Sir Charles had quite a library of occult books, from which I endeavoured to glean a little knowledge, and great rubbish most of them were. Raymond Lully, Basil Valentine, Paracelsus, and Van Helmont; they were all there, in French, German, Latin, and English. The Alchemists had two obsessions: one was the discovery of the Elixir of Life, by the aid of which you could live forever; the other that of the Philosopher's Stone, which had the property of transmuting everything it touched into gold. Like practical men, they seemed to have concentrated their energies more especially on the latter, for a moment's consideration will show the exceedingly awkward predicament in which any one would be placed with only the first of these conveniences at his command. Should he by the aid of the Elixir of Life have managed to attain the age of, say, 300 years, he might find it excessively hard to obtain any remunerative employment at that time of life; whereas with the Philosopher's Stone in his pocket, he would only have to touch the door-scraper outside his house to find it immediately transmuted into the purest gold. In case of pressing need, he could extend the process with like result to his area railings, which ought to be enough to keep the wolf from the door for some little while even at the present-day scale of prices.
Basil Valentine, the German Benedictine monk and alchemist, who wrote a book which he quaintly termed The Triumphant Wagon, in praise of the healing properties of antimony, actually thought that he had discovered the Elixir of Life in tartrate of antimony, more generally known as tartar emetic. He administered large doses of this turbulent remedy to some ailing monks of his community, who promptly all died of it.
The main characteristics of the Alchemists is their wonderful clarity. For instance, when they wish to refer to mercury, they call it "the green lion," and the "Pontic Sea," which makes it quite obvious to every one. They attached immense importance to the herb "Lunary," which no one as yet has ever been able to discover. Should any one happen to see during their daily walks "a herb with a black root, and a red and violet stalk, whose leaves wax and wane with the moon," they will at once know that they have found a specimen of the rare herb "Lunary." The juice of this plant, if boiled with quicksilver, has only to be thrown over one hundred ounces of copper, to change them instantly into fine gold. Paracelsus' directions for making the Philosopher's Stone are very simple: "Take the rosy-coloured blood of the lion, and gluten from the eagle. Mix them together, and the Philosopher's Stone is thine. Seek the lion in the west, and the eagle in the south." What could be clearer? Any child could make sufficient Philosopher's Stones from this simple recipe to pave a street with—a most useful asset, by the way, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the present time, for every bicycle, omnibus and motor-lorry driving over the Philosopher Stone-paved street would instantly be changed automatically into pure gold, and the National Debt could be satisfactorily liquidated in this fashion in no time.
Whenever I returned home on leave, whether from Berlin, Petrograd, Lisbon, or Buenos Ayres, I invariably spent a portion of my leave at Glamis Castle. This venerable pile, "whose birth tradition notes not," though the lower portions were undoubtedly standing in 1016, rears its forest of conical turrets in the broad valley lying between the Grampians and the Sidlaws, in the fertile plains of Forfarshire. Apart from the prestige of its immense age, Glamis is one of the most beautiful buildings in the Three Kingdoms. The exquisitely weathered tints of grey-pink and orange that its ancient red sandstone walls have taken on with the centuries, its many gables and towers rising in summer-time out of a sea of greenery, the richness of its architectural details, make Glamis a thing apart. There is nothing else quite like it. No more charming family can possibly be imagined than that of the late Lord Strathmore, forty years ago. The seven sons and three daughters of the family were all born musicians. I have never heard such perfect and finished part-singing as that of the Lyon family, and they were always singing: on the way to a cricket-match; on the road home from shooting; in the middle of dinner, even, this irrepressible family could not help bursting into harmony, and such exquisite harmony, too! Until their sisters grew up, the younger boys sang the treble and alto parts, but finally they were able to manage a male-voice quartet, a trio of ladies' voices, and a combined family octette. The dining-room at Glamis is a very lofty hall, oak-panelled, with a great Jacobean chimney-piece rising to the roof. After dinner it was the custom for the two family pipers to make the circuit of the table three times, and then to walk slowly off, still playing, through the tortuous stone passages of the ancient building until the last faint echoes of the music had died away. Then all the lights in the dining-room were extinguished except the candles on the table, and out came a tuning-fork, and one note was sounded—"Madrigal," "Spring is Come, third beat," said the conducting brother, and off they went, singing exquisitely; glees, madrigals, part-songs, anything and everything, the acoustic properties of the lofty room adding to the effect. All visitors to Glamis were charmed with this most finished singing—always, of course, without accompaniment. They sang equally well in the private chapel, giving admirable renderings of the most intricate "Services," and, from long practice together, their voices blended perfectly. This gifted family were equally good at acting. They had a permanent stage during the winter months at Glamis, and as every new Gilbert and Sullivan opera was produced in London, the concerted portions were all duly repeated at Glamis, and given most excellently. I have never heard the duet and minuet between "Sir Marmaduke" and "Lady Sangazure" from The Sorcerer better done than at Glamis, although Sir Marmaduke was only nineteen, and Lady Sangazure, under her white wig, was a boy of twelve. The same boy sang "Mabel" in the Pirates of Penzance most admirably.
In 1884 it was conveyed to Lord Strathmore that Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone, whom he did not know personally, were most anxious to see Glamis. Of course an invitation was at once dispatched, and in spite of the rigorously Tory atmosphere of the house, we were all quite charmed with Mr. Gladstone's personality. Lord Strathmore wished to stop the part-singing after dinner, but I felt sure that Mr. Gladstone would like it, so it took place as usual. The old gentleman was perfectly enchanted with it, and complimented this tuneful family enthusiastically on the perfect finish of their singing. Next evening Mr. Gladstone asked for a part-song in the middle of dinner, and as the singing was continued in the drawing-room afterwards, he went and, with a deferential courtesy charming to see in a man of his age and position, asked whether the young people would allow an old man to sing bass in the glees with them. Mr. Gladstone still had a very fine resonant bass, and he read quite admirably. It was curious to see the Prime Minister reading off the same copy as an Eton boy of sixteen, who was singing alto. Being Sunday night, they went on singing hymns and anthems till nearly midnight; there was no getting Mr. Gladstone away. Mrs. Gladstone told me next day that he had not enjoyed himself so much for many months.
There was a blend of simplicity, dignity, and kindliness in Mrs. Gladstone's character that made her very attractive. My family were exceedingly fond of her, and though two of my brothers were always attacking Mr. Gladstone in the most violent terms, this never strained their friendly relations with Mrs. Gladstone herself. I always conjure up visions of Mrs. Gladstone in her sapphire-blue velvet, her invariable dress of ceremony. Though a little careless as to her appearance, she always looked a "great lady," and her tall figure, and the kindly old face with its crown of silvery hair, were always welcomed in the houses of those privileged to know her.
The Lyon family could do other things besides singing and acting. The sons were all excellent shots, and were very good at games. One brother was lawn-tennis champion of Scotland, whilst another, with his partner, won the Doubles Championship of England.
Glamis is the oldest inhabited house in Great Britain. As Shakespeare tells us in Macbeth,
"This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself Unto our gentle senses."
The vaulted crypt was built before 1016, and another ancient stone-flagged, stone-vaulted hall leading out of it is the traditional scene of the murder of Duncan by Macbeth, the "Thane of Glamis." In a room above it King Malcolm II. of Scotland was murdered in 1034. The castle positively teems with these agreeable traditions. The staircases and their passages are stone-walled, stone-roofed, and stone-floored, and their flags are worn into hollows by the feet which have trodden them for so many centuries. Unusual features are the secret winding staircases debouching in the most unexpected places, and a well in the front hall, which doubtless played a very useful part during the many sieges the castle sustained in the old days. The private chapel is a beautiful little place of worship, with eighty painted panels of Scriptural subjects by De Witt, the seventeenth-century Dutch artist, and admirable stained glass. The Castle, too, is full of interesting historical relics. It boasts the only remaining Fool's dress of motley in the kingdom; Prince Charlie's watch and clothes are still preserved there, for the Prince, surprised by the Hanoverian troops at Glamis, had only time to jump on a horse and escape, leaving all his belongings behind him. There is a wonderful collection of old family dresses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and above all there is the very ancient silver-gilt cup, "The Lion of Glamis," which holds an entire bottle of wine, and on great family occasions is still produced and used as a loving-cup, circulating from hand to hand round the table. Walter Scott in a note to Waverly states that it was the "Lion of Glamis" cup which gave him the idea of the "Blessed Bear of Bradwardine." In fact, there is no end to the objects of interest this wonderful old castle contains, and the Lyon family have inhabited it for six hundred years in direct line from father to son.
It is difficult for me to write impartially about Glamis, for it is as familiar to me as my own home. I have been so much there, and have received such kindness within its venerable walls, that it can never be to me quite as other places are. I can see vast swelling stretches of purple heather, with the dainty little harebells all a-quiver in the strong breeze sweeping over the grouse-butts, as a brown mass of whirling wings rushes past at the pace of an express train, causing one probably to reflect how well-nigh impossible it is to "allow" too much for driven grouse flying down-wind. I can picture equally vividly the curling-pond in winter-time, tuneful with the merry chirrup of the curling-stones as they skim over the ice, whilst cries of "Soop her up, man, soop! Soop!" from the anxious "skip" fill the keen air. I like best, though, to think of the Glamis of my young days, when the ancient stone-built passages and halls, that have seen so many generations pass through them and disappear, rang with perpetual youthful laughter, or echoed beautifully finished part-singing; when nimble young feet twinkled, and kilts whirled to the skirl of the pipes under the vaulted roof of the nine-hundred-year-old crypt; when the whole place was vibrant with joyous young life, and the stately, grey-bearded owner of the historic castle, and of many broad acres in Strathmore besides, found his greatest pleasure in seeing how happy his children and his guests could be under his roof.
Canada—The beginnings of the C.P.R.—Attitude of British Columbia—The C.P.R. completed—Quebec—A swim at Niagara—Other mighty waterfalls—Ottawa and Rideau Hall—Effects of dry climate—Personal electricity—Every man his own dynamo—Attraction of Ottawa—Curling—The "roaring game"—Skating—An ice-palace—A ball on skates—Difficulties of translating the Bible into Eskimo—The building of the snow hut—The snow hut in use—Sir John Macdonald—Some personal traits—The Canadian Parliament buildings—Monsieur l'Orateur—A quaint oration—The "Pages' Parliament"—An all-night sitting—The "Arctic Cremorne"—A curious Lisbon custom—The Balkan "souvenir-hunters"—Personal inspection of Canadian convents—Some incidents—The unwelcome novice—The Montreal Carnival—The Ice-castle—The Skating Carnival—A stupendous toboggan slide—The pioneer of "ski" in Canada—The old-fashioned raquettes—A Canadian Spring—Wonder of the Dominion.
When I was in Canada for the first time in 1884, the Canadian Pacific Railway was not completed, and there was no through railway connection between the Maritime Provinces, "Upper" and "Lower" Canada, and the Pacific Coast, though, of course, in 1884 those old-fashioned terms for the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec had been obsolete for some time. Since the Federation of the Dominion in 1867, the opening of the Trans-Continental railway has been the most potent factor in the knitting together of Canada, and has developed the resources of the Dominion to an extent which even the most enthusiastic of the original promoters of the C.P.R. never anticipated. When British Columbia threw in its lot with the Dominion in 1871, one of the terms upon which the Pacific Province insisted was a guarantee that the Trans-Continental railway should be completed in ten years—that is, in 1881. Two rival Companies received in 1872 charters for building the railway; the result was continual political intrigue, and very little construction work. British Columbia grew extremely restive under the continual delays, and threatened to retire from the Dominion. Lord Dufferin told me himself, when I was his Private Secretary in Petrograd, that on the occasion of his official visit to British Columbia (of course by sea), in either 1876 or 1877, as Governor-General, he was expected to drive under a triumphal arch which had been erected at Victoria, Vancouver Island. This arch was inscribed on both sides with the word "Separation." I remember perfectly Lord Dufferin's actual words in describing the incident: "I sent for the Mayor of Victoria, and told him that I must have a small—a very small—alteration made in the inscription, before I could consent to drive under it; an alteration of one letter only. The initial 'S' must be replaced with an 'R' and then I would pledge my word that I would do my best to see that 'Reparation' was made to the Province." This is so eminently characteristic of Lord Dufferin's methods that it is worth recording. The suggested alteration in the inscription was duly made, and Lord Dufferin drove under the arch. In spite of continued efforts the Governor-General was unable to expedite the construction of the railway under the Mackenzie Administration, and it needed all his consummate tact to quiet the ever-growing demand for separation from the Dominion on the part of British Columbia, owing to the non-fulfilment of the terms of union. It was not until 1881, under Sir John Macdonald's Premiership, that a contract was signed with a new Company to complete the Canadian Pacific within ten years, but so rapid was the progress made, that the last spike was actually driven on November 7, 1886, five years before the stipulated time. The names of three Scotsmen will always be associated with this gigantic undertaking: those of the late Donald Smith, afterwards Lord Strathcona; George Stephen, now Lord Mount-stephen; and Mr. R. B. Angus of Montreal. The last spike, which was driven in at a place called Craigellachie, by Mrs. Mackenzie, widow of the Premier under whom the C.P.R. had been commenced, was of an unusual character, for it was of eighteen-carat gold. In the course of an hour it was replaced by a more serviceable spike of steel. I have often seen Mrs. Mackenzie wearing the original gold spike, with "Craigellachie" on it in diamonds.
There are few finer views in the world than that from the terrace of the Citadel of Quebec over the mighty expanse of the St. Lawrence, with ocean-going steamers lying so close below that it would be possible to drop a stone from the Citadel on to their decks; and the view from the Dufferin Terrace, two hundred feet lower down, is just as fine. My brother-in-law, Lord Lansdowne, had been appointed Governor-General in 1883, and I well remember my first arrival in Quebec. We had been living for five weeks in the backwoods of the Cascapedia, the famous salmon-river, under the most primitive conditions imaginable. I had come there straight from the Argentine Republic on a tramp steamer, and we lived on the Cascapedia coatless and flannel-shirted, with our legs encased in "beef moccasins" as a protection against the hordes of voracious flies that battened ravenously on us from morning to night. It was a considerable change from a tent on the banks of the rushing, foaming Cascapedia to the Citadel of Quebec, which was then appointed like a comfortable English country house, and gave one a thoroughly home-like feeling at once. After my prolonged stay in South America I was pleased, too, to recognise familiar pictures, furniture and china which I had last met in their English Wiltshire home, all of them with the stolid impassiveness of inanimate objects unaware that they had been spirited across the Atlantic, three thousand miles from their accustomed abiding-place.
In September 1884, at a point immediately below the Falls, I swam Niagara with Mr. Cecil Baring, now a partner in Baring Brothers, then an Oxford undergraduate. We were standing at the foot of the American Falls, when we noticed a little board inscribed, "William Grenfell of Taplow Court, England" (the present Lord Desborough), "swam Niagara at this spot." I looked at Baring, Baring looked at me. "I don't see why we shouldn't do it too," he observed, to which I replied, "We might have a try," so we stripped, sent our clothes over to the Canadian side, and entered the water. It was a far longer swim than either of us had anticipated, the current was very strong, and the eddies bothered us. When we landed on the Canadian shore, I was utterly exhausted, though Baring, being eight years younger than me, did not feel the effects of the exertion so much. I remember that the Falls, seen from only six inches above the surface of the water, looked like a splendid range of snow-clad hills tumbling about in mad confusion, and that the roar of waters was deafening. As we both lay panting and gasping, puris naturalibus, on the Canadian bank, I need hardly say, as we were on the American continent, that a reporter made his appearance from nowhere, armed with notebook and pencil. This young newspaper-man was not troubled with false delicacy. He asked us point-blank what we had made out of our swim. On learning that we had had no money on it, but had merely done it for the fun of the thing, he mentioned the name of a place of eternal punishment, shut up his notebook in disgust, and walked off: there was evidently no "story" to be made out of us. After some luncheon and a bottle of Burgundy, neither Baring nor I felt any the worse for our swim, nor were we the least tired during the remainder of the day. I have seen Niagara in summer, spring and in mid-winter, and each time the fascination of these vast masses of tumbling waters has grown on me. I have never, to my regret, seen the Victoria Falls of the Zambesi, as on two separate occasions when starting for them unforeseen circumstances detained me in Cape Town. The Victoria Falls are more than double the height of Niagara, Niagara falling 160 feet, and the Zambesi 330 feet, and the Falls are over one mile broad, but I fancy that except in March and April, the volume of water hurling itself over them into the great chasm below is smaller than at Niagara. I have heard that the width of the Victoria Falls is to within a few yards exactly the distance between the Marble Arch and Oxford Circus. When I was in the Argentine Republic, the great Falls of the River Iguazu, a tributary of the Parana, were absolutely inaccessible. To reach them vast tracts of dense primeval forest had to be traversed, where every inch of the track would have to be laboriously hacked through the jungle. Their very existence was questioned, for it depended on the testimony of wandering Indians, and of one solitary white man, a Jesuit missionary. Now, since the railway to Paraguay has been completed, the Iguazu Falls can be reached, though the journey is still a difficult one. The Falls are 200 feet high, and nearly a mile wide. In the very heart of the City of Ottawa there are the fine Chaudiere Falls, where the entire River Ottawa drops fifty feet over a rocky ledge. The boiling whirl of angry waters has well earned its name of cauldron, or "Chaudiere," but so much of the water has now been drawn off to supply electricity and power to the city, that the volume of the falls has become sensibly diminished. I know of no place in Europe where the irresistible might of falling waters is more fully brought home to one than at Trollhattan in Sweden. Here the Gotha River whirls itself down 120 feet in seven cataracts. They are rapids rather than falls, but it is the immense volume of water which makes them so impressive. Every year Trolhattan grows more and more disfigured by saw-mills, carbide of calcium works, and other industrial buildings sprouting up like unsightly mushrooms along the river-banks. The last time that I was there it was almost impossible to see the falls in their entirety from any point, owing to this congestion of squalid factories.
Rideau Hall, the Government House at Ottawa, stands about two miles out of the town, and is a long, low, unpretentious building, exceedingly comfortable as a dwelling-house, if somewhat inadequate as an official residence for the Governor-General of Canada. Lord Dufferin added a large and very handsome ball-room, fitted with a stage at one end of it, and a full-sized tennis-court. This tennis-court, by an ingenious arrangement, can be converted in a few hours into a splendid supper-room. A red and white tent is lowered bodily from the roof; a carpet is spread over the floor; great white-and-gold electric standards bearing the arms of the different Provinces are placed in position, and the thing is done. The intense dryness of the Canadian winter climate, especially in houses where furnace-heat intensifies the dryness, produces some unexpected results. My brother-in-law had brought out a number of old pieces of French inlaid furniture. The excessive dryness forced out some of the inlaid marqueterie of these pieces, and upon their return to Europe they had to undergo a long and expensive course of treatment. Some fine Romneys and Gainesboroughs also required the picture-restorer's attentions before they could return to their Wiltshire home after a five years' sojourn in the dry air of Canada. The ivory handles of razors shrink in the dry atmosphere; as the steel frame cannot shrink correspondingly the ivory splits in two. The thing most surprising to strangers was that it was possible in winter-time to light the gas with one's finger. All that was necessary was to shuffle over the carpet in thin shoes, and then on touching any metal object, an electric spark half an inch long would crack out of your finger. The size and power of the spark depended a great deal on the temperament of the experimenter. A high-strung person could produce quite a large spark; a stolid, bovine individual could not obtain a glimmer of one. The late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, whilst staying at Government House, was told of this, but was inclined to be sceptical. My sister, Lady Lansdowne, made him shuffle over the carpet, and then and there touch a gas-burner from which she had removed the globe. Mr. Chamberlain, with his nervous temperament, produced a spark an inch long out of himself, and of course the gas flared up immediately. I do not think that I had ever seen any one more surprised. This power of generating static electricity from their own bodies was naturally a source of immense delight to the Lansdowne children. They loved, after shuffling their feet on the carpet, to creep up to any adult relation and touch them lightly on the ear, a most sensitive spot. There would be a little spark, a little shock, and a little exclamation of surprise. Outside the children's schoolroom there was a lobby warmed by a stove, and the air there was peculiarly dry. The young people, with a dozen or so of their youthful friends, would join hands, taking, however, care not to complete the circle, and then shuffle their feet vigorously. On completing the circuit, they could produce a combined spark over two inches long, with a correspondingly sharp shock. In my bedroom at Ottawa there was an old-fashioned high brass fender. Had I put on slippers, and have attempted to warm myself at the fire previous to turning-in. I should be reminded, by a sharp discharge from my protesting calves into the metal fender, that I was in dry Canada. (At that date the dryness of Canada was atmospherical only.) Curiously enough, a spark leaving the body produces the same shock as one entering it, and no electricity whatever can be generated with bare feet. One of the footmen at Ottawa must have been an abnormally high-strung young man, for should one inadvertently touch silver dinner-plate he handed one, a sharp electric shock resulted. The children delighted in one very pretty experiment. Many books for the young have their bindings plentifully adorned with gold, notably the French series, the "Bibliotheque Rose." Should one of these highly-gilt volumes be taken into a warm and dry place, and the lights extinguished, the INNER side of the binding had only to be rubbed briskly with a fur-cap for all the gilding to begin to sparkle and coruscate, and to send out little flashes of light. The children took the utmost pleasure in this example of the curious properties of electricity.
The Ottawa of the "eighties" was an attractive little place, and Ottawa Society was very pleasant. There was then a note of unaffected simplicity about everything that was most engaging, and the people were perfectly natural and free from pretence. The majority of them were Civil servants of limited means, and as everybody knew what their neighbours' incomes were, there was no occasion for make-believe. The same note of simplicity ran through all amusements and entertaining, and I think that it constituted the charm of the place. I called one afternoon on the very agreeable wife of a high official, and was told at the door that Lady R—was not at home. Recognizing my voice, a cry came up from the kitchen-stairs. "Oh, yes! I am at home to you. Come right down into the kitchen," where I found my friend, with her sleeves rolled up, making with her own hands the sweets for the dinner-party she was giving that night, as she mistrusted her cook's capabilities. The Ottawa people had then that gift of being absolutely unaffected, which makes the majority of Australians so attractive. Now everything has changed; Ottawa has trebled in size since I first knew it, and on revisiting it twenty-five years later, I found that it had become very "smart" indeed, with elaborate houses and gorgeous raiment.
Rideau Hall had two open-air skating-rinks in its own grounds, two imposing toboggan-slides, and a covered curling-rink. The "roaring game" is played in Canada with very heavy straight-sided iron "stones," weighing from 50 to 60 lbs. As the ice in a covered rink can be constantly flooded, it can be kept in the most perfect order, and with the heavy stones far greater accuracy can be attained than with the granite stones used in Scotland. The game becomes a sort of billiards on ice. The Rideau Hall team consisted of Lord Lansdowne himself, General Sir Henry Streatfield, a nephew of mine, and one of the footmen, who seemed to have a natural gift as a curler. Our team were invincible in 1888. At a curling-match against Montreal in 1887, a long-distance telephone was used for the first time in Canada. Ottawa is 120 miles distant from Montreal, and a telephone was specially installed, and each "end" telephoned from Rideau Hall to Montreal, where the result was shown on a board, excitement over the match running high. Montreal proved the victors. On great occasions such as this, the ice of the curling-rink was elaborately decorated in colours. It was very easily done. Ready-prepared stencils, such as are used for wall-decoration, were laid on the ice, and various coloured inks mixed with water were poured through the stencil holes, and froze almost immediately on to the ice below. In this fashion complicated designs of roses, thistles and maple-leaves, all in their proper colours, could be made in a very short time, and most effective they were until destroyed by the first six "ends." When the Governor-General's time in Canada expired and he was transferred to India, the curlers of Canada presented him with a farewell address. Lord Lansdowne made, I thought, a very happy reply. Speaking of the regret he felt at leaving Ottawa, and at severing his many links of connection with Canada, he added that, bearing in view the climate of Bengal, he did not anticipate much curling in India, and that he would miss the "roaring game"; in fact, the only "roaring game" he was likely to come in contact with would probably take the unpleasant form of a Bengal tiger springing out at him. Lord Lansdowne went on to say, "Let us hope that it will not happen that your ex-Governor-General will be found, not pursuing the roaring game, but being pursued by it."
From skating daily, most of the Government House party became very expert, and could perform every kind of trick upon skates. Lord and Lady Lansdowne and their two daughters, now Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Osborne Beauclerk, could execute the most complicated Quadrilles and Lancers on skates, and could do the most elaborate figures.
Once a week all Ottawa turned up at Rideau Hall to skate to the music of a good military band. Every year in December a so-called ice-palace was built for the band, of clear blocks of ice. Once given a design, ice-architecture is most fascinating and very easy. Instead of mortar, all that is required is a stream of water from a hose to freeze the ice-blocks together, and as ice can be easily chipped into any shape, the most fantastic pinnacles and ornaments can be contrived. Our ice-palace was usually built in what I may call a free adaptation of the Canado-Moresque style. A very necessary feature in the ice-palace was the large stove for thawing the brass instruments of the band. A moment's consideration will show that in the intense cold of a Canadian winter, the moisture that accumulates in a brass instrument would freeze solid, rendering the instrument useless. The bandsmen had always to handle the brass with woollen gloves on, to prevent getting burnt. How curious it is that the sensation of touching very hot or very cold metal is identical, and that it produces the same effect on the human skin! With thirty or more degrees of frost, great caution must be used in handling skate-blades with bare fingers if burns are to be avoided. The coldest day I have ever known was New Year's Day 1888, when the thermometer at Ottawa registered 41 degrees below, or 73 degrees of frost. The air was quite still, as it invariably is with great cold, but every breath taken gave one a sensation of being pinched on the nose, as the moisture in the nostrils froze together.
The weekly club-dances of the Ottawa Skating Club were a pretty sight. They were held in a covered public rink, gay with many flags, with garlands of artificial flowers and foliage, and blazing with sizzling arc-lights. These people, accustomed to skates from their earliest childhood, could dance as easily and as gracefully on them as on their feet, whilst fur-muffled mothers sat on benches round the rink, drinking tea and coffee as unconcernedly as though they were at a garden-party in mid-July instead of in a temperature of zero. An "Ottawa March" was a great institution. Couples formed up as though for a country dance, the band struck up some rollicking tune, the leader shouted his directions, and fifty couples whirled and twirled, and skated backwards or forwards as he ordered, going through the most complicated evolutions, in pairs or fours or singly, joining here, parting there, but all in perfect time. Woe betide the leader should he lose his head! A hundred people would get tangled up in a hideous confusion, and there was nothing for it but to begin all over again.
It is curious that in countries like England and Prance, where from the climatic conditions skating must be a very occasional amusement, there is a special word for the pastime, and that in Germany and Russia, where every winter brings its skating as a matter of course, there should be no word for it. "Skate" in English, and patiner in French, mean propelling oneself on iron runners over ice, and nothing else; whereas in German there is only the clumsy compound-word Schlittschuh-laufen, which means "to run on sledge shoes," and in Russian it is called in equally roundabout fashion Katatsa-na-konkach, or literally "to roll on little horses," hardly a felicitous expression. As a rule people have no word for expressing a thing which does not come within their own range of experience; for instance, no one would expect that Arabs, or Somalis, or the inhabitants of the Sahara would have any equivalent for either skating or tobogganing, nor do I imagine that the Eskimo have any expression for "sunstroke" or "heat-apoplexy," but one would have thought that Russians and Germans might have evolved a word for skating.
Apropos of Eskimo, I once heard a missionary describe the extraordinary difficulty he had found in translating the Bible into Eskimo. It was useless to talk of corn or wine to a people who did not know even what they meant, so he had to use equivalents within their powers of comprehension. Thus in the Eskimo version of the Scriptures the miracle of Cana of Galilee is described as turning the water into BLUBBER; the 8th verse of the 5th chapter of the First Epistle of St. Peter ran: "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring Polar BEAR walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." In the same way "A land flowing with milk and honey" became "A land flowing with whale's blubber," and throughout the New Testament the words "Lamb of God" had to be translated "little Seal of God," as the nearest possible equivalent. The missionary added that his converts had the lowest opinion of Jonah for not having utilised his exceptional opportunities by killing and eating the whale.
Fired by the example of the builders of the ice-palace on the rink at Rideau Hall, I offered to build for the Lansdowne children an ice-hut for their very own, a chilly domicile which they had ardently longed for. As it is my solitary achievement as an architect, I must dwell rather lovingly on the building of this hut. The professional ice-cutters were bringing up daily a large supply of great gleaming transparent blocks from the river, both for the building of the band-house and for the summer supply of Rideau Hall, so there was no lack of material. On the American continent one is being told so constantly that this-and-that "will cut no ice," that it is satisfactory to be able to report that those French-Canadians cut ice in the most efficient fashion. My sole building implement was a kettle of boiling water. I placed ice-blocks in a circle, pouring boiling water between each two blocks to melt the points of contact, and in half an hour they had frozen into one solid lump. I and a friend proceeded like this till the ice-walls were about four feet high, spaces being left for the door and windows. As the blocks became too heavy to lift, we used great wads of snow in their stead, melting them with cold water and kneading them into shape with thick woollen gloves, and so the walls rose. I wanted a snow roof; had we been mediaeval cathedral builders we might possibly have fashioned a groined and vaulted snow roof, with ice ribs, but being amateurs, our roof perpetually collapsed, so we finally roofed the hut with grooved-and-tongued boards, cutting a hole through them for the chimney. We then built a brick fire-place, with mantelpiece complete, ending in an iron chimney. The windows were our great triumph. I filled large japanned tea-trays two inches deep with water and left them out to freeze. Then we placed the trays in a hot bath and floated the sheets of ice off. They broke time and time again, but after about the twentieth try we succeeded in producing two great sheets of transparent ice which were fitted into the window-spaces, and firmly cemented in place with wet snow. Then the completed hut had to be furnished. A carpenter in Ottawa made me a little dresser, a little table, and little chairs of plain deal; I bought some cooking utensils, some enamelled-iron tea-things and plates, and found in Ottawa some crude oleographs printed on oil-cloth and impervious to damp. These were duly hung on the snow walls of the hut, and the little girls worked some red Turkey-twill curtains for the ice windows, and a frill for the mantelpiece in orthodox south of England cottage style. The boys made a winding tunnel through the snow-drifts up to the door of the hut, and Nature did the rest, burying the hut in snow until its very existence was unsuspected by strangers, though it may be unusual to see clouds of wood-smoke issuing from an apparent snow-drift. That little house stood for over three months; it afforded the utmost joy to its youthful occupiers, and I confess that I took a great paternal pride in it myself. Really at night, with the red curtains drawn over the ice windows, with the pictures on its snow walls, a lamp alight and a roaring log fire blazing on the brick hearth, it was the most invitingly cosy little place. It is true that with the heat the snow walls perspired freely, and the roof was apt to drip like a fat man in August, but it was considered tactful to ignore these details. Here the children entertained their friends at tea-parties, and made hideous juvenile experiments in cookery; here, too, "Jerusalem the Golden" was prepared. It was a simple operation; milk and honey were thoroughly mixed in a bowl, the bowl was put out to freeze, and the frozen mass dipped into hot water to loosen it; "Jerusalem the Golden" was then broken up small, and the toothsome chips eagerly devoured. Those familiar with the hymn will at once understand the allusion.
Sir John Macdonald, the Prime Minister, was very often at Government House, and dined there perpetually. When at the Petrograd Embassy, I was constantly hearing of Sir John from my chief, Lord Dufferin, who had an immense admiration for him, and considered him the maker of the Dominion, and a really great statesman. I was naturally anxious to meet a man of whom I had heard so much. "John A.," as he was universally known in Canada, had a very engaging personality, and conveyed an impression of having an enormous reserve of latent force behind his genial manner. Facially he was reminiscent of Lord Beaconsfield, but there was nothing very striking about him as an orator: his style was direct and straightforward.
The Houses of Parliament at Ottawa are a splendid pile of buildings, and though they may owe a great deal to the wonderful site they occupy on a semicircular wooded bluff projecting into the river, I should consider them one of the most successful group of buildings erected anywhere during the nineteenth century. All the details might not bear close examination, but the general effect was admirable, especially that of the great circular library, with its conical roof. In addition to the Legislative Chambers proper, two flanking buildings in the same style housed various Administrative departments. Seen from Rideau Hall in dark silhouette against the sunset sky, the bold outline of the conical roof of the library and the three tall towers flanking it gave a sort of picturesque Nuremberg effect to the distant view of Ottawa, The Parliament buildings proper were destroyed by an incendiary during the war, but the library and wings escaped.
Everything in the House of Commons was modelled accurately on Westminster. The Canadian Parliament being bi-lingual, French members addressed the Speaker as "Monsieur l'Orateur," and the Usher of the Black Rod of the Senate became "l'Huissier de la Verge Noire." To my mind there was something intensely comical in addressing a man who seldom opened his mouth except to cry, "Order, order," as "Monsieur l'Orateur." A Frenchman from the Province of Quebec seems always to be chosen as Canadian Speaker. In my time he was a M. Ouiment, the TWENTY-FIRST child of the same parents, so French Canadians are apparently not threatened with extinction. I heard in the House of Commons at Ottawa the most curious peroration I have ever listened to. It came from the late Nicholas Flood Davin, a member of Irish extraction who sat for a Far-Western constituency. The House was debating a dull Bill relating to the lumber industry, when Davin, who may possibly have been under the influence of temporary excitement, insisted on speaking. He made a long and absolutely irrelevant speech in a voice of thunder, and finished with these words, every one of which I remember: "There are some who declare that Canada's trade is declining; there are some who maintain that the rich glow of health which at present mantles o'er Canada's virgin cheek will soon be replaced by the pallid hues of the corpse. To such pusillanimous propagandists of a preposterous pessimism, I answer, Mr. Speaker with all confidence, never! never!" As a rhetorical effort this is striking, though there seems a lack of lucidity about it.
In the Canadian House of Commons there are a number of little pages who run errands for members, and fetch them books and papers. These boys sit on the steps of the Speaker's chair, and when the House adjourns for dinner the pages hold a "Pages' Parliament." One boy, elected by the others as Speaker, puts on a gown and seats himself in the Speaker's chair; the "Prime Minister" and the members of the Government sit on the Government benches, the Leader of the Opposition with his supporters take their places opposite and the boys hold regular debates. Many of the members took great interest in the "Pages' Parliament," and coached the boys for their debates. I have seen Sir John Macdonald giving the fourteen-year-old "Premier" points for his speech that evening.
All-night sittings were far rarer at Ottawa than with us, and constituted quite an event. Some of us went into the gallery at 5 a.m. after a dance, to see the end of a long and stormy sitting. The House was very uproarious. Some member had brought in a cricket-ball, and they were throwing each other catches across the House. To the credit of Canadian M.P.'s, I must say that we never saw a single catch missed. When Sir John rose to close the debate, there were loud cries of, "You have talked enough, John A. Give us a song instead." "All right," cried Sir John, "I will give you 'God save the Queen.'" And he forthwith started it in a lusty voice, all the members joining in. The introduction of a cricket-ball might brighten all-night sittings in our own Parliament, though somehow I cannot quite picture to myself Mr. Asquith throwing catches to Sir Frederick Banbury across the floor of the House of Commons.
I was once in the gallery of the South African Parliament at Capetown, after the House had been sitting continuously for twenty hours. The Speaker had had a stool brought him to rest his legs on, and was fast asleep in his chair, with his wig all awry. Dutch farmer members from the Back-Veld were stretched out at full length on the benches in the lobbies, snoring loudly; in fact, the whole place was a sort of Parliamentary Pullman Sleeping-car. That splendid man, the late General Botha, told me that late hours in Parliament upset him terribly, as he had been used all his life to going early to bed. Though the exterior of the Capetown Parliament buildings is nothing very wonderful architecturally, the interior is very handsome, and quite surprisingly spacious.
The Governor-General gave two evening skating and tobaggoning parties at Rideau Hall every winter. He termed these gatherings his "Arctic Cremornes," after the then recently defunct gardens in London, and the parties were wonderfully picturesque. In those days, though the fashion now has quite disappeared, all members of snow-shoe and tobogganing clubs, men and women alike, wore coloured blanket-suits consisting of knickerbockers and long coats, with bright-coloured stockings, sash, and knitted toque (invariably pronounced "tuke"). The club colours of course varied. Rideau Hall was white with purple stockings and "tuke," and red sash. Others were sky-blue, with scarlet stockings and "tuke," or crimson and black, or brown and green. A collection of three hundred people in blanket-suits gave the effect of a peripatetic rainbow against the white snow. For the "Arctic Cremorne" the rinks were all fringed with coloured fairy-lamps; the curling-rink and the tea-room above it were also outlined with innumerable coloured electric bulbs, and festoons of Japanese lanterns were stretched between the fir trees in all directions. At the top of the toboggan slides powerful arc-lamps blazed, and a stupendous bonfire roared on a little eminence. The effect was indescribably pretty, and it was pleasant to reflect how man had triumphed over Nature in being able to give an outdoor evening party in mid-winter with the thermometer below zero. The gleaming crystals of snow reflecting the coloured lamps; the Bengal lights staining the white expanse crimson and green, and silhouetting the outlines of the fir trees in dead black against the burnished steel of the sky; the crowd of guests in their many-coloured blanket-suits, made a singularly attractive picture, with a note of absolute novelty in it; and the crash of the military band, the merry whirr of the skates, and the roar of the descending toboggans had something extraordinarily exhilarating about them in the keen, pure air. The supper-room always struck me as being pleasingly unconventional. Supper was served in the long, covered curling-rink, where the temperature was the same as that of the open air outside, so there was a long table elaborately set out with silver-branched candlesticks and all the Governor-General's fine collection of plate, but the servants waited in heavy fur-coats and caps. Of course no flowers could be used in that temperature, so the silver vases held branches of spruce, hemlock, and other Canadian firs. The French cook had to be very careful as to what dishes he prepared, for anything with moisture in it would freeze at once; meringues, for instance, would be frozen into uneatable cricket-balls, and tea, coffee, and soup had to simmer perpetually over lamps. One so seldom has a ball-supper with North Pole surroundings. We had a serious toboggan accident one night owing to the stupidity of an old Senator, who insisted on standing in the middle of the track, and the Aides-de-Camps' room was converted into an operating theatre, and reeked with the fumes of chloroform. The young man had bad concussion, and was obliged to remain a week at Rideau Hall, whilst the poor girl was disfigured for life.
Whilst on the subject of ball-suppers, there was a curious custom prevailing in Lisbon. Most Portuguese having very limited means, it was not usual to offer any refreshments whatever to guests at dances; but when it was done, it took the form of a "tooth-pick-supper" (souper aux curedents). Small pieces of chicken, tongue, or beef were piled on plates, each piece skewered with a wooden toothpick. The guests picked these off the plate by the toothpick, and nibbled the meat away from it, eating it with slices of bread. This obviated the use of plates, knives and forks, most Portuguese families having neither sufficient silver table-plate for an entertainment nor the means to hire any. There was another reason for this quaint custom. Some Portuguese are—how shall we put it?—inveterate souvenir-hunters. The Duke of Palmella, one of the few rich men in Portugal, gave a ball whilst I was in Lisbon at which the supper was served in the ordinary fashion, with plates, spoons, knives and forks. It was a matter of common knowledge in Lisbon that 50 per cent. of the ducal silver spoons and forks had left the house in the pockets of his Grace's guests, who doubtless wished to preserve a slight memento of so pleasant an evening.
In a certain Balkan State which I will refrain from naming, the inhabitants are also confirmed souvenir-hunters. At a dinner-party at the British Legation in this nameless State, one of the Diplomatic ladies was wearing a very fine necklace of pearls and enamel. A native of the State admired this necklace immensely, and begged for permission to examine it closer. The Diplomat's wife very unwisely unfastened her pearl necklace, and it was passed around from hand to hand, amidst loud expressions of admiration at its beautiful workmanship. At the end of dinner the Diplomatic lady requested that her necklace might be returned to her, but it was not forthcoming; no one knew anything about it. The British Minister, who thought that he understood the people of the country, rose to the occasion. Getting up from his chair, he said with a smile, "We have just witnessed a very clever and very amusing piece of legerdemain. Now we are going to see another little piece of conjuring." The Minister walked quietly to both doors of the room, locked them, and put the keys in his pocket. He then placed a small silver bowl from the side-board in the centre of the dinner-table, and continued: "I am now going to switch off all the lights, and to count ten slowly. When I have reached ten, I shall turn on the lights again, and hey presto! Madame de—'s necklace will be found lying in that silver bowl!" The room became plunged in darkness, and the Minister counted slowly up to ten. The electric light blazed out again, there was no necklace, but the silver bowl had vanished!
I have enjoyed the exceptional experience of having inspected many convents in Canada, even those of the most strictly cloistered Orders. By long-established custom, the Governor-General's wife has the right to inspect any convent in Canada on giving twenty-four hours' notice, and she may take with her any two persons she chooses, of either sex. My sister was fond of visiting convents, and she often took me with her as I could speak French. We have thus been in convents of Ursulines, Poor Clares, Grey Sisters, and in some of those of the more strictly cloistered Orders. The procedure was always the same. We were ushered into a beautifully clean, bare, whitewashed parloir, with a highly polished floor redolent of beeswax. There would be hard benches running round the parloir, raised on a platform, much after the fashion of raised benches in a billiard-room. In the centre would be a chair for the Reverend Mother. We then made polite conversation for a few minutes, after which coffee (usually compounded of scorched beans, with no relation whatever to "Coffea Arabica") was handed to us, and we went over the convent. It was extremely difficult for two Protestants to find any subject of conversation which could interest a Mother Superior who knew nothing of the world outside her convent walls, nor was it easy to find any common ground on which to meet her, all religious topics being necessarily excluded, I had noticed that the nuns made frequent allusions to a certain Marie Alacoque. Misled by the similarity of the sound in French, I, in my ignorance, thought that this referred to a method of cooking eggs. I learnt later that Marie Alacoque was a French nun who lived in the seventeenth century, and I discovered why her memory was so revered by her co-religionists. It was easy to get a book from the Ottawa Library and to read her up, and after that conversation became less difficult, for a few remarks about Marie Alacoque were always appreciated in conventual circles. The convents were invariably neat and clean, but I was perpetually struck by the wax-like pallor of the inmates. The elder nuns in the strictly cloistered Orders were as excited as children over this unexpected irruption into their convent of two strangers from the world outside, which they had left for so long. They struck me as most excellent, earnest women, and they delighted in exhibiting all their treasures, including the ecclesiastical vestments and their Church plate. They always made a point of showing us, as an object of great interest, the flat candlestick of bougie that the Cardinal-Archbishop had used when he had last celebrated Pontifical High Mass in their chapel. In one strictly cloistered convent there was a high wooden trellis across the chapel, so that though the nuns could see the priest at the altar through the trellis-work, he was unable to see them. In the Convent of the Grey Sisters at Ottawa we found an old English nun who, in spite of having spent thirty-five years in a French-Canadian convent, still retained the strong Cockney accent of her native London. She was a cheery old soul, and, with another old English nun, had charge of the wardrobe, which they insisted on showing me. I was gazing at piles of clothing neatly arranged on shelves, when the old Cockney nun clapped her hands. "We will dress you up as a Sister," she cried, and they promptly proceeded to do so. They put me on a habit (largest size) over my other clothes, chuckling with glee meanwhile, and I was duly draped in the guimpe, the piece of linen which covers a nun's head and shoulders and frames her face, called, I believe, in English a "wimple," and my toilet was complete except for my veil, when, by a piece of real bad luck, the Reverend Mother and my sister came into the room. We had no time to hide, so we were caught. Having no moustache, I flattered myself that I made rather a saintly-looking novice, and I hid my hands in the orthodox way in my sleeves, but the Mother Superior was evidently very much put out. The clothes that had come in contact with my heretical person were ordered to be placed on one side, I presume to be morally disinfected, and I can only trust that the two old nuns did not get into serious trouble over their little joke. I am sorry that my toilet was not completed; I should like to have felt that just for once in my life I had taken the veil, if for five minutes only.
In the "eighties" the city of Montreal spent large sums over their Winter Carnival. It attracted crowds of strangers, principally from the United States, and it certainly stimulated the retail trade of the city. The Governor-General was in the habit of taking a house in Montreal for the Carnival, and my brother-in-law was lent the home of a hospitable sugar magnate. The dining-room of this house, in which its owner had allowed full play to his Oriental imagination and love of colour, was so singular that it merits a few words of description. The room was square, with a domed ceiling. It was panelled in polished satinwood to a height of about five feet. Above the panelling were placed twelve owls in carved and silvered wood, each one about two feet high, supporting gas-standards. Rose-coloured silk was stretched from the panelling up to the heavy frieze, consisting of "swags" of fruit and foliage modelled in high relief, and brilliantly coloured in their natural hues. The domed ceiling was painted sky-blue, covered with golden stars, gold and silver suns and moons, and the signs of the Zodiac. I may add that the effect of this curious apartment was not such as to warrant any one trying to reproduce it. The house also contained a white marble swimming bath; an unnecessary adjunct, I should have thought, to a dwelling built for winter occupation in Montreal.
The Ice-Castle erected by the Municipality was really a joy to the eye. It was rather larger than, say, the Westminster Guildhall, and had a tower eighty feet high. It was an admirable reproduction of a Gothic castle, designed and built by a competent architect, with barbican, battlements, and machiocolaions all complete, the whole of gleaming, transparent ice-blocks, a genuine thing of beauty. One of the principal events of the Carnival was the storming of the Ice-Castle by the snow-shoe clubs of Montreal. Hundreds of snow-shoers, in their rainbow-hued blanket suits, advanced in line on the castle and fired thousands of Roman candles at their objective, which returned the fire with rockets innumerable, and an elaborate display of fireworks, burning continually Bengal lights of various colours within its translucent walls, and spouting gold and silver rain on its assailants. It really was a gorgeous feast of colour for the eye, a most entrancing spectacle, with all this polychrome glow seen against the dead-white field of snow which covered Dominion Square, in the crystal clearness of a Canadian winter night, with the thermometer down anywhere.
Another annual feature of the Carnival was the great fancy-dress skating fete in the covered rink. The Victoria Rink at Montreal is a huge building, and was profusely decorated for the occasion with the usual flags, wreaths of artificial foliage, and coloured lamps. An American sculptor had modelled six colossal groups of statuary out of wet snow, and these were ranged down either side of the rink. As they froze, they took on the appearance and texture of white marble, and were very effective. Round a cluster of arc-lights in the roof there was a sort of revolving cage of different coloured panes of glass; these threw variegated beams of light over the brilliant kaleidoscopic crowd below. Previous Governors-General had, in opening the fete shuffled shamefacedly down the centre of the rink in overshoes and fur coats to the dais, but Lord and Lady Lansdowne, being both expert skaters, determined to do the thing in proper Carnival style, and arrived in fancy dress, he in black as a Duke of Brunswick, she as Mary Queen of Scots, attended by her two boys, then twelve and fourteen years old, as pages, resplendent in crimson tights and crimson velvet. The band struck up "God Save the Queen," and down the cleared space in the centre skimmed, hand-in-hand, the Duke of Brunswick and Mary Queen of Scots, with the two pages carrying her train, all four executing a "Dutch roll" in the most workman-like manner. It was really a very effective entrance, and was immensely appreciated by the crowd of skaters present. I represented a Shakespearean character, and had occasion to note what very inadequate protection is afforded by blue silk tights, with nothing under them, against the cold of a Canadian February. One of the Aides-de-Camp had arrayed himself in white silk as Romeo; being only just out from England, he was anything but firm on his skates. Some malicious young Montrealers of tender age, noticing this, deliberately bumped into him again and again, sending his conspicuous white figure spinning each time. Poor Romeo's experiences were no more fortunate on the rink than in the tragedy associated with his name; by the end of the evening, after his many tumbles, his draggled white silk dress suggested irresistibly the plumage of a soiled dove.
A hill (locally known as "The Mountain") rises immediately behind Montreal, the original Mont Real, or Mount Royal, from which the city derives its name. This naturally lends itself to the formation of toboggan slides, and one of them, the "Montreal Club Slide," was really terrifically steep. The start was precipitous enough, in all conscience, but soon came a steep drop of sixty feet, at which point all the working parts of one's anatomy seemed to leave one, to replace themselves at the finish only. The pace was so tremendous that it was difficult to breathe, but it was immensely exciting. The Montreal slide was just one-third of a mile long, and the time occupied in the descent on good ice was about twenty seconds, working out at sixty miles an hour. Every precaution was taken against accidents; there was a telephone from the far end, and no toboggan was allowed to start until "track clear" had been signalled. Everything in this world is relative. We had thought our Ottawa slides very fast, though the greatest speed we ever attained was about thirty miles an hour, whilst at home we had been delighted if we could coax fifteen miles an hour out of our rough machines. The Lansdowne boys were very expert on toboggans, and could go down the Ottawa slides standing erect, a thing no adult could possibly manage. They had fitted their machines with gong-bells and red and green lanterns, and the "Ottawa River Express" would come whizzing down at night with bells clanging and lights gleaming.
I can claim to be the absolute pioneer of ski on the American continent, for in January, 1887, I brought my Russian ski to Ottawa, the very first pair that had ever been seen in the New World. I coasted down hills on them amidst universal jeers; every one declared that they were quite unsuited to Canadian conditions. The old-fashioned raquettes had their advantages, for one could walk over the softest snow in them. Here, again, I fancy that it was the sense of man triumphant over Nature that made snow-shoeing so attractive. The Canadian snow-shoe brings certain unaccustomed muscles into play, and these muscles show their resentment by aching furiously. The French habitants term this pain mal de raquettes. In my time snow-shoe tramps at night, across-country into the woods, were one of the standard winter amusements of Ottawa, and the girls showed great dexterity in vaulting fences with their snow-shoes on.
A Canadian winter is bathed in sunshine. In the dry, crisp atmosphere distant objects are as clear-cut and hard as though they were carved out of wood; the air is like wine, and with every breath human beings seem to enter on a new lease of life.
It is not so in the lower world. There is not a bird to be seen, for no bird could secure a living with three feet of snow on the ground. Nature is very dead, and I understood the glee with which the children used to announce the return of the crows, for these wise birds are the unfailing harbingers of Spring. With us Spring is undecided, fickle, and coy. She is not sure of herself, and after making timid, tentative advances, retreats again, uncertain as to her ability to cope with grim Winter. In Canada, Spring comes with an all-conquering rush. In one short fortnight she clothes the trees in green, and carpets the ground with blue and white hepaticas. She is also, unfortunately, accompanied by myriads of self-appointed official maids-of-honour in the shape of mosquitoes, anxious to make up for their long winter fast. As the fierce suns of April melt the surface snow, the water percolates through to the ground, where it freezes again, forming a sheet of what Canadians term "glare-ice." I have seen at Rideau Hall this ice split in all directions over the flower-beds by the first tender shoots of the crocuses. How these fragile little spears of green have the power to penetrate an inch of ice is one of the mysteries of Nature.
Would space admit of it, and were paper not such an unreasonably expensive commodity just now, I would like to speak of the glories of a Canadian wood in May, with the ground flecked with red and white trilliums; of the fields in British Columbia, gorgeous in spring-time with blue lilies and drifts of rose-coloured cyclamens; of the autumn woods in their sumptuous dress of scarlet, crimson, orange, and yellow, the sugar-maples blazing like torches against the dark firs; of the marvels of the three ranges of the Rockies, Selkirks, and Cascades, and of the other wonders of the great Dominion.
As boys, I and my youngest brother knew "Hiawatha's Fishing" almost by heart, so I had an intense desire to see "Gitche Gumee, the Big-Sea Water," which we more prosaically call Lake Superior, the home of the sturgeon "Nahma," of "Ugudwash" the sun-fish, of the pike the "Maskenozha," and the actual scene of Hiawatha's fishing. To others, without this sentimental interest, the Great Lakes might appear vast but uninteresting expanses of water, chiefly remarkable for the hideous form of vessel which has been evolved to navigate their clear depths.
One thing I can say with confidence. No one who makes a winter journey to that land of sunshine and snow, with its energetic, pleasant, and hospitable inhabitants, will ever regret it, and the wayfarer will return home with the consciousness of having been in contact with an intensely virile race, only now beginning to realise its own strength.
Calcutta—Hooghly pilots—Government House—A Durbar—The sulky Rajah—The customary formalities—An ingenious interpreter—The sailing clippers in the Hooghly-Calcutta Cathedral—A succulent banquet—The mistaken Ministre—The "Gordons"—Barrackpore—A Swiss Family Robinson aerial house—The child and the elephants—The merry midshipmen—Some of their escapades—A huge haul of fishes—Queen Victoria and Hindustani—The Hills—The Manipur outbreak—A riding tour—A wise old Anglo-Indian—Incidents—The fidelity of native servants—A novel printing-press—Lucknow—The loss of an illusion.
Lord Lansdowne had in 1888 been transferred from Canada to India, and in May of that year he left Ottawa for Calcutta, taking on the way a three months' well-earned holiday in England. Two of his staff accompanied him from the vigorous young West to the immemorially old East.
He succeeded as Viceroy Lord Dufferin, who had also held the appointment of Governor-General of Canada up to 1878, after which he had served as British Ambassador both at Petrograd and at Constantinople, before proceeding to India in 1884.
Lord Minto, too, in later years filled both positions, serving in Canada from 1898 to 1904, and in India from 1905 to 1910.
Whether in 1690 Job Charnock made a wise selection in fixing his trading-station where Calcutta now stands, may be open to doubt. He certainly had the broad Hooghly at his doors, affording plenty of water not only for trading-vessels, but also for men-of-war in cases of emergency. Still, from the swampy nature of the soil, and its proximity to the great marshes of the Sunderbunds, Calcutta could never be a really healthy place. An arrival by water up the Hooghly unquestionably gives the most favourable impression of the Indian ex-capital, though the river banks are flat and uninteresting. The Hooghly is one of the most difficult rivers in the world to navigate, for the shoals and sand-banks change almost daily with the strong tides, and the white Hooghly pilots are men at the very top of their profession, and earn some L2000 a year apiece. They are tremendous swells, and are perfectly conscious of the fact, coming on board with their native servants and their white "cub" or pupil. There is one shoal in particular, known as the "James and Mary," on which a ship, touching ever so lightly, is as good as lost. Calcutta, since I first knew it, has become a great manufacturing centre. Lines of factories stand for over twenty miles thick on the left bank of the river; the great pall of black smoke hanging over the city is visible for miles, and the atmosphere is beginning to rival that of Manchester. Long use has accustomed us to the smoke-blackened elms and limes of London, but there is something peculiarly pathetic in the sight of a grimy, sooty palm tree.
The outward aspect of the stately Government House at Calcutta is familiar to most people. It is a huge and imposing edifice, but when I first knew it, its interior was very plain, and rather bare. Lady Minto changed all this during her husband's Vice-royalty, and, with her wonderful taste, transformed it into a sort of Italian palace at a very small cost. She bought in Europe a few fine specimens of old Italian gilt furniture, and had them copied in Calcutta by native workmen. In the East, the Oriental point of view must be studied, and Easterns attach immense importance to external splendour. The throne-room at Calcutta, under Lady Minto's skilful treatment, became gorgeous enough for the most exacting Asiatic, with its black marble floor, its rose-coloured silk walls where great silver sconces alternated with full-length portraits of British sovereigns, its white "chunam" columns and its gilt Italian furniture. "Chunam" has been used in India from time immemorial for decorative purposes. It is as white as snow and harder than any stone, and is, I believe, made from calcined shells. Let us suppose a Durbar held in this renovated throne-room for the official reception of a native Indian Prince. The particular occasion I have in mind was long after Lord Lansdowne's time, when a certain Rajah, notoriously ill-disposed towards the British Raj, had been given the strongest of hints that unless he mended his ways, he might find another ruler placed on the throne of his State. He was also recommended to come to Calcutta and to pay his respects to the Viceroy there, when, of course, he would be received with the number of guns to which he was entitled. The Indian Princes attach the utmost importance to the number of guns they are given as a salute, a number which varies from twenty-one in the case of the Nizam of Hyderabad, who alone ranks as a Sovereign, to nine for the smaller princes. Should the British Government wish to mark its strong displeasure with any native ruler, it sometimes does so by reducing the number of guns of his salute, and correspondingly, to have the number increased is a high honour. Sulkily and unwillingly the Rajah of whom I am thinking journeyed to Calcutta, and sulkily and unwillingly did he attend the Durbar. On occasions such as these, visiting native Princes are the guests of the Government of India at Hastings House (Warren Hastings' old country house in the suburbs of Calcutta, specially renovated and fitted up for the purpose), and the Viceroy's state carriages are sent to convey them to Government House. Everything in the way of ceremonial in India is done strictly by rule. The precise number of steps the Viceroy will advance to greet visiting Rajahs is all laid down in a little book. The Nizam of Hyderabad is met by the Viceroy with all his staff at the state entrance of Government House, and he is accompanied through all the rooms, both on his arrival and on his departure; but, as I said before, the Nizam ranks as a Sovereign. In the case of lesser lights the Viceroy advances anything from three to twenty steps. These points may appear very trivial to Europeans, but to Orientals they assume great importance, and, after all, India is a part of Asia. At right angles to the Calcutta throne-room is the fine Marble Hall, with marble floor and columns and an entirely gilt ceiling; empty except for six colossal busts of Roman Emperors, which, together with a number of splendid cut-glass chandeliers of the best French Louis XV. period, and a full-length portrait of Louis XV. himself, fell into our hands through the fortunes of war at a time when our relations with our present film ally, France, were possibly less cordial than at present. For a Durbar a long line of red carpet was laid from the throne-room, through the Marble Hall and the White Hall beyond it, right down the great flight of exterior steps, at the foot of which a white Guard of Honour of one hundred men from a British regiment was drawn up, Aligned through the outer hall, the Marble Hall and the throne-room were one hundred men of the Viceroy's Bodyguard, splendid fellows chosen for their height and appearance, and all from Northern India. They wore the white leather breeches and jack-boots of our own Life Guards, with scarlet tunics and huge turbans of blue and gold, standing with their lances as motionless as so many bronze statues. For a Durbar, many precious things were unearthed from the "Tosha-Khana," or Treasury: the Viceroy's silver-gilt throne; an arm-chair of solid silver for the visiting Rajah; great silver-gilt maces bearing & crown and "V.R.I."; and, above all, the beautiful Durbar carpets of woven gold wire. The making of these carpets is, I believe, an hereditary trade in a Benares family; they are woven of real gold wire, heavily embroidered in gold afterwards, and are immensely expensive. The visiting Rajah announces beforehand the number of the suite he is bringing with him, and the Viceroy has a precisely similar number, so two corresponding rows of cane arm-chairs are placed opposite each other, at right angles to the throne. Behind the chairs twelve resplendent red-and-gold-coated servants with blue-and-silver turbans, hold the gilt maces aloft, whilst behind the throne eight more gorgeously apparelled natives hold two long-handled fans of peacock's feathers, two silver-mounted yak's tails, and two massive sheaves of peacock's feathers, all these being the Eastern emblems of sovereignty.
We will suppose this particular Rajah to be a "nine-gun" and a "three-step" man. Bang go the cannon from Fort William nine times, and the Viceroy, in full uniform with decorations, duly advances three steps on the gold carpet to greet his visitor. The Viceroy seats himself on his silver-gilt throne at the top of the three steps, the visiting Rajah in his silver chair being one step lower. The two suites seat themselves facing each other in dead silence; the Europeans assuming an absolutely Oriental impassivity of countenance. The ill-conditioned Rajah, though he spoke English perfectly, had insisted on bringing his own interpreter with him. A long pause in conformity with Oriental etiquette follows, then the Viceroy puts the first invariable question: "I trust that your Highness is in the enjoyment of good health?" which is duly repeated in Urdu by the official white interpreter. The sulky Rajah grunts something that sounds like "Bhirrr Whirrr," which the native interpreter renders, in clipped staccato English, as "His Highness declares that by your Excellency's favour his health is excellent. Lately, owing to attack of fever, it was with His Highness what Immortal Bard has termed a case of 'to be or not to be!' Now, danger happily averted, His Highness has seldom reposed under the canopy of a sounder brain than at present." Another long pause, and the second invariable question: "I trust that your Highness' Army is in its usual efficient state?" The surly Rajah, "Khirr Virr." The native interpreter, "Without doubt His Highness' Army has never yet been so efficient. Should troubles arise, or a pretty kettle of fish unfortunately occur, His Highness places his entire Army at your Excellency's disposal; as Swan of Avon says, 'Come the three corners of the world in arms, and we shall shock them.'" A third question, "I trust that the crops in your Highness' dominion are satisfactory?" The Rajah, "Ghirrr Firrr." The interpreter, "Stimulated without doubt by your Excellency's auspicious visit to neighbouring State, the soil in His Highness' dominions has determined to beat record and to go regular mucker. Crops tenfold ordinary capacity are springing from the ground everywhere." One has seen a conjurer produce half a roomful of paper flowers from a hat, or even from an even less promising receptacle, but no conjurer was in it with that interpreter, who from two sulky monosyllabic grunts evolved a perfect garland of choice Oriental flowers of speech. It reminded me of the process known in newspaper offices as "expanding" a telegram. When the customary number of formal questions have been put, the Viceroy makes a sign to his Military Secretary, who brings him a gold tray on which stand a little gold flask and a small box; the traditional "Attar and pan." The Viceroy sprinkles a few drops of attar of roses on the Rajah's clothing from the gold flask, and hands him a piece of betel-nut wrapped in gold paper, known as "pan." This is the courteous Eastern fashion of saying "Now I bid you good-bye." The Military Secretary performs a like office to the members of the Rajah's suite, who, however, have to content themselves with attar sprinkled from a silver bottle and "pans" wrapped in silver paper. Then all the traditional requirements of Oriental politeness have been fulfilled, and the Rajah takes his leave with the same ceremonies as attended his arrival. At the beginning of a Durbar "tribute" is presented—that is to say that a folded napkin supposed to contain one thousand gold mohurs is handed to the Viceroy, who "touches it and remits it." I have often wondered what that folded napkin really contained.
When I first knew Calcutta, most of the grain, jute, hemp and indigo exported was carried to its various destinations in sailing-ships, and there were rows and rows of splendid full-rigged ships and barques lying moored in the Hooghly along the whole length of the Maidan. The line must have extended for two miles, and I never tired of looking at these beautiful vessels with their graceful lines and huge spars, all clean and spick and span with green and white paint, the ubiquitous Calcutta crows perched in serried ranks on their yards. To my mind a full-rigged ship is the most beautiful object man has ever devised, and when the dusk was falling, with every spar and rope outlined in black against the vivid crimson of the short-lived Indian sunset, the long line of shipping made a glorious picture. Nineteen years later every sailing-ship had disappeared from the Hooghly, and in their place were rows of unsightly, rusty-sided iron tanks, with squat polemasts and ugly funnels vomiting black smoke. A tramp-steamer has its uses, no doubt, but it is hardly a thing of beauty. Ichabod! Ichabod!
Calcutta is fortunate in having so fine a lung as the great stretch of the Maidan. It has been admirably planted and laid out, with every palm of tree of aggressively Indian appearance carefully excluded from its green expanse, so it wears a curiously home-like appearance. The Maidan is very reminiscent of Hyde Park, though almost double its size. There is one spot, where the Gothic spire of the cathedral emerges from a mass of greenery, with a large sheet of water in the foreground, which recalls exactly the view over Bayswater from the bridge spanning the Serpentine.
Considering that Calcutta Cathedral was built in 1840; that it was designed by an Engineer officer, and not by an architect; that its "Gothic" is composed of cast-iron and stucco instead of stone, it is really not such a bad building. The great size of its interior gives it a certain dignity, and owing to the generosity of the European community, it is most lavishly adorned with marbles, mosaics, and stained glass. It possesses the finest organ in Asia, and a really excellent choir, the men Europeans, the boys being Eurasians. These small half-castes have very sweet voices, with a curious and not unpleasing metallic timbre about them. At evening service in the cathedral, should one ignore such details as the rows of electric punkahs, the temperature, and the dingy complexions of the choir-boys, it was almost impossible to realise that one was not in England. I had been used to singing in a church choir, and it was pleasant to hear such familiar cathedral services as Garrett in D, Smart in F, Walmisley in D minor, and Hopkins in F, so perfectly rendered seven thousand miles away from home, thanks to that excellent musician, Dr. Slater, the cathedral organist.
St. Andrew's Scottish Presbyterian Church stands in its own wooded grounds in which there are two large ponds, or, as Anglo-Indians would put it, it stands in a compound with large tanks. The church is consequently infested with mosquitoes. The last time that I was in Calcutta, the Gordon Highlanders had just relieved an English regiment in the fort, and on the first Sunday after their arrival, four hundred Gordons were marched to a parade service at St. Andrew's. The most optimistic mosquito had never in his wildest dreams imagined such a succulent banquet as that afforded by four hundred bare-kneed, kilted Highlanders, and the mosquitoes made the fullest use of their unique opportunity. Soon the church resounded with the vigorous slapping of hands on bare knees and thighs, as the men endeavoured to kill a few of their little tormentors. The minister, hearing the loud clapping, but entirely misapprehending its purport, paused in his sermon, and said, "My brethren, it is varra gratifying to a minister of the Word to learn that his remarks meet with the approbation of his hearers, but I'd have you remember that all applause is strictly oot of place in the Hoose of God."
The Gordon Highlanders were originally raised by my great-grandfather, the fourth Duke of Gordon, in 1794, or perhaps more accurately, by my great-grandmother, Jean, the beautiful Duchess of Gordon. Duchess Jean, then in the height of her beauty, attended every market in the towns round Gordon Castle, and kissed every recruit who took the guinea she offered. The French Republic had declared war on Great Britain in 1793, and the Government had made an urgent appeal for fresh levies of troops. Duchess Jean, by her novel osculatory methods, raised the Gordons in four months. My father and mother were married at Gordon Castle in 1832, and the wedding guests grew so excessively convivial that they carried everything on the tables at the wedding breakfast, silver plate, glass, china, and all, down to the bridge at Fochabers, and threw them into the Spey. We may congratulate ourselves on the fact that it is no longer incumbent on wedding guests to drink the health of the newly married couple so fervently, and that a proportional saving in table fittings can thus be effected.
Barrackpore, the Viceroy's country place, is unquestionably a pleasant spot, with its fine park and famous gardens. Like the Maidan in Calcutta Barrackpore is a very fairly successful attempt at reproducing England in Asia. With a little make-believe and a determined attempt to ignore the grotesque outlines of a Hindoo temple standing on the confines of the park, and the large humps on the backs of the grazing cattle like the steam domes on railway engines, it might be possible to imagine oneself at home, until the illusion is shattered in quite another fashion. There is an excellent eighteen-hole golf course in Barrackpore park, but when you hear people talking of the second "brown" there can be no doubt but that you are in Asia. A "green" would be a palpable misnomer for the parched grass of an Indian dry season, still a "brown" comes as a shock at first. The gardens merit their reputation. There are innumerable ponds, or "tanks," of lotus and water-lilies of every hue: scarlet, crimson, white, and pure sky-blue, the latter an importation from Australia. When these are in flower they are a lovely sight, and perhaps compensate for the myriads of mosquitoes who find in these ponds an ideal breeding-place, and assert their presence day and night most successfully. There are great drifts of Eucharis lilies growing under the protecting shadows of the trees along shady walks, and the blaze of colour in the formal garden surrounding the white marble fountain in front of the house is positively dazzling. The house was built especially as a hot-weather residence, and as such is not particularly successful, for it is one of the hottest buildings in the whole of India. The dining-room is in the centre of the house, and has no windows whatever; an arrangement which, though it may shut out the sun, also excludes all fresh air as well. The bedrooms extend up through two storeys, and are so extremely lofty that one has the sensation of sleeping in a lift-shaft. Apart from its heat, the house has a dignified old-world air about it, with vague hints of Adam decoration in its details.
The establishment of Government House consisted of five hundred and twenty servants, all natives, so it could not be termed short-handed. With so many men, the apparently impossible could be undertaken. Lord Lansdowne left Calcutta for Barrackpore every Saturday afternoon. As soon as we had gone into luncheon at Calcutta on the Saturday, perfect armies of men descended on the private part of the house and packed up all the little things about the rooms into big cases. An hour later they were on their way up the river by steamer, and when we arrived at Barrackpore for tea, the house looked as though it had been lived in for weeks, with every object reposing on the tables in precisely the same position it had occupied earlier in the day in Calcutta. Late on Sunday night this process was reversed for the return journey at seven on Monday morning. The Viceroy had a completely fitted-up office in his smart little white-and-gold yacht, and was able to get through a great deal of work on his voyage down the Hooghly before breakfast on Monday mornings. A conscientious Viceroy of India is one of the hardest-worked men in the world, for he frequently has ten hours of office work in the day, irrespective of his other duties.
An enormous banyan tree stands on the lawn at Barrackpore. I should be afraid to say how much ground it covers; perhaps nearly an acre, for these trees throw down aerial suckers which form into fresh trunks, and so spread indefinitely. Lady Lansdowne thought she would have a bamboo house built in this great banyan tree for her little daughter, the same little girl for whom I had built the snow-hut at Ottawa, for she happens to be my god-daughter. It was to be a sort of "Swiss Family Robinson" tree-house, infinitely superior to the house on the tree-tops of Kensington Gardens, which Wendy destined for Peter Pan. The house was duly built, with bamboo staircases, and little fenced-off bamboo platforms fitted with seats and tables, at different levels up the tree. The Swiss Family Robinson would have gone mad with jealousy at seeing such a desirable aerial abode, so immeasurably preferable to their own, and even Wendy might have felt a mild pang of envy. When the house was completed, one of the Aides-de-Camp inspected it and found a snake hanging by its tail from a branch right over one of the little aerial platforms. He reported that the tree was full of snakes. The risk was too great to run, so prompt orders were given to demolish the house, and the little girl never enjoyed her tree-top playground.
The Viceroy's State elephants were all kept at Barrackpore, and the elephant-lines had a great attraction for children, especially for a small great-nephew of mine, now a Lieut.-Colonel, and the father of a family, then aged six. The child was very fearless, but the only elephant he was allowed to approach was a venerable tusker named "Warren Hastings," the very identical elephant on which Warren Hastings made his first entry into Calcutta. "Warren" was supposed to be nearly 200 years old, and his temper could be absolutely relied on. It is curious that natives, in speaking of a quiet, good-tempered animal, always speak of him as "poor" (gharib). The little boy was perpetually feeding Warren Hastings with oranges and bananas, and the two became great friends. It was a pretty sight seeing the fearless small boy in his white suit, bare legs, and little sun-helmet, standing in front of the great beast who could have crushed him to a wafer in one second, and ordering him in the vernacular, with his shrill child's voice, to kneel. It was a more curious sight seeing the huge animal at once obey his little mentor, and, struggling with the infirmities and rheumatic joints of old age (to which, alas! others besides elephants are subject), lower himself painfully on to his knees. "Salaam karo" ("Salute me"), piped the white child, and the great pachyderm instantly obeyed, lifting his trunk high in salute; which, if you think it out, may have a certain symbolism about it.
It was the same small boy who on returning to England at the age of seven, after five years in India, looked out of the windows of the carriage with immense interest, as they drove through London from Charing Cross station. "Mother," he piped at length, "this is a very odd country! All the natives seem to be white here."
My little great-nephew was immensely petted by the native servants, and as he could speak the vernacular with greater ease than English, he picked up from the servants the most appalling language, which he innocently repeated, entailing his frequent chastisement.
I can sympathise with the child there, for at the age of nine, in Dublin, I became seized with an intense but short-lived desire to enlist as a trumpeter in a Lancer regiment. Seeing one day a real live, if diminutive, Lancer trumpeter listening to the band playing in the Castle yard, I ran down and consulted him as to the best means of attaining my desire. The small trumpeter was not particularly intelligent, and was unable to help me. Though of tender years, he was regrettably lacking in refinement, for his conversation consisted chiefly of an endless repetition of three or four words, not one of which I had ever heard before. Carefully treasuring these up, as having a fine martial smack about them suitable to the military career I then proposed embracing, I, in all innocence, fired off one of the trumpeter's full-flavoured expressions at my horror-stricken family during luncheon, to be at once ordered out of the room, and severely punished afterwards. We all know that "what the soldier said" is not legal evidence; in this painful fashion I also learnt that "what the trumpeter said" is not held to be a valid excuse for the use of bad language by a small boy.
In the late autumn of 1890 Admiral Sir Edmund Fremantle brought his flagship, the Boadicea, right up the Hooghly, and moored her alongside the Maidan. The ship remained there for six weeks, the Admiral taking up his quarters at Government House. My sister Lady Lansdowne had a mistaken weakness for midshipmen, whom she most inappropriately termed "those dear little fellows." At that time midshipmen went to sea at fifteen years of age, so they were much younger than at present. As these boys were constantly at Government House, four of us thought that we would lend the midshipmen our ponies for an early morning ride. The boys all started off at a gallop, and every one of them was bolted with as soon as he reached the Maidan. As they had no riding-breeches, their trousers soon rucked up, exhibiting ample expanses of bare legs; they had no notion of riding, but managed to stick on somehow by clinging to pommel and mane, banging here into a sedate Judge of the High Court, with an apologetic "Sorry, sir, but this swine of a pony won't steer;" barging there into a pompous Anglo-Indian official, as they yelled to their ponies, "Easy now, dogs-body, or you'll unship us both;" galloping as hard as their ponies could lay legs to the ground, cannoning into half the white inhabitants of Calcutta, but always with imperturbable good-humour. When their panting ponies tried to pull up to recover their wind a little, these rising hopes of the British Navy kicked them with their heels into a gallop again, shouting strange nautical oaths, and grinning from ear to ear with delight, until finally four ponies lathered in sweat, in the last stages of exhaustion, returned to Government House, and four dripping boys alighted, declaring that they had had the time of their lives in spite of a considerable loss of cuticle. It was the same at the dances at Government House. The smart young subalterns simply weren't in it; the midshipmen got all the best partners, and, to do them justice, they could dance very well. They started with the music and whirled their partners round the room at the top of their speed, in the furnace temperature of Calcutta, without drawing rein for one second until the band stopped, when a dishevelled and utterly exhausted damsel collapsed limply into a chair, whilst a deliquescent brass-buttoned youth, with a sodden wisp of white linen and black silk round his neck to indicate the spot where he had once possessed a collar and tie, endeavoured to fan his partner into some semblance of coolness again.
Lady Lansdowne having invited eight midshipmen to spend a Sunday at Barrackpore, they arrived there by launch with a drag net, which the Viceroy had given them leave to use on the largest of the ponds. My sister at once set them down to play lawn-tennis, hoping to work off some of their superfluous energy in this way. In honour of the occasion, the midshipmen had extracted their best white flannels from their chests, and they proceeded to array themselves in these. The Boadicea, however, had been two years in commission, the flannels were two years old, and the lads were just at the age when they were growing most rapidly. They squeezed themselves with great difficulty into their shrunken garments, which looked more like tights than trousers, every button and seam obviously strained to the bursting point, and set to work playing tennis with their accustomed vigour. Soon there was a sound of rending cloth, and the senior midshipman, a portly youth of Teutonic amplitude of outline, lay down flat on his back on the lawn. A minute later there was a similar sound, and another boy lay down on his back and remained there, and a third lad quickly followed their example. A charming lady had noticed this from the verandah above, and ran down in some alarm, fearing that these young Nelsons had got sunstrokes. Somewhat confusedly they assured her that they were quite well, but might they, please, have three rugs brought them. Otherwise it was impossible for them to move. With some difficulty three rugs were procured, and, enveloped in them, they waddled off to their bungalow to assume more decent apparel. A few minutes later there were two more similar catastrophes (these garments all seemed to split in precisely the same spot), and the supply of rugs being exhausted, these boys had to retreat to their bungalow walking backwards like chamberlains at a Court function. After luncheon, in the burning heat of Bengal, most sensible people keep quiet in the shade, but the midshipmen went off to inspect the great tank, and to decide how they should drag it.