This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

everything connected with the five squadrons at this moment,” galloping to each in succession, giving orders when and in what sequence it was to start, what section of the Russian front it was to strike, and exerting himself to the utmost to have everything fully understood. His errors were in omitting to call in the outlying regiments of the brigade, and either now–or earlier before he left the ridge, specifically to order Lord Cardigan to fall on the flank of the Russians at the moment when their front should be _aux prises_ with Scarlett’s heavy squadrons. “C” Troop’s position was such that it could command, over the heads of the stationary Heavies, the gradual slope up to the Russian front, and every detail of the charge was under its eyes. Scarlett’s burnished helmet and plain blue coat were conspicuous in front. The Troop also had the opportunity of making a deliberate study of the Russian cavalry both before and during the combat.

Its front had the appearance of three strong squadrons; its formation was either close or quarter distance column–probably the former, since the column could nowhere be seen through from front to rear; its depth halted was about the same as its breadth of front; its pace across the ridge was a sharp trot and its discipline was indicated by the smartness with which it took ground to the left. Kinglake describes the serried mass as encircled by a loose fringe of satellites, but the “C” Troop chronicler saw neither skirmishers, flankers, nor scouts; and no guns were discerned or heard, although General Hamley says that as the huge cohort swept down batteries darted out from it and threw shells against the troops on the upland. No Lancers were seen with the column, certainly none with pennons. The “partial deployment” of which Kinglake speaks, consisting of “wings or forearms” devised to cover the flanks or fold inwards on the front, did not make itself apparent to any observer of “C” Troop; and indeed the present writer never knew a Russian who had heard of it, the species of formation adumbrated, so far as he is aware, being confined to Zulu impis. It was noticed, and this is not rare, that on the halt the centre pulled up a little earlier than the flanks, so that the latter were somewhat prolonged and advanced. The halt was quite brief and a slower advance ensued without correction of the frontal dressing. Presently there was another halt and some pistol or carbine fire from the central squadron on the advancing first squadron of the Greys. Kinglake makes the Russian front meet our assault halted, but the “C” Troop chronicler declares that when the collision occurred the mass were actually moving forward but at “a pace so slow that it could hardly be called a trot.” General Hamley describes “the impetus of the enemy’s column carrying it on, and pressing our combatants back for a short space,” and the chronicler speaks of the Russians as surging forward after the impact, but without bearing back our people.

It is extremely difficult for the reader of a detailed narrative of a combat that may become a landmark in the military history of a nation, to realise that it may have been fought and finished in no longer time than it has taken him to read the few paragraphs of introductory matter. Mr. Kinglake has devoted a whole volume to the battle of Balaclava, and four-fifths of it deals with the two cavalry fights–Scarlett’s charge, and the charge of the Light Brigade. The latter deed was enacted from start to finish within the space of five-and-twenty minutes; as regards the former, from the first appearance of the Russian troopers on the skyline to their defeat and flight a period of eight minutes is the outside calculation. General Hamley, an eyewitness, says “some four or five minutes.” During those minutes “C” Troop R.H.A. under Brandling’s shrewd and independent guidance was moving slowly forward on the right of the ground that had been covered by the charging Heavies. There was no opportunity for its intervention while the melley lasted. Even when the Russian squadrons broke it could not for the moment act while the redcoats were still blended with the gray. But Brandling saw that his chance was nigh; he galloped forward to the point marked C on the map, unlimbered, and stood intent. Kinglake states that the fugitive Russians, hanging together as closely as they could, retreated by the way they had come and Hamley describes them as vanishing beyond the ridge. Kinglake also says that “I” Troop R.H.A. (accompanying the Light Brigade) fired a few shots at the retreating horsemen, against whom Barker’s battery, from its position near Kadikoei, also came into action. The “C” Troop chronicler traverses those statements. His testimony is that the Russian line of retreat was by their left rear along the slope of the South valley, and not immediately over the ridge; that the mass was spread over acres of ground; and that their officers were trying to rally the men and had actually got some ranks formed, when “C” Troop opened fire from about point C in the general direction of point D. “I” Troop was out of sight, he says, and Barker out of range; neither came into action; but “C” Troop, of whose presence in the field Kinglake apparently was unaware, fired forty-nine shot and shells, broke up the attempted rally, and punished the Russians severely. The range was about 750 paces.

At the time when the Light Brigade started on its “mad-brained” charge down the North valley, “C” Troop was halted dismounted on the slope of the South valley a little below redoubt No. 5. In rear of it was the Heavy Cavalry Brigade, halted on the scene of its recent victorious combat. Lord Lucan was some little distance to the front. “C” Troop presently saw him trot away over the ridge in the direction of the Light Brigade, a scrap of paper in his hand at which he kept looking–doubtless the memorable order which Nolan had just brought him–and a group of staff officers, among whom was Nolan, behind him. Out of curiosity Brandling with his trumpeter rode up to the crest, whence he commanded a view into the North valley. By and by some of the Heavies were moved over the crest, no doubt the Royals and Greys which Scarlett was to lead forward in support of the Light Brigade. All was still quiet but for an occasional shot from a Russian battery about redoubt No. 2, when suddenly Brandling came galloping back shouting “Mount! mount!” and telling his officers as he came in that the Light Cavalry had begun an advance on the other side of the ridge. But that he had happened to ride to the crest, the charge of the Light Brigade would have begun and ended without the knowledge of “C” Troop. No order from any source reached it, and Brandling, acting on his own initiative, took his guns rapidly to the front along the inner edge of the ridge and unlimbered at point G. He durst not fire into the bottom of the North valley where our light horsemen were mixed up with the enemy; all the diversion he could effect was to open on the Russian cannon-smoke directly in his front, about redoubt No. 2. Even from this he had soon to desist, being without support and threatened by the Russian cavalry, and he retired by the way he had advanced, to point F, where the troop halted near the Heavies, whose advance Lord Lucan had arrested resolving that they at all events should not be destroyed. These regiments had been moved toward the ridge out of the line of fire in the North valley, and were kept shifting their position and gradually retiring, suffering frequent casualties from the Russian artillery about redoubt No. 2 until they finally halted near the crest in the vicinity of “C” Troop’s latest position at point F.

At this point only the left-hand gun of “C” Troop was on the crest, with a view into the North valley; the other guns were on the southern slope. But little had been previously seen of the terrible and glorious experiences of the Light Brigade; and now what was witnessed was not the glory but the horror of battle. For the wounded of the charge were passing to the rear, shattered and maimed, some staggering on foot, others reeling in their saddles, calling to the gunners and the Heavies to look at a “poor broken leg” or a dangling arm. Brandling and his officers held their flasks to the poor fellows’ mouths as long as the contents lasted. The “C” Troop chronicler, whose narrative I have been following, tells how Captain Morris, who commanded the 17th Lancers, was carried past the front of the troop towards Kadikoei, dreadfully wounded about the head and calling loudly: “Lord, have mercy on my soul!” Kinglake gives a wholly different account of Captain Morris’s removal from the field; but the “C” Troop chronicler is quite firm on his version, and explains that the 17th Lancers and “C” Troop having lain together shortly before the war all the people of the latter knew and identified Captain Morris.

Balaclava is rather an old story now, and some readers may require to be reminded that the Light Brigade charged in two lines, the first line being led by Lord Cardigan, the second by Lord George Paget; that the first line rode into the Russian batteries considerably in advance of the second, the latter having advanced at a more measured pace; and that the second line, with sore diminished ranks and accompanied by a couple of groups rather than detachments of the first, came back later than did the few survivors of Cardigan’s regiments other than the groups referred to. The aspersion on Cardigan was that he returned prematurely, instead of remaining to share the fortunes of the second line of his brigade, and this he did not deny. Kinglake’s statement is that “he rode back alone at a pace decorously slow, towards the spot where Scarlett was halted.” He adds that General Scarlett maintained that Lord Lucan was present at the time; but Lord Lucan’s averment was that Lord Cardigan did not approach him until afterwards when all was over. Kinglake relates further that when Lord George Paget came back at the head of the last detachment, some officers rode forward to greet him one of whom was Lord Cardigan. Seeing him approach composedly from the rear Lord George exclaimed: “Halloa, Lord Cardigan, weren’t you there?” to which, according to one version of the story, Cardigan replied: “Wasn’t I, though? Here, Jenyns, didn’t you see me at the guns?”

The reasonable inferences from Kinglake are that Cardigan’s first halt was made and that his earliest remarks were uttered when he reached Scarlett, and that he and Paget met after the charge for the first time when the alleged question and answer passed.

The “C” Troop chronicler’s narrative of events is right in the teeth of these inferences. While the troop was halted at point F and after a great many wounded and disabled men had already passed it going to the rear, Lord Cardigan came riding by at a “quiet pace” close under the crest. He had passed the troop on his left for several horse-lengths, when he came back and halted within a yard or two of the left-hand gun, the only one fairly on the crest. He was not alone, but attended by Cornet Yates of his own old regiment the 11th Hussars, a recently commissioned ranker. “Lord Cardigan was in the full dress _pelisse_ (buttoned) of the 11th Hussars, and he rode a chestnut horse very distinctly marked and of grand appearance. The horse seemed to have had enough of it, and his lordship appeared to have been knocked about but was cool and collected. He returned his sword, undid a little of the front of his dress and pulled down his underclothing under his waistbelt. Then, in a quiet way, as if rather talking to himself, he said, ‘I tell you what it is: those instruments of theirs,’ alluding to the Russian weapons, ‘are deuced blunt; they tickle up one’s ribs!’ Then he pulled his revolver out of his holster as if the thought had just struck him, and said, ‘And here’s this d—-d thing I have never thought of until now.’ He then replaced it, drew his sword, and said, ‘Well, we’ve done our share of the work!’ and pointing up toward the Chasseurs d’Afrique on our left rear (ignorant of their opportune service), he added, ‘It’s time they gave those dappled gentry a chance.’ Afterwards he asked, ‘Has any one seen my regiment?’ The men answered, ‘No, sir.'” Brandling was holding aloof; and his lordship turned his horse and rode away farther back.

Just then a cheer was raised by some Heavies who had lately formed in front of “C” Troop. Cardigan, so the chronicler tells, looked backward to see the occasion, and saw the cheer was in compliment to the 8th Hussars coming back with Colonel Sewell in front and Colonel Mayow, the brigade-major, behind on the left. Cardigan wheeled, trotted back towards the 8th, turned round in front of Colonel Sewell, and took up the “walk.” Then occurred something “painful to witness. It was seen from the left of ‘C’ Troop that the moment Cardigan’s back was toward the 8th as he headed them, Colonel Mayow pointed toward him, shook his head, and made signs to the officers on the left of the Heavies as much as to say, ‘See him; he has taken care of himself.'” Men in the ranks of the 8th also pointed and made signs to the troopers of the Heavies as they were passing left to left. There was, as well, a little excited undertalk from one corps to the other. Colonel Sewell neither saw nor took part in this wretched business; and of course Cardigan did not know that he was being thus ridiculed and disparaged while he was smiling and raising his sword to the cheers of the Heavies and the gunners.

Immediately after this episode the returning 4th Light Dragoons came obliquely across the North valley at a sharp pace, but fell into the “walk” as they came within a hundred yards of “C” Troop. Lord George Paget, who led what remained of the regiment, rode up to the flank of “C” Troop and halted on the very spot where Cardigan had stood a few minutes earlier. Lord George had the look of a man who had ridden hard, and was heated and excited. He exclaimed in rather a loud tone, “It’s a d—-d shame; there we had a lot of their guns and carriages taken, and received no support, and yet there’s all this infantry about–it’s a shame!” Meanwhile Lord Cardigan had come back and was close behind Lord George while he was speaking, without the other knowing it. He called out, “Lord George Paget!”; and on the latter turning round said to him in an undertone, “I am surprised!”; and “tossing his head in the air added some other remark which was not heard.” Lord George lowered his sword to the salute, and, without speaking turned his horse and rode on after his men. The “C” Troop chronicler is positive that both officers visited “C” Troop before going to any general or to any other command, and that they met there for the first time after the combat.

When Lord Raglan came down from the upland after all was over, the “C” Troop chronicler says that he went straight for Lucan then in front of the Heavy Cavalry brigade, having first sent for Cardigan to meet him. After a few moments the latter repassed the troop on his way toward the remnant of his brigade. “Then Lord Raglan took Lucan a little forward by himself out of hearing of the group of staff officers, and his gesticulations of head and arm were so suggestive of passionate anger, that the onlookers did not need to be told that the Commander-in-Chief did not charge the blame chiefly on Cardigan.” Lord Raglan’s subsequent interview with General Scarlett, which occurred in the hearing of “C” Troop, was of a different character. After complimenting the gallant old warrior his lordship said, “Now tell me all about yourself.” Scarlett replied, “When the Russian column was moving down on me, sir, I began by sending first a squadron of the Greys at them, and–” but at the word “and” Lord Raglan struck in, saying, “And they knocked them over like the devil!” He then turned his horse away, as if he did not need to hear any more.


These be big words, my masters! I can only say they are not mine,–I am far too modest to utter any such high-sounding phrase on my own responsibility,–but they are the exact terms used by a high municipal dignitary in characterising the result of what he was pleased to term my “chivalrous conduct.” My sardonic chum, on the contrary,–an individual wholly abandoned to the ignoble vice of punning,–asserts that my conduct was simply “barbarous.” It will be for the reader to judge.

St. Meuse–let us call it St. Meuse–is a town of what is still French Lorraine; and to St. Meuse I came drifting up the Marne Valley, over the flat expanse of the plain of Chalons, and by St. Menehould, the proud stronghold of pickled pigs’ feet, in the second week of September 1873. St. Meuse was one of the last of the French cities held in pawn by the Germans for the payment of the milliards. The last instalment of blood-money had been paid and the _Pickelhaubes_ were about to evacuate St. Meuse as soon as the cash had been methodically counted, and after they should have leisurely filled their baggage trains and packed their portmanteaus. My intention in going to St. Meuse was to witness this evacuation scene, and to be a spectator of the return of light-heartedness to the French population of the place, on the withdrawal of the Teuton incubus which for three years had lain upon the safety-valve of their constitutional sprightliness. I had been a little out of my reckoning of time, and when I reached St. Meuse I found that I had a week to stay there before the event should occur which I had come to witness; but the interval could not be regarded as lost time, for St. Meuse is a very pleasant city and the conditions which were so soon to terminate presented a most interesting field of study.

You must know that St. Meuse is a fortress. It has a citadel or at least such fragments of a citadel as the bombardment had left, and the quaint old town is surrounded with bastions which are linked by curtains and flanked by lunettes, the whole being girdled by a ditch, beyond the counterscarp of which spreads a sloping glacis which makes a very pleasant promenade. The defensive strength of the place is reduced to zero in these days of far-reaching rifled siege artillery, for it lies in a cup and is surrounded on all sides by hills the summits of which easily command the fortifications. But the consciousness that it is obsolete as a fortress has not yet come home to St. Meuse. It has, in truth, a very good opinion of itself as a valorous, not to say heroic, place; nor can it be denied that its title to this self-complacency has been fairly earned. In the Franco-German war, spite of its defects, it stood a siege of over two months and succumbed only after a severe bombardment which lasted for several days. And while as yet it was not wholly beleaguered, it was very active in making itself disagreeable to the foreign invader. It was a patrolling party from St. Meuse that intercepted the courier on his way from the battlefield of Sedan to Germany, carrying the hurried lines to his wife which the Crown Prince of Prussia scrawled on the fly-leaf of an orderly book while as yet the last shots of the combat were dropping in the distance; carrying too the notes of the momentous battle which William Howard-Russell had jotted down in the heat of the action and had taken the same opportunity of despatching. St. Meuse, then, had balked the Princess of the first tidings of her husband’s safety, and the great English newspaper of the earliest details of the most sensational battle of the age. It had fallen at last, but not ingloriously; and the iron of defeat had not entered so deeply into its soul as had been the case with some French fortresses, of which it could not well be said that they had done their honest best to resist their fate. Its self-respect, at least, was left to it, and it was something to know that when the German garrison should march away, it was bound to leave to St. Meuse the artillery and munitions of war of the fortress just as they had been found on the day of the surrender.

I came to like St. Meuse immensely in the course of the days I spent in it waiting for the great event of the evacuation. The company at the _table d’hote_ of the Trois Maures was varied and amusing. The Germans ate in a room by themselves, so that the obnoxious element was not present overtly at the general _table d’hote._ But we had a few German officials in plain clothes–clerks in General Manteuffel’s bureau, contractors, cigar merchants, etc., who spoke French even among themselves, and were painfully polite to the French habitues who were as painfully polite in return. There was a batch of Parisian journalists who had come to St. Meuse to watch the evacuation, and who wrote their letters in the cafe over the way to the accompaniment of _verres_ of absinthe and bocks of beer. Then there was the gallant captain of gendarmes, who had arrived in St. Meuse with a trusty band of twenty-five subordinates to take over from the Germans the municipal superintendence of the place, and, later, the occupation of the fortress. He was the most polite man I ever knew, this captain of gendarmes, with a clever knack of turning you outside in in the course of half an hour’s conversation, and the peculiar attribute of having, to all appearance, eyes in the back of his head. To him, as he placidly ate his food, there came, from time to time, quiet and rather bashful-looking men in civilian attire of a slightly seedy description. Sometimes they merely caught his eye and went out again without speaking; sometimes they handed to him little notes; sometimes they held with him a brief whispered conversation during which the captain’s nonchalance was imperturbable. These respectable individuals who, if they saw you once in conversation with their chief, ever after bowed to you with the greatest empressement, were members of the secret police.

As for the inhabitants of St. Meuse, they appeared to await the hour of their delivery with considerable philosophy. Physically they are the finest race I ever saw in France; their men, tall, square, and muscular, their women handsome and comely. Numbers of both sexes are fair-haired, and the sandiness of hair which we are wont to associate with the Scottish Celt is by no means uncommon. A sardonic companion whom I had picked up by the way, attributed those characteristics to the fact that in the great war St. Meuse was a depot for British prisoners of war who had in some way contrived to imbue the native population with some of their own physical attributes. He further prophesied a wave of Teuton characteristics as the result of the German occupation which was about to terminate; but his insinuations seemed to me to partake of the scurrilous, especially as he instanced Lewes, once a British depot for prisoners of war, as a field in which similar phenomena were to be discerned. But, nevertheless, I unquestionably found a good deal of what may be called national hybridism in St. Meuse. I used to buy photographs of a shopkeeper over whose door was blazoned the Scottish name Macfarlane. Outwardly Macfarlane was a “hielanman” all over. He had a shock-head of bright red hair such as might have thatched the poll of the “Dougal cratur;” his cheek-bones were high, his nose of the Captain of Knockdunder pattern, and his mouth of true Celtic amplitude. One felt instinctively as if Macfarlane were bound to know Gaelic, and that the times were out of joint when he evinced greater fondness for _eau sucree_ than for Talisker. It was with quite a sense of dislocation of the fitness of things that I found Macfarlane could talk nothing but French. But although he had torn up the ancient landmarks, or rather suffered them to lapse, he yet was proud of his ancestry. His grandfather, it appeared, was a soldier of the “Black Watch” who had been a prisoner of war in St. Meuse, and who, when the peace came, preferred taking unto himself a daughter of the Amalekite and settling in St. Meuse, to going home to a pension of sevenpence a day and liberty to ply as an Edinburgh caddie.

As for the German “men in possession,” they pursued the even tenor of their way in the precise yet phlegmatic German manner. Their guards kept the gates and bridges as if they meant to hold the place till the crack of doom, instead of being under orders to clear out within the week. The recruits drilled on the citadel esplanade, straightening their legs and pointing their toes as if their sole ambition in life was to kick their feet away into space, down to the very eve of evacuation. Their battalions practised skirmishing on the glacis with that routine assiduity which is the secret of the German military success. Old Manteuffel was living in the prefecture holding his levees and giving his stiff ceremonious dinner-parties, as if he had done despite to Dr. Cumming’s warnings and taken a lease of the place. The German officers thronged their cafe, each man, after the manner of German officers, shouting at the pitch of his voice; and at the cafe of the under-officers tough old _Wachtmeisters_ and grizzled sergeants with many medals played long quiet games at cards, or knocked the balls about on the chubby little pocketless tables with cues the tips of which were as large as the base of a six-pounder shell.

The French journalists insisted I should accept it as an article of faith, that these two races dwelling together in St. Meuse hated each other like poison. They would have it that while discipline alone prevented the Germans from massacring every Frenchman in the place, it was only a humiliating sense of weakness that hindered the Frenchmen from rising in hot fury against the Germans who were their temporary masters. I am afraid the gentlemen of the Parisian press came rather to dislike me on account of my obdurate scepticism in such matters. That there was no great cordiality was obvious and natural. Some of the Germans were arrogant and domineering. For instance, having a respect for the Germans, it pained and indeed disgusted me to hear a colonel of the German staff, in answer to my question whether the evacuating force would march out with a rearguard as in war time, reply, “Pho, a field gendarme with a whip is rearguard enough against such _canaille!_” But in the mouths of Hans and Carl and Johann, the stout _Kerle_ of the ranks, there were no such words of bitter scorn for their compulsory hosts. The honest fellows drew water for the goodwives on whom they were billeted, did a good deal of stolid love-making with the girls, and nursed the babies with a solicitude that put to shame the male parents of these youthful hopes of Troy. I take leave, as a reasonable person, to doubt whether it can lie in the heart of a family to hate a man who has dandled its baby and whether a man can be rancorous against a family whose baby he has nursed. But fashion’s sway is omnipotent in emotion as in dress. Ever since the war, journalists, authors, and public opinion generally had hammered it into the French nation that if it were not to be a traitor to its patriotism, the first article of its creed must be hatred against the Germans; and that the bitterer this hate the more fervent the patriotism. It was not indeed incumbent on Frenchmen and Frenchwomen to accept this creed, but it behoved them at least to profess it; and it must be admitted that they did this for the most part with an intensity and vigour which seemed to prove that with many profession had deepened into conviction.

While as yet the evacuation had been a thing of the remote future, the people of St. Meuse had borne the yoke lightly, and indeed had, I believe, privily congratulated themselves on the substantial advantages in the way of money spent in the place and the immunity from taxation which were incidental to the foreign occupation. But as the day for the evacuation drew closer and closer, one became dimly conscious of an electrical condition of the social atmosphere which any trifle might stimulate into a thunderstorm. Blouses gathered and muttered about the street-corners, scowling at and elbowing the German soldiers as they strode to buy sausages to stay them in the homeward march. The gamins, always covertly insolent, no longer cloaked their insolence, and wagged little tricolour flags under the nose of the stolid German sentry on the Pont St. Croix. At the _table d’hote_ the painful politeness of the German civilians had no effect in thawing the studied coldness of the French habitues.

As for myself, I was a neutral, and professing to take no side, flattered myself that I could keep out of the vortex of the soreness. Soon after my arrival at St. Meuse I had called upon the Mayor at his official quarters in the Hotel de Ville, and had received civil speeches in return for civil speeches. Then I had left my card on General Manteuffel, with whom I happened to have a previous acquaintance; and those formal duties of a benevolent neutral having been performed I had held myself free to choose my own company. Circumstances had some time before brought me into familiar contact with very many German officers, and I had imbibed a liking for their ways and conversation, noisy as the latter is. Several of the officers then in St. Meuse had been personal acquaintances in other days and it was at once natural and pleasant for me to renew the intercourse. I was made an honorary member of the mess; I spent many hours in the officers’ casino; I rode out with the officers of the squadron of Uhlans. All this was very pleasant; but as the day of the evacuation became close I noticed that the civility of the French captain of gendarmes grew colder, that the cordiality of the French habitues of the _table d’hote_ visibly diminished, and that I encountered not a few unfriendly looks when I walked through the streets by myself. It began to dawn upon me that St. Meuse was getting to reckon me a German sympathiser, and as there was no half-way house, therefore not in accord with the emotions of France and St. Meuse.

On the afternoon immediately preceding the morning that had been fixed for the evacuation, there came to me a polite request that I should visit M. le Maire at the Hotel de Ville. His worship was elaborately civil but obviously troubled in mind. He coughed nervously several times after the initiatory compliments had passed, and then he began to speak. “Monsieur, you are aware that the Germans are going to-morrow morning?”

I replied that I had cognisance of this fact. “Do you also know that the last of the German officials depart by the 5 A.M. train, not caring to remain here after the troops are gone?”

Of this also I was aware.

“Let me hope,” continued the Mayor, “that you are going along with them, or at all events will ride away with Messieurs the officers?”

On the contrary, was my reply, I had come not only to witness the evacuation but to note how St. Meuse should bear herself in the hour of her liberation; I desired to witness the rejoicings; I was not less anxious to be a spectator of any disturbance if such unhappily should occur. Why should M. le Maire have conceived this desire to balk my natural curiosity?

M. le Maire was obviously not a little embarrassed; but he persevered and was candid. This deplorable occupation was now so nearly finished and happily, as yet, everything had been so tranquil, that it would be a thousand pities if any untoward event should occur to detract from the dignified attitude which the territory now to be evacuated had maintained. It was of critical importance in every sense that St. Meuse should not give way to riot or disorder on that occasion. He hoped and believed it would not–here M. le Maire laid his hand on his heart–but a spark, as I knew, fired tinder, and the St. Meuse populace were at present figurative tinder. I might be that spark.

“You much resemble a German,” said M. le Maire, “with that great yellow beard of yours, and your broad shoulders, as if you had carried arms. Our citizens have seen you much in the society of Messieurs the German officers; they are not in a temper to draw fine distinctions of nationality; and, dear sir, I ask you to go away with the Germans lest perchance our blouses, reckoning you for a German, should not be very tender with you when the spiked helmets are out of the place. The truth is,” said the worthy Maire with a burst of plain speaking, “I’m afraid that you will be mobbed and that there will be a row, and that then the Germans may come back and the evacuation be postponed, and I’ll get wigged by the Prefect and the Minister of the Interior and bully-ragged in the newspapers, and St. Meuse will get abused and the fat will be generally in the fire!”

Here was an awkward fix. I could not comply with the Mayor’s request; that was not to be thought of for reasons I need not mention here. I had no particular desire to be mobbed. Once before I had experienced the tender mercies of a French mob and I knew that they were very cruel. But stronger than the personal feeling was my sincere sympathy with the Mayor’s critical position; and also my anxiety, by what means might be within my power, to contribute to the maintenance of a tranquillity so desirable. But, then, what means were within my power? I could not go; I could not promise to stop indoors, for it was incumbent on me to see everything that was to be seen. And if through me trouble came I should be responsible heaven knows for what!–with a skinful of sore bones into the bargain.

“If Monsieur cannot go,”–the Mayor broke in upon my cogitation,–“if Monsieur cannot go, will he pardon the exigency of the occasion if I suggest one other alternative? It is,”–here the Mayor hesitated–“it is the yellow beard which gives to Monsieur the aspect of a German. With only whiskers nobody could take Monsieur for anything but an Englishman. If Monsieur would only have the complaisance and charity to–to–“

Cut off my beard! Great powers! shear that mane that had been growing for years!–that cataract of hair that has been, so to speak, my oriflamme; the only physical belonging of which I ever was proud, the only thing, so far as I know, that I have ever been envied! For the moment the suggestion knocked me all of a heap. There came into my head some confused reminiscence of a story about a girl who cut off her hair and sold it to keep her mother from starving, or redeem her lover from captivity, or something of the kind. But that must have been before the epoch of parish relief, and kidnapping is now punishable by statute. What was St. Meuse to me that for her I should mow my hirsute glories? But then, if people grew savage, they might pull my beard out by the roots. And there had been lately dawning on me the dire truth that its tawny hue was becoming somewhat freely streaked with gray, a colour I abhor, except in eyes. I made up my mind.

“I’ll do it, sir,” said I to the Mayor, with a manly curtness. My heart was too full for many words.

He respected my emotion, bowed in silence over the hand which he had grasped, and only spoke to give me the address of his own barber.

This barber was a patriot of unquestioned zeal; but I am inclined to think his extraction was similar to that of Macfarlane, for he combined patriotism with profit in a most edifying manner. He shaved the German officers during the whole of their stay in St. Meuse; he accompanied them on their march to the frontier; he earned the last centime in Conflans; and then, driving forward to the frontier line, he unfurled the tricolour as the last German soldier stepped over it. It is seldom that one in this world sees his way to being so adroitly ambidextrous.

But this is a digression. In twenty minutes, shorn and shaven, I was back again in the Mayor’s parlour. The tears of gratitude stood in his eyes. I learned afterwards that a decoration was contingent on his preservation of the public peace on the occasion of the evacuation.

Started by the Mayor, the report rapidly circulated through St. Meuse that I had cut off my beard rather than that it should be possible that any one should mistake me for a German. From being a suspect I became a popular idol. The French journalists entertained me to a banquet at night at which in libations of champagne eternal amity between France and England was pledged. Next morning the Germans went away and then St. Meuse kicked up its heels and burst into exuberant joy. The Mayor took me up to the station in his own carriage to meet the French troops, and introduced me to the colonel of the battalion as a man who had made sacrifices for _la belle France_. The colonel shook me cordially by the hand and I was embraced by the robust vivandiere, who struck me as being in the practice of sustaining life on a diet of garlic. When we emerged from the station I was cheered almost as loudly as was the colonel, and a man waved a tricolour over my head all the way back to the town, treading at frequent intervals on my heels. In the course of the afternoon I happened to approach the civic band which was performing patriotic music in the Place St. Croix. When the bandmaster saw me he broke off the programme and struck up “Rule Britannia!” in my honour, to the clamorous joy of the audience, who were thwarted in their aim of carrying me round the Place shoulder-high only by the constancy with which I clung to the railings which surround Chevert’s statue. But the crowning recognition of my sacrifice came at the banquet which the town gave to the French officers. The Mayor proposed the toast of “our English friend.” “We had all,” he said, “made sacrifices for _la Patrie_–he himself had sustained the loss of a wooden outhouse burned down in the bombardment; the gallant colonel on his right had spilt his blood at St. Privat. Them it behoved to suffer and they would do it again cheerfully, for it was, as he had said, for _la Patrie_. But what was to be said of an honourable gentleman who had sacrificed the most distinguishing ornament of his physical aspect without the holy stimulus of patriotism, and simply that there might be obviated the risk of an embroilment to the possible consequence of which he would not further allude? Would it be called the language of extravagant hyperbole, or would they not rather be words justified by facts, when he ventured before this honourable company to assert that his respected English friend had by his self-sacrifice saved France from a great peril?” The Mayor’s question was replied to by a perfect whirlwind of cheering. Everybody in the room insisted upon shaking hands with me and I was forced to get on my legs and make a reply. Later in the evening I heard the Mayor and the town clerk discussing the project of conferring upon me the freedom of the city.



The civilian world, even that portion of it which lives by the profusest sweat of its brow, enjoys an occasional holiday in the course of the year besides Christmas Day. Good Friday brings to most an enforced cessation from toil. Easter and Whitsuntide are recognised seasons of pleasure in most grades of the civilian community. There are few who do not compass somehow an occasional Derby day; and we may safely aver that the amount of work done on New Year’s Day is not very great. But in all the year the soldier has but one real holiday–a holiday with all the glorious accompaniments of unwonted varieties of dainties and full liberty to be as jolly as he pleases without fear of the consequences. True, the individual soldier may have his day’s leave, nay, his month’s furlough; but his enjoyments resulting therefrom are not realised in the atmosphere of the barrack-room, but rather have their origin in the abandonment for the nonce of his military character and a _pro tempore_ return into civilian life. Christmas Day is the great regimental merry-making, free to and appreciated by the veteran and the recruit alike; and as such it is looked forward to for many a month prior to its advent and talked of many a day after it is past and gone.

About a month before Christmas the observer skilled in the signs of the times may begin to notice the tokens of its approach. Self-deniant fellows, men who can trust themselves to carry a few shillings about with them without experiencing a chronic sensation that the accumulated pelf is burning a hole in their pockets, busy themselves in constructing “dimmocking bags” for the occasion, such being the barrack-room term for receptacles for money-hoarding purposes. The weak vessels, those who mistrust their own constancy under the varied temptations of dry throats, empty stomachs, and a scant allowance of tobacco, manage to cheat their fragility of “saving grace” by requesting their sergeant-major to put them “on the peg,”–that is to say, place them under stoppages, so that the accumulation takes place in his hands and cannot be dissipated by any premature weaknesses of the flesh. Everybody becomes of a sudden astonishingly sober and steady. There is hardly any going out of barracks now; for a walk involves the expenditure of at least “the price of a pint,” and in the circumstances this extravagance is not allowable. The guard-room is unwontedly empty–nobody except the utterly reckless will get into trouble just now; for punishment at this season involves the forfeiture of certain privileges and the incurring of certain penalties– the former specially prized, the latter exceptionally disgusting at this Christmas season.

Slowly the days roll on with anxious expectancy, the coming event forming the one engrossing topic of conversation alike in barrack-room, in stable, in canteen, and in guard-room. The clever hands of the troop are deep in devising a series of ornamentations for the walls and roof of the common habitation. One fellow spends all his spare time on the top of a table with a bed on top of that again, embellishing the wall above the fireplace with a florid design in a variety of colours meant to be an exact copy of the device on the regiment’s kettledrums, with the addition of the legend, “A Merry Christmas to the old Straw-boots,” inscribed on a waving scroll below. The skill of another decorator is directed to the clipping of sundry squares of coloured paper into wondrous forms–Prince of Wales’s feathers, gorgeous festoons, and the like–with which the gas pendants and the edges of the window-frames are disguised out of their original nakedness and hardness of outline, so as to be almost unrecognisable by the eye of the matter-of-fact barrack-master himself. What is this felonious-looking band up to–these four determined rascals in the forbidden high-lows and stable overalls who go slinking mysteriously out at the back gate just at the gloaming? Are they Fenian sympathisers bound for a secret meeting, or are they deserters making off just at the time when there is the least likelihood of suspicion? Nay, they are neither; but, nevertheless, their errand is a nefarious one. Watch at the gate for an hour and you will see them come back again each man laden with the spoils of the shrubberies–holly, mistletoe, and evergreens–ruthlessly plundered under cover of the darkness. A couple of days before “the day,” the sergeant-major enters the barrack-room, a smile playing upon his rubicund features. We all know what his errand is and he knows right well that we do; but he cannot refrain from the customary short patronising harangue, “Our worthy captain–liberal gent you know–deputed me–what you like for dinner–plum-puddings, of course–a quart of beer a man; make up your minds what you’ll have–anything but game and venison;” and so he vanishes grinning a saturnine grin. The moment is a critical one. We ought to be unanimous. What shall we have? A council of deliberation is constituted on the spot and proceeds to the discussion of the weighty question. The suggestions are not numerous. The alternative lies between pork and goose. The old soldiers, for some inscrutable reason, go for goose to a man. The recruits have a carnal craving after the flesh of the pig. I did once hear a “carpet-bag” recruit[1] hesitatingly broach the idea of mutton, but he collapsed ignominiously under the concentrated stare of righteous indignation with which his heterodox suggestion was received. Goose versus pork is eagerly debated. As regards quantity the question is a level one, since the allowance from time immemorial has been a goose or a leg of pork among three men.

[Footnote 1: “Carpet-bag” recruit is the barrack-room appellation of contempt for the young gentleman recruit who joins his regiment _omnibus impedimentis_–who, in fact, brings his baggage with him, to find it, of course, utterly useless.]

At length the point is decided during the evening stable-hour, according as old or young soldiers predominate in the room. The sergeant-major is informed of the conclusion arrived at, and in the evening the corporal of each room accompanies him on a marketing expedition into the town. Another important duty devolves upon the said corporal in the course of this marketing tour. The “dimmocking bags” have been emptied; the accumulations in the sergeant-major’s hands have been drawn, and the corporal, freighted with the joint savings, has the task of expending the same in beer. In this undertaking he manifests a preternatural astuteness. He is not to be inveigled into giving his order at a public-house,–swipes from the canteen would do as well as that,–nor do the bottled-beer merchants tempt him with their high prices for dubious quality. No, he goes direct to the fountain-head. If there be a brewery in the place he finds it out and bestows his order upon it, thus triumphantly securing the pure article at the wholesale price. His purchasing calculation is upon the basis of two gallons per man. If, as is generally the case, the barrack-room he represents contains twelve men, he orders a twenty-four gallon barrel of porter–always porter; and if he has a surplus left he disburses it in the purchase of a bottle or two of spirits, for the behoof of any fair visitors who may haply honour the barrack-room with their presence.

It is Christmas Eve. The evening stable-hour is over and all hands are merrily engaged in the composition of the puddings; some stoning fruit, others chopping suet, beating eggs, and so forth. The barrel of beer is in the corner but it is sacred as the honour of the regiment! Nothing would induce the expectant participants in its contents to broach it before its appointed time shall come. So there is beer instead from the canteen in the tin pails of the barrack-room, and the work of pudding-compounding goes on jovially to the accompaniments of song and jest. Now, there is a fear lest too many fingers in the pudding may spoil it–lest a multitude of counsellors as to the proportions of ingredients and the process of mixing may be productive of the reverse of safety. But somehow a man with a specialty is always forthcoming, and that specialty is pudding-making. Most likely he has been the butt of the room–a quiet, quaint, retiring, awkward fellow who seemed as if he never could do anything right. But he has lit upon his vocation at last–he is a born pudding-maker. He rises with the occasion, and the sheepish “gaby” becomes the knowing practical man; his is now the voice of authority, and his comrades recant on the spot, acknowledge his superiority without a murmur, and perform “ko-tow” before the once despised man of undeveloped abilities. They pull out their clean towels with alacrity in response to his demand for pudding-cloths; they run to the canteen enthusiastically for a further supply on a hint from him that there is a deficiency in the ingredient of allspice. And then he artistically gathers together the corners of the cloths and ties up the puddings tightly and securely; whereupon a procession is formed to escort them into the cook-house, and there, having consigned them into the depths of the mighty copper, the “man of the time” remains watching the caldron bubble until morning, a great jorum of beer at his elbow the ready contribution of his now appreciative comrades.

The hours roll on; and at length out into the darkness of the barrack-square stalks the trumpeter on duty, and the shrill notes of the _reveille_ echo through the stillness of the yet dark night. On an ordinary morning the _reveille_ is practically negatived, and nobody thinks of stirring from between the blankets till the “warning” sounds quarter of an hour before the morning stable-time. But on this morning there is no slothful skulking in the arms of Morpheus. Every one jumps up, as if galvanised, at the first note of the _reveille_. For the fulfilment of a time-honoured custom is looked forward to–a remnant of the old days when the “women” lived in the corner of the barrack-room. The soldier’s wife who has the cleaning of the room and who does the washing of its inmates–for which services each man pays her a penny a day, has from time immemorial taken upon herself the duty of bestowing a “morning” on the Christmas anniversary upon the men she “does for.” Accordingly, about a quarter to six, she enters the room–a hard-featured, rough-voiced dame, perhaps, with a fist like a shoulder of mutton, but a soldier herself to the very core and with a big, tender heart somewhere about her. She carries a bottle of whisky–it is always whisky, somehow–in one hand and a glass in the other; and, beginning with the oldest soldier administers a calker to every one in the room till she comes to the “cruity,” upon whom, if he be a pullet-faced, homesick, bit of a lad, she may bestow a maternal salute in addition, with the advice to consider the regiment as his mother now, and be a smart soldier and a good lad.

Breakfast is not an institution in any great acceptation in a cavalry regiment on Christmas morning. When the stable-hour is over a great many of the troopers do not immediately reappear in the barrack-room. Indeed they do not turn up until long after the coffee is cold; and, when they do return there is a certain something about them which, to the experienced observer, demonstrates the fact that, if they have been thirsty, they have not been quenching their drought at the pump. It is a standing puzzle to the uninitiated where the soldier in barracks contrives to obtain drink of a morning. The canteen is rigorously closed. No one is allowed to go out of barracks and no drink is allowed to come in. A teetotallers’ meeting-hall could not appear more rigidly devoid of opportunities for indulgence than does a barrack during the morning. Yet I will venture to say, if you go into any barrack in the three kingdoms, accost any soldier who is not a raw recruit, and offer to pay for a pot of beer, that you will have an instant opportunity afforded you of putting your free-handed design into execution any time after 7 A.M. I don’t think it would be exactly grateful in me to “split” upon the spots where a drop can be obtained in season; many a time has my parched throat been thankful for the cooling surreptitious draught and I refuse to turn upon a benefactor in a dirty way. Therefore suffice it to say that many a bold dragoon when he re-enters the barrack-room to get ready for church parade, has a wateriness about the eye and a knottiness in the tongue which tell of something stronger than the matutinal coffee. Indeed, when the trumpet sounds which calls the regiment to assemble on the parade-ground, there is dire misgiving in the mind of many a stalwart fellow, who is conscious that his face, as well as his speech, “berayeth him.” But the lynx-eyed men in authority who another time would be down on a stagger like a card-player on the odd trick and read a flushed face as a passport to the guard-room, are genially blind this morning; and so long as a man possesses the capacity of looking moderately straight to his own front and of going right-about without a flagrant lurch, he is not looked at in a critical spirit on the Christmas church parade. And so the regiment marches off to church, the band playing merrily in its front. I much fear there is no very abiding sense in the bosoms of the majority of the sacred errand on which they are bound.

But there are two of the inmates of each room who do not go to church. The clever pudding-maker and a sub of his selection are left to cook the Christmas dinner. This, as regards the exceptional dainties, is done at the barrack-room fire, the cook-house being in use only for the now despised ration meat and for the still simmering puddings. The handy man cunningly improvises a roasting-jack, and erects a screen consisting of bed-quilts spread on a frame of upright forms, for the purpose of retaining and throwing back the heat. He is a most versatile genius, this handy man. Now we see him in the double character of cook and salamander, and anon he develops a special faculty as a clever table-decorator as well. This latter qualification asserts itself in the face of difficulties which would be utterly discomfiting to one of less fertility of resource. There is, indeed, a large expanse of table in every barrack-room; but the War Department has not yet thought proper to consider private soldiers worthy to enjoy the luxury of table-linen. Yet bare boards at a Christmas feast are horribly offensive to the eye of taste. Something must be done; something has already been done. Ever since the last issue of clean sheets, one or two whole-souled fellows have magnanimously abjured these luxuries _pro bono publico_. Spartan-like they have lain in blankets, and saved their sheets in their pristine cleanliness wherewithal to cover the Christmas table. So now these are brought forth, not snow-white certainly, nor of a damask texture, being indeed somewhat sackclothy in their appearance, but still they are immeasurably in advance of the bare boards; and when the covers are laid, with each man’s best knife and fork, with a little additional crockery-ware borrowed of a beneficent married woman and with the dainty sprigs of evergreen stuck on every available coign, the effect is triumphantly enlivening.

By the time these preparations are complete the men are back from church; and after a brief attendance at stables to water and feed they assemble fully dressed in the barrack-room, hungrily silent. The captain enters the room and _pro forma_ asks whether there are “any complaints?” A chorus of “No, sir,” is his reply; and then the oldest soldier in the room with profuse blushing and stammering takes up the running, thanks the officer kindly in the name of his comrades for his generosity, and wishes him a “Happy Christmas and many of ’em” in return. Under cover of the responsive cheer the captain makes his escape, and a deputation visits the sergeant-major’s quarters to fetch the allowance of beer which forms part of the treat. Then all fall to and eat! Ye gods, how they eat! Let the man who affirmed before the Recruiting Commission that the present scale of military rations was liberal enough show himself now, and then for ever hide his head! The troopers seem to have become sudden converts to Carlyle’s theory on the eloquence of silence. It reigns supreme, broken only by the rattle of knives and forks and by an occasional gurgle indicative of a man judiciously stratifying the solids and liquids, for a space of about twenty minutes, by which time–be the fare goose or pork– it is, barring the bones, only “a memory of the past.” The puddings, turned out of the towels in which they have been boiled, then undergo the brunt of a fierce assault; but the edge of appetite has been blunted by the first course and with most of the men a modicum of pudding goes on the shelf for supper. The soldier is very sensitive on the subject of his Christmas pudding. I remember once seeing a cook put on the table and formally “strapped” for allowing the pudding to stick to the bottom of the pot for lack of stirring.

At length dinner is over. Beds are drawn up from the sides of the room so as to form a wide circle of divans round the fire, and the big barrel’s time has come at last. A clever hand whips out the bung, draws a pailful, and reinserts the bung till another pailful is wanted, which will be very soon. The pail is placed upon the hearthstone and its contents are decanted into the pint basins, which do duty in the barrack-room for all purposes from containing coffee and soup to mixing chrome-yellow and pipe-clay water. The married soldiers come dropping in with their wives, for whom the corporal has a special drop of “something short” stowed in reserve on the shelf behind his kit. A song is called for; another follows, and yet another and another. Now it is matter of notice that the songs of soldiers are never of the modern music-hall type. You might go into a hundred barrack-rooms or soldier’s haunts and never hear such a ditty as “Champagne Charley” or “Not for Joseph.” The soldier takes especial delight in songs of the sentimental pattern; and even when for a brief period he forsakes the region of sentiment, it is not to indulge in the outrageously comic but to give vent to such sturdy bacchanalian outpourings as the “Good Rhine Wine,” “Old John Barleycorn,” and “Simon the Cellarer.” But these are only interludes. “The Soldier’s Tear,” “The White Squall,” “There came a Tale to England,” “Ben Bolt,” “Shells of the Ocean,” and other melodies of a lugubrious type, are the special favourites of the barrack-room. I remember once hearing a cockney recruit attempt “The Perfect Cure” with its accompanying gymnastic efforts; but he was I not appreciated, and indeed, I think broke down in the middle for want of encouragement.

Songs and beer form the staple of the afternoon’s enjoyment, intermingled with quiet chat consisting generally of reminiscences of bygone Christmases. Here and there a couple get together who are “townies,” i.e. natives of the same district; and there is a good deal of undemonstrative feeling in the way they talk of the scenes and folks of boyhood. There is no speechifying. Your soldier is not an oratorical animal. Not but what he heartily enjoys a speech; but he somehow cannot make one, or will not try. I remember me, indeed, of a certain quiet Scotsman who one Christmastime being urgently pressed to sing and being unblessed with a tuneful voice, volunteered in utter desperation a speech instead. He referred in feeling language to the various troop-mates who had left us since the preceding Christmas, made a touching allusion to the happy home circle in which the Christmases of our boyhood had been spent, referred to the manner in which the old “Strawboots” had cut their way to glory through the dense masses of Russian horsemen on the hillside of Balaclava, and wound up appropriately by proposing the toast of “our noble selves.” He created an immense sensation, was vociferously applauded, and, indeed, was the hero of the hour; but ere next Christmas he was among the “have beens” himself, and his mantle not having devolved upon any successor we had to content ourselves with the songs and the beer.

It is a lucky thing for a good many that there is no roll-call at the Christmas evening stable-hour. The non-commissioned officers mercifully limit their requirements to seeing the horses watered and bedded down by the most presentable of the roisterers, whose desperate efforts to simulate abject sobriety in order to establish their claim for strong-headedness are very comical to witness. It has often been matter of wonderment to me how the orders for the following day which are “read out” at the evening stable-hour, are realised on Christmas evening with clearness sufficient to ensure their being complied with next day without a hitch; but the truth is that, as we shall presently see, a certain order of things for the morning after Christmas has become stereotyped.

This interruption of the evening stable-hour over the circle re-forms round the fire, and the cask finally becomes a “dead marine.” The cap is then sent round for contributions towards a further instalment of the foundation of conviviality, which is fetched from the canteen or the sergeant’s mess; and another and yet another supply is sent for, as long as the funds hold out and somebody keeps sober enough to act as Ganymede. The orderly sergeant is not very particular to-night about his watch-setting report, for he knows that not many have the physical ability to be absent if they were ever so eager. And so the lights go out; the sun of the dragoon may be said to set in beer and he is left to do his best to sleep himself sober. For in the morning the reins of discipline are tightened again. The man who is foolish enough to revivify the drink which “is dying out in him” by a refresher is apt to find himself an inmate of the black-hole on very scant warning. Headaches and thirst are curiously rife, and the consumption of “fizzers”–a temperance beverage of an effervescent character vended by an individual with the profoundest trust in human nature on the subject of deferred payments–is extensive enough to convert the regiment into a series of walking reservoirs of carbonic acid gas. The authorities display a demoniacal ingenuity in working the beer out of the system of the dragoon. The morning duty on the day following Christmas is invariably “watering order with numnahs,” the numnah being a felt saddle-cloth without stirrups. Every man without exception rides out–no dodging is permitted–and the moment the malicious fiend of an orderly officer gets clear of the barracks he gives the word “Trot!” Six miles of it without a break is the set allowance; and it beats vinegar, pickles, tea smoked in a tobacco-pipe, or any other nostrum, as an effectual generator of sobriety. Six miles at the full trot without stirrups on a rough horse I can conscientiously recommend to the inebriated gentleman who fears to encounter a justly irate wife at two in the morning. I wont answer for the integrity of his cuticle when it is over; but I will stake my existence on the abject profundity of his sobriety. The process would extract the alcohol from a cask of spirits of wine, let alone dispel an average skinful of beer.

And thus evaporates the last vestige of the dragoon’s Christmas festivity. It may be urged that the enjoyments of which I have endeavoured to give a faithful narrative are gross and have no elevating tendency. I fear the men of the spur and sabre must bow to the justice of the criticism; and I know of nothing to advance in mitigation save the old Scotch proverb: “It is ill to mak’ a silk purse out o’ a sow’s ear.”


In these modern days men live fast and forget fast; yet, since it was barely twenty-six years ago, numbers among us must still vividly remember the lurid autumn of 1870. Eastern and Northern France had been deluged with French and German blood. During the month of fighting from the 2nd of August to the 1st of September the regular armies of France had suffered defeat on defeat, and were now blockaded in Metz or were tramping from the catastrophe of Sedan to captivity in Germany. The Empire in France had fallen like a house of cards; Napoleon the Third was a prisoner of war in Cassel; the Empress and the ill-fated Prince Imperial were forlorn exiles in England. To the Empire had succeeded, at not even a day’s notice–for in France a revolution is ever a summary operation–the Government of National Defence with the watchword of “War to the bitter end” rather than cede a foot of territory or one stone of a fortress. The Germans made no delay. The blood-tint had scarcely faded out of the waters of the Meuse, the unburied dead of Sedan yet festered in the sun-heat, and the blackened ruins of Bazeilles still smoked and stank, when their heads of columns set forth on the march to Paris. The troops were full of ardour; but in the Royal headquarters there was not a little disquietude. The old King made a long stay in the old cathedral city of Rheims, while men all over Europe were asking each other whether the catastrophe of Sedan had not virtually ended the war and were hoping for the white dove of peace to alight on the blood-stained land. But that happy consummation was not yet to be. When King Wilhelm crossed the frontier he had proclaimed that he warred not with the French nation but with its ruler. That ruler was now his prisoner; but Wilhelm had for adversary now the French nation, because it had taken up the quarrel which might have gone with the _Decheance_ and in effect had made it its own. In the absence of overtures there was no alternative but to march on Paris.

But Bismarck, although he carried a blithe front, was far from comfortable. He would fain have had peace–always on his own terms; but the question with him was with whom could he negotiate, capable, in the existing confusion, of furnishing adequate guarantees for the fulfilment of conditions? That requisite he could not discern in the self-constituted body which styled itself the Government of National Defence, but of which he spoke as “the gentlemen of the pavement.” He had all the monarchical dislike and distrust of a republic, and before the German army had invested Paris he already had begun to ponder as to the possibility of reinstating the dethroned dynasty. Possibly indeed, he had already felt the pulse of Marshal Bazaine on this subject.

It was on the 23rd of September when the Royal headquarters was at Ferrieres, Baron Rothschild’s chateau on the east of Paris, that there either presented himself to Bismarck an intriguant, or that the Chancellor evoked for himself an instrument for whom the way was made open to penetrate the beleaguerment of Metz and submit to Bazaine certain considerations. In connection with this mission we heard a good deal at the time of a mysterious “Mons. M.” and an equally mysterious “Mons. N.” Both were myths: “M.” and “N.” were alike pseudonyms of the real go-between, a certain Edmond Regnier who died in Paris on the 23rd of January 1894, after a strange and varied career of which the episode to be detailed in this article is the most remarkable. In a now very rare pamphlet published by Regnier in November 1870, he describes himself as a French landed proprietor with financial interests in England yielding him an income of L800 per annum, and as having come to England with his family in the end of August of that year in consequence of the proximity of German troops to his French residence. The painstaking compilers of the indictment against Bazaine give rather a different account of the character and antecedents of M. Regnier. Their information is that he received an imperfect education, sufficiently proven by his extraordinary style and vicious orthography. He studied, with little progress, law and medicine; later he took up magnetism. He was curiously mixed up in the events of the revolution of 1848. He had some employment in Algeria as an assistant surgeon. Returning to France he developed a quarry of paving-stone, and afterwards married in England a wife who brought him a certain competence. “Regnier,” continues the Report, “is a sharp, audacious fellow; his manners are vulgar–vain to excess he considers himself a profound politician. Was he induced to throw himself into the midst of events by one of the monomanias which are engendered by periods of storm and revolution? Was he simply an intriguer, plying his trade? It is difficult to tell. But however that may be, the established fact is that we find him in England in September 1870 besieging with his projects the _entourage_ of the Empress.”

Regnier’s siege of the forlorn colony at Hastings took the form of a bombardment of letters, his principal victim being Madame Le Breton, the lady-in-waiting of the Empress and the sister of the unfortunate General Bourbaki, then in command of the Imperial Guard at Metz. He was about to have his passport vised by the German Ambassador in London, rather an equivocal proceeding for a French subject; and on the 12th of September he wrote thus to Madame Le Breton, desiring that the letter should be communicated to Her Majesty:–

The Ambassador in London of the North German Confederation may possibly say, “I think the King of Prussia would prefer treating for peace with the Imperial Government rather than with the Republic.” If so, I shall start to-morrow for Wilhelmshoehe, after having paid a visit to the Empress. The following are the propositions I intend to submit to the Emperor: (1) That the Empress-Regent ought not to quit French territory; (2) That the Imperial fleet _is_ French territory; (3) That the fleet which greeted Her Majesty so enthusiastically on its departure for the Baltic, or at least a portion of it, however small, be taken by the Regent for her seat of government, thus enabling her to go from one to another of the French ports where she can count upon the largest number of adherents, and so prove that her government exists both _de facto_ and _de jure_. Further, that the Empress-Regent issue from the fleet four proclamations–viz. to foreign governments, to the fleet, to the army, and to the French people.

It will suffice to quote two of those suggested proclamations:–

To foreign governments! To firmly insist upon the fact that the Imperial Government is the _actual_ government, as it is the government by right. To the fleet! That just as the Emperor remained to the last in the midst of his army, sharing the chances of war, so also does the Regent, the only executive power legally existing, come with gladness to trust her political fortune to the Imperial fleet.

There followed a voluminous screed of irrelevant dissertation.

Regnier confessedly made no way with the Empress. He saw, indeed, Madame Le Breton on the 14th, but only to be told, in language worthy of a patriot sovereign, that “Her Majesty’s feeling was that the interests of France should take precedence of those of the dynasty; that she would rather do nothing than incur the suspicion of having acted from an undue regard for dynastic interests, and that she has the greatest horror of any step likely to bring about a civil war.” Those high-souled expressions ought to have given definite pause to Regnier’s importunity; but that busybody was indefatigable. A second letter to Madame Le Breton for the Empress simply elicited from the gentlemen of her suite the information that Her Majesty, having read his communications, had expressed the greatest horror of anything approaching a civil war. A final letter from him, containing the following significant passage:–

I myself, or some other person, ought already to have been secretly and confidentially in communication with M. de Bismarck; our conditions for peace must be more acceptable than those to which the _soi-disant_ Republican Government may have agreed; every action of theirs ought to be turned to our advantage–we ourselves must _act_,

evoked the ultimatum that “the Empress would not stir in the matter.” Regnier then said that as he found no encouragement at Hastings he would probably go to Wilhelmshoehe, where he would perhaps be better understood; and he produced a photographic view of Hastings on which he begged that the Prince Imperial would write a line to his father. On the following morning the Prince’s equerry returned him the photographic view at the foot of which were the simple and affectionate words: “Mon cher Papa, je vous envoie ces vues d’Hastings; j’espere qu’elles vous plairont. Louis-Napoleon.” I am personally familiar with the late Prince Imperial’s handwriting and readily recognise it in this brief sentence. Regnier averred that it was with Her Majesty’s consent that this paper was given him; but admitted that he was told she added: “Tell M. Regnier that there must be great danger in carrying out his project, and that I beg him not to attempt its execution.” In other words, the Empress was willing that he should visit the Emperor at Cassel, authenticating him thus far by the Prince Imperial’s little note; but she put her veto on his undertaking intrigues detrimental to the interests of France.

Regnier by no means took the road for Wilhelmshoehe. At 7 P.M. of Sunday the 18th he read in the special _Observer_ that Jules Favre was next day to have an interview with Bismarck at Meaux. Eager to anticipate the Republican Foreign Minister he promptly took the night train for Paris. No trains were running beyond Amiens and he did not reach Meaux until midnight of the 19th, to learn that Bismarck and the headquarters had that day gone to Ferrieres. At 10 A.M. of the 20th he reached that chateau and appealed to Count Hatzfeld, now German Ambassador in London, for an immediate interview with Bismarck, stating that he had come direct from Hastings. He was informed that the Chancellor had an appointment with Jules Favre at eleven and that it was improbable he could be received in advance. But Bismarck having been apprised of his arrival the fortunate Regnier was immediately ushered into his presence. Regnier congratulates himself on having anticipated the French Minister, ignorant of the circumstance that on the previous day the latter had two interviews with Bismarck and that their then impending interview was simply for the purpose of communicating to Favre the German King’s final answer to the French proposals.

Regnier says that he drew from his portfolio the photograph of Hastings with the Prince Imperial’s little note to his father at its foot and handed the paper in silence to Bismarck; and that after the latter had looked at it for some moments, Regnier said, “I come, Count, to ask you to grant me a pass which will permit me to go to Wilhelmshoehe and give this autograph into the Emperor’s hands.” Why he should have applied to Bismarck for this is not apparent, since he might have gone direct from Hastings to Wilhelmshoehe without any necessity for invoking the Chancellor’s offices. It seems extremely probable that the request for a pass was a mere pretext to gain an interview, and the more so since Bismarck made no allusion to the subject, but after a few moments, according to Regnier, addressed that person as follows:–

Sir, our position is before you; what can you offer us? with whom can we treat? Our determination is fixed so to profit by our present position as to render impossible for the future any war against us on the part of France. To effect this object, an alteration of the French frontier is indispensable. In the presence of two governments–the one _de facto_, the other _de jure_–it is difficult, if not impossible, to treat with either. The Empress-Regent has quitted French territory, and since then has given no sign. The Provisional Government in Paris refuses to accept this condition of diminution of territory, but proposes an armistice in order to consult the French nation on the subject. We can afford to wait. When we find ourselves face to face with a government _de facto_ and _de jure_, able to treat on the basis we require, then we will treat.

Regnier suggested that Bazaine in Metz and Uhrich in Strasburg, if they should capitulate, might do so in the name of the Imperial Government. Bismarck replied that Jules Favre was assured that the garrisons of those fortresses were staunchly Republican; but that his own belief was that Bazaine’s army of the Rhine was probably Imperialist. Then Regnier offered to go at once to Metz. “If you had come a week earlier,” said Bismarck, “it was yet time; now, I fear, it is too late.” Upon this the Chancellor went away to meet Jules Favre with the parting words to Regnier, “Be so good as to present my respectful homage to his Imperial Majesty when you reach Wilhelmshoehe.” At a subsequent meeting the same evening Regnier repeated his anxiety to go at once to Metz and Strasburg and make an agreement that these places should be surrendered only in the Emperor’s name. Bismarck was clearly not sanguine, but he said, “Do what you can to bring us some one with power to treat with us, and you will have rendered great service to your country. I will give orders for a ‘general safe-conduct’ to be given you. A telegram shall precede you to Metz, which will facilitate your entrance there. You should have come sooner.” So these two parted; Regnier received his “safe-conduct” and started from Ferrieres early on the morning of the 21st. But this indefatigable letter-writer could not depart without a farewell letter:–

I shall leave (he wrote to Bismarck) your advanced posts near Metz, giving orders for the carriage to await my return. I shall wrap myself in a shawl, which will hide a portion of my face. In the event of Marshal Bazaine acceding to my conditions, either Marshal Canrobert or General Bourbaki, acquainted with all that will be requisite for the success of my plans, may go out with my papers, dressed in my clothes, wrapped in my shawl, and depart for Hastings, after giving me his word of honour that for every one, except the Empress, he was to be simply Mons. Regnier. If everything succeeded according to my anticipation, he might then establish his identity, and place himself at the head of the army, with orders to defend the Chamber assembled, if possible, at a seaport town, where a loyal portion of the fleet should also be present. If the project should miscarry, the Marshal or the General would return and resume his post.

Bismarck must have smiled grimly as he read this strange farrago; yet, whatever may have been his motives, he furthered the errand on which Regnier was going to Metz.

That person reached the headquarters of Prince Frederick Charles at Corny, outside of Metz, on the afternoon of 23rd September and was promptly presented to the Prince, who said that Count Bismarck had informed him of his wish to enter Metz and had left it to him to decide as to the expediency of complying with it. This, said the Prince, he was prepared to do and he gave Regnier the requisite pass. The same evening that active individual presented himself at the French forepost line, and having stated that he had a mission to Marshal Bazaine and desired to see him immediately, he was driven to Ban-Saint-Martin where the Marshal was residing. Bazaine at once received him in his study. At the outset a discrepancy manifests itself in the subsequent testimony of the interlocutors. The Marshal states that Regnier said he came on the part of the Empress with the consent of Bismarck; while Regnier declares that he did not state to the Marshal that he had any mission from the Empress. On other points, with one important exception, the versions given of the interview by the two participants fairly agree, and Bazaine’s account of it may be summarised. After Regnier had stated that his commission was purely verbal he went on to observe that it was to be regretted that a treaty of peace had not put an end to the war after Sedan; that the maintenance of the German armies on French territory was ruinous to the country; and that it would be doing France a great service to obtain an armistice preparatory to the conclusion of peace. That as regarded this, the French army under the walls of Metz–the only army remaining organised–would be in a position to give guarantees to the Germans if it were allowed its liberty of action; but that without doubt they would exact as a pledge the surrender of the fortress of Metz.

I replied (says Bazaine) that certainly if we–the “Army of the Rhine”– could extricate ourselves from the _impasse_ in which we now were, with the honours of war–that is to say, with arms and baggage–in a word completely constituted as an army, we would be in a position to maintain order in the interior, and would cause the provisions of the convention to be respected; but a difficulty would occur as to the fortress of Metz, the governor of which, appointed by the Emperor, could not be relieved except by His Majesty himself.

One of Regnier’s stated objects, continues the Marshal, was to bring it about that either Marshal Canrobert or General Bourbaki should go to England, inform the Empress of the situation at Metz, and place himself at her disposition. The departure of whichever of the two high officers should undertake this duty was to be surreptitious; and for this Regnier had provided with Prussian assistance. Seven Luxembourg surgeons who had been in Metz ever since the battle of Gravelotte had written to Marshal Bazaine for leave to go home through the Prussian lines. This letter, sent to the Prussian headquarters, was replied to in a letter carried into Metz by Regnier and by him given to Bazaine, to the effect that the _nine_ surgeons were free to depart. As there were but seven surgeons, the implication is obvious that the safe-conduct was expanded to cover the incognito exit, along with the surgeons, of Regnier and the French officer bound for Hastings.

Regnier gave me (writes Bazaine) so many details of his _soi-disant_ relations with the Empress and her _entourage_ that, notwithstanding the strangeness of the apparition, I put faith in his mission, and believed that I ought not, in the general interest, to neglect the opportunity opened to me of putting myself in communication with the outside world. I consequently told him that he would be duly brought into relations with Marshal Canrobert and General Bourbaki, whom I would inform in regard to his proposals, and whom I would place at liberty to act as each might choose in the matter.

Finally Regnier produced the photograph of Hastings with the Prince Imperial’s signature at the foot, and begged the Marshal to add his, which he did “as a souvenir of the interview” explained Regnier, according to the Marshal; according to Regnier, that he could exhibit the signature to Bismarck in proof that he had the Marshal’s assent to his proposals. Diplomacy conducted by chance signatures on casual photographs has a certain innocent simplicity, but is not in accordance with modern methods. Perhaps, however, the strangest thing in connection with this strange interview is Bazaine’s final comment:–

All this which I have narrated was only a simple conversation to which I attached a merely secondary importance, since M. Regnier had no written authority from the Empress nor from M. de Bismarck…. This personage, therefore, appeared to act without the knowledge of the German military authorities, and it was not until considerably later that I became convinced of their cognisance, and of their mutual understanding as regards M. Regnier’s visit to Metz.

And this in the face of General Stiehle’s letter to him in his hand, brought in by Regnier, sanctioning the exit of the _nine_ surgeons; and the Marshal’s promise to Regnier that he and the officer who should accept the mission to Hastings should quit the camp incognito along with the Luxembourg surgeons.

Reference has been made to a discordance between the testimony of Marshal Bazaine and of Regnier on a very important point in regard to this interview. In his notes taken at the time the latter writes:–

The Marshal tells me of his excellent position, of the long period for which he can hold out; that he considers himself as the Palladium of the Empire. He speaks of the very healthy condition of the troops; and, if I may judge by his own rosy face, he is quite right. He tells of all the successful sallies he had made, and of the facility with which he can break through the besieging lines whenever he chooses to do so.

Later, he contradicts all this, explaining that finding himself in the Prussian lines and his papers liable to be read, he had written just the reverse of what he was told by the Marshal. He says that what Bazaine actually informed him was that the bread ration had been already diminished and would be necessarily further reduced in a few days; that the horses lacked forage and had to be used for food; and that in such conditions and taking into account the necessity of carrying four or five days’ rations for the army and keeping a certain number of horses in condition to drag the guns and supplies, there would be great difficulty in holding out until the 18th of October. Bazaine, for his part, vehemently denied having given Regnier any such information, and it seems utterly improbable that he should have done so. It is nevertheless the fact that the 18th of October was the last day on which rations were issued to the army outside Metz. Regnier must have been a wizard; or Bazaine must have leaked atrociously; or there must have been lying on the Marshal’s table during the interview with Regnier, the most recent state furnished by the French intendance, that of the 21st of September which specified the 18th of October as the precise date of the final exhaustion of the army’s supplies.

At midnight of the 23rd Regnier went to the outposts and next morning to Corny, where he found a telegram from Bismarck authorising the departure for Hastings of a general from the army of Metz. He was back again at Ban-Saint-Martin on the afternoon of the 24th, when Marshal Canrobert and General Bourbaki were summoned to headquarters to meet him and the Luxembourg surgeons were assembled. Canrobert declined the proposed mission on the plea of ill-health. Bourbaki had to be searched for and was ultimately found at St. Julien with Marshal Lebceuf. As he dismounted at the headquarters he asked Colonel Boyer–they had both been of the intimate circle of the Empire–whether he knew the person walking in the garden with the Marshal?

“No,” replied Boyer.

“What?” rejoined Bourbaki; “have you never seen him at the Tuileries?”

“No,” said Boyer. “I forget names, but not faces–I never saw this fellow. He is neither a familiar of the Tuileries nor an employe.” Whereupon the two aristocrats despised the bourgeois Regnier. But Bourbaki, nevertheless, had to endure the presentation to him of the “fellow,” who promptly entered on a political discourse to the effect that the German Government was reluctant to treat with the Paris Government, which it did not consider so lawful as that of the Empress, and that if it treated with her the conditions would be less burdensome; that the intervention of the army of Metz was indispensable; that it was all-important that one of its chiefs should repair to the side of the Empress to represent the army with her; and that he, Bourbaki, was the fittest person to occupy that position on the declinature of Marshal Canrobert. Bourbaki turned from the man of verbiage to Bazaine and asked, “Marshal, what do you wish me to do?” The Marshal answered that he desired him to repair to the Empress.

“I am ready,” answered Bourbaki, “but on certain conditions: you will have the goodness to give me a written order; to announce my departure in army orders; not to place a substitute in my command; and to promise that, pending my return, you will not engage the Guard.” His terms were accepted; he was told that he was to leave immediately and he went to his quarters to make his preparations.

It was understood that the general’s departure was to be by way of being incognito, so that it should not get wind. He had no civilian clothes and Bazaine fitted him out in his; Regnier had obtained from one of the Luxembourger surgeons a cap with the Geneva Cross which completed the costume. At the Prussian headquarters General Stiehle, Prince Frederick Charles’s chief of staff, desired to pay his respects to a man whose brilliant courage he admired. Bourbaki’s bitter answer to Regnier who communicated to him Stiehle’s wish, was that he would see “none of them, nor even eat a morsel of their bread,” which, he said, would choke him. He presently started with the surgeons, travelling in Regnier’s name and on Regnier’s passport, on an enterprise which was to lead to the wreck of a fine career. At the same time Regnier quitted Corny on his return to Ferrieres to report to Bismarck, having promised Bazaine that he would return to Metz within six days. His bolt was about shot. But he had not realised this fact. He maintains in his curious pamphlet that, to quote his own words, “the Minister had given me to understand that if I were backed by Bazaine and his army he would treat with me as if I were the representative of the Emperor or the Regent. I had obtained from the Marshal a capitulation with the honours of war, which the Minister–for the furtherance of our political ends–had consented to accord to him.” He hurried expectant to Ferrieres; there to be summarily disillusioned. Bismarck gave him an interview on the 28th, and crushed him in a few trenchant sentences:–

I am surprised and sorry (said the Chancellor) that you, who appeared to be a practical man, after having been permitted to enter Metz with the certainty of being able to leave it, a favour never before accorded, should have left it without some more formal recognition of your right to treat than merely a photograph with the Marshal’s signature on it. But I, Sir, am a diplomatist of many years’ standing, and this is not enough for me. I regret it; but I find myself compelled to relinquish all further communication with you till your powers are better defined.

Regnier expressed his regret at having been so cruelly deceived but thanked Bismarck for his kindness, whereupon the latter offered to give him a last chance. “I would certainly,” he said, “have treated with you as to peace conditions, had you been able to treat in the name of a Marshal at the head of 80,000 men; as it is, I will send this telegram to the Marshal: ‘Does Marshal Bazaine authorise M. Regnier to treat for the surrender of the army before Metz in accordance with the conditions agreed upon with the last-named?'” On the 29th came Bazaine’s somewhat diffuse reply:–

I cannot reply definitely in the affirmative to the question. Regnier announced himself the emissary of the Empress without written credentials. He asked the conditions on which I could enter into negotiations with Prince Frederick Charles. My answer was that I could only accept a convention with the honours of war, not to include the fortress of Metz. These are the only conditions which military honour permits me to accept.

Regnier bombarded the Chancellor with letters until the 30th, when Count Hatzfeld informed him that the Minister would listen to nothing more until Regnier could show full powers without evasion; that the matter must imperatively be conducted openly and above board; and that his Excellency hoped Regnier would be able to get clear of it with honour, and that soon.

So Regnier quitted Ferrieres in great dejection. He gives vent ruefully to the belief that Bismarck regarded him as an unaccredited agent of the Empress, while, curiously enough, the partisans of the Empress took him for an emissary of Bismarck. Reaching Hastings on the 3rd of October he found that the Empress was now at Chislehurst. He had telegraphed in advance to “M. Regnier,” the name which he had instructed General Bourbaki to pass under until the true Regnier should reach England. But Bourbaki had cast away the false name at the instigation of a brother officer while passing through Belgium. On arriving at Chislehurst he learned from the Empress that he had been made the victim of a mystification on the part of Regnier, and that she had never expressed the desire to have with her either Marshal Canrobert or himself. This intelligence, of which the newspapers had given him a presentiment, struck him to the heart. Although covered by his chief’s order he found himself in a false position; and he wrote to the late Lord Granville, then Foreign Secretary, begging his good offices to obtain for him an authorisation to return to his post. An assurance was given that this would be accorded, and he hurried to Luxembourg there to await intimation of permission to re-enter Metz. Some delay occurred in the transmission of the Royal order to this effect and although Bourbaki was assured that the decision would shortly reach him, he became impatient, went into France, and placed himself at the disposition of the Provisional Government. But thenceforth he was a soured and dispirited man. The _ci-devant_ aide-de-camp of an Emperor writhed under the harrow of Gambetta and Freycinet.

As for Regnier, on his return to England he seems to have haunted Chislehurst. Once, so he frankly writes, after waiting a full hour in expectation of an audience of the Empress Madame Le Breton came to tell him that Her Majesty was sorry to have kept him waiting so long, but that she had now definitely resolved not to receive him. Yet he hung on, and the same evening he tells that he was called somewhat abruptly into a room in which stood several gentlemen, when a lady suddenly rose from a couch and addressed him standing. At last he was face to face with the Empress. “Sir,” said Her Majesty, “you have been persistent in wishing to speak with me personally; here I am; what have you to say?” Then Regnier, by his own account, harangued that august and unfortunate lady in a manner which in print seems extremely trenchant and dictatorial. It was all in vain, he confesses; he could not alter the convictions of the Empress. He says that “she feared that posterity, if she yielded, would only see in the act a proof of dynastic selfishness; and that dishonour would be attached to the name of whoever should sign a treaty based on a cession of territory.” Probably Her Majesty spoke from a more lofty standpoint than Regnier was able to comprehend or appreciate.

Regnier’s subsequent career during that troublous period was both curious and dubious. General Boyer states that on the 28th of October he found Regnier _tete-a-tete_ with Prince Napoleon (Plon-Plon). Later he went to Cassel, where he busied himself in trying to implicate in political machinations sundry French officers who were prisoners there. Presently we find him at Versailles, figuring among the conductors of the _Moniteur Prussien_, Bismarck’s organ during the German occupation of that city, in which journal he published a series of articles under the title of _Jean Bonhomme_. During the armistice after the surrender of Paris he betook himself to Brussels, where he told General Boyer that he had gone to Versailles to attempt a renewal of negotiations tending towards an Imperial restoration. He showed the general the original safe-conduct which Bismarck had given him at Ferrieres, and a letter of Count Hatzfeld authorising him to visit Versailles. The last item during this period recorded of this strange personage–and that item one so significant as to justify Mrs. Crawford’s shrewd suspicion “that Regnier played a double game, and that Prince Bismarck, if he chose, could clear up the mystery which hangs over Regnier’s curious negotiations”–is found in a page of the _Proces Bazaine_. This is the gem: “On the 18th of February 1871 he was in Versailles, where he met a person of his acquaintance, to whom he uttered the characteristic words–‘I do not know whether M. de Bismarck will allow me to leave him this evening.'” He is said to have later been connected with the Paris police under the late M. Lagrange. Whether Regnier was more knave or fool–enthusiast, impostor, or “crank”–will probably be never known.



We see many curious phases of humanity–we who administer to the sick in the great hospitals which are among the boasts of London. The mask worn by the face of the world is dropped before us. We see men as they are, and while the sight is often not calculated to enhance our estimate of human nature, there are occasionally strong reliefs which stand out from the mass of shadow. There are curious opinions entertained in the outer world as to the internal economy of hospitals, not a few “laymen” imagining that the main end of such establishments is that the doctors may have something to experiment upon for the advancement of their professional theories– something which, while it is human, is not very valuable in the social scale and therefore open to be hacked and hewn and operated upon with a freedom begotten of the knowledge that the subject is a mere vile corpus.

Nor is this the only delusion. Many people think that the hospital nurse is but another name for a heartless harpy, brimful of callous selfishness. Her attentions–kindness is an inadmissible word–are believed to be purely mercenary. Those who themselves can afford to fee her or who have friends able and willing to buy her services, may purchase civil treatment and careful nursing while the poor wretch who has neither money nor friends may languish unheeded. There is no greater mistake than this. Year by year the character of hospital nursing has improved. It is not to be denied that in times gone by there were nurses the mainsprings of whose actions may be said to have been money and gin; but these have long since been driven forth with contumely. I have seen a poor wretch of a discharged soldier without a single copper to bless himself with, nursed with as much tender assiduity and real feeling as if he were in a position to pay his nurses handsomely.

Indeed, in most hospitals now the practice of accepting money presents is altogether forbidden; and if the prohibition, as in the case of railway porters and guards, is sometimes looked upon in the light of a dead letter, there is, I sincerely believe, no such thing as any grasping after a guerdon nor any neglect in a case where it is evident no guerdon is to be expected. There is an hospital I could name in which the nurses are prohibited from accepting from patients any more substantial recognition of their services than a nosegay of flowers. The wards of this hospital are always gay with bright, fragrant posies, most of them the contributions of those who, having been carefully tended in their need, retain a grateful recollection of the kindness and now that they are in health again take this simple, pretty way of showing their gratitude. It is two years ago since a rough bricklayer’s labourer got mended in the accident ward of this hospital of some curiously complicated injuries he had received by tumbling from the top of a house. Not a Sunday afternoon has there been since the house-surgeon told him one morning that he might go out, that he has not religiously visited the “Albert” ward and brought his thank-offering in the shape of a cheap but grateful nosegay.

Those nurses who thus devote themselves to the tending of sick have often curious histories if anybody would be at the trouble of collecting them. It is by no means always mere regard for the securing of the necessaries of life which has brought them to the thankless and toilsome occupation. We have all read of nunneries in which women immured themselves, anxious to sequester themselves from all association with the outer world and to devote themselves to a life of penance and devotion. After all their piety was aimless and of no utility to humanity. There was a concentrated selfishness in it which detracted from its ambitious aspiration. But in the modern nuns of our hospitals methinks we have women who, abnegating with equal solicitude the pleasures and dissipations of the world, find a more philanthropic opening for their exertions in their retirement than in sleeping on hair pallets, and in eating nothing but parched peas.

It was towards the autumn of a recent year that a modest-looking young woman applied to me for a situation on our nursing staff. She wore a widow’s dress and seemed a self-contained, reserved little woman, with something weighing very heavily on her mind. Her testimonials of character were ample and of a very high order but they did not enlighten me with any great freedom as to her past history, and she for her part appeared by no means eager to supplement the meagre information furnished by them. However, people have a right to keep their own counsel if they please, and there was no sin in the woman’s reticence. We happened to be very short of efficient nurses at the time and she was at once taken upon trial; her somewhat strange stipulation, which she made absolute, being agreed to– that she should not be compelled to reside in the hospital, but merely come in to perform her turn of nursing, and that over, be at liberty to leave the precincts when she pleased. I say the stipulation was a strange one, because attached to it there was a considerable pecuniary sacrifice as well as a necessity for entering a lower grade.

She made a very excellent nurse, with her quiet, reserved ways and her manner of moving about a ward as if she studied the lightness of every footfall. But she had her peculiarities. I have already said that she was not given to be communicative, and for the first three months she was in the place I do not believe she uttered a word to any one within the walls except on subjects connected with the performance of her duties. Then, too, she manifested a curious fondness for being on duty in the accident ward. Most nurses have very little liking for this ward–the work is very heavy and unremitting and frequently the sights are more than usually repulsive. But she specially made application to be placed in it, and the more terrible the nature of the accident the more eager was her zeal to minister to the poor victim. It seemed almost a morbid fondness which she developed for waiting, in particular, upon people injured by railway accidents. When some poor mangled plate-layer or a railway-porter crushed almost out of resemblance to humanity would be borne in and laid on an empty cot in the accident ward, this woman was at the bedside with a seemingly intuitive perception of what would best conduce to soothe and ease the poor shattered fellow; and she would wait on him “hand and foot” with an intensity of devotion far in excess of what mere duty, however conscientiously fulfilled, would have demanded of her. Indeed, her partiality for railway “cases” was so marked that it appeared to amount to a passion; and among the other nurses, never slow to fix upon any peculiarity and base upon it some not unfriendly nickname, our quiet friend went by the name of “Railway Lizz.” Nobody ever got any clue to the reason, if there was one, for this predilection of hers. Indeed, nobody ever was favoured with the smallest scrap of her confidence. I confess to have felt much interest in the sad-eyed young widow and to have several times given her an opening which she might have availed herself of for narrating something of her past life; but she always retired within herself with a sensitiveness which puzzled me not a little, satisfied as I was that there was nothing in her antecedents of a character which would not bear the light.

There are few holidays within an hospital. Physical suffering is not to be mitigated by a gala day; the pressure of disease cannot be lightened by jollity and merry-making. One New Year’s Eve, when the world outside our walls was glad of heart, a poor shattered form was borne into the accident ward. It was a railway-porter whom a train had knocked down and passed over, crushing the young fellow almost out of the shape of humanity. Railway Lizz was by his side in a moment, wetting the pain-parched lips and smoothing the pillow of the half-conscious sufferer. The house-surgeon came and went with that silent shake of the head we know too surely how to interpret, and the mangled railway-porter was left in the care of his assiduous nurse. It was almost midnight when I again entered the accident ward. The night-lamp was burning feebly, shedding a dull dim light over the great room and throwing out huge grotesque shadows on the floor and the walls. I glanced toward the railway-porter’s bed, and the tell-tale screen placed around it told me that all was over and that the life had gone out of the shattered casket. As I walked down the room toward the screen I heard a low subdued sound of bitter sobbing behind it; and when I stepped within it, there was the sad-faced widow-nurse weeping as if her heart would break. When she saw me she strove hard to repress her emotion and to resume the quiet, self-possessed demeanour which it was her wont to wear; but she failed in the attempt and the sobs burst out in almost convulsive rebellion against the effort to repress them. I put my arm round the neck of the poor young thing and stooping down kissed her wet cheek as a tear from my own eye mingled with her profuse weeping. The evidence of feeling appeared to overpower her utterly; she buried her head in my lap, and lay long there sobbing like a child. When the acuteness of the emotion had somewhat spent itself I gently raised her up, and asked of her what was the cause of a grief so poignant. I found that I was now at last within the intrenchments of her reserve; with a deep sigh she said, in her Scottish accent, that it was “a lang, lang story,” but if I cared to hear it she would tell it. So sitting there, we two together in the dim twilight of the night-lamp, with the shattered corpse of the railway-porter lying there “streekit” decently before us, she told the following pathetic tale:–

“I am an Aberdeen girl by birth. My father was the foreman at a factory, a very stiff, dour man, but a gude father, and an upright, God-fearing man. When I was about eighteen, I fell acquainted with a railway-guard, a winsome, manly lad as ever ye would wish to see. If ye had kent my Alick, ye wadna wonder at me for what I did. My father was a proud man, and he couldna bear that I should marry a man that he said wasna my equal in station; and in his firm, masterful way he forbade Alick from coming about the house, and me from seeing him. It was a sair trial, and I dinna think ony father has a right to put doon his foot and mar the happiness of twa young folks in the way mine did. The struggle was a bitter ane, between a father’s commands and the bidding of true luve; and at last, ae night coming home from a friend’s house, Alick and I forgathered again, and he swore he would not gang till I had promised I would marry him afore the week was out.

“I’ll not trouble ye with lang details of the battle that I fought with mysel’, and how in the end Alick conquered. We were married in the West Kirk the Sunday after, and we twa set up our simple housekeeping in a single room in a house by the back of the Infirmary. Oh, mem, we were happy young things! Alick was the fondest, kindest man ye could ever think of. Sometimes he wad take me a jaunt the length of Perth in the van with him, and point out the places of interest on the road as we went flashing by them. Then on the Sunday, when he was off duty, we used to take a walk out to the Torry Lighthouse, or down by the auld brig o’ Balgownie, and then hame to an hour’s read of the Bible afore I put down the kebbuck and the bannocks. My father keepit hard and unforgiving; they tellt me he had sworn an oath I should never darken his door again, and at times I felt very sairly the bitterness of his feeling toward me, whan I was sitting up waiting for Alick’s hame-coming whan he was on the night turn; but then he wad come in with his blithe smile and cheery greeting and every thought but joy at his presence wad flee awa as if by magic. Some of the friends I had kent when a lassie at home still keepit up the acquantance, and we used sometimes to spend an evening at one of their houses. The New Year time came, and Alick and myself got an invitation to keep our New Year’s Eve at the house of a decent, elderly couple that lived up near the Kitty Brewster Station–quiet, retired folk that had been in business and made enough to live comfortable on. It was Alick’s night for the late mail train from Perth, but he would be at Market Street Station in time to get up among us to see the auld year out and the new ane in; and I was to spend the evening there and wait for his arrival.

“It was a vera happy time. The auld couple were as kind as kind could be, and their twa or three young folks keepit up the fun brisk and lively. I took a hand at the cairts and sang a lilt like the rest; but I was luiking for Alick’s company to fill up my cup of happiness. The time wore on, and it was getting close to the hour at which he might be expectit. I kenna what ailed me, but I felt strangely uneasy and anxious for his coming. ‘Here he is at last!’ I said to myself, as my heart gave a jump at the sound of a foot on the gravel walk. As it came closer, I kent it wasna Alick’s step, and a strange, cauld grip of fear and doubt caught me at the heart. Mr. Thomson, that was the name of our old friend, was called out, and I overheard the sound of a whispered conversation in the passage. Then he put his head in and called out his wife; I could see his face was as white as a sheet, and his voice shook in spite of himself. The boding of misfortune came upon me with a force it was in vain to strive against, and I rose up and gaed out into the passage amang them. The auld man was shakin’ like an aspen leaf; the gudewife had her apron ower her face and was greeting like a bairn, and in the door stood Tarn Farquharson, a railway-porter frae the station. I saw it aa’ quicker nor I can tell it to you, leddy. I steppit up to Tarn and charged him simple and straught.

“‘Tam, what’s happent to my Alick?’

“The wet tears stood in Tarn’s e’en as he answered, ‘Dinna speer, Lizzie, my puir lass, dinna speer, whan the answer maun be a waefu’ ane.’

“‘Tell me the warst, Tam,’ says I; ‘let me hear the warst, an’ pit me oot o’ my pain!’

“The words are dirlin’ and stoonin’ in my ears yet–

“‘The engine gaed ower him, and he’s lyin’ dead at Market Street.’

“I didna faint, and I couldna greet. Something gied a crack inside my head, and my e’en swam for a minute; but the next I was putting on my bonnet and shawl and saying good-nicht to Mrs. Thomson. They tried to stop me. I heard Tam whisper to the auld man, ‘She maunna see him. He is mangled oot o’ the shape o’ man.’

“But I wasna to be gainsaid, and Tam took my airm as we gaed doon through the toon to Market Street. There they tried hard to keep him oot frae my sight. They tellt me he wasna fit to be seen, but there’s nae law that can keep a wife frae seeing her husband’s corpse. He was lying in a waiting-room covered up with a sheet, and, oh me, he was sair, sair mangled–that puir fellow there is naething to him; but the winsome, manly face, with the sweet, familiar smile on it, was nane spoiled; and lang, lang, I sat there, us twa alane, with my hand on his cauld forehead, playing wi’ his bonnie waving hair. They left me there, in their considerate kindliness, till the cauld light o’ the New Year’s morning began to break, and syne they came and tellt me I maun go. But I wadna gang my lane. He was mine, and mine only, sae lang as he was abune the mools; and I claimed my dead hame wi’ me, to that hoose he had left sae brisk and sprichtly whan he kissed me in the morning. Four of the railway-porters carried him up to that hame which had lost its hame-look for me now. I keepit him to mysel’ till they took him awa’ frae me and laid him under a saugh tree in the Spittal Kirkyard.”

She paused in her story, overcome by the bitter memory of the past, and I wanted no formal application now to give me the clue to her strange preference for the accident ward and her hitherto inexplicable fondness for “railway cases.” Poor thing, with what inexpressible vividness must the circumstances in which this New Year’s night was passing with her have recalled the sad remembrances of that other New Year’s night the narrative of which she had just given me! Presently she recovered her voice, and briefly concluded the little history.

“Leddy, I was wi’ bairn whan my Alick was taken from me. Oh, how I used to pray that God would be gude to me, and give me a living keepsake of my dead husband! I troubled naebody. I never speered if my father would do anything for me; but I got work at the factory, and I lived in prayerful hope. My hour of trouble came, and a fatherless laddie was born into this weary world, the very picture o’ him that was sleeping under the tree in the Spittal Kirkyard. I needna tell ye I christened him Alick, and the bairn has been my joy and comfort ever since God gifted me with him. I found the sichts and memories of Aberdeen ower muckle for me, sae I came up to London here, and ye ken the rest about me. It was because of being with my bairn that I wouldna agree to live in the hospital here like the rest of the nurses, and whan I gang hame noo to my little garret, he will waken up out of his saft sleep, rosy and fresh, and hold up his bonnie mou’, sae like his father’s, for ‘mammie’s kiss.'”


None of the greater rivers of Scotland makes so much haste to reach the ocean as does the turbulent and impatient Spey. From its parent lochlet in the bosom of the Grampians it speeds through Badenoch, the country of Cluny MacPherson, the chief of Clan Chattan, a region to this day redolent of memories of the ’45. It abates its hurry as its current skirts the grave of the beautiful Jean Maxwell, Duchess of Gordon, who raised the 92nd Highlanders by giving a kiss with the King’s shilling to every recruit, and who now since many long years

Sleeps beneath Kinrara’s willow.

But after this salaam of courtesy the river roars and bickers down the long stretch of shaggy glen which intervenes between the upper and lower Rocks of Craigellachie, whence the Clan Grant, whose habitation is this ruggedly beautiful strath, takes its slogan of “Stand fast, Craigellachie,” till it finally sends its headlong torrent shooting miles out through the salt water of the Moray Firth. In its course of over a hundred miles its fierce current has seldom tarried; yet now and again it spreads panting into a long smooth stretch of still water when wearied momentarily with buffeting the boulders in its broken and contorted bed; or when a great rock, jutting out into its course, causes a deep black sullen pool whose sluggish eddy is crested with masses of yellow foam. Merely as a wayfaring pedestrian I have followed Spey from its source to its mouth; but my intimacy with it in the character of a fisherman extends over the five-and-twenty miles of its lower course, from the confluence of the pellucid Avon at Ballindalloch to the bridge of Fochabers, the native village of the Captain Wilson who died so gallantly in the recent fighting in Matabeleland. My first Spey trout I took out of water at the foot of the cherry orchard below the sweet-lying cottage of Delfur. My first grilse I hooked and played with trout tackle in “Dalmunach” on the Laggan water, a pool that is the rival of “Dellagyl” and the “Holly Bush” for the proud title of the best pool of lower Spey. My first salmon I brought to the gaff with a beating heart in that fine swift stretch of water known as “The Dip,” which connects the pools of the “Heathery Isle” and the “Red Craig,” and which is now leased by that good fisherman, Mr. Justice North. I think the Dundurcas water then belonged to the late Mr. Little Gilmour, the well-known welter-weight who went so well to hounds season after season from Melton Mowbray, and who was as keen in the water on Spey as he was over the Leicestershire pastures. A servant of Mr. Little Gilmour was drowned in the “Two Stones” pool, the next below the “Holly Bush;” and the next pool below the “Two Stones” is called the “Beaufort” to this day– named after the present Duke, who took many a big fish out of it in the days when he used to come to Speyside with his friend Mr. Little Gilmour.

In those long gone-by days brave old Lord Saltoun, the hero of Hougomont, resided during the fishing season in the mansion-house of Auchinroath, on the high ground at the mouth of the Glen of Rothes. One morning, some five-and-forty years ago, my father drove to breakfast with the old lord and took me with him. Not caring to send the horse to the stable, he left me outside in the dogcart when he entered the house. As I waited rather sulkily–for I was mightily hungry–there came out on to the doorstep a very queer-looking old person, short of figure, round as a ball, his head sunk between very high and rounded shoulders, and with short stumpy legs. He was curiously attired in a whole-coloured suit of gray; a droll-shaped jacket the great collar of which reached far up the back of his head, surmounted a pair of voluminous breeches which suddenly tightened at the knee. I imagined him to be the butler in morning dishabille; and when he accosted me good-naturedly, asking to whom the dogcart and myself belonged, I answered him somewhat shortly and then ingenuously suggested that he would be doing me a kindly act if he would go and fetch me out a hunk of bread and meat, for I was enduring tortures of hunger.

Then he swore, and that with vigour and fluency, that it was a shame that I should have been left outside; called a groom and bade me alight and come indoors with him. I demurred–I had got the paternal injunction to remain with the horse and cart. “I am master here!” exclaimed the old person impetuously; and with further strong language he expressed his intention of rating my father soundly for not having brought me inside along with himself. Then a question occurred to me, and I ventured to ask, “Are you Lord Saltoun?” “Of course I am,” replied the old gentleman; “who the devil else should I be?” Well, I did not like to avow what I felt, but in truth I was hugely disappointed in him; for I had just been reading Siborne’s _Waterloo_, and to think that this dumpy old fellow in the duffle jacket that came up over his ears was the valiant hero who had held Hougomont through cannon fire and musketry fire and hand-to-hand bayonet fighting on the day of Waterloo while the post he was defending was ablaze, and who had actually killed Frenchmen with his own good sword, was a severe disenchantment. When I had breakfasted he asked leave of my father to let me go with him to the waterside, promising to send me home safely later in the day. When he was in Spey up to the armpits–for the “Holly Bush” takes deep wading from the Dundurcas side–the old lord looked even droller than he had done on the Auchinroath doorstep, and I could not reconcile him in the least to my Hougomont ideal. He was delighted when I opened on him with that topic, and he told me with great spirit of the vehemence with which his brother-officer Colonel Macdonnell, and his men forced the French soldiers out of the Hougomont courtyard, and how big Sergeant Graham closed the door against them by main force of muscular strength. Before he had been in the water twenty minutes the old lord was in a fish; his gillie, old Dallas, who could throw a fine line in spite of the whisky, gaffed it scientifically, and I was sent home rejoicing with a 15 lb. salmon for my mother and a half-sovereign for myself wherewith to buy a trouting rod and reel. Lord Saltoun was the first lord I ever met, and I have never known one since whom I have liked half so well.

Spey is a river which insists on being distinctive. She mistrusts the stranger. He may be a good man on Tweed or Tay, but until he has been formally introduced to Spey and been admitted to her acquaintance, she is chary in according him her favours. She is no flighty coquette, nor is she a prude; but she has her demure reserves, and he who would stand well with her must ever treat her with consideration and respect. She is not as those facile demi-mondaine streams, such as the Helmsdale or the Conon, which let themselves be entreated successfully by the chance comer on the first jaunty appeal. You must learn the ways of Spey before you can prevail with her, and her ways are not the ways of other rivers. It was in vain that the veteran chief of southern fishermen, the late Francis Francis, threw his line over Spey in the _veni, vidi, vici_ manner of one who had made Usk and Wye his potsherd, and who over the Hampshire Avon had cast his shoe. Russel, the famous editor of the _Scotsman_, the Delane of the north country, who, pen in hand, could make a Lord Advocate squirm, and before whose gibe provosts and bailies trembled, who had drawn out leviathan with a hook from Tweed, and before whom the big fish of Forth could not stand–even he, brilliant fisherman as he was, could “come nae speed ava” on Spey, as the old Arndilly water-gillie quaintly worded it.

Yet Russel of the _Scotsman_ was perhaps the most whole-souled salmon fisher of his own or any other period. His piscatorial aspirations extended beyond the grave. Who that heard it can ever forget the peroration, slightly profane perhaps, but entirely enthusiastic, of his speech on salmon fishing at a Tweedside dinner? “When I die,” he exclaimed in a fine rapture, “should I go to heaven, I will fish in the water of life with a fly dressed with a feather from the wing of an angel; should I be unfortunately consigned to another destination, I shall nevertheless hope to angle in Styx with the worm that never dieth.” To his editorial successor Spey was a trifle more gracious than she had been to Russel; but she did not wholly open her heart to this neophyte of her stream, serving him up in the pool of Dellagyl with the ugliest, blackest, gauntest old cock-salmon of her depths, owning a snout like the prow of an ancient galley.

Spey exacts from those who would fish her waters with success a peculiar and distinctive method of throwing their line, which is known as the “Spey cast.” In vain has Major Treherne illustrated the successive phases of the “Spey cast” in the fishing volume of the admirable Badminton series. It cannot be learned by diagrams; no man, indeed, can become a proficient in it who has not grown up from childhood in the practice of it. Yet its use is absolutely indispensable to the salmon angler on the Spey. Rocks, trees, high banks, and other impediments forbid resort to the overhead cast. The essence and value of the Spey cast lies in this–that his line must never go behind the caster; well done, the cast is like the dart from a howitzer’s mouth of a safety rocket to which a line is attached. To watch it performed, strongly yet easily, by a skilled hand is a liberal education in the art of casting; the swiftness, sureness, low trajectory, and lightness of the fall of the line, shot out by a dexterous swish of the lifting and propelling power of the strong yet supple rod, illustrate a phase at once beautiful and practical of the poetry of motion. Among the native salmon fishermen of Speyside, _quorum ego parva pars fui,_ there are two distinct manners which may be severally distinguished as the easy style and the masterful style. The disciples of the easy style throw a fairly long line, but their aim is not to cover a maximum distance. What they pride themselves on is precise, dexterous, and, above all, light and smooth casting. No fierce switchings of the rod reveal their approach before they are in sight; like the clergyman of Pollok’s _Course of Time_ they love to draw rather than to drive. Of the masterful style the most brilliant exponent is a short man, but he is the deepest wader in Spey. I believe his waders fasten, not round his waist, but round his neck. I have seen him in a pool, far beyond his depth, but “treading water” while simultaneously wielding a rod about four times the length of himself, and sending his line whizzing an extraordinary distance. The resolution of his attack seems actually to hypnotise salmon into taking his fly; and, once hooked, however hard they may fight for life, they are doomed fish.

Ah me! These be gaudy, flaunting, flashy days! Our sober Spey, in the matter of salmon fly-hooks, is gradually yielding to the garish influence of the times. Spey salmon now begin to allow themselves to be captured by such indecorous and revolutionary fly-hooks as the “Canary” and the “Silver Doctor.” Jaunty men in loud suits of dittoes have come into the north country, and display fly-books that vie in the variegated brilliancy of their contents with a Dutch tulip bed. We staunch adherents to the traditional Spey blacks and browns, we who have bred Spey cocks for the sake of their feathers, and have sworn through good report and through evil report by the pig’s down or Berlin wool for body, the Spey cock for hackle, and the mallard drake for wings, have jeered at the kaleidoscopic fantasticality of the leaves of their fly-books turned over by adventurers from the south country and Ireland; and have sneered at the notion that a self-respecting Spey salmon would so far demoralise himself as to be allured by a miniature presentation of Liberty’s shop-window. But the salmon has not regarded the matter from our conservative point of view; and now we, too, ruefully resort to the “canary” as a dropper when conditions of atmosphere and water seem to favour that gaudy implement. And it must be owned that even before the “twopence-coloured” gentry came among us from distant parts, we, the natives, had been side-tracking from the exclusive use of the old-fashioned sombre flies into the occasional use of gayer yet still modest “fancies.” Of specific Spey hooks in favour at the present time the following is, perhaps, a fairly correct and comprehensive list: purple king, green king, black king, silver heron, gold heron, black dog, silver riach, gold riach, black heron, silver green, gold green, Lady Caroline, carron, black fancy, silver spale, gold spale, culdrain, dallas, silver thumbie, Sebastopol, Lady Florence March, gold purpie, and gled (deadly in “snawbree”). The Spey cock–a cross between the Hamburg cock and the old Scottish mottled hen–was fifty years ago bred all along Speyside expressly for its feathers, used in dressing salmon flies; but the breed is all but extinct now, or rather, perhaps, has been crossed and re-crossed out of recognition. It is said, however, to be still maintained in the parish of Advie, and when the late Mr. Bass had the Tulchan shootings and fishings his head keeper used to breed and sell Spey cocks.

Probably the most extensive collection of salmon fly-hooks ever made was that which belonged to the late Mr. Henry Grant of Elchies, a property on which is some of the best water in all the run of Spey. His father was a distinguished Indian civil servant and of later fame as an astronomer; and his elder brother, Mr. Grant of Carron, was one of the best fishermen that ever played a big fish in the pool of Dellagyl. Henry Grant himself had been a keen fisherman in his youth, and when, after a chequered and roving life in South Africa and elsewhere, he came into the estate, he set himself to build up a representative collection of salmon flies for all waters and all seasons. His father had brought home a large and curious assortment of feathers from the Himalayas; Mr. Grant sent far and wide for further supplies of suitable and distinctive material, and then he devoted himself to the task of dressing hundred after hundred of fly-hooks of every known pattern and of every size, from the great three-inch hook for heavy spring water to the dainty little “finnock” hook scarcely larger than a trout fly. A suitable receptacle was constructed for this collection from the timber of the “Auld Gean Tree of Elchies”–the largest of its kind in all Scotland–whose trunk had a diameter of nearly four feet and whose branches had a spread of over twenty yards. The “Auld Gean Tree” fell into its dotage and was cut down to the strains of a “lament,” with which the wail and skirl of the bagpipes drowned the noise of the woodmen’s axes. Out of the wood of the “Auld Gean Tree” a local artificer constructed a handsome cabinet with many drawers, in which were stored the Elchies collection of fly-hooks classified carefully according to their sizes and kinds. The cabinet stood–and, I suppose, still stands–in the