THE STORY OF BADEN-POWELL
'The Wolf that never Sleeps'
Vestigia nulla retrorsum
LONDON GRANT RICHARDS 1900
"... A name and an example, which are at this hour inspiring hundreds of the youth of England...."
Southey's Life of Nelson.
First printed May 1900. Reprinted May 1900
To SMITH MAJOR
If amid the storm and stress of your academic career you find an hour's relaxation in perusing the pages of this book, all the travail that I have suffered in the making of it will be repaid a thousandfold. Throughout the quiet hours of many nights, when Morpheus has mercifully muzzled my youngest (a fine child, sir, but a female), I have bent over my littered desk driving a jibbing pen, comforted and encouraged simply and solely by the vision of my labour's object and attainment. I have seen at such moments the brink of a river, warm with the sun's rays, though sheltered in part by the rustling leaves of an alder, and thereon, sprawling at great ease, chin in the cups of the hand, stomach to earth, and toes tapping the sweet-smelling sod, your illustrious self—deep engrossed in my book. For this alone I have written. If, then, it was the prospect of thus pleasing you that sustained me in my task, to whom else can I more fittingly inscribe the fruits of my labour? Accept then, honoured sir, this work of your devoted servant, assured that, if the book wins your affection and leaves an ideal or two in the mind when you come regretfully upon "Finis," I shall smoke my pipe o' nights with greater pleasure and contentment than ever I have done since I ventured the task of sketching my gallant hero's adventurous career.
I have the honour to be, sir,
Your most humble and obedient servant,
WEYBRIDGE, April 1900.
PAGE CHAPTER I AN INTRODUCTORY FRAGMENT 1
CHAPTER II THE FAMILY 6
CHAPTER III HOME LIFE AND HOLIDAYS 16
CHAPTER IV CARTHUSIAN 37
CHAPTER V THE DASHING HUSSAR 55
CHAPTER VI HUNTER 73
CHAPTER VII SCOUT 90
CHAPTER VIII THE FLANNEL-SHIRT LIFE 103
CHAPTER IX ROAD-MAKER AND BUILDER 119
CHAPTER X PUTTING OUT FIRE 135
CHAPTER XI IN RAGS AND TATTERS 158
CHAPTER XII THE REGIMENTAL OFFICER 172
CHAPTER XIII GOAL-KEEPER 192
PAGE Major-General R.S.S. Baden-Powell Frontispiece
Professor Baden Powell 7
Mrs. Baden-Powell 11
B.-P. reflecting on the After-deck of the Pearl 21
Rev. William Haig-Brown, LL.D. 41
The Dashing Hussar (B.-P. at 21) 61
The Family on Board the Pearl 107
"Viret in AEternum" 179
AN INTRODUCTORY FRAGMENT ON NO ACCOUNT TO BE SKIPPED
You will be the first to grant me, honoured sir, that after earnestness of purpose, that is to say "keenness," there is no quality of the mind so essential to the even-balance as humour. The schoolmaster without this humanising virtue never yet won your love and admiration, and to miss your affection and loyalty is to lose one of life's chiefest delights. You are as quick to detect the humbug who hides his mediocrity behind an affectation of dignity as was dear old Yorick, of whom you will read when you have got to know the sweetness of Catullus. This Yorick it was who declared that the Frenchman's epigram describing gravity as "a mysterious carriage of the body to cover the defects of the mind," deserved "to be wrote in letters of gold"; and I make no doubt that had there been a greater recognition of the extreme value and importance of humour in the early ages of the world, our history books would record fewer blunders on the part of kings, counsellors, and princes, and the great churches would not have alienated the sympathy of so many goodly people at the most important moment in their existence—the beginning of their proselytism.
This erudite reflection is to prepare you for the introduction of my hero, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell. I introduce him to you as a hero—and as a humourist. To me he appears the ideal English schoolboy, and the ideal British officer; but if I had blurted this out at the beginning of my story you might perhaps have flung the book into an ink-stained corner, thinking you were in for a dull lecture. It is the misfortune of goodness to be generally treated with superstitious awe, as though it were a visitant from heaven, instead of being part and parcel of our own composition. So I begin by assuring you that if ever there was a light-hearted, jovial creature it is my hero, and by promising you that he shall not bore you with moral disquisitions, nor shock your natural and untainted mind with impossible precepts.
He is a hero in the best sense of the word, living cleanly, despising viciousness equally with effeminacy, and striving after the development of his talents, just as a wise painter labours at the perfecting of his picture. Permit me here to quote the words of a sagacious Florentine gentleman named Guicciardini: "Men," says he, "are all by nature more inclined to do good than ill; nor is there anybody who, where he is not by some strong consideration pulled the other way, would not more willingly do good than ill."
Goodness, then, is a part of our being; therefore when you are behaving yourself like a true man, do not flatter yourself that you are doing any superhuman feat. And do not, as some do, have a sort of stupid contempt for people who respect truth, honesty, and purity, people who work hard at school, never insult their masters, and try to get on in the world without soiling their fingers and draggling their skirts in the mire. But see you cultivate humour as you go along. Without that there is danger in the other.
It is useful to reflect that no man without the moral idea ever wrought our country lasting service or won himself a place in the hearts of mankind. On the other hand, most of the men whose names are associated in your mind with courage and heroism are those who keenly appreciated the value of Conduct, and strove valiantly to keep themselves above the demoralising and vulgarising influences of the world.
Baden-Powell, then, is a hero, but no prodigy. He is a hero, and human. A ripple of laughter runs through his life, the fresh wind blows about him as he comes smiling before our eyes; and if he be too full of fun and good spirits to play the part of King Arthur in your imagination, be sure that no knight of old was ever more chivalrous towards women, more tender to children, and more resolved upon walking cleanly through our difficult world.
Ask those who know him best what manner of man he is, and the immediate answer, made with merry eyes and a deep chuckle, is this: "He's the funniest beggar on earth." And then when you have listened to many stories of B.-P.'s pranks, your informant will grow suddenly serious and tell you what a "straight" fellow he is, what a loyal friend, what an enthusiastic soldier. But it is ever his fun first.
One word more. Against such a work as this it is sometimes urged that there is a certain indelicacy in revealing the virtues of a living man to whomsoever has a shilling in his pocket to purchase a book. My answer to such a charge may be given in a few lines. In writing about Baden-Powell your humble servant has hardly considered the feelings of Baden-Powell at all. B.-P. has outlived a goodly number of absurd newspaper biographies, and he will survive this. Of you, and you alone, most honoured sir, has the present historian thought, and so long as you are pleased, it matters little to him if the hypersensitive lift up lean hands, turn pale eyes to Heaven, and squeak "Indecent!" till they are hoarse. And now, with as little moralising as possible, and no more cautions, let us get along with our story.
Baden-Powell had certain advantages in birth. We will not violently uproot the family tree, nor will we go trudging over the broad acres of early progenitors. I refer to the fact that his father was a clergyman. To be a parson's son is the natural beginning of an adventurous career; and, if we owe no greater debt to the Church of our fathers, there is always this argument in favour of the Establishment, that most of the men who have done something for our Empire have first opened eyes on this planet in some sleepy old rectory where roses bloom and rooks are blown about the sky.
Mr. Baden-Powell, the father of our hero, was a man of great powers. He was a renowned professor at Oxford, celebrated for his attainments in theology and in physical science. But the peace-loving man of letters died ere his boys had grown to youth, and, alas, the memory of him is blurred and indistinct in their minds. They remember a quiet, soft-voiced, tender-hearted man who was tall and of goodly frame, yet had the scholar's air, about whose knees they would cluster and hear enchanting tales, the plots of which have long since got tangled in the red tape of life. He had, what all fathers should surely have, a great love of natural history, and on his country walks would beguile his boys with talk of animals, birds, and flowers, implanting in their minds a love of the open and a study of field geology which has since stood them in excellent stead. I like to picture this learned professor, who was attacked by the narrow-minded Hebraists of his day for showing, as one obituary notice remarked, that the progress of modern scientific discovery, although necessitating modifications in many of the still prevailing ideas with which the Christian religion became encrusted in the times of ignorance and superstition, is in no way incompatible with a sincere and practical acceptance of its great and fundamental truths,—I like, I say, to picture this Oxford professor on one of his walks bending over pebbles, birds' eggs, and plants, with a troop of bright-eyed boys at his side. One begins to think of the scent of the hedgerow, the shimmering gossamer on the sweet meadows, the song of the invisible lark, the goodly savour of the rich earth, and then to the mind's eye, in the midst of it all, there springs the picture of the genial parson, tall and spare, surrounded by his olive-branches, and perhaps with our hero, as one of the late shoots, riding triumphant on his shoulder. It was his habit, too, when composing profound papers to read before the Royal Society, to let his children amuse themselves in his book-lined study, and who cannot see the beaming face turned often from the written sheets to look lovingly on his happy children? But, as I say, the memory of this lovable man is blurred for his children, and the clearest of their early memories are associated with their mother, into whose hands their training came while our hero was still in frocks.
Mrs. Baden-Powell's maiden name was Henrietta Grace Smyth. Her father was a sturdy seaman, Admiral W.H. Smyth, K.S.F., and fortunately for her children she was trained in a school where neither Murdstone rigour nor sentimental coddling was regarded as an essential. She was the kind of mother that rears brave men and true. For discipline she relied solely on her children's sense of honour, and for the maintenance of her influence on their character she was content to trust to a never-wavering interest in all their sports, occupations, and hobbies. Her children were encouraged to bear pain manfully, but they were not taught to crush their finer feelings. A simple form of religion was inculcated, while the boys' natural love for humour was encouraged and developed. In a word, the children were allowed to grow up naturally, and the influence brought to bear upon them by this wise mother was as quiet and as imperceptible as Nature intended it to be. Dean Stanley, Ruskin, Jowett, Tyndall, and Browning were among those who were wont to come and ply Mrs. Baden-Powell with questions as to how she managed to keep in such excellent control half-a-dozen boys filled to the brim with animal spirits. The truth is, the boys were unconscious of any controlling influence in their lives, and how could they have anything but a huge respect for a mother whose knowledge of science and natural history enabled her to tell them things which they did not know? In those days mothers were not content to commit the formation of their children's minds to nursemaids and governesses.
The eldest boy became a Chief Judge in India, and lived to write what the Times described as "three monumental volumes on the Land Systems of British India." The second boy, Warington, of whom we shall have more to say in the next chapter, went into the Navy, but left that gallant Service to practise at the Bar, and now is as breezy a Q.C. as ever brought the smack of salt-water into the Admiralty Court. The third son, Sir George Baden-Powell, sometime member of Parliament for Liverpool, had already entered upon a distinguished career when, to the regret of all who had marked his untiring devotion to Imperial affairs, his early death robbed the country of a loyal son. The other brothers of our hero are Frank Baden-Powell, who took Honours at Balliol, and is a barrister of the Inner Temple, as well as a noted painter, and Baden F.S. Baden-Powell, Major in the Scots Guards, whose war-kites at Modder River enabled Marconi's staff to establish wireless telegraphy across a hundred miles of South Africa. Among this family of young lions there was one little girl, Agnes, as keen about natural history as the rest, to whom her brothers were as earnestly and as passionately devoted as ever was Don Quixote to his Dulcinea.
And now to little Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell in knickerbockers and Holland jerkin.
HOME LIFE AND HOLIDAYS
Baden-Powell is now called either "B.-P." or "Bathing Towel." To his family he has always been Ste. This name, a contraction of Stephenson, was found for him by his big brothers in the days when home-made soldiers and birds'-nesting were life's main business.
Ste, who we must record was born at 6 Stanhope Street, London, on the 22nd February 1857, and had the engineer Robert Stephenson for one of his godfathers, was educated at home until he was eleven years of age. His parents had a great dread of overtaxing young brains, and lessons were never made irksome to any of their children. Ste learned to straddle a pony very soon after he had mastered the difficult business of walking, and with long hours spent in the open in the lively companionship of his brothers he grew up in vigorous and healthy boyhood. He had an enquiring mind, and never seemed to look upon lessons as a "fag." He was always "wanting to know," and there was almost as much eagerness on the little chap's part to be able to decline mensa and conjugate amo as he evinced in competing with his brothers in their sports and games. Such was his gentle, placid nature that the tutor who looked after his work loved to talk with people about his charge, never tiring in reciting little instances of the boy's delicacy of feeling and his intense eagerness to learn. Mark well, Smith minor, that this is no little Paul Dombey of whom you are reading. B.-P., so far as I can discover, never heard in the tumbling of foam-crested waves on the level sands of the sea-shore any mysterious message to his individual soul from the spirit world. He was full of fun, full of the joy of life, and as "keen as mustard" on adventures of any kind. His fun, however, was of the innocent order. He was not like Cruel Frederick in Struwwelpeter, who (the little beast!) delighted in tearing the wings from flies and hurling brickbats at starving cats. Baden-Powell would have kicked Master Frederick rather severely if he had caught him at any such mean business. No, his fun took quite another form. He was fond of what you call "playing the fool," singing comic songs, learning to play tunes on every odd musical instrument he could find, and delighting his brothers by "taking off" people of their acquaintance. B.-P., you must know, is a first-rate actor, and in his boyhood it was one of his chief delights to write plays for himself and his brothers to act. Some of these plays were moderately clever, but all of them contained a screamingly funny part for the low comedian of the company—our friend Ste himself.
Another of his amusements at this time was sketching. He got into the habit of holding his pencil or paint-brush in the left hand, and his watchful mother was troubled in her mind as to the wisdom of allowing a possible Botticelli to play pranks with his art. One day Ruskin called when this doubt was in her mind, and to him the question was propounded. Without a moment's reflection he counselled the mother to let the boy draw in whatsoever manner he listed, and together they went to find the young artist at his work. In the play-room they discovered one brother reading hard at astronomy, and Ste with a penny box of water-colours painting for dear life—with his left hand.
"Now I'll show you how to paint a picture," said Ruskin, and with a piece of paper on the top of his hat and B.-P.'s penny box of paints at his side he set to work, taking a little china vase for a model. Both the vase and the picture are now in the drawing-room of Mrs. Baden-Powell's London house. The result of Ruskin's advice was that B.-P. continued to draw with his left hand, and now in making sketches he finds no difficulty in drawing with his left hand and shading in at the same time with his right.
There is an incident of his childhood which I must not forget to record. At a dinner-party at the Baden-Powells', when Ste was not yet three years old, the guests being all learned and distinguished men, such as Buckle and Whewell, Thackeray was handing Mrs. Baden-Powell into dinner when he noticed that one of the little children was following behind. This was the future scout of the British Army, and the young gentleman, according to his wont, was just scrambling into a chair when Thackeray, fumbling in his pocket, produced a new shilling, and said in his caressing voice, "There, little one, you shall have this shilling if you are good and run away." Ste quietly looked up at his mother, and not until she told him that he might go up to the nursery did he shift his ground. But he carried that shilling with him, and now it is one of his most treasured possessions.
While he was doing lessons at home Baden-Powell gave evidence of his bent. He was fond of geography, and few things pleased him more than the order to draw a map. His maps, by the way, were always drawn with his left hand, and were astonishingly neat and accurate. Then in his spare hours, with scissors and paper, he would cut out striking resemblances of the most noted animals in the Zoo, and these—elephants and tigers, monkeys and bears—were "hung" by his admiring brothers with due honour on a large looking-glass in the schoolroom, there to amuse the juvenile friends of the family. He had the knack, too, of closely imitating the various sounds made by animals and birds, and one of his infant jokes was to steal behind a person's chair and suddenly break forth "with conspuent doodle-doo." And, again, when he was a little older, living at Rosenheim, I.W., there was surely the future defender of Mafeking in the little chap in brown Holland on the sands of Bonchurch digging scientific trenches with wooden spade, and demonstrating to his governess the impregnability of his sand fortress. With his sister and brother, little Ste was once out with this governess on a country ramble near Tunbridge Wells, when the governess discovered that she had walked farther than she intended and was in strange country. Ste was elated. But enquiry elicited the information that the party was not lost, and that they could return home by a shorter route; then was Baden-Powell miserable and cast down. He protested that he wanted the party to get lost so that he could find the way home for them.
A favourite holiday haunt was Tunbridge Wells, where Ste's grandfather owned a spacious and a fair demesne. Here, with miles of wood for exploration, brothers and sister were in their element. They would climb into the highest chestnut trees in the woods, taking up hampers and hay for the construction of nests, and at that exalted altitude play all manner of wild and romantic games. And yet they would also take up books into those cool branches and do lessons! Of Ste at this period his governess remarks, "It gave him great pleasure to enter a new rule in arithmetic"—an illuminative sentence, in which one sees the governess as well as the child.
It was here in Tunbridge Wells that Ste, with little Baden, now Guardsman and inventor of war-kites, spent laborious days in constructing a really serviceable dam in the river, digging there a deep hole in order to make themselves a luxurious bathing-place. From early infancy they had been taught to do for themselves. Master B.-P. could dress and undress himself before he was three years old, and at three he could speak tolerably well in German as well as English. The children were encouraged to get knowledge as some other children are encouraged to get bumptiousness; their parents delighted, and showed the children their delight, whenever a child did something sensible and clever; there was no unintelligent admiration of precocity.
The boys dug their own gardens, and from five years of age each child kept a most careful book of his expenditure by double entry. Their pennies went chiefly in books and presents, and omnibuses for long excursions out of London. There was no prohibition as to sweets, but never a penny of these earnest young double-entry bookkeepers found its way to the tuck-shop. However, a joke among the brothers was the following constant entry in the book of one of them: "Orange, L0:0:1." But no chaff was strong enough to correct that healthy appetite, and "Orange, L0:0:1" went on through the happy years.
At eleven years of age, Ste was packed off to a small private school, and here he distinguished himself in the same manner, though of course on a smaller scale, as Mr. Gladstone did at Eton. His moral courage, coupled with his athletic prowess, made him the darling of the little school, and the headmaster sorrowfully told his mother when the boy's two years' schooling were over that he would thankfully keep him there without fee of any kind, because by force of character the plucky little fellow had raised the entire moral tone of the school.
And now we come to what I regard as the most important part of our hero's life. In the last chapter I said we should have to say something about B.-P.'s big brother, the sailor, Warington, named after his grandmother, who was a Warington of Waddon Park. The very name Warington, even though it be spelled with a single 'r,' has an inspiring sound, and while Thackeray lives will ever be linked with all that is true and straightforward in the human heart. Imagine the reverence felt for Warington by the young brothers when he came home from a sea voyage! Not only were there the broad square shoulders, the deep chest, and the bronzed face to compel admiration; but a masterful and commanding manner withal, a stern eye and a rousing voice—and the overwhelming and crushing fact that he was a British Naval officer! Warington had been born ten years before Ste, and it is a mighty good thing for B.-P. (and he would be the first to admit it) that this was the case. For I believe that the resourcefulness of Baden-Powell is the result of the early training which he received at the hands of Warington; without that training he would have grown up a delightful and an amusing fellow, but, I suspect, as so many delightful and amusing people are, ineffective. And that is just what B.-P. is not.
You must know that in the spring holidays the boys spent their days in ranging field and copse "collecting," riding ponies, often with their faces towards the tail-end, attending to their innumerable pets, and doing a certain amount of reading of their own free will. Ste's study was mainly history and geology, and it was his custom to embellish the pages of the books he was reading with suitable illustrations as he went along. With these amusements, and always a good many productions of Ste's original comedies, the spring holidays slipped away pleasantly enough. But in the summer holidays came Warington fresh from the sea, with abounding energy and indomitable will, and recreation then was of a sterner kind.
Warington had designed a yacht, a smart 5-tonner, and in supreme command of this little craft, with his brothers for the crew, and only one hired hand for the dirty work, he took the schoolboys away from the ease and comforts of home life to rough it at sea. They shipped as seamen, and as seamen they lived. It was a case of "lights out" soon after dusk, and then up again with the sun. This rule, however, was not followed with comfortable regularity, for sometimes stress of weather would find the little chaps tumbling out of their hammocks in the dead of night, and clambering upon deck with knuckles rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. All the work usually performed by seamen, with the sole exception of cooking, was done by these little chaps, and under the eagle eye of Warington it was well and truly done. Not that they showed any disposition to shirk. On the contrary, a keener crew was never shipped, but there was something in their knowledge that the skipper's word was law, that there was no arguing about orders, which must have given a certain polish to their work. Warington, of course, was no petty tyrant, lording it over young brothers, and swaggering in the undisputed character of his sway. Like the rest he is a humourist, and when a gale was not blowing or the yacht was not contesting a race, he was as full of merriment and good spirits as the rest. His opinion of Ste at this time was a high one. He was always, says he, "most dependable." Receiving his orders, the future defender of Mafeking would stand as stiff and silent as a rock, showing scarce a sign that he understood them, but the orders were always carried out to the letter, and in a thoroughly finished and seamanlike manner. Ste was always the tallest of his brothers, and at this time he was singularly lithe and wiry. A tall slight boy with quite fair hair, a brown skin, and sharp brown eyes, he possessed extraordinary powers of endurance, and could always outlast the rest of the brothers. He was quick to perceive the reason of an order, and always quick to carry it out; he was just as brisk in organising cruises on his own account, when, with the leave of Skipper Warington, he would take command of the yacht's dinghy and go off on fishing expeditions with Baden and Frank. It was a dinghy that moved quickly with a sail, but in all their cruises up creeks and round about the hulks of Portsmouth Harbour they never came to grief, and always returned with a good catch of bass and mullet.
Danger did come to the yacht itself, however, on more than one occasion, and but for the courage and skill of Warington, the world might never have heard of B.-P. and the other brothers. Once, in the Koh-i-noor (a 10-tonner with about eighteen tons displacement), which was the second yacht designed by Warington, the boys were cruising about the south coast, when, towards evening, just off Torquay, a gale got up, and the sea began to get uncommon rough. As the gale increased almost to a hurricane and the waves dashed a larger amount of spray over the gunwale of the gallant little yacht, Warington decided to change his course and run back to Weymouth. The night was getting dark, and the storm increased. To add to the anxieties of the skipper his crew of boys, though showing no funk, began to grow green about the gills, and presently Warington found himself in command of an entirely sea-sick crew. He was unable to leave the helm, and for over thirty-one hours he stood there, giving his orders in a cheerful voice to the groaning youngsters who were more than once driven to the ship's drenched and dripping side. Fortunately Warington knew the coast well, for it was much too dark to see a chart, and so, despite the raging tempest, the 10-tonner fought her way through the waves while the sea broke continually over her side, drenching the shivering boys, who stuck to their posts, and every now and then shouted to each other with chattering teeth that it was "awful fun."
As showing the resourcefulness of the crew, I may narrate another yachting story. One Saturday, off Yarmouth, when the Baden-Powells were thinking of a race for which they were entered on the following Monday, a storm suddenly came on, which played such havoc with the rigging that the mast was snapped in two, and the whole racing kit went overboard. With clenched teeth the youngsters set to work and, with many a long pull and a strong pull, got all the wreck on board. Then with axes they slashed away at the wire-rigging, and set to work to rig up a jury-mast. All Sunday they toiled—the spars on an 18-tonner are no child's play—and at last they were able to rig up a jury-mast which would carry the mainsail with four reefs, while the foresail was able to catch the wind of heaven with only two. On Monday morning the yacht sailed out of Yarmouth fully rigged, and made off to the regatta with as cheerful a crew as ever braved the elements. The result of this labour was that the Baden-Powells, with a jury rig, won a second prize, and came in for the warm commendation of wondering and admiring sailors.
As I have said, in these expeditions the boys did seamen's work. They learned how to set sails, how to splice, how to reeve gear, how to moor a ship, and make all ready for scrubbing the bottom. It was a fine sight to see the healthy younkers, with trousers rolled over the knee, ankles well under slate-coloured oozing mud, scrubbing away at the bottom of the ship, and laughing and singing among themselves, while the reflective Warington, pipe in mouth, looked on and encouraged the toilers.
All round the English coast sailed the Baden-Powells, fighting their way to glory in regattas, and enjoying themselves from sunrise to sunset. On racing days it was a case of "strictly to business," and each boy had his proper station and knew well how to pull or slack out ropes. On other days it was a case of fun and frolic, and here, of course, B.-P. was the life and soul of the party. There were no squabbles, no petty jealousies; never did the brothers throughout their boyhood come to fisticuffs. But while there was perfect equality among them and no favouritism was ever shown, Ste was regarded as the prime comedian, and there was never any question that when theatricals were the order of the day he should reign in supreme command.
One of the houses taken by Mrs. Baden-Powell for the holidays was Llandogo Falls, a most romantic place on the Wye, the property of Mr. Gallenga, the Italian correspondent of the Times, who had previously got mixed up in a deep political plot in Italy, whereby he gained many useful secrets, but whereby, at the same time, he was obliged to flee out of Italy and return to England. We fancy this story in its full details must have appealed strongly to the imagination of Baden-Powell, whose after-life, could it be fully written, would satisfy the keenest appetite for daring, excitement, and romance. But to return to Llandogo Falls. Mrs. Baden-Powell, her daughter, and all the servants made the journey from London by means of the railway; but to the boys the fastest of express trains would have seemed slow, and accordingly Warington made ready his collapsible boat, and, rowing by day and sleeping on board by night, these indefatigable youngsters left London behind them, crossed the Severn, and, pulling up the Wye, arrived at Llandogo Falls, the first intimation of their arrival to Mrs. Baden-Powell being the sight of them dragging the boat over the lawn to the stables. This feat succeeded in endearing them to the Welsh people in the neighbourhood, who were greatly struck by the courage of the boys in crossing the Severn in a collapsible boat.
Here, at Llandogo Falls, the boys spent a great deal of time in riding practically wild ponies, and even in those days Ste was famous for his graceful seat, his quiet patience with an untractable steed, and his daring in attempting difficult jumps. Besides riding, the boys were fond of wandering about the country, making friends with the natives, shooting birds to be presently stuffed by themselves and put in the family museum, collecting rare insects, examining old ruins, and rowing up the Wye to spend the afternoon in bathing or in fishing, sometimes in both.
In this simple, healthy, and thoroughly English fashion the Baden-Powells spent their holidays, and in their home-life grew up devoted to each other, and to the mother whose controlling influence was over all their sports and occupations. It is interesting to note, ere we leave the subject of early training, that no infliction of punishment in any shape or form was permitted by Mrs. Baden-Powell. Whether such a rule would work for good in all families is a question that I for one, as a father of a young family, will never imperil my reputation for consistency by answering with a dogmatic affirmative. Nevertheless, one recognises the truth of Nietzsche's warning, "Beware of him in whom the impulse to punish is powerful." In the case of the Baden-Powells the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and you will get none of them to say that their childhood was not a joyous period, while Mrs. Baden-Powell will contend with any mother under Heaven that never before were such honourable, straightforward, and gentle-minded children. This home-life has never lost its charm, and though the sons may be scattered over the world on the Queen's service, they come back to exchange memories with each other under their mother's roof as often as the exigencies of their professions will allow. And when B.-P. is in the house, though his hair begins to flourish less willingly on his brow, he is just like the boy of old, springing up the stairs three steps at a time, and whistling as he goes with a heartiness and a joyousness that astonishes the decorous ten-year-old sparrow Timothy as he flits about the house after Miss Baden-Powell.
I have in my possession a copy of Mr. Russell's monograph on Mr. Gladstone, which had fallen into the hands of a grand old Tory parson. The margins of those pages bristle with the vehement annotations of my old friend. Against the statement that Mr. Gladstone had "a nature completely unspoilt by success and prominence and praise," there is a vigorous "OH!" Where it is recorded how in 1874 Mr. Gladstone promised to repeal the income-tax, I find a pencil line and the contemptuous comment, "A bribe for power!" Mr. Forster's resignation of office in 1882 is hailed with a joyful "Bravo, Forster!" and so on throughout Mr. Russell's interesting book. But on the last page of all there are three pencil lines marking a sentence, and by the side of the lines the concession, "Yes—true." The sentence is this: "But the noblest natures are those which are seen at their best in the close communion of the home."
A gentleman once wrote to the late headmaster of Charterhouse, Dr. William Haig-Brown, saying that he wished to have his son "interred" at that school. The headmaster wrote back immediately saying he would be glad to "undertake" the boy. The same headmaster being shown over a model farm remarked of the ornamental piggery, built after the manner of a Chinese Pagoda, that if there was Pagoda outside there was certainly pig odour inside.
Such a man as this is sure to have been impressed by the personality of Master Ste, who, in 1870, came to him in the old Charterhouse, that hoary, venerable pile which seems to shrink into itself, as if to shut out the unpoetic and modern atmosphere of Smithfield Meat Market. B.-P. went to Charterhouse as a gown boy, nominated by the Duke of Marlborough, and owing to the ease with which his infant studies had been conducted, was obliged to enter by a low form. But he had, as we have already said, an enquiring mind. He had also a clear brain, all the better for not having been crammed in childhood; and, therefore, strong in body, full of health and good spirits, and just as keen to get knowledge as to get a rare bird's egg, he began his school-days with everything in his favour. The result was that 1874 found him in the sixth, and one of the brilliant boys of his time.
Dr. Haig-Brown, as we have said, was sure to have been impressed by B.-P., and there is no need for his assurance that he remembers the boy perfectly. Of course, when one sits in his medieval study and asks the Doctor to discourse of B.-P., he begins by recalling Ste's love of fun; indeed, it is with no great willingness that he leaves that view of his pupil. But the boy's inflexibility of purpose, his uprightness and his eagerness to learn are as equally impressed upon the headmaster's mind, and he likes to talk about the exhilarating effect which B.-P.'s virile character had upon the moral tone of the school. "I never doubted his word," Dr. Haig-Brown told me, and by the tone of the headmaster's voice one realised that B.-P. was just one of those boys whose word it is impossible to doubt. A clean, self-respecting boy.
He was the life of the school in those entertainments for which Charterhouse has always been famous, and his reputation as a wit followed him from the stage into the playground. B.-P. was a keen footballer, and whenever he kept goal there was always a knot of grinning boys round the posts listening with huge delight to their hero's facetiae. He also had the habit, such were his animal spirits, of giving the most nerve-fluttering war-whoop imaginable when rushing the ball forward, and this cry is said to have been of so terrifying a nature as to fling the opposing side into a state of fear not very far removed from absolute panic. By the way, it is interesting in the light of after-events to read in the school's Football Annual (1876, p. 30) that "R.S.S. B.-P. is a good goalkeeper, keeping cool, and always to be depended upon."
But it was not only at football that Baden-Powell spent his time in the playground, although it was only in football that he shone. Into every game he threw himself with zest and earnestness, playing hard for his side, and finding himself always regarded by his opponents as an enemy to be treated with respect. That he continued to play cricket, racquets, and fives, although not a great success, is characteristic of his devotion to sports, and his habit of doing what is the right thing to do. Then he was a faithful and lively contributor to the school magazine, added his lusty young voice to the chapel choir, and was for ever seeking out excuses for getting up theatricals. Of one of his performances at the end of the Long Quarter in 1872 it is interesting to note that the Era of that time remarked that it was "full of vivacity and mischief." He was always a great success as an old woman, and we shall see that in later days he played a woman's part with huge success in far Afghanistan. At one of these school entertainments big brother Warington was present, and he laughingly recalls how the vast audience of shiny-faced boys broke into a great roar of delight directly B.-P. appeared in the wings—before he had uttered a word or made a grimace. Dr. Haig-Brown and the other masters who remember B.-P. like to recall scenes of this kind, and it is no disparagement of Ste's other sterling qualities that they seem to have been more impressed by his excellent fooling than by any other of his good qualities. It is the greater tribute to his genius for acting.
So long as the world lasts, I suppose, the intelligent boy who works hard at school will play the clown's part in popular fiction. Tom Sawyer is the kind of youth we like to see given the chief part in a novel, while George Washington, we are all agreed, is fit target for our lofty scorn. But how few of the people we love to read about in the airy realm of fiction, or the still airier realm of history, really possess our hearts? Think over the heroes in novels who would be drawn in with both hands to the fireside did they step out from between covers and present themselves at our front door in flesh as solid as the oak itself. And the good boy in fiction is anathema. Shakespeare himself believed that
Love goes towards love, as schoolboys from their books;
and the man is regarded almost as un-English who would have the world believe that there are British boys for whom the acquisition of knowledge has almost the same attraction as for their heroes in fiction has the acquisition of somebody's apples, or the tormenting of helpless animals.
The fault is not with the world but with the silly writers of goody-goody stories, who have so emasculated and effeminated the boy who works hard and holds his head high that it is now well-nigh impossible to hear of such an one in real life without instantly setting him down as an intolerable prig. These writers have committed the greatest crime against their creations that authors can commit—they have made them non-human. If the stories about George Washington had narrated how on one occasion he laughed uproariously, or how he once ate too many mince-pies, he might have escaped the lamentable and unjust reputation which seems likely to be his fate for another aeon or two. That boys can be good and human everybody knows, and the man who loves Tom Sawyer and sneers at Eric would be the first to flog and abuse his son if he bore a closer resemblance to the former than to the latter.
Baden-Powell as a boy was delightful. A grin always hovered about his face, and the Spirit of Fun herself looked out of his sharp, brown eyes. He was for ever making "the other chaps" roar; keeping a football field on the giggle; sending a concert-audience into fits. But he was just the sort of schoolboy of whom there would be no incidents to record. Men who knew him and lived with him in those days remember him, perhaps, more distinctly than any other boy of their time, and at the merest mention of his name their eyes twinkle with delight. "Oh, old Bathing Towel. George! what a funny beggar he was. Remember him? I should think I did. Stories about him? Well, I don't remember any just now, but dear old Bathing Towel——!" and off they go into another roar of laughter. All they can tell you is how he used to act and recite, and play all manner of musical instruments, or, if you drag them away from the stage, how he used to rend the air with his terrible war-whoop at the critical moment in a football match.
But although this is how it strikes a contemporary, Baden-Powell was in deadly earnest when it was a matter of books and ink-pots. He might be the funny man of the school, but he was also one of the most brilliant. He gave his masters the impression of a boy who really delighted in getting on; who was really keen about mastering a difficult subject. His vivacity and freshness, his energy and vigour, helped him to take pleasure in work which to another boy, less physically blessed, would have been an irksome toil; but though his body may have projected him some distance upon his way, it was his soul that really carried him triumphantly through. The spirit of Baden-Powell in those days was what it is now—supremely intent upon beating down obstacles in his path, and resolute to do well whatever the moment's duty might be. So the boy who was setting a football field on the roar at one moment, at the next would be sitting with fixed eyes and knit brows, "hashing" at Latin verses, as serious as a leader-writer hurling his bolts at the European Powers.
The master who best remembers B.-P. is Mr. Girdlestone, in whose house our hero spent four years of his school-days. Looking back over the past Mr. Girdlestone finds that what impressed him most in B.-P. during his school-days was the boy's manner with his elders. He was reserved, very reserved, and he never had any one close chum at school; but apparently he was quite free of shyness, as he would approach his masters without any trace of that timidity which too often marks the commerce of boy with master. On an afternoon's walk, for instance, B.-P. would not be found among the boys, but side by side deep in conversation with his master. And these conversations, I find, convinced his gubernators that he was very much above the average cut of boy in intelligence; not (Heaven forbid!) that he made parade of his little knowledge, but rather that he was eager to get information in really useful subjects from his superiors, and not above boldly declaring his eagerness. In those days Dr. Haig-Brown had a great reputation for sternness, and it is said that even the masters would sometimes quail when they entered his presence; but B.-P. was perfectly at his ease and entirely self-possessed even in approaching the presence of the great Doctor. He was never bashful in addressing a master on new schemes for the benefit of the school, and it was solely owing to his application to Mr. Girdlestone that Charterhouse first started its string orchestra, which is now one of the best boys' bands in the kingdom. Music, it seems, was one of his chief delights at school, he played the violin really well; but while he loved that king of instruments, he would stoop to baser, and oft delight his contemporaries, holding them entranced, by spirited performances on the mouth organ and the ocarina.
With no close friend Baden-Powell was a boy without an enemy, and his popularity may be seen in many ways. Although, for instance, he was not successful in athletics, he was a regular member of the Sports Committee, and worked with intense enthusiasm for the success of Sports-Day. And, another instance; as a memento of their favourite, the butler of B.-P.'s house and his wife saved a part of the dress he wore in his last theatrical performance. When the news came of the relief of Ladysmith this garment was drawn forth from the back of a drawer and used as a flag of rejoicing, and as I write it is being jealously guarded to be hung out from the school windows when the little boy who wore it is delivered from his glorious prison of Mafeking.
This butler has a very vivid recollection of Baden-Powell. He remembers him as a boy "up to mischief," but too much of a gentleman ever to go beyond proper bounds. His mischief was of the harmless nature, and he was never "shown up" for a row of any description. Many a time did the observant butler come upon Baden-Powell in the House Music Room practising his tunes; but not by any means in a dull and unoriginal fashion. It was the boy's habit to take off his boots and stockings, set a chair on a table, climb up to his perch, and from thence draw forth melody of sorts with his ten toes. After this it is surely a wonder that Baden-Powell in joining the army did not insist upon doing Manual Exercise with his extremities.
There is a story about Master Ste which clearly shows, I think, the estimation in which he was held by the other boys. Who but a general favourite could have played the following part? On Shrove Tuesday at Charterhouse there was of old time a custom called the Lemon Peel Fight. With every pancake the boys were given a lemon, or half a lemon, and these were never eaten, being jealously reserved for the great fight on the green outside after the pancakes had unmysteriously disappeared. On one occasion, when the sides were drawn up in grim battle array, facing each other lemon in hand, every boy as dauntless as Horatius, Herminius, and Spurius Lartius, and just when the signal for the conflict was to be given,—suddenly upon the scene appeared Baden-Powell, swathed from head to foot in tremendous padding, with nothing to be seen of his little brown face save the bright, mischievous eyes peeping out of two slits. Rushing between the two lines with a fearsome war-whoop, this alarming apparition squatted suddenly upon the grass, and looking first on one army and then on the other, said in the most nonchalant tone of voice: "Let the battle commence!"
From the battle-field one goes naturally to the butts. In some of the newspaper articles concerning Baden-Powell it has been said that he had nothing to do with the Rifle Corps. This is quite wrong. There was nothing going on at Charterhouse into which Baden-Powell did not fling himself with infinite zest, and shooting, of course, had special attractions for a boy bred in the country and deep-learned in the mysteries of field and covert. Not only did he take part in the shooting, but he was an active member of the Shooting Committee. His last score, shooting as a member of the School VIII. versus the 6th Regiment at Aldershot on 6th March 1876, was as follows:—
200 yards 500 yards Total 22 14 36
The school was beaten, and Sergeant B.-P. came out of the contest as third best shot for Charterhouse. The day, says the historian, was bitterly cold, and a violent and gusty wind blew across the range. Seven shots were fired at each distance, class targets being used.
If there is interest in Baden-Powell's score as a schoolboy-marksman, how much greater interest should there be in Baden-Powell's hit as orator? It is not always the ready actor who makes the best polemical speech, but Baden-Powell had a reputation at Charterhouse as a debater as well as fame as a mimic. That the boy was more than ordinarily intelligent may even be seen in the abbreviated report of one of his speeches preserved in the school magazine. The subject of debate was that "Marshal Bazaine was a traitor to his country," and Baden-Powell spoke against the motion. The report says that he "appeared to be firmly convinced that the French plan of the war was to get the Prussians between Sedan and Metz, and play a kind of game of ball with them. By surrendering, Bazaine saved lives which would be of use against the Communists. As there was only a government de facto in Paris he was compelled to act for himself." But even eloquence of this order was not sufficient to persuade Charterhouse that Bazaine deserved no censure. The motion was carried by a majority of 1.
In those days, too, Baden-Powell was famous as an artist, and his sketches, with the left hand, were admired and commented upon by masters as well as boys. One can fancy with what great reverence B.-P. the caricaturist must have looked upon Thackeray's pencil in the Charterhouse Library—the pencil of the great man whose shilling he was then hoarding with the jealousy of a miser.
Baden-Powell's quality as a schoolboy may be judged by his later life. Few things are so pleasant about him as his intense loyalty to his old school. Before leaving India for England in 1898, he wrote to Mr. Girdlestone, asking his old House Master to send to his London address a list of all the interesting fixtures at Charterhouse, so that he might see what was going on directly he arrived in England. Whenever he is in the old country he pays a visit to Godalming, and one of his last acts before leaving for South Africa was to call on Dr. Haig-Brown at the Charterhouse, where he first went to school, to bid his old Head a brave and cheerful farewell. And what was more English, what more typical of the public-school man, than the letter B.-P. sent to England from bombarded Mafeking, saying that he had been looking up old Carthusians to join him in a dinner on Founder's Day? In India he never allowed the 12th of December to pass unhonoured, and whether he be journeying through the bush of the Gold Coast Hinterland, or riding across the South African veldt, he is always quick to recognise the face of an old schoolboy, or the Carthusian colours in a necktie.
The estimation in which Charterhouse holds Baden-Powell may be seen in the result of a "whip round" for the hero besieged in Mafeking—nearly a hundred and forty cases of useful goods. These cases contained, among other things, 962 lbs. of tobacco, 1200 cigars, 23,000 cigarettes, 640 pipes, 160 dozens of wine and spirits, seven cases of provisions, 490 shirts, 730 "helmets," 1350 pairs of socks, and 168 pairs of boots. In addition to this over L1000 was raised by Old Carthusians to be sent out in its own useful shape.
Popularity such as this has been justly earned. Baden-Powell's record as a Carthusian will, as we have seen, bear looking into, and though the old school may boast of more brilliant scholars and more world-wide names on its roll, I do not think it has ever sent into the world a more useful all-round man, a more intrepid soldier, a more upright gentleman, and a more loyal son. And one knows that there is no British cheer so likely to touch the heart of Baden-Powell when he returns to England as the great roar which will assuredly go up in Charterhouse when this Old Boy comes beaming into the Great Hall.
THE DASHING HUSSAR
When Baden-Powell turned his back on Charterhouse it was with the intention of proceeding to Oxford. Professor Jowett, who, by the bye, was the godfather of Baden, begged our hero to pay him a visit as soon as he left school, and when on this visit the Master heard that B.-P. could only spare two years for Oxford, he said, "Then Christ Church is the college for you, because at Balliol I like each man to remain three or four years, and go in for honours finally." So Ste made plans for going to Christ Church, was examined, accepted for the following term, and Dean Liddell arranged about rooms for him in the House. But ere B.-P. went up, an Army examination came on, and, "just for fun," up went our indefatigable hero with a light heart and no other thought in his mind than the determination to do his level best. The result of this happy-go-lucky entrance for examination was the unlooked-for success of our "unbruised youth with unstuffed brain," who passed second out of seven hundred and eighteen candidates, among whom, by the way, were twenty-eight University candidates. As a reward for his brilliancy, B.-P. was informed by the Duke of Cambridge that his commission would be ante-dated two years.
Until this memorable event Baden-Powell had expressed no special predilection for soldiering. His chief desire had been to go in for some profession that would take him abroad and show him the world. The first service which seemed to attract him definitely at all was the Indian Woods and Forests, and this chiefly on account of a burning desire to roam about the gorgeous East. It was only when an elder brother suggested that, if he wanted to see India and other countries as well, he might be better suited in the Army, that this born soldier gave any indication of his desire for a military career. And only with the Army examination successfully conquered did he seriously begin to think of uniforms and swords and the glamour of a soldier's life.
On the 11th September 1876 Baden-Powell joined the 13th Hussars in India, and one of his first acts was to take from his baggage an ocarina, and having assembled all the European children he could find in the station, to march at their head through the streets of Lucknow, playing with great feeling, which suffered, however, a little from his all-comprehensive grin, "The Girl I Left Behind Me." In this manner he signalised his arrival, earning the undying love of every English mother in the place, and infusing into the gallant 13th Hussars (Viret in AEternum!) fresh vigour and fresh spirit.
The 13th Hussars, Sir Baker Russell's old regiment, boasts a fine record, and the songs in the canteen at night will tell you how the regiment rode on the right of the line at Balaclava, when it was known to fame as the 13th Light Dragoons. One of these songs begins:—
Six hundred stalwart warriors, of England's pride the best, Did grasp the lance and sabre on Balaclava's crest, And with their trusty leader, Lord Cardigan the brave, Charged up to spike the Russian guns—or find a soldier's grave.
And the refrain, which every man present sings with a face as solemn as my Lord Chancellor sitting on the Woolsack half an hour longer than usual, runs in this fashion:—
Oh, 'tis a famous story; proclaim it far and wide, And let your children's children re-echo it with pride, How Cardigan the fearless his name immortal made, When he crossed the Russian valley with his famous Light Brigade.
This is the great glory of the regiment, the knowledge of which makes the recruit blow his chest out another inch and straightway purchase out of his pay spurs that jingle more musically when he goes abroad than the miserable things served out by an unromantic Government. Other legends there are in this regiment, and once Baden-Powell and his great friend, Captain MacLaren (known to the officers as "The Boy," to the men as "The Little Prince"), set about compiling its history; but for some reason or another that work has not yet appeared, and since its inception B.-P. has deserted to the Dragoons—Vestigia nulla retrorsum!
Baden-Powell became popular with his brother-officers directly he joined. It was his freshness, his overflowing good spirits, his hearty and unmistakable enjoyment of life, that first won their regard. The boy suddenly dropped into their midst was no blase youth, no mere swaggering puppy. He was afire with the joy of existence, radiant with happiness, excited—and not ashamed to show it—by all the newness and fascination of Indian life. The Major screwed his eye-glass into his eye and smiled encouragingly; the Adjutant measured him with peg to his lip and knew he would do. Every one felt that the new sub was an acquisition.
But it must not be supposed that there was any "bounce" about the new boy. Apart from his breeding and training, which would effectually prevent a man from committing the unpardonable sin of the social world, Baden-Powell by nature was, and still is, a little bashful. There are people who pooh-pooh the very idea of such a thing, and declare that the man they have heard act and sing and play the fool is no more nervous than a bishop among curates. Nevertheless they are wrong; and your humble servant entirely right. B.-P., like the other members of his family, suffers from nervousness, and when he goes on the stage to act, and sits down at the piano to "vamp," it is a sheer triumph of will over nerves. He is not nervous under the wide and starry sky, not bashful when he pricks his horse into the long grass of the veldt and bears down upon a bunch of bloodthirsty savages, not nervous when he gets a child on his knee all by himself and tells her delightful stories,—but nervous as a boy on his first day at school when he finds himself being lionised in a drawing-room, or picked out of the ruck of guests for any particular notice. And so when he joined the 13th, behind the ebullient spirits was this innate bashfulness, which, added to the natural modesty of a gentleman, kept his animal spirits in a delightful simmer, and found favour for him in the eyes of his superior officers. How they discovered B.-P.'s quality as a humourist happened in this way. A day or two after he joined there was an entertainment of some sort going on in barracks, and during a pause Sir Baker Russell turned round to Baden-Powell, and said, "Here, young 'un, you can play a bit, I'm sure"; and up went Baden-Powell to the piano, as if obeying an order. In a few minutes the whole place was in a roar, and, as one of the officers told me, the regiment recognised that in B.-P. they had got "a born buffoon, but a devilish clever fellow."
Concerning B.-P. as an actor, it is characteristic of the thoroughness with which he does everything that he always draws and redraws any character he may be playing until he is perfectly satisfied with the dress and make-up; some of these drawings have been captured by his brother-officers, and are greatly treasured.
Soon after joining he began to show his quality as a sportsman. In that regiment of fine riders it has always been hard to shine at polo or tent-pegging, or heads-and-posts, but there was no mistaking the perfect horseman in B.-P. when he got into the saddle, with the eyes of the regiment upon him. Few men ride more gracefully. His seat, of course, is entirely free from that ramrod stiffness which some of the Irregular Cavalry cultivate with such painful assiduity; he sits easily and gracefully, so easily that you might fancy a rough horse would set him bobbing and slipping like a cockney astride a donkey on the sands. But with all the ease and grace, there is strength there, such as would wear down the nastiest of bad brutes. The leg that looks so lightly and gracefully posed grips like steel, and the pressure increases relentlessly the more the horse quarrels with his rider. Many a time has Baden-Powell taken in hand young horses which have defied the efforts of the rough-riding Sergeant-Major, and so far as I can gather there was never a case of the horse beating the rider. His skill as a breaker of horses deserves especial mention because of the characteristic manner in which it is done. By simply sticking in the saddle, and gripping with his legs, he wears down the horse's opposition, silently matching his powers of endurance against the tricks and tempers of the unruly member. Seldom does whip or spur come into play when Baden-Powell is fighting for the mastery with an undisciplined horse.
But while he was proving himself a good sportsman, B.-P. was getting to know about soldiering, paying great attention to regimental work and loyally working to please his captains. Not only did he devote himself to the ordinary routine of regimental work, but in spare moments he began to read up special subjects, and it seems only natural that one of the first of these subjects should be Topography. The result of this labour was that in 1878 Baden-Powell passed the Garrison Class, taking a First Class and Extra Certificate (Star) for Topography. During the lectures he distinguished himself by making inimitable caricatures, for which he was sometimes taken to task by the authorities. Also he could not help poking fun at the examiners in the papers themselves. Asked, "Do you know why so-and-so, and so-and-so?" Baden-Powell would write an interrogative "No."
After distinguishing himself in this way, B.-P. came back to England, in order to go through the Musketry Course at Hythe. Here he did equally well, taking a First Class Extra Certificate, and a year after we find him as Musketry Instructor at Quetta. But this book is not intended to be a "biography" of Baden-Powell, and I shall beg leave to relate no chronological record of his military career. We are telling his story as a story, hoping to interest every English schoolboy who has arrived at years of discretion, hoping to make them keen on sport, keen on exercise, keen on open-air life, and hoping, in addition, to be of real practical use to those whose eyes are now set hungrily on Sandhurst.
In a later chapter it will be seen how Baden-Powell interested himself in his men's welfare, and how he encouraged them to become real soldiers—learned in things other than mere boot-cleaning and button-polishing. Here we behold him as the gay and dashing Hussar, a bold sportsman, a keen soldier, and one of the most popular men in India.
His popularity, it is only fair to say, was earned very largely by that gift for acting which had won him fame as a schoolboy. Whispers that he was going to act in the Area Belle, or one of Gilbert and Sullivan's operas, travelled with amazing rapidity from station to station in India, and every performance in which he took part was attended by all the Europeans for miles round. Indeed his fame as an actor travelled so far afield that the manager of a London theatre wrote to him in India offering our astonished hero a position in his company at a salary of ten pounds a week! There is never an occasion when B.-P. is not willing to get up theatricals. A few months after the siege of Kandahar he arranged for a performance of The Pirates of Penzance in that barbarous city, making himself responsible for the entire management. The dresses were excellent, the stage and scenery good, and the opera was received with intense enthusiasm; and yet there was not a single European woman there; all the dresses and costumes were the work of B.-P., who himself appeared in the character of Ruth! On another occasion, when Trial by Jury was to be given, it was discovered at the last moment, to the consternation of every one except B.-P., that there were no Royal arms. In a few hours he produced what I am assured was the most splendid and gorgeous national emblazonry that ever sparkled behind footlights. He had collected a few crude paints from the natives of the district, and had painted the arms with an old shaving-brush. Such is his resourcefulness. And what of his enthusiasm? When he was home in England on sick-leave he sent out to the 13th Hussars the book of Les Cloches de Corneville, with excellent sketches of the dresses and hints as to its staging. Again, he has been known to get off a sick-bed in India in order to take part in some entertainment for the amusement of soldiers.
It was shortly after the successful performance of The Pirates of Penzance, and after the evacuation of Kandahar, that Baden-Powell very nearly succeeded in putting an end to himself. He was toying with a pistol, in the firm conviction that it was unloaded, when, to his intense indignation, the thing went off and planted a bullet in the calf of his leg. It might have been a more romantically dangerous wound, but it was quite sufficiently uncomfortable. Even now, on any serious change in the weather, B.-P. is unpleasantly reminded of this adventure in far Afghanistan by rebellious throbbing in the old wound.
On his return from Kandahar Baden-Powell was appointed Adjutant and Musketry Inspector to his regiment, and he is spoken of by one who was himself adjutant of this fine regiment for many years as one of the best adjutants in the world. Shortly after this his uncle, General Smyth, Commandant at Woolwich, offered him the tempting appointment of A.D.C., but Baden-Powell preferred India and his regiment, and declined. Life in India suited Master Ste. It provided him with a great deal of real soldiering, much sport, and made him acquainted with one of the most fascinating countries in the world. After he got his troop, he became Brigade-Major to Sir Baker Russell's Cavalry Brigade at Meerut Camp of Exercise, and was appointed Station Staff-Officer and Cantonment Magistrate at Muttra. With all these duties he found time for sketching and writing, publishing Reconnaissance and Scouting, and sending many interesting sketches to the Graphic. It may not be out of place here to mention that Baden-Powell, among other parts, has played the War Correspondent, working once in that character for the Daily Chronicle, and with considerable success.
That Baden-Powell was a marked man early in his career is attested by the fact of his being chosen as a member of the Board for formulating Cavalry regulations at Simla in 1884. He was eminently a business-man, a managing man, and all his work in the army has been marked by those excellent qualities which go to the making of our great merchant princes. He is shrewd, practical, and what he says is always to the point. His despatches are admirable examples of what such documents should be, never saying a word too much, and yet leaving his meaning clear-cut and unmistakable. For such work he finds a model in the despatch of Captain Walton, who, under Admiral Byng, destroyed the entire Spanish fleet off Passaro: "Sir,—We have taken or destroyed all the Spanish ships on this coast; number as per margin.—Respectfully yours, G. Walton, Captain." Says Baden-Powell, "There is no superfluous verbosity there."
But do not let us lose sight altogether of Baden-Powell as the whimsical humourist. There are two stories in the regiment which reveal him in this light very nicely. He was once walking with a friend on the esplanade of some English seaside place, and the day was piping hot. Suddenly, without explanation of any kind, B.-P. sat himself down on the kerb, placed his billycock hat solemnly on his knees, and buried his face in a flaming red handkerchief. This unprecedented sight stirred the depths of the one and only policeman's heart, and he strode valiantly across the road, prepared to do his duty at all costs. Touching B.-P. upon the shoulder with his white cotton glove, the constable demanded, in a deep voice, "Arnd, whaaet's the matter wi' you, eh?" Slowly removing the handkerchief from his eyes, and with a perfectly solemn face, B.-P. explained that he had just at that moment tumbled out of his nurse's arms and that the silly woman had gone on without noticing it. And the other story: being told rather rudely at a picture exhibition in Manchester that he must go back to the hall and leave his stick with the porter, B.-P. walked briskly away, but presently returned, with his stick, hobbling painfully along—a man to whom a walking-stick was veritably a staff of life. The rude official bit his lip and looked the other way.
When the regiment was at Muttra, Baden-Powell lived in a house which boasted a very large compound, and this he dignified by the name of "Bloater Park." At that time it was the habit to speak about men as "this old bloater" and "that old bloater," and the expression so tickled B.-P. that he adopted the name for his lordly compound. Letters would actually reach him from England solemnly addressed to Bloater Park.
Life at this time—if we except the 1887 operations against Dinizulu in Africa, when B.-P. was Assistant Military Secretary, and commanded a column in attack—was for the most part humdrum, and only enlivened by theatricals and shooting expeditions. But B.-P. was ever interested in his men, and planned sports and entertainments for them, which always kept him fully occupied. A friend of his going to call on him in Seaforth, where B.-P. was commanding a squadron, was astonished to find a Maypole in the centre of the dingy barrack square, round which mounted men rode merrily, each with a coloured ribbon in his hand. On questioning the commander, the visitor discovered that there was a deserving charity in Liverpool, and that B.-P. was getting up a military display on its behalf.
Before leaving this subject, let us mention that Baden-Powell was Brigade-Major to the Heavy Brigade at the Jubilee Review of 1887, that he was sent by Lord Wolseley to arrange about machine guns for cavalry use at Aldershot, that he was Secretary to the British Commission at Swaziland in 1888, and in the same year was elected a member of the United States Cavalry Association. One of his most important staff appointments was that of Assistant Military Secretary to the Governor of Malta, where his work for the amelioration of the soldiers' and sailors' lives produced lasting benefits.
His work as a regimental officer will be more fully dealt with in a later chapter.
"The longest march seems short," says Baden-Powell, "when one is hunting game." Many a time, when he has been marching either alone or with troops, his clothes in tatters, his shoes soleless, and his mouth as dry as a saucer licked by a cat, many and many a time has he got out from under the impending shadow of depression, out into the open sunlight with his rifle,—to forget all about hunger and thirst in matching his wits against nature's. This kind of wild sport has an absorbing interest for Baden-Powell. What he would say if invited to hunt a tame deer, lifted by human arms out of a cart, kicked away from playing with the hounds and pushed and beaten into an astonished and bewildered gallop, neither you nor I must pretend to know; but for that kind of "sport" it is very certain he would express no such enthusiasm as he does for the keen, wild, dangerous sport of the legitimate hunter. He will not seek the destruction of any quarry that is not worthy of his steel; he likes to go against that quarry where there are obstacles and dangers for him, and opportunities of escape for the creature he pursues. He is a sportsman, not a butcher; mole-catching never stirred the blood in his veins.
And while he is hunting animals he is educating himself as a scout. His whole attention becomes riveted on the game he is pursuing; he studies the spoor, takes account of the nature of the country, and makes a note in his mind of any observations likely to be of service during a campaign in that kind of country. It is not the work of destruction itself that makes Baden-Powell a keen sportsman.
In the midst of the Matabele war, just as the weary, half-starved horses which had carried his men eighty-seven miles drew near the stronghold of Wedza, Baden-Powell was exhilarated by a meeting with a lion. In his diary against that date he wrote: "To be marked with a red mark when I can get a red pencil." The incident is well related in his diary and is a characteristic of B.-P. It runs: "Jackson and a native boy accompanied me scouting this morning; we three started off at three in the morning, so that by dawn we were in sight of one of the hills we expected might be occupied by Paget, and where we hoped to see his fires. We saw none there; but on our way, in moving round the hill which overlooks our camp, we saw a match struck high up near the top of the mountain. This one little spark told us a great deal. It showed that the enemy were there; that they were awake and alert (I say 'they,' because one nigger would not be up there by himself in the dark); and that they were aware of our force being at Possett's (as, otherwise, they would not be occupying that hill). However, they could not see anything of us, as it was then quite dark; and we went farther on among the mountains. In the early morning light we crossed the deep river-bed of the Umchingwe River, and, in doing so, we noticed the fresh spoor of a lion in the sand. We went on, and had a good look at the enemy's stronghold; and on our way back, as we approached this river-bed, we agreed to go quietly, in case the lion should be moving about in it. On looking down over the bank, my heart jumped into my mouth when I saw a grand old brute just walking in behind a bush. Jackson could not see him, but was off his horse as quick as I was, and ready with his gun; too ready, indeed, for the moment that the lion appeared, walking majestically out from behind the bush that had hidden him, Jackson fired hurriedly, striking the ground under his foot, and, as we afterwards discovered, knocking off one of his claws. The lion tossed up his shaggy head and looked at us in dignified surprise. Then I fired and hit him in the ribs with a leaden bullet from my Lee-Metford. He reeled, sprang round, and staggered a few paces, when Jackson, who was firing a Martini-Henry, let him have one in the shoulder; this knocked him over sideways, and he turned about, growling savagely. I could scarcely believe that we had actually got a lion at last, but resolved to make sure of it; so, telling Jackson not to fire unless it was necessary (for fear of spoiling the skin with the larger bullet of the Martini), I got down closer to the beast, and fired a shot at the back of his neck as he turned his head away from me. This went through his spine, and came out through the lower jaw, killing him dead."
It was during the Matabele campaign that Baden-Powell came across a fine wild boar, which, he remarks, caused quite a flutter in his breast. "'If I only had you in the open, my friend,' thought I. 'If only you had a horse that was fit enough to come anywhere near me,' grinned he. And so we parted." A graphic incident.
It is in hunting the wild boar that Baden-Powell has a universal reputation as a sportsman. He is good, very good, at all sports, but it is as a pig-sticker that he excels, and stands out clear-cut from the rest. And pig-sticking is the sport of all sports which entail the killing of animals in which we could wish him to excel. Hear Major Moray Brown on the subject of fox versus pig: "You cannot compare the two sports together. To begin with, in fox-hunting you are dependent on 'scent.' Granted the excitement of a fast burst over a grass country, and that you are well carried by your horse, the end—what is it? A poor little fox worried by at least forty times its number of hounds. Has he a chance, bar his cunning, of baffling his pursuers? No. Now, how different is the chase of the boar of India! There you must depend on yourself in every way, and at the end your quarry meets you on nearly fair and equal terms." Let it be remembered that the boar is an animal of great reputation among beasts. It is a well-ascertained fact, says Baden-Powell, that of all animals the boar does not fear to drink at the same pool with a tiger; nay, a case is on record of his having taken his drink with a tiger on each side of him. In his book on pig-sticking Baden-Powell quotes an exciting description of a battle between a tiger and a boar, a battle which will give English readers a vivid idea of the boar's pluck and doggedness. The narrative is as follows: "When the boar saw the tiger the latter roared. But the old boar did not seem to mind the roar so very much as might have been anticipated. He actually repeated his 'hoo! hoo!' only in a, if possible, more aggressive, insulting, and defiant manner. Nay, more, such was his temerity that he actually advanced with a short, sharp rush in the direction of the striped intruder. Intently peering through the indistinct light, we eagerly watched the development of this strange rencontre. The tiger was now crouching low, crawling stealthily round and round the boar, who changed front with every movement of his lithe and sinewy adversary, keeping his determined head and sharp, deadly tusks ever facing his stealthy and treacherous foe. The bristles of the boar's back were up at a right angle from the strong spine. The wedge-shaped head poised on the strong neck and thick rampart of muscular shoulder was bent low, and the whole attitude of the body betokened full alertness and angry resoluteness. In their circlings the two brutes were now nearer to each other and nearer to us, and thus we could mark every movement with greater precision. The tiger was now growling and showing his teeth; and all this, that takes such a time to tell, was but the work of a few short minutes. Crouching now still lower, till he seemed almost flat on the ground, and gathering his sinewy limbs beneath his lithe, lean body, he suddenly startled the stillness with a loud roar, and quick as lightning sprang upon the boar. For a brief minute the struggle was thrilling in its intense excitement. With one swift, dexterous sweep of the strong, ready paw, the tiger fetched the boar a terrific slap right across the jaw, which made the strong beast reel; but with a hoarse grunt of resolute defiance, with two or three sharp digs of the strong head and neck, and swift, cutting blows of the cruel, gashing tusks, he seemed to make a hole or two in the tiger's coat, marking it with more stripes than Nature had ever painted there; and presently both combatants were streaming with gore. The tremendous buffet of the sharp claws had torn flesh and skin away from off the boar's cheek and forehead, leaving a great ugly flap hanging over his face and half blinding him. The pig was now on his mettle. With another hoarse grunt he made straight for the tiger, who very dexterously eluded the charge, and, lithe and quick as a cat after a mouse, doubled almost on itself, and alighted clean on the boar's back, inserting his teeth above the shoulders, tearing with his claws, and biting out great mouthfuls of flesh from the quivering carcase of his maddened antagonist. He seemed now to be having all the best of it, so much so that the boar discreetly stumbled and fell forward, whether by accident or design I know not, but the effect was to bring the tiger clean over his head, sprawling clumsily on the ground. I almost shouted 'Aha, now you have him!' for the tables were turned. Getting his forefeet on the tiger's prostrate carcase, the boar now gave two or three short, ripping gashes with his strong white tusks, almost disembowelling his foe, and then exhausted seemingly by the effort, apparently giddy and sick, he staggered aside and lay down, panting and champing his tusks, but still defiant with his head to the foe." But the tiger, too, was sick unto death, and the end of this battle-royal was that he who saw it emptied the contents of both his barrels into the two stricken belligerents, and put them out of their agony.
It is against such a fierce, resolute, and well-armed enemy that Baden-Powell loves to match his strength and cunning. Mounted on his little fourteen-hand Waler, in pith solar topee, grey Norfolk jacket, light cords, and brown blucher boots, and grasping in his hand his deadly seventy-inch spear, he goes forth to slay the wild boar, with all the feelings of romance and knightliness which some people think vanished from the world when Excalibur sank in the Lake of Lyonnesse. It is a battle whereof no man need be ashamed; in which only the strong man can glory. Many a time has the wild boar hurled his great head and mountainous shoulders against the forelegs of a horse, bringing the hunter to the ground for mortal combat on foot. Many a time has the novice, who went out as gaily and contemptuously as the fox-hunter, returned to his bungalow cut and gored on a stretcher. He who goes up against the wild boar must, in Baden-Powell's words, "have matured not only the 'pluck' which brings a man into a desperate situation, but that 'nerve' which enables him to carry the crisis to a successful issue."
When Baden-Powell returned to India from Afghanistan in 1882, he became an enthusiastic pig-sticker (for reasons which we shall give in our chapter on Scouting), and during that year he killed no fewer than thirty-one pigs. In the following year he killed forty-two, and won the blue-ribbon of hog-hunting—the Kadir Cup. Two years afterwards he wrote and illustrated the standard book on pig-sticking (published by Messrs. Harrison and Sons), which is as famous a book in India as Mr. H.S. Thomas's delightful books on fishing.