction or dissatisfaction at the
result of the hearing of a case, and to put them in the dock, and give
evidence as to their contempt of court. I’ll deal with them after that.”
 The officer went down, and orders were given to his men, of whom
there were about fifty in the court, to arrest any one expressing his
feelings. The first prisoner to be tried was a man named O’Halloran, and
his case excited a great deal of interest. The court was crowded to a
point of suffocation while the judge was summing up, which he did with a
directness that left nothing to be desired. In five minutes the jury
had returned a verdict of “Not Guilty.” At that instant a wild “Hurroo!”
 rang through the court. It came from a youth who had climbed a pillar at
a distance of about a yard from the Bench. In a moment the judge had put
out his hand and grasped the fellow by the collar; and then, of course,
the policemen crushed through the crowd, and about a dozen of them
seized the prehensible legs of the prisoner Stylites.

“One of you will be ample,” said the judge. “Don’t pull the boy to
pieces; let him down gently.”

This operation was carried out, and the excitable youth was placed in
the dock, whence the prisoner just tried had stepped.

“Now,” said the judge, “I’m going to make an example of you. You heard
what I said to the Inspector of Constabulary, and yet I arrested you
with my own hand in the very act of committing a gross contempt of
court. I’ll make an example of you for the benefit of others. What’s
your name?”

“O’Halloran, yer honour,” said the trembling youth.

“Isn’t that the name of the prisoner who has just been tried?” said the
judge.

“It is, my lord,” replied the registrar.

“Is the last prisoner any relation of yours?” the judge asked of the
youth in the dock.

“He’s me brother, yer honour,” was the reply.

“Release the boy, and go on with the business of the court,” said the
judge.

*****

I chanced to be in Belfast at the time of the riots in 1886, and my
experience of the incidents of every day and every night led me to
believe that British troops have been engaged in some campaigns that
were a good deal less risky to war correspondents than the riots were
to the local newspaper reporters. Six of them were more or less severely
wounded in the course of a week. I found it necessary, more than once,
to go through the localities of the disturbances, and I must confess
that I was always glad when I found myself out of the line of fire. I am
strongly of the opinion that the reporters should have been paid at the
ratio of war correspondents at that time. When they engaged themselves
they could not have contemplated the possibility of being forced daily
for several weeks to stand up before a fusilade of stones weighing a
pound or so each, and Martini-Henry bullets, with an occasional iron
“nut” thrown in to make up weight, as it were. In the words of the
estate agents’ advertisements, there was a great deal of “good mixed
shooting” in the streets almost nightly for a month.

Several ludicrous incidents took place while the town was crowded with
constabulary who had been brought hastily from the country districts. A
reporter told me that he was the witness of an earnest remonstrance on
the part of a young policeman with a tram-car driver, whom he advised to
take his “waggon” down some of the side streets, in order to escape
the angry crowd that had assembled farther up the road. Upon another
occasion, a grocer’s shop had been looted by the mob at night, and a
man had been fortunate enough to secure a fine ham which he was
endeavouring, but with very partial success, to secrete beneath his
coat. A whole ham takes a good deal of secreting. The police had orders
to clear the street, and they were endeavouring to obey these orders.
The man with the ham received a push on his shoulder, and the policeman
by whom it was dealt, shouted out in a fine, rich Southern brogue
(abhorred in Belfast), “Git along wid ye, now thin, you and yer violin.
Is this any toime for ye to be after lookin’ to foind an awjence? Ye’ll
get that violin broke, so ye will.”

The man was only too glad to hurry on with his “Strad.” of fifteen
pounds’ weight, mild-cured. He did not wait to explain that there is a
difference between the viol and “loot.”

*****

One of the country policemen made an arrest of a man whom he saw in the
act of throwing a stone, and the next day he gave his evidence at the
Police Court very clearly. He had ascertained that the scene of the
arrest was York Street, and he said so; but the street is about a mile
long, and the magistrate wished to know at what part of it the incident
had occurred.

“It was just outside the cimitery, yer wash’p,” replied the man.

“The cemetery?” said the magistrate. “But there’s no cemetery in York
Street.”

“Oh, yes, yer wash’p--there’s a foine cimitery there,” said the
policeman. “It was was just outside the cimitery I arrested the
prisoner.”

“It’s the first I’ve heard of a cemetery in that neighbourhood,” said
the Bench. “Don’t you think the constable is mistaken, sergeant?”

The sergeant put a few questions to the witness, and asked him how he
knew that the place was a cemetery.

“Why, how would anybody know a cimitery except by the tombstones?” said
the witness. “I didn’t go for to dig up a corp or two, but there was the
foinest array of tombstones I ever clapt oyes on.”

“It’s the stonecutter’s yard the man means,” came a voice from the body
of the court; and in another moment there was a roar of laughter from
all present.

The arrest had been made outside a stonecutter’s railed yard, and the
strange policeman had taken the numerous specimens of the proprietor’s
craft, which were standing around in various stages of progress, for the
_bona fide_ furnishing of a graveyard.

He was scarcely to be blamed for his error.

*****

I believe that it was during these riots the story originated--it is now
pretty well known, I think--of the man who had caught a policeman, and
was holding his head down while he battered him, when a brother rowdy
rushed up, crying,--

“Who have you there, Bill?”

“A policeman.”

“Hold on, and let me have a thump at him.”

“Git along out of this, and find a policeman for yourself!”

*****

Having referred to the Royal Irish Constabulary, I may not perhaps
be regarded as more than usually discursive if I add my expression of
admiration for this splendid Force to the many pages of commendation
which it has received from time to time from those whose opinion carries
weight with it--which mine does not. The men are the flower of the
people of Ireland. They have a _sense_ of discipline--it has not to
be impressed upon them by an occasional “fortnight’s C.B.” Upon one
occasion, I was the witness of the extent to which this innate sense of
discipline will stretch without the breaking strain being reached. One
of the most distinguished officers in the Force was parading about one
hundred men armed with the usual carbine--the handiest of weapons--and
with swords fixed. He was mounted on a charger with some blood in
it--you would not find the same man astride of anything else--and for
several days it had been looking down the muzzles of the rifles of a
couple of regiments of autumn manoeuvrers who had been engaged in a sham
fight in the Park; but it had never shown the least uneasiness, even
when the Field Artillery set about the congenial task of annihilating a
skeleton enemy. It stood patiently while the constabulary “ported,”
 “carried,” and “shouldered”; but so soon as the order to “present” was
given, a gleam of sunlight glanced down the long line of fixed swords,
and that twinkle was just what an Irish charger, born and bred among the
fogs of the Atlantic seaboard, could not stand. It whirled round, and
went at full gallop across the springy turf, then suddenly stopped,
sending its rider about twenty yards ahead upon his hands and knees.
After this feat, it allowed itself to be quietly captured by the mounted
orderly who had galloped after it. The orderly dismounted from his
horse, and passed it on to the officer, who galloped back to the long
line of men standing at the “present” just as they had been before
he had left them so hurriedly. They received the order to “shoulder”
 without emotion, and then the parade went on as if nothing had happened.
Subsequently, the officer remounted his own charger--which had been led
up, and had offered an ample apology--and in course of time he again
gave the order to “present.” The horse’s ears went back, but it did not
move a hoof. After the “shoulder” and “port” the officer made the men
“charge swords,” and did not halt them until they were within a yard of
the horse’s head. The manouvre had no effect upon the animal.

I could not help contrasting the discipline shown by the Irish
Constabulary upon this occasion with the bearing of a company of a
regiment of German Infantry, who were being paraded in the Thiergarten
at Berlin, when I was riding there one day. The captain and lieutenant
had strolled away from the men, leaving them standing, not “at ease,”
 but at “attention”--I think the officers were making sure that the
carriage of the Crown Prince was not coming in their direction. But
before two minutes had passed the men were standing as easy as could
well be, chatting together, and suggesting that the officers were
awaiting the approach of certain young ladies, about whose personal
traits and whose profession they were by no means reticent. Of course,
when the officers turned, the men stood at “attention”; but I trotted on
to where I lived In Den Zelten, feeling that there was but little sense
of discipline in the German Army--so readily does a young man arrive
at a grossly erroneous conclusion through generalising from a single
instance.

*****

It is difficult to understand how it comes that the splendid services
of the Royal Irish Constabulary have not been recognised by the State.
I have known officers who served on the staff during the Egyptian
campaign, but who confessed to me that they never heard a shot fired
except for saluting purposes, and yet they wore three decorations
for this campaign. Surely those Irish Constabulary officers, who have
discharged the most perilous duties from time to time, as well as
daily duties requiring the exercise of tact, discretion, judgment, and
patience, are at least as deserving of a medal as those soldiers who
obtained the maximum of reward at the minimum of risk in Egypt, South
Africa, or Ashantee. The decoration of the Volunteers was a graceful
recognition of the spirit that binds together these citizen soldiers.
Surely the services of some members of the Irish Constabulary should be
similarly recognised. This is a genuine Irish grievance, and it is one
that could be redressed much more easily than the majority of the ills
that the Irish people are heir to. A vote for a thousand pounds would
purchase the requisite number of medals or stars or crosses--perhaps
all three might be provided out of such a fund--for those members of the
Force who have distinguished themselves. The right adjudication of
the rewards presents no difficulty, owing to the “record” system which
prevails in the Force.



CHAPTER XV.--IRISH TROTTINGS AND JOTTINGS.


_Some Irish hotels--When comfort comes in at the door, humour flies
out by the window--A culinary experience--Plenty of new sensations--A
kitchen blizzard--How to cook corned beef--A théoriser--Hare soup--A
word of encouragement--The result--An avenue forty-two miles long--Nuda
veritas--An uncanny request--A diabolic lunch--A club dinner--The pièce
de resistance--Not a going concern--A minor prophecy--An easy drainage
system--Not to be worked by an amateur--Après moi, le deluge--Hot water
and its accompaniments--The boots as Atropos--A story of Thackeray--A
young shaver._


WHEN writing for an Irish newspaper, I took some pains to point out
how easily the country might be made attractive to tourists if only the
hotels were improved. I have had frequent “innings,” and my experiences
of Irish hotels in various districts where I have shot, or fished, or
yachted, or boated, would make a pretty thick volume, if recorded. But
while most of these experiences have some grain of humour in them, that
humour is of a type that looks best when viewed from a distance. When it
is first sprung upon him, this Irish fun is not invariably relished by
the traveller.

Mr. Max O’Rell told me that he liked the Irish hotels at which he had
sojourned, because he was acknowledged by the _maîtres_ to possess an
identity that could not be adequately expressed by numerals. But on the
whole it is my impression that the numerical system is quite tolerable
if one gets good food and a clean sleeping-place. To be sure there is no
humour in a comfortable dinner, or a bed that does not require a layer
of Keating to be spread as a sedative to the army of occupation; still,
though the story of tough chickens and midnight hunts can be made
genuinely entertaining, I have never found that these actual incidents
were in themselves very inspiriting.

A friend of mine who has a capital shooting in a picturesque district,
was compelled to lodge, and to ask his guests to lodge, at the little
inn during his first shooting season. Knowing that the appetite of men
who have been walking over mountains of heather is not usually very
fastidious, he fancied that the inn cook would be quite equal to the
moderate demands made upon her skill. The experiment was a disastrous
one. The more explicit the instructions the woman was given regarding
the preparation of the game, the more mortifying to the flesh were
her achievements. There was, it is true, a certain amount of interest
aroused among us every day as to the form that the culinary whim of the
cook would assume. The monarch that offered a reward for the discovery
of a new sensation would have had a good time with us. We had new
sensations at the dinner hour every day. “Lord, we know what we are,
but know not what we may be,” was an apothegm that found constant
illustration when applied to that woman’s methods: we knew that we gave
her salmon, and grouse, and hare, and snipe; but what was served to us,
Heaven and that cook only knew--on second thoughts I will leave Heaven
out of the question altogether. The monstrous originalities, the
appalling novelties, the confounding of substances, the unnatural daring
manifested in every day’s dinner, filled us with amazement, but,
alas! with nothing else. We were living in a sort of perpetual kitchen
blizzard--in the centre of a culinary chaos. The whirl was too much for
us.

Our host took upon him to allay the fiend. He sent to the nearest town
for butcher’s supplies. The first joint that arrived was a fine piece of
corned beef.

“There, my good woman,” cried our host, putting it into the cook’s
hands, “I suppose you can cook that, if you can’t cook game.”

“Oh, yes, your honour, it’s misself that can cook it tubbe sure,” she
cried in her lighthearted way.

She did cook it.

_She roasted it for five hours on a spit in front of the kitchen fire._

As she laid it on the table, she apologised for the unavoidable absence
of gravy.

It was the driest joint she had ever roasted, she said; and I do believe
that it was.

*****

One of the party, who had theories on the higher education of women, and
other methods of increasing the percentage of unmarriageable females,
said that the cook had never been properly approached. She could not
be expected to know by intuition that the flavour of salmon trout was
impaired by being stewed in a cauldron with a hare and many friends, or
that the prejudices of an effete civilisation did not extend so far
as to make the boiling of grouse in a pot with bacon a necessity of
existence. The woman only needed a hint or two and she would be all
right.

He said he would give her a hint or two. He made soup the basis of his
first hints.

It was so simple, he said.

He picked up a couple of hares, an old cock grouse and a few snipe, and
told the woman to put them in a pot, cover them with water, and leave
them to simmer--“Not to boil, mind; you understand?”--“Oh, tubbe sure,
sorr,”--for the six hours that we would be on the mountain. He showed
her how to cut up onions, and they cut up some between them; he then
taught her how to fry an onion in the most delicate of ribbon-like
slices for “browning.” All were added to the pot, and our friend joined
us with a very red face, and carrying about him a flavour of fried
onions as well defined as a saint’s halo by Fra Angelico. The dogs
sniffed at him for a while, and so did the keeper.

He declared that the woman was a most intelligent specimen, and quite
ready to learn. We smiled grimly.

All that day our friend shot nothing. We could see that, like Eugene
Aram, his thought was otherwhere. We knew that he was thinking over the
coming soup.

On returning to the inn after a seven hours’ tramp, he hastened to the
kitchen. A couple of us loitered outside the door, for we felt certain
that a surprise was awaiting our friend--the pot would have leaked,
perhaps; but the savoury smell that filled the kitchen and overflowed
into the lobby and the room where we dined made us aware that everything
was right.

Our friend turned a stork’s eye into the pot, and then, with a word
of kind commendation to the cook--“A man’s word of encouragement is
everything to a woman, my lad, with a wink to me--he called for a pint
of port wine and placed it handy.

“Now,” said he to the woman, “strain off that soup in a quarter of an
hour, add that wine, and we’ll show these gentlemen that between us we
can cook.”

In a quarter of an hour we were sitting round the table. Our friend
tried to look modest and devoid of all self-consciousness as the woman
entered with a glow of crimson triumph on her face, and bearing in her
hands an immense dish with the well-known battered zinc cover concealing
the contents.

Down went the dish, and up went the cover, disclosing a rugged,
mountainous heap of the bones of hare, with threads of flesh still
adhering to them, and the skeletons of some birds.

“Good Lord!” cried our host. “What’s this anyway? The rags of what was
stewed down for the soup?”

Our theorising friend leapt up.

“Woman,” he shouted, “where the devil is the soup?”

“Sure, didn’t ye bid me strain it off, sorr?” said the woman.

“And where the blazes did you strain it off?” he asked, in an awful
whisper.

“Why, where should I be after straining it, sorr, but into the bog?” she
replied.

The bog was an incident of the landscape at the back of the inn.

*****

I recollect that upon the occasion of this shooting party, a new
under-keeper arrived from Connaught, and I overheard him telling a
colleague who came from the county Clare, that the avenue leading to his
last employer’s residence was forty-two miles long.

“By me sowl,” said the Clare man, “it’s not me that would like to be
set down at the lodge gates on an empty stomach within half-an-hour of
dinner-time.”

After some further conversation, the Connaught man began to dilate upon
the splendour of his late master’s family. He reached a truly dramatic
climax by saying,--

“And every night of their lives at home the ladies strip for dinner.”

“Holy Moses!” was the comment.

“Do your master’s people at home strip for dinner?” enquired the
Connaught man.

“No; but they link in,” was the thoughtful reply.

Sometimes, it must be acknowledged, an unreasonable strain is put upon
the resources of an Irish inn by an inconsiderate tourist. Some years
ago, my brother-in-law, Bram Stoker, was spending his holiday in a
picturesque district of the south-west. He put up at the usual inn, and
before leaving for a ramble, oh the morning of his arrival, the cook
(and waitress) asked him what he would like for lunch. The day was a
trifle chilly, and, forgetting for the moment that he was not within the
precincts of the Green-room or the Garrick, he said, “Oh, I think that
it’s just the day for a devil--yes, I’ll cat a devil at two.”

“Holy Saints!” cried the woman, as he walked off. “What sort of a man is
that at all, at all? He wants to lunch off the Ould Gentleman.”

The landlord scratched his chin and said that this was the most
unreasonable demand that had ever been made upon his house. He
expressed the opinion that the gastronome whose palate was equal to this
particular _plat_ should seek it elsewhere--he even ventured to specify
the _locale_ at which the search might appropriately begin with the best
chances of being realised. His wife, however, took a less despondent
view of the situation, and suggested that as the powers of exorcising
the Foul Fiend were delegated to the priest, it might be only reasonable
to assume that the reverend gentleman would be equal to the much less
difficult feat involved in the execution of the tourist’s order.

But before the priest had been sent for, the constabulary officer drove
up, and was consulted on the question that was agitating the household.
With a roar of laughter, the officer called for a couple of chops and
the mustard and cayenne pots--he had been there before--and showed the
cook the way out of her difficulty.

But up to the present hour I hear that that landlord says,--

“By the powers, it’s misself that never knew what a divil was till Mr.
Stoker came to my house.”

*****

However piquant a comestible the Foul Fiend might be, I believe that
in point of toughness he would compare favourably with a fully-matured
swan. Among the delicacies of the table I fear that the swan will not
obtain great honour, if any dependence may be placed upon a story which
was told to me at a fishing inn in Connemara, regarding an experiment
accidentally tried upon such a bird. I repeat the story in this place,
lest any literary man may be led to pamper a weak digestion by indulging
in a swan supper. The specimen in question was sent by a gentleman, who
lived in a stately home in Lincolnshire, as a gift to the Athenæum club,
of which he was a member. The bird was addressed to the secretary, and
that gentleman without delay handed it over to the cook to be prepared
for the table. There was to be a special dinner at the end of the week,
and the committee thought that a distinctive feature might be made of
the swan. They were not mistaken. As a _coup d’oil_ the swan, resting
on a great silver dish, carried to the table by two servitors, could
scarcely have been surpassed even by the classical peacock or the
mediaeval boar’s head. The croupier plunged a fork with a steady hand
into the right part--wherever that was situated--and then attacked the
breast with his knife. Not the slightest impression could he make upon
that portion of the mighty structure that faced him. The breast turned
the edge of the knife; and when the breast did that the people at the
table began to wonder what the drum-sticks would be like. A stronger
blade was sent for, and an athlete--he was not a member of the
Athenæum--essayed to penetrate the skin, and succeeded too, after a
vigorous struggle. When he had wiped the drops from his brow he went
at the flesh with confidence in his own powers. By some brilliant
wrist-practice he contrived to chip a few flakes off, but it soon became
plain that eating any one of them was out of the question. One might as
well submit as a _plat_ a drawer of a collector’s geological cabinet.
The club cook was sent for, and he explained that he had had no previous
experience of swans, but he considered that the thirteen hours’ boiling
to which he had submitted the first specimen that had come under his
notice, all that could reasonably be required by any bird, whether swan
or cassowary. He thought that perhaps with a circular saw, after a
steam roller had been passed a few times over the carcass, it might be
possible....

“Well, I hope you got my swan all right,” said the donor a few days
after, addressing the secretary.

“That was a nice joke you played on us,” said the secretary.

“Joke? What do you mean?”

“As if you didn’t know! We had the thing boiled for thirteen hours, and
yet when it was brought to the table we might as well have tried to cut
through the Rock of Gibraltar with a pocket-knife.”

“What do you mean? You don’t mean to say that you had it cooked?”

“Didn’t you send it to be cooked?”

“Cooked! cooked! Great heavens, man! I sent it to be stuffed and
preserved as a curiosity in the club. That swan has been in my family
for two hundred and eighty years. It was one of the identical birds
fed by the children of Charles I.--you’ve seen the picture of it. My
ancestor held the post of ‘master of the swans and keeper of the king’s
cygnets sure.’ It is said that a swan will live for three hundred years
or thereabouts. And you plucked it, and cooked it! Great heavens! It was
a bit tough, I suppose?”

“Tough?”

“Yes; I daresay you’d be tough, too, about a.d. 2200. And I thought it
would look so well in the hall!”

*****

At the same time that the tale just recorded was told to me, I heard
another Lincolnshire story. I do not suppose that it is new. A certain
church was situated at a place that was within the sphere of influence
of some fens when in flood. The consequence was that during a severe
winter, divine service was held only every second Sunday. Once, however,
the weather was so bad that the parson did not think it worth his while
going near the church for five Sundays. This fact came to the ears of
the Bishop, and he wrote for an explanation. The clergyman replied as
follows:--

“Your lordship has been quite correctly informed regarding the length of
the interval that has elapsed since my church was open; but the fact is
that the devil himself couldn’t get at my parishioners in the winter,
and I promise your lordship to be before him in the spring.”

*****

That parson took a humbler view of his position and privileges in the
world than did a Presbyterian minister in Ulster whose pompous way of
moving and of speaking drew toward him many admirers and imitators. He
paid a visit to Palestine at one time of his life, and on his return,
he preached a sermon introducing some of his experiences. Now, the only
inhabitants of the Holy Land that the majority of travellers can talk
about are the fleas; but this Presbyterian minister had much to tell
about all that he had seen. It was, however, only when he began to show
his flock how strictly the inspiriting prophecies of Jeremiah and Joel
and the rest had been fulfilled that he proved that he had not visited
the country in vain.

“My dear friends,” said he, “I read in the Sacred Book the prophecy
that the land should be in heaps: I looked up from the page, and there,
before my eyes, were the heaps. I read that the bittern should cry
there: I looked up; lo! close at hand stood a bittern. I read that the
Minister of the Lord should mourn there: _I was that minister._”

*****

Upon one occasion, when sojourning at a picturesquely situated Connemara
inn, hot water was left outside my bedroom door in a handy soup tureen,
in which there was also a ladle reposing. One morning in the same
“hotel” I called the attention of the official, who discharged
(indifferently) the duties of boots and landlord, to the circumstance
that my bath (recollecting the advertisement of the entertainment which
it was possible to obtain under certain conditions at the Norwegian inn,
I had brought the bath with me) had not been emptied since the previous
day. The man said, “It’s right that you are, sorr,” and forthwith
remedied the omission by throwing the contents of the bath out of the
window.

I was so struck by the convenience of this system of main drainage, and
it seemed so simple, that the next morning, finding that the bath was
in the same condition as before, I thought to save trouble by performing
the landlord’s operation for myself. I opened the window and tilted over
the bath. In a moment there was a yell from below, and the air became
sulphurous with Celtic maledictions. These were followed by roars of
laughter in the vernacular, so that I thought it prudent to lower both
the window and the blind without delay.

“Holy Biddy!” remarked the landlord when I had descended to
breakfast--not failing to observe that a portly figure was standing in a
_semi-nude_ condition in front of the kitchen fire, while on the back of
a chair beside him a black coat was spread-eagled, sending forth a cloud
of steam--“Holy Biddy, sorr, what was that ye did this morning, anyway?”

“What do you mean, Dennis?” I asked innocently. “I shaved and dressed as
usual.”

“Ye emptied the tin tub [_i.e_., my zinc bath] out of the windy over
Father Conn,” replied the landlord. “It’s himself that’s being dried
this minute before the kitchen fire.”

“I’m very sorry,” said I. “You see, I fancied from the way you emptied
the bath yesterday that that was the usual way of doing the business.”

“So it is, sorr,” said he. “But you should always be after looking out
first to see that all’s clear below.”

“Why don’t you have those directions printed and hung up in the
bedroom?” said I, assuming--as I have always found it safe to do upon
such occasions--the aggressive tone of the injured party.

“We don’t have so many gentlemen coming here that’s so dirty that they
need to be washed down every blessed marnin’,” he replied; and I
thought it better to draw upon my newspaper experience, and quote the
three-starred admonition, “All communications on this subject must now
cease.”

However, the trout which were laid on the table in front of me were
so numerous, and looked so tempting, that I went into the kitchen, and
after making an elaborate apology to Father Conn, the amiable parish
priest, for the mishap he had sustained through my ignorance of the
natural precautions necessary to be taken when preparing my bath,
insisted on the reverend gentleman’s joining me at breakfast while his
coat was being dried.

With only a superficial reluctance, he accepted my invitation,
remarking,--

“I had my own breakfast a couple of hours ago, sir, but in troth I feel
quite hungry again. Faith, it’s true enough that there’s nothing like a
morning swim for giving a man an appetite.”

*****

Two lady relatives of mine were on their way to a country house in the
county Galway, and were compelled to stay for a night at the inn, which
was a sort of half-way house between the railway station and their
destination. On being shown to their bedroom while their dinner was
being made ready, they naturally wished to remove from their faces the
traces of their dusty drive of sixteen miles, so one of them bent over
the banisters--there was no bell in the room, of course--and inquired if
the servant would be good enough to carry upstairs some hot water.

“Surely, miss,” the servant responded from below.

In a few minutes, the door of the bedroom was knocked at, and the woman
entered, bearing in her hand a tray with two glasses, a saucer of loaf
sugar, a lemon, a ladle, and a small jug of hot water.

It appeared that in this district the use of hot water is unknown
except as an accompaniment to whisky, a lemon, and a lump of sugar. The
combination of the four is said to be both palatable and popular.

*****

It was at a much larger and more pretentious establishment in the
south-west that I was staying when a box of books arrived for me from
the library of Messrs. Eason & Son. It was tied with stout, tough cord,
about as thick as one’s little finger. I was in the act of dressing when
the boots brought up the box, so I asked him to open it for me. The man
fumbled for some time at the knot, and at last he said he would have to
cut the cord.

When I had rubbed the soap out of my eyes,

I noticed him in the act of sawing through the tough cord with one of my
razors which I had laid on the dressing-table after shaving.

“Stop, stop,” I shouted. “Man, do you know that that’s a razor?”

“Oh, it’ll do well enough for this, sir. I’ve forgot my knife
downstairs,” said the man complacently.

If the razor did for the operation, the operation certainly did for the
razor.

*****

And here I am led to recall a story told to me by the late Dr. George
Crowe, the husband of Miss Bateman, the distinguished actress, and
brother to Mr. Eyre Crowe, A.R.A. It will be remembered by all who are
familiar with the chief incidents in the life of Thackeray, that in 1853
he adopted Miss Amy Crowe (her father, an historian and journalist of
eminence in his day, had been one of the novelist’s closest friends),
and she became one of the Thackeray household. Her brother George was
at school, but he had “the run of the house,” so to speak, in Onslow
Square. Next to the desire to become an expert smoker, the desire to
become an accomplished shaver is, I think, the legitimate aspiration
of boyhood; and George Crowe had his longings in this direction,
when examining Thackeray’s razors with the other contents of his
dressing-room one day. The means of gratifying such an aspiration are
(fortunately) not invariably within the reach of most boys, and young
Crowe was not exceptionally situated in this matter. The same spirit
of earnest investigation, however, which had led him to discover
the razors, caused him to find in one of the garrets an old but
well-preserved travelling trunk, bound with ox-hide, and studded with
brass nails. To spread a copious lather over a considerable part of the
lid, and to set about the removal, by the aid of a razor, of the hair of
the ox-hide, occupied the boy the greater part of an afternoon.
Though not exactly so good as the real operation, this shave was, he
considered, a move in the right direction; and it was certainly better
than nothing at all. By a singular coincidence, it was about this time
that Thackeray began to complain of the difficulty of putting an edge
upon his razors, and to inquire if any one had been at the case where
they were kept. Of course, no one except the boy knew anything about the
business, and he, for prudential reasons, preserved silence. The area
of the ox-hide that still remained hirsute was pretty extensive, and he
foresaw many an hour of fearful joy, such as he had already tasted in
the garret. Twice again he lathered and shaved at the ox-hide; but the
third attempt was not a success, owing to the sudden appearance of the
housekeeper, who led the boy to the novelist’s study and gave evidence
against him, submitting as proofs the razor, the shaving-brush, and a
portion of George Crowe’s thumb which he had inadvertently sliced off.
Thackeray rose from his desk and mounted the stairs to the garret;
and when the housekeeper followed, insisting on the boy’s accompanying
her--probably on the French principle of confronting a murderer with the
body of his victim--Thackeray was found seated on an unshaved portion of
the trunk, and roaring with laughter.

So soon as he had recovered, he shook his finger at the delinquent (who,
twenty-five years afterwards, told me the story), and merely said:

“George, I see clearly that in future I’ll have to buy my trunks bald.”



CHAPTER XVI.--IRISH TOURISTS AND TRAINS.


_The late Emperor of Brazil--An incredulous hotel manager--The surprised
A.R.A.--The Emperor as an early riser--The habits of the English
actor--A new reputation--Signor Ciro Pinsuti--The Prince of
Bohemia--Treatment au prince--The bill--An Oriental prince--An ideal
costume for a Scotch winter--Its subsequent modification--The
royal sleeping-place--Trains and Irish humour--The courteous
station-master--The sarcasm of the travellers--“Punctually seven minutes
late”--Not originally an Irishman--The time of departure of the 7.45
train--Brahke, brake, brake--The card-players--Possibility of their
deterioration--The dissatisfied passenger--Being in a hurry he threatens
to walk--He didn’t--He wishes he had._


ONCE I was treated very uncivilly at an hotel in the North of Ireland,
and as the occasion was one upon which I was, I believed, entitled to be
dealt with on terms of exceptional courtesy, I felt the slight all the
more deeply. The late Emperor of Brazil, in yielding to his desire to
see everything in the world that was worth seeing, had appeared suddenly
in Ireland. I had had the privilege of taking tiffin with His Majesty
aboard a man-of-war at Rio Janeiro some years previously, and on calling
upon him in London upon the occasion of his visit to England, I found to
my surprise that he remembered the incident. He asked me to go with him
to the Giant’s Causeway, and I promised to do so if he did not insist on
starting before sunrise,--he was the earliest riser I ever met. His
idea was that we could leave Belfast in the morning, travel by rail
to Portrush (sixty-seven miles distant), drive along the coast to the
Giant’s Causeway (eight miles), and return to Belfast in time to catch
the train which left for Dublin at three o’clock.

This programme was actually carried out. On entering the hotel at
Portrush--we arrived about eight in the morning--I hurried to the
manager.

“I have brought the Emperor of Brazil to breakfast,” said I, “so that
if you could let us have the dining-room to ourselves I should be much
obliged to you.”

“Who is it that you say you’ve brought?” asked the manager sleepily.

“The Emperor of Brazil,” I replied promptly.

“Come now, clear off out of this, you and your jokes,” said the manager.
“I’ve been taken in before to-day. You’ll need to get up earlier in the
morning if you want to do it again. The Emperor of Brazil indeed! It’ll
be the King of the Cannibal Islands next!”

I felt mortified, and so, I fancy, did the manager shortly afterwards.

Happily the hotel is now managed by the railway company, and is one of
the best in all Ireland.

*****

I fared better in this matter than the messenger who hurried to the
residence of a painter, who is now a member of the Royal Academy, to
announce his election as Associate in the days of Sir Francis Grant. It
is said that the painter felt himself to be so unworthy of the honour
which was being thrust upon him, that believing that he perceived an
attempt on the part of some of his brother-artists to make him the
victim of a practical joke, he promptly kicked the messenger downstairs.

The manager of the hotel did not quite kick me out when I explained to
him that his house was to be honoured by the presence of an Emperor, but
he looked as if he would have liked to do so.

Regarding the early rising of the Emperor Dom Pedro II., several amusing
anecdotes were in circulation in London upon the occasion of his first
visit. One morning he had risen, as usual, about four o’clock, and was
taking a stroll through Covent Garden market, when he came face to face
with three well-known actors, who were returning to their rooms after
a quiet little supper at the Garrick Club. The Emperor inquired who
the gentlemen were, and he was told. For years afterwards he was, it
is said, accustomed to declare that the only men he met in England who
seemed to believe with him that the early morning was the best part
of the day, were the actors. The most distinguished members of the
profession were, he said, in the habit of rising between the hours of
three and four every morning during the summer.

*****

A story which tends to show that in some directions, at any rate,
in Ireland the hotel proprietors are by no means wanting in
courtesy towards distinguished strangers, even when travelling in
an unostentatious way, was told to me by the late Ciro Pinsuti, the
well-known song writer, at his house in Mortimer Street. (When he
required any changes in the verses of mine which he was setting, he
invariably anticipated my objections by a story, told with admirable
effect.) It seems that Pinsuti was induced some years before to take a
tour to the Killarney Lakes. On arriving at the hotel where he had been
advised to put up, he found that the house was so crowded he had to
be content with a sort of china closet, into which a sofa-bed had been
thrust. The landlord was almost brusque when he ventured to protest
against the lack of accommodation, but subsequently a compromise was
effected, and Pinsuti strolled away along the lakes.

On returning he found in the hall of the hotel the genial nobleman who
was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and an old London friend of Pinsuti’s.
He was on a visit to the Herberts of Muckross, and attended only by his
son and one aide-de-camp.

Now, at one time the same nobleman had been in the habit of contracting
Pinsuti’s name, when addressing him, into “Pince”; in the course of time
this became improved into “Prince”; and for years he was never addressed
except in this way; so that when he entered the hall of the hotel, His
Excellency lifted up his hands and cried,--

“Why, Prince, who on earth would have fancied meeting you here of all
places in the world?”

Pinsuti explained that he had merely crossed the Channel for a day or
two, and that he was staying at the hotel.

“Come along then, and we’ll have lunch together,” said the Lord
Lieutenant; and Pinsuti forthwith joined the Viceregal party.

But when luncheon was over, and the Viceroy was strolling through the
grounds for a smoke by the side of the musician, the landlord approached
His Excellency’s son, saying,--

“I beg your lordship’s pardon, but may I ask who the Prince is that
lunched with you and His Excellency?”

“What Prince?” said Lord Ernest, somewhat puzzled.

“Yes, my lord; I heard His Excellency address him as Prince more than
once,” said the landlord.

Then Lord Ernest, perceiving the ground for a capital joke, said,--

“Oh, the Prince--yes, to be sure; I fancied you knew him. Prince! yes,
that’s the Prince of Bohemia.”

“The Prince of Bohemia! and I’ve sent him to sleep on an iron chair-bed
in a china closet!” cried the landlord.

Lord Ernest looked grave.

“I wouldn’t have done that if I had been you,” he said, shaking his
head. “You must try and do better for him than that, my man.” Shortly
afterwards the Viceregal party drove off, and then the landlord
approached Pinsuti, and bowing to the ground, said,--

“I must humbly apologise to your Royal Highness for not having a
suitable room for your Royal Highness in the morning; but now I’m proud
to say that I have had prepared an apartment which will, I trust, give
satisfaction.”

“What do you mean by Highnessing me, my good man?” asked Pinsuti.

“Ah,” said the landlord, smiling and bowing, “though it may please your
Royal Highness to travel _incognito_, I trust I know what is due to your
exalted station, sir.”

For the next two days Pinsuti was, he told me, treated with an amount of
respect such as he had never before experienced. A waiter was specially
told off to attend to him, and every time he passed the landlord the
latter bowed in his best style.

It was, however, an American lady tourist who held an informal meeting
in the drawingroom of the hotel, at which it was agreed that no one
should be seated at the _table d’hote_ until the Prince of Bohemia had
entered and taken his place.

On the morning of his departure he found, waiting to take him to the
railway station, a carriage drawn by four horses. Out to this he passed
through lines of bowing tourists--especially Americans.

“It was all very nice, to be sure,” said Pinsuti, in concluding his
narrative; “but the bill I had to pay was not so gratifying. However,
one cannot be a Prince, even of Bohemia, without paying for it.”

This story more than neutralises, I think, the impression likely to be
produced by the account of the insolence of the official at the northern
hotel. Universal civility may be expected even at the largest and
best-appointed hotels in Ireland.

*****

As I have somehow drifted into these anecdotes about royal personages,
at the risk of being considered digressive--an accusation which I
spurn--I must add one curious experience which some relations of mine
had of a genuine prince. My cousin, Major Wyllie, of the Madras Staff
Corps, had been attached to the prince’s father, who was a certain
rajah, and had been the instrument employed by the Government for giving
him some excellent advice as to the course he should adopt if he were
desirous of getting the Star which it was understood he was coveting.
The rajah was anxious to have his heir, a boy of twelve, educated in
England, and he wished to find for him a place in a family where his
morals--the rajah was great on morals--would be properly looked after;
so he sought the advice of Major Wyllie on this important subject. After
some correspondence and much persuasion on the part of the potentate, my
cousin consented to send the youth to his father’s house near Edinburgh.
The rajah was delighted, and promised to have an outfit prepared for his
son without delay. The result of the consultation which he had with some
learned members of his _entourage_ on the subject of the costume daily
worn in Edinburgh by gentlemen, was peculiar. I am of the opinion that
some of its distinctive features must have been exaggerated, while the
full value of others cannot have been assigned to them; for the young
prince submitted himself for the approval of Major Wyllie, and some
other officers of the Staff, wearing a truly remarkable dress. His boots
were of the old Hessian pattern, with coloured silk tassels all round
the uppers. His knees were bare, but just above them the skirt of a kilt
flowed, in true Scotch fashion, only that the material was not cloth but
silk, and the colours were not those of any known tartan, but simply a
brilliant yellow. The coat was of blue velvet, crusted with jewels, and
instead of the flowing shoulder-pieces, there hung down a rich mantle
of gold brocade. The crowning incident of this ideal costume of an
unobtrusive Scotch gentleman whose aim is to pass through the streets
without attracting attention, was a crimson velvet glengarry cap worn
over a white turban, and containing three very fine ostrich feathers of
different, colours, fastened by a diamond aigrette.

Yes, the consensus of opinion among the officers was that the rajah had
succeeded wonderfully in giving prominence to the chief elements of the
traditional Scottish national dress, without absolutely extinguishing
every spark of that orientalism to which the prince had been accustomed.
It was just the sort of costume that a simple body would like to wear
daily, walking down Prince’s Street, during an inclement winter, they
said. There was no attempt at ostentation about it; its beauty consisted
in its almost Puritan simplicity; and there pervaded it a note of that
sternness which marks the character of the rugged North Briton.

The rajah was delighted with this essay of his advisers at making a
consistent blend of Calicut and Caledonia in _modes_; but somehow the
prince arrived in Scotland in a tweed suit.

*****

I afterwards heard that on the first morning after the arrival of the
prince at his temporary home, he was missing. His bed showed no signs of
having been slept in during the night; but the eiderdown quilt was not
to be seen. It was only about the breakfast hour that the butler found
His Highness, wrapped in the eiderdown quilt, _under the bed._

He had occupied a lower bunk in a cabin aboard the P. & O. steamer on
the voyage to England, and he had taken it for granted that the sleeping
accommodation in the house where he was an honoured guest was of the
same restricted type. He had thus naturally crept under the bed, so
that some one else might enjoy repose in the upper and rather roomier
compartment.

*****

The transition from Irish inns to Irish railways is not a violent one.
On the great trunk lines the management is sufficiently good to present
no opportunities for humorous reminiscences. It is with railways as with
hotels: the more perfectly appointed they are, the less humorous are the
incidents associated with them in the recollection of a traveller. It is
safe to assume that, as a general rule, native wit keeps clear of a line
of rails. Mr. Baring Gould is good enough to explain, in his “Strange
Survivals and Superstitions,” that the fairy legend is but a shadowy
tradition of the inhabitants during the Stone Age; and he also explains
how it came about that iron was accepted as a potent agent for driving
away these humorous folk. The iron road has certainly driven the witty
aborigines into the remote districts of Ireland. A railway guard has
never been known to convulse the passengers with his dry wit as he snips
their tickets, nor do the clerks at the pigeon-holes take any particular
trouble to Hash out a _bon mot_ as one counts one’s change. The man who,
after pouring out the thanks of the West for the relief meal given to
the people during the last failure of the potato and every other
crop, said, “Troth, if it wasn’t for the famine we’d all be starving
entirely,” lived far from the sound of the whistle of an engine.

Still, I have now and again come upon something on an Irish railway that
was droll by reason of its incongruity. There was a station-master at a
small town on an important line, who seemed a survival of the leisurely
days of our grandfathers. He invariably strolled round the carriages
to ask the passengers if they were quite comfortable, just as the
conscientious head waiter at the “_Trois Frères_” used to do in respect
of his patrons. He would suggest here and there that a window might
be closed, as the morning air was sometimes very treacherous. He even
pressed foot-warmers upon the occupants of the second-class carriages.
He was the friend of all the matrons who were in the habit of travelling
by the line, and he inquired after their numerous ailments (including
babies), and listened with dignified attention while they told him
all that should be told in public--sometimes a trifle more. A medical
student would learn as much about a very interesting branch of the
profession through paying attention to the exchange of confidences
at that station, as he would by walking the hospitals for a year. The
station-master was greatly looked up to by agriculturists, and it was
commonly reported that there was no better judge of the weather to be
found in the immediate neighbourhood of the station.

It was really quite absurd to hear English commercial travellers
and other persons in the train, who had not become aware of the good
qualities of this most estimable man, grumbling because the train
usually remained at this platform for ten minutes instead of the two
minutes allotted to it in the “A B C.” The engine-drivers, it was said,
also growled at being forced to run the twenty miles on either side of
this station at as fast a rate as forty miles an hour, instead of the
thirty to which they had accustomed themselves, to save their time. The
cutting remarks of the impatient passengers made no impression upon him.

“Look here, station-master,” cried a commercial gentleman one day when
the official had come across quite an unusual number of acquaintances,
“is there a breakdown on the line?”

“I don’t know indeed, sir, but I’ll try and find out for you,” said the
station-master blandly. He went off hurriedly (for him), and did not
return for five minutes.

“I’ve telegraphed up the line, sir,” said he to the gentleman, who only
meant to be delicately sarcastic, “and I’m happy to assure you that
no information regarding a breakdown has reached any of the principal
stations. It has been raining at Ballynamuck, but I don’t think it will
continue long. Can I do anything more for you, sir?”

“No, thank you,” said the commercial gentleman meekly.

“I can find out for you if the Holyhead steamer has had a good passage,
if you don’t mind waiting for a few minutes,” suggested the official.
“What! you are anxious to get on? Certainly, sir; I’ll tell the guard.
Good morning, sir.”

When the train was at last in motion a wiry old man in a corner pulled
out his watch, and then turned to the commercial traveller.

“Are you aware, sir,” he said tartly, “that your confounded inquiries
kept us back just seven minutes? You should have some consideration for
your fellow-passengers, let me tell you, sir.”

A murmur of assent went round the compartment.

*****

Upon another occasion a passenger, on arriving at the station over whose
destinies this courteous official presided, put his head out of the
carriage window, and inquired if the train had arrived punctually.

“Yes, sir,” replied the station-master, “very punctually: seven minutes
late to a second.”

Upon another occasion I heard him say to an inquirer,--

“Oh no, sir; I wasn’t originally an Irishman. I am one now, however.”

*****

“By heavens!” said some one at the further end of the compartment, “that
reply removes all doubt on the subject.”

Several years ago I was staying at Lord Avonmore’s picturesque lodge at
the head of Lough Dearg. A fellow-guest received a telegram one Sunday
afternoon which compelled his immediate departure, and seeing by the
railway time-table that a train left the nearest station at 7.45, we
drove in shortly before that hour. There was, however, no sign of life
on the little platform up to 7.50. Thereupon my friend became anxious,
and we hunted in every direction for even the humblest official. After
some trouble we found a porter asleep on a pile of cushions in the
lamp-room. We roused him and said,--

“There’s a train marked on the time-table to leave here at 7.45, but
it’s now 7.50, and there’s no sign of a train. What time may we expect
it?”

“I don’t know, sir, for myself.” said the porter, “but I’ll ask the
station-master.”

We followed him down the platform, and then a man, in his shirt sleeves,
came out of an office.

“Mr. O’Flaherty,” cried the porter, “here’s two gentlemen that wants to
know, if you please, at what o’clock the 7.45 train leaves.”

“It leaves at eight on weekdays and a quarter past eight on Sundays,”
 was the thoughtful reply.

*****

It is reported that on the same branch, an engine-driver, on reaching
the station more than usually behind his time, declared that he had
never known “herself”--meaning the engine--to be so sluggish before. She
needed a deal of rousing before he could get any work whatever out of
her, he said; and she had pulled up at the platform without a hand being
put to the brake. When he tried to start the engine again he failed
utterly in his attempt. She had “rusted,” he said, and when an engine
rusted she was more stubborn than any horse.

It was a passenger who eventually suggested that perhaps if the brakes
were turned off, the engine might have a better chance of doing its
work.

This suggestion led to an examination of the brake wheels of the engine.

“By me sowl, that’s a joke!” said the engine-driver. “If I haven’t been
driving her through the county Tipperary with the brakes on!”

And so he had.

*****

On a branch line farther north the official staff were said to be so
extremely fond of the Irish National game of cards--it is called “Spoil
Five”--that the guard, engine-driver, and stoker invariably took a hand
at it on the tool-box on the tender--a poor substitute for a table, the
guard explained to an interested passenger who made inquiries on the
subject, but it served well enough at a pinch, and it was not for him to
complain. He was right: it was for the passengers to complain, and
some of them did so; and a remonstrance was sent to the staff which
practically amounted to a prohibition of any game of cards on the engine
when the train was in motion. It was very reasonably pointed out by
the manager that, unless the greatest watchfulness were observed by the
guard, he might, when engaged at the game, allow the train to run past
some station at which it was advertised to stop--as a matter of fact
this had frequently occurred. Besides, the manager said, persistence in
the practice under the conditions just described could not but tend to
the deterioration of the staff as card-players; so he trusted that they
would see that it was advisable to give their undivided attention to
their official duties.

The staff cheerfully acquiesced, admitting that now and again it was a
great strain upon them to recollect what cards were out, and at the same
time what was the name of the station just passed. The fact that the
guard had been remiss enough, on throwing down the hand that had just
been dealt to him on the arrival of the train at Ballycruiskeen, to walk
down the platform crying out “Hearts is thrumps!” instead of the name of
the station, helped to make him at least see the wisdom of the manager’s
remonstrance; and no more “Spoil Five” was played while the engine was
in motion.

But every time the train made a stoppage, the cards were shuffled on the
engine, and the station-master for the time being took a hand, as well
as any passenger who had a mind to contribute to the pool. Now and
again, however, a passenger turned up who was in a hurry to get to his
journey’s end, and made something of a scene--greatly to the annoyance
of the players, and the couple of policemen, and the porter or two,
who had the _entrée_ to the “table.” Upon one occasion such a passenger
appeared, and, in considerable excitement, pointed out that the train
had taken seventy-five minutes to do eight miles. He declared that this
was insufferable, and that, sooner than stand it any longer, he would
walk the remainder of the distance to his destination.

He was actually showing signs of carrying out his threat, when the guard
threw down his hand, dismounted from the engine and came behind him.

“Ah, sir, you’ll get into the train again, won’t you?” said he.

“No, I’ll be hanged if I will,” shouted the passenger. “I’ve no time to
waste, I’ll walk.”

“Ah, no, sir; you’ll get into the train. Do, sir; and you’ll be at
the end of the journey every bit as soon as if you walked,” urged the
official.

His assurance on this point prevailed, and the passenger returned to
his carriage. But unless the speed upon that occasion was a good
deal greater than it was when I travelled over the same line, it is
questionable if he would not have been on the safe side in walking.



CHAPTER XVII--HONORARY EDITORS AND OTHERS.


_Our esteemed correspondent--The great imprinted--Lord Tennyson’s
death--“Crossing the Bar”--Why was it never printed in its
entirety?--The comments on the poem--Who could the Pilot have
been?--Pilot or pilot engine?--A vexed and vexing question--Erroneous
navigation--Tennyson’s voyage with Mr. Gladstone--Its far-reaching
results--Tennyson’s interest in every form of literary work--“My
Official Wife”--Amateur critics--The Royal Dane--Edwin Booth and
his critic--A really comic play--An Irving enthusiast--“Gemini and
Virgo”--“Our sincerest laughter”--The drollest of soliloquies--“Eugene
Aram” for the hilarious--The proof of a sincere devotion._


THE people who spend their time writing letters to newspapers pointing
out mistakes, or what they imagine to be mistakes, and making many
suggestions as to how the newspaper should be conducted in all its
departments, constitute a branch of the profession of philanthropy, to
which sufficient attention has never been given.

I do not, of course, allude to the type whom Mr. George Du Maurier
derided when he put the phrase _J’écrirai à le Times_ into his mouth on
being compelled to pay an extravagant bill at a French hotel; there are
people who have just grievances to expose, and there are newspapers
that exist for the dissemination of those grievances; but it is an
awful thought that at this very moment there are some hundreds--perhaps
thousands--of presumably sane men and women sitting down and writing
letters to their local newspapers to point out to the management that
the jeu d’esprit attributed in yesterday’s issue to Sydney Smith,
was one of which Douglas Jerrold was really the author; or that the
quotation about the wind being tempered to the shorn lamb is not to
be found in the Bible, but in “the works of the late Mr. Sterne”; or
perhaps suggesting that no country could rightly be regarded as exempted
from the list of lands forming a legitimate sphere for missionary
labour, whose newspapers give up four columns daily to an account of the
horse-racing of the day before. A book might easily be written by
any one who had some experience, not of the letters that appear in a
newspaper, but of those that are sent to the editor by enthusiasts on
the subject of finance, morality, religion, and the correct text of some
of Burns dialect poems.

When Lord Tennyson died, I printed five columns of a biographical and
critical sketch of the great poet. I thought it necessary to quote only
a single stanza of “Crossing the Bar.” During the next clay I received
quite a number of letters asking in what volume of Tennyson’s works the
poem was to be found. In the succeeding issue of the paper I gave
the poem in full. From that day on during the next fortnight, no post
arrived without bringing me a letter containing the same poem, with a
request to have it published in the following issue; and every writer
seemed to be under the impression that he (or she) had just discovered
“Crossing the Bar.” Then the clergymen who forwarded in manuscript the
sermons which they had preached on Tennyson, pointing out the “lessons”
 of his poems, presented their compliments and requested the insertion of
“Crossing the Bar,” _in its entirety_, in the place in the sermons where
they had quoted it. All this time “poems” on the death of Tennyson kept
pouring in by the hundred, and I can safely say that not one came under
my notice that did not begin,

               “Yes, thou hast cross’d the Bar, and face to face

                        Thy Pilot seen,”

or with words to that effect.

After this had been going on for some weeks a member of the
proprietorial household came to me with a letter open in his hand.

“I wonder how it was that we missed that poem of Tennyson’s.” said
he. “It would have done well, I think, if it had been published in our
columns at his death.”

“What poem is that?” I inquired.

“This is it,” he replied, offering me the letter which he held. “A
personal friend of my own sends it to me for insertion. It is called
‘Crossing the Bar.’ Have you ever seen it before?”

The aggregate thickness of skull of the proprietorial household was
phenomenal.

*****

When writing on the subject of this poem I may perhaps be permitted to
express the opinion, that the remarks made about it in some directions
were the most astounding that ever appeared in print respecting a
composition of the character of “Crossing the Bar.”

One writer, it may be remembered, took occasion to point out that the
“Pilot” was, of course, the poet’s son, by whom he had been predeceased.
The “thought” was, we were assured, that his son had gone before him to
show him the direction to take, so to speak. Now whatever the “thought”
 of the poet was, the thought of this commentator converged not upon a
pilot but a pilot-engine.

Then another writer was found anxious to point out that Tennyson’s
navigation was defective. “What would be the use of a pilot when the bar
was already crossed?” was the question asked by this earnest inquirer.
This gentleman’s idea clearly was that Tennyson should have subjected
himself to a course of Mr. Clark Russell before attempting to write such
a poem as “Crossing the Bar.”

*****

The fact was that Tennyson knew enough navigation for a poet, just as
Mr. Gladstone knows enough for a premier. When the two most picturesque
of Englishmen (assuming that Mr. Gladstone is an Englishman) took their
cruise together in a steam yacht they kept their eyes open, I have
good reason to know. I question very much if the most ideal salt in the
mercantile marine could make a better attempt to describe some incidents
of the sea than Tennyson did in “Enoch Arden”; and as the Boston
gentleman was doubtful if more than six men in his city could write
“Hamlet,” so I doubt if the same number of able-bodied seamen, whose
command of emphatic language is noted, could bring before our eyes the
sight, and send rushing through our ears the sound, of a breaking wave,
with greater emphasis than Tennyson did when he wrote,--

                   “As the crest of some slow-arching wave

               Heard in dead night along that table-shore

               Drops flat; and after the great waters break,

               Whitening for half a league, and thin themselves

               Far over sands marbled with moon and cloud

               From less and less to nothing.’’

It was after he had returned from his last voyage with Mr. Gladstone
that Tennyson wrote “Crossing the Bar.”

It was after Mr. Gladstone had returned from the same voyage that he
consolidated his reputation as a statesman by a translation of “Rock of
Ages” into Italian. He then made Tennyson a peer.

Perhaps it may not be considered an impertinence on my part if I give,
in this place, an instance, which came under my notice, of the eclectic
nature of Lord Tennyson’s interest in even the least artistic branches
of literary work. A relative of mine went to Aldworth to lunch with the
family of the poet only a few weeks before his death saddened every home
in England. Lord Tennyson received his guest in his favourite room;
he was seated on a sofa at a window overlooking the autumn russet
landscape, and he wore a black velvet coat, which made his long delicate
fingers seem doubly pathetic in their worn whiteness. He had been
reading, and laid down the book to greet his visitor. This book was “My
Official Wife.”

Now the author of the story so entitled is not the man to talk of his
“Art,” as so many inferior writers do, in season and out of season.
He knows that his stories are no more deserving of being regarded as
high-class literature than is the scrappy volume at which I am now
engaged. He knows, however, that he is an excellent exponent of a form
of art that interests thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic;
and the fact that Tennyson was able to read such a story as “My Official
Wife” seems to me to show how much the poet was interested in a very
significant phase of the constantly varying taste of the great mass of
English readers.

It is the possession of such a sympathetic nature as this that prevents
a man from ever growing old. Mr. Gladstone also seems to read everything
that comes in his way, and he is never so busy as to be unable to snatch
a moment to write a word of kindly commendation upon an excessively dull
book.

*****

It is not only upon the occasion of the death of a great man or a prince
that some people are obliging enough to give an editor a valuable hint
or two as to the standpoint from which the character of the deceased
should be judged. They now and again express themselves with great
freedom on the subject of living men, and are especially frank in
their references to the private lives of the best-known and most highly
respected gentlemen. It is, however, the performances of actors that
form the most fruitful subject of irresponsible comment for “outsiders.”
 It has often seemed to me that every man has his own idea of the way
“Hamlet” should be represented. When I was engaged in newspaper work
I found that every new representation of the play was received by some
people as the noblest effort to realise the character, while others were
of the opinion that the actor might have found a more legitimate subject
than this particular play for burlesque treatment. Mr. Edwin Booth once
told me a story--I dare say it may be known in the United States--that
would tend to convey the impression that the study of Hamlet has made
its way among the coloured population as well as the colourless--if
there are any--of America.

Mr. Booth said that he was acting in New Orleans, and when at the hotel,
his wants were enthusiastically attended to by a negro waiter. At every
meal the man showed his zeal in a very marked way, particularly by never
allowing another waiter to come within hailing distance of his chair.
Such attention, the actor thought, should be rewarded, so he asked
Caractacus if he would care to have an order for the theatre. The waiter
declared that if he only had the chance of seeing Mr. Booth on the
stage, he (the waiter) would die happy when his time came. The actor at
once gave him an order for the same night, and the next morning he found
the man all teeth and eyes behind his chair.

“Well, Caractacus, did you manage to go to the theatre last night?”
 asked Booth.

“Didn’t I jus’, Massa Boove,” cried the waiter beaming.

“And how did you enjoy the piece?”

“Jus’ lubly, sah; nebber onjoyed moself so well--it kep’ me in a roar o’
larfta de whole ebening, sah. Oh, Massa Boove, you was too funny.”

The play that had been performed was _Hamlet._

*****

I chanced to be residing for a time in a large manufacturing town which
Mr. Irving visited when “touring” some twelve years ago. In that town an
enthusiastic admirer of Mr. Irving’s lived, and he was, with Mr. Irving
and myself, a guest of the mayor’s at a dinner party on one Sunday
night. In the drawing-room of the mayoress the great actor repeated
his favourite poem--“Gemini and Virgo,” from Calverley’s “Verses and
Translations,” dealing with inimitable grace with the dainty humour of
this exquisite trifle; and naturally, every one present was delighted.
For myself I may say that, frequently though I had heard Mr. Irving
repeat the verses.

I felt that he had never before brought to bear upon them the consummate
art of that high comedy of which he is the greatest living exponent.
But I could not help noticing that the gentleman who had protested so
enthusiastic an admiration for the actor, was greatly puzzled as the
recitation went on, and I came to the conclusion that he had not the
remotest idea what it was all about. When some ladies laughed outright
at the delivery of the lines, with matchless adroitness,

               “I did not love as others do--

                   None ever did that I’ve heard tell of,”

the man looked angrily round and cried “Hsh!” but even this did not
overawe the young women, and they all laughed again at,

               “One night I saw him squeeze her hand--

                   There was no doubt about the matter.

               I said he must resign, or stand

                   My vengeance--and he chose the latter.”

But by this time it had dawned upon the jealous guardian of Mr. Irving’s
professional reputation that the poem was meant to be a trifle humorous,
and so soon as he became convinced of this, he almost interrupted the
reciter with his uproarious hilarity, especially at places where the
humour was far too subtle for laughter; and at the close he wiped his
eyes and declared that the fun was too much for him.

I asked a relative of his if he thought that the man had the slightest
notion of what the poem was about, and his relative said,--

“It might be in Sanskrit for all he understands of it. He loves Mr.
Irving for himself alone. He has got no idea of art.”

Later in the night the conversation turned upon the difference between
the elocutionary modes of expression of the past and the present day.
In illustration of a point associated with the question of effect, Mr.
Irving gave me at least a thrill such as I had never before experienced
through the medium of his art, by repeating,--

               “To be or not to be: that is the question.”

Before he had reached the words,--

                   “To die: to sleep:

                   No more,”

I felt that I had suddenly had a revelation made to me of the utmost
limits of art; that I had been permitted a glimpse behind the veil, if
I may be allowed the expression; that I had been permitted to take a
single glance into a world whose very name is a mystery to the sons of
men.

Every one present seemed spellbound. A commonplace man who sat next to
me, drew a long breath--it was almost a gasp--and said,--

“That is too much altogether for such people us we are. My God! I don’t
know what I saw--I don’t know how I come to be here.”

He could not have expressed better what my feeling was; and yet I had
seen Mr. Irving’s Hamlet seventeen times, so that I might have been
looked upon as unsusceptible to any further revelation on a point in
connection with the soliloquy.

When I glanced round I saw Mr. Irving’s enthusiastic admirer once more
wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. It was not, however, until
Mr. Irving was in the act of reciting “The Dream of Eugene Aram,” that
the same gentleman yielded to what he conceived to be the greatest comic
treat of the evening.

Happily he occupied a back seat, and smothered his laughter behind a
huge red handkerchief, which was guffaw-proof.

He was a little lower than the negro waiter in his appreciation of the
actor’s art.

A year afterwards I met the same gentleman at an hotel in Scotland, and
he reminded me of the dinner-party at the mayor’s. His admiration for
Mr. Irving had in no degree diminished. He was partaking of a simple
lunch of cold beef and pickled onions; and when he began to speak of the
talents of the actor, he was helping himself to an onion, but so excited
did he become that instead of dropping the dainty on his plate, he put
it into his mouth, and after a crunch or two, swallowed it. Then he
helped himself to a second, and crunched and talked away, while my
cheeks became wrinkled merely through watching him. He continued
automatically ladling the onions into his mouth until the jar was nearly
empty, and the roof of my mouth felt crinkly. Fortunately a waiter came
up--he had clearly been watching the man, and perceived that the hotel
halfcrown lunch in this particular case would result in a loss to the
establishment--and politely inquired if he had quite done with the
pickle bottle, as another gentleman was asking for it.

I wondered how the man felt after the lapse of an hour or so. I could
not but believe in the sincerity of a devotion that manifested itself in
so striking a manner.

*****

I have mentioned “The Dream of Eugene Aram.” Has any one ever attempted
to identify the “little boy” who was the recipient of the harrowing tale
of the usher? In my mind there is no doubt that the “gentle lad” whom
Hood had in his eye was none other than James Burney, son of Dr. Burney,
and brother of the writer of “Evelina.” He was a pupil at the school
near Lynn which was fortunate enough to obtain the services of Eugene
Aram as usher; and I have no doubt that, when he settled down in London,
after joining in the explorations of Captain Cook, he excited the
imagination of his friend Hood by his reminiscences of his immortal
usher.

Gessner’s “Death of Abel” was published in England before the edition,
illustrated by Stothard, appeared in 1797. Perhaps, however, young
Master Burney carried his Bible about with him.



CHAPTER XVIII.--OUTSIDE THE LYCEUM BILL.


_Mr. Edwin Booth--Othello and Iago at supper--The guest--Mr. Irving’s
little speech--Mr. Booth’s graceful reply--A striking tableau--A
more memorable gathering--The hundredth night of “The Merchant of
Venice”--The guests--Lord Houghton’s speech--Mr. Irving’s reply--Mr.
J: L. Toole supplies an omission--Mr. Dion Boncicault at the
Lyceum--English as she is spoke--“Trippingly on the tongue”--The man
who was born to teach the pronunciation of English--A Trinity College
student--The coveted acorn--A good word for the English._


I DID not mean to enter upon a course of theatrical anecdotage in these
pages, but having mentioned the name of a great actor recently dead, I
cannot refrain from making a brief reference to what was certainly one
of the most interesting episodes in his career. I allude to Mr. Edwin
Booth’s professional visit to London in 1881. It may truthfully be said
that if Mr. Booth was not wholly responsible for the financial failure
of his abbreviated “season” at the Princess’s Theatre, neither was he
wholly responsible for his subsequent success at the Lyceum. I should
like, however, to have an opportunity of bearing testimony to his frank
and generous appreciation of the courtesy shown to him by Mr. Henry
Irving, in inviting him to play in _Othello_. when it became plain that
the performances of the American actor at the Princess’s were not likely
to make his reputation in England. It would be impossible for me to
forget the genuine emotion shown by Mr. Booth when, on the Saturday
night that brought to a close the notable representations of _Othello_
at the Lyceum, he referred to the kindness which he had received at that
theatre. Although the occasion to which I refer was the most private of
private suppers, I do not feel that I can be accused of transgressing
the accepted _codex_ of the Beefsteak Room in touching upon a matter
which is now of public interest. Early in the week Mr. Irving had been
good enough to invite me to meet Mr. Booth at supper on the Saturday.
After the performance, in which Mr. Irving was Othello and Mr. Booth
Iago, I found in the supper-room, in addition to the host and the guest
of the evening, Mr. John McCullough, who, it will be remembered, paid
a visit to England at the same time as Mr. Booth; and a member of
Parliament who subsequently became the Leader of the House of
Commons. Mr. J. L. Toole and Mr. Bram Stoker subsequently arrived. We
found a good deal to talk about, and it was rather late--too late for
the one guest who was unconnected with theatrical matters (at least,
those outside St. Stephen’s)--when Mr. Irving, in a few of those
graceful, informal sentences which he seems always to have at his
command, and only rising to his feet for a moment, asked us to drink to
the health of Mr. Booth. Mr. Irving, I recollect, referred to the fact
that the representations of _Othello_ had filled the theatre nightly,
and that the instant the American actor appeared, the English actor had
to “take a back seat.”

The playful tone assumed by him was certainly not sustained by Mr.
Booth. It would be impossible to doubt that he made his reply under the
influence of the deepest feeling. He could scarcely speak at first, and
when at last he found words, they were the words of a man whose eyes are
full of tears. “You all know how I came here,” he said. “You all know
that I went to another theatre in London, and that I was a big failure,
although some newspaper writers on my side of the water had said that
I would make Henry Irving and the other English actors sit up. Well,
I didn’t make them sit up. Yes, I was a big failure. But what happened
then? Henry Irving invites me to act with him at his theatre, and makes
me share the success which he has so well earned. He changes my big
failure into a big success. What can I say about such generosity? Was
the like of it ever seen before? I am left without words. Friend Irving,
I have no words to thank you.” The two actors got upon their feet, and
as they clasped hands, both of them overcome, I could not help feeling
that I was looking upon an emblematic tableau of the artistic union of
the Old World and the New. So I was.

*****

I could not help contrasting this graceful little incident with the more
memorable episode which had taken place in the same building some years
previously. On the evening of February 14th, 1880, Mr. Irving gave
a supper on the stage of the Lyceum, to celebrate the hundredth
representation of _The Merchant of Venice_. I do not suppose that upon
any occasion within the memory of a middle-aged man so remarkable a
gathering had assembled at the bidding of an actor. Every notable man
in every department of literature, art, and science seemed to me to
be present. The most highly representative painters, poets, novelists,
play-writers, actors of plays, composers of operas, singers of operas,
composers of laws, exponents of the meaning of these laws, journalists,
financiers,--all this goodly company attended on that moist Saturday
night to congratulate the actor upon one of the most signal triumphs of
the latter half of the century. Of course it was well understood by Mr.
Irving’s personal friends that an omission of their names from the list
of invitations to this marvellous function was inevitable. Capacious
though the stage of the Lyceum is, it would not meet the strain that
would be put on it if all the personal friends of Mr. Irving were to be
invited to the supper. So soon as I heard, however, that every living
author who had written a play that had been produced at the Lyceum
Theatre would be invited, I knew that, in spite of the fact that I only
escaped by the skin of my teeth being an absolute nonentity--I had only
published nine volumes in those days--I would not be an “outsider” upon
this occasion. Two years previously a comedietta of mine had been played
at this theatre for some hundred nights, while the audience were being
shown to their places and were chatting genially with the friends whom
they recognised three or four seats away. That was my play. No human
being could deprive me of the consciousness of having written a play
that was produced at the Lyceum Theatre. It was not a great feat, but it
constituted a privilege of which I was not slow to avail myself.

The invitations were all in the handwriting of Mr. Irving, and
the _menu_ was, in the words of Joseph in “Divorçons,” _délicat,
distingué--très distingué_. While we were smoking some cigars the merits
of which have never been adequately sung, though they would constitute a
theme at least equal to that of the majority of epics, our host strolled
round the tables, shaking hands and talking with every one in that
natural way of his, which proves conclusively that at least one trait of
Garrick’s has never been shared by him.

               “Twas only that when he was off he was acting,”

wrote Garrick’s--and everybody else’s--friend, Goldsmith. No; Mr. Irving
cannot claim to be the inheritor of all the arts of Garrick.

More than an hour had passed before Lord Houghton rose to propose the
toast of the evening. He did so very fluently. He had evidently prepared
his speech with great care; and as the _doyen_ of literature--the true
patron of art and letters during two generations--his right to speak
as one having authority could not be questioned. No one expected a
commonplace speech from Lord Houghton, but few of Mr. Irving’s guests
could have looked for precisely such a speech as he delivered. It struck
a note of far-reaching criticism, and was full of that friendly counsel
which the varied experiences of the speaker made doubly valuable. Its
commendation of the great actor was wholly free from that meaningless
adulation, which is as distasteful to any artist who knows the
limitations of his art, as it is prejudicial to the realisation of his
aims. In his masterly biography of the late Lord Houghton, Mr. Wemyss
Reid refers to the great admiration which Lord Houghton had for Mr.
Irving; and this admiration was quite consistent with the tone of the
speech in which he proposed the health of our host. It was probably Lord
Houghton’s sincere appreciation of the aims of Mr. Irving that caused
him to make some delicate allusion to the dangers of long runs.
Considering that we had assembled on the stage of the Lyceum to
celebrate a phenomenal run on that stage, the difficulty of the course
which Lord Houghton had to steer in order to avoid giving the least
offence to even the most susceptible of his audience, will be easily
recognised. There were present several playwriters who, by the exercise
of great dexterity, had succeeded in avoiding all their lives the
pitfall of the long run; and these gentlemen listened, with mournful
acquiescence, while Lord Houghton showed, as he did quite conclusively,
that, on the whole, the interests of dramatic art are best advanced by
adopting the principles which form the basis of the Théâtre Français.
But there were also present some managers who had been weak enough to
allow certain plays which they had produced, to linger on the stage,
evening after evening, so long as the public chose to pay their money
to see them. I glanced at one of these gentlemen while Lord Houghton was
delivering his tactful address, and I cannot say that the result of my
glance was to assure me that the remarks of his lordship were convincing
to that manager. Contrition for those past misdeeds that took the form
of five-hundred-night runs was not the most noticeable expression upon
his features. But then the manager was an actor as well, so that he may
only have been concealing his remorse behind a smiling face.

Mr. Irving’s reply was excellent. With amazing good-humour he touched
upon almost every point brought forward by Lord Houghton, referring to
his own position somewhat apologetically. Lord Houghton had, however,
made the apologetic tone inevitable; but after a short time Mr. Irving
struck the note for which his friends had been waiting, and spoke
strongly, earnestly, and eloquently on behalf of the art of which he
hoped to be the exponent.

We who knew how splendid were the aims of the hero of a hundred nights,
with what sincerity and at how great self-sacrifice he had endeavoured
to realize them; we who had watched his career in the past, and were
hopefully looking forward to a future for the English drama in a
legitimate home; we who were enthusiastic almost to a point of passion
in our love and reverence for the art of which we believed Irving to
be the greatest interpreter of our generation,--we, I say, felt that
we should not separate before one more word at least was spoken to our
friend whose triumph we regarded as our own.

It was Mr. J. L. Toole, our host’s oldest and closest friend, who, in
the Beefsteak Room some hours after midnight, expressed, in a few
words that came from his heart and were echoed by ours, how deeply Mr.
Irving’s triumph was felt by all who enjoyed his friendship--by all who
appreciated the difficulties which he had surmounted, and who, having at
heart the best interests of the drama, stretched forth to him hands of
sympathy and encouragement, and wished him God-speed.

Thus closed a memorable gathering, the chief incidents in which I have
ventured to chronicle exactly as they appeared to me.

*****

Only to one more Lyceum performance may I refer in this place. It may be
remembered that ten or eleven years ago the late Mr. Dion Boucicault
was obliging enough to offer to give a lecture to English actors on the
correct pronunciation of their mother-tongue. The offer was, I suppose,
thought too valuable to be neglected, and it was arranged that the
lecture should be delivered from the stage of the Lyceum Theatre. A more
interesting and amusing function I have never attended. It was clear
that the lecturer had formed some very definite ideas as to the way
the English language should be spoken; and his attempts to convey these
ideas to his audience were most praiseworthy. His illustrations of
the curiosities of some methods of pronouncing words were certainly
extremely curious. For instance, he complained bitterly of the way the
majority of English actors pronounced the word “war.”

“Ye prenounce the ward as if it wuz spelt w-a-u-g-h,” said the lecturer
gravely. “Ye don’t prenounce it at all as ye shud. The ward rhymes with
‘par, ‘are,’ and ‘kyar,’ and yet ye will prenounce it as if it rhymed
with ‘saw’ and ‘Paw-’ Don’t ye see the diffurnce?”

“We do, we do!” cried the audience; and, thus encouraged by the ready
acquiescence in his pet theories, the lecturer went on to deal with
the gross absurdity of pronouncing the word “grass,” not to rhyme with
“lass,” which of course was the correct way, but almost--not quite--as
if it rhymed with “laws.”

“The ward is ‘grass,’ not ‘graws,’” said our lecturer. “It grates on a
sinsitive ear like mine to hear it misprenounced. Then ye will never be
injuced to give the ward ‘Chrischin’ its thrue value as a ward of
three syllables; ye’ll insist on calling it ‘Christyen,’ in place of
‘Chrischin.’ D’ye persave the diffurnce?”

“We do, we do!” cried the audience.

“Ay, and ye talk about ‘soots’ of gyar-ments, when everybody knows
that ye shud say ‘shoots’; ye must give the full valye to the letter
‘u’--there’s no double o in a shoot of clothes. Moreover, ye talk of the
mimbers of the polis force as ‘cunstables,’ but there’s no ‘u’ in the
first syllable--it’s an ‘o,’ and it shud be prenounced to rhyme with
‘gone,’ not with ‘gun.’ Then I’ve heard an actor who shud know better
say, in the part of Hamlet, ‘wurds, wurds, wurds’; instead of giving
that fine letter ‘o’ its full value. How much finer it sounds to
prenounce it as I do, ‘wards, wards, wards’! But when I say that I’ve
heard the ward ‘pull’ prenounced not to rhyme with ‘dull,’ as ye’ll all
admit it shud be, but actually as if it was within an ace of being spelt
‘p double o l,’ I think yell agree with me that it’s about time that
actors learnt something of the rudiments of the art of ellycution.”

I do not pretend that these are the exact instances given by Mr.
Boucicault of the appalling incorrectness of English pronunciation,
but I know that he began with the word “war,” and that the impression
produced upon my mind by the discourse was precisely as I have recorded
it.

*****

There is a tradition at Trinity College, Dublin, that a student who
spoke with a lovely brogue used every art to conceal it, but with
indifferent success; for however perfect the “English accent” which
he flattered himself he had grafted upon the parent stem indigenous to
Kerry may have been when he was cool and collected, yet in moments of
excitement--chiefly after supper--the old brogue surrounded him like
a fog. This was a great grief to him; but his own weakness in this way
caused him to feel a deep respect for the natives of England.

After a visit to London he gave the result of his observations in a few
words to his friends at the College.

“Boys,” he cried, the “English chaps are a poor lot, no matter how you
look at them. But I will say this for them,--no matter how drunk any one
of them may be, he never forgets his English accent.”



CHAPTER XIX.--SOME IMPERFECT STUDIES.


_A charming theme--The new tints--An almost perfect descriptive
system--An unassailable position--The silver mounting of the newspaper
staff--An unfair correspondcnt--A lady journalist face to face--The
play-hawkers Only in two acts--An earnest correspondent--A haven
at last--Well-earned repose--The “health columns”--Answers to
correspondents--Other medical advisers--The annual meeting--The largest
consultation on record over one patient--He recovers!--A garden-party--A
congenial locale--The distinguished Teuton--The local medico--Brain
“sells”--A great physician--Advice to a special correspondent--Change
of air--The advantages of travel--The divergence of opinion among
medical men--It is due to their conscientiousness._


AS this rambling volume does not profess to be a guide to the
newspaper press, I have not felt bound to follow any beaten track in its
compilation. But I must confess that at the outset it was my intention
to deal with that agreeable phase known as the Lady Journalist.
Unhappily (or perhaps I should say, happily), “the extreme pressure on
our space” will not permit of my giving more than a line or two to a
theme which could only be adequately treated in a large volume. It has
been my privilege to meet with three lady journalists, and I am bound to
say that every one of the three seemed to me to combine in herself all
the judgment of the trained journalist (male) with the lightness of
touch which one associates with the doings of the opposite sex. All were
able to describe garments in picturesque phrases, frequently producing
by the employment of a single word an effect that a “gentleman
journalist”--this is, I suppose, the male equivalent to a lady
journalist--could not achieve at any price. They wrote of ladies being
“gowned,” and they described the exact tint of the gowns by an admirable
process of comparison with the hue of certain familiar things. They
rightly considered that the mere statement that somebody came to
somebody else’s “At Home” in brown, conveys an inadequate idea of the
colour of a costume: “postman’s bag brown,” however, brings the dress
before one’s eye in a moment. To say that somebody’s daughter appeared
in a grey wrap would sound weak-kneed, but a wrap of _eau de Tamise_ is
something stimulating. A scarlet tea-jacket merely suggests the Book of
Revelation, but a Clark-Russell-sunset jacket is altogether different.

They also wrote of “picture hats,” and “smart frocks,” and many other
matters which they understood thoroughly. I do not think that any
newspaper staff that does not include a lady journalist can hope for
popularity, or for the respect of those who read what is written by the
lady journalist, which is much better than popularity. I have got good
reason to know that in every newspaper with which I was associated, the
weekly column contributed by the lady journalist was much more earnestly
read than any that came from another source.

Yes, I feel that the position of the lady in modern journalism is
unassailable; and the lady journalists always speak pleasantly about one
another, and occasionally describe each other’s “picture hats.”

In brief, the lady journalist is the silver mounting of the newspaper
_staff_.

*****

I once, however, received an application from a lady, offering a weekly
letter on a topic already, I considered, ably dealt with by another
lady in the columns of the newspaper with which I was connected. I wrote
explaining this to my correspondent, and by the next post I got a
letter from her telling me that of course she was aware that a letter
purporting to be on this topic was in the habit of appearing in the
paper, but expressing the hope that I did not fancy that she would
contribute “stuff of that character.”

I did not have the faintest hope on the subject.

Now it so happened that the lady who wrote to me had some months before
gone to the lady whose weekly letters she had derided, and had begged
from her some suggestions as to the topics most suitable to be dealt
with by a lady journalist, and whatever further hints she might be
pleased to offer on the general subject of lady journalism. In short,
all that she had learned of the profession--it may be acquired in three
lessons, most young women think--she had learned from the lady at whom
she pointed a finger of scorn.

This I did not consider either ladylike or journalist-like, so that I
can hardly consider it lady-journalist-like.

Lady journalists have recently taken to photographing each other and
publishing the results.

This is another step in the right direction.

*****

Once I had an opportunity of talking face to face with a lady
journalist. It happened at the house of a distinguished actress in
London. By the merest chance I had a play which I felt certain would
suit the actress, and I went to make her acquainted with the joyful
news. To my great chagrin I found that I had arrived on a day when she
was “receiving.” Several literary men were present, and on some of their
faces.

I thought I detected the hang-dog look of the man who carries a play
about with him without a muzzle. I regret to say that they nearly all
looked at me with distrust.

I came by chance upon one of them speaking to our charming hostess
behind a _portiere_.

“I think the part would suit you down to the ground.” he was saying.
“Yes, six changes of dress in the four acts, and one of them a ballroom
scene.”

I walked on.

Ten minutes afterwards I overheard a second, who was having a romp with
our hostess’s little girl, say to that lady,--

“Oh, yes, I am very fond of children, when they are as pretty as Pansy
here. By the way, that reminds me that I have in my overcoat pocket a
comedy that I think will give you a chance at last. If you will allow me
when those people go....”

I passed on.

“The piece I brought with me is very strong. You were always best at
tragedy, and I have frequently said that you are the only woman in
London who can speak blank verse,” were the words that I heard spoken by
the third literary gentleman at the further side of a group of palms on
a pedestal.

I thought it better not to say anything about my having a play concealed
about my person. It occurred to me that it might be well to withhold my
good news for a day or two. Meantime I had a delightful chat with the
lady journalist, and confided in her my belief that some of the
literary men present had not come for the sake of the intellectual treat
available at every reception of our hostess’s, but solely to try and
palm off on her some rubbish in the way of a play.

She replied that she could scarcely believe that any man could be so
base, and that she feared I was something of a cynic.

When she was bidding good-bye to our hostess I distinctly heard the
latter say,--

“I am sorry that you have only made it in two acts; however, you may
depend on my reading it carefully, and doing what I can with it for
you.”

The above story might be looked on as telling against myself in some
measure, so I hasten to obviate its effect by mentioning that the play
which I had in my pocket was acted by the accomplished lady for whom I
designed it, and that it occupied a dignified place among the failures
of the year.

*****

There was a lady journalist--at least a lady so describing herself--who
sent me long accounts of the picture shows three days after I had
received the telegraphed accounts from the art correspondent employed by
the newspaper. She wanted to get a start, she said; and it was in vain
that I tried to point out to her that it was the other writers who got
the start of her, and that so long as she allowed this to happen she
could not expect anything that she wrote to be inserted.

It so happened, however, that her art criticisms were about on a level
with those that a child might pass upon a procession of animals to or
from a Noah’s Ark. Then the lady forwarded me criticisms of books that
had not been sent to me for review, and afterwards an interview or two
with unknown poets. Nothing that she wrote was worth the space it would
have occupied.

Only last year I learned with sincere pleasure that this energetic lady
had obtained a permanent place on the staff of a lady’s halfpenny weekly
paper. I could not help wondering on what department she could have been
allowed to work, and made some inquiry on the subject. Then it was
I learned that she had been appointed superintendent of the health
columns. It seems that the readers of this paper are sanguine enough to
expect to get medical advice of the highest order in respect of their
ailments for the comparatively trilling expenditure of one halfpenny
weekly. By forwarding a coupon to show that they have not been mean
enough to try and shirk payment of the legitimate fee, they are entitled
to obtain in the health columns a complete reply as to the treatment of
whatever symptoms they may describe. As this reply is seldom printed in
the health columns until more than a month or six weeks after the coupon
has been sent in to the newspaper, addressed “M.D.,” the extent of the
boon that it confers upon the suffering--the long-suffering--subscribers
can easily be estimated.

As the superintendent of the column signed “M.D.,” the lady who had
failed as an art critic, as a reviewer, and as an interviewer, had at
last found a haven of rest. Of course, when she undertook the duties
incidental to the post she knew nothing whatever of medicine. But since
then, my informant assured me that she had been gradually “feeling her
way,” and now, by the aid of a half-crown handbook, she can give the
best medical advice that can be secured in all London for a halfpenny
fee.

I had the curiosity to glance down one of her columns the other day. It
ran something like this:--

“Gladys.--Delighted to hear that you like your new mistress, and that
the cook is not the tyrant that your last was. As scullery-maid I
believe you are entitled to every second evening out. But better apply
(enclosing coupon) to the Superintendent of the Domestic Department.
Regarding the eruptions on the forehead, they may have been caused by
the use of too hot curling tongs on your fringe. Why not try the new
magnetic curlers? (see advertisement, p. 9). It would be hard to be
compelled to abandon so luxurious a fringe for the sake of a pimple or
two. Thanks for your kind wishes. Your handwriting is striking, but
I must have an impression of your palm in wax, or on a piece of paper
rubbed with lamp-black, before I can predict anything certain regarding
your chances of a brilliant marriage.”

“Airy Fairy Lilian.--What a pretty pseudonym! Where did you contrive to
find it? Yes, I think that perhaps the doctor who visited you was right
after all. The symptoms were certainly those of typhoid. Have you tried
the new Omniherbal Typhoid Tablets (see advertisement, p. 8). If not too
late they might be of real service to you.”

“Harebell.--I should say that if your waist is now forty-two inches, it
would be extremely imprudent for you to try and reduce it by more than
ten or eleven inches. Besides, there is no beauty in a wasp-like waist.
The slight redness on the outside tegument of the nose probably proceeds
from cold, or most likely heat. Try a little _poudre des fées_ (see
advertisement, p. 9).”

“Shy Susy.--It is impossible to answer inquiries in this column in less
than a month. (1) If your tooth continues to ache, why not go to Mr.
Hiram P. Prosser, American Dental Surgeon (see advertisement, p. 8), and
have it out. (2) The best volume on Etiquette is by the Countess of D.
It is entitled ‘How to Behave’ (see advertisement outside cover).
(3) No; to change hats in the train does not imply a promise to marry.
It would, however, tell against the defendant in the witness-box.
(4) Decidedly not; you should not allow a complete stranger to see you
to your door, unless he is exceptionally good-looking. (5) Patchouli is
the most fashionable scent.”

*****

I do not suppose that this enterprising young woman is an honoured guest
at the annual meeting of the British Medical Association. Certainly no
lady superintendent of the health columns of a halfpenny weekly paper
was pointed out to me at the one meeting of this body which I had the
privilege of attending, and at which, by the way, some rather amusing
incidents occurred.

An annual, meeting of the British Medical Association seemed to me to
be a delightful function. For some days there were _fêtes_ (with
fireworks), receptions (with military bands playing), dances (with that
exhilarating champagne that comes from the Saumur districts),
excursions to neighbouring ruins of historic interest, and the common
or garden-party in abundance. In addition to all these, a rumour was
circulated that papers were being read in some out-of-the-way hall--no
one seemed to know where it was situated, and the report was generally
regarded as a hoax--on modern therapeutics, for the entertainment of
such visitors as might be interested in the progress of medical science.

No one seemed interested in that particular line.

A concert took place one evening, and was largely attended, every seat
in the building being occupied. The local amateur tenor--the microbe
of this malady has not yet been discovered--sang with his accustomed
throaty incorrectness, and immediately afterwards there was a
considerable interval. Then the conductor appeared upon the platform and
said that an unfortunate accident had happened to the gentleman who had
just sung, and he should feel greatly obliged if any medical gentleman
who might chance to be present would kindly come round to the retiring
room.

It seemed to me that the audience rose _en masse_ and trooped round
to the retiring room. I was one of the few persons who remained in the
hall.

“Say, why didn’t some strong man throw himself between the audience
and the door?” a stranger shouted across the hall to me in an American
accent.

“With what object?” I shouted back.

“Wal,” said the stranger, “I opine that if this community is subject to
such visitations as we have just had from that gentleman who sang last,
his destruction should be made a municipal affair.”

“We know what we’re about,” said I. “How would you like to look up and
find two hundred and forty-seven fully qualified medical men standing by
your bed-side.”

“Not much,” said he.

“I wonder if the story of the opossum that was up a gum tree, and begged
a military man beneath not to fire, as he would come down, had reached
the States before you left,” said I.

He said he hadn’t heard tell of it.

“Well,” said I, “there was an opossum----”

But here the hall began to refill, and the concert was proceeded with.
The sufferer had recovered, we heard, in spite of all that was against
him. A humorist said that he had merely slipped from a ladder in
endeavouring to reach down his high C.

When he was told that he had to pay two hundred and forty-seven guineas
for medical attendance he nearly had a relapse.

*****

It was at the same meeting of the Medical Association that a
garden-party was given by the Superintendent of the District Lunatic
Asylum. This was a very pleasant affair, and was attended by about five
hundred persons. A detestable man who was present, however, thought
fit to make an effort to give additional spirit to the entertainment
by pointing out to some of his friends the short, ungainly figure of a
German _savant_, who was wandering about the grounds in a condition
of loneliness, and by telling a story of a homicide of a bloodcurdling
type, to account for the gentleman’s presence at the institution.

The jester gave free expression to his doubts as to the wisdom of the
course adopted by the medical superintendent in permitting such
freedom to a man who was supposed to be confined during Her Majesty’s
pleasure,--this was, he said, because of the merciful view taken by the
jury before whom he had been tried. He added, however, that he supposed
the superintendent knew his own business.

As this story circulated freely, the German doctor, whose appearance and
dress undoubtedly lent it a certain plausibility, became easily the most
attractive person in view. Young men and maidens paused in the act of
“service” over the lawn tennis nets, to watch the little man whose large
eyes stared at them from beneath a pair of shaggy eyebrows, and whose
ill-cut grey frieze coat suggested the uniform of the Hospital for
the Insane. Strong men grasped their walking sticks more firmly as he
passed, and women, well gowned, and wearing picture hats--I trust I
am not infringing the copyright of the lady journalist--drew back, but
still gazed at him with all the interest that attaches itself to a great
criminal in the eyes of women.

The little man could not but feel that he was attracting a great deal of
attention; but being probably well aware of his own attainments, he did
not shrink from any gaze, but smiled complacently on every side. Then
a local medical man, whose self-confidence had never been known to fail
him in an emergency, thought that the moment was an auspicious one for
exhibiting the extent of his researches in cerebral phenomena, beckoned
the German to his side, and, removing the man’s hat, began to prove
to the bystanders that the shape of his head was such as precluded the
possibility of his playing any other part in the world but that of a
distinguished homicide. But the German, who understood English very
well, as he did everything else, turned at this point upon the local
practitioner and asked him what the teuffil he meant.

“Don’t be alarmed, ladies,” said the practitioner assuringly, as there
was a movement among his audience. “I know how to treat this form of
aberration. Now then, my good man----”

But at this moment a late arrival in the form of a great London surgeon
strolled up accompanied by the medical superintendent of the Asylum,
and with an exclamation of pleasure, pounced upon the subject of the
discourse and shook him warmly by the hand. The Teuton was, however, by
no means disposed to overlook the insult offered to him. He explained
in the expressive German tongue what had occurred, and any one could see
that he was greatly excited.

But Sir Gregory, the English surgeon, had probably some experience of
cases like this. He put his hand through the arm of the German, and then
giving a laugh that in an emergency might obviate the use of a lancet,
he said loudly enough to be heard over a considerable area,--

“Come along, my dear friend; there is no visiting an hospital for the
insane without coming across a lunatic,--a medical practitioner without
discretion is worse.”

The local physician was left standing alone on the lawn.

He shortly afterwards went home.

If you wish to anger him now you need only talk about brain “sells.”

*****

At the same meeting it was my privilege to be presented to a really
great London physician. He was the medical gentleman who was consulted
by a special correspondent on his return from making a tour with the
Marquis of Lome, when the latter became Viceroy of Canada. The special
correspondent had left for Canada on the very day that he arrived in
England from the Cape, having gone through the Zulu campaign, and he had
reached the Cape direct from the Afghan war. After about two years of
these experiences he felt run down, and acting on the suggestion of a
friend, lost no time in consulting the great physician.

On learning that the man was suffering from a curious impression of
weariness for which he could not account, but which he had tried in vain
to shake off, the great physician asked him what was his profession. He
replied that he was a literary man--that he wrote for a newspaper.

“Ah, I thought so,” cried the great physician. “Your complaint is easily
accounted for. I perceived in a moment that you had been leading a
sedentary life. That is what plays havoc with literary men. What you
need just now is a complete change--no half measures, mind you--a
complete change--a sea voyage would brace you up, or,--let me see--ah,
yes, Margate might do. Try a fortnight at Margate.”

*****

I am bound to say that it was another doctor who, when a naval captain
who had been in charge of a corvette on the South Pacific station for
five years, went to him for advice, gravely remarked,--

“I wonder, sir, if at any time of your life you got a severe wetting?”

The modern physician is most earnest in recommending changes of air and
scene and employment. He is an enemy to the drug system. But the last
enemy that shall be destroyed is the drug system. The “masses” believe
in it as they believe no other system, whether in medicine, religion, or
even gambling.

I shall never forget the ring of contempt that there was in the voice of
a servant of mine at the Cape, when, on the army surgeon’s giving him
a prescription to be made up, he found that the whole thing only cost
fourpence, and he said,--

“That there coor can’t be much of a coor, sir; only corst fourpence, and
me ready to pay ‘arf-a-crown.”

In the smoking-room of an hotel in Liverpool some years ago a rather
self-assertive gentleman was dilating to a group in a cosy corner on the
advantages of travel, not merely as a physical, but as an intellectual
stimulant.

“Am I right, sir?” he cried, turning to me. “Have you ever travelled?”

I mentioned that I had done a little in that way.

“Where do you come from now, sir?” he asked.

“South America,” said I meekly.

“And you, sir,” he cried, turning to another stranger; “have you
travelled?”

“Well, a bit,” replied the man. “I was in ‘Frisco this day fortnight,
and I’ll be in Egypt on this day week.”

“I knew by the look of those gentlemen that they had travelled,” said
the loud man, turning to his group. “I believe in the value of travel.
I travel myself--just like those gentlemen. Yes; a week ago I was at
Bradford. Here I am at Liverpool to-day, and Heaven knows where I may be
next week--at Manchester, may be.”

*****

So far as I can gather, the impression seems to be pretty general that
some divergence of opinion is by no means impossible among physicians
in their diagnosis of a case. Doctors themselves seem to have at last
become aware of the fact that the possibility of a difference being
manifested in their views on some cases is now and again commented on
by the irresponsible layman. An eminent member of that profession which
makes a larger demand than any other upon the patience, the judgment,
and the self-sacrifice of those who practise it, defended, a short time
ago, in the course of a very witty speech, the apparent want of harmony
between the views of physicians on some technical points. He said that
perhaps he might not be going too far if he remarked that occasionally
in a court of law the technical evidence given by two doctors seemed
at first sight not to agree. This point was readily conceded by the
audience; and the professor then went on to say that surely the absence
of this mechanical agreement on all points should be accepted as
powerful testimony to the conscientiousness of the profession. One of
the rarest of charges brought against physicians was that of collusion.
In fact, while he believed that, if put to it, his memory would be
quite equal to recall some instances of a divergence of opinion between
doctors in a witness-box, he did not think that he could remember a
single case in which a charge of collusion against two members of the
profession had been brought home to them.

Most sensible people will, I am persuaded, take this view of a matter
which has called for comment in all ages. It is because doctors are so
singularly sensitive that, sooner than run the chance of being accused
of acting in collusion in any case, they now and again have been known
to express views that were--well, not absolutely in harmony the one with
the other.

The distinguished physician who made so reasonable a defence of the
profession which he adorns, told me that it was one of his early
instructors who made that excellent summary of the relative values of
medical attendance:--

“I have no hesitation in saying that it’s not better to be attended by a
good doctor than a bad doctor; but I won’t go the length of saying that
it’s not better to be attended by no doctor at all than by either.”



CHAPTER XX.--ON SOME FORMS OF CLEVERNESS.


_The British Association--The late Professor Tyndall--His Belfast
address--The centre of strict orthodoxy--The indignation of the
pulpits--Worse than atheism--Biology and blasphemy allied sciences--The
champion of orthodoxy--The town is saved--After many days--The second
visit of Professor Tyndall to Belfast--The honoured guest of the
Presbyterians--Public opinion--Colour blindness--Another meeting of the
British Association--A clever young man--The secret of the ruin--The
revelation of the secret--The great-grandfather of Queen Boadicea--The
story of Antonio Giuseppe--Accepted as primo tenore--The birthday
books--A movable feast--A box at the opera--Transferable--The discovery
of the transfers--An al fresco operatic entertainment--No harm done._


THE annual meetings of the British Association for the Advancement
of Science can be made quite as delightful functions as those of the
British Medical Association, if they are not taken too seriously; and I
don’t think that there is much likelihood of that happening. I have
had the privilege of taking part in several of the dances, the garden
parties, and the concerts which have taken place under the grateful
protection of science. I have also availed myself of the courtesy of
the railway companies that issued cheap tickets to the various places of
interest in the locality where the annual festivities took place under
the patronage of the British Association. The only President’s address
which I ever heard delivered was, however, that of Professor Tyndall at
Belfast.

I was little more than a boy at the time, and that is probably why I was
more deeply interested in Biology and Evolution than I have been in more
recent years. It is scarcely necessary to say that Professor Tyndall’s
utterance would take a very humble place in the heterodoxy of the
present day, for the exponents of theology have found it necessary to
enlarge their borders as the century draws to a close, and I suppose
that if poor Tyndall had offered to lecture in St. Paul’s Cathedral his
appearance under the dome would have been welcomed by the authorities,
as it certainly would have been by the public. But Belfast had for
long been the centre of strict orthodoxy, and so soon as the address of
Professor Tyndall was printed a great cry arose from every pulpit. The
excellent Presbyterians of Ulster were astounded at the audacity of the
man in coming into the midst of such a community as theirs in order to
deliver an address that breathed of something worse than the ancient
atheists had ever dreamed of in their most heterodox moments. If the man
had wanted to blaspheme--and a good _primâ facie_ case was made out in
favour of the assumption that he had--could he not have taken himself
off to some congenial locality for the purpose? Why should he come to
Belfast with such an object? Would the town ever get rid of the stigma
that would certainly be attached to it as the centre from which the
blasphemies of Biology had radiated upon this occasion?

These were the questions that afflicted the good people for many days,
and the consensus of opinion seemed to be in favour of the theory that
unless the town should undergo a sort of moral fumigation, it would not
be restored to the position it had previously occupied in the eyes of
Christendom. The general idea is that to slaughter a pig in a Mohammedan
mosque is an act the consequences of which are so far-reaching as to be
practically irreparable; the act of Professor Tyndall at Belfast was of
precisely this nature in the estimation of the inhabitants.

Fortunately, however, a champion of orthodoxy appeared in the form of a
Professor at the Presbyterian College who wrote a book--I believe some
copies may still be purchased--to make it impossible for Tyndall or any
other exponent of Evolution to face an audience of intelligent people.
This book was the saving of the town. Belfast was rehabilitated, and the
people breathed again.

But the years went by; Darwin’s funeral service was held in Westminster
Abbey, and Professor Tyndall’s voice was now and again heard like an
Alpine echo of his master. In Belfast a University Extension Scheme was
set on foot and promised to be a brilliant success--it collapsed after
a time, but that is not to the point. What is to the point, however, is
the fact that the inaugural lecture of the University Extension series
was on the subject of Biology, and the chosen exponent of the science
was Professor Tyndall. He came to Belfast as the honoured guest of the
city--it had become a city since his memorable visit--and he passed
some days at the official residence of the Presbyterian President of
the Queen’s College, who had been a pupil at the divinity school of
the clergyman who had written the book that was supposed to have
re-consecrated, as it were, the locality defiled by the British
Association address of 1874.

This incident appears to me to be noteworthy--almost as noteworthy as
the reception given in honour of Monsieur Emile Zola in the Guildhall
a few years after Mr. Vizetelly had been sent to gaol for issuing a
purified translation of a work of Zola’s.

I think it was Mr. Forster who, in the spring of 1882, when Mr. Parnell
and his friends were languishing in Kilmainham, said that the Irish
Channel was like the water described by Byron: a palace at one side,
a prison on the other. The Irish members left Kilmainham, and in a few
hours found themselves in Westminster Palace--at least, Westminster
Palace Hotel.

Public opinion knows but the two places of residence--a palace and a
prison. When a man leaves the one he is considered fit for the other.
Public opinion knows but black and white, and vacillates from one to the
other with the utmost regularity.

The only constant thing in the world is change.

*****

At another meeting of the British Association I was a witness of a
remarkable piece of cleverness on the part of a young man who has
since proved his claim to be regarded as one of the most adroit men in
England. Among the excursions the chief was to the locality of a ruin,
the origin of which was, like the origin of the De la Pluche family,
lost in the mists of obscurity. The ruin had been frequently visited
by distinguished archæologists, but none had ventured to do more than
guess--if one could imagine guesswork and archaeology associated--what
period should be assigned to the dilapidated towers. It so happened,
however, that an elderly professor at the local college had, by living
laborious days, and mastering the elements of a new language, succeeded
in wresting their secret from the lichened stones, and he made up his
mind that when the British Association had its excursion to the ruin, he
would reveal all that he had discovered regarding it, and by this _coup
de théâtre_ become famous.

But the clever young man had an interesting young brother who had gained
a reputation as a poet, and who dressed perhaps a trifle in excess
of this reputation; and when the old professor was about to make his
revelation regarding the ruin, the clever young man put up his brother
in another part of the enclosure to recite one of his own poems on
the locality. In a few moments the professor, who had commenced
his discourse, was practically deserted. Only half a dozen of the
excursionists rallied round him, and permitted themselves to be
mystified; the cream of the visitors, to the number of perhaps a
hundred, were around the reciter on an historic hillock fifty yards
away, and his mellow cadences sounded very alluring to the few people
who listened to the jerky delivery of the lecturer in the ruin.

But the clever young man did not yield to the alluring voice of his
brother. He had heard that voice before, and was well acquainted with
its cadences. He was also well acquainted with the poem that was
being recited--he had heard it more than once before. What he was not
acquainted with was the marvellous discovery made by the professor who
was in the act of revealing it to ten ears--that is allowing that
only one person of those around him was deaf. The clever young man sat
concealed behind a wall covered with ivy and listened to every word of
the revelation. When it was over he unostentatiously joined the crowd
around his brother, and heard with pleasure that the delivery of the
poem had been very striking.

“But we must not waste our time,” said the clever young man, with
the air of authority of a personal conductor. “We have several other
interesting points to dwell upon”--he spoke as if he and his brother
owned the ruins and the natural landscape into the bargain. “Oh, yes, we
must hurry on. I do not suppose there is any lady or gentleman present
who is aware of the fact that we are within a few yards of the place
where the great-grandfather of Queen Boadicea lies buried.”

A murmur of negation passed round the crowd.

“Follow me,” said the clever young man; and they followed him.

He led them to the very place where the professor had made his
revelation, and then, standing on a portion of the ruined structure,
he gave in choice language, and with many inspiring quotations from
the literature of the Ancient Britons, the substance of the professor’s
revelation.

For half an hour he continued his discourse, and quite delighted every
one who heard him, except, perhaps, the elderly professor. He was among
the audience, and he listened, with staring eyes, to the clever young
man’s delightful mingling of the deepest archaeological facts with
fictions that had a semblance of truth, and he was speechless. The
innocent old soul actually believed that the clever young man had
surpassed him, the professor, in the profundity of his researches into
the history of the ruin; he knew that the face of the clever young
man had not been among the faces of the few people who had heard his
revelation, but he did not know that the clever young man was hidden
among the ivy a few yards away.

When the people were applauding the delightful discourse, he pressed
forward to the impromptu lecturer and shook him warmly by the hand.

“Sir!” he cried, “you have in you the stuff that goes to make a great
archæologist. I have worked at nothing else but this ruin for the last
eight years, and yet I admit that you know more about it than I do.”

“Oh, my dear sir,” said the clever young man, “the world knows that in
your own path you are without a rival. I am content to sit at your feet.
It is an honourable position. Any time you want to know something of
this locality and its archæology do not hesitate to command me.”

*****

The only rival in adroitness to the young man whose feats I have just
recorded was one Antonio Giuseppe. I came upon this person in London,
but only when I was in Milan did I become acquainted with the extent of
his capacity. One of the stories I heard about him is, I think, worth
repeating, illustrating, as it does, the difference between the English
and the Italian systems of imposture.

Antonio Giuseppe certainly was attached to the State Opera Company, but
it would be difficult to define with any degree of exactness his duties
in connection with that Institution. He had got not a single note in his
voice, and yet--nay, on this account--he had passed during a season at
Homburg as a distinguished tenor--for Signor Giuseppe was careful to
see that his portmanteau was inscribed in white letters of considerable
size, “Signor Antonio Giuseppe, State Opera Company.” He gave himself as
many airs as a professional--nay, as an amateur, tenor, and he was thus
assigned the most select apartment in the hotel during his sojourn, and
a large folding screen was placed between his seat at the _table d’hote_
and the window. There was, indeed, every excuse for taking Signor
Giuseppe for a distinguished operatic tenor. He spoke all European
languages with equal impurity, he went about in a waistcoat that
resembled, in combination of colours, the drop scene of a theatre, he
wore a blue velvet tie, made up in a knot to display a carbuncle pin
about the size of a tram-car light, and his generosity in wristband
was equalled only by his prodigality of cigarette paper. These
characteristics, coupled with the fact that he had never been known to
indulge in the luxury of a bath, gave rise to the rumour that he was the
greatest tenor in Europe; consequently he was looked upon with envy by
the Dukes with incomes of a thousand pounds a day, who were accustomed
to resort for some months out of the year to Homburg; while Countesses
in their own right sent him daily missives expressive of their
admiration for his talents, and entreating the favour of his autograph
in their birthday books. Poor Signor Giuseppe was greatly perplexed by
the arrival of a birthday book at his apartment every morning; but so
soon as its import was explained to him, he never failed to respond to
the request of the fair owners of the volumes. His caligraphy did not
extend beyond the limits of his autograph, and his birthday seemed to be
with him a movable feast, for in no two of the books did his name appear
on the pages assigned to the same month. As a matter of fact, it is
almost impossible for a man who has never been acquainted with his
father or mother, to know with any degree of accuracy the exact day
on which he was born, so that Signor Giuseppe, who was discovered by a
priest in a shed at the quay at Leghorn on St. Joseph’s day, was not to
blame for his ignorance in respect of his nativity.

Of course, when Mr. Fitzgauntlet, the enterprising impresario of the
State Opera, turned up at Homburg in the course of a week or two, it
became known that whatever position Signor Giuseppe might occupy in the
State Opera Company, it was not that of _primo tenore_, for the most
exacting impresario has never been known to include among the duties of
a _primo tenore_ the unpacking of a portmanteau and the arrangement of
its contents around the dressing room of the impresario. The folding
screen was removed from behind Signor Giuseppe on the day following
the arrival of Mr. Fitzgauntlet at Homburg, and from being _feted_ as
Giuseppe the tenor, he was scorned as Giuseppe the valet.

But in regarding Signor Giuseppe as nothing beyond the valet to the
impresario the sojourners at the hotel were as greatly in error as in
accepting him as the tenor. To be sure Signor Giuseppe now and again
discharged the duties that usually devolve upon the valet, but the
scope of his duties extended far beyond these limits. It was his task
to arrange the _claque_ for a new _prima donna_, and to purchase the
bouquets to be showered upon the stage when the impresario was anxious
to impress upon the public the admirable qualities possessed by a
_débutante_ whose services he had secured for a trifle. It was also
Giuseppe’s privilege to receive the bouquets left at the stage door by
the young gentlemen--or the old gentlemen--who had become struck with
the graceful figure of the _premiere danseuse_ or perhaps _cinquantième
danseuse_, and the emoluments arising from this portion of his duties
were said to be equal to a liberal income, exclusive of what he made
by the disposal of the bouquets to the florist from whom they had been
originally purchased. This invaluable official also made a little money
for himself by his ingenuity in obtaining the photographs and autographs
of the chief artists of the company, which he distributed for sale every
evening in the stalls; but not quite so profitable was that part of his
business which consisted in inventing stories to account for the absence
of the impresario when tradesmen called at the State theatre with their
bills; still, the thoughtfulness and ingenuity of Signor Giuseppe were
quite equal to the strain put upon them in this direction, and Mr.
Fitzgauntlet had no reason to be otherwise than satisfied. When it is
understood that Giuseppe transacted nearly all their business for the
chief artists in the company, engaged their apartments, and looked after
their luggage when on tour in the provinces, it will readily be believed
that he had, as a rule, more money at his banker’s than any official
connected with the State Opera.

The confidence which had always been placed in Signor Giuseppe’s
integrity by the artists of the company was upon one occasion rudely
shaken, and the story of how this disaster occurred is about to be
related. Signor Giuseppe did a little business in wine and cigars,
principally of British manufacture, and he had, with his accustomed
dexterity, hitherto escaped a criminal prosecution under the Sale
of Drugs Act for the consequences of his success in disposing of his
commodities in this line of business. He also did a little in a medical
way, a certain bottle containing a bright crimson liquid with a horrible
taste being extremely popular among the members of the extensive
chorus of the State Opera. When a “cyclus” of modern German opera was
contemplated by Mr. Fitzgauntlet, Giuseppe increased his medical stock,
feeling sure that the result of the performances would occasion a run
upon his drugs; but the negotiations fell through, and it was only by
the force of his perseverance and persuasiveness he contrived to get rid
of his surplus to the gentlemen who played the brass instruments in the
orchestra. It was not, however, on account of his transactions in the
medical way that he almost forfeited the respect in which he was held
by the artists, but because of the part he played with regard to the
disposal of a certain box of cigars. After the production of the opera
_Le Diamant Noir_, Signor Boccalione, the great basso, went to Giuseppe,
saying,--

“Giuseppe, I want your advice: you know I have made the success of the
opera, but I do not read music very quickly, and Monsieur Lejeune has
had a good deal of trouble with me. I should like to make him some
little return; what would you suggest?”

Giuseppe was lost in thought. He wondered, could he suggest the
propriety of the basso’s offering the _maestro di piano_ a case of
Burgundy--Giuseppe had just received three cases of the finest Burgundy
that had ever been made in the Minories.

“A present to the value of how much?” he asked of Signor Boccalione.

“Oh,” said the basso airily, and with a gesture of indifference, “about
sixty francs. Monsieur Lejeune had not really so much trouble with
me--no one else in the company would think of acknowledging his
services, but with me it is different--I cannot live without being
generous.”

Giuseppe mused.

“If the signor would only go so far as seventy francs, I could get him a
box of the choicest cigars,” he said after a pause; and then he went
on to explain that the cigars were in the possession of a friend of his
own, whom he had passed into the opera one night, and who consequently
owed him some compliment, so that the box, which in the ordinary way of
business was really worth eighty francs, might be obtained for seventy.
The generosity of the basso, however, was not without its limits; it
would, sustain the tension put upon it by the expenditure of sixty
francs, but it was not sufficiently strong to face the outlay suggested
by Giuseppe..

“Sixty francs!” he cried, “sixty francs is a small fortune, and I myself
smoke excellent cigars at thirty. I will give no more than sixty.”

Giuseppe did not think the box could be purchased for the money, but he
said he would try and induce his friend to be liberal. The next day he
came to Signor Boccalione with the box containing the hundred cigars of
the choicest brand--the quality of the cigars will be fully appreciated
when it is understood that the hundred cost Giuseppe originally close
upon thirteen shillings.

“Per Bacco!” cried the basso, “Monsieur Lejeune should be a happy
man--he had hardly any trouble with me, now that I come to reflect. Oh,
I am the only man in the company who would be so foolish as to think of
a present--and such a present--for him.”

“Oh, Signor!” said Giuseppe, “such a present! The perfume, signor,
wonderful! delicious! celestial!” He then explained how he had persuaded
his friend, by soft words and promises, to part with the box for sixty
francs, and Signor Boccalione listened and laughed; then, on a sheet of
pink notepaper, the basso wrote a dedication, occupying twelve lines,
of the box of cigars to the use of the supremely illustrious _maestro di
piano_, Lejeune, in token of the invaluable assistance he had afforded
to the most humble and grateful of his friends and servants, Alessandro
Boccalione.

When Giuseppe promised to send the box to the maestro on the following
day he meant to keep his word, and he did keep it. On the same evening
he was met by Maestro Lejeune. The maestro looked very pale in the face.

“Giuseppe, my friend,” he said with a smile, “you were very good to me
upon our last tour, looking after my luggage with commendable zeal; I
have often thought of making you some little return. You will find a box
of cigars--one hundred all but one--on my dressing table; you may have
them for your own use.”

Giuseppe was profuse in his thanks, and, on going to the dressing-room
of the maestro, obtained possession once more of the box of cigars
he had sold to the basso. On the mat was the half-smoked sample which
Monsieur Lejeune had attempted to get through.

Not more than a week had passed after this transaction when Signor
Giuseppe was sent for by Madame Speranza, the celebrated soprano.

“Giuseppe,” said the lady, “as you have had twenty-seven of my
photographs within the past month, I think you may be able to help me
out of a difficulty in which I find myself.”

Giuseppe thought it rather ungenerous for a soprano earning--or at least
getting paid--two hundred pounds a week, to make any reference to such a
paltry matter as photographs; he, however, said nothing on this subject,
but only expressed his willingness to serve the lady. She then explained
to him what he knew already, namely, that she had had a serious
difference with Herr Groschen, the conductor, as to the _tempo_ of a
certain air in _Le Diamant Noir_, and that the conductor and she had not
been on speaking terms for more than a fortnight.

“But now,” said Madame Speranza in conclusion, “now that I have made the
opera so brilliant a success, I should like to make my peace with the
poor old man, who must be miserable in consequence of my treatment of
him,--especially as I got the best of the dispute. I mean to write
to him this evening, and send him some present--something small, you
know--not extravagant.”

“What would Madame think of the appropriateness of a box of cigars?”
 asked Giuseppe after an interval of thought. “I heard Herr Groschen say
that he had just smoked the last of a box, and meant to purchase another
when he had the money,” he added.

“How much would a box of cigars cost?” asked the _prima donna_.

“Madame can have cigars at all prices--even as low as sixty-five
francs,” replied her confidential adviser.

“Mon Dieu! what extravagant creatures men are!” cried the lady.
“Sixty-five francs’ worth of cigars would probably not last him more
than a few months. Never mind; I do not want a cheap box,--my soul is
a generous one: procure me a box at sixty-six francs, and we will say
nothing more about the photographs.”

Signor Giuseppe said he would try what could be done. A man whom he had
once obliged had a sister married to one of the most intelligent cigar
merchants in the city; but he did not think he had any cigars under
seventy francs.

“Not a sou more than sixty-six will I pay,” cried the soprano with
emphasis. Giuseppe gave a shrug and said he would see what could be
done.

What he saw could be done was to expend the sum of twopence English in
the purchase of a cigar, to put in the centre of the package from which
the maestro had taken his sample, and to bring the box sealed to Madame
Speranza, whom he congratulated on being able to present her late enemy
with a box of cigars of a quality not to be surpassed in the island of
Cuba. The lady put her face down to the box and made a little grimace,
and Giuseppe left her apartment with three guineas English in his
pocket.

Two days afterwards he encountered Herr Groschen.

“Giuseppe,” said the conductor, “you may remember that when you so
cleverly contrived to have my luggage with the fifteen pounds of tobacco
amongst it passed at the Custom House I said I would make you a present.
Forgive me for my negligence all this time, and accept a box of choice
cigars, which you will find on my table. May you be happy, Giuseppe--you
are a worthy fellow.”

It is needless to say that Signor Giuseppe recovered his box. On the
hearth-rug lay a half-smoked specimen, and by its side the portion of
Madame Speranza’s letter to the conductor which he had used to light the
one cigar out of the hundred.

Before another week had passed, the same box had been sold to the tenor,
to present to Mr. Fitzgauntlet, who, on receiving it, put his nose down
to the package, and threw the lot into a corner among waste papers, and
went on with his writing. The box was rescued by Giuseppe, and presented
by him to the husband of Madame Galatini-Purissi, the contralto, in
exchange for three dozen copies of the fair _artiste’s_ portrait. Then
Signor Purissi sent the box to the flautist in the orchestra, who played
the obbligato to some of the contralto’s arias, and as this gentleman
did not smoke he made it over once more to Signor Giuseppe. As the box
had by this time been in the hands of every one in the company likely to
possess a box of cigars, Giuseppe thought it would show a grasping
spirit on his part were he to attempt to dispose of it again; so he
merely made up the ninety-nine cigars in packages of three, which he
sold to thirty-three members of the chorus at a shilling a head.

It so happened, however, that Herr Groschen, Signor Boccalione, and
Signor Purissi met in a tobacconist’s shop about a week after the final
distribution of the cigars, and their conversation turned upon the
comparative ease with which bad cigars could be procured. Herr Groschen
boasted how he had repaid his obligations to Giuseppe with a box of
cigars, which he was certain satisfied the poor devil.

“Corpo di Bacco!” cried the basso, “I bought a box from Giuseppe to
present to Maestro Lejeune.”

“And I,” said the husband of the contralto, “bought another from him.
Can it have been the same box?”

Suspicion being thus aroused, Boccalione sought out Monsieur Lejeune,
who confessed that he had given the box to Giuseppe; and Signor Purissi
learned from the flautist that his gift had been disposed of in the
same direction. The story went round the company, and poor Giuseppe
was pounced upon by his indignant and demonstrative countrymen, and an
explanation demanded of him on the subject of his repeated disposal of
the same box. Giuseppe was quite as demonstrative as the most earnest of
his interrogators in declaring that he had not disposed of the same box.
His friend had obliged him with several boxes, and he had himself been
greatly put about to oblige the ungrateful people who now turned upon
him. He swore by the tomb of his parents that the obligations he had
already discharged towards the ingrates would never be repeated; they
might in future go elsewhere (Signor Giuseppe made a suggestion as to
the exact locality) for their cigars; but for his part he washed his
hands clean of them and their cigars. For three-quarters of an hour
the basso-profundo, the soprano, and the husband of the contralto
gesticulated before Giuseppe in the portico of the Opera House, until
a crowd collected, the impression being general that an animated scene
from a new opera was being rehearsed by the artists of the State Opera.
A policeman who arrived on the scene could not be persuaded to take this
view of the matter, and he politely requested the distinguished members
of the State Opera Company either to move on or to go within the
precincts of the building. The basso attempted to explain to the
policeman in very choice Italian what Giuseppe had done, but he was so
demonstrative the officer thought he was threatening the police force
generally, and took his name and address with a view to issuing a
summons for this offence. In the meantime Giuseppe got into a hansom
and drove off, craning his neck round the side of the vehicle to make
a parting allusion to the maternity of the husband of the contralto, to
which the soprano promptly replied by a suggestion which, if true, would
tend to remove the mystery surrounding the origin of Giuseppe. A week
afterwards of course all were once again on the most friendly terms;
but Giuseppe now and again feels that his want of ingenuousness in the
cigar-box transaction well-nigh jeopardised the reputation for integrity
he had previously enjoyed among the principals of the State Opera
Company. He has been much more careful ever since, and flatters himself
that not even the _tenore robusto_, who is the most suspicious of
men, can discover the points on which he gets the better of him. As
a practical financier Signor Antonio Giuseppe thinks of himself as a
success; and there can hardly be a doubt that he is fully justified in
taking such a view of his career.



CHAPTER XXI.--“SO CAREFUL OF THE TYPE.”


_Why the chapter is a short one--Straw essential to brick-making--A
suggestion regarding the king in “Hamlet”--The Irish attendant--The
overland route--“Susanna and the editors”--“The violets of his
wrath”--The clergyman’s favourite poem--A horticultural feat--A
tulip transformed--The entertainment of an interment--The autotype
of Russia--A remarkable conflagration and a still more remarkable
dance--Paradise and the other place--Why the concert was a success--The
land of Goschcn--A sporting item--A detective story--The flora and
fauna--The Moors dictum--Absit omen!_


IF this chapter is a short one, it is so for the best of reasons: it
is meant to record some blunders of printers and others which impressed
themselves upon me. It would obviously be impossible to make a chapter
of the average length out of such a record. The really humorous faults
in the setting up of anything I have ever written have been very few.
In the printing of the original edition of my novel _Daireen_ one of the
most notable occurred in a first proof. Every chapter of this book is
headed with a few lines from _Hamlet_, and one of these headings is from
the well-known scene with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,

               _Gull_.--The King, sir----

               _Hamlet_.--Ay, sir, what of him?

               _Gull_.--Is in his retirement marvellous distempered.

               _Hamlet_.--With drink, sir?

               _Gull_.--No, my lord, rather with choler.

This was the dialogue as I had written it. The humorous printer added a
letter that somewhat changed the sense. He made the line,--

               “No, my lord, rather with _cholera_.”

This was probably an honest attempt on the compositor’s part to work
out a “new reading,” and it certainly did not appear to me to be more
extravagant than the scores of attempts made in the same direction.
If this reading were accepted, the perturbation of Claudius during the
players’ scene, and his hasty Bight before its conclusion, would be
accounted for.

Another daring new reading in _Hamlet_ was suggested by a compositor,
through the medium of a comma and a capital. In the course of a magazine
article, he set up a line in the third scene of the third act, in this
way,--

               _Hamlet_.--Now might I do it, Pat!

It is somewhat curious that some attempt has not been made before now
to justify such a reading. Could it not be suggested that Hamlet had an
Irish servant who was in his confidence? About the time of Hamlet, the
Danes had an important settlement in Ireland, and why might not Hamlet’s
father have brought one of the natives of that island, named Patrick, to
be the personal attendant of the young prince? The whole thing appears
so feasible, it almost approaches the dimensions of an Irish grievance
that no actor has yet had the courage to bring on the Irish servant who
was clearly addressed by Hamlet in the words just quoted.

So “readings” are made.

Either of those which the compositors suggested is much more worthy of
respect than the late Mr. Barry Sullivan’s,--

               “I know a hawk from a heron. Pshaw!”

But if compositors are sometimes earnest and enterprising students of
Shakespeare, I have sometimes found them deficient on the subject of
geography. Upon one occasion, for instance, I accompanied a number of
them on an excursion to the Isle of Man. The day was one of a mighty
rushing wind, and the steamer being a small one, the disasters among the
passengers were numerous. There was not a printer aboard who was not in
a condition the technical equivalent to which is “pie.” I administered
brandy to some of them, telling them to introduce a “turned rule,” which
means, in newspaper instructions, “more to follow.” But all was of no
avail. We reached the island in safety, however, and then one of the
compositors who had been very much discomposed, seeing the train about
to start for Douglas, told me in a confidential whisper that he had
suffered so much on the voyage, he had made up his mind to return to
Ireland by train.

*****

Quite a new reading, not to _Hamlet_, but to one of the lyrics in _The
Princess_, was suggested by another compositor. The introduction of a
comma in the first line of the last stanza of “Home they brought her
warrior dead” produced a quaint effect.

                   “Rose a nurse of ninety years,

                   Set his child upon her knee,”

appears in every edition of _The Princess_. But my friend, by his timely
insertion of a comma, made it read thus:

                   “Rose, a nurse of ninety years.”

Perhaps the nurse’s name was Rose, but Tennyson kept this a secret.

One of the loveliest of Irish national melodies is that for which Moore
wrote the stanzas beginning:--

               “Silent, O Moyle, be the roar of thy waters!”

The title of this song appeared in the programme of a St. Patrick’s Day
Concert, which was published in a leading London newspaper, as though
the poem were addressed to one Mr. O’Moyle,--“Silent, O’Moyle.”

*****

Another humorist set up a reference to “Susanna and the Elders,”

“Susanna and the Editors,” which was not just the same thing. Possibly
the printer had another and equally apocryphal episode in his mind’s
eye.

I felt a warm personal regard for the man who made a lecturer state
that a critic had “poured out the violets of his wrath upon him.” The
criticism did not, under these circumstances, seem particularly severe.

I must frankly confess, however, that I had nothing but reprobation
for the one who made a clergyman state in a lecture to a class of young
ladies, that his favourite poem of Wordsworth’s was “Invitations to
Immorality.” Nor had I the least feeling except of indignation for the
one who set up the title of a picture in which I was interested, “a rare
turnip,” instead of “a rare tulip.” The printer who at the conclusion of
an obituary notice was expected to announce to the readers of the paper
that “the interment will take place on Saturday,” but who, instead, gave
them to understand that “the entertainment will take place on Saturday,”
 did not, I think, cause any awkward mishap. He knew that the idea was
that of entertainment, whatever the word employed might be.

The compositor who caused an editor to refer to “the autotype of the
Russian people,” when the word _autocrat_ was in the “copy” before him,
was less to be blamed than the reader who allowed such a mistake to pass
without correction.

When I read on a proof one night that the most striking scene in _The
Dead Heart_ at the Lyceum was “the burning of the Pastille and the dance
of the Rigmarole,” I asked for the “copy” that had been telegraphed;
and I found that the printer was not responsible for this marvellous
blunder.

*****

It will be remembered that at one of his lectures in the United States,
Mr. Richard A. Proctor remarked that in the course of a few million
years something remarkable would happen, but that its occurrence would
not inconvenience his audience, as he supposed they would all be in
Paradise at that time.

In one paper the reporter made him say that he supposed his audience
would all be in Paris at that time.

The next evening Mr. Proctor turned the mistake to a good “scoring”
 account, by stating that he fancied at first an error had been made; but
that shortly afterwards, he remembered that the tradition was, that all
good Americans go to Paris when they die, so that the reporter clearly
understood his business.

*****

The enterprising correspondent who sows his telegrams broadcast is a
frequent cause of the appearance of mistakes. I recollect that one sent
a hundred words over the wire regarding some village concert, the great
success of which was due to the zeal of the Reverend John Jones, “the
_locus standi_ of the parish.” He had probably heard something at one
time of a _pastor loci,_ and made a brave but unsuccessful attempt to
reproduce the phrase.

Another correspondent telegraphed regarding the arrival of two American
cyclists at Queenstown, that their itinerary would be as follows: “They
will travel on their bicycles through Ireland and England, and then
crossing from Dover to Calais they will proceed through Europe, and from
Turkey they will pass through Asia Minor into Xenophon and the Anabasis,
leaving which they will travel to Egypt and the Land of _Goschen_.”

The reference to Xenophon was funny enough, but the spelling of the
last word, identifying the country with the statesman, seemed to me to
represent the highwater mark of the flood-tide of modernism. A few years
before, when the correspondent was doubtless more in touch with the
vicissitudes of the Children of Israel than with the feats of cyclists
from the United States, he would probably have assimilated Mr. Goschen’s
name with the Land of Goshen; but soon the fame of the ex-Chancellor of
the Exchequer had become of more immediate importance to him, and it was
the land that changed its name in his mind to the name of the ex-Finance
Minister.

It was probably the influence of the same spirit of modernism that
caused a foreman, in making up the paper for the press, to insert under
the title of “Sporting,” half a column of a report of a lecture by a
clergyman on “The Races of Palestine.”

*****

It was, however, the telegraph office that I found to be responsible
for a singular error in the report of the arrest of a certain notorious
criminal. The report should have stated that “a photograph of the
prisoner had been taken by the detective camera,” but the result of the
filtration of the message through a network of telegraph wires was the
statement that the photograph “had been taken by Detective Cameron.”

*****

Some years ago a too earnest naturalist was drowned when canoeing on a
lake in the west of Ireland. An enterprising correspondent who clearly
resided near the scene of the accident, forwarded to the newspaper with
which I was connected, a circumstantial account of the finding of the
capsized canoe. In the course of his references to the objects of
the naturalist’s visit to the west, the reporter made the astounding
statement that “he had already succeeded in getting together a
practically complete collection of the _flora_ and _fauna_ of
Ireland,”--truly a “large order.”

I feel that I cannot do better than bring to a close with this story my
desultory jottings, which may bear to be regarded as a far from
complete collection of the _flora_ and _fauna_ of journalism. Perhaps my
researches into these highways and byways may induce some more competent
and widely experienced brother to publish his notes on men and matters.

“Not a jot, not a jot,” protested the _Moor_.

Am I setting the omen at defiance in publishing these Jottings? Perhaps
I am; though I feel easier in my mind on this point when I recall how,
on my quoting in an article the proverb, “_Autres temps, mitres mours”_
a wag of a printer caused it to appear, “_Autres temps, autres_ Moores!”


THE END.





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