To my great regret my voice had broken then, else it is quite possible that Farmer might have selected me to sing "Forty years on" for the very first time. As it was, that honour fell to a boy named A.M. Wilkinson, who had a remarkably sweet voice.
John Farmer's eccentricities were, I think, all assumed. He thought they helped him to manage the boys. I sang in the chapel choir, and he circulated the quaintest little notes amongst us, telling us how he wished the Psalms sung. "Psalm 136, quite gaily and cheerfully; Psalm 137, very slowly and sorrowfully; Psalm 138, real merry bell-tinkle, with plenty of organ.—J. F."
Long after I had left, Farmer continued to pour out a ceaseless flow of school songs. Of course they varied in merit, but in some, such as "Raleigh," and "Five Hundred Faces," he managed to touch some subtle chord of sympathy that makes them very dear to those who heard them in their youth. After Farmer left Harrow for Oxford, his successor, Eaton Faning, worthily continued the traditions. All Eaton Failing's songs are melodious, but in two of them, "Here, sir!" and "Pray, charge your glasses, gentlemen," he reaches far higher levels.
The late E.W. Howson's words to "Here, sir!" seem to strike exactly the right note for boys. They are fine and virile, with underlying sentiment, yet free from the faintest suspicion of mawkish sentimentality. Two of the verses are worth quoting:
"Is it nought—our long procession, Father, brother, friend, and son, As we step in quick succession, Cap and pass and hurry on? One and all, At the call, Cap and pass and hurry on? Here, sir! Here, sir!" etc.
"So to-day—and oh! if ever Duty's voice is ringing clear, Bidding men to brave endeavour, Be our answer, 'We are here!' Come what will, Good or ill, We will answer, 'We are here!' Here, sir! Here, sir!" etc.
The allusion is, of course, to "Bill," the Harrow term for the roll-call. These lines, for me, embody all that is best in the so-called "Public School spirit."
In my time the distant view from the chapel terrace was exceedingly beautiful, whilst the immediate foreground was uncompromisingly ugly. A vegetable garden then covered the space where now the steps of the "Slopes" run down through lawns and shrubberies, and rows of utilitarian cabbages and potatoes extended right up to the terrace wall. But beyond this prosaic display of kitchen-stuff, in summer-time an unbroken sea of green extended to the horizon, dotted with such splendid oaks as only a heavy clay soil can produce. London, instead of being ten miles off, might have been a hundred miles distant. Now, for fifty years London, Cobbett's "monstrous wen," has been throwing her tentative feelers into the green Harrow country. Already pioneer tentacles of red-brick houses are creeping over the fields, and before long the rural surroundings will have vanished beyond repair.
"Ducker," the Harrow bathing-place, has had scant justice done to it. It is a most attractive spot, standing demurely isolated amidst its encircling fringe of fine elms, and jealously guarded by a high wooden palisade, No unauthorised person can penetrate into "Ducker"; in summer-time it is the boys' own domain. The long tiled pool stretches in sweeping curves for 250 feet under the great elms, a splashing fountain at one end, its far extremity gay with lawns and flower-beds. I can conceive of nothing more typical of the exuberant joie-de-vivre of youth than the sight of Ducker on a warm summer evening when the place is ringing with the shouts and laughter of some four hundred boys, all naked as when they were born, swimming, diving, ducking each other, splashing and rollicking in the water, whilst others stretched out on the grass, puris naturalibus, are basking in the sun, or regaling themselves on buns and cocoa. The whole place is vibrant with the intense zest the young feel in life, and with the whole-hearted powers of enjoyment of boyhood. A school-song set to a captivating waltz-lilt record the charms of Ducker. One verse of it,
"Oh! the effervescing tingle, How it rushes in the veins! Till the water seems to mingle With the pulses and the brains,"
exactly expresses the reason why, as a boy, I loved Ducker so.
Unfortunately, I never played cricket for Harrow at "Lords," as my two brothers George and Ernest did. My youngest brother would, I think, have made a great name for himself as a cricketer, had not the fairies endowed him at his birth with a fatal facility for doing everything easily. As the result of this versatility, his ambitions were continually changing. He accordingly abandoned cricket for steeplechase riding, at which he distinguished himself until politics ousted steeplechase riding. After some years, politics gave place to golf and music, which were in their turn supplanted by photography. He then tried writing a few novels, and very successful some of them were, until it finally dawned on him that his real vocation in life was that of a historian. My brother was naturally frequently rallied by his family on his inconstancy of purpose, but he pleaded in extenuation that versatility had very marked charms of its own. He produced one day a copy of verses, written in the Gilbertian metre, to illustrate his mental attitude, and they strike me as so neatly worded, that I will reproduce them in full.
"THE CURSE OF VERSATILITY"
"It is possible the student of Political Economy Might otherwise have cultivated Fame, And the Scientist whose energies are given to Astronomy May sacrifice a literary name. In the Royal Academician may be buried a facility For prosecuting Chemical Research, But he knows that if he truckles to the Curse of Versatility, Competitors will leave him in the lurch.
"If an eminent physician should develop a proclivity For singing on the operatic stage, He will find that though his patients may apparently forgive it, he Will temporal'ly cease to be the rage, And the lawyer who depreciates his logical ability And covets a poetical renown, Will discover on his Circuit that the Curse of Versatility Has limited the office of his gown.
"The costermonger yonder, if he had the opportunity, Might rival the political career Of the orator who poses as the pride of the community, The Radical Hereditary Peer. And the genius who fattens on a chronic inability To widen the horizon of his brain, May be stupider than others whom the Curse of Versatility Has fettered with a mediocre chain.
"Should a Civil Servant woo the panegyrics of Society, And hanker after posthumous applause, It MAY happen that possession of a prodigal variety Of talents will invalidate his cause. He must learn to put a tether on his cerebral agility, And focus all his energies of aim On ONE isolated idol, or the Curse of Versatility Will drag him from the pinnacle of Fame.
"Though the Curse may be upon us, and condemn us for Eternity To jostle with the ordinary horde; Though we grovel at the shrine of the professional fraternity Who harp upon one solitary chord; Still...we face the situation with an imperturbability Of spirit, from the knowledge that we owe To the witchery that lingers in the Curse of Versatility The balance of our happiness below."
Of course, to some temperaments variety will appeal; whilst others revel in monotony. The latter are like a District Railway train, going perpetually round and round the same Inner Circle. As far as my experience goes, the former are the more interesting people to meet.
To persons of my time of life, the last verse of "Forty years on" has a tendency to linger in the memory. It runs—
"Forty years on, growing older and older, Shorter in wind, as in memory long, Feeble of foot, and rheumatic of shoulder, What will it help you that once you were strong?"
Although it is now fifty, instead of "forty years on," I indignantly disclaim the "feeble of foot," whilst reluctantly pleading guilty to "rheumatic of shoulder." It is common to most people, as they advance in life, to note with a sorrowful satisfaction the gradual decay of the physical powers of their contemporaries, though they always seem to imagine that they themselves have retained all their pristine vigour, and have successfully resisted every assault of Time's battering-ram. The particular sentiment described in German as "Schadenfreude," "pleasure over another's troubles" (how characteristic it is that there should be no equivalent in any other language for this peculiarly Teutonic emotion!), makes but little appeal to the average Briton except where questions of age and of failing powers come into play, and obviously this only applies to men: no lady ever grows old for those who are really fond of her; one always sees her as one likes best to think of her.
I have already divulged one family secret, so I will reveal another. Some few years ago my three eldest brothers were dining together. Each of them professed deep concern at the palpable signs of physical decay which he detected in his brethren, whilst congratulating himself on remaining untouched by advancing years. The dispute became acrimonious to a degree; the grossest personalities were freely bandied about. At length it was decided to put the matter to a practical test, and it was agreed (I tell this in the strictest confidence) that the three brothers should run a hundred yards race in the street then and there. Accordingly, a nephew of mine paced one hundred yards in Montagu Street, Portman Square, and stood immovable as winning-post. The Chairman of the British South African Chartered Company, the Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company, and the Secretary of State for India took up their positions in the street and started. The Chairman of the Great Eastern romped home. We are all of us creatures of our environment, and we may become unconsciously coloured by that environment; as the Great Eastern Railway has always adopted a go-ahead policy, it is possible that some particle of the momentum which would naturally result from this may have been subconsciously absorbed by the Chairman, thus giving him an unfair advantage over his brothers. It is unusual for a Duke, a Chairman of an important Railway Company, and a Secretary of State to run races in a London street at ten o'clock at night, especially when the three of them were long past their sixtieth year, but I feel certain that my confidence about this little episode will be respected.
I fear that this habit of running races late in life may be a family failing. During my father's second tenure of office as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, he was still an enthusiastic cricketer, and played regularly in the Viceregal team in spite of his sixty-four years. The Rev. Dr. Mahaffy, Professor of Ancient History at Trinity College, Dublin, also played for the Viceregal Lodge in his capacity of Chaplain to the Viceroy. Dr. Mahaffy, though a fine bowler, was the worst runner I have ever seen. He waddled and paddled slowly over the ground like a duck, with his feet turned outwards, exactly as that uninteresting fowl moves. My father frequently rallied Dr. Mahaffy on his defective locomotive powers, and finally challenged him to a two hundred yards race. My father being sixty-four years old, and Dr. Mahaffy only thirty-six, it was agreed that the Professor should be handicapped by wearing cricket-pads, and by carrying a cricket bat. I was present at the race, which came off in the gardens of the Viceregal Lodge, before quite a number of people. My father won with the utmost ease, to the delirious joy of the two policemen on duty, who had never before seen a Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland racing a Professor of Trinity College.
I myself must plead guilty to having entered for a "Veterans' Race" two years ago, at the age of sixty-one, at some Sunday School sports in Ireland. I ran against a butler, a gardener, two foremen-mechanics, and four farmers, but only achieved second place, and that at the price of a sprained tendon, so possibly the "feeble of foot" of the song really is applicable to me after all. The butler, who won, started off with the lead and kept it, though one would naturally have expected a butler to run a "waiting" race.
I was at Harrow with the Duke of Aosta, brother of the beautiful Queen Margherita of Italy. H. R. H. sported a full curly yellow beard at the age of sixteen, a somewhat unusual adornment for an English schoolboy. When I accompanied my father's special Mission to Rome in 1878, at a luncheon at the Quirinal Palace, Queen Margherita alluded to her brother having been at Harrow, and added, "I am told that Harrow is the best school in England." The Harrovians present, including my father, my brother Claud, myself, the late Lord Bradford, and my brother-in-law the late Lord Mount Edgcumbe, welcomed this indisputable proposition warmly—nay, enthusiastically. The Etonians who were there, Sir Augustus Paget, then British Ambassador in Rome, the late Lord Northampton, and others, contravened her Majesty's obviously true statement with great heat, quite oblivious of the fact that it is opposed to all etiquette to contradict a Crowned Head. The dispute engendered considerable heat on either side; the walls of that hall in the Quirinal rang with our angered protests, until the Italians present became quite alarmed. Our discussion having taken place in English, they had been unable to follow it, and they felt the gravest apprehensions as to the plot the foreigners were evidently hatching. When told that we were merely discussing the rival merits of two schools in England, they were more than ever confirmed in their opinion that all English people were hopelessly mad.
To one like myself, to whom it has fallen to visit almost every country on the face of the globe, there is always a tinge of melancholy in revisiting the familiar High Street of Harrow. It is like returning to the starting-point at the conclusion of a long race. The externals remain unchanged. Outwardly, the New Schools, the Chapel, the Vaughan Library, and the Head-Master's House all wear exactly the same aspect that they bore half a century ago. They have not changed, and the ever-renewed stream of young life flows through the place as joyously as it did fifty years ago. But....
"Oh, the great days in the distance enchanted, Days of fresh air, in the rain and the sun."
At times the imagination is apt to play tricks and to set back the hands of the clock, until one pictures oneself again in a short jacket and Eton collar, going up to school, with a pile of books hugged under the left arm, and the intervening half-century wiped out. But, as they would put it in Ireland, these lucky, fresh-faced youngsters of to-day have their futures in front of them, not behind them. Then it is that Howson's words, wedded to John Farmer's haunting refrain, come back to the mind—
"Yet the time may come as the years go by, When your heart will thrill At the thought of 'The Hill' And the day that you came, so strange and shy."
Mme. Ducros—A Southern French country town—"Tartarin de Tarascon"—His prototypes at Nyons—M. Sisteron the roysterer—The Southern French—An octogenarian pesteur—French industry—"Bone-shakers"—A wonderful "Cordon-bleu"—"Slop-basin"—French legal procedure—The bons-vivants—The merry French judges—La gaiete francaise—Delightful excursions—Some sleepy old towns—Orange and Avignon—M. Thiers' ingenious cousin—Possibilities—French political situation in 1874—The Comte de Chambord—Some French characteristics—High intellectual level—Three days in a Trappist Monastery—Details of life there—The Arian heresy—Silkworm culture—Tendencies of French to complicate details—Some examples—Cicadas in London.
As it had already been settled that I was to enter the Diplomatic Service, my father very wisely determined that I should leave Harrow as soon as I was seventeen to go to France, in order to learn French thoroughly. As he pointed out, it would take three years at least to become proficient in French and German, and it would be as well to begin at once.
The French tutor selected for me enjoyed a great reputation at that time. Oddly enough, she was a woman, but it will be gathered that she was quite an exceptional woman, when I say that she had for years ruled four unruly British cubs, varying in age from seventeen to twenty, with an absolute rod of iron. Mme. Ducros was the wife of a French judge, she spoke English perfectly, and must have been in her youth a wonderfully good-looking woman. She was very tall, and still adhered to the dress and headdress of the "sixties," wearing little bunches of curls over each ear—a becoming fashion, even if rather reminiscent of a spaniel.
The Ducros lived at Nyons in the south of France. Nyons lay twenty-five miles east of the main line from Paris to Marseilles, and could only be reached by diligence. I think that I can safely say that no foreigner (with the exception of the Ducros' pupils) had ever set foot in Nyons, for the place was quite unknown, and there was nothing to draw strangers there. It was an extraordinarily attractive spot, lying in a little circular cup of a valley of the Dauphine Alps, through which a brawling river had bored its way. Nyons was celebrated for its wine, its olive oil, its silk, and its truffles, all of them superlatively good. The ancient little walled town, basking in this sun-trap of a valley, stood out ochre-coloured against the silver-grey background of olive trees, whilst the jagged profiles of the encircling hills were always mistily blue, with that intense blue of which the Provence hills seem alone to have the secret. So few English people knew anything about the conditions of life in a little out-of-the-way French provincial town, where no foreigners have ever set foot, that it may be worth while saying something about them. In the first place, it must have been deadly dull for the inhabitants, for nothing whatever happened there. Even the familiar "tea and tennis," the stereotyped mild dissipation of little English towns, was quite unknown. There was no entertaining of any sort, beyond the formal visits the ladies were perpetually paying each other. The Ducros alone, occasionally, asking their legal friends to dinner, invitations accepted with the utmost enthusiasm, for the culinary genius who presided over the Ducros' kitchen (M. Dueros' own sister) deservedly enjoyed an enormous local reputation.
Most people must be familiar with Alphonse Daudet's immortal work, Tartarin de Tarascon, in which the typical "Meridional" of Southern France is portrayed with such unerring exactitude that Daudet himself, after writing the book, was never able to set foot in Tarascon again.
We had a cercle in Nyons, in the Place Napoleon (re-christened Place de la Republique after September 4, 1870), housed in three rather stately, sparsely furnished, eighteenth-century rooms. Here, with the exception of Tartarin himself, the counterparts of all Daudet's characters were to be found. "Le Capitaine Bravida" was represented by Colonel Olivier, a fiercely moustached and imperialled Crimean veteran, who perpetually breathed fire and swords on any potential enemy of France. "Costecalde" found his prototype in M. Sichap, who, although he had in all probability never fired off a gun in his life, could never see a tame pigeon, or even a sparrow flying over him, without instantly putting his walking-stick to his shoulder and loudly ejaculating, "Pan, pan," which was intended to counterfeit the firing of both barrels of a gun. I once asked M. Sichap why so excellent a shot as he (with a walking-stick) invariably missed his bird with his first barrel, and only brought him down with his second. This was quite a new light to M. Sichap, who had hithered considered the double "Pan, pan," an indispensable adjunct to the pantomime of firing a gun; much as my young brother and I had once imagined "Ug, ug," an obligatory commencement to any remark made by a Red Indian "brave."
In so remote a place as Nyons, over four hundred miles from the capital, the glamour of Paris exercised a magical attraction. The few inhabitants of Nyons who had ever visited Paris, or even merely passed through it, were never quite as other people, some little remnant of an aureole encircled them. The dowdy little wife of M. Pelissier, who had first seen the light in some grubby suburb of Paris, either Levallois-Perret or Clichy, held an immense position in Nyons on the strength of being "une vraie Parisienne," and most questions of taste were referred to her. M. Sisteron, the collector of taxes, himself a native of Nyons, had twenty years before gone to Paris on business, and spent four days there. There were the darkest rumours current in Nyons, to the effect that M. Sisteron had spent these four days in a whirl of the most frantic and abandoned dissipation. It was popularly supposed that these four days in Paris, twenty years ago, had so completely unsettled M. Sisteron that life in Nyons had lost all zest for him. He was perpetually hungering for the delirious joys of the metropolis; even the collection of taxes no longer afforded him the faintest gratification. Every inhabitant of Nyons was secretly proud of being able to claim so dare-devil a roysterer as a fellow-townsman. The memory of those rumored four hectic days in Paris clung round him like a halo; it became almost a pleasure to pay taxes to so celebrated a character. M. Sisteron was short, paunchy, bald, and bearded. He was a model husband and a pattern as a father. I am persuaded that he had spent those four days in Paris in the most blameless and innocuous fashion, living in the cheapest hotel he could find, and, after the manner of the people of Nyons, never spending one unnecessary franc. Still, the legend of his lurid four days, and of the amount of champagne he had consumed during them, persisted. In moments of expansion, his intimate friends would dig him in the ribs, remembering those four feverish days, with a facetious, "Ah! vieux polisson de Sisteron, va! Nous autres, nous n'avons pas fait des farces a Paris dans notre jeunesse!" to M. Sisteron's unbounded delight. It was in the genuine spirit of Tartarin de Tarascon, with all the mutual make-believe on both sides. His wife, Mme. Sisteron, was fond of assuring her friends that she owed her excellent health to the fact that she invariably took a bath twice a year, whether she required it or not.
The other members of the cercle were also mostly short, tubby, black-bearded, and olive-complexioned. When not engaged in playing "manille" for infinitesimal points, they would all shout and gesticulate violently, as only Southern Frenchmen can, relapsing as the discussion grew more heated into their native Provencal, for though Nyons is geographically in Dauphine, climatically and racially it is in Provence. In Southern France the "Langue d'Oil," the literary language of Paris and Northern France, has never succeeded in ousting the "Langue d'Oc," the language of the Troubadours. From hearing so much Provencal talked round me, I could not help picking up some of it. It was years before I could rid myself of the habit of inquiring quezaco? instead of "qu'est ce que c'est?" and of substituting for "Comment cela va-t-il?" the Provencal Commoun as? I found, too, that it was unusual elsewhere to address people in our Nyons fashion as "Te, mon bon!"
Those swarthy, amply waistcoated, voluble little men were really very good fellows in spite of their excitability and torrents of talk.
The Southern Frenchmen divide Europe into the "Nord" and the "Midi." The "Nord" is hardly worth talking about, the sun never really shines there, and no garlic or oil is used in cookery in those benighted regions. The town of Lyons is considered to be in the "Nord," although we should consider it well in the south of France. To the curious in such matters, it may be pointed out that the line of demarcation between "Nord" and "Midi" is perfectly well defined. In travelling from Paris to Marseilles, between Valence and Montelimar, the observer will note that quite abruptly the type of house changes. In place of the high-pitched roof of Northern Europe the farm-houses suddenly assume flat roofs of fluted tiles, with projecting eaves, after the Italian fashion; at the same time the grey-green olive trees put in a first appearance. Then you are in the "Midi," and any black-bearded, olive-complexioned, stumpy little men in the carriage will give a sigh of relief, for now, at last, the sun will begin to shine.
Nyons had been for two hundred years a Huguenot stronghold, so for a French town an unusual proportion of its inhabitants were Protestants, and there was, oddly enough, a colony of French Wesleyans there.
M. Ducros' father had been the Protestant pasteur of Nyons for forty-four years. He was eighty-six years old, and on week-days the old gentleman dozed in the sun all day, and was quite senile and gaga. On Sundays, no sooner had he ascended the pulpit than his faculties seemed to return to him, and he would preach interminable but perfectly coherent sermons with a vigour astonishing in so old a man, only to relapse into childishness again on returning home, and to remain senile till the following Sunday.
The Ducros lived in a large farm-house on the outskirts of the town. It was a farm without any livestock, for there is no grass whatever in that part of France, and consequently no pasture for cattle or sheep. Every one in Nyons kept goats for milk, and, quaintly enough, they fed them on the dried mulberry leaves the silkworms had left over. For every one reared silkworms too, a most lucrative industry. The French speak of "making" silkworms (faire des vers-a-soie). Lucrative as it is, it would never succeed in England even if the white mulberry could be induced to grow, for successful silkworm rearing demands such continual watchfulness and meticulous attention as only French people can give; English people "couldn't be bothered" to expend such minute care on anything they were doing.
Every foot of the Ducros' property was carefully cultivated, with vineyards above on the terraced hillside, olive-yards below, and mulberry trees on the lower levels. Our black mulberry, with its cloying, luscious fruit, is not the sort used for silkworms; it is the white mulberry, which does not fruit, that these clever little alchemists transmute into glossy, profitable cocoons of silk. The Ducros made their own olive-oil, and their own admirable wine.
In that sun-drenched cup amongst the hills, roses bloomed all the year round. I always see Nyons with my inner eyes from the terrace in front of the house, the air fragrant with roses, and the soothing gurgle of the fountain below in my ears as it splashed melodiously into its stone reservoir, the little town standing out a vivid yellow against the silver background of olive trees, and the fantastic outlines of the surrounding hills steeped in that wonderful deep Provencal blue. In spite of its dullness, I and the three other pupils liked the place. We all grew very fond of the charming Ducros family, we appreciated the wonderful beauty of the little spot, we climbed all the hills, and, above all, we had each hired a velocipede. Not a bicycle (except that it certainly had two wheels); not a so-called "ordinary," as those machines with one immensely high, shining, nickel-plated wheel and a little dwarf brother following it, were for some inexplicable reason termed; but an original antediluvian velocipede, a genuine "bone-shaker": a clumsy contrivance with two high wooden wheels of equal height, and direct action. Even on the level they required an immense amount of muscle to drive them along, and up the smallest hill every ounce of available strength had to be brought into play. They did not steer well, were very difficult to get on and off, and gave us some awful falls; still we got an immense amount of fun out of them, and we scoured all the surrounding country on them, until all four of us developed gigantic calves which would have done credit to any coal-heaver.
M. Ducros' sister was a brilliant culinary genius such as is only found in France. We were given truffled omelets, wonderful salads of eggs, anchovies, and tunny-fish, ducks with oranges and olives, and other delicacies of the Provencal cuisine prepared by a consummate artist, and those four English cubs termed them all "muck," and clamoured for plain roast mutton and boiled potatoes. It really was a case of casting pearls before swine! Those ignorant hobbledehoys actually turned up their noses at the admirable "Cotes du Rhone" wine, and begged for beer. In justice I must add that we were none of us used to truffles or olives, nor to the oil which replaces butter in Provencal cookery. Mlle. Louise, the sister, was pained, but not surprised. She had never left Nyons, and, from her experience of a long string of English pupils, was convinced that all Englishmen were savages. They inhabited an island enveloped in dense fog from year's end to year's end. They had never seen the sun, and habitually lived on half-raw "rosbif." It was only natural that such young barbarians should fail to appreciate the cookery of so celebrated a cordon-bleu, which term, I may add, is only applicable to a woman-cook, and can never be used of a man. This truly admirable woman made us terrines of truffled foie-gras such as even Strasburg could not surpass, and gave them to us for breakfast. I blush to own that those four benighted boys asked for eggs and bacon instead.
Although M. Ducros had heard English talked around him for so many years, he had all the average Frenchman's difficulty in assimilating any foreign language. His knowledge of our tongue was confined to one word only, and that a most curiously chosen word. "Slop-basin" was the beginning and end of his knowledge of the English language. M. Ducros used his one word of English only in moments of great elation. Should, for instance, his sister Mlle. Louise have surpassed herself in the kitchen, M. Ducros, after tasting her chef d'oeuvre, would joyously ejaculate, "Slop-basin!" several times over. It was understood in his family that "slop-basin" always indicated that the master of the house was in an extremely contented frame of mind.
The judicial system of France is not as concentrated as ours. Every Sous-prefecture in France has its local Civil Court with a Presiding Judge, an Assistant Judge, and a "Substitut." The latter, in small towns, is the substitute for the Procureur de la Republique, or Public Prosecutor. The legal profession in France is far more "clannish" than with us, for lawyers have always played a great part in the history of France. The so-called "Parlements" (not to be confounded with our Parliament) had had, up to the time of the French Revolution, very large powers indeed. They were originally Supreme Courts of Justice, but by the fifteenth century they could not only make, on their own account, regulations having the force of laws, but had acquired independent administrative powers. Originally the "Parlement de Paris" stood alone, but as time went on, in addition to this, thirteen or fourteen local "Parlements" administered France. After the Revolution, the term was only applied to Supreme Courts, without administrative powers. M. Ducros was Assistant Judge of the Nyons Tribunal, and the Ducros were rather fond of insisting that they belonged to the old noblesse de robe.
As a child I could speak French as easily as English, and even after eight years of French lessons at school, my French was still tucked away in some corner of my head; but I had, of course, only a child's vocabulary, sufficient for a child's simple wants. Under Madame Ducros' skilful tuition I soon began to acquire an adult vocabulary, and it became no effort to me whatever to talk.
The French judicial system seems to demand perpetual judicial inquiries (enquetes) in little country places. M. Ducros invited me to accompany him, the President, and the "Substitut" on one of these enquetes, and these three, with their tremendous spirits, their perpetual jokes, and above all with their delightful gaiete francaise, amused me so enormously, that I jumped at a second invitation. So it came about in time, that I invariably accompanied them, and when we started in the shabby old one-horse cabriolet soon after 7 a.m., "notre ami le petit Angliche" was always perched on the box. My suspicions may be unfounded, but I somehow think that these enquetes were conducted not so much on account of legal exigencies as for the gastronomic possibilities at the end of the journey, for all our inquiries were made in little towns celebrated for some local chef. These three merry bons-vivants revelled in the pleasures of the table, and on our arrival at our destinations, before the day's work was entered upon, there were anxious and even heated discussions with "Papa Charron," "Pere Vinay," or whatever the name of the local artist might be, as to the comparative merits of truffles or olives as an accompaniment to a filet, or the rival claims of mushrooms or tunny-fish as a worthy lining of an omelet. The legal business being all disposed of by two o'clock, we four would approach the great ceremony of the day, the midday dinner, with tense expectancy. The President could never keep out of the kitchen, from which he returned with most assuring reports: "Cette fois ca y est, mes amis," he would jubilantly exclaim, rubbing his hands, and even "Papa Charron" himself bearing in the first dish, his face scorched scarlet from his cooking-stove, would confidently aver that "MM. les juges seront contents aujourd'hui."
The crowning seal of approbation was always put on by M. Ducros, who, after tasting the masterpiece, would cry exultantly, "Bravo! Slop-basin! Slop-basin!" should it fulfil his expectations. I have previously explained that M. Ducros' solitary word of English expressed supreme satisfaction, whilst his friends looked on, with unconcealed admiration at their colleague's linguistic powers. It sounds like a record of three gormandising middle-aged men; but it was not quite that, though, like most French people, they appreciated artistic cookery. It is impossible for me to convey in words the charm of that delightful gaiete francaise, especially amongst southern Frenchmen. It bubbles up as spontaneously as the sparkle of champagne; they were all as merry as children, full of little quips and jokes, and plays upon words. Our English "pun" is a clumsy thing compared to the finesse of a neatly-turned French calembour. They all three, too, had an inexhaustible supply of those peculiarly French pleasantries known as petites gauloiseries. I know that I have never laughed so much in my life. It is only southern Frenchmen who can preserve this unquenchable torrent of animal spirits into middle life. I was only seventeen; they were from twenty to thirty years my seniors, yet I do not think that we mutually bored each other the least. They did not need the stimulus of alcohol to aid this flow of spirits, for, like most Frenchmen of that class, they were very abstemious, although the "Patron" always produced for us "un bon vieux vin de derriere les fagots," or "un joli petit vin qui fait rire." It was sheer "joie de-vivre" stimulated by the good food and that spontaneous gaiete francaise which appeals so irresistibly to me. The "Substitut" always preserved a rather deferential attitude before the President and M. Ducros, for they belonged to the magistrature assise, whilst he merely formed part of the magistrature debout The French word magistrat is not the equivalent of our magistrate, the French term for which is "Juge de Paix." A magistrat means a Judge or a Public Prosecutor.
From being so much with the judges, I grew quite learned in French legal terms, talked of the parquet (which means the Bar), and invariably termed the grubby little Nyons law-court the Palais. I rather fancy that I considered myself a sort of honorary member of the French Bar. Strictly speaking, Palais only applies to a Court of Law; old-fashioned Frenchmen always speak of the Chateau de Versailles, or the Chateau de Fontainbleau, never of the Palais.
There was always plenty to see in these little southern towns whilst the judges were at work. In one village there was a perfume factory, where essential oils of sweet-scented geranium, verbena, lavender, and thyme were distilled for the wholesale Paris perfumers; a fragrant place, where every operation was carried on with that minute attention to detail which the French carry into most things that they do, for, unlike the inhabitants of an adjacent island, they consider that if a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth taking trouble over.
In another village there was a wholesale dealer in silkworms' eggs, imported direct from China. Besides the eggs, he had a host of Chinese curios to dispose of, besides quaint little objects in everyday use in China.
Above all there was Grignan, with its huge and woefully dilapidated chateau, the home of Mme. de Sevigne's daughter, the Comtesse de Grignan. It was to Grignan that this queen of letter-writers addressed much of her correspondence to her adored daughter, between 1670 and 1695, and Mme. de Sevigne herself was frequently a visitor there.
Occasionally the judges, the Substitut, and I made excursions further afield by diligence to Orange, Vaucluse, and Avignon, quite outside our judicial orbit. Orange, a drowsy little spot, has still a splendid Roman triumphal arch and a Roman theatre in the most perfect state of preservation. Orange was once a little independent principality, and gives its name to the Royal Family of Holland, the sister of the last of the Princes of Orange having married the Count of Nassau, whence the House of Orange-Nassau. Indirectly, sleepy little Orange has also given its name to a widely-spread political and religious organisation of some influence.
Vaucluse, most charming of places, in its narrow leafy valley, surrounded by towering cliffs, is celebrated as having been the home of Petrarch for sixteen years during the thirteen hundreds. We may hope that his worshipped Laura sometimes brightened his home there with her presence. The famous Fountain of Vaucluse rushes out from its cave a full-grown river. It wastes no time in infant frivolities, but settles down to work at once, turning a mill within two hundred yards of its birthplace.
Avignon is another somnolent spot. The gigantic and gloomy Palace of the Popes dominates the place, though it is far more like a fortress than a palace. Here the Popes lived from 1309 to 1377 during their enforced abandonment of Rome, and Avignon remained part of the Papal dominions until the French Revolution. The President took less interest in the Palace of the Popes than he did in a famous cook at one of the Avignon hotels. He could hardly recall some of the plats of this noted artist without displaying signs of deep emotion. These ancient towns on the banks of the swift-rushing green Rhone seemed to me to be perpetually dozing in the warm sun, like old men, dreaming of their historic and varied past since the days of the Romans.
My French legal friends were much exercised by a recent decision of the High Court. M. Thiers had been President of the Republic from 1870 to 1873. A distant cousin of his living in Marseilles, being in pecuniary difficulties, had applied ineffectually to M. Thiers for assistance. Whereupon the resourceful lady had opened a restaurant in Marseilles, and had had painted over the house-front in gigantic letters, "Restaurant tenu par la cousine de Monsieur Thiers." She was proceeded against for bringing the Head of the State into contempt, was fined heavily, and made to remove the offending inscription. My French friends hotly contested the legality of this decision. They declared that it was straining the sense of the particular Article of the Code to make it applicable in such a case, and that it was illogical to apply the law of Lese-majeste to the Head of a Republican State. The President pertinently added that no evidence as to the quality of food supplied in the restaurant had been taken. If bad, it might unquestionably reflect injuriously on the Head of the State; if good, on the other hand, in view of the admitted relationship of the proprietress of the restaurant to him, it could only redound to M. Thiers' credit. This opens up interesting possibilities. If relationship to a prominent politician may be utilised for business purposes, we may yet see in English watering-places the facades of houses blazoned with huge inscriptions: "This Private Hotel is kept by a fourth cousin of Lord Rose—," whilst facing it, gold lettering proudly proclaims that "The Proprietress of this Establishment is a distant relative of Mr. Ar—Bal—"; or, to impart variety, at the next turning the public might perhaps be informed in gleaming capitals that "The Cashier in this Hotel is connected by marriage with Mr. As—-." The idea really offers an unlimited field for private enterprise.
The political situation in France was very strained at the beginning of 1874. Marshal MacMahon had succeeded M. Thiers as President of the Republic, and it was well known that the Marshal, as well as the Royalist majority in the French Chamber, favoured the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy, represented by the Comte de Chambord, as head of the elder branch. People of the type of M. Ducros, and of the President of the Nyons Tribunal, viewed the possible return of a Legitimist Bourbon Monarchy with the gravest apprehension. Given the character of the Comte de Chambord, they felt it would be a purely reactionary regime. Traditionally, the elder branch of the Bourbons were incapable of learning anything, and equally incapable of forgetting anything. These two shrewd lawyers had both been vigorous opponents of the Bonapartist regime, but they pinned their faith on the Orleans branch, inexplicably enough to me, considering the treacherous record of that family. They never could mention the name of a member of the Orleans family without adding, "Ah! les braves gens!" the very last epithet in the world I should have dreamed of applying to them. All the negotiations with the Comte de Chambord fell through, owing to his obstinacy (to which I have referred earlier) in refusing to accept the Tricolor as the national flag. Possibly pig-headed obstinacy; but in these days of undisguised opportunism, it is rare to find a man who deliberately refuses a throne on account of his convictions. I do not think that the Comte de Chambord would have been a success in present-day British politics. A crisis was averted by extending Marshal MacMahon's tenure of the Presidency to seven years, the "Septennat," as it was called. Before two years the Orleanists, who had always a keen appreciation of the side on which their bread was buttered, "rallied" to the Republic. I rather fancy that some question connected with the return of the confiscated Orleans fortunes came into play here. The adherents of the Comte de Chambord always spoke of him as Henri V. For some reason (perhaps euphony) they were invariably known as "Henri Quinquists." In the same way, the French people speak of the Emperor Charles V. as "Charles Quint," never as "Charles Cinq."
My friends the Nyons lawyers were fond of alluding to themselves as forming part of the bonne bourgeoisie. It is this bonne bourgeoisie who form the backbone of France. Frugal, immensely industrious, cultured, and with a very high standard of honour, they are far removed from the frivolous, irresponsible types of French people to be seen at smart watering-places, and they are less dominated by that inordinate love of money which is an unpleasant element in the national character, and obscures the good qualities of the hard-working French peasants, making them grasping and avaricious.
It must be admitted that this class of the French bourgeoisie surveys the world from rather a Chinese standpoint. The Celestial, as is well known, considers all real civilisation confined to China. Every one outside the bounds of the Middle Kingdom is a barbarian. This is rather the view of the French bourgeois. He is convinced that all true civilisation is centred in France, and that other countries are only civilised in proportion as French influence has filtered through to them. He will hardly admit that other countries can have an art and literature of their own, especially should neither of them conform to French standards. This is easily understood, for the average Frenchman knows no language but his own, has never travelled, and has no curiosity whatever about countries outside France. When, in addition, it is remembered how paramount French literary and artistic influence was during the greater portion of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and how universal the use of the French language was in Northern Continental Europe amongst educated people, the point of view becomes quite intelligible.
In spite of this, I enjoyed my excursions with these delightful French lawyers quite enormously. The other pupils never accompanied us, for they found it difficult to keep up a conversation in French.
The average intellectual level is unquestionably far higher in France than in England, nor is it necessary to give, to a people accustomed for generations to understand a demi-mot, the elaborate explanations usually necessary in England when the conversation has got beyond the mental standards of a child six years old. The French, too, are not addicted to perpetual wool-gathering. Nor can I conceive of a Frenchwoman endeavouring to make herself attractive by representing herself as so hopelessly "vague" that she can never be trusted to remember anything, or to avoid losing all her personal possessions. Idiocy, whether genuine or feigned, does not appeal to the French temperament. The would-be fascinating lady would most certainly be referred to as "une dinde de premiere classe."
The French are the only thoroughly logical people in the world, and their excessive development of the logical faculty leads them at times into pitfalls. "Ils ont lesdefauts de leurs qualites." In this country we have found out that systems, absolutely indefensible in theory, at times work admirably well in practice, and give excellent results. No Frenchman would ever admit that anything unjustifiable in theory could possibly succeed in practice—"Ce n'est pas logique," he would object, and there would be the end of it.
The Substitut informed me one day that he was making a "retreat" for three days at the Monastery of La Trappe d'Aiguebelle, and asked me if I would care to accompany him. To pass three days in a Trappist Monastery certainly promised a novel experience, but I pointed out that I was a Protestant, and that I could hardly expect the monks to welcome me with open arms. He answered that he would explain matters, and that the difference of religion would be overlooked. So off we started, and after an interminable drive reached a huge, gaunt pile of buildings in very arid surroundings. The "Hospice" where visitors were lodged stood apart from the Monastery proper, the Chapel lying in between. It was explained to me that I must observe the rule of absolute silence within the building, and that I would be expected to be in bed by 8.15 p.m. and to rise at 5 a.m. like the rest of the guests. It was further conveyed to me that they hoped that I would see my way to attend Chapel at 5.30 a.m., afterwards I should be free for the remainder of the day. Talking and smoking were both permitted in the garden. I was given a microscopic whitewashed cell, most beautifully clean, containing a very small bed, one chair, a gas-jet, a prie-Dieu, a real human skull, and nothing else whatever. We went to dinner in a great arched refectory, where a monk, perched up in a high pulpit, read us Thomas a Kempis in a droning monotone. Complete silence was observed. At La Trappe no meat or butter is ever used, but we were given a most excellent dinner of vegetable soup, fish, omelets, and artichokes dressed with oil, accompanied by the monks' admirable home-grown wine. There were quite a number of visitors making "retreats," and I had hard work keeping the muscles of my face steady, as they made pantomimic signs to the lay-brothers who waited on us, for more omelet or more wine. After dinner the "Frere Hospitalier," a jolly, rotund little lay-brother, who wore a black stole over his brown habit as a sign that he was allowed to talk, drew me on one side in the garden. As I was a heretic (he put it more politely) and had the day to myself, would I do him a favour? He was hard put to it to find enough fish for all these guests; would I catch him some trout in the streams in the forest? I asked for nothing better, but I had no trout-rod with me. He produced a rod, SUCH a trout-rod! A long bamboo with a piece of string tied to it! To fish for trout with a worm was contrary to every tradition in which I had been reared, but adaptability is a great thing, so with two turns of a spade I got enough worms for the afternoon, and started off. The Foret d'Aiguebelle is not a forest in our acceptation of the term, but an endless series of little bare rocky hills, dotted with pines, and fragrant with tufts of wild lavender, thyme and rosemary. It was intersected with two rushing, beautifully clear streams. I cannot conceive where all the water comes from in that arid land. In sun-baked Nyons, water could be got anywhere by driving a tunnel into the parched hillsides, when sooner or later an abundant spring would be tapped. These French trout were either ridiculously unsophisticated, or else very weary of life: they simply asked to be caught. I got quite a heavy basket, to the great joy of the "Frere Hospitalier," and I got far more next day. Though we had to rise at five, we got no breakfast till eight, and a very curious breakfast it was. Every guest had a yard of bread, and two saucers placed in front of him; one containing honey, the other shelled walnuts. We dipped the walnuts in the honey, and ate them with the bread, and excellent they were. In the place of coffee, which was forbidden, we had hot milk boiled with borage to flavour it, quite a pleasant beverage. The washing arrangements being primitive, I waited until every one was safely occupied in Chapel for an hour and a half, and then had a swim in the reservoir which supplied the monastery with water, and can only trust that I did not dirty it much. I was greatly disappointed with the singing in the severe, unadorned Chapel; it was plainsong, without any organ or instrument. The effect of so great a body of voices might have been imposing had not the intonation (as kindly critics say at times of a debutante) been a little uncertain. As Trappists never speak, one could understand their losing their voices, but it seems curious that they should have lost their ears as well, though possibly it was only the visitors who sang so terribly out of tune.
I was taken all over the Monastery next day by the "Pere Hospitalier," who, like his brown-frocked lay-brother, wore a black stole over his white habit, as a badge of office. With the exception of the fine cloisters, there were no architectural features whatever about the squat, massive pile of buildings. The modern chapel, studiously severe in its details, bore the unmistakable imprint of Viollet-le-Duc's soulless, mathematically correct Gothic. Personally, I think that Viollet-le-Duc spoiled every ancient building in France which he "restored." I was taken into the refectory to see the monks' dinners already laid out for them. They consisted of nothing but bread and salad, but with such vast quantities of each! Each monk had a yard-long loaf of bread, a bottle of wine and an absolute stable-bucket of salad, liberally dressed with oil and vinegar. The oil supplied the fat necessary for nutrition, still it was a meagre enough dinner for men who had been up since 3 a.m. and had done two hours' hard work in the vegetable gardens. The "Pere Hospitalier" told me that not one scrap of bread or lettuce would be left at the conclusion of the repast. The immense austerity of the place impressed me very much. The monks all slept on plank-beds, but they were not allowed to remain on these hard resting-places after 3 a.m. Their "Rule" was certainly a very severe one. I was told that the monks prepared Tincture of Arnica for medicinal purposes in an adjoining factory, arnica growing wild everywhere in the Forest, and that the sums realised by the sale of this drug added materially to their revenues.
Next day both the Substitut and I were to be received by the Abbot. It struck me as desirable that we should have our interviews separately, for as the Substitut was making a "retreat," he might wish to say many private things to the Abbot which he would not like me, a heretic, to overhear. As soon as he had finished, I was ushered in alone to the Abbot's parlour. I found the Abbot very dignified and very friendly, but what possible subject of conversation could a Protestant youth of seventeen find which would interest the Father Superior of a French Monastery, presumably indifferent to everything that passed outside its walls? Suddenly I had an inspiration: the Arian Heresy! We had had four lessons on this interesting topic at Chittenden's five years earlier (surely rather an advanced subject for little boys of twelve!), and some of the details still stuck in my head. A brilliant idea! Soon we were at it hammer and tongs; discussing Arius, Alexander, and Athanasius; the Council of Nicaea, Hosius of Cordova, homo-ousion and homoi-ousion; Eusebius of Nicomedia, and his namesake of Caesarea.
Without intending any disrespect to these two eminent Fathers of the Church, the two Eusebius' always reminded me irresistibly of the two Ajaxes of Offenbach's opera-bouffe. La Belle Helene, or, later on, of the "Two Macs" of the music-hall stage of the "nineties." I blessed Mr. Chittenden for having so thoughtfully provided me with conversational small-change suitable for Abbots. The Abbot was, I think, a little surprised at my theological lore. He asked me where I had acquired it, and when I told him that it was at school, he presumed that I had been at a seminary for youths destined for the priesthood, an idea which would have greatly shocked the ultra-Evangelical Mr. Chittenden.
I was very glad that I had passed those three days at La Trappe, for it gave one a glimpse into a wholly unsuspected world. The impression of the tremendous severity with which the lives of the monks were regulated, remained with me. The excellent monks made the most absurdly small charges for our board and lodging. Years afterwards I spent a night in an Orthodox Monastery in Russia, when I regretfully recalled the scrupulous cleanliness of La Trappe. Never have I shared a couch with so many uninvited guests, and never have I been so ruthlessly devoured as in that Russian Monastery.
With June at Nyons, silkworm time arrived. Three old women, celebrated for their skill in rearing silkworms, came down from the mountains, and the magnanerie, as lofts devoted to silkworm culture are called, was filled with huge trays fashioned with reeds. The old women had a very strenuous fortnight or so, for silkworms demand immense care and attention. The trays have to be perpetually cleaned out, and all stale mulberry leaves removed, for the quality and quantity of the silk depend on the most scrupulous cleanliness. To preserve an even temperature, charcoal fires were lighted in the magnanerie, until the little black caterpillars, having transformed themselves into repulsive flabby white worms, these worms became obsessed with the desire to increase the world's supply of silk, and to gratify them, twigs were placed in the trays for them to spin their cocoons on. The cocoons spun, they were all picked off, and baked in the public ovens of the town, in order to kill the chrysalis inside. Nothing prettier can be imagined than the streets of Nyons, with white sheets laid in front of every house, each sheet heaped high with glittering, shimmering, gleaming piles of silk-cocoons, varying in shade from palest straw-colour to deep orange. If pleasant to the eye, they were less grateful to the nose, for freshly baked cocoons have the most offensive odour. The silk-buyers from Lyons then made their appearance, and these shining heaps of gold thread were transformed into a more portable form of gold, which found its way into the pockets of the inhabitants.
The peculiarly French capacity for taking infinite pains, of which a good example is this silkworm culture, has its drawbacks, when carried into administrative work. My friend M. David, the post-master of Nyons, showed me his official instructions. They formed a volume as big as a family Bible. It would have taken years to learn all these regulations. The simplest operations were made enormously complicated. Let any one compare the time required for registering a letter or a parcel in England, with the time a similar operation in France will demand. M. David showed me the lithographed sheet giving the special forms of numerals, 1, 2, 3, and so on, which French postal officials are required to make. These differ widely from the forms in general use.
I have my own suspicions that similar sheets are issued to the cashiers in French restaurants. Personally, I can never read one single item in the bill, much less the cost, and I can only gaze in hopeless bewilderment at the long-tailed hieroglyphics, recalling a backward child's first attempts at "pot-hooks."
The infinite capacity of the French for taking trouble, and their minute attention to detail, tend towards unnecessary complications of simple matters. Thus, on English railways we find two main types of signals sufficient for our wants, whereas on French lines there are five different main types of signal. On English lines we have two secondary signals, against eight in France, all differing widely in shape and appearance. Again, on a French locomotive the driver has far more combinations at his command for efficient working under varying conditions, than is the case in England. The trend of the national mind is towards complicating details rather than simplifying them.
Delightful as was the winter climate of Nyons, that sun-scorched little cup amongst the hills became a place of positive torment as the summer advanced. The heat was absolutely unendurable. Day and night, thousands of cicades (the cigales of the French) kept up their incessant "dzig, dzig, dzig," a sound very familiar to those who have sojourned in the tropics. Has Nature given this singular insect the power of dispensing with sleep? What possible object can it hope to attain by keeping up this incessant din? If a love-song, surely the most optimistic cicada must realise that his amorous strains can never reach the ears of his lady-love, since hundreds of his brethren are all keeping up the same perpetual purposeless chirping, which must obviously drown any individual effort. Have the cicadas a double dose of gaiete francaise in their composition, and is this their manner of expressing it? Are they, like some young men we know, always yearning to turn night into day? All these are, and will remain, unsolved problems?
As I found the summer heat of Nyons unbearable, I went back to England for a holiday, and, on the morning of my departure, climbed some olive trees and captured fourteen live cicadas, whom I imprisoned in a perforated cardboard box, and took back to London with me. Twelve of them survived the journey, and as soon as I had arrived, I carefully placed the cicadas on the boughs of the trees in our garden in Green Street, Grosvenor Square. Conceive the surprise of these travelled insects at finding themselves on the soot-laden branches of a grimy London tree! The dauntless little creatures at once recommenced their "dzig, dzig, dzig," in their novel environment, and kept it up uninterruptedly for twenty-four hours, in spite of the lack of appreciation of my family, who complained that their night's rest had been seriously interfered with by the unaccustomed noise. Next evening the cicadas were silent. Possibly they had been choked with soot, or had fallen a prey to London cats; but my own theory is that they succumbed to the after-effects of a rough Channel passage, to which, of course, they would not have been accustomed. Anyhow, for the first time in the history of the world, the purlieus of Grosvenor Square rang with the shrill chirping of cicadas for twenty-four hours on end.
Six months later I regretfully bid farewell to Nyons, and went direct from there to Germany. After studying the Teutonic tongue for two and a half years at Harrow I was master of just two words in it, ja and nein, so unquestionably there were gaps to fill up.
I was excedingly sorry to leave the delightful Ducros family who had treated me so kindly, and I owe a deep debt of gratitude to comely Mme. Ducros for the careful way in which she taught me history. In teaching history she used what I may call the synoptic method, taking periods of fifty years, and explaining contemporaneous events in France, Italy, Germany, and England during that period.
With the exception of one friendly visit to the Ducros, I have never seen pleasant Nyons again. Of late years I have often meditated a pilgrimage to that sunny little cup in the Dauphine hills, but have hesitated owing to one of the sad penalties advancing years bring with them; every single one of my friends, man or woman, must have passed away long since. I can see Nyons, with its encircling fringe of blue hills, just as vividly, perhaps, with my inner eyes as I could if it lay actually before me, and now I can still people it with the noisy, gesticulating inhabitants whom I knew and liked so much.
I may add that in Southern French style Nyons is pronounced "Nyonsse," just as Carpentras is termed "Carpentrasse."
Brunswick—Its beauty—High level of culture—The Brunswick Theatre—Its excellence—Gas vs. electricity—Primitive theatre toilets—Operatic stars in private life—Some operas unknown in London—Dramatic incidents in them—Levasseur's parody of "Robert"—Some curious details about operas—Two fiery old Pan-Germans—Influence of the teaching profession on modern Germany—The "French and English Clubs"—A meeting of the "English Club"—Some reflections about English reluctance to learn foreign tongues—Mental attitude of non-Prussians in 1875—Concerning various beers—A German sportsman—The silent, quinine-loving youth—The Harz Mountains—A "Kettle-drive" for hares—Dialects of German—The odious "Kaffee-Klatsch"—Universal gossip—Hamburg's overpowering hospitality—Hamburg's attitude towards Britain—The city itself—Trip to British Heligoland—The island—Some peculiarities—Migrating birds—Sir Fitzhardinge Maxse—Lady Maxse—The Heligoland Theatre—Winter in Heligoland.
BRUNSWICK had been selected for me as a suitable spot in which to learn German, and to Brunswick I accordingly went. As I was then eighteen years old, I did not care to go to a regular tutor's, but wished to live in a German family, where I was convinced I could pick up the language in far shorter time. I was exceedingly fortunate in this respect. A well-to-do Managing Director of some jute-spinning mills had recently built himself a large house. Mr. Spiegelberg found not only that his new house was unnecessarily big for his family, but he also discovered that it had cost him a great deal more than he had anticipated. He was quite willing, therefore, to enter into an arrangement for our mutual benefit.
Brunswick is one of the most beautiful old towns in Europe, Its narrow, winding streets are (or, perhaps, were) lined with fifteenth and sixteenth century timbered houses, each storey projecting some two feet further over the street than the one immediately below it, and these wooden house-fronts were one mass of the most beautiful and elaborate carving. Imagine Staples Inn in Holborn double its present height, and with every structural detail chiselled with patient care into intricate patterns of fruit and foliage, and you will get some idea of a Brunswick street. The town contained four or five splendid old churches, and their mediaeval builders had taken advantage of the dead-flat, featureless plain in which Brunswick stands, to erect such lofty towers as only the architects in the Low Countries ever devised; towers which served as landmarks for miles around, their soaring height silhouetted against the pale northern sky. The irregular streets and open places contained one or two gems of Renaissance architecture, such as the stone-built Town Hall and "Guild House," both very similar in character to buildings of the same date in sleepy old Flemish towns. The many gushing fountains of mediaeval bronze and iron-work in the streets added to the extraordinary picturesqueness of the place. It was like a scene from an opera in real life. It always puzzled me to think how the water for these fountains can have been provided on that dead-flat plain in pre-steam days. There must have been pumps of some sort. Before 1914, tens of thousands of tourists visited Nuremberg annually, but the guide-books are almost silent about Brunswick, which is fully as picturesque.
The standard of material comfort appeared far higher in Brunswick than in a French provincial town. The manner in which the Spiegelbergs' house was fitted up seemed very elaborate after the simple appointments of the Ducros' farm-house, though nothing in the world would have induced me to own one single object that this Teutonic residence contained. The Spiegelbergs treated me extremely kindly, and I was fortunate in being quartered on such agreeable people.
At Nyons there was not one single bookseller, but Brunswick bristled with book-shops, and, in addition, there were two of those most excellent lending libraries to be found in every German town. Here almost every book ever published in German or English was to be found, as well as a few very cautiously selected French ones, for German parents were careful then as to what their daughters read.
The great resource of Brunswick was the theatre, such a theatre as does not exist in any French provincial town, and such a theatre as has never even been dreamed of in any British town. It was fully as large as Drury Lane, and was subsidised by the State. I really believe that every opera ever written was given here, and given quite admirably. In this town of 60,000 inhabitants, in addition to the opera company, there was a fine dramatic company, as well as a light opera company, and a corps de ballet. Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday were devoted to grand opera, Monday to classical drama (Schiller or Shakespeare), Wednesday to modern comedy, Friday to light opera or farce. The bill was constantly changing, and every new piece produced in Berlin or Vienna was duly presented to the Brunswick public. There are certainly some things we can learn from Germany! The mounting of the operas was most excellent, and I have never seen better lighting effects than on the Brunswick stage, and this, too, was all done by gas, incandescent electric light not then being dreamed of even. I had imagined in my simplicity that effects were far easier to produce on the modern stage since the introduction of electric light. Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, than whom there can be no greater authority, tells me that this is not so. To my surprise, he declares that electric light is too crude and white, and that it destroys all illusion. He informs me that it is impossible to obtain a convincing moonlight effect with electricity, or to give a sense of atmosphere. Gas-light was yellow, and colour-effects were obtained by dropping thin screens of coloured silk over the gas-battens in the flies. This diffused the light, which a crude blue or red electric bulb does not do. Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson astonished me by telling me that Henry Irving always refused to have electric light on the stage at the Lyceum, though he had it in the auditorium. All those marvellous and complicated effects, which old playgoers must well recollect in Irving's Lyceum productions, were obtained with gas. I remember the lovely sunset, with its after-glow fading slowly into night, in the garden scene of the Lyceum version of Faust, and this was all done with gas. The factor of safety is another matter. With rows of flaming gas-battens in the flies, however carefully screened off, and another row of "gas lengths" in the wings, and flaring "ground-rows" in close proximity to highly inflammable painted canvas, the inevitable destiny of a gas-lit theatre is only a question of time. The London theatres of the "sixties" all had a smell of mingled gas and orange-peel, which I thought delicious.
Mr. Spiegelberg most sensibly suggested that as I was absolutely ignorant of German, the easiest manner in which I could accustom my ears to the sound of the language would be to take an abonnement at the theatre, and to go there nightly. So for the modest sum of thirty shillings per month, I found myself entitled to a stall in the second row, with the right of seeing thirty performances a month. I went every night to the theatre, and there was no monotony about it, for the same performance was never repeated twice in one month. I have seen, I think, every opera ever written, and every single one of Shakespeare's tragedies. A curious trait in the German character is petty vindictiveness. A certain Herr Behrens had signed a contract as principal bass with the Brunswick management. Getting a far more lucrative offer from Vienna, the prudent Behrens had paid a fine, and thrown over the Brunswick theatre. For eighteen months the unfortunate man was pilloried every night on the theatre programmes. Every play-bill had printed on it in large letters, "Kontrakt-bruchig Herr Behrens," never allowing the audience to forget that poor Behrens was a convicted "contract-breaker."
Half Brunswick went to the theatre every night of its life. The ladies made no pretence of elaborate toilets, but contented themselves with putting two tacks into the necks of their day gowns so as to make a V-shaped opening. (With present fashions this would not be necessary.) Over this they placed one of those appalling little arrangements of imitation lace and blue or pink bows, to be seen in the shop windows of every German town, and known, I think, as Theater-Garnitures. They then drew on a pair of dark plum-coloured gloves, and their toilet was complete. The contrast between the handsome white-and-gold theatre and the rows of portly, dowdy matrons, each one with her ample bosom swathed in a piece of antimacassar, was very comical. Every abonne had his own peg for hanging his coat and hat on, and this, and the fact that one's neighbours in the stalls were invariably the same, gave quite a family atmosphere to the Brunswick theatre.
The conductor was Franz Abt the composer, and the musical standard of the operatic performances was very high indeed. The mounting was always excellent, but going to the theatre night after night, some of the scenery became very familiar. There was a certain Gothic hall which seemed to share the mobile facilities of Aladdin's palace. This hall was ubiquitous, whether the action of the piece lay in Germany, Italy, France, or England, Mary Queen of Scots sobbed in this hall; Wallenstein in Schiller's tragedy ranted in it; Rigoletto reproved his flighty daughter in it. It seemed curious that personages so widely different should all have selected the same firm of upholsterers to fit up their sanctums.
The Spiegelbergs had many friends in the theatrical world, and I was immensely thrilled one evening at learning that after the performance of Lohengrin, Elsa and the Knight of the Swan were coming home to supper with us. When Elsa appeared on the balcony in the second act, and the moon most obligingly immediately appeared to light up her ethereal white draperies, I was much excited at reflecting that in two hours' time I might be handing this lovely maiden the mustard, and it seemed hardly credible that the resplendent Lohengrin would so soon abandon his swan in favour of the homely goose that was awaiting him at the Spiegelbergs', although the latter would enjoy the advantage of being roasted.
I was on the tip-toe of expectation until the singers arrived. Fraulein Scheuerlein, the soprano, was fat, fair, and forty, all of them perhaps on the liberal side. As she burst into the room, the first words I heard from the romantic Elsa, whom I had last seen sobbing over her matrimonial difficulties, were: "Dear Frau Spiegelberg, my..." (Elsa here used a blunt dissyllable to indicate her receptacle for food) "is hanging positively crooked with hunger. Quick! For the love of Heaven, some bread and butter and sausage, or I shall faint;" so the first words the heroine of the evening addressed to me were somewhat blurred owing to her mouth being full of sausage, which destroyed most of the glamour of the situation. Hedwig Scheuerlein was a big, jolly, cheery South-German, and she was a consummate artist in spite of her large appetite, as was the tenor Schrotter too. Schrotter was a fair-bearded giant, who was certainly well equipped physically for playing "heroic" parts. He had one of those penetrating virile German tenor voices that appeal to me. These good-natured artists would sing us anything we wanted, but it was from them that I first got an inkling of those petty jealousies that are such a disagreeable feature of the theatrical world in every country. Buxom Scheuerlein was a very good sort, and I used to feel immensely elated at receiving in my stall a friendly nod over the footlights from Isolde, Aida, Marguerite, or Lucia, as the case might be.
I wonder why none of Meyerbeer's operas are ever given in London. The "books," being by Scribe, are all very dramatic, and lend themselves to great spectacular display; Meyerbeer's music is always melodious, and has a certain obvious character about it that would appeal to an average London audience. This is particularly true with regard to the Prophete. The Coronation scene can be made as gorgeous as a Drury Lane pantomime, and the finale of the opera is thrilling, though the three Anabaptists are frankly terrible bores. As given at Brunswick, in the last scene the Prophet, John of Leyden, is discovered at supper with some boon companions in rather doubtful female society. In the middle of his drinking-song the palace is blown up. There is a loud crash; the stage grows dark; hall, supper-table, and revellers all disappear; and the curtain comes down slowly on moonlight shining over some ruins, and the open country beyond. A splendid climax! Again, the third act of Robert le Diable is magnificently dramatic. Bertram, the Evil One in person, leads Robert to a deserted convent whose nuns, having broken the most important of their vows, have all been put to death. The curtain goes up on the dim cloisters of the convent, the cloister-garth, visible through the Gothic arches of the arcade, bathed in bright moonlight beyond. Bertram begins his incantations, recalling the erring nuns from the dead. Very slowly the tombs in the cloister open, and dim grey figures, barely visible in the darkness, creep silently out from the graves. Bertram waves his arms over the cloister-garth, and there, too, the tombs gape apart, and more shadowy spectres emerge. Soon the stage is full of these faint grey spectral forms. Bertram lifts his arms. The wicked nuns throw off their grey wrappers, and appear glittering in scarlet and gold; the stage blazes with light, and the ballet, the famous "Pas de Fascination," begins. When really well done, this scene is tremendously impressive.
I once heard in Paris, Levasseur, the French counterpart of our own Corney Grain, giving a skit on Robert le Diable, illustrating various stage conventions. Levasseur, seated at his piano, and keeping up an incessant ripple of melody, talked something like this, in French, of course:—
"The stage represents Isabelle's bedroom. As is usual with stage bedrooms, Isabelle's bower is about the size of an average cathedral. It is very sparsely furnished, but near the footlights is a large gilt couch, on which Isabelle is lying fast asleep. Robert enters on tip-toe very very gently, so as not to disturb his beloved, and sings in a voice that you could hear two miles off, 'Isa-belle!' dropping a full octave on the last note. Isabelle half awakes, and murmurs, 'I do believe I heard something. I feel so nervous!' Robert advances a yard, and sings again, if anything rather louder, 'Isa-belle!' Isabelle says: 'Really, my nerves do play me such tricks! I can't help fancying that there is some one in the room, and I am so terribly afraid of burglars. Perhaps it is only a mouse.' Robert advances right up to Isabelle's bed, and shouts for the third time in a voice that makes the chandelier ring again, 'Isa-belle!' Isabelle says, 'I don't think that I can have imagined that. There really is some one in the room. I'm terribly frightened, and don't quite know what to do,' so she gets out of bed, and anxiously scans the stalls and boxes over the footlights for signs of an intruder. Finding no one there but the audience, she then searches the gallery fruitlessly, and getting a sudden inspiration, she looks behind her, and, to her immense astonishment, finds her lover standing within a foot of her." This, as told with Levasseur's inimitable drollery, was excruciatingly funny.
Robert is an expensive opera to put on, for, owing to hideous jealousies at the Paris Opera, Meyerbeer was compelled to write two prima-donna parts which afforded the rival ladies exactly equal opportunities. In the same way Halevy, the composer of La Juive, had to re-arrange and transpose his score, for Adolphe Nourrit, the great Paris tenor, in 1835, when the opera was first produced, was jealous of the splendid part the bass had been given, the tenor's role being quite insignificant. So it came about that La Juive is the only opera in which the grey-bearded old father is played by the principal tenor, whilst the lover is the light tenor. Mehul's Biblical Joseph and his Brethren is the one opera in which there are no female characters, though "Benjamin" is played by the leading soprano. In both the Prophete and Favorita the contralto plays the principal part, the soprano having a very subsidiary role. Meyerbeer wrote the part of the Prophet himself specially for Roger, the great tenor, and that of "Fides" for Mme. Viardot. By the way, the famous skating scene in the Prophete was part of the original production in Paris of 1849, and yet we think roller-skating an invention of yesterday.
I had German lessons from a Professor Hentze. This old man was the first example of a militant German that I had come across. He was always talking of Germany's inevitable and splendid destiny. Although a Hanoverian by birth, he was a passionate admirer of Bismarck and Bismarck's policy, and was a furious Pan-German in sentiment. "Where the German tongue is heard, there will be the German Fatherland," he was fond of quoting in the original. As he declared that both Dutch and Flemish were but variants of Low German, he included Holland and Belgium in the Greater Germany of the future, as well as the German-speaking Cantons of Switzerland, and Upper and Lower Austria. Mentally, he possibly included a certain island lying between the North Sea and the Atlantic as well, though, out of regard for my feelings, he never mentioned it. Hentze taught English and French in half a dozen boys' and girls' schools in Brunswick, and his brother taught history in the "Gymnasium." These two mild-mannered be-spectacled old bachelors, who in their leisure moments took snuff and played with their poodle, were tremendous fire-eaters. They were both enormously proud of the exploits of a cousin of theirs who, under the guise of a harmless commercial traveller in wines, had been engaged in spying and map-making for five years in Eastern France prior to 1870. It was, they averred (no doubt truthfully enough), owing to the labours of their cousin and of countless others like him, that the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 had been such an overwhelming success for Germany. Where German interests were concerned, these two old brothers could see nothing under a white light. And remember that they were teachers and trainers of youth; it was they who had the moulding of the minds of the young generation. I think that any one who knows Germany well will agree with me that it is the influence of the teaching class, whether in school or university, that has transformed the German mentality so greatly during the last forty years. These two mild-mannered old Hentzes must have infected scores and hundreds of lads with their own aggressively militant views. By perpetually holding up to them their own dream of a Germany covering half Europe, they must have transmitted some of their own enthusiasm to their pupils, and underlying that enthusiasm was a tacit assumption that the end justified any means; that provided the goal were attained, the manner in which it had been arrived at was a matter of quite secondary importance. I maintain that the damnable spirit of modern Germany is mainly due to the teaching profession, and to the doctrines it consistently instilled into German youth.
The Hentzes took in eight resident German pupils who attended the various schools in the town, mostly sons of wealthy Hamburg business-people. Hentze was always urging me to associate more with these lads, three of whom were of my own age, but I could discover no common ground whatever on which to meet them. The things that interested me did not appeal to them, and vice versa. They seemed to me dull youths, heavy alike in mind and body. From lack of sufficient fresh air and exercise they had all dull eyes, and flabby, white faces that quivered like blancmanges when they walked. In addition, they obstinately refused to talk German with me, looking on me as affording an excellent opportunity for obtaining a gratuitous lesson in English. One of Hentze's pupils was a great contrast, physically, to the rest, for he was very spare and thin, and seldom opened his mouth. I was to see a great deal of this silent, slim lad later on.
Mr. Spiegelberg was a prominent member of the so-called English and French Club in Brunswick. This was not in the least what its name would seem to indicate; the members of the Club were not bursting with overwhelming love for our language and institutions, nor were they consumed with enthusiastic admiration for French art and literature. They were merely some fifteen very practical Brunswick commercial men, who, realising that a good working knowledge of English and French would prove extremely useful to them in their business relations, met at each other's houses in rotation on one night a week during the winter months, when the host of the evening provided copious supplies of wine, beer and cigars. For one hour and a half the members of the Club had to talk English or French as the case might be, under a penalty of a fine of one thaler (three shillings) for every lapse into their native German. Mr. Spiegelberg informed me that I had been elected an honorary member of the English and French Club, which flattered my vanity enormously at the time. In the light of more mature experience I quite understand that the presence of a youth to whom knotty points in both languages could be submitted would be a considerable asset to the Club, but I then attributed my election solely to my engaging personality. These Club evenings amused me enormously, though incidentally they resulted in my acquiring a precocious love of strong, rank Hamburg cigars. Let us imagine fifteen portly, be-spectacled, middle-aged or elderly men seated around a table groaning under a collection of bottles of all shapes and sizes, addressing each other in laboured inverted English. The German love of titles is a matter of common knowledge. All these business men had honorific appellations which they translated into English and introduced scrupulously into every sentence. The conversation was something like this:
"But, Mr. Over-Inspector of Railways, I do not think that you understand rightly what Mr. Factory Director Spiegelberg says. Mr. Factory Director also spins jute. To make concurrenz with Dundee in Schottland, he must produce cheaply. To produce cheaply he must become...no, obtain new machinery from Leeds in England. If that machinery is duty-payable, Mr. Factory Director cannot produce so cheaply. That seems to me clear. Once our German industries established are, then we will see. That is another matter."
"I take the liberty to differ, Mr. Councillor of Commerce. How then shall our German industries flourish, if they not protected be? What for a doctrine is that? Mr. Factory Director Spiegelberg thinks only of jute. Outside jute, the German world of commerce is greater, and with in-the-near-future-to-be-given railways facilities, vast and imposing shortly shall be."
"What Mr. Councillor of Commerce just has said, is true. You, Mr. Over-Inspector of Railways, and also you, Mr. Ducal Supervisor of Forests, are not merchants like us, but much-skilled specialists; so is the point of view different, Mr. Town Councillor Balhorn, you have given us most brilliant beer to-night. This is no beer of here, it must be real Munich. It tastes famous. Prosit!"
"I thank you, Mr. Court Councillor. In the place, gentlemen, of with-anger-discussing Free Trade, let us all drink some Munich beer. Discussion is good, but beer with content is better."
Now I put it to you—could any one picture fifteen English business men in Manchester, Liverpool, or Leeds doing anything so sensible as to meet once a week amongst themselves, to acquire proficiency and fluency in French, Spanish, or German, all of which languages they must presumably require at times for the purposes of their business. Every one knows that it is unthinkable. No Englishman could be bothered to take the trouble. Why is it that English people have this extraordinary reluctance to learn any foreign language? It is certainly not from want of natural ability to do so, though this natural aptitude may be discounted by the difficulty most English people experience in keeping their minds concentrated. I venture to assert unhesitatingly that, with the exception of Dutch and Russian people, English folk learn foreign languages with greater ease than any other nationality. This is notably true with regard to Russian and Spanish. The English throat is more flexible than that of the Frenchman or German, and, with the one exception of French, there are no unwonted sounds in any European language that an Englishman cannot reproduce fairly accurately. We have something like the hard Russian "l" in the last syllable of "impossible," and to the Scottish or Irish throat the Dutch hard initial guttural, and the Spanish soft guttural offer but little difficulty. "Jorje," which looks like "George" spelt phonetically, but is pronounced so very differently, can easily be mastered, and that real teaser "gracht," the Dutch for "canal," with a strong guttural at either end of it, comes easily out of a Scottish throat. The power to acquire these tongues is there, but the inclination is woefully lacking.
Some ten years ago I went out to Panama to have a look at the canal works. On board the mail-steamer there were twelve commercial travellers representing British firms, bound for the West Coast of South America. Ten of these twelve were Germans, all speaking English and Spanish fluently in addition to their native German. The other two were English, not knowing one word of any language but their own. I had a long talk with these two Englishmen, and asked them whether they were familiar with the varying monetary standards of the countries they were going to visit; for the nominal dollar represents a widely different value in each South American State. No, they knew nothing whatever about this, and were quite ignorant of Spanish-American weights and measures. Now what possible object did the firms sending out these ill-equipped representatives hope to attain? Could they in their wildest moments have supposed that they would get one single order through their agency? And how came it about that these young men were so ignorant of the language and customs of the countries they were proposing to travel? During the voyage I noticed the German travellers constantly conversing with South Americans from the Pacific Coast, in an endeavour to improve their working knowledge of Spanish; meanwhile the young Englishmen played deck-quoits and talked English. That in itself is quite sufficiently characteristic. In Manchester there is a firm who do a large business in manufacturing brightly coloured horse-trappings for the South American market. I speak with some confidence about this, for I have myself watched those trappings being made. Most of the "ponchos" used in the Argentine are woven in Glasgow. Why is it that in these two great industrial centres no one seems to have thought of establishing a special class in any of the numerous schools and colleges for training youths as commercial travellers in foreign countries? They would have, in addition to learning two or three languages, to get used to making quick calculations in dollars and cents, and in dollars of very varying values; they would also have to learn to THINK quickly in weights and measures different to those to which they had been accustomed. Why should British firms be compelled to use German travellers, owing to the ineptitude of their own countrymen? The power to learn is there; it is only the will that is lacking, and in justice I must add, perhaps the necessary facilities. People who do not mind taking trouble will always in the end get a pull over people who hate all trouble. I think that our present King once cried, "Buck up, England!" and his Majesty spoke true; very few things can be done in this world without taking a little trouble.
To return, after this long digression, to the portly German middle-aged business men who met weekly in Brunswick to improve their working knowledge of French and English, I must candidly say that I never detected the faintest shadow of animosity to Great Britain in them. They were not Prussians—they were Hanoverians and Brunswickers. They felt proud, I think, that the throne of Britain was then occupied by a branch of their own ancient House of Guelph; they remembered the hundred years' connection between Britain and Hanover; as business men they acknowledged Britain's then unquestioned industrial supremacy, and they recognised that men of their class enjoyed in England a position and a power which was not accorded to them in Germany. Certainly they never lost an opportunity of pointing out that Britain was neither a military nor a fighting nation, and would never venture again to conduct a campaign on the Continent. Recent events will show how correct they were in their forecasts.
I liked the society of these shrewd, practical men, for from being so much with the French judges, I had become accustomed to associating with men double or treble my own age. There was nothing corresponding to the gaiete francaise about them, though at times a ponderous playfulness marked their lighter moments, and flashes of elephantine jocularity enlivened the proceedings of the Club. I picked up some useful items of knowledge from them, for I regret to admit that up to that time I had no idea what a bill of lading was, or a ship's manifest; after a while, even such cryptic expressions, too, as f.o.b. and c.i.f. ceased to have any mysteries for me. Let the inexperienced beware of "Swedish Punch," a sickly, highly-scented preparation of arrack. I do not speak from personal experience, for I detest the sweet, cloying stuff; but it occasionally fell to my lot to guide down-stairs the uncertain footsteps of some ventripotent Kommerzien-Rath, or even of Mr. Over-Inspector of Railways himself, both temporarily incapacitated by injudicious indulgence in Swedish Punch. "So, Herr Ober-Inspector, endlich sind wir glucklich herunter gekommen. Jetz konnen Sie nach Hause immer aug gleichem Fusse gehen. Naturlich! Jedermann weisst wie abscheulich kraftig Schwedischer Punsch ist. Die Strasse ist ganz leer. Gluckliche Heimkehr, Herr Ober-Inspector!"
It was difficult to attend the Club without becoming a connoisseur in various kinds of German beer. Brunswick boasts a special local sweet black beer, brewed from malted wheat instead of barley, known as "Mumme"—heavy, unpalatable stuff. If any one will take the trouble to consult Whitaker's Almanac, and turn to "Customs Tariff of the United Kingdom," they will find the very first article on the list is "Mum." "Berlin white beer" follows this. One of the few occasions when I have ever known Mr. Gladstone nonplussed for an answer, was in a debate on the Budget (I think in 1886) on a proposed increase of excise duties. Mr. Gladstone was asked what "Mum" was, and confessed that he had not the smallest idea. The opportunity for instructing the omniscient Mr. Gladstone seemed such a unique one, that I nearly jumped up in my place to tell him that it was a sweet black beer brewed from wheat, and peculiar to Brunswick; but being a very young Member of the House then, I refrained, as it looked too much like self-advertisement; besides, "Mum" was so obviously the word. "White beer" is only made in Berlin; it is not unlike our ginger-beer, and is pleasant enough. The orthodox way of ordering it in Berlin is to ask the waiter for "eine kuhle Blonde." I do not suppose that one drop of either of these beverages has been imported into the United Kingdom for a hundred years; equally I imagine that the first two Georges loved them as recalling their beloved Hanover, and indulged freely in them; whence their place in our Customs tariff.
One of the members of the English and French Club was a Mr. Vieweg, at that time, I believe, the largest manufacturer of sulphate of quinine in Europe. Mr. Vieweg was that rara avis amongst middle-class German business-men, a born sportsman. He had already made two sporting trips to Central Africa after big game, and rented a large shooting estate near Brunswick. In common with the other members of the Club, he treated me very kindly and hospitably, and I often had quaint repasts at his house, beginning with sweet chocolate soup, and continuing with eels stewed in beer, carp with horseradish, "sour-goose," and other Teutonic delicacies. Mr. Vieweg's son was one of Hentze's pupils, and was the thin, silent boy I have already noticed. I remember well how young Vieweg introduced himself to me in laboured English, "Are you a friend to fishing with the fly?" he asked. "I also fish most gladly, and if you wish, we will together to the Harz Mountains go, and there many trout catch." As the Harz Mountains are within an hour of Brunswick by train, off we went, and young Vieweg was certainly a most expert fisherman. My respect for him was increased enormously when I found that he did not mind in the least how wet he got whilst fishing. Most German boys of his age would have thought standing in cold water up to their knees a certain forerunner of immediate death.