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   Chapter 5 No.5

Here, There and Everywhere By Lord Frederic Hamilton Characters: 44058

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

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

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

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

"Dowse for iver! Claud in the river!

With a skiver through his liver."

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

"Dowse! Dowse! you're a dirty louse,

And ye'll niver sit in the Commons' House."

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

"Punch, brothers, punch with care,

Punch in the presence of the passen-jare."

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

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

The most original electioneering poster I ever saw was in Capetown in March, 1914. It was an admirably got-up enlargement of a funeral card, with a deep black border, adorned with a realistic picture of a hearse, and was worded "Unionist Opposition dead. Government dying. Electors of the Liesbeck Division drive your big nails into the coffin by voting for Tom Maginess on Saturday." Whether it was due to this novel form of electioneering or not, I cannot say, but Maginess won the seat by two thousand votes. I still have a copy of that poster.

Neither Londonderry nor Capetown are in Jamaica, but oddly enough, Middlesex is, for the island is divided into three counties, Cornwall, Middlesex, and Surrey. The local geography is a little confusing, for it is a surprise to find (in Jamaica at all events) that Westmoreland is in Cornwall, and Manchester in Middlesex.

Kingston owes its position as capital to the misfortunes of its two neighbours, Port Royal and Spanish Town. When Port Royal was totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1692, the few survivors crossed the bay and founded a new town on the sandy Liguanea plain. Owing to its splendid harbour, Kingston soon became a place of great importance, though the seat of Government remained in sleepy Spanish Town, but the latter lying inland, and close to the swamps of the Rio Cobre, was so persistently unhealthy that in 1870 the Government was transferred to Kingston. Though very prosperous, its most fervent admirer could not call it beautiful, and, owing to its sandy soil, it is an intensely hot place, but in compensation it receives the full sea breeze. Every morning about nine, the sea breeze (locally known as "the Doctor") sets in. Gentle at first, by noon it is rushing and roaring through the town in a perfect gale, to drop and die away entirely by 4 p.m. By a most convenient arrangement, the land breeze, disagreeably known as "the Undertaker," drops down from the Liguanea Mountains on to the sweltering town about 11 p.m., and continues all through the night. It is this double breeze, from sea by day, from land by night, that renders life in Kingston tolerable. Owing to the sea breeze invariably blowing from the same direction, Jamaicans have the puzzling habit of using "Windward" and "Leeward" as synonyms for East and West. To be told that such-and-such a place is "two miles to Windward of you" seems lacking in definiteness to a new arrival.

As we rolled slowly along in our buggy, the Guardsman was in a state of perpetual bewilderment at having growing sugar, coffee, cocoa, and rice pointed out to him by the driver. "I thought that it was an island," he murmured; "it turns out to be nothing but a blessed growing grocer's shop." Half-way between Kingston and Spanish Town is the Old Ferry Inn, the oldest inn in the New World. It stands in a mass of luxuriant greenery on the very edge of the Rio Cobre swamps, and is a place to be avoided at nightfall on that account. This fever trap of an inn, being just half-way between Kingston and Spanish Town, was, of all places in the island to select, the chosen meeting-place of the young bloods of both towns in the eighteenth century. Here they drove out to dine and carouse, and as they probably all got drunk, many of them must have slept here, on the very edge of the swamp, to die of yellow fever shortly afterwards.

Sleepy Spanish Town, the old capital, has a decayed dignity of its own. The public square, with its stately eighteenth-century buildings, is the only architectural feature I ever saw in the British West Indies. Our national lack of imagination is typically exemplified in the King's House, now deserted, which occupies one side of the square. When it was finished in 1760, it was considered a sumptuous building. The architect, Craskell, in that scorching climate, designed exactly the sort of red-brick and white stone Georgian house that he would have erected at, say, Richmond. With limitless space at his disposal, he surrounded his house with streets on all four sides of it, without one yard of garden, or one scrap of shade. No wonder that poor little Lady Nugent detested this oven of an official residence. The interior, though, contains some spacious, stately Georgian rooms; the temperature being that of a Turkish bath.

Rodney's monument is a graceful, admirably designed little temple, and the cathedral of a vague Gothic, is spacious and dignified. Spanish Town cathedral claims to have been built in 1541, in spite of an inscription over the door recording that "this church was thrown downe by ye dreadfull hurricane of August ye 28, 1712, and was rebuilt in 1714." It contains a great collection of elaborate and splendid monuments, all sent out from England, and erected to various island worthies. The amazing arrogance of an inscription on a tombstone of 1690, in the south transept, struck me as original. It commemorates some Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica, and after the usual eulogistic category of his unparalleled good qualities, ends "so in the fifty-fifth year of his age he appeared with great applause before his God."

There is a peculiarly beautiful tree, the Petraea, which seems to flourish particularly well in Spanish Town. When in flower in February, neither trunk, leaves, nor branches can be seen for its dense clusters of bright blue blossoms, which are unfortunately very short-lived.

Four miles above Spanish Town the hideously named Bog Walk, the famous gorge of the Rio Cobre, commences. I do not believe that there is a more exquisitely beautiful glen in the whole world. The clear stream rushes down the centre, whilst the rocky walls tower up almost perpendicularly for five or six hundred feet on either side, and these rocks, precipitous as they are, are clothed with a dense growth of tropical forest. The bread-fruit tree with its broad, scalloped leaves, the showy star-apple, glossy green above deep gold below, mahoganies, oranges, and bananas, all seem to grow wild. The bread-fruit was introduced into Jamaica from the South Sea Islands, and the first attempt to transplant it was made by the ill-fated Bounty, and led to the historical mutiny on board, as a result of which the mutineers established themselves on Pitcairn Island, where their descendants remain to this day. Whatever adventures marked its original advent, the bread-fruit has made itself thoroughly at home in the West Indies, and forms the staple food of the negroes. When carefully prepared it really might pass for under-done bread, prepared from very indifferent flour by an inexperienced and unskilled baker. It is the immense variety of the foliage and the constantly changing panorama that gives Bog Walk its charm, together with the red, pink, and fawn-coloured trumpets of the hibiscus, dotting the precipitous ramparts of rock over the rushing blue river. Bog Walk is distinctly one of those places which no one with opportunities for seeing it should miss. It opens out into an equally beautiful basin, St. Thomas-in-the-Vale, of which Michael Scott gives an admirable description in Tom Cringle. I should hardly select that steamy cup in the hills as a place of residence, but as a natural forcing-house and a sample of riotous vegetation, it is worth seeing.

The native orchids of Jamaica are mostly oncidiums, with insignificant little brown and yellow flowers, and have no commercial value whatever. The Guardsman, however, was obsessed with the idea that he would discover some peerless bloom for which he would be paid hundreds of pounds by a London dealer. Every silk-cotton tree is covered with what Jamaicans term "wild pines," air-plants, orchids, and other epiphytes, and every silk-cotton was to him a potential Golconda, so whenever we came across one he wanted the buggy stopped, and up the tree he went like a lamp lighter. I am bound to admit that he was an admirable tree climber, but I objected on the score of delicacy to the large rents that these aerial rambles occasioned in his white ducks. On regaining the ground he loaded the buggy with his spoils, despite the driver's assertion that "dat all trash." Unfortunately with his epiphytes he brought down whole colonies of ants, and the Jamaican ant is a most pugnacious insect with abnormal biting powers. After I had been forced to disrobe behind some convenient greenery in order to rid myself of these aggressive little creatures, I was compelled to put a stern veto on further tree exploration.

The ascent from Ewarton, over the Monte Diavolo, is so splendid that I have made it five times for sheer delight in the view. Below lies St. Thomas-in-the-Vale, a splendid riot of palms, orange, and forest trees, and above it towers hill after hill, dominated by the lofty peaks of the Blue Mountains. It is a gorgeously vivid panorama, all in greens, gold, and vivid blues. Monte Diavolo is the only part of Jamaica where there are wild parrots; it is also the home of the allspice tree, or pimento, as it is called in the island. This curious tree cannot be raised from seed or cutting, neither can it be layered; it can only propagate itself in Nature's own fashion, and the seed must pass through the body of a bird before it will germinate. So it is fortunate, being the important article of commerce it is, that the supply of trees is not failing. Bay rum is made from the leaves of the allspice tree.

Once over the Monte Diavolo, quite a different Jamaica unrolls itself. Broad pasture-lands replace the tropical house at Kew; rolling, well-kept fields of guinea-grass, surrounded with neat, dry-stone walls and with trim gates, give an impression of a long-settled land. We were amongst the "pen-keepers," or stock-raisers here. This part of the colony certainly has a home-like look; a little spoilt as regards resemblance by the luxuriance with which creepers and plants, which at home we cultivate with immense care in stove-houses, here riot wild in lavish masses over the stone walls. If the cherished rarities of one country are unnoticed weeds in another land, plenty of analogies in other respects spring to the mind. I could wish though, for aesthetic reasons, that our English lanes grew tropical Begonias, Coraline, and a peculiarly attractive Polypody fern, similar to ours, except for the young growths being rose-pink. Between Dry Harbour and Brown's Town there is one succession of fine country-places, derelict for the most part now, but remnants of the great days before King Sugar was dethroned. Here the opulent sugar planters built themselves lordly pleasure houses on the high limestone formation. Sugar grows best on swampy ground, but swamps breed fever, so these magnates wisely made their homes on the limestone, and so increased their days.

The high-road runs past one stately entrance-gate after another; entrances with high Georgian, carved stone gateposts surmounted with vases, probably sent out ready-made from England; Adam entrances, with sphinxes and the stereotyped Adam semi-circular railings, all very imposing, and all alike derelict. Beyond the florid wrought-iron gates the gravel drives disappear under a uniform sea of grass; the once neatly shaved lawns are covered with dense "bush." All gone! Planters and their fine houses alike! King Sugar has been for long dethroned. The names of these places, "Amity," "Concord," "Orange Grove," "Harmony Hall," "Friendship," and "Fellowship Hall," all rather suggest the names of Masonic Lodges, and seem to point to a certain amount of conviviality. The houses themselves are hardly up to the standard of their ambitious entrance-gates, for they are mostly of the stereotyped Jamaican "Great House" type; plain, gabled buildings surrounded by verandahs, looking rather like gigantic meat safes; but, as they say in Ireland, any beggar can see the gatehouse, but few people see the house itself, and I imagine that skilled craftsmen were rare in Jamaica in the eighteenth century.

The attempt to reconstruct the life of one, two, or three hundred years ago has always appealed to me, especially amidst very familiar scenes. The stage-setting, so to speak, is much as it must have appeared to our predecessors, but the actual drama played on the stage must have been so very different. I should have liked to have seen these planters' houses a hundred years ago, swarming with guests, whilst the cookhouses smoked bravely as armies of black slaves busied themselves in preparing one of the gigantic repasts described by Lady Nugent. Unfortunately to enter thoroughly into the spirit of the thing, one would have been forced, in her words, "to eat like a cormorant, and to drink like a porpoise," with the certainty of a liver attack to follow.

Talking of bygone days, the Fourth-Form Room at Harrow has been unchanged since Queen Elizabeth's time, and still retains all its Elizabethan fittings: heavy, clumsy, solid oak armchairs for the masters, each one equipped with a stout, iron-bound, oak table, and strong oak benches for the boys. As a youngster, I liked to think that I was sitting on the identical benches occupied, more than three hundred years earlier, by Elizabethan youths in trunk hose and doublets. In my youth I was much impressed in Canterbury Cathedral by the sight of the deep grooves worn by the knees of countless thousands of pilgrims to Thomas a Beckett's shrine in the solid stone of the steps leading from the Choir to the retro-Choir, steps only to be ascended by pilgrims on their knees. At Harrow the inch-thick oak planks of the Elizabethan benches have been completely worn through in places by the perpetual fidgeting of hundreds of generations of schoolboys, which is as remarkable in its way as the knee grooves at Canterbury, though the attrition is due to a different portion of the human anatomy. As a boy I used to wonder how the trunk-hosed Elizabethan Harrovians addressed each other, and whether they found it very difficult to avoid palpable anachronisms in every sentence. Their conversations would probably have been something like this: "Come hither, young Smith; I would fain speak with thee. Only one semester hast thou been here, and thy place in the school is but lowly, yet are thy hose cross-gartered, and thy doublet is of silk. Thou swankest, and that is not seemly, therefore shall I trounce thee right lustily to teach thee what a sorry young knave thou art." "Nay, good Master Brown, hearken to me. This morn too late I kept my bed, and finding not my buff jerkin, did don in haste my Sunday doublet of changeable taffeta, for thou wottest the ills that do befall those late for school. Neither by my halidom knew I, that being yet of tender years, it was not meet for me to go cross-gartered, so prithee, gentle youth, cease belabouring me with thy feet."

Incidentally, I suppose that Christopher Columbus and his adventurers all landed in the West Indies in 1492, clad in full armour, after the fashion of the age, and I cannot imagine how they escaped being baked alive in the scorching heat. Every suit of armour must have been a portable Dutch-oven, inflicting tortures on its unfortunate wearer. The little bay near Brown's Town where Columbus landed in Jamaica, on his third voyage, is still called "Don Christopher's Cove," though the Spanish form of his name is, of course, Cristobal Colon.

Brown's Town is the most beautiful little spot imaginable, glowing with colour from its wealth of flowers. It had, though, another attraction for me. The hotel was kept by a white lady of most "serious" views, and in the hotel dining-room I found a bookshelf containing all the books given me as a child for Sunday reading. There they all were! Little Henry and his Bearer, Anna Ross the Orphan of Waterloo, Agathos, and many, many more, including a well-remembered American book, Melbourne House. The heroine of the last-named work, an odiously priggish child called Daisy Randolph, refused to sing on a Sunday when desired to do so by her mother. For this, most properly, she was whipped. A devoted black maid who shared Daisy's religious views, comforted her little mistress by bringing her a supper of fried oysters, ice-cream and waffles. As a child I used to think how gladly I would undergo a whipping every Sunday were it only to be followed by a supper of fried oysters, ice-cream and waffles, the latter a comestible unknown to me, but suggesting infinitely delicious possibilities. Unfortunately I can never remember having been asked to sing on Sunday, or indeed on any other day.

Speaking seriously, I do not believe that these emotionally pietistic little books produced any good effect on the children into whose hands they were put. I remember as a child feeling exasperated against the ultra-righteous little heroines of all these works. I say heroine, because no boy was ever given a chance as a household-reformer, unless he had happened to have been born a hopeless cripple, or were suffering from an incurable spinal complaint. In the latter case, experience induced the certainty that the author would be unable to resist the temptation of introducing a pathetic death-bed scene. Accordingly, when the little hero's spine grew increasingly painful and he began to waste away, the two next chapters were carefully skipped in order to be spared the harrowing details of the young martyr's demise. Girls, not being so invariably doomed to an early death, were alone qualified to act as family evangelists, and one knew that the sweet child's influence was bound, slowly but surely, to permeate the entire household. Her mother would cease to care only for "the world and its fine things," and would even endeavour to curb her inordinate love of dress. Her father would practically abandon betting, and, should he have been fortunate enough to have backed a winner, would at once rush on conscience-stricken feet to pour the whole of his gains into the nearest missionary collecting-box. Even the cynical old bachelor uncle, who habitually scoffed at his niece's precocious piety, became gradually influenced by her shining ex

ample, and would awake one morning to find himself the amazed, yet gratified, possessor of "a new heart."

In order to renew my acquaintance with the whole of these friends of my youth, I remained two days longer in Brown's Town, with the assent of the good-natured Guardsman.

Joss, the Guardsman, had a fine baritone voice, and the English rector of Brown's Town, after hearing him sing in the hotel, at once commandeered him for his church on Sunday, though warning him that he would be the only white member of the choir. My services were also requisitioned for the organ. That church at Brown's Town is, by the way, the most astonishingly spacious and handsome building to find in an inland country parish in Jamaica. On the Sunday, seeing the Guardsman in conversation with the local tenor, a gentleman of absolutely ebony-black complexion, at the vestry door, both of them in their cassocks and surplices, I went to fetch my camera, for here at last was a chance of satisfying the Guardsman's mania for turning his trip to the West Indies to profitable account. Every one is familiar with the ingenious advertisements of the proprietors of a certain well-known brand of whisky. My photograph would, unquestionably, be a picture in "Black and White," both as regards complexion and costume, but on second thoughts, the likenesses of two choir-men in cassocks and surplices seemed to me inappropriate as an advertisement for a whisky, however excellent it might be, though they had both unquestionably been engaged in singing spiritual songs.

It was Archbishop Magee who, when Bishop of Peterborough, encountered a drunken navvy one day as he was walking through the poorer quarters of that town. The navvy staggered out of a public-house, diffusing a powerful aroma of gin all round him; when he saw his Chief Pastor he raised his hand in a gesture of mock benediction and called jeeringly to the Bishop, "The Lord be with you!" "And with thy spirits," answered Magee like a flash.

The drive from Brown's Town across the centre of the island to Mandeville is one of the most beautiful things that can be imagined. It can only be undertaken with mules, and then requires twelve hours, the road running through the heart of the ginger-growing district, of which Boroughbridge is the headquarters. The Guardsman was more than ever confirmed in his opinion that Jamaica was only a growing grocer's shop, especially as we had passed through dense groves of nutmeg-trees in the morning. I have a confused recollection of deep valleys traversed by rushing, clear streams, of towering pinnacles of rock, and of lovely forest glades, the whole of them clothed with the most gorgeous vegetation that can be conceived, of strange and unfamiliar shapes glowing with unknown blossoms, with blue mountains in the distance. It was one ever-changing panorama of loveliness, with beauty of outline, beauty of detail, and unimaginable beauty of colour.

We were forced to return to Kingston, for a French Cruiser Squadron was paying a prolonged visit to Jamaica, and the Governor required my services as interpreter.

That visit of the French Fleet was quite an historical event, for it was the first outward manifestation of the Anglo-French Entente. The Anglo-French Convention had been signed two years previously, on April 8, 1904. I cannot say with whom the idea of terminating the five-hundred-year-old feud between Britain and France originated, but I know who were the instruments who translated the idea into practical effect: they were M. Paul Cambon, French Ambassador in London, and my brother-in-law, Lord Lansdowne, then Foreign Secretary; between them they smoothed down asperities, removed ancient grievances, and lubricated points of contact where friction might arise. No one, probably, anticipated at the time the tremendous consequences of the Anglo-French Convention, nor dreamed that it was destined, after the most terrible conflict of all time, to change the entire history of the world.

In the early part of 1905 the Emperor William had made his theatrical triumphal progress through the Turkish dominions, and on March 31 of the same year he landed at Tangier in great state. What exact agreement the Emperor concluded with the Sultan of Morocco we do not know, but from that moment the French met with nothing but difficulties in Morocco, their own particular "sphere of influence" under the Anglo-French Convention. All the reforms proposed by France were flouted by the Sultan, and Germans claimed equal commercial and economic rights with the French. A conference met at Algeciras on January 10, 1906, to settle these and other disputed questions, but the French authorities viewed the situation with the utmost anxiety. They were convinced that the "mailed fist" would be brandished in their faces on the smallest provocation, and that the French Navy might have to intervene.

Now came the first visible result of the entente. The British Government offered the hospitality of Kingston Harbour, with coaling facilities, for an unlimited period to the French Cruiser Squadron, then in the West Indies. Kingston is not only the finest harbour in the Antilles, but the coaling arrangements are far superior to any in the French ports, and, most important point of all, Kingston would be some twenty-four hours steaming nearer to Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, in case of emergency, than the French islands of Guadeloupe or Martinique.

The arrival, then, of the French Fleet was a great event, and, acting possibly on a hint from home, every attention was shown to the French officers by the Governor, Sir Alexander Swettenham. He entertained forty French officers to luncheon at King's House, and his French having grown rather rusty, asked me to welcome them in his name. I took great care in preparing my speech, and began by ascertaining whether any of the reporters who would be present understood French. I was much relieved to find that not one of them knew a single word of the language, for that gave me a free hand. The table, on the occasion of the luncheon, was decorated in a fashion only possible in the West Indies. One end of the table glowed, a scarlet carpet of the splendid flowers of the Amherstia nobilis, looking like red satin tassels, then came a carpet of the great white trumpets of the Beaumontia, on a ground of white stephanotis. Lastly a blue carpet of giant solanums, interspersed with the dainty blue blossoms of the Petraea, the whole forming the most magnificent tricolour flag imaginable. The French officers much appreciated this attention.

I spoke for twenty minutes, and fairly let myself go. With a feeling of security due to the inability of the reporters to follow French, I said the most abominably indiscreet things, considering that it was an official entertainment in an official residence, but I think that I must have been quite eloquent, for, when I sat down, the French Admiral crossed the room and shook hands warmly with me, saying, "Monsieur, au nom de la France je vous remercie."

Joss, the Guardsman, struck up an intimate alliance with a young French naval lieutenant of his own age. As the Guardsman knew just two words of French, and the Frenchman was totally ignorant of English, I cannot conceive how they understood one another, but they seemed to take great delight in each other's society, exploring together every corner of Kingston, both by day and by night, addressing each other as "Henri, old man," or "Joss vieux copain," and jabbering away incessantly, each in his own tongue.

Lady Swettenham, the Governor's wife, paid a formal visit to the Admiral on board his flag-ship, the Desaix, and I accompanied her. The Admiral told Lady Swettenham that she and Lady Lathom, who was with her, must consent to be tied up with ribbons bearing the ship's name, the French naval fashion of doing honour to ladies of distinction. The Flag-Lieutenant came in and took a good look at the ladies' dresses; Lady Swettenham being in white, Lady Lathom in pale mauve. Presently "Flags" reappeared bearing white and mauve ribbons (of the exact shade of her dress) for Lady Lathom, and pale pink and blue ones for Lady Swettenham, each about four yards long. Proverbially gallant as are British naval officers, the idea of first studying the ladies' dresses would not have occurred to them; that little touch requires a Frenchman. We wished to take our leave, but the Admiral begged us to remain; there was evidently something coming. It was an intensely hot afternoon, and the heavy, red-plush furniture and curtains of the Admiral's cabin seemed to add to the heat. His face wore the expression some people assume when they are preparing a treat for a child. "Flags" looked in and nodded. "Faites entrer alors," ordered the Admiral, still smiling, and a steward came in bearing six bottles of Guinness' stout. "You see that I know what you like," added the Admiral, beaming. On a broiling hot afternoon in Jamaica, tepid stout is the very last thing in the world that one would choose to drink, but the Admiral was convinced that it was the habitual beverage of all English people, and had actually sent his steward ashore to procure the precious liquid. It was a delicate attention, but it so happened that both ladies had a positive aversion to stout; they drank it bravely notwithstanding, and we all assumed expressions of intense delight, to the Admiral's immense gratification.

It was the Admiral's first visit to the West Indies, and he did not like them. "Non, madame. Des nuits sans fraicheur, des fleurs sans odeur, des fruits sans saveur, des femmes sans pudeur; voila les Antilles!"

The Guardsman and I, anxious to see more of this lovely island, went off by train to the western extremity of Jamaica. The engineer who surveyed the Jamaican Government Railway must have been an extremely eccentric individual. There is a comparatively level and very fertile belt near the sea-coast, extending right round the island. Here nearly all the produce is grown. Instead of building his railway through this flat, thickly populated zone, the engineer chose to construct his line across the mountain range of the interior, a district very sparsely inhabited, and hardly cultivated at all. The Jamaica Government Railway is admirably designed if regarded as a scenic railway, but is hardly successful if considered as a commercial undertaking. The train winds slowly through the "Cockpit" country; now panting laboriously up steep inclines, now sliding down a long gradient, with a prodigious grinding of brakes and squeaking of wheels. The scenery is gorgeous, but there is no produce to handle at the various stations, and but few passengers to pick up. As we found every hotel full at our destination, we had to take refuge in a boarding-house, though warned that it was only for coloured people. We found four subfuse young men, with complexions shaded from pale coffee-colour to deep sepia, at supper in the dining-room.

"May I inquire, sir," said the Guardsman, with ready tact, to the lightest-complexioned of the young men, "how long you have been out from England?"

"I was born in Jamaica, sir," answered the immensely gratified youth, "and have never left it."

"And do you, sir," continued the Guardsman to the swarthiest of them all, "feel the heat of the climate much? It is rather a change from England, isn't it?"

"I, too, sir, have never left Jamaica," replied the delighted young man.

So enchanted were these dusky youths at having been mistaken for white men, that they simply overwhelmed us with attentions during the rest of our stay there.

The Guardsman was bent on shooting an alligator, and having heard that these pleasant saurians swarmed in a swamp beyond the town, went there at dusk with his rifle, and I, very foolishly, was induced to accompany him. There is something most uncanny in these tracts of swamp at nightfall. The twisted, distorted trees, the gleaming, evil-smelling pools of water, and the immense, snake-like lianes hanging from the branches all give one a curious sense of unreality, especially on a moonlight night. It is like a Gustave Dore drawing of a bewitched forest. The Guardsman splashed about in the shallow water, but never a sign of an alligator did we see. Giant tortoises crawled lazily about, just visible in the half-light under the trees; innumerable land-crabs scurried to and fro, and unclean reptiles pattered over the fetid ooze, but we saw no more alligators than we should have seen in St. James's Park.

There was a little group of coral islands, decked with plumes of cocoa-nut palms, on the other side of the bay, close to a great mangrove swamp, and the Guardsman insisted on our hiring a boat and rowing out there, blazing though the sun was. These mangrove swamps are evil-looking places. The mangrove, the only tree, I believe, that actually grows in salt water, has unnaturally green leaves. The trees grow on things like stilts, digging their roots deep into the foul slime. When the tide is out, these stilts stand grey and naked below the canopy of vivid greenery, and amongst them obscene, crab-like things crawl over the festering black ooze. The water in the labyrinth of channels between the mangroves was thick and discoloured; there was not a breath of air, the heat was unbearable, and the whole place steamed with decay and disease.

Yet somehow the scene seemed very familiar, for one had read of it, again and again, in a hundred boys' books. The same mental process was at work both in myself and in Joss, but it took different forms. I composed in my mind a chapter of a thrilling romance. "Suddenly down one of the glassy channels between the mangroves we saw the pirate felucca approaching us rapidly. She had got out her sweeps and looked like some gigantic water-insect as she made her way towards us, churning the sleeping waters into foam. At her tiller stood a tall form, which I recognised with a shudder as that of the villainous mulatto Pedro, and her black flag drooped limply in the stagnant air. Our gallant captain at once ordered our carronades to be loaded with canister, and then addressed the crew. 'Yonder gang of dastardly miscreants think to capture us, my lads,' cried Captain Trueman, 'but little they know the material they have to deal with. Even the boys, Bob and Jim, young as they are, will show them the sort of stuff a British tar is made of, if I am not mistaken.' On hearing our gallant captain's noble words, Jim and I exchanged a silent hand-grip, and Jim, snatching up a matchlock, levelled it at the head of the mulatto Pedro, but at that very moment," etc., etc., etc., though I much fear that the remainder of Bob, the Boy Buccaneer of the Bahamas will remain unwritten.

Our surroundings suggested the same idea to Joss, but were prompting the Guardsman to more direct action. From one or two of his remarks I had foreseen the possibility of his making an incredible suggestion to me, and gradually suspicion ripened into horrified certainty.

"Would you very much mind-" he began, "at least if you are not too old-I should so like-we shall never get another opportunity like this-would you very much mind-" and out it came, "playing at pirates for a little while?"

It was unthinkable! The Guardsman was actually proposing to a staid, middle-aged gentleman of forty-eight, an ex-Member of Parliament, a church-warden, and an ex-editor, to play at pirates with him, as though he were ten years old. I pointed out how unusual it was for an officer in the Coldstream, aged twenty-six, to think even of so puerile an amusement, but to include a dignified, earnest-minded, elderly man in the invitation was really an unprecedented outrage. My justifiable indignation increased when I found that the Guardsman actually expected me at my age to enact the role of "Carlos, the Cut-throat of the Caribbean."

Our discussion was interrupted by a violent shivering fit which seized me, accompanied by a sudden, racking headache. The swamps had done their work on the previous evening. By night-time I was in a high fever, and when we returned to Kingston next day by train, I, with a temperature up to anywhere, was hardly conscious of where I was or what I was doing.

I was put to bed at King's House, and the fever rapidly turned to malarial gastritis. The distressing feature connected with this complaint is that it is impossible to retain any nourishment whatever. An attack of fever is so common in hot countries that this would not be worth mentioning, except as an example of the curious way in which Nature sometimes prompts her own remedy. The doctor tried half the drugs in the pharmacopoeia on me, the fever simply laughed at them all. Nothing could have exceeded the kindness of Sir Alexander and Lady Swettenham during my illness, but as I could take no nourishment of any kind, I naturally grew very weak. The doctor urged me to cancel my passage and await the next steamer to England, but something told me that as soon as I felt the motion of a ship under me, the persistent sickness would stop. I also felt sure that were I to remain in Jamaica another fortnight, I should remain there permanently, and gruesome memories haunted me of an undertaker's shop in Kingston, which displayed a prominent sign, "Handsome black and gold funeral goods" (note the euphemism!) "delivered in any part of the city within two hours of telephone call." As I had no desire to make a more intimate acquaintance with the "funeral goods," however handsome, I insisted on being carried down to the mail-steamer, and was put to bed in the liner. It was blowing very fresh, and we heard that there was a heavy sea outside. As long as we lay alongside the jetty in the smooth waters of the harbour, the distressing symptoms persisted at their regular intervals, but no sooner had the ship cleared Port Royal and begun to lift to the very heavy sea outside, than the sickness stopped as though by magic. The Port Kingston, of the now defunct Imperial Direct West India Mail Line, was really a champion pitcher, for she had an immense beam for her length, and a great amount of top-hamper in the way of deck-houses. As the violent motion continued, I was able to take as much food as I wanted with impunity, and next day, the heavy seas still tossing the Port Kingston about like a cork, I was up and about, perfectly well, free from fever and able, as Lady Nugent would have said, "to eat like a cormorant." I noted, however, that the motion of the ship seemed to produce on most of the passengers an exactly opposite effect to what it did on myself.

The voyage from Jamaica, by that line, was rather a trying one, for in the interest of the cargo of bananas, the Captain steered straight for the Newfoundland Banks, so in five days the temperature dropped from 90 degrees to 40 degrees, and the unfortunate West Indian passengers would cower and shiver in their thickest clothes over the radiators, where the steam hissed and sizzled.

Before we had been at sea two days, we heard of a most gallant act that had been done by one in our midst. The mail-boats of the Imperial Direct Line each carried from six to eight apprentices, young lads in process of training as officers in the Merchant Service. The apprentices on board the Port Kingston had had a great deal of hard work whilst the ship was loading her cargo of fruit at Port Henderson previous to our voyage home, so the Captain granted them all a holiday, lent them one of the ship's boats, provided them with luncheon and fishing lines, and sent them out for a day's sailing and fishing in Kingston Harbour.

They sailed and caught fish, and, as the afternoon wore on, began to "rag," as boys will do. They ragged so effectually that they managed to capsize the boat, and were, all of them, thrown into the water.

Curiously enough, three of the eight apprentices were unable to swim. The senior apprentice, a boy named Robert Clinch, seventeen years old, swam out, and brought back two of his young companions in safety to the keel of the upturned boat. Clinch was just starting to bring in the third lad, the youngest of them all, when there was a great swirl in the water, the grey outline of a shark rose to the surface, turned on his back, and dragged the little fellow down. Clinch, without one instant's hesitation, dived under the shark and attacked him with his bare fists. It was an immensely courageous thing to do, for where there is one shark there will probably be many, and the boy knew that he ran the risk of being torn to pieces at any minute. So rigorous was his onslaught on the shark that the fish released his victim, though not before he had bitten off both the little fellow's legs at the thigh. Clinch swam back with the mangled body of his young friend to the upturned boat, and managed to get him on to the keel, but the poor lad bled to death in a few minutes.

Young Clinch was a most modest boy. Nothing could get him to talk of his exploit, and should the subject be mentioned, he would grow very red, shuffle his feet, and turn the conversation into some other channel. The passengers drew up an address, with which they presented him, as a mark of their appreciation of his act of heroism, but it was with great difficulty that Clinch could be induced to accept it.

The episode made such an impression on me that I wrote out an account

of it, got it attested and signed by the Captain, and forwarded it to

Lord Knollys, an old friend of mine, who was then Private Secretary to

King Edward, asking him to bring the matter to his Majesty's notice.

I am pleased to add that, in due course, Midshipman Robert Clinch was

duly summoned to Buckingham Palace, where he received the well-earned

Albert Medal for saving life, and also the Medal of the Royal Humane


I should very much like to know what Robert Clinch's subsequent career has been.

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