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Here, There And Everywhere
by Lord Frederic Hamilton
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CHAPTER III

Frenchmen pleasant travelling companions—The limitations—Vicomte de Vogue, the innkeeper and the Ikon—An early oil-burning steamer—A modern Bluebeard—His "Blue Chamber"—Dupleix—His ambitious scheme—A disastrous period for France—A personal appreciation of the Emperor Nicholas II—A learned but versatile Orientalist—Pidgin English—Hong-Kong—An ancient Portuguese city in China—Duck junks—A comical Marathon race—Canton—Its fascination and its appalling smells—The malevolent Chinese devils—Precautions adopted against—"Foreign Devils"—The fortunate limitations of Chinese devils—The City of the Dead—A business interview.

M. Des Etangs, the French traveller to whom I have already alluded, agreed to accompany me to the Far East, an arrangement which I welcomed, for he was a very cultivated and interesting man. Unexpectedly he was detained in Ceylon by a business matter, so I went on alone.

I regretted this, for on two previous occasions I had found what a pleasant travelling companion an educated Frenchman can be. I do not think that the French, as a rule, are either acute or accurate observers. They are too apt to start with preconceived theories of their own; anything which clashes with the ideas that they have already formed is rejected as evidence, whilst the smallest scrap of corroborative testimony is enlarged and distorted so that they may be enabled to justify triumphantly their original proposition, added to which, Frenchmen are, as a rule, very poor linguists. This, of course, is speaking broadly, but I fancy that the French mind is very definite and clear-cut, yet rather lacking in receptivity. The French suffer from the excessive development of the logical faculty in them. This same definite quality in the French language, whilst delighting both my ear and my intelligence, rightly or wrongly prevents French poetry from making any appeal to me; it is too bright and sparkling, there is no mystery possible in so clear-cut a medium, added to which, every syllable in French having an equal value, no rhythm is possible, and French poetry has to rely on rhyme alone.

It is not on the cloudless summer day that familiar objects take on vague and fantastic shapes; to effect that, mists and a rain-veiled sky are wanted. Then distances are blotted out, and the values of nearer objects are transformed under the swirling drifts of vapour, and a new dream-world is created under one's very eyes. This is, perhaps, merely the point of view of a Northerner.

As far back as 1881, I had made a trip down the Volga to Southern Russia with that most delightful of men, the late Vicomte Eugene Melchior de Vogue, the French Academician and man-of-letters. I absolve Vogue from the accusation of being unable to observe like the majority of his compatriots, nor, like them, was he a poor linguist. He had married a Russian, the sister of General Anenkoff of Central Asian fame; spoke Russian fluently, and very few things escaped his notice. Though he was much older than me, no more charming companion could be imagined. A little incident at Kazan, on the Volga, amused me enormously. We were staying at a most indifferent hotel kept by a Frenchman. The French proprietor explained to us that July was the month during which the miraculous Ikon of the Kazan Madonna was carried from house to house by the priests. The fees for this varied from 25 roubles (then 2 pounds 10s.) for a short visit from the Ikon of five minutes, to 200 roubles (20 pounds) for the privilege of sheltering the miracle-working picture for an entire night. I must add that the original Ikon was supposed to have been dug up in Kazan in 1597. In 1612 it was removed to Moscow, and was transferred again in 1710 to Petrograd, where a large and pretentious cathedral was built for its reception. In 1812, when Napoleon captured Moscow, the Kazan Madonna was hastily summoned from Petrograd, and many Russians implicitly believe that the rout of the French was solely due to this wonder-working Ikon. In the meanwhile the inhabitants of Kazan realised that a considerable financial asset had left their midst, so with commendable enterprise they had a replica made of the Ikon, which every one accepted as a perfectly satisfactory substitute, much as the Cingalees regarded their "Ersatz" Buddha's tooth at Kandy as fully equal to the original. The French landlord told us that in view of the strong local feeling, he was obliged, in the interests of his business, to pay for a visit from the Ikon, "afin de faire marcher mon commerce," and he invited Vogue and myself to be present at the ceremony.

Next day we stood at the foot of a small back-staircase which had been prepared in Russian fashion for the reception of the Madonna. Both the steps and banisters of the stairs were entirely draped in clean white sheets, to which little sprigs of fir branches had been attached. On a landing, also draped with sheets, a little white-covered table with two lighted candles was to serve as a reposoir for the Ikon. The whole of the hotel staff—all Russians—were present, as well as the frock-coated landlord. The Madonna arrived in a gilt coach-and-four, a good deal the worse for wear, with a coachman and two shaggy-headed footmen, all bareheaded. The priests carried the Madonna up to the temporary altar, and the landlord advanced to pay his devotions.

Now as a Roman Catholic he had little respect for an Ikon of the Eastern Church, nor as a Frenchman could he be expected to entertain lively feelings of gratitude to a miracle-working picture which was supposed by Russians to have brought about the terrible disasters to his countrymen in 1812. Confident in his knowledge that no one present, with the exception of Vogue and myself, understood one word of French, the landlord fairly let himself go.

Crossing himself many times after the Orthodox fashion, and making the low prostrations of the Eastern Church, he began: "Ah! vieille planche peinte, tu n'as pas d'idee comme je me fiche de toi." More low prostrations, and then, "Et c'est toi vieille croute qui imagines que tu as chasse les Francais de ce pays en 1812?" More strenuous crossings, "Ah! Zut alors! et re-zut, et re-re zut! sale planche!" which may be Englished very freely as "Ah! you old painted board, you can have no conception of what I think of you! Are you really swollen-headed enough to imagine that it was you who drove the French out of Russia in 1812? Yah! then, you ugly old daub, and yah! again!" The Russian staff, not understanding one word of this, were much impressed by their master's devotional behaviour, but Vogue and I had to go into the street and laugh for ten minutes.

The wife of a prominent official boarded the steamer at some stopping-place, with her two daughters. They were pretentious folk, talking French, and giving themselves tremendous airs. When they heard Vogue and me talking the same language, she looked at us, gave a sniff, and observed in a loud voice, "Evidently two French commercial travellers!" Next morning she ignored our salutations. During the great heat of the day she read French aloud to her daughters, and to my great joy the book was one of Vogue's. She enlarged on the beauty of the style and language, so I could not help saying, "The author will much appreciate your compliment, madame, for he is sitting opposite you. This is M. de Vogue himself." I need hardly say that the under-bred woman overwhelmed us with civilities after that.

The Volga steamers were then built after the type of Mississippi boats, with immense superstructures; they were the first oil-burning steamers I had ever seen, so I got the Captain's permission to go down to the engine-room. Instead of a grimy stokehole full of perspiring firemen and piles of coal, I found a clean, white-painted place with one solitary but clean man regulating polished taps. The Chief Engineer, a burly, red-headed, red-bearded man, came up and began explaining things to me. I could then talk Russian quite fluently, but the technicalities of marine engineering were rather beyond me, and I had not the faintest idea of the Russian equivalents for, say, intermediate cylinder, or slide-valve. I stumbled lamely along somehow until a small red-haired boy came in and cried in the strongest of Glasgow accents, "Your tea is waiting on ye, feyther."

It appeared that the Glasgow man had been Head Engineer of the river steamboat company for ten years, but we had neither of us detected the other's nationality.

On another occasion, whilst proceeding to India in a Messageries Maritimes boat, I made the acquaintance of an M. Bayol, a native of Marseilles, who had been for twenty-five years in business at Pondicherry, the French colony some 150 miles south of Madras. M. Bayol was a typical "Marius," or Marseillais: short, bald, bearded and rotund of stomach. It is unnecessary to add that he talked twenty to the dozen, with an immense amount of gesticulation, and that he could work himself into a frantic state of excitement over anything in two minutes. I heard on board that he had the reputation of being the shrewdest business man in Southern India. He was most capital company, rolling out perpetual jokes and calembour, and bubbling over with exuberant joie de vivre. I think M. Bayol took a fancy to me on account of my understanding his Provencale patois, for, as a boy, I had learnt French in a Provencale-speaking district.

All Englishmen are supposed in France to suffer from a mysterious disease known as "le spleen." I have not the faintest idea of what this means. The spleen is, I believe, an internal organ whose functions are very imperfectly understood, still it is an accepted article of faith in France that every Briton is "devore de spleen," and that this lamentable state of things embitters his whole outlook on life, and casts a black shadow over his existence. When I got to know M. Bayol better during our evening tramps up and down the deck, he asked me confidentially what remedies I adopted when "ronge de spleen," and how I combated the attacks of this deplorable but peculiarly insular disease, and was clearly incredulous when I failed to understand him. This amazing man also told me that he had been married five times. Not one of his first four wives had been able to withstand the unhealthy climate of Pondicherry for more than eighteen months, so, after the demise of his fourth French wife, he had married a native, "ne pouvant vivre seul, j'ai tout bonnement epouse une indigene."

M. Bayol insisted on showing me the glories of Pondicherry himself, an offer which I, anxious to see a Franco-Indian town, readily accepted. There is no harbour there, and owing to the heavy surf, the landing must be made in a surf-boat, a curious keel-less craft built of thin pliant planks sewn together with copper wire, which bobs about on the surface of the water like a cork. At Pondicherry, as in all French Colonial possessions, an attempt has been made to reproduce a little piece of France. There was the dusty "Grande Place," surrounded with even dustier trees and numerous cafes; the "Cafe du Progres"; the "Cafe de l'Union," and other stereotyped names familiar from a hundred French towns, and pale-faced civilians, with a few officers in uniform, were seated at the usual little tables in front of them. Everything was as different as possible from an average Anglo-Indian cantonment: even the natives spoke French, or what was intended to be French, amongst themselves. The whole place had a rather dejected, out-at-elbows appearance, but it atoned for its diminishing trade by its amazing number of officials. That little town seemed to contain more bureaucrats than Calcutta, and almost eclipsed our own post-war gigantic official establishments. On arriving at my French friend's house, the fifth Madame Bayol, a lady of dark chocolate complexion, and numerous little pale coffee-coloured Bayols greeted their spouse and father with rapturous shouts of delight. Later in the day, M. Bayol, drawing me on one side, said, "We have become friends on the voyage; I will now show you the room which enshrines my most sacred memories," and drawing a key from his pocket, he unlocked a door, admitting me to a very large room perfectly bare and empty except for four stripped bedsteads standing in the centre. "These, mon ami, are the beds on which my four French wives breathed their last, and this room is very dear to me in consequence," and the fat little Marseillais burst into tears. I have no wish to be unfeeling, but I really felt as though I had stumbled undesignedly upon some of the more intimate details connected with Bluebeard's matrimonial difficulties, and when M. Bayol began, the tears streaming down his cheeks, to give me a brief account of his first wife's last moments, the influence of this Bluebeard chamber began asserting itself, and it was all I could do to refrain from singing (of course very sympathetically) the lines from Offenbach's Barbe-Bleue beginning:

"Ma premiere femme est morte Que le diable l'emporte!"

but on second thoughts I refrained.

M. Bayol's garden reminded me of that of the immortal Tartarin of Tarascon, for the only green things in it grew in pots, and nothing was over four inches high. The rest of the garden consisted of bare, sun-baked tracts of clay, intersected by gravel walks. I felt certain that amongst these seedlings there must have been a two-inch high specimen of the Baobab "l'arbre geant," the pride of Tartarin's heart, the tree which, as he explained, might under favourable conditions grow 200 feet high. After all, Marseilles and Tarascon are not far apart, and their inhabitants are very similar in temperament.

I was pleased to see a fine statue of Dupleix at Pondicherry, for he was a man to whom scant justice has been done by his compatriots. Few people seem to realise how very nearly Dupleix succeeded in his design of building up a great French empire in India. He arrived in India in 1715, at the age of eighteen, and amassed a large fortune in legitimate trade; he became Administrator of Chandernagore, in Bengal, in 1730, and displayed such remarkable ability in this post that in 1741 he was appointed Governor-General of the French Indies. In 1742 war broke out between France and Britain, and at the outset the French arms were triumphant. Madras surrendered in 1746 to a powerful French fleet under La Bourdonnais, the Governor of the Island of Reunion, and a counterattack on Pondicherry by Admiral Boscawen's fleet in 1748 failed utterly, though the defence was conducted by Dupleix, a civilian. These easy French successes inspired Dupleix with the idea of establishing a vast French empire in India on the ruins of the Mogul monarchy, but here he was frustrated by the military genius of Clive, who, it must be remembered, started life as a civilian "writer" in the East India Company's service. Dupleix encountered his first check by Clive's dashing capture of Arcot in 1751. From that time the fortunes of war inclined with ever-increasing bias to the British side, and the decisive battle of Plassey in 1757 (three years after Dupleix's return to France) was a death-blow to the French aspirations to become the preponderant power in India.

Dupleix was shabbily treated by France. He received but little support from the mother country; the vast sums he had expended from his private resources in prosecuting the war were never refunded to him; he was consistently maligned by the jealous and treacherous La Bourdonnais, and after his recall to France in 1754 his services to his country were never recognised, and he died in poverty.

G. B. Malleson's Dupleix is a most impartial and interesting account of this remarkable man's life: it has been translated into French and is accepted by the French as an accurate text-book.

The whole reign of Louis XV. was a supremely disastrous period for French Colonial aspirations. Not only did the dream of a great French empire in the East crumble away just as it seemed on the very point of realisation, but after Wolfe's victory on the Heights of Abraham at Quebec, Canada was formally ceded by France to Britain in 1763, by the Treaty of Paris.

This ill fortune pursued France into the succeeding reign of Louis XVI., for in April, 1782, Rodney's great victory over Count de Grasse off Dominica transferred the Lesser Antilles from French to British suzerainty.

The same sort of blight seemed to hang over France during Louis XV.'s reign, as overshadowed the Russia of the ill-starred Nicholas II. Nothing could possibly go right with either of them, and it may be that the prime causes were the same: the assumption of absolute power by an irresolute monarch, lacking the intellectual equipment which alone would enable him to justify his claims to supreme power—though I hasten to disclaim any comparison between these two rulers.

Between Louis XV., vicious, selfish and incapable, always tied to the petticoat and caprices of some new mistress, and the unfortunate Nicholas II., well-intentioned, and almost fanatically religious, the affectionate father and the devoted husband, no comparison is possible, except as regards their limitations for the supreme positions they occupied.

I have recounted elsewhere how, when Nicholas II. visited India as Heir Apparent in 1890, I saw a great deal of him, for he stayed ten days with my brother-in-law, Lord Lansdowne, at Calcutta and Barrackpore, and I was brought into daily contact with him. The Czarevitch, as he then was, had a very high standard of duty, though his intellectual equipment was but moderate. He had a perfect craze about railway development, and it must not be forgotten that that stupendous undertaking, the Trans-Siberian Railway, was entirely due to his initiative. At the time of his visit to India, Nicholas II. was obsessed with the idea that the relations between Great Britain and Russia would never really improve until the Russian railways were linked up with the British-Indian system, a proposition which responsible Indian Officials viewed with a marked lack of enthusiasm. The Czarevitch was courteous, gentle and sincere, but though full of good intentions, he was fatally inconstant of purpose, and his mental endowments were insufficient for the tremendous responsibilities to which he was to succeed, and in that one fact lies the pathos of the story of this most unfortunate of monarchs.

To return from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, and from the disastrous collapse of the French Colonial Empire to my own infinitely trivial personal experiences, I regretted the business which had detained M. Des Etangs in Ceylon, and deprived me of the company of so agreeable and cultivated a man-of-the-world.

There was a Dr. Munro on board the liner. Dr. Munro, at that time Principal of a Calcutta College is, I believe, one of the greatest Oriental scholars living. On going into the smoking-room of the steamer one morning, I found the genial rotund little Professor at work with an exquisitely illuminated Chinese manuscript before him. He explained to me that it was a very interesting Chinese document of the twelfth century, and that he was translating it into Arabic for the benefit of his pupils. The amazing erudition of a man who could translate off-hand an ancient Chinese manuscript into Arabic, without the aid of dictionaries or of any works of reference, amidst all the hubbub of the smoking-room of an ocean liner, left me fairly gasping. Dr. Munro had acquired his Oriental languages at the University of St. Petersburg, so, in addition to his other attainments, he spoke Russian as fluently as English.

There was another side to this merry little Professor. We had on board the vivacious and tuneful Miss Grace Palotta, who was making a concert-tour round the world. Miss Palotta, whose charming personality will be remembered by the frequenters of the old Gaiety Theatre, was a Viennese by birth, and she sang those tuneful, airy little Viennese songs, known as "Wiener Couplets," to perfection. She readily consented to give a concert on board, but said she must be sustained by a chorus. Dr. Munro himself selected, trained and led the chorus; whilst I had to replace Miss Palotta's accompanist who was prostrate with sea-sickness.

And so the big liner crept on slowly into steaming, oily, pale-green seas, gliding between vividly green islands in the orchid-house temperature of the Malay Peninsula, a part of the world worth visiting, if only to eat the supremely delicious mangosteen, though even an unlimited diet of this luscious fruit would hardly reconcile the average person to a perpetual steam bath, and to an intensely enervating atmosphere. Nature must have been in a sportive mood when she evolved the durian. This singular Malay fruit smells like all the concentrated drains of a town seasoned with onions. One single durian can poison out a ship with its hideous odour, yet those able to overcome its revolting smell declare the flavour of the fruit to be absolutely delicious.

It is a little humiliating for a middle-aged gentleman to find that on arriving in China he is expected to revert to the language of the nursery, and that he must request his Chinese servant to "go catchee me one piecee cuppee tea." On board the Admiral's yacht, it required a little reflection before the intimation that "bleakfast belong leady top-side" could be translated into the information that breakfast was ready on deck. Why adding "ee" to every word should render it more intelligible to the Celestial understanding, beats me. There are people who think that by tacking "O" on to every English word they render themselves perfectly clear to Italians and Spaniards, though this theory seems hardly justified by results. "Pidgin English," of course, merely means "business English," and has been evolved as an easy means of communication for business purposes between Europeans and Chinamen. The Governor of Hong-Kong's Chinese secretary prided himself on his accurate and correct English. I heard the Governor ask this secretary one day where a certain report was. "I placed it in the second business-hole on your Excellency's desk," answered Mr. Wung Ho, who evidently considered it very vulgar to use the term "pigeon-hole."

Considering that eighty years ago, when it was first ceded to Britain, Hong-Kong was a barren, treeless, granite island, it really is an astonishing place. It is easily the handsomest modern city in Asia, has a population of 400,000, and is by a long way the busiest port in the world. It is an exceedingly pretty place, too, with its rows of fine European houses rising in terraces out of a sea of greenery, and it absolutely hums with prosperity. If Colombo is the Clapham Junction, Hong-Kong is certainly the Crewe of the East, for steamship lines to every part of the world are concentrated here. With the exception of racing ponies, there is not one horse on the island.

Macao, the old Portuguese colony, is only forty miles from Hong-Kong. The arrangements on the river steamers are rather peculiar, for only European passengers are allowed on the spar deck. All Chinese passengers, of whatever degree, have to descend to the lower decks, which are enclosed with strong steel bars. Before the ship starts the iron gates of communication are shut and padlocked, so that all Chinese passengers are literally enclosed in a steel cage, shut off alike from the upper deck and the engine-room. These precautions were absolutely necessary, for time and time again gangs of river-pirates have come on board these steamers in the guise of harmless passengers; at a pre-arranged signal they have overpowered and murdered the white officers, thrown the Chinese passengers overboard and then made off with the ship and her cargo. An arms-rack of rifles on the European deck told its own story.

Macao has belonged to Portugal since 1555. Its harbour has silted up, and its once flourishing trade has dwindled to nothing. Gambling houses are the only industry of the place. There are row and rows of these opposite the steamer landing, all kept by Chinamen, garish with coloured electric lights, each one clamorously proclaiming that it is the "only first-class gambling house in Macao." A crowded special steamer leaves Hong-Kong every Sunday morning for Macao, for the special purpose of affording the European community an opportunity to leave most of their excess profits in the pockets of the Chinese proprietors of these places. The Captain and Chief Engineer of the boat, who, it is almost superfluous to add, were of course both Clyde men, like good Scots deplored this Sabbath-breaking; but like equally good Scots they admitted how very lucrative the Sunday traffic was to the steamboat company, and I gathered that they both got a commission on this.

The old town of Macao is a piece of sixteenth and seventeenth century Portugal transplanted into China. It is wonderful to find a southern European town complete with cathedral, "pracas," fountains, and statues, dumped down in the Far East. The place, too, is as picturesque as a scene from an opera, and China is the last spot where one would expect to find lingering traces of Gothic influence in carved doorways and other architectural details. As far as externals went Camoens, the great Portuguese poet, can scarcely have realised his exile during the two years, 1556-1558, of his banishment to Macao. He most creditably utilised this period of enforced rest by writing The Lusiads, a poem which his countrymen are inclined to over rate. All the familiar characteristics of an old Portuguese town are met with here, the blue and pink colour-washed houses, an ample sufficiency of ornate churches, public fountains everywhere, and every shop-sign and notice is written in Portuguese, including the interminable Portuguese street names. The only thing lacking seemed the inhabitants. I presume the town must have some inhabitants, but I did not see a single one. Possibly they were taking their siestas, or were shut up in their houses, meditating on the bygone glories of Portugal, tempered with regrets that they had neglected to dredge their harbour.

Admiral Sir Hedworth Meux, the Naval Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific, who happens to be my sister's son, told me that he was sending a destroyer for three or four days up the Canton River, on special service, and asked if I would care to go, and I naturally accepted the offer. The Admiral did not go up himself, but sent his Flag-Captain and Flag-Lieutenant. The marshy banks of the Canton River are lined with interminable paddy-fields, for, as every one knows, rice is a crop that must be grown under water. After the rice harvest, these swampy fields are naturally full of fallen grain, and thrifty John Chinaman feeds immense flocks of ducks on the stubbles of the paddy-fields. The ducks are brought down by thousands in junks, and quack and gobble to their hearts' content in the fields all day, waddling back over a plank to their junks at night. At sunset, one of the most comical sights in the world can be witnessed. A Chinese boy comes ashore from each junk with a horn, which he blows as a signal to the ducks that bedtime has arrived. In his other hand the boy has a rattan cane, with which he administers a tremendous thrashing to the last ten ducks to arrive on board. The ducks know this, and in that singular country their progenitors have probably been thrashed in the same way for a thousand years, so they all have an inherited sense of the dangers of the corporal punishment threatening them. As soon as the horn sounds, thousands of ducks start the maddest of Marathon races back to their respective junks, which they never mistake, with such a quacking and gobbling and pushing of each other aside, as the ungainly fowls waddle along at the top of their speed, as must be witnessed to be credited. The duck has many advantages: in his wild state, his extreme wariness and his powerful flight make him a splendid sporting bird, and when dead he has most estimable qualities after a brief sojourn in the kitchen. Domesticated, though he can scarcely be classed as a dainty feeder, he makes a strong appeal to some people, especially after he has contracted an intimate alliance with sage and onions, but he was never intended by Nature for a sprinter, nor are his webbed feet adapted for rapid locomotion. Sufferers from chronic melancholia would, I am sure, benefit by witnessing the nightly football scrums and speed-contests of these Chinese ducks, for I defy any one to see them without becoming helpless with laughter.

The river in the neighbourhood of Canton is so covered with junks, sampans, and other craft, that, in comparison to it, the Thames at Henley during regatta week would look like a deserted waste of water. One misses at Canton the decorative war-junks of the Shanghai River. These war-junks, though perfectly useless either for defence or attack, are gorgeous objects to the eye, with their carving, their scarlet lacquer and profuse gilding. A Chinese stern-wheeler is a quaint craft, for her wheel is nothing but a treadmill, manned by some thirty half-naked coolies, who go through a regular treadmill drill, urging the boat along at perhaps three miles an hour. In addition to their deck passengers, these boats have rows of little covered niches for superior personages, and in every niche sits a grave, motionless Chinaman, looking for all the world like those carved Chinese cabinets we sometimes see, with a little porcelain figure squatting in each carved compartment.

We had a naval interpreter on board, a jovial, hearty, immensely fat old Chinaman. Our destroyer had four funnels, but as we were going up the river under easy steam, only the forward boilers were going, so that whilst our two forward funnels, "Matthew" and "Mark," were smoking bravely, the two after ones, "Luke" and "John," were unsullied by the faintest wisp of a smoke pennant trailing from their black orifices. Our old interpreter was much distressed at this, for, as far as I could judge, his countrymen gauged a vessel's fighting power solely by the amount of smoke that she emitted, and he feared that we should be regarded with but scanty respect.

The British and French Consulate-Generals at Canton are situated on a large artificial island, known as Sha-mien. Here, too, the European business men live in the most comfortable Europe-like houses, surrounded with gardens and lawn-tennis courts. Here is the cricket-ground and the club. Being in the Far East, the latter is, of course, equipped with one of the most gigantic bar-rooms ever seen. The British Consul-General had ordered chairs for us in which to be carried through the city, as it would be derogatory to the dignity of a European to be seen walking on foot in a Chinese town. Our business with the Consul-General finished, we started on our tour of inspection, the party consisting of the Flag-Captain, the Flag-Lieutenant, the interpreter and myself, together with a small midshipman, who, being anxious to see Canton, had somehow managed to get three days' leave and to smuggle himself on board the destroyer. The Consul-General warned us that the smells in the native city would be unspeakably appalling, and advised us to smoke continuously, very kindly presenting each of us with a handful of mild Borneo cheroots.

The canal separating Sha-mien from the city is 100 feet broad, but I doubt if anywhere else in the world 100 feet separates the centuries as that canal does. On the one side, green lawns, gardens, trees, and a very fair imitation of Europe. A few steps over a fortified bridge, guarded by Indian soldiers and Indian policemen, and you are in the China of a thousand years ago, absolutely unchanged, except for the introduction of electric light and telephones. The English manager of the Canton Electric Co. told me that the natives were wonderfully adroit at stealing current. One would not imagine John Chinaman an expert electrician, yet these people managed somehow to tap the electric mains, and the manager estimated the weekly loss on stolen power as about 500 pounds.

No street in Canton is wider than eight feet, and many of them are only five feet broad. They are densely packed with yellow humanity, though there is no wheeled traffic whatever. There are countless miles of these narrow, stifling alleys, paved with rough granite slabs, under which festers the sewage of centuries. The smells are unbelievably hideous. Except for an occasional canal, a reeking open sewer, there are no open spaces whatever. And yet these narrow alleys of two-storied houses are marvellously picturesque, with coloured streamers and coloured lanterns drooping from every house and shop, and the shops themselves are a joy to the eye. They are entirely open to the street in front, but in the far dim recesses of every one there is a species of carved reredos, over which dragons, lacquered black, or lacquered red, gilded or silvered, sprawl artistically. In front of this screen there is always a red-covered joss table, where red lights burn, and incense-sticks smoulder, all of which, as shall be explained later, are precautions to thwart the machinations of the peculiarly malevolent local devils. In food shops, hideous and obscene entrails of unknown animals gape repellently on the stranger, together with strings and strings of dried rats, and other horrible comestibles; in every street the yellow population seems denser and denser, the colour more brilliant and the smells more sickening. We could not have stood it but for the thoughtful Consul-General's Borneo cigars, though the small midshipman, being still of tender years, was brought to public and ignominious disaster by his second cheroot. After two hours of slow progress in carrying-chairs, through this congeries of narrow, unsavoury alleys, now jostled by coolies carrying bales of merchandise suspended from long bamboos resting on their shoulders (exactly as they did in the pictures of a book, called Far Off, which I had as a child), now pushed on one side by the palanquin of a mandarin, we hungered for fresh air and open spaces, less crowded by yellow oblique-eyed Mongolians; still, though we all felt as though we were in a nightmare, we had none of us ever seen anything like it, and in spite of our declarations that we never wished to see this evil-smelling warren of humanity again, somehow its uncanny fascination laid hold of us, and we started again over the same route next morning. The small midshipman had to be restrained from indulging in his yearning to dine off puppy-dog in a Chinese restaurant, in spite of the gastric disturbances occasioned by his precocious experiments with cheroots.

I imagine that every Chinaman liable to zymotic diseases died thousands of years ago, and that by the law of the survival of the fittest all Chinamen born now are immune from filth diseases; that they can drink sewage-water with impunity, and thrive under conditions which would kill any Europeans in a week.

The inhabitants of Canton are, I believe, mostly Taoists by religion, but their lives are embittered by their constant struggles with the local devils. Most fortunately Chinese devils have their marked limitations; for instance, they cannot go round a corner, and most mercifully they suffer from constitutional timidity, and can be easily frightened away by fire-crackers. Human beings inhabiting countries subject to pests, have usually managed to cope with them by adopting counter-measures. In mosquito-ridden countries people sleep under mosquito-nets, thus baffling those nocturnal blood-suckers; in parts of Ceylon infested with snakes, sharpened zig-zag snake-boards are fastened to the window-sills, which prove extremely painful to intruding reptiles. The Chinese, as a safeguard against their devils, have adopted the peculiar "cocked hat" corner to their roofs, which we see reproduced in so much of Chippendale's work. It is obvious that, with an ordinary roof, any ill-disposed devil would summon some of his fellows, and they would fly up, get their shoulders under the corner of the eaves, and prise the roof off in no time. With the peculiar Chinese upward curve of the corners, the devils are unable to get sufficient leverage, and so retire discomfited. Most luckily, too, they detest the smell of incense-sticks, and cannot abide the colour red, which is as distasteful to them as it is to a bull, but though it moves the latter to fury, it only inspires the devils with an abject terror. Accordingly, any prudent man can, by an abundant display of red silk streamers, and a plentiful burning of joss-sticks, keep his house practically free from these pests. A rich Chinaman who has built himself a new house, will at once erect a high wall immediately in front of it. It obstructs the light and keeps out the air, but owing to the inability of Chinese devils to go round corners it renders the house as good as devil-proof.

We returned after dark from our second visit to the city. However much the narrow streets may have offended the nose, they unquestionably gratified the eye with the endless vista of paper lanterns, all softly aglow with crimson, green, and blue, as the place reverberated with the incessant banging of firecrackers. The families of the shopkeepers were all seated at their supper-tables (for the Chinese are the only Orientals who use chairs and tables as we do) in the front portions of the shop. As women are segregated in China, only the fathers and sons were present at this simple evening meal of sewage-fed fish, stewed rat and broiled dog, but never for one instant did they relax their vigilance against possible attacks by their invisible foes. It is clear that an intelligent devil would select this very moment, when every one was absorbed in the pleasures of the table, to penetrate into the shop, where he could play havoc with the stock before being discovered and ejected. Accordingly, little Ping Pong, the youngest son, had to wait for his supper, and was sent into the street with a large packet of fire-crackers to scare devils from the vicinity, and if little Ping Pong was like other small boys, he must have hugely enjoyed making such an appalling din. Every single shop had a stone pedestal before it, on which a lamp was burning, for experience has shown how useful a deterrent this is to any but the most abandoned devils; they will at once pass on to a shop unprotected by a guardian light.

We had been on the outskirts of the city that day, and I was much struck with an example of Chinese ingenuity. The suburban inhabitants all seem to keep poultry, and all these fowls were of the same breed—small white bantams. So, to identify his own property, Ching Wan dyed all his chickens' tails orange, whilst Hung To's fowls scratched about with mauve tails, and Kyang Foo's hens gave themselves great airs on the strength of their crimson tail feathers.

It is curious that, in spite of its wealth and huge population, Canton should contain no fine temples. The much-talked-of Five-Storied Pagoda is really hardly worth visiting, except for the splendid panorama over the city obtained from its top floor. Canton here appears like one endless sea of brown roofs extending almost to the horizon. The brown sea of roof appears to be quite unbroken, for, from that height, the narrow alleys of street disappear entirely. We were taken to a large temple on the outskirts of the city. It was certainly very big, also very dirty and ill-kept. Compared with the splendid temples of Nikko in Japan, glowing with scarlet and black lacquer, and gleaming with gold, temples on which cunning craftsmanship of wood-carving, enamels and bronze-work has been lavished in almost superfluous profusion, or even with the severer but dignified temples of unpainted cryptomeria wood at Kyoto, this Chinese pagoda was scarcely worth looking at. It had the usual three courts, an outer, middle, and inner one, and in the middle court a number of students were seated on benches. I am afraid that I rather puzzled our fat Chinese interpreter by inquiring of him whether these were the local Benchers of the Middle Temple.

The Chinese dislike to foreigners is well known, so is the term "foreign devils," which is applied to them. Our small party met with a most hostile reception that day in one part of the city, and the crowd were very menacing until addressed by our fat old interpreter. The reason of this is very simple. Chinamen have invariably chocolate-coloured eyes, so the great distorted wooden figures of devils so commonly seen outside temple gates are always painted with light eyes, in order to give them an inhuman and unearthly appearance to Chinese minds. It so happened that the Flag-Captain, the Flag-Lieutenant, the midshipman and myself, had all four of us light-coloured eyes, either grey or blue, the colour associated with devils, in the Chinese intelligence. We were unquestionably foreigners, so the prima facie evidence of satanic origin against us was certainly strong. We ourselves would be prejudiced against an individual with bright magenta eyes, and we might be tempted to associate every kind of evil tendency with his abnormal colouring; to the Chinese, grey eyes must appear just as unnatural as magenta eyes would to us. We were inclined to attribute the hostile demonstration to the small snottie, who, in spite of warnings, had again experimented with cheroots. His unbecoming pallor would have naturally predisposed a Chinese crowd against us.

The feeling of utter helplessness in a country where one is unable to speak one word of the language is most exasperating. My youngest brother, who is chairman of a steamship company, had occasion to go to the Near East nine years ago on business connected with his company. The steamer called at the Piraus for eight hours, and my brother, who had never been in Athens, took a taxi and saw as much of "the city of the violet crown" as was possible in the time. He could speak no modern Greek, but when the taxi-man, on their return to the Piraus, demanded by signs 7 pounds as his fare, my brother, hot with indignation at such an imposition, summoned up all his memories of the Greek Testament, and addressed the chauffeur as follows: "o taxianthrope, mae geyito!" Stupefied at hearing the classic language of his country, the taxi-man at once became more reasonable in his demands. After this, who will dare to assert that there are no advantages in a classical education?

All the hillsides round Chinese cities are dotted with curious stone erections in the shape of horseshoes. These are the tombs of wealthy Chinamen; the points of the compass they face, and the period which must elapse before the deceased can be permanently buried, are all determined by the family astrologers, for Chinese devils can be as malignant to the dead as to the living, though they seem to reserve their animosities for the more opulent of the population.

It is to meet the delay of years which sometimes elapses between the death of a person and his permanent burial, that the "City of the Dead" exists in Canton. This is not a cemetery, but a collection of nearly a thousand mortuary chapels. The "City of the Dead" is the pleasantest spot in that nightmare city. A place of great open sunlit spaces, and streets of clean white-washed mortuaries, sweet with masses of growing flowers. After the fetid stench of the narrow, airless streets, the fresh air and sunlight of this "City of the Dead" were most refreshing, and its absolute silence was welcome after the deafening turmoil of the town. We were there in spring-time, and hundreds of blue-and-white porcelain vases, of the sort we use as garden ornaments, were gorgeous with flowering azaleas of all hues, or fragrant with freesias. All the mortuaries, though of different sizes, were built on the same plan, in two compartments, separated by pillars with a carved wooden screen between them. Behind this screen the cylindrical lacquered coffin is placed, a most necessary precaution, for Chinese devils being fortunately unable to go round a corner, the occupant of the coffin is thus safe from molestation. Other elementary safeguards are also adopted; a red-covered altar invariably stands in front of the screen, adorned with candles and artificial flowers, and incense-sticks are perpetually burning on it. What with the incense-sticks and abundant red silk streamers, an atmosphere is created which must be thoroughly uncongenial, even to the most irreclaimable devil. The outer chapel always contains two or four large chairs for the family to meditate in.

It must be remembered that the favourite recreation of the Chinese is to sit and meditate on the tombs of their ancestors, and though in these mortuaries this pastime cannot be carried out in its entirety, this modified form is universally regarded as a very satisfactory substitute. In one chapel containing the remains of the wife of the Chinese Ambassador in Rome, there was a curious blend of East and West. Amongst the red streamers and joss-sticks there were metal wreaths and dried palm wreaths inscribed, "A notre chere collegue Madame Tsin-Kyow"; an unexpected echo of European diplomatic life to find in Canton.

The rent paid for these places is very high, and as the length of time which the body must rest there depends entirely upon the advice of the astrologers, it is not uncharitable to suppose that there must be some understanding between them and the proprietor of the "City of the Dead."

We can even suppose some such conversation as the following between the managing-partner of a firm of long-established family astrologers and that same proprietor:

"Good-morning, Mr. Chow Chung; I have come to you with the melancholy news of the death of our esteemed fellow-citizen, Hang Wang Kai. A fine man, and a great loss! What I liked about him was that he was such a thorough Chinaman of the good old stamp. A wealthy man, sir, a very wealthy man. The family are clients of mine, and they have just rung me up, asking me to cast a horoscope to ascertain the wishes of the stars with regard to the date of burial of our poor friend. How inscrutable are the decrees of the heavenly bodies! They may recommend the immediate interment of our friend: on the other hand, they may wish it deferred for two, five, ten, or even twenty years, in which case our friend would be one of the fortunate tenants of your delightful Garden of Repose. Quite so. Casting a horoscope is very laborious work, and I can but obey blindly the stars' behests. Exactly. Should the stars recommend our poor friend's temporary occupation of one of your attractive little Maisonettes, I should expect, to compensate me for my labours, a royalty of 20 per cent. on the gross (I emphasize the gross) rental paid by the family for the first two years. They, of course, would inform me of any little sum you did them the honour to accept from them. From two to five years, I should expect a royalty of 30 per cent.; from five to ten years, 40 per cent.; on any period over ten years 50 per cent. Yes, I said fifty. Surely I do not understand you to dissent? The stars may save us all trouble by advising Hang Wang Kai's immediate interment. Thank you. I thought that you would agree. These terms, of course, are only for the Chinese and Colonial rights; I must expressly reserve the American rights, for, as I need hardly remind you, the Philippine Islands are now United States territory, and the constellations may recommend the temporary transfer of our poor friend to American soil. Thank you; I thought that we should agree. It only remains for me to instruct my agents, Messrs. Ap Wang & Son, to draw up an agreement in the ordinary form on the royalty basis I have indicated, for our joint signature. The returns will, I presume, be made up as usual, to March 31 and September 30. As I am far too upset by the loss of our friend to be able to talk business, I will now, with your permission, withdraw."

Had I been born a citizen of Canton, I should unquestionably have articled my son to an astrologer, convinced that I was securing for him an assured and lucrative future.



CHAPTER IV

The glamour of the West Indies—Captain Marryat and Michael Scott—Deadly climate of the islands in the eighteenth century—The West Indian planters—Difference between East and West Indies—"Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die"—Training-school for British Navy—A fruitless voyage—Quarantine—Distant view of Barbados—Father Labat—The last of the Emperors of Byzantium—Delightful little Lady Nugent and her diary of 1802—Her impressions of Jamaica—Wealthy planters—Their hideous gormandising—A simple morning meal—An aldermanic dinner—How the little Nugents were gorged—Haiti—Attempts of General Le Clerc to secure British intervention in Haiti—Presents to Lady Nugent—Her Paris dresses described—Our arrival in Jamaica—Its marvellous beauty—The bewildered Guardsman—Little trace of Spain left in Jamaica—The Spaniards as builders—British and Spanish Colonial methods contrasted.

Since the earliest days of my boyhood, the West Indies have exercised a quite irresistible fascination over me. This was probably due to my having read and re-read Peter Simple and Tom Cringle's Log over and over again, until I knew them almost by heart; indeed I will confess that even at the present day the glamour of these books is almost as strong as it used to be, and that hardly a year passes without my thumbing once again their familiar pages. Both Captain Marryat and Michael Scott knew their West Indies well, for Marryat had served on the station in either 1813 or 1814, and Michael Scott lived for sixteen years in Jamaica, from 1806 to 1822, at first as manager of a sugar estate, and then as a merchant in Kingston. Marryat and Scott were practically contemporaries, though the former was the younger by three years, being born in 1792. I am told that now-a-days boys care for neither of these books; if so, the loss is theirs. What attracted me in these authors' West Indian pictures was the fact that here was a community of British-born people living a reckless, rollicking, Charles Lever-like sort of life in a most deadly climate, thousands of miles from home, apparently equally indifferent to earthquakes, hurricanes, or yellow fever, for at the beginning of the twentieth century no one who has not read the Colonial records, or visited West Indian churches, can form the faintest idea of the awful ravages of yellow fever, nor of the vast amount of victims this appalling scourge claimed. Now, improved sanitation and the knowledge that the yellow death is carried by the Stegomyia mosquito, with the precautionary methods suggested by that knowledge, have almost entirely eliminated yellow fever from the West India islands; but in Marryat and Scott's time to be ordered to the West Indies was looked upon as equivalent to a death sentence. Yet every writer enlarges upon the exquisite beauty of these green, sun- kissed islands, and regrets bitterly that so enchanting an earthly paradise should be the very ante-room of death.

In spite of the unhealthy climate, in the days when King Sugar reigned undisputed, the owners of sugar estates, attracted by the enormous fortunes then to be made, and fully alive to the fact that in the case of absentee proprietors profits tended to go everywhere except into the owners' pockets, deliberately braved the climate, settled down for life (usually a brief one) in either Jamaica or Barbados, built themselves sumptuous houses, stocked with silver plate and rare wines, and held high and continual revel until such time as Yellow Jack should claim them. In the East Indies the soldiers and Civil Servants of "John Company," and the merchant community, "shook the pagoda tree" until they had accumulated sufficient fortunes on which to retire, when they returned to England with yellow faces and torpid livers, grumbling like Jos Sedley to the ends of their lives about the cold, and the carelessness of English cooks in preparing curries, and harbouring unending regrets for the flesh-pots and comforts of life in Boggley Wollah, which in retrospect no doubt appeared more attractive than they had done in reality. The West Indian, on the other hand, settled down permanently with his wife and family in the island of his choice. Barbados and Jamaica are the only two tropical countries under the British flag where there was a resident white gentry born and bred in the country, with country places handed down from father to son. In these two islands not one word of any language but English was ever to be heard from either black or white. The English parochial system had been transplanted bodily, and successfully, with guardians and overseers complete; in a word, they were colonies in the strictest sense of the word; transplanted portions of the motherland, with most of its institutions, dumped down into the Caribbean Sea, but blighted until 1834 by the curse of negro slavery. It was this overseas England, set amidst the most enchanting tropical scenery and vegetation, that I was so anxious to see. Michael Scott, both in Tom Cringle and The Cruise of the Midge, gave the most alluring pictures of Creole society (a Creole does not mean a coloured person; any one born in the West Indies of pure white parents is a Creole); they certainly seemed to get drunk more than was necessary, yet the impression left on one's mind was not unlike that produced by the purely fictitious Ireland of Charles Lever's novels: one continual round of junketing, feasting, and practical jokes; and what gave the pictures additional piquancy was the knowledge that death was all the while peeping round the corner, and that Yellow Jack might at any moment touch one of these light-hearted revellers with his burning finger-tips.

Lady Nugent, wife of Sir George Nugent, Governor of Jamaica from 1801 to 1806, kept a voluminous diary during her stay in the island, and most excellent reading it makes. She was thus rather anterior in date to Michael Scott, but their descriptions tally very closely. I shall have a good deal to say about Lady Nugent.

The West Indies make an appeal of a different nature to all Britons. They were the training-ground and school of all the great British Admirals from Drake to Nelson. Benbow died of his wounds at Port Royal in Jamaica, and was buried in Kingston Parish Church in 1702, whilst Rodney's memory is still so cherished by West Indians, white and coloured alike, that serious riots broke out when his statue was removed from Spanish Town to Kingston, and his effigy had eventually to be placed in the memorial temple which grateful Spanish Town erected to commemorate his great victory over de Grasse off Dominica on April 12, 1782, as the result of which the Lesser Antilles remained British instead of French. For all these reasons I had experienced, since the age of thirteen, an intense longing to see these lovely islands with all their historic associations.

In 1884 I travelled from Buenos Ayres to Canada in a tramp steamer simply and solely because she was advertised to call at Barbados and Jamaica. Never shall I forget my first night in that tramp. I soon became conscious of uninvited guests in my bunk, so, striking a light (strictly against rules in the ships of those days), I discovered regiments and army corps of noisome, crawling vermin marching in serried ranks into my bunk under the impression that it was their parade ground. For the remainder of the voyage I slept on the saloon table, a hard but cleanly couch. We lay for a week at Rio de Janeiro loading coffee, and we touched at Bahia and at Pernambuco. At this latter place as at Rio an epidemic of yellow fever was raging, so we had not got a clean bill-of-health. As the blunt-nosed tramp pushed her leisurely way northward through the oily ultra-marine expanse of tropical seas, I thought longingly of the green island for which we were heading. We reached Carlisle Bay, Barbados, at daybreak on a glorious June morning, and waited impatiently in the roadstead (there is no harbour in Barbados) for the liberating visit of the medical officer from the shore. He arrived, gave one glance at our bill-of-health, and sternly refused pratique, so the hateful yellow flag remained fluttering at the fore in the Trade wind, announcing to all and sundry that we were cut off from all communication with the shore. Never was there a more aggravating situation! Barbados, all emerald green after the rainy season, looked deliciously enticing from the ship. The "flamboyant" trees, Ponciana Regia, were in full bloom, making great patches of vivid scarlet round the Savannah. The houses and villas peeping out of luxuriant tangles of tropical vegetation had a delightfully home-like look to eyes accustomed for two years to South American surroundings. Seen through a glass from the ship's deck, the Public Buildings in Trafalgar Square, solid and substantial, had all the unimaginative neatness of any prosaic provincial townhall at home. We were clearly no longer in a Latin-American country. It was really a piece of England translated to the Caribbean Sea, and we few passengers, some of whom had not seen England for many weary years, were forbidden to set foot on this outpost of home. It was most exasperating; for never did any island look more inviting, and surely such dazzling white houses, such glowing red roofs, such vivid greenery, and so absurdly blue a sea, had never been seen in conjunction before. Barbados is almost exactly the size of the Isle of Wight, but in spite of its restricted area, all the Barbadians, both white and coloured, have the most exalted opinion of their island, which in those days they lovingly termed "Bimshire," white Barbadians being then known as "Bims." Students of Marryat will remember how Mr. Apollo Johnson, at Miss Betty Austin's coloured "Dignity ball," declared that "All de world fight against England, but England nebber fear; King George nebber fear while Barbados 'tand 'tiff," and something of that sentiment persists still to-day. As a youngster I used to laugh till I cried at the rebuff administered to Peter Simple by Miss Minerva at the same "Dignity ball." Peter was carving a turkey, and asked his swarthy partner whether he might send her a slice of the breast. Shocked at such coarseness, the dusky but delicate damsel simpered demurely, "Sar, I take a lily piece turkey bosom, if you please." Dignity balls are still held in Barbados; they are rather trying to one of the senses. In the "eighties" it was a point of honour amongst "Bims" to wear on all and every occasion a high black silk hat. During our enforced quarantine we saw a number of white Bims sailing little yachts about the roadstead, every single man of them crowned with a high silk hat, about the most uncomfortable head-gear imaginable for sailing in. Another agreeable home-touch was to hear the negro boatmen all talking to each other in English. Their speech may not have been melodious, but it fell pleasantly enough on ears accustomed for so long to hear nothing but Spanish. From my intimate acquaintance with Marryat, even the jargon of the negro boatmen struck me with a delightful sense of familiarity, as did the very place-names, Needham Point and Carlisle Bay. I was fated not to see Barbados again for twenty-two years.

In the early part of the eighteenth century a French missionary, one Father Labat, visited Barbados and gave the most glowing account of it to his countrymen. According to him the island was brimful of wealth, and the jewellers' and silversmiths' shops in Bridgetown rivalled those of Paris. I should be inclined to question Father Labat's strict veracity. This worthy priest declared that the planters lived in sumptuous houses, superbly furnished, that their dinners lasted four hours, and their tables were crowded with gold and silver plate. The statement as to the length of the planters' dinners is probably an accurate one, for I myself have been the recipient of Barbadian hospitality, and had never before even imagined such an endless procession of fish, flesh, and fowl, not to mention turtle, land-crabs, and pepper-pot. West Indian negresses seem to have a natural gift for cooking, though their cuisine is a very highly spiced and full-flavoured one.

Father Labat's motive in drawing so glorified a picture of Barbados peeps out at the end of his account, for he drily remarks that the fortifications of the island were most inadequate, and that it could easily be captured by the French; he was clearly making an appeal to his countrymen's cupidity.

Upon making the acquaintance of Bridgetown some twenty years after my first quarantine visit, I can hardly endorse Father Labat's opinion that the streets are strikingly handsome, for Bridgetown, like most British West Indian towns, looks as though all the houses were built of cards or paper. It is, however, a bright, cheery little spot, seems prosperous enough, and has its own Trafalgar Square, decorated with its own very fine statue of Nelson. Every house both in Jamaica and Barbados is fitted with sash-windows in the English style. This fidelity to the customs of the motherland is very touching but hardly practical, for in the burning climate of the West Indies every available breath of fresh air is welcome. With French windows, the entire window-space can be opened; with sashes, one-half of the window remains necessarily blocked.

Let strangers beware of "Barbados Green Bitters." It is a most comforting local cocktail, apparently quite innocuous. It is not; under its silkiness it is abominably potent. One "green bitter" is food, two are dangerous.

In St. John's churchyard, some fourteen miles from Bridgetown, is to be seen one of the most striking examples of the vanity of human greatness. A stone reproduction of the porch of a Greek temple bears this inscription,

HERE LYETH YE BODY OF FERDINANDO PALEOLOGOS DESCENDED FROM YE IMPERIAL LYNE OF YE LAST CHRISTIAN EMPERORS OF GREECE CHURCHWARDEN OF THIS PARISH 1655-1656 VESTRYMAN TWENTY YEARS DIED OCTOBER 3, 1678.

Just think of it! The last descendant of Constantine, the last scion of the proud Emperors of Byzantium, commemorated as vestryman and churchwarden of a country parish in a little, unknown island in the Caribbean, only then settled for seventy-three years! Could any preacher quote a more striking instance of "sic transit gloria mundi"?

Codrington College, not far from St. John's church, is rather a surprise. Few people would expect to come across a little piece of Oxford in a tropical island, or to find a college building over two hundred years old in Barbados, complete with hall and chapel. The facade of Codrington is modelled on either Queen's or the New Buildings at Magdalen, Oxford, and the college is affiliated to Durham University. Originally intended as a place of education for the sons of white planters it is now wholly given over to coloured students. It can certainly claim the note of the unexpected, and the quiet eighteenth-century dignity of its architecture is enhanced by the broad lake which fronts it, and by the exceedingly pretty tropical park in which it stands. Codrington boasts some splendid specimens of the "Royal" palm, the Palmiste of the French, which is one of the glories of West Indian scenery.

Though Father Labat may have drawn the longbow intentionally, some of the country houses erected by the sugar planters in the heyday of the colony's riotous prosperity are really very fine indeed, although at present they have mostly changed hands, or been left derelict. Long Bay Castle, now unoccupied, is a most ambitious building, with marble stairs, beautiful plaster ceilings, and some of its original Chippendale furniture still remaining. A curious feature of all these Barbadian houses is the hurricane-wing, built of extra strength and fitted with iron shutters, into which all the family locked themselves when the fall of the barometer announced the approach of a hurricane. I was shown one hurricane-wing which had successfully withstood two centuries of these visitations.

Barbados is the only ugly island of the West Indian group, for every available foot is planted with sugar-cane, and the unbroken, undulating sea of green is monotonous. In the hilly portions, however, there are some very attractive bits of scenery.

On my first visit, as I have already said, I saw nothing of all this, except through glasses from the deck of a tramp. I was also to be denied a sight of Jamaica, for the Captain knew that he would be refused pratique there, and settled to steam direct to the Danish island of St. Thomas, where quarantine regulations were less strict, so all my voyage was for nothing.

Not for over twenty years after was I to make the acquaintance of Kingston and Port Royal and the Palisadoes, all very familiar names to me from my constant reading of Marryat and Michael Scott.

I suppose that every one draws mental pictures of places that they have constantly heard about, and that most people have noticed how invariably the real place is not only totally different from the fancy picture, but almost aggressively so.

I have already mentioned Lady Nugent's journal or "Jamaica in 1801." I am persuaded that she must have been a most delightful little creature. She was very tiny, as she tells us herself, and had brown curly hair. She was a little coy about her age, which she confided to no one; by her own directions, it was omitted even from her tombstone, but from internal evidence we know that when her husband, Sir George Nugent, was appointed Governor of Jamaica on April 1, 1801 (how sceptical he must have been at first as to the genuineness of this appointment! One can almost hear him ejaculating "Quite so. You don't make an April fool of me!"), she was either thirty or thirty-one years old. Lady Nugent was as great an adept as Mrs. Fairchild, of revered memory, at composing long prayers, every one of which she enters in extenso in her diary, but not only was there a delightful note of feminine coquetry about her, but she also possessed a keen sense of humour, two engaging attributes in which, I fear, that poor Mrs. Fairchild was lamentably lacking.

Lady Nugent and her husband sailed out to Jamaica in a man-of-war, H.M.S. Ambuscade, in June, 1801. As Sir George Nugent had been from 1799 to 1801 Adjutant-General in Ireland, this name must have had quite a home-like sound to him. We read in Lady Nugent's diary of June 25, 1801, after a lengthy supplication for protection against the perils of the deep, the following charmingly feminine note: "My nightcaps are so smart that I wear them all day, for to tell the truth I really think I look better in my nightcap than in my bonnet, and as I am surrounded by men who do not know a nightcap from a daycap, it is no matter what I do." Dear little thing! I am sure she looked too sweet in them. They sailed from Cork on June 5, and reached Barbados on July 17, which seems a quick voyage. They stayed one night at an inn in Bridgetown, and gave a dinner-party for which the bill was over sixty pounds. This strikes quite a modern note, and might really have been in post-war days instead of in 1801.

Lady Nugent found the society in Jamaica, both that of officials and of planters and their wives, intensely uncongenial to her. "Nothing is ever talked of in this horrid island but the price of sugar. The only other topics of conversation are debt, disease and death." She was much shocked at the low standard of morality prevailing amongst the white men in the colony, and disgusted at the perpetual gormandising and drunkenness. The frequent deaths from yellow fever amongst her acquaintance, and the terrible rapidity with which Yellow Jack slew, depressed her dreadfully, and she was startled at the callous fashion in which people, hardened by many years' experience of the scourge, received the news of the death of their most intimate friends. She was perpetually complaining of the unbearable heat, to which she never got acclimatised; she suffered "sadly" from the mosquitoes, and never could get used to earthquakes, hurricanes, or scorpions.

With these exceptions, she seems to have liked Jamaica very well. It must have been an extraordinary community, and to understand it we must remember the conditions prevailing. Bryan Edwards, in his History of the British West Indies, published in 1793, called them "the principal source of the national opulence and maritime power of England"; and without the stream of wealth pouring into Great Britain from Barbados and Jamaica, the long struggle with France would have been impossible.

The term "as rich as a West Indian" was proverbial, and in 1803 the West Indies were accountable for one-third of the imports and exports of Great Britain.

The price of sugar in 1803 was fifty-two shillings a hundredweight. Wealth was pouring into the island and into the pockets of the planters. Lady Nugent constantly alludes to sugar estates worth 20,000 or 30,000 pounds a year. These planters were six weeks distant from England, and, except during the two years' respite which followed the Treaty of Amiens, Great Britain had been intermittently at war with either France or Spain during the whole of the eighteenth century. The preliminary articles of peace between France and Britain were signed on October 1, 1801, the Peace of Amiens itself on March 27, 1802, but in July, 1803, hostilities between the two countries were again renewed. All this meant that communications between the colony and the motherland were very precarious. Nominally a mail-packet sailed from Jamaica once a month, but the seas were swarming with swift-sailing French and Spanish privateers, hanging about the trade-routes on the chance of capturing West Indiamen with their rich cargoes, so the mail-packets had to wait till a convoy assembled, and were then escorted home by men-of-war. This entailed the increasing isolation of the white community in Jamaica, who, in their outlook on life, retained the eighteenth-century standpoint. Now the eighteenth century was a thoroughly gross and material epoch. People had a pretty taste in clothes, and a nice feeling for good architecture, graceful furniture, and artistic house decoration, but this was a veneer only, and under the veneer lay an ingrained grossness of mind, just as the gorgeous satins and dainty brocades covered dirty, unwashed bodies. Even the complexions of the women were artificial to mask the defects of a sparing use of soap and water, and they drenched themselves with perfumes to hide the unpleasant effects of this lack of bodily cleanliness. On the surface hyper-refinement, glitter and show; beneath it a crude materialism and an ingrained grossness of temperament. What else could be expected when all the men got drunk as a matter of course almost every night of their lives? Over the coarsest description of wood lay a very highly polished veneer of satin-wood, which might possibly deceive the eye, but once scratch the paper-thin veneer and the ugly under-surface was at once apparent. Money rolled into the pockets of these Jamaican planters; there is but little sport possible in the island, and they had no intellectual pursuits, so they just built fine houses, filled them with rare china, Chippendale furniture, and silver plate, and found their amusements in eating, drinking and gambling.

Even to-day the climate of Jamaica is very enervating. Wise people know now that to keep in health in hot countries alcohol, and wine especially, must be avoided. Meat must be eaten very sparingly, and an abstemious regime will bring its own reward. In the eighteenth century, however, people apparently thought that vast quantities of food and drink would combat the debilitating effects of the climate, and that, too, at a time when yellow fever was endemic. There are still old-fashioned people who are obsessed with the idea that the more you eat the stronger you grow. The Creoles in Jamaica certainly put this theory into effect. Michael Scott, in Tom Cringle, describes many Gargantuan repasts amongst the Kingston merchants, and as he himself was one of them, we can presume he knew what he was writing about. The men, too, habitually drank, of all beverages in the world to select in the scorching heat of Jamaica, hot brandy and water, and then they wondered that they died of yellow fever! Every white man and woman in the island seems to have been gorged with food. It was really a case of "let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die"; but if they hadn't eaten and drunk so enormously, presumably they would not have died so rapidly.

Lady Nugent was much disgusted with this gormandising. On page 78 of her journal she says, "I don't wonder now at the fever the people suffer from here—such eating and drinking I never saw! Such loads of rich and highly-seasoned things, and really the gallons of wine and mixed liquors that they drink! I observed some of our party to-day eat at breakfast as if they had never eaten before. A dish of tea, another of coffee, a bumper of claret, another large one of hock-negus; then Madeira, sangaree, hot and cold meats, stews and pies, hot and cold fish pickled and plain, peppers, ginger-sweetmeats, acid fruit, sweet jellies—in short, it was all as astonishing as it was disgusting."

It really does seem a fair allowance for a simple morning meal.

The life of a Governor of Jamaica is now principally taken up with quiet administrative work, but in 1802 he was supposed to hold a succession of reviews, to give personal audiences, endless balls and dinners, to make tours of inspection round the island; and, in addition, as ex officio Chancellor of Jamaica, it was his duty to preside at all the sittings of the Court of Chancery. During their many tours of inspection poor little Lady Nugent complains that, with the best wishes in the world, she really could not eat five large meals a day. She continues (page 95), "At the Moro to-day, our dinner at 6 was really so profuse that it is worth describing. The first course was of fish, with an entire jerked hog in the centre, and a black crab pepper-pot. The second course was of turtle, mutton, beef, turkey, goose, ducks, chicken, capons, ham, tongue, and crab patties. The third course was of sweets and fruits of all kinds. I felt quite sick, what with the heat and such a profusion of eatables."

One wonders what those planters' weekly bills would have amounted to at the present-day scale of prices, and can no longer feel surprised at their all running into debt, in spite of their huge incomes. The drinking, too, was on the same scale. Lady Nugent remarks (page 108), "I am not astonished at the general ill-health of the men in this country, for they really eat like cormorants and drink like porpoises. All the men of our party got drunk to-night, even to a boy of fifteen, who was obliged to be carried home." Tom Cringle, in his account of a dinner-party in Cuba, remarks airily, "We, the males of the party, had drunk little or nothing, a bottle of claret or so apiece, a dram of brandy, and a good deal of vin-de-grave (sic)," and he really thinks that nothing: moderation itself in that sweltering climate!

In spite of her disgust at the immense amount of food devoured round her, Lady Nugent seems to have adopted a Jamaican scale of diet for her children, for when she returned to England with them in the Augustus Caesar in 1805, she gives the following account of the day's routine on board the ship. It must be observed that George, the elder child, was not yet three, and that Louisa was under two. "When I awake, the old steward brings me a dish of ginger tea. I then dress, and breakfast with the children. At eleven the children have biscuits, and some port wine and water. George eats some chicken or mutton at twelve, and at two they each have a bowl of strong soup. At four we all dine; I go to my cabin at half-past seven, and soon after eight I am always in bed and the babies fast asleep. The old steward then comes to my bedside with a large tumbler of porter with a toast in it. I eat the toast, drink the porter, and usually rest well."

Those two unfortunate children must have landed in England two miniature Daniel Lamberts. It is pleasant to learn that little George lived to the age of ninety. Had he not been so stuffed with food in his youth, he would probably have been a centenarian.

During Nugent's term of office events in Haiti, or San Domingo, as it was still called then, occasioned him great anxiety. Before the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Haiti had been the most prosperous and the most highly civilised of the West Indian islands. But after the French National Assembly had, in 1791, decreed equal rights between whites and mulattoes, troubles began. The blacks rebelled; the French rescinded the decree of 1791 and, changing their minds again, re-affirmed it. The blacks began murdering and plundering the whites, and many planters emigrated to Jamaica and the United States. That most extraordinary man, Toussaint l'Ouverture, a pure negro, who had been born a slave, re-established some form of order in Haiti until Napoleon, when the preliminary articles of the Peace of Amiens had been signed between Britain and France, hit upon the idea of employing his soldiers in Haiti, and sent out his brother-in-law, General Le Clerc, with 25,000 French soldiers to re-conquer the island. It was a most ill-fated expedition; the soldiers could not withstand the climate, and died like flies; France losing, from first to last, no less than 40,000 men from yellow fever. In 1802, Le Clerc, who seems to have been a great scoundrel, died, and in 1804 Haiti declared her independence.

After the Peace of Amiens the French Government were exceedingly anxious to secure the cooperation of British troops from Jamaica, seasoned to the climate, in restoring order in Haiti, and even offered to cede them such portions of Haiti as were willing to come under the British flag. During the ten months of General Le Clerc's administration of Haiti he was perpetually sending envoys to General Nugent in Jamaica, and continually offering him presents. It is not uncharitable to suppose that these presents were proffered with a view of winning Nugent's support to the idea of a British expedition to Haiti. Nugent, however, sternly refused all these gifts. Madame Le Clerc, Napoleon's sister, who is better known as the beautiful Princess Pauline Borghese, a lady with an infinity of admirers, was far more subtle in her methods. Her presents to Lady Nugent took the irresistible form of dresses of the latest Parisian fashion, and were eagerly accepted by that volatile little lady. Indeed, for ten months she seems to have been entirely dressed by Madame Le Clerc, who even provided little George Nugent's christening robe of white muslin, heavily embroidered in gold. Ladies may be interested in Lady Nugent's account of her various dresses. "Last night at the ball I wore a new dress of purple crape, embroidered and heavily spangled in gold, given me by Madame Le Clerc. The skirt rather short; the waist very high. On my head I wore a wreath of gilded bay-leaves, and must have looked like a Roman Empress. I think that purple suits me, for every one declared that they never saw me looking better." Dear little lady! I am sure that she never did, and that the piquant little face on the frontispiece, with its roguish eyes, looked charming under her gold wreath. Again, "I wore a lovely dress of pink crape spangled in silver, sent me by Madame Le Clerc." She gives a fuller account of her dress at the great ball given her to celebrate her recovery after the birth of her son (Dec. 30, 1802).

"For the benefit of posterity I will describe my dress on this grand occasion. A crape dress, embroidered in silver spangles, also sent me by Madame Le Clerc, but much richer than that which I wore at the last ball. Scarcely any sleeves to my dress, but a broad silver spangled border to the shoulder-straps. The body made very like a child's frock, tying behind, and the skirt round, with not much train. On my head a turban of spangled crape like the dress, looped-up with pearls. This dress, the admiration of all the world over, will, perhaps, fifty years hence, be laughed at, and considered as ridiculous as our grandmothers' hoops and brocades appear to us now."

In fairness it must be stated that General Nugent punctiliously returned all Madame Le Clerc's presents to his wife with gifts of English cut-glass, then apparently much appreciated by the French. He seems to have sent absolute cart-loads of cut-glass to Haiti, but in days when men habitually drank two bottles of wine apiece after dinner, there was presumably a fair amount of breakage of decanters and tumblers.

I notice that although Lady Nugent complains on almost every page of "the appalling heat," the "unbearable heat," the "terrific heat, which gives me these sad headaches," she seems always ready to dance for hours at any time. Some idea of the ceremonious manners of the day is obtained from the perpetual entry "went to bed with my knees aching from the hundreds of curtsies I have had to make to the company."

In 1811 Sir George Nugent was appointed Commander-in-Chief in Bengal, and their voyage from Portsmouth to Calcutta occupied exactly six months, yet there are people who grumble at the mails now taking eighteen days to traverse the distance between London and Calcutta.

Lady Nugent was much shocked at the universal habit of smoking amongst Europeans in the East Indies. She sternly refused to allow their two aides-de-camp to smoke, "for as they are both only twenty-five, they are too young to begin so odious a custom," an idea which will amuse the fifteen-year-olds of today.

Not till 1906 did I find myself sailing into Kingston Harbour and actually set eyes on Port Royal, the Palisadoes, and Fort Augusta, all very familiar by name to me since my boyhood.

I had taken the trip to shake off a prolonged bronchial attack; a young Guardsman, a friend of mine, though my junior by many years, was convalescent after an illness, and was also recommended a sunbath, so we travelled together. The hotels being all full, we took up our quarters in a small boarding-house, standing in dense groves of orange trees, where each shiver of the night breeze sent the branches of the orange trees swish-swishing, and wafted great breaths of the delicious fragrance of orange blossom into our rooms. I was in bed, when the Guardsman, who had never been in the tropics before, rushed terror-stricken into my room. "I have drunk nothing whatever," he faltered, "but I must be either very drunk or else mad, for I keep fancying that my room is full of moving electric lights." I went into his room, where I found some half-dozen of the peculiarly brilliant Jamaican fireflies cruising about. The Guardsman refused at first to believe that any insect could produce so bright a light, and bemoaned the loss of his mental faculties, until I caught a firefly and showed him its two lamps gleaming like miniature motor head-lights.

Some pictures stand out startlingly clear-cut in the memory. Such a one is the recollection of our first morning in Jamaica. The Guardsman, full of curiosity to see something of the mysterious tropical island into which we had been deposited after nightfall, awoke me at daybreak. After landing from the mail-steamer in the dark, we had had merely impressions of oven-like heat, and of a long, dim-lit drive in endless suburbs of flimsily built, wooden houses, through the spice-scented, hot, black-velvet night, enlivened with almost indecently intimate glimpses into humble interiors, where swarthy dark forms jabbered and gesticulated, clustered round smoky oil-lamps; and as the suburbs gave place to the open country, the vast leaves of unfamiliar growths stood out, momentarily silhouetted against the blackness by the gleam of our carriage lamps.

It being so early, the Guardsman and I went out as we were, in pyjamas and slippers, with, of course, sufficient head protection against the fierce sun. Just a fortnight before we had left England under snow, in the grip of a black frost; London had been veiled in incessant thick fogs for ten days, and we had fallen straight into the most exquisitely beautiful island on the face of the globe, bathed in perpetual summer.

When we had traversed the grove of orange trees, we came upon a lovely little sunk-garden, where beds of cannas, orange, sulphur, and scarlet, blazed round a marble fountain, with a silvery jet splashing and leaping into the sunshine. The sunk-garden was surrounded on three sides by a pergola, heavily draped with yellow alamandas, drifts of wine-coloured bougainvillaa, and pale-blue solanums, the size of saucers. In the clear morning light it really looked entrancingly lovely. On the fourth side the garden ended in a terrace dominating the entire Liguanea plain, with the city of Kingston, Kingston Harbour, Port Royal, and the hills on the far side spread out below us like a map. Those hills are now marked on the Ordnance Survey as the "Healthshire Hills." This is a modern euphemism, for the name originally given to those hills and the district round them by the soldiers stationed in the "Apostles' Battery," was "Hellshire," and any one who has had personal experience of the heat there, can hardly say that the title is inappropriate. From our heights, even Kingston itself looked inviting, an impression not confirmed by subsequent visits to that unlovely town. The long, sickle-shape sandspit of the Palisadoes separated Kingston Harbour on one side from the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea; on the other side the mangrove swamps of the Rio Cobre made unnaturally vivid patches of emerald green against the background of hills. On railways a green flag denotes that caution must be observed; the vivid green of the mangroves is Nature's caution-flag to the white man, for where the mangrove flourishes, there fever lurks.

The whole scene was so wonderfully beautiful under the blazing sunlight, and in the crystal-clear atmosphere, that the Guardsman refused to accept it as genuine. "It can't be real!" he cried, "this is January. We have got somehow into a pantomime transformation scene. In a minute it will go, and I shall wake up in Wellington Barracks to find it freezing like mad, with my owl of a servant telling me that I have to be on parade in five minutes." This lengthy warrior showed, too, a childish incredulity when I pointed out to him cocoa-nuts hanging on the palms; a field of growing pineapples below us, or great clusters of fruit on the banana trees. Pineapples, cocoanuts, and bananas were bought in shops; they did not grow on trees. He would insist that the great orange flowers, the size of cabbages, on the Brownea trees were artificial, as were the big blue trumpets of the Morning Glories. He was in reality quite intoxicated with the novelty and the glamour of his first peep into the tropics. By came fluttering a great, gorgeous butterfly, the size of a saucer, and after it rushed the Guardsman, shedding slippers around him as his long legs bent to their task. He might just as well have attempted to catch the Scotch Express; but, as he returned to me dripping, he began to realise what the heat of Jamaica can do. All the remainder of that day the Guardsman remained under the spell of the entrancing beauty of his new surroundings, and I was dragged on foot for miles and miles; along country lanes, through the Hope Botanical Gardens, down into the deep ravine of the Hope River, then back again, both of us dripping wet in the fierce heat, in spite of our white drill suits, larding the ground as we walked, oozing from every pore, but always urged on and on by my enthusiastic young friend, who, suffering from a paucity of epithets, kept up monotonous ejaculations of "How absolutely d——d lovely it all is!" every two minutes.

I had to remain a full hour in the swimming-bath after my exertions; and the Guardsman had quite determined by night-time to "send in his papers," and settle down as a coffee-planter in this enchanting island.

It is curious that although the Spaniards held Jamaica for one hundred and sixty-one years, no trace of the Spaniard in language, customs, or architecture is left in the island, for Spain has generally left her permanent impress on all countries occupied by her, and has planted her language and her customs definitely in them. The one exception as regards Jamaica is found in certain place-names such as Ocho Rios, Rio Grande, and Rio Cobre, but as these are all pronounced in the English fashion, the music of the Spanish names is lost. Not one word of any language but English (of a sort) is now heard in the colony. When Columbus discovered the island in 1494, he called it Santiago, St. James being the patron saint of Spain, but the native name of Xaymaca (which being interpreted means "the land of springs") persisted somehow, and really there are enough Santiagos already dotted about in Spanish-speaking countries, without further additions to them. When Admiral Penn and General Venables were sent out by Cromwell to break the Spanish power in the West Indies, they succeeded in capturing Jamaica in 1655, and British the island has remained ever since. To this day the arms of Jamaica are Cromwell's arms slightly modified, and George V is not King, but "Supreme Lord of Jamaica," the original title assumed by Cromwell. The fine statue of Queen Victoria in Kingston is inscribed "Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, and Supreme Lady of Jamaica."

Venables found that the Spaniards, craving for yet another Santiago, had called the capital of the island Santiago de la Vega, "St. James of the Plain," and to this day the official name of Spanish Town, the old capital, is St. Jago de Vega, and as such is inscribed on all the milestones, only as it is pronounced in the English fashion, it is now one of the ugliest names imaginable. The wonderfully beautiful gorge of the Rio Cobre, above Spanish Town, was called by the conquistadores "Spouting Waters," or Bocas de Agua. This has been Anglicised into the hideous name of Bog Walk, just as the "High Waters," Agua Alta, on the north side of the island, has become the Wagwater River. The Spanish forms seem preferable to me.

Some one has truly said that the old Spaniards shared all the coral insect's mania for building. As soon as they had conquered a place, they set to work to build a great cathedral, and simultaneously, the church then being distinctly militant, a large and solid fort. They then proceeded to erect massive walls and ramparts round their new settlement, and most of these ramparts are surviving to-day. We, in true British haphazard style, did not build for posterity, but allowed ramshackle towns to spring up anyhow without any attempt at design or plan. There are many things we could learn from the Spanish. Their solid, dignified cities of massive stone houses with deep, heavy arcades into which the sun never penetrates; their broad plazas where cool fountains spout under great shade-trees; their imposing over-ornate churches, their general look of solid permanence, put to shame our flimsy, ephemeral, planless British West Indian towns of match-boarding and white paint. We seldom look ahead: they always did. Added to which it would be, of course, too much trouble to lay out towns after definite designs; it is much easier to let them grow up anyhow. On the other hand, the British colonial towns have all good water supplies, and efficient systems of sewerage, which atones in some degree for their architectural shortcomings; whilst the Spaniard would never dream of bothering his head about sanitation, and would be content with a very inadequate water supply. Provided that he had sufficient water for the public fountains, the Spaniard would not trouble about a domestic supply. The Briton contrives an ugly town in which you can live in reasonable health and comfort; the Spaniard fashions a most picturesque city in which you are extremely like to die. Racial ideals differ.



CHAPTER V

An election meeting in Jamaica—Two family experiences at contested elections—Novel South African methods—Unattractive Kingston—A driving tour through the island—The Guardsman as orchid hunter—Derelict country houses—An attempt to reconstruct the past—The Fourth-Form Room at Harrow—Elizabethan Harrovians—I meet many friends of my youth—The "Sunday" books of the 'sixties—"Black and White"—Arrival of the French Fleet—Its inner meaning—International courtesies—A delicate attention—Absent alligators—The mangrove swamp—A preposterous suggestion—The swamps do their work—Fever—A very gallant apprentice—What he did.

The Guardsman's enthusiasm about Jamaica remaining unabated, I determined to hire a buggy and pair and to make a fortnight's leisurely tour of the North Coast and centre of the island. Though not peculiarly expeditious, this is a very satisfactory mode of travel; no engine troubles, no burst tyres, and no worries about petrol supplies. A new country can be seen and absorbed far more easily from a horse-drawn vehicle than from a hurrying motor-car, and the little country inns in Jamaica, though very plainly equipped, are, as a rule, excellent, with surprisingly good if somewhat novel food.

As the member for St. Andrews in the local Legislative Council had just died, an election was being held in Kingston. Curious as to what an election-meeting in Jamaica might be like, we attended one. The hall was very small, and densely packed with people, and the suffocating heat drove us away after a quarter of an hour; but never have I, in so short a space of time, heard such violent personalities hurled from a public platform, although I have had a certain amount of experience of contested elections. In 1868, when I was eleven years old, I was in Londonderry City when my brother Claud, the sitting member, was opposed by Mr. Serjeant Dowse, afterwards Baron Dowse, the last of the Irish "Barons of the Exchequer." Party feeling ran very high indeed; whenever a body of Dowse's supporters met my brother in the street, they commenced singing in chorus, to a popular tune of the day:

"Dowse for iver! Claud in the river! With a skiver through his liver."

Whilst my brother's adherents greeted Dowse in public with a sort of monotonous chant to these elegant words:

"Dowse! Dowse! you're a dirty louse, And ye'll niver sit in the Commons' House."

It will be noticed that this is in the same rhythm that Mark Twain made so popular some twenty years later in his conductor's song.

"Punch, brothers, punch with care, Punch in the presence of the passen-jare."

In spite of the confident predictions of my brother's followers, Dowse won the seat by a small majority, nor did my brother succeed in unseating him afterwards on Petition.

Another occasion on which feeling ran very high was in Middlesex during the 1874 election. Here my brother George was the Conservative candidate, and owing to his having played cricket for Harrow at Lord's, he was supported enthusiastically by the whole school, the Harrow masters being at that time Liberals almost to a man. My tutor, a prominent local Liberal, must have been enormously gratified at finding the exterior of his house literally plastered from top to bottom with crimson placards (crimson is the Conservative colour in Middlesex) all urging the electors to "vote for Hamilton the proved Friend of the People." Possibly fraternal affection may have had something to do with this crimson outburst. My youngest brother took, as far as his limited opportunities allowed him, an energetic part in this election. He got indeed into some little trouble, for being only fifteen years old and not yet versed in the niceties of political controversy, he endeavoured to give weight and point to one of his arguments with the aid of the sharp end of a football goal-post. My brother George was returned by an enormous majority.

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