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Printed by BALI.ANTVNE, HANSON <V Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press 


MY cordial thanks are due and given to the 
Editor of the Cornhill Magazine, within whose 
pages some of these " Memories " have from 
time to time appeared, for permission to re- 
publish them in this form. Also to the Editor 
of the Boudoir, where my "Girls Old and 
New " made their debut last season. 

M. A. B. 

October 1904. 





II. OLD NEW ZEALAND Continued . .21 

III. OLD NEW ZEALAND Continued . . 33 

V. NATAL MEMORIES . . . -55 




IX. WESTERN AUSTRALIA Continued . .127 


XL TRINIDAD ..... 149 

XII. TRINIDAD Continued . . . 169 

XIII. RODRIGUES . . . . .184 




XV. INTERVIEWS. . . . .224 


XVII. BIRD NOTES . . . .255 




ALMOST the first thing I can remember is listening 
with fascinated interest to an old gipsy woman, 
who insisted on telling my fortune one summer 
afternoon on Cannock Chase long, long ago. I was 
very reluctant to undergo what seemed to me a 
terrible ordeal, but I was encouraged to do so by 
my nurse, to whom she had just promised " a 
knight riding over a plain." However, my Sibyl 
only touched on two points. First, she looked at 
my little hand and said : " I see a stream of gold 
flowing through your palm. Sometimes it runs 
full and free, sometimes scant and slow, but it is 
never quite dry." Then she doubled up my childish 
fingers and went on, " But this hand cannot close 
on money : you'll never be rich " an utterance 
which has come exactly and literally true, and 
the remembrance of which has often been a comfort 
to me in hard times. Then she insisted on looking 
at the sole of my foot, and pronounced that it 
would " wander up and down the earth ; north 
and south, east and west, to countries not yet 
discovered." She concluded by crying dramati- 
cally : " Earth holds no home for you, earth holds 


no grave ; you'll be drowned." Now, as I must 
have made something like forty ocean voyages in 
the course of my life, I may be said to have spent 
it in tempting my Fate. However that may be, 
the old woman's prophecy was written down at 
the time, and, so far as the wandering part of it 
goes, no one who reads these pages can question 
its truth. 

Born in Jamaica, where my father was the last 
" Island Secretary," a Patent Office, held in con- 
junction with the late Mr. Charles Greville of 
Memoir fame, and long since divided into four 
parts I began to wander to and from England 
before I was two years old, and had crossed the 
Atlantic five times by 1852 when I married Captain 
(afterwards Sir George) Barker, K.C.B. I lived in 
England for the next eight years, whilst he served 
all through the Crimean War and the Indian 
Mutiny. I joined him at the first possible moment 
after the Mutiny, and arrived in India at the close 
of 1860. He was then commanding the Royal 
Artillery in Bengal, with the rank of Brigadier- 
General, a position held at this moment by our 
eldest son. 

The tragic events of that terrible time were 
fresh in our minds, the struggle having just closed ; 
and as I was brought in contact immediately with 
many of the principal actors, I naturally wished to 
hear details of the thrilling scenes through which 


they had just passed, but I found that no one 
wanted to talk about them. We started directly 
after I arrived in Calcutta on a sort of Military 
Promenade with the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hugh 
Rose (afterwards Lord Strathnairn), and joined his 
camp at Lucknow. We stayed with friends there 
whilst our tents, &c., were being procured, and I 
remember that the walls of my vast bedroom were 
riddled with shot ! There I also met ladies who 
had behaved in the most heroic and splendid way 
all through the siege ; but I found to my amaze- 
ment that they wanted to hear any little English 
chit-chat I might have to tell, instead of saying 
one word about those historic days or their share 
in them. If this reticence had arisen from any 
dread of re-awakening sleeping memories, I could 
have understood and respected it, but it really 
seemed to me at the time as if they had positively 
forgotten all they had just passed through, or 
did not deem it of sufficient interest to talk about, 
wanting only to hear what was going on "at 
home." It must be remembered how far away 
England was in those days forty odd years ago. 
Few newspapers, no telegraph, hardly an illus- 
trated paper even so it was perhaps no wonder 
that they were all suffering from what Aytoun 

" The deep, unutterable woe 
Which none save exiles feel," 

' ft, 

*S.--i) O 

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jjgl >3 


and always wanted to talk of the dear distant 
land of their birth. 

My own stay in India hardly lasted eight months, 
but I saw a great deal of the country in our four 
months marching through it. The camp broke 
up in March at the foot of the Himalayas just as 
the hot winds were beginning to make tent-life 
disagreeable. We then went up to Simla, and 
" Peterhof " afterwards greatly enlarged and made 
into the Vice-regal residence was taken as the 
headquarters of the R.A. staff. 

In that beautiful spot the first great sorrow of 
my life came to me. I lost my kind, good hus- 
band there ; and returned to England after less 
than a year's absence. 

For the next four years I lived quietly with my 
two little sons among my own people, but in 1865 
I met Mr. Napier Broome, a young and very good- 
looking New Zealand sheep farmer, who persuaded 
me to change the whole course of my life and go 
back to New Zealand with him ! Certainly the 
influence of that old gipsy woman must have 
been very strong just then ; and I often wonder 
how I could have had the courage to take 
such a step, for it entailed leaving my boys 
behind as well as all my friends and most of 
the comforts and conveniences of life. But at 
the time it seemed the most natural thing in 
the world to do, and we sailed merrily away 


directly after our marriage in the summer of 
that year. 

I tell elsewhere, 1 as well as in the following pages, 
the story of the three supremely happy years 
which followed this wild and really almost wicked 
step on our parts. The life was full of charm and 
novelty, though so venturesome ; but at first it 
seemed as if love was not to be allowed to " be 
lord of all," for a crisis in the affairs of the Colony 
came just after the great snowstorm, and from 
one cause and another the value of real estate 
as well as of wool sank terribly. It was, therefore, 
with sadly diminished means we returned to Eng- 
land early in 1869, to be met by a chorus of "we 
told you so " from all our friends ! However, we 
felt full of hope and courage, and set about at 
once seeking for some other means of livelihood. 

My husband had always been very fond of 
literature, and had tried his hand more or less 
successfully at poetry. Still it was with great 
diffidence that he walked into Messrs. Macmillan's 
office one fine June morning in 1869 and asked 
to see the editor of Macmillari's Magazine. Mr. 
(afterwards Sir George) Grove received him at 
once and was both kind and encouraging, pro- 
mising to look at a little poem called " Sunset off 
the Azores." This interview, which resulted in the 
immediate acceptance of the verses, three of which 

1 " Station Life in New Zealand." Macmillan. 



are given below, 1 led to a life-long friendship, not 
only with dear Mr. Grove, whom to know was to 
love, but also with Mr. Alexander Macmillan, who 
was always kindness itself to both of us, and was 
responsible for putting the idea of writing into 
my head. At his suggestion I inflicted " Station 
Life in New Zealand," as well as several story- 
books for children, on a patient and long-suffering 

Almost at the same time an introduction to 
Mr. Delane of the Times led to Mr. Napier Broome's 

1 " Now under heaven all winds abated, 

The sea a settling and foamless floor, 
A sunset city is open-gated, 

Unfastened flashes a golden door. 
Cloud-walls asunder burst and brighten 

Like melted metal in furnace blaze ; 
The lava rivers run through and lighten, 

The glory gathers before my gaze. 

Eastward an isle, half sunken, sleeping, 

Crowns the sea with a bluer crest ; 
Vine-clad Terceira ! but I am keeping 

A tryst to-night with the wondrous west. 
What there is wanting of purple islands, 

Lo ! golden archipelagoes, 
Coasts silver shining, and inner highlands, 

Long ranges rosy with sunny snows. 

All glowing golds, all scarlets burning, 

All palest, tenderest, vanishing hues, 
All clouded colour and tinges turning, 

Enrich, divide, the double blues ; 
O'erleaning cliffs and crags gigantic 

And in the heart of light one shore 
Such as. alas ! no sea Atlantic 

To bless the voyager ever bore." 


being taken on the staff of that paper as special 
correspondent and reviewer, in fact, a sort of general 
utility man. How well I remember the anxiety 
and care with which my husband wrote his first 
review, and the pride and joy with which he showed 
me a charming little note from Mr. Delane, in 
which, referring to a hope on Mr. Broome's part 
of getting a clerkship in the House of Commons, 
he said : " Do not take any definite post at present, 
for you have an estate in your inkstand." And 
indeed so it proved, for work flowed in only too 
fast. As Times Special Correspondent he had 
many interesting experiences, amongst them being 
a visit to Petersburg to describe the late Duke of 
Edinburgh's marriage. 

Perhaps the episode which stands out most 
clearly before me is a certain tour-de-force, as Mr. 
Delane himself called it, springing out of the Com- 
mune riots at the close of the siege of Paris. We 
had been paying a visit in Staffordshire in the 
early autumn of that tragic year, and reached 
home one Saturday evening just in time for dinner, 
and to find the well-known Times messenger seated 
in the hall with three or four large blue bags 
around him. He handed my husband a note from 
Mr. Delane, explaining that these bags contained a 
heap of miscellaneous printed matter taken from 
the "Cabinet Noir" at the sack of the Tuilleries, and 
requiring a series of articles to be made out of them. 



Well, it was already late, and the papers had 
to be sorted, translated, and the first article 
written by Monday morning. So we set to work 
directly after dinner. It took all that night 
merely to sort the papers and reduce them to an 
orderly sequence. Much of the material before us 
had to be rejected as being either uninteresting 
or of a private and personal nature below the 
dignity of the Times to notice. The whole of the 
next day with only pauses for our meals and 
hasty toilets was devoted to arranging the papers 
into separate parts for three consecutive articles 
of three columns each which Mr. Delane had asked 
for. Then came the work of translation, which I 
undertook, supplying my husband with hastily 
scribbled sheets from which he wrote his article. 
The printer's boy appeared about midnight and 
dozed in the hall, occasionally tapping at the door 
for the large envelope full of MSS. which he sent 
off by cab. All Monday and Monday night as 
well as all Tuesday did the work go on. It 
was too interesting and exciting to think of 
sleep, and it was something like two o'clock 
on Tuesday night, or rather Wednesday morning, 
when, the third and last article being finished, 
my husband took it himself down to Printing 
House Square for the sake of the drive, and 
I crawled up to bed ! It was literally crawling, 
for I remember I sat down on the stairs and had 


a good cry, which I found most refreshing and 

I too was asked to write many of the Times 
reviews of novels, and as I was invited the next 
year to be the first Lady Superintendent of the 
National School of Cookery, and I became also 
the Editor of a Magazine, we both had plenty of 
agreeable and congenial work, as well as the 
satisfaction of earning between us a comfortable 

This busy but very pleasant London life went 
smoothly on until 1875, when the gipsy took us 
once more in hand I suppose, for, quite unex- 
pectedly, my husband received an offer from the 
then Secretary of State for the Colonies, the late 
Lord Carnarvon, to go out with Sir Garnet Wolseley 1 
to Natal as his Colonial Secretary. It required a 
good deal of courage to again suddenly and violently 
alter our mode of life, especially as only a few 
hours could be allowed for decision, but both 
Mr, Delane and the late Duke of Somerset 2 strongly 
advised my husband to accept the offer. The 
Duke had been the Chairman of the Royal Com- 
mission on Unseaworthy Ships, of which my hus- 
band was the Secretary, and ever since they had 
been thus brought into contact the Duke had 
honoured the clever young Times writer with a 

1 Now F. M. Viscount Wolseley. 

2 1 2th Duke of Somerset. 


steady and delightful friendship, and had always 
shown the keenest interest in his career. 

So once more our pretty and pleasant home in 

Thurloe Square was broken up, and my husband 

started before the week was out for Natal, with 

Sir Garnet Wolseley and his brilliant staff. I 

could not break off the threads of my own work 

so rapidly as all that, and I did not go out to 

Natal until six months later. My stay there only 

lasted a little over a year, and I brought my two 

small boys back again early in 1877, settled them 

in England, and then joined my husband in 

Mauritius, where he was Lieutenant-Go vernor, in 

1880. My own happiness as well as usefulness 

there was sadly marred by ill-health, which finally 

drove me home in 1881, and I had to remain in 

England until Mr. Napier Broome was appointed 

Governor of Western Australia in 1882. By that 

time I had recovered sufficiently to go round by 

Mauritius in one of the fine boats of the Messageries 

Mari times, which then ran between Marseilles and 

Australia, and pick him up and go on to South 

Australia, from whence we had to retrace our 

steps across the Great Australian Bight to King 

George Sound. That was in the first days of 

June 1883. The next year he was made a K.C.M.G., 

and came to England in 1885, when he gave a 

lecture at the Royal Colonial Institute on " Western 

Australia," at which H.R.H. the Prince of Wales 


graciously took, for the first time in the history 
of the Institute, the chair. It is impossible to 
estimate the good effect that lecture had in attract- 
ing attention to the Cinderella of the Australian 
colonies, or the deep gratification of the colonists 
themselves at His Royal Highness' kindly interest. 
It was quite the first step on Western Australia's 
road to progress and prosperity, and I do not 
believe that at least this generation will ever cease 
to be grateful to their Sovereign for helping them 
by his presence and patronage when they were 
indeed " poor and of no account." 

In 1890 we left Western Australia amid heart- 
breaking farewells, in order to enable the Governor 
to see the Bill for giving Responsible Government 
to the Colony (which had been thrown out the 
Session before) through, the House of Commons. 
That proved a most interesting and exciting 
summer, necessitating Sir Frederick's constant 
attendance before the Select Committee. But his 
efforts, aided by those of two other delegates, 1 were 
successful, and the Bill was triumphantly carried 
through to the gre'at advantage of the Colony. 

I have often thought since, that those seven 
years were perhaps the happiest part of my very 
happy life. The climate, except when a hot wind 
was blowing in summer, was delightful, the Govern- 

* The late Sir Thomas Cockburn Campbell, Bart., and the Hon. 
H, Parker, K.C. 


ment House, an excellent and comfortable one, 
stood in beautiful gardens, and the life was simple 
and primitive, for no one was rich in those days, 
and the society was small and friendly. Sir 
Frederick worked hard for the development of the 
vast Colony, which held a million square but sandy 
miles within its borders, finding his task congenial 
as well as deeply interesting. I worked too in 
various little ways, and amongst other plans I 
collected all the girls in Perth on Monday after- 
noons and read aloud to them for a couple of hours 
whilst they worked. We began with Green's 
" Short History of the English People," and went 
on to Justin M'Carthy's " History of our own 
Times," and then Motley's " Dutch Republic," and 
" Thirty Years' War." It was only an experiment 
at first, but it succeeded splendidly, thanks to 
the thirst for knowledge which all these' pretty 
and charming girls displayed. No weather ever 
prevented their coming, and it would have been 
hard to decide who enjoyed those afternoons most, 
the reader or her very attentive and intelligent 

I can answer for myself that it was a terrible 
wrench to leave that dear home to which we had 
both become so truly attached ; however, the 
gipsy's weird utterances had to be carried out, 
and a fresh home was soon started in Trinidad, 
to which part of the " Bow of Ulysses " my hus- 


band was appointed Governor in 1891. There the 
life was, of course, very different, and so was the 
climate and the surroundings. Still the interest- 
ing work went on, but there had to be a brief visit 
to England often only lasting three weeks 
every year. Unlike most other Governments there 
was no rest or change of air possible in the Colony 
itself, so the English visit became a necessity for 
health besides affording an opportunity for settling 
many questions of local importance. 

Our time there was drawing to a close in 1896, 
and already a movement was on foot (as had been 
the case in Western Australia) to petition the 
Secretary of State for an extension of Sir Frederick's 
term of office, when, like a bolt out of the blue, 
came an illness full of suffering which speedily 
put an end to a career of great promise, and to 
his life three months later. 

Since 1896 I have therefore ceased wandering 
up and down the face of the globe, and, except for 
short trips abroad and a long and delightful visit 
to America last summer, I may be said to have 
settled down to a less roving life ; but I feel the 
gipsy prophecy still holds good, and that no doubt 
my present little home will one day change its 

As it is, I often wonder which is the dream 
the shifting scenes of former days, so full of interest 
as well as of everything which could make life 


dear and precious, or these monotonous years 
when I feel like a shipwrecked swimmer, cast up 
by a wave, out of reach of immediate peril it is 
true, but far removed from all except the common- 
place of existence. Still it is much to have known 
the best and highest of earthly happiness ; to 
have "loved and been beloved," and to have 
found faithful friends who stood fast even in the 
darkest days. Among these friends I would fain 
believe there are some unknown ones, who have 
perhaps read my little books in their childhood, 
and to whom I venture to address these lines ex- 
plaining as it were my personal story, with an en- 
treaty for forgiveness if I have made it too personal. 



IT has so chanced that quite lately I have heard a 
good deal of this beautiful and flourishing portion 
of our " Britain-over-sea," and these reports have 
stirred the old memories of days gone by when 
it was almost a terra incognita as indeed were 
many of our splendid Colonial possessions to the 
home-dweller. But the home-dweller proper hardly 
exists in this twentieth century, and the globe- 
trotter has taken his place. Even the latter 
sobriquet was unknown in my day, and I was re- 
garded as quite going into exile when, some eight- 
and-thirty years ago, I sailed with my husband 
for his sheep-station on the Canterbury Plains. As 
far as I was concerned, the life there afforded the 
sharpest of all sharp contrasts, but it was none 
the less happy and delightful for that. 

The direct line of passenger-ships only took us 
as far as Melbourne, and then came a dismal ten or 



twelve days in a wretched little steamer, struggling 
along a stormy coast before the flourishing Port 
Lyttelton of the present day (a shabby village in 
1865) was reached. Yet the great tunnel through 
the Port Hills was well on its way even then, and 
the railway to connect the port and the young town 
of Christchurch was confidently talked of. Even 
in those early days, the new-comer was struck by 
the familiar air of everything ; and, so far as my 
own experience goes, New Zealand is certainly the 
most English colony I have seen. It never seems 
to have attracted the heterogeneous races of which 
the population of other colonies is so largely com- 
posed. For example, in Mauritius the Chinese 
and Arab element is almost as numerous as the 
French and English. In Trinidad there are large 
colonies of Spanish and German settlers, without 
counting in both these islands the enormous Indian 
population which we have brought there to culti- 
vate the sugar-cane ; and in all the principal 
towns of Australia the " foreigner " thrives and 
flourishes. But New Zealand has always been 
beautifully and distinctly English, and the grand 
Imperial idea has there fallen on congenial soil 
and taken deep root. 

Even in the days I speak of, Christchurch, though 
an infant town, looked pretty on account of its 
picturesque situation on the banks of the Avon. 
The surrounding country was a sort of rolling 


prairie, ideally suitable for sheep, with the mag- 
nificent Southern Alps for a background. And 
what a climate, and what a sky, and what an air ! 
The only fault I had to find with the atmospheric 
conditions was the hot wind. But hot winds were 
new to me in those days, and I rebelled against 
them accordingly. Now I begin to think hot 
winds blow everywhere out of England. In South 
Africa, in Mauritius, in all parts of Australia, one 
suffers from them, to say nothing of India, where 
they are on the largest possible scale. 

The first six months of my New Zealand life 
was spent in Chris tchurch, waiting for the little 
wooden house to be cut out and sent up country 
to our sheep-station in the Malvern Hills. How 
absurdly primitive it all was, and yet how one 
delighted in it ! I well remember the " happy 
thought " when the question arose of the size of 
drawing and dining-rooms of spreading our 
carpets out on the grass and planning the house 
round them. And the joy of settling in, when the 
various portions of the little dwelling had been 
conveyed some seventy-five miles inland to our 
happy valley and fitted together. The doors and 
window-frames had all come from America ready- 
made, but the rest of the house was cut out of 
the kauri pine from the forests in the North Island. 

The first thing I had to learn was that New 
Zealand meant really three islands two big ones 


and a little one. Everybody knows about the 
North and the Middle Islands, which are the big 
ones, but the little Stewart Island often confused 
me by sometimes being called the South Island, 
which it really is. A number of groups of small 
islets have been added to the colony since then, 
such as the Cook and Kermadec Islands, but I 
do not fancy they are inhabited. The colony was 
really not a quarter of a century old when I knew 
it, as it had been a dependency of New South 
Wales up to 1842, and it owes its separation and 
rapid development to the New Zealand Company, 
which started with a Royal charter. The Canter- 
bury Association sent out four ships which took 
four months to reach Port Cooper in the Middle 
Island (now the flourishing seaport of Lyttelton), 
only sixteen years before I landed there. 

The cathedral had not risen above its foundations 
in 1865, but I was struck with the well-paved 
streets, good " side-walks," gas-lamps, drinking- 
foun tains, and even red pillar-boxes exactly like 
the one round the corner to-day. And it seemed 
all the more marvellous to me, who had just gone 
through the lengthy and costly experience of 
dragging my own little possessions across those 
stormy seas round the Cape of Good Hope, to think 
of all these aids to civilisation having come 
by the same route. Now I am assured you can 
get anything and everything you might possibly 


want, on the spot, but in those days one eagerly 
watched a demenagement as a good opportunity for 

We had brought all our goods and chattels out 
with us, and the wooden house was soon turned into 
a very pretty comfortable little homestead. The 
great trouble was getting the garden started. 
The soil was magnificent, and everything in that 
Malvern Valley grew splendidly if the north-west 
winds would only allow it. Hedges of cytisus were 
always planted a month or so before sowing the 
dwarf green peas, in order that they might have 
some shelter, and this plan answered very well. I 
could not, however, start a hedge of cytisus all round 
my little lawn, and the consequence was that the 
blades of grass on that spot could easily be counted, 
and that I discovered a luxuriant patch of " English 
grass " about a mile down the flat, where a little 
dip in the ground had made a shelter for the flying 
seed. And the melancholy part of the story was 
that English grass-seed cost a guinea a pound ! I 
was quite able to appreciate, three years later, 
the ecstasy of delight of a little New Zealand girl, 
who, beholding the Isle of Wight for the first time, 
exclaimed to me : " How rich they must be ! 
Why, it's all laid down in English grass ! " 

Other flower-seeds, of course, shared the same 
fate, and it was indeed gardening under difficulties. 
But in the vegetable-garden consolation could be 


found in the potatoes, strawberries, and green 
peas, which were huge in size and abundant in 

Indoors all soon looked bright and cheery ; and 
besides the books we brought out, I started a 
magazine and book club in connection with a 
London library, which answered very well, and gave 
great delight to our neighbours, chiefly shepherds. 
These men were often of Scotch or north of England 
birth, and of a very good type. Their lives, how- 
ever, were necessarily monotonous and lonely, and 
they were very glad of books. We had a short 
Church service every Sunday afternoon, to which 
they gladly came, and then they took new books 
back with them. 

The only grudge I ever had against these men 
was that they all tried to provide themselves with 
wives among my maids, and by so doing greatly 
added to my difficulties with these damsels. Far 
from accepting Strephon's honourable proposals, 
Chloe, would make these offers which apparently 
bored her an excuse for giving up her place and 
returning to the gay metropolis. 

I honestly think those maids (I had but two of 
them at a time) were the chief, if not the only, 
real worry of my happy New Zealand life. Nothing 
would ever induce them to remain more than four 
months at the station. In spite of the suitors, they 
found it " lonely," and away they went. Changing 


was such a troublesome business and always meant 
a week without any servants at all, for the dray 
their sole means of conveyance took two days on 
the road each way, and then there were always 
stores to buy and bring back, and the driver de- 
clared his horses needed a couple of days' rest in 
town. Some of the various reasons the maids 
gave for leaving were truly absurd. Once I came 
into the kitchen on a bright winter's morning to 
find them seated on a sort of sofa (made of chintz- 
covered boxes), clasped in each other's arms, and 
weeping bitterly. With difficulty I got out of 
them that their sole grievance was the sound of 
the bleating of the sheep, a " mob " of which were 
feeding on the nearest hillside. It was " lonesome 
like," and they must return to town immediately. 

These girls, as well as their predecessors and 
successors, were a continual mystery to me, and 
I never could understand why they became servants 
at all. Not one of them ever had the faintest 
idea of what duties she had to perform or how to 
perform them. A cook had never, apparently, been 
in a kitchen before, nor had the housemaid ever 
seen, or at least handled, a broom or a duster. I 
was only an ignorant beginner in those days, and yet 
found myself obliged to teach the most elementary 
duties. They were nearly all factory-girls ; and 
when I asked " Who did these things for you at 
home ? " always answered " Mother." They had 


never held a needle until I taught them how to 
do so ; and as for mending or darning, that was 
regarded as sheer waste of time. The first thing 
they had to learn was to bake bread, and as, un- 
fortunately, the best teacher was our head shepherd 
a good-looking, well-to-do young man the 
" courting " began very soon, though it never 
seemed successful, and poor Ridge's heart must 
have been torn to pieces during those three years 
of obdurate pupils. 

I must, however, say here that, ignorant to an 
incredible degree as my various " helps " were, I 
found them perfectly honest and perfectly re- 
spectable. I never had the slightest fault to find 
on either of these counts. Sobriety went without 
saying, for it was compulsory, as the nearest public- 
house was a dozen miles away across trackless 

It was a real tragic time, for me at least, that 
constantly recurring week between the departure 
and arrival of my maids ; but I am inclined to 
think, on mature reflection, that my worst troubles 
arose from the volunteers who insisted on helping 
me. These kindly A.D.C.'s, owners or pupils on 
neighbouring stations, all professed to be quite 
familiar with domestic matters. But I found a 
sad falling-off when it came to putting their theories 
into practice in my kitchen. It generally turned out 
that they had made a hasty study of various para- 


graphs in that useful work " Inquire Within, &c.," 
and then started forth to carry out the directions 
they had mastered. For instance, one stalwart 
neighbour presented a smiling face at our hall- 
door one morning and said : 

" I've come to wash up." 

" That is very kind of you," I replied ; " but 
are you sure you know how ? " 

" Oh yes just try me, and you'll see. Very 
hot water, you know : boiling, in fact." 

Well, there was no difficulty about the hot 
water, which was poured into a tub in which a 
good many of my pretty china plates and dishes 
were standing. The next moment I heard a yell 
and a crash and I am very much afraid " a big, 

big D " and my " help " was jumping about 

the kitchen wringing his hands and shouting for 
cotton-wool and salad-oil and what not. It seemed 
a mere detail after this calamity to discover that 
half-a-dozen plates were broken and as many 
more cracked. " The beastly thing was so hot " 
being the excuse. 

The first time the maids left I thought I would, 
so to speak, victual the garrison beforehand, and 
I had quantities of bread baked and butter churned 
and meat-pies made and joints roasted ; but at 
the end of a couple of days the larder was nearly 
empty, partly on account of the gigantic appe- 
tites we all had, and partly because of the addition 


to our home party of all these volunteers who 
always seized the excuse of helping. As a 
matter of fact, my " helps " generally betook 
themselves to a rifle-range F. had set up down the 
valley, or else they organised athletic sports. I 
should not have minded their doing so, if it had 
not, apparently, increased their appetites. 

Never can I forget an awful experience I went 
through with one of my earliest attempts at bread- 
making. I felt it was a serious matter, and not 
to be lightly taken in hand, so I turned my helps, 
one and all, out of the kitchen, and proceeded 
to carry out the directions as written down. First 
the dough was to be " set." That was an anxious 
business. The prescribed quantity of flour had to 
be put in a milk-pan, the orthodox hole in the 
centre of the white heap was duly made, and then 
came the critical moment of adding the yeast. 
There was only one bottle of this precious in- 
gredient left, and it was evidently very much 
"up," as yeast ought to be. Under these cir- 
cumstances, to take out the cork of that bottle 
was exactly like firing a pistol, and I do not like 
firing pistols. So I was obliged to call for an 
assistant. All rushed in gleefully, declaring that 
opening yeast-bottles was their show accomplish- 
ment, but F. was the first to seize it. He gave 
it a great shake. Out flew the cork right up to 
the rafters, and after it flew all my beautiful yeast, 


leaving only dregs of hops and potatoes, which 
F., turning the bottle upside down, emptied into 
the flour. Of course it was all spoiled, though I 
tried hard to produce something of the nature of 
bread out of it. But certainly it was horribly 
heavy and damp. 

One thing my New Zealand experiences taught 
me, and that was the skill and patience and variety 
of knowledge required to produce the simple 
things of our daily life things which we accept as 
much as a matter of course as the air we breathe. 
But if you have to attempt them yourself, you 
end by having a great respect for those who do 
them apparently without effort. 

I have often been asked how we amused our- 
selves in that lonely valley. There was not very 
much time for amusement, for we were all very 
busy. There was mustering and drafting to be 
done, besides the; annual business of shearing, 
which was a tremendous affair. It is true I de- 
veloped quite a talent for grafting pleasure upon 
business ; and when a long boundary ride had 
to be taken, or a new length of fencing inspected 
(in those days wire fences could not be put up 
even at that comparatively short distance from a 
town under 100 a mile), I contrived to make it 
a sort of picnic, and enjoyed it thoroughly. The 
one drawback to my happiness was the dreadful 
track it were gross flattery to call it a road over 


which our way generally led us. No English horse 
would have attempted the break-neck places our 
nags took us safely over. Up and down slippery 
steep stairs, where all four feet had to be collected 
carefully on each step, before an attempt to reach 
the next could be made ; across swamps where 
there was no foothold except on an occasional 
tussock ; over creeks with crumbling banks. At 
first I really could not believe that I was expected 
to follow over such places, but I was only adjured 
to " sit tight and leave it all to my horse," and 
certainly I survived to tell the tale! The only 
fall I had during all those three years of real 
rough-riding was cantering over a perfectly smooth 
plain, when a little bag strapped to my saddle 
slipped down and struck my very spirited mare 
beneath her body. She bucked frantically, and I 
flew into space, alighting on the point of my 
shoulder, which I broke. On that occasion I was 
the victim of a good deal of amateur surgery, 
but it all came right eventually, though I could 
not use my arm for a long time. 

But to return to our amusements. Boar-hunting 
was perhaps the most exciting ; though I was not 
allowed to call that an amusement, for it was 
absolutely necessary to keep down the wild pigs, 
which we owe to Captain Cook. A sow will follow 
very young lambs until they drop, separating them 
from their mothers and giving them no rest. When 


the poor little things fall exhausted the sow then 
devours them, but it is almost impossible to track 
and shoot these same sows, for they hide them- 
selves and their litters in the most marvellous way. 
The shepherds occasionally come across them, and 
then have a great orgy of sucking-pig. But 
the big boar whose shoulder-scales are like plated 
armour and quite bullet-proof, and whose tusks 
are as sharp as razors, gives really very good 
sport, and must be warily stalked. These expe- 
ditions had always to be undertaken on foot, and 
I insisted on going because I had heard gruesome 
stories of accidents to sportsmen, who had perished 
of cold and hunger on desolate hillsides when out 
after boars. So I always begged to be taken out 
stalking, and as I carried a basket with sand- 
wiches and cake and a bottle of cold tea, my com- 
pany was graciously accepted. 

These expeditions always took place in the winter, 
for the affairs of the sheep seemed to occupy most 
of the summer, and besides it would have been 
too hot for climbing steep hillsides and exploring 
long winding gullies in anything but cold May 
and June weather. The boars gave excellent 
sport, and I well remember, after a long day's 
stalk up the gorge of the Selwyn River, our pride 
and triumph when F., who had taken a careful 
aim at what looked exactly like one of the grey 
boulders strewn about on the opposite hillside, 


fired his rifle, and a huge boar leapt into the air, 
only to fall dead and come crashing down the 
steep slope. 

Then there were some glorious days after wild 
cattle, but that was a long way off in the great 
Kowai Bush, and we had to camp out for nearly 
a week. It was difficult work getting through the 
forest, as, although there was a sort of track, it 
was often impassable by reason of fallen trees. 
Of course we were on foot ; but it greatly adds 
to one's work to have constantly to climb or 
scramble over a barrier of branches. All the 
gentlemen carried compasses as the only means 
of steering through the curious green gloom. 
Though it was the height of summer, we never 
saw a ray of sunshine, and it was always delight- 
fully cool. Every now and then we came to a 
clearing, and so could see where we were. One of 
these openings showed us the great Waimakariri 
River swirling beneath its high wooded banks, and 
it was, just there, literally covered with wild duck 
grey, blue, and " Paradise " all excellent eating, 
but I am thankful to say that the sportsmen for- 
bore to shoot, as it would have been impossible 
to retrieve the birds. Some fine young bullocks 
fell every day to their rifles ; but although I heard 
the shots and the ensuing shouts of joy, the thick- 
ness of the " bush " always prevented (happily !) 
my seeing the victims. 


The undergrowth of that " bush " Anglice, 
forest was the most beautiful thing imaginable, 
and the familiar stag's-head and hart's-tongue grew 
side by side with exquisite forms quite unknown 
to me. Besides the profusion of ferns, there was a 
wealth of delicate fairy-like foliage, but never a 
flower to be seen on account of the want of sun. 

In summer we sometimes went down to the 
nearest creek, about a mile away, for eel-fishing, 
but I did not care much for that form of sport. 
It meant sitting in star-light and solitude for many 
hours, and one got drenched with dew into the 
bargain. The preparations were the most amusing 
part, especially the making of balls of worsted- 
ends with lumps of mutton tied craftily in the 
middle ; the idea being that when the eel snapped 
at the meat his teeth ought to stick in the worsted, 
and so he would become an easy prey to the 
angler. This came off according to the programme, 
and even I caught some ; but they were far too 
heavy to lift out of the water, as there was no 
" playing " an eel, and the dead weight had to 
be raised by the flax-stick which was my only 
fishing-rod. However, quite enough of the horrid 
slimy things were secured to make succulent pies 
for those who liked them. 

We once invented an amusement for ourselves 
by going up a mountain on our station three 
thousand feet high, and sleeping there in order 


to see the sunrise next morning. I ought, per- 
haps, to explain that these Malvern Hills among 
which our sheep-station lay are really the lowest 
spurs of the great Southern Alps, so that even 
on our run the hills attained quite a respectable 
height. I had heard from those who had gone 
up this hill quite near our little house how wide 
and beautiful was the outlook from its summit, 
so I never rested until the expedition was arranged. 
Of course, it was only possible in the height of 
summer, and we chose an ideally beautiful after- 
noon for our start directly after an early dinner. 
It was possible to ride a good way up the hill, 
and then we dismounted (there were five of us), 
and took the saddles and bridles off the horses, 
tied them to flax-bushes within easy reach of 
good feed, and commenced the climb of the last 
and steepest bit of the ascent. 

It was rather amusing to find, as soon as it 
came to carrying them up ourselves, how many 
things were suddenly pronounced to be quite un- 
necessary. Food and drink had to be carried (the 
drink consisting of water for tea) and a pair of 
red blankets for shelter, and just one little extra 
blanket for me. My share of the porterage was 
only a bottle of milk strapped to my back for it 
took both hands to scramble up, holding on to the 
long tussocks of grass but I felt that I was laden 
to the extent of my carrying capacity ! The four 


gentlemen had really heavy loads (" swags," as 
they called all parcels or bundles), under which, 
however, they gallantly struggled up. There was 
no time to admire any view when at last we stood, 
breathless and panting, on the little plateau at 
the very top, for the twilight was fast fading, and 
there was the tent to be put up and wood to collect 
for the fire. 

Fortunately, all those hillsides were more or less 
strewn with charred logs of a splendid hard red 
wood, called " totara," the last traces of the forest 
or bush with which they were once covered. 
The shepherds always pick up and bring down 
any of these logs which they come across when 
mustering or boundary-keeping, for they find them 
a great prize for their fires, burning slowly, and 
giving out a fine heat. 

When we came to pitch the tent, there seemed 
such a draught through it that I gave up my own 
particular blanket to block up one end, and con- 
tented myself with a little jacket. But oh, how 
cold it was ! We did not find it out just at first, 
for we were all too busy settling ourselves, light- 
ing the fire, unpacking, and so forth. But after 
we had eaten the pies and provisions, and drunk 
a quantity of tea, there did not seem much to do 
except to turn in so as to be ready for the sunrise. 
Some tussocks of coarse grass had been cut to 
make a sort of bed for me, after the fashion of 



the wild-pigs, who, the shepherds declare, " have 
clean sheets every night," for they never use 
their lair more than once, and always sleep on fresh 
bitten-off grass. In spite of this luxury, however, 
I must say I found the ground very hard, and the 
wind, against which the blankets seemed abso- 
lutely no protection, very cold. Also the length 
of that night was something marvellous ; and 
when we looked down into the valley and saw 
the lights twinkling in our own little homestead, 
and reflected that it could not be yet ten o'clock, 
a sense of foolishness took possession of us. Every 
one looked, as seen by the firelight, cold and 
miserable, but happily no one was cross or re- 
proachful. Three of the gentlemen sat round the 
fire smoking all night, with occasional very weak 
" grogs " to cheer them. F. shared the tent with 
me and Nettle, my little fox-terrier ; but Nettle 
showed himself a selfish doggie that night. I 
wanted him to sleep curled up at my back for 
warmth, but he would insist on so arranging him- 
self that I was at his back, which was not the 
same thing for me at all. 

We certainly verified the proverb of its being 
darkest before dawn, for the stars seemed to fade 
quite out, and an inky blackness stole over earth 
and sky an hour or so before a pale streak grew 
luminous in the east. I fear I must confess to 
having by that time quite forgotten my ardent 


desire to see the sunrise. All I thought of was 
the joy of getting home, and being warm once 
more ; and, as soon as it was light enough to see 
anything, we began to strike the little tent and 
pack up the empty dishes and pannikins. But 
long before we could have thought it possible, 
and long before it could be seen from the deep 
valley below us, the sun uprose, and one felt as 
if one was looking at the majestic sight for the 
first time since the Creation. Nothing could have 
been more magnificent than the sudden flood of 
light bursting over the wide expanse. Fifty miles 
away, the glistening waves of the Pacific showed 
quite clearly ; below us spread the vast Canter- 
bury Plains, with the great Waimakariri River 
flowing through them like a tangle of silver ribbons. 
To the west rose steep, forest-covered hills, still 
dark and gloomy, with the eerie-looking outline 
of the snow-ranges rising behind. A light mist 
marked where the great Ellesmere Lake lay, the 
strange thing about which is that, although only 
a slight bar of sand separates it from the sea, its 
waters are quite fresh. All we could see of the 
River Rakaia were its steep banks, but beyond 
them again shone the gleam of the Rangitata's 
waters, whilst close under our feet the Selwyn 
ran darkly through its narrow gorge. The little 
green patches of cultivation so few and far be- 
tween in those days each with its tiny cottage, 


gave a little homelike touch which was delightful, 
as did also the strings of sheep going noisily down 
from their high camping-grounds to feed in the 
sheltered valleys or on the sunny slopes. It was 
certainly a most beautiful panorama, and we all 
agreed that it was well worth our long, cold night 
of waiting. Still, we got home as quickly as we 
could, and I remember the day proved a very 
quiet one. I suspect there were many surreptitious 
naps indulged in by us poor " Watchers of the 



No wandering reminiscence of these distant days 
would be complete without a brief mention of the 
famous snowstorm of 1867, at which I assisted. 

I must say a prefatory word or two about the 
climate so far as my three years' experience went 
in order to explain the full force of the disaster 
that fall of snow wrought. The winters were 
short and delicious, except for an occasional week 
of wet weather, which, however, was always re- 
garded by the sheep-farmer as excellent for filling 
up the creeks, making the grass grow, and being 
everything that was natural and desirable. When 
it did not rain, the winter weather was simply 
enchanting, although one had to be prepared for 
its sudden caprices, for weather is weather even 
at the antipodes, and consequently unreliable. 
Sometimes we started on an ideally exquisite 
morning for a long ride on some station business. 
The air would be still and delicious, fresh and 
exhilarating to a degree hardly to be understood ; 
the sun brilliant and just sufficiently warming. 


All would go well for four or five hours, until, 
perhaps, we had crossed a low saddle in the moun- 
tains and were coming home by the gorge of a 
river. In ten minutes everything might have 
changed. A sou'-wester would have sprung up 
as though let out of a bag, heavy drops of rain 
would be succeeded by a snow-flurry, in which it 
was not always easy to find one's way home across 
swamps and over creeks, and the riders who set 
forth so gaily at ten of the clock that same morning 
would return in the fast-gathering darkness wet 
to the skin, or rather frozen to the bone. I have 
often found it difficult to get out of my habit, so 
stiff with frozen snow was its bodice. 

No one ever dreamed of catching cold, however, 
from the meteorological changes and chances, an 
immunity which no doubt we owed to the fact 
that we led, whether we liked it or not, an open- 
air life. The little weather-boarded house, with 
its canvas-papered lining, did not offer much pro- 
tection from a hard frost, and I have often found a 
heap of feathery snow on a chair near my closed 
bedroom window ; the snow having drifted in 
through the ill-fitting frame. 

Still these snow-showers, and even hard frosts 
(which usually melted by midday), did no harm 
to man or beast, and found us totally unprepared 
for the fall in August 1867. Of course there were 
no meteorological records kept in those days, for 


they had not long been started even in Eng- 
land, and we had nothing to go by except the 
Maori traditions, which held no record of any- 
thing the least like that snowstorm. Indeed, I 
had seldom seen snow lie on the ground for more 
than an hour after the sun rose, and it never 
was thought of as a danger in our comparatively 
low hills. 

I well remember that Monday morning and the 
strange restlessness which seemed to extend to the 
sheep, for they must have felt the coming trouble 
long before we thought of calamity. The weather 
during the last week of July had been quite beauti- 
ful, our regular winter weather, and we had taken 
advantage of it to send the dray down to Christ- 
church for supplies. My store-room was all but 
empty, and the tea-chest, flour and sugar bags, 
held hardly half -a- week's consumption, so the 
drayman was charged not to linger, but to turn 
round and come back directly he got his load. 
When speaking of supplies it must be borne in 
mind that tinned provisions were almost unknown 
in those days, and certainly never found their 
way to a New Zealand sheep station. F. had also 
taken advantage of the beautiful open weather 
to ride down to Chris tchurch about wool matters, 
so I expected to be quite alone with a youth who 
was learning sheep-farming under F.'s auspices, 
and my two servants. 


But F. had hardly started before a cousin rode 
up the track and, hearing I was feeling somewhat 
depressed and lonely, very kindly volunteered to 
stay, and before the afternoon was over a neigh- 
bouring young squatter also appeared, and asked 
(as was quite a common thing in that hotel-less 
district) for shelter for the night. Nothing could 
have been more unexpected except that one's 
station guests always were unexpected than these 
two visitors, but it proved a fortunate chance for 
me that they appeared just then. 

The weather was certainly curious, and we all 
noticed that the sound of the sheep's bleat never 
ceased. Now the odd thing at a sheep station 
used to be that you hardly ever saw a sheep, and 
still more seldom heard one, except perhaps in 
the early morning, when they were coming down 
from their high camping-grounds. And sheep 
always " travel " head to wind, but the sheep that 
afternoon kept moving in exactly the contrary 
direction. Still I was not in the least uneasy 
about the weather, except as it might affect the 
comfort of F.'s seventy-five mile ride to town, 
and I knew he would be under comfortable shelter 
at a friend's half-way house that night. So we 
gaily and lavishly partook of our supper-dinner, 
had an absurd game of whist, and went to bed 
as usual. 

It was no surprise to see snow falling steadily 


next morning, but it was disagreeable to find there 
was very little mutton in the house, and that it 
was quite likely the shepherd would wait for the 
weather to clear before starting across the hills 
and swamps between us and the little homestead 
where the woolshed stood, and from whence the 
business of the station was carried on. 

The three gentlemen lounged about all day and 
smoked a good deal. They told me afterwards 
how bitterly they regretted not having made some 
preparation in the way of at least bringing in 
fuel, or putting extra food for the fowls, &c. But 
each said to the other every five minutes, " Oh, 
you know snow in New Zealand never lasts," though 
their experience was only a very few years old. 
It was short commons that second day, and I 
thought sadly that the dray would have only 
reached Christchurch that evening ! We all felt 
depressed, and, as no one had any use for depres- 
sion up that valley, the sensation was quite new 
to us. 

It was not until we met on the third morning, 
however, that we at all acknowledged our fears. 
By this time the snow was at least four feet deep 
in the shallowest places, and still continued to 
fall steadily. It was impossible to see even where 
the fowl-house and pig-sties stood, on the weather 
side of the house. All the great logs of wood 
lying about waiting to be cut up were hidden, so 


was the little shed full of coal. A smooth high 
slope, like a hillock, stretched from the outer 
kitchen door, which could not be opened that 
morning, out into the floating whiteness. All our 
windows were nearly blocked up and became quite 
so by the evening, and no door except one, which 
opened inwards, could be used. And we had 
literally no food in the house. The tea at break- 
fast was merely coloured hot water, and we each 
had a couple of picnic biscuits. For dinner there 
was a little rice and salt. Imagine six people to 
be fed every day, and an empty larder and store- 
room ! 

The day after that my maids declined to get up, 
declaring they preferred to " die warm " ; so I 
took them in a sardine each, a few ratafia biscuits, 
and a spoonful of apricot jam. Those were our 
own rations for that day. We had by that time 
broken up every box for fuel, and only lighted 
a fire in the kitchen, where also a solitary candle 

" Be very careful of the dips," said one of my 
guests, " for I've read of people eating them." 

" I hear the cat mewing under the house," said 
another ; " we'll try to get hold of her." 

" I wonder if those are the cows ? " asked a 
third, pointing to three formless heaps high above 
the stockyard rails, but within them. 

By Friday morning the maids, still in bed, were 


asking tearfully, " And oh ! when do you think 
we'll be found, mum ? " Whereas my anxiety was 
to find something to feed them with ! We shook 
out a heap of discarded flour-bags and got, to our 
joy, quite a plateful of flour, and a careful smooth- 
ing out of the lead lining of old tea-chests yielded 
a few leaves, so we had girdle-cakes and tea that 
day. I was very unhappy about the dogs : the 
horses were out on the run as usual, so it was no 
use thinking of them. 

On Saturday there was literally nothing at all 
in the house (which was quite dark, remember), 
and my three starving men roped themselves to- 
gether and struggled out, tunnelling through the 
snow, in the direction where they thought the 
fowl-house must lie. After a couple of hours' hard 
work they hit upon its roof, tore off some of the 
wooden shingles, and captured a few bundles of 
feathers, which were what my poor dear hens were 
reduced to. However, there was a joyful struggle 
back, and after some hasty preparation the fowls 
were put into a saucepan with a lump of snow, 
for there was no water to be got anywhere, and a 
sort of stew resulted, of which we thankfully par- 
took. This heartened up the gentlemen to make 
another sally to the stockyard in search of the 
cows. The clever creatures had kept moving round 
and round as the snow fell, so as to make a sort 
of wider tomb for themselves, and they were alive, 


though mere bundles of skin and bone. They 
were dragged by ropes to the stable and there fed 
with oaten hay. It was no question of milking 
the poor things, for they were quite dry. 

Next day the dogs were dug out, but only one 
young and strong one survived. Two more were 
alive, but died soon after. 

On Sunday it had ceased snowing and the wind 
showed signs of changing. I struggled a yard or 
two out of the house, as it was such a blessing 
to get into daylight again. My view was of course 
much circumscribed, as I could only see up and 
down the " flat," as the valley was called. But 
it all looked quite different ; not a fence or familiar 
landmark to be seen on any side. If I could have 
been wafted to the top of the mountain from which 
we saw the sun rise the summer before, what a 
white world should I have beheld ! And if I could 
have soared still higher and looked over the whole 
of the vast Canterbury Plains, I should have been 
gazing at the smooth winding-sheet of half a million 
of sheep, for that was found, later, to be the loss 
in that Province alone. 

Yet, as we afterwards came to know, it was 
not really the fall of snow, tremendous as it had 
been, which cost the Province nearly all its stock. 
As I have said, the wind changed to the north-west 
the warm quarter on Sunday night, and it 
rained heavily as well as blowing half a gale. On 


Monday morning the snow was off the roof and it 
was possible to clear some of the windows. An 
early excursion was also made to the styes and a 
very thin pig was killed, and, as a bag of Indian 
meal for fattening poultry had also been found 
in the stable loft, a sort of cake could be made. 
So we were no longer starving, and the maids 
got up ! 

Twenty-four hours of this warm rain and wind 
was what did all the mischief to the poor sheep. 
By Monday night every creek within sight had 
overflowed its banks, and was running a dirty 
yellow stream over the fast-melting snowfields. 
The rapid thaw and the flooded creeks made loco- 
motion more difficult than ever, but the three 
gentlemen set to work at once to try to release 
the imprisoned sheep. There was but one dog 
to work with, and he was so weak he could hardly 
move, but the poor sheep were still weaker. Con- 
trary to their custom they had mostly sought 
refuge beneath the projecting banks of the creeks, 
and would have been safe enough there had not 
the sudden thaw let the water in on them before 
they could struggle up, so they were nearly all 
drowned. It was most pathetic to discover how 
in some places the mothers had tried to save the 
lambs by standing over them in a leaning attitude 
so as to make a shelter. The lambing season had 
just begun, and on our own run, which was but 


a small one, we lost three thousand lambs. Several 
were brought in to me to try to save, but I had 
no cow's milk to give them, and warm meal and 
water did not prove enough to keep the poor little 
starving creatures alive. It was heart-breaking 
work, and when F. returned it was to find the 
fences tapestried with the skins of a thousand 

As soon as we could move about on horseback 
we rode all over the run and found that the sheep 
had evidently fared better when they had kept 
on higher ground. It was curious to see the 
tops of the little Ti-ti palms, some ten or twelve 
feet high, entirely nibbled off where the sheep 
had clustered round them, and, as the snow fell, 
mounted higher and higher until they could reach 
the green leaves. In those days all the flocks 
were pure or half-bred merino ; active, hardy little 
black-faced sheep, tasting like Welsh mutton, and 
delicious eating. On these excursions we often 
came upon dead wild-pigs, boars cased in hides an 
inch thick, which had perished through sheer stress 
of weather. It was wonderful to think that thin- 
skinned animals, with only a few months' growth 
of fine merino wool on their backs, could have 

During the long bright summer which followed, 
we used often to ask each other if it could be true 
that hills had apparently been levelled and valleys 


filled up by the heaviest snowstorm ever known. 
But when we looked at the Ti-ti palms with their 
topmost leaves gnawed to the stump, we realised 
that the sheep must have been standing on eight 
or nine feet of snow to reach them. When the 
survivors came to be shorn, it was plainly to be seen 
by the sort of " nick " in the fleece, where their 
three weeks' imprisonment had evidently checked 
the growth of the wool. Many of the hardiest 
wethers must have been without food for that 
time, as the pasturage was either under snow or 

In looking back on that tragic time, its only 
bright memory is connected with tobogganing on 
a rough but giant scale, and I greatly wonder 
any of us survived that form of amusement. By 
the time every possible thing had been done for 
the surviving sheep, the snow had disappeared 
from all but the steep weather-side of the en- 
circling hills, so our slides had to be arranged on 
very dangerous slopes. 

The sledges on which these perilous journeys 
were made consisted of a couple of short planks 
nailed together, with a batten across for one's 
feet to rest on, and half a shears for a brake. If 
the gentlemen would only have made these rapid 
descents alone ! But they insisted on my being 
a constant passenger. No one who has not gone 
through it can imagine the sensation of being 


launched on a bit of board down a mountain side ! 
And yet there must have been a fearful joy in it, 
because after turning round and round many times 
as one flew over the hard snow surface, and arriving 
in a heap, head foremost, in a snowdrift, one was 
quite ready to try again. Luckily another north- 
west gale set in, and when it had blown itself 
out there were too many sharp-pointed rocks stick- 
ing up out of the remaining snow to make our mad 
descents practicable. 



I WONDER if " swaggers " have been improved off 
the face of the country districts of New Zealand ? 
Tramps one would perhaps have called them in Eng- 
land, and yet they were hardly tramps so much as 
men of a roving disposition, who wandered about 
asking for work, and they really could and did work 
if wanted. They nearly always appeared, with their 
" swag " (a roll of red blankets) on their backs, 
about sunset, and it was etiquette for them to offer 
to chop wood before shelter was suggested. A good 
meal of tea, mutton, and bread followed as a matter 
of course, and a shakedown in some shed. In the 
early morning, if there was no employment forth- 
coming, the " swagger " would fetch water, chop 
more wood, or do anything he was asked, before 
he got some more food and left. They always 
seemed very quiet, decent men, and perfectly 
honest. Indeed, a missing pair of boots (after- 
wards found to have only been mislaid) raised a 
great commotion in the whole country-side until 
they were found, and I suspect the owner had to 
apologise abjectly to all the " swaggers " ! 

33 C 


The invariable custom of the " swagger " only 
appearing at sunset made it all the more wonder- 
ful when I found one crouched in a corner of the 
verandah at dawn one bitter winter's morning. 
Now I was not at all in the habit of getting up 
at daylight in winter, but it was a glorious morning 
after nearly a week of wretched wet and cold 
weather. Some demon of restlessness must have 
induced me to jump up, huddle on a warm dress- 
ing-gown and start on a window-opening expedi- 
tion, which led me shortly to the little hall-door. 
This I also opened to let in the fast-coming sunshine, 
and I nearly tumbled over the most forlorn object 
it is possible to imagine. At first I thought that 
a heap of wet and dirty clothes lay at my feet, 
but a shaggy head uprose and a feeble voice 
muttered, " I'm fair clemmed." Such wistful eyes, 
like a lost, starving dog, glanced at me, and then 
the head dropped back. I thought the man was 
dead or dying, and I flew to wake up F. and to 
fetch my medicine bottle of brandy. But I could 
not get any down his throat until F. arrived on 
the scene and turned the poor creature over on 
his back. By this time I had roused up the 
" cadet," and also got my maids hurriedly out of 
bed. My tale was so pitiful that the warm-hearted 
Irish cook in the scantiest toilet was lighting 
the kitchen fire by the time F. and Mr. U. brought 
the poor man in. Water was literally streaming 


from him, and the first thing to be done was to 
get him out of his sodden clothes. Contributions 
from the two gentlemen were soon forthcoming, 
and after a brief retirement into my store-room, 
the wretched " swagger " emerged, dry indeed, but 
the image of exhaustion and starvation. Warm 
bread and milk every two hours was all we dared 
give him that day, and he slept and slept as if 
he never meant to wake again. 

I forget how many days passed before he had 
at all recovered, and by that time my maids had 
cleaned and mended his clothes in a surprising 
manner, and he had, himself, cobbled up his boots. 
A hat had to be provided and a pipe, but we could 
not spare any blankets for the " swag." How- 
ever, though he hardly spoke to any one, he told 
Mr. U. he felt quite able to start next day, and 
F. elicited from him with some difficulty for it 
was against " swagger " etiquette ever to com- 
plain of the treatment of one station-holder to 
another that at the very beginning of that bad 
weather he had found himself at sundown at a 
station about a dozen miles further back in the 
hills, and had been refused shelter. The man 
pointed out that he did not know the track over 
a difficult saddle, that very bad weather was evi- 
dently coming on, and that he had no food, but 
he was ruthlessly turned off and seemed soon to 
have lost his way. He wandered some days he 
did not know how many without food or shelter, 


pelted by the merciless and continuous storm ; 
his pipe and blankets soon got lost in one of 
the numerous bog-holes, and he really did not 
know how he found his way to our verandah, 
or how long before dawn he had been lying there, 
I must say it was the only instance I heard of 
brutality to a " swagger " whilst I was in New 

Well, by the next morning I had ceased to think 
about the " swagger," and when I looked out of my 
window to enjoy the delicious crisp air and the 
sunshine, I saw my friend coming round the corner 
of the house, evidently prepared to start. He 
looked round, but I had slipped behind the window 
curtain, so he saw no one. To my deep surprise, 
the man dropped on his knees upon the little gravel 
path, took off his hat, and poured forth the most 
impassioned prayer for all the dwellers beneath 
the roof which had given him shelter. Not a soul 
was stirring, so he could not have been doing it for 
effect, and he certainly had not seen me. I felt 
as if I had no right to listen, for it was as though 
he were laying bare his soul. First, there was his 
deep thankfulness for his own preservation most 
touchingly expressed, and then he prayed for 
every blessing on each and all of us, and, finally, 
as he rose from his knees, he signed the Cross over 
the little roof-tree which had sheltered him in 
his hour of need. And we had all thought him a 
silent and somewhat ungracious man ! 


I really cannot believe that I often rode fifty 
miles to a ball, or rather two balls, danced all night 
for two successive nights, and rode back again the 
next day ! The railway was even then creeping 
up the plains and saved us the last twenty-five 
miles of the road. These same balls were almost 
the only form of society in those days, for dinner- 
parties were impossible for want of anything but 
the most elementary service. Certainly there were 
bazaars sometimes, but I do not remember riding 
fifty miles for any of them ! Such amusing things 
used to happen at these balls, which, no doubt, 
were very primitive, but we all enjoyed them too 
much to be critical. 

On one occasion the Governor had come to 
Chris tchurch for some political reason, and of 
course there were balls to welcome him. He had 
brought down some Maori chieftains with him ; 
rumour said he was afraid to leave them behind 
in the North Island, where the seat of Government 
used to be and still is. Now I was very curious to 
see these chieftains, and it was somewhat of a 
shock to behold tall, well-built, dark-hued men 
faultlessly clad in correct evening-dress, but with 
tattooed faces. Presently one of the stewards of 
the ball came to me and said : 

" Te Henare wants very much to dance these 
Lancers ; I should be so grateful if you would 
dance with him." 

" Certainly," I answered ; " but can he dance ? " 


"Oh, he will soon pick it up, and you'd have an 

Te Henare, who had been watching the result 
of the mission, now approached, made me a beau- 
tiful bow, offered his arm most correctly, and 
we took our places at the side, closely followed 
by the interpreter. I discovered through this 
gentleman that my dusky partner had never seen 
a ball or social gathering of any sort before, and 
that he had learned his bow and how to claim 
his partner since he entered the room. Of course, 
we danced in silence, and indeed I was fully occu- 
pied in admiring the extraordinary rapidity with 
which Te Henare mastered the intricacies of the 
dance. He never made a single mistake in any 
part which he had seen the top couples do first, 
and when I had to guide him he understood 
directly. It was a wonderful set of Lancers, and 
when it was over I told the interpreter that I was 
quite astonished to see how well Te Henare danced. 
This little compliment was duly repeated, and I 
could not imagine why the interpreter laughed at 
the answer. Te Henare seemed very anxious that 
it should be passed on to me and was most serious 
about it, so I insisted on being told. It seems the 
poor chieftain had said with a deep sigh, "Ah, 
if I might only dance without my clothes ! No 
one could really dance in these horrid things ! " 

Te Henare apologised through the interpreter 
for his tattooed face. His cheeks were decorated 


with spiral dark-blue curves, and his forehead 
bore an excellent copy of a sea-shell. The poor 
man was deeply ashamed of his tattoo, and said 
he would give anything to get rid of the disfiguring 
marks, and so would the other chieftains, adding 
pathetically, " Until we came here we were proud 
of them." 

I must confess I got rather tired of poor Te 
Henare, and indeed of all the chieftains, for they 
insisted on coming to call on me next day for the 
purpose of letting me hear some Maori music. I 
cannot truthfully say I enjoyed it. Every song 
seemed to have at least fifty verses as well as a 
refrain. Fortunately, they did not sing loudly, 
but there was no tune beyond a bar or two, and 
the monotony was maddening. The interpreter 
and I tried in vain to stop them, and at last I 
went away, leaving them still singing, quite happily, 
what I was informed was " a love-song." It seemed 
more in the nature of a lullaby. 

I fear it is an unusual confession for a staid 
elderly woman to make, but I certainly enjoyed 
those unconventional what might almost be called 
rough days more than the long years of official 
routine and luxury which followed them. But 
then one looks back on those days through the 
softening haze of time and distance, of youth and 
health ; and one realises that after all " the greatest 
of these is Love." 


THE passage of over a quarter of a century has 
of course made a great change all over the world 
in the matter of education, but probably nowhere 
would that change be more apparent than in New 
Zealand. Even in less than ten years after I 
had left the Colony, two thousand schools had 
been started under a new law, with a roll of two 
hundred thousand scholars. What must they 
number now ? There are Schools for natives and 
Schools for the deaf and dumb and for the blind, 
Schools of Mines and Schools of Science, Technical 
Schools, and a fine Agricultural College in 

But in my day very few of the working men I 
came across, as our shepherds, shearers, and so 
forth, could read at all. One can hardly realise 
it, but so it was, and one of the first things I did 
was to start a sort of night school for these stalwart 
Empire-builders, in which, alas ! I was the only 
teacher. The population was so thin and so 
scattered in those distant days that these men's 
lives were necessarily very lonely, and those who 


could read at all eagerly joined a little lending 
library, or rather a Book and Magazine Club, 
which I set going. At first I had only thought 
of providing literature for our neighbours any 
one within fifty miles was a neighbour but the 
shepherds begged to join, and of course I was 
delighted to enrol them. 

Looking back on those days, I fear the comic 
side of that educational attempt chiefly asserts 
itself. My pupils only four or five at a time 
were so big and so desperately shy. One gigantic 
Yorkshireman would only read, or rather attempt 
to read, with his broad back turned to me. Others 
almost wept over their difficulties. It really in- 
volved far more trouble on their part than on 
mine, for they had often some distance to ride, 
and over such trackless hills and swamps. It was 
found almost impracticable to have any set evening 
for the lessons, as sometimes weather, and some- 
times their duties interfered ; so at last it was 
settled that they should come any evening they 
could spare, and I would be ready for them by 
eight o'clock (so primitive was our dinner-hour !) 
in the little dining-room. Certainly the seeds of 
knowledge are very difficult to plant in later life, 
for intelligent as these men evidently were, and 
most eager to learn to read and write, they made 
but little progress under my tuition. Perhaps I 
was a bad teacher, for I had only the experience 


of my own little boys' very first lessons to 
guide me. 

Some of the incidental difficulties were very 
absurd. Two men lived in a hut up a lonely and 
distant river-gorge, who were among my earliest 
pupils, and they also came regularly on Sunday 
to the little afternoon service. But they never 
came together, and their brand-new suit of 
shepherd's plaid had always a strange effect. First 
they tried my gravity by invariably stepping up 
to me with their prayer-books to find their places 
for them, and saying loudly each time, " Thank 
you kindly, Mum." I dared not say a word for 
fear of frightening them away. But one day I 
ventured to ask why they could not come together, 
either to the lessons or the service, and was in- 
formed that the clothes were the difficulty. 

" You see, it's this way, Mum. We've only got 
one suit, and we got it a between-size on purpose. 
Joe, he's too tall, and I'm too short, so I turns it 
up, and Joe he wears leggin's and such like, and 
so we makes it do till after shearin'." 

But I do not want to laugh when I think of the 
last time I met my bearded pupils. My own face 
was set towards England then, and I had to say 
good-bye to the happy valley and to my scholars. 
They were made shyer than ever by my shaking 
hands with them, and only one said a farewell 
word. " To England, home and beauty, of course, 


Mum, you'd be glad to go, but it's rough on us." 
This cryptic utterance seemed quite to express 
his and his " mate's " meaning, though it still 
remains dark to me. 

The Canterbury Plains are now covered with 
fields of wheat and all kinds of agricultural pro- 
duce. The rare " English grass " of my day is 
almost universal. Except in the very back-country 
stations, the little hardy merino sheep has given 
way to the more substantial Southdown, whose 
frozen carcase comes back to us in the shape of 
excellent mutton. Comfortable homesteads are 
within hailing distance of each other. Railways, 
telegraphs, telephones, and all the latest scientific 
annihilators of time and space are thickly planted 
everywhere. I used to look down the valley on 
to certain white cliffs which seemed to bound my 
view in that direction, and, speaking of it the 
other day, some one said, "Oh, the terminus of 
the nearest railway to your old ' run ' stands 
there now." I cannot realise that the whistle of 
an engine has taken the place of the shrill scream 
of a huge hawk more like an eagle than a hawk 
which haunted that lonely spot. 

But perhaps the greatest difference of all would 
be found in the sport. 

In my day there was absolutely nothing except 
the wild boars, and the difficulties of introducing 
game seemed at first insurmountable. Mr. Frank 


Buckland sent out quantities of salmon ova packed 
in ice, of which hardly a single specimen survived 
the long voyage. Then people told me that the 
New Zealand rivers were impossible to stock, 
owing to a bad habit they had of constantly 
changing their beds without warning. It is true 
that I saw that happen at those very white cliffs 
I have just spoken of, where, after an unusually 
violent hot north - west gale which melted the 
snows in the mountains, the river running beneath 
those cliffs changed its course entirely during one 
night, cutting another wide and deep channel for 
itself over very good grazing ground, and leaving 
the owner of that particular spot with a vast 
extent of shingle-covered river-bed in exchange, 
on which, as he pathetically said, " a grasshopper 
could not find enough green meat." 

One can easily understand that respectable stay- 
at-home English fish would not be able to shift 
their quarters at such short notice, but yet I am 
now assured that a good basket of trout can 
be landed from almost any New Zealand stream. 
They must have become very " mobile " ! I 
wonder if any of these same fish are the descendants 
of what I always regarded as my trout ! 

This was the way of it. Not long before we 
left New Zealand, one of our squatter neighbours, 
who was anxious to stock a fine stream running 
through his property, offered to give a home and 


a chance to some of the newly-imported trout ova. 
I happened to meet him on one of my rare visits 
to Chris tchurch, and inquired as to the progress 
of his trout plans. I suppose that put the idea 
into his head, for he first asked when we were 
returning to our station, and then earnestly en- 
treated to be allowed to drive me back in a sort of 
buggy or gig he possessed. I greatly preferred 
riding, and told him so, but he seemed most anxious 
for my company, and finally said he would speak 
to F. about it. I felt quite willing to abide by 
his decision, which I flattered myself would be 
that I must certainly ride back with him. But 
to my dismay F. said, " I think you had better 

drive with ." So there was no help for it, and 

at the appointed early hour Mr. drove up, 

I was packed into the buggy, and then the whole 
villainous scheme revealed itself ! I was wanted 
to carry a small pail full of trout ova, carefully, 
so that it should not be jolted or spill. My whole 
attention and my every thought were to be de- 
voted to that sole object. I must not move or 
talk ; I must think of nothing but that pail. 

Mr. assured me later that his mind would 

be entirely fixed on avoiding every stone or even 
inequality on the road, so that the precious freight 
might not be jeopardised. And I had seventy-five 
miles before me ! If we came to a really rough 
bit of road, I had to hold that pail out, on the 


principle of a swinging cot at sea. Fortunately, 
there was a halt in the middle of the day, but only 
for the benefit of the ova ; however, my aching 
arms got just a little rest. To make my sense 
of hardship more acute, F. rode near us most of 
the way, and constantly added his entreaties to 
me to "be very careful." Later, I arrived at 
feeling a certain sense of pride in having conveyed 
those ova so carefully that they all survived the 
journey, but at the time I well remember my 
suppressed indignation and burning sense of injury 
at having been entrapped as a trout-carrier. But 
that only lasted so long as did the fatigue of my 
cramped position. 

There has always been very good sea-fishing 
almost everywhere on the coast, but we lived too 
far off to enjoy it. When, however, we went to 
Christchurch it was always a great treat to have 
at every meal the whitebait the Maoris sold in 
pretty little baskets of woven flax-leaves. 

I see in the latest accounts that our own familiar 
" Selwyn " is quite a favourite trout stream, but 
in the more distant big lakes, where the fish attain 
quite a large size, the water is so clear that a rod 
is useless, and netting is the only chance. 

Some means must have been found of keeping 
down the "weeka," tamest and most impudent 
of apteryx. Very like a stout hen pheasant itself, 
only without the tail feathers, it used to be the 


sworn foe of pheasants in my day. It ate their 
eggs or killed the young birds. Many and doleful 
were the tales told of the wholesale massacre of 
the pioneer pheasant broods by the weekas, who 
seemed numerous as the sands of the sea-shore. 
Dogs hunted them, men shot them, but in both 
cases they were as elusive as the Boers, gliding 
from tussock to tussock, and when forced into 
the open, running almost faster than the eye could 
follow. To all my " bush " picnics the weekas 
invited themselves and cleared up every crumb. 
It would have needed a pack of terriers to keep 
them off, and although " Nettle " did his best he 
made no impression on the marauders. They were 
not good to eat, but the shepherds extracted an 
oil from the fat, which they declared made boots 
and leggings waterproof. Still, weekas had it very 
much their own way at that date. I see that 
hares and also Calif ornian quail and plover flourish 
nowadays, and I know the wild-duck were always 
plentiful and delicious eating. 

There was a talk of importing deer even thirty- 
five years ago, but the idea did not find favour 
in the eyes of the run-holders. The fences were 
only three or four wires high, and would of course 
be no protection to the sheep, whose feed would 
be at the mercy of the new-comer. It was known 
that two hinds and a stag had been turned out in 
some well-grassed and forested low ranges in the 


North Island as early as 1862, but one did not 
hear anything of them as either a danger or a 
pleasure. They were the only survivors of a batch 
sent from Windsor Forest by the late Prince 
Consort. The conditions must have been ideally 
favourable, for they have now spread all over 
the place, and afford excellent sport. Red deer 
seem to do well in our island (the Middle), though 
I do not fancy they have come at all near the part 
I knew. A few moose have been turned out on 
the West Coast of the same Island, and there is 
even a talk of importing wapiti and cariboo. But 
any one who wishes to know all about New Zealand 
fur, fin, and feathers cannot do better than 
study, as I have done with the greatest pleasure 
and profit, a delightful booklet by Mr. R. A. 
Loughman, of the Lands and Survey Department 
in Wellington, which no doubt can be procured 
at the Agent General for New Zealand's Office. It 
makes one wish to set off directly for that favoured 
though distant shore, and Mr. Loughman asserts 
that numbers of sportsmen arrive there every year. 
I heard a great deal of modern New Zealand 
when the Imperial Representative Corps came back 
from their wonderful tour round Australia and 
New Zealand three years ago. It was most interest- 
ing and delightful to listen to the accounts of the 
progress everywhere ; but as I had been so very 
much longer away from New Zealand, the mar- 


vellous changes there took more hold of my 
imagination, and I was delighted to be told by all 
that it was still the most English place they visited. 

There was much to occupy the public mind at 
home just then, and I have often felt that we 
rather missed the value and significance of that 
tour, especially as it was somewhat overshadowed 
and crowded out by the rapture and magnificence 
of the welcome extended to their Royal Highnesses 
the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York almost 
directly afterwards. 

We were still in the midst of the war in South 
Africa, and then, just after the Imperial Contingent 
left Sydney, to which it first went to take part in 
the ceremonies marking the Inauguration of the 
Australian Commonwealth, the Empire had to 
mourn the loss of its beloved Queen, and nowhere 
was the grief more personal and profound than 
on those distant shores. As the Commandant 1 
told me, although the sad news spoiled in a way 
the gaiety and tdat of the greeting provided for 
the troops, still it was far more impressive to see 
the genuine grief and regret which the width of the 
world could not weaken. Memorial services every- 
where took the place of balls, and the " Soldiers 
of the Queen " shared, with the splendid Colonial 
forces who were just then springing to arms at the 
Empire's call, in honouring her dear memory. 

1 Lieut.-Colonel Crole-Wyndham, C.B., 2ist Lancers. 



But by the time Invercargill, the most southern 
point of New Zealand, had been reached, the first 
dark days of sorrow had passed, and the people 
could better give free scope to their hospitable 
instincts, and they greeted the Contingent with 
the heartiest welcome. The last time British 
troops had touched New Zealand shores it was to 
fight the Maoris, who now stood first and foremost 
in the cheering crowd, and delivered addresses of 
welcome with the be'st. 

The straight run down from the extreme south 
of Middle Island brought them in due time, through 
those great Canterbury Plains where harvesting 
was in full swing, down to Christchurch, and so 
on to Lyttelton. But there was always time, 
apparently, for delightful little picturesque episodes, 
such as stopping the train to let the detachment 
of Seaforth Highlanders march, with pipes play- 
ing, to visit one of the most prominent Scotch 
settlers, a man who had given his life's work to 
the beautiful new land. Fancy what a dramatic 
moment ! To hear the war-pipes skirl, and the 
old tunes played, all in one's own honour and in 
recognition of splendid service ! 

Then the thousand troops were taken on by sea 
to Wellington and shown everything in the length 
and breadth of all the fair land ; up to the won- 
derful hot springs at Rotarua, down to the deer- 
stocked islands off Auckland. Everywhere, not 


only did they receive a rapturous welcome from 
the cheering crowds, but there were many historic 
and picturesque moments in which the Maoris 
formed the central figures. I should like to have 
seen the old Maori chieftain, after the " haka " 
or native dance, fling his tasselled spear at the 
Commandant's feet, saying, " For four hundred 
years this taiaha has been handed down from father 
to son, from son to grandson. But you and I 
alike are sons of our King, who rules in the place 
of the Queen we have lost. Take it, and let it 
descend to your children's children." 

Thrilling also must have been the sight of the 
veterans of former wars, now peaceful citizens, end- 
ing their days in comfort in these distant lands, 
yet, like the war-horse of Bible story, pricking up 
their ears and joining their new comrades. At all 
the reviews there the veteran sailors and soldiers 
were, marshalled in the old form and given pro- 
minent places ; they themselves, with their medal- 
covered breasts, being objects of honour to the 
gorgeous visitors. And quite as thrilling must have 
been the ranks of cadets who lined the streets here 
and there. My own heart has often gone out to 
these chubby boy-soldiers when I have seen them 
first at Adelaide in 1883, later in Western 
Australia, where the youthful corps bore my name, 
and was known as my " Own " so it was with a 
peculiar interest that I read part of a speech of the 


Commandant's when he was leaving Brisbane, but 
it applies equally well to the cadet corps of all the 
large New Zealand towns. 

" What pleased me most in the march through 
your streets to-day, more than even the enthu- 
siastic greetings of the Queenslanders, was nearly 
a mile of boys lining the road by the railway 
station. Hundreds of sturdy youngsters, every one 
of them devouring our men with his eyes and doing 
his best to look like a soldier himself. I thought 
as I looked at their bright, keen young faces, 
* there are our future Australian contingents.' ' 

At Auckland there was one newly- raised detach- 
ment which had not yet got its uniform, but turned 
out in white shirts with black arm-bands and 
Panama hats. These sinewy, workmanlike " bush- 
men " had ridden in from the country district on 
their own horses as workmanlike as themselves 
not to take part in the big parade which every one 
was talking about, and which would be remembered 
for years, but in order to lend the Contingent their 
horses. Such stories stories which I know to be 
true show me that after all the lapse of years 
New Zealand still remains in heart the Old New 
Zealand of my day. 

But, speaking of medals, I was much amused at 
hearing that the youthful volunteers turned out 
sometimes quite covered with medals, extending as 
far back as the first Cape war and going on to the 


Crimea and the Mutiny. On its being remarked 
that they looked very young to have taken part 
in such distant campaigns, they admitted that the 
medals had belonged to their grandfathers and 
fathers, but that they conceived themselves en- 
titled as did many others who were not even 
volunteers to wear them, and could see nothing 
at all laughable in doing so. It seemed to me a 
very wise concession on the part of the Colonial 
authorities to permit this, as a recognition of the 
natural pride of the sons of such men in their an- 
cestors having fought for the Empire in bygone 
days, for they evidently regarded the medals as a 
link binding them to the dear old Mother-land. 
However, the present generation will proudly wear 
medals of their own winning, even if they do so 
side by side with those gained by their forefathers. 
Yes, those thousand picked men of that fine Imperial 
Contingent will have been so many Peace mission- 
aries bringing back news of the loyalty as well as 
of the wealth and beauty of that fair England 
beyond the sea. 

Not less emphatically will these tidings be en- 
dorsed by the welcome extended to their King's 
son and his gracious young wife when they too 
landed on those smiling shores a few months later. 
The message their Royal Highnesses brought was 
to the same effect, and received in the same spirit 
of love and gratitude. At all events it will not be 


our fault if our kinsmen beyond the sea, especially 
in the Islands of New Zealand, do not understand 
how we valued the splendid help they gave the 
Empire in its hour of need, and how grateful we 
are for it. I was reading a little while ago some of 
the evidence taken before the War Commission 
last year, and saw that one of the Generals was 
asked if he had, at any time, any of the many 
New Zealand Contingents under his command. " I 
am sorry to say I had not," was the reply, and I 
felt just as personally proud of the answer as though 
I were a New Zealander myself, and all for the sake 
of those dear distant days and the good friends 
who helped to make them so happy. 


As I sit, sad and alone in my empty home, dreading 
the cries of the newspaper-boys in the streets, my 
thoughts often fly back to the " Fair Natal " I knew 
long ago. More than twenty-eight years have passed 
since I last saw it. Then, as now, it was early 
summer-time. The wide, well-watered stretches of 
veldt were brilliantly green and covered with 
blossom, chiefly lilies and cinerarias; the spruits 
were running like Scotch burns, and the dreadful 
red dust of the winter months no longer obscured 
everything. I have often, between April and 
November, not known what was within an ap- 
proaching bank of solid red cloud, until the shouts 
of the unseen little " Voor-looper " warned me 
that a huge waggon and its span of perhaps twenty 
or thirty oxen had to be avoided. 

But after November, dust gives place to mud on 
the roads mud of a singularly tenacious quality, 
formed from the fertile red clay soil. I don't 
believe it rains anywhere so hard as it does in Natal, 
and during the summer months it is never safe to 



part for a single hour from the very best waterproof 
cloak which you can procure, or from a substantial 
umbrella. Round Maritzburg a thunderstorm 
raged nearly every summer afternoon, coming up 
about three o'clock. But when, by any chance, 
that thunderstorm passed us by, we regretted it 
bitterly, for the oppressive, suffocating heat was 
then ever so much worse. Even the poor fowls 
used to go about with their beaks open and their 
wings held well away from their sides, literally 
gasping for breath. One was prepared for thunder- 
storms, even on the largest scale, when they came 
up with the usual accompaniments of massed 
clouds, rumbling or crashing thunder, and were 
followed by a deluge of rain ; but I could not get 
used to what I have never seen anywhere else, and 
which could only be described as a " bolt from the 

A very few days after my arrival at Maritzburg 
at the end of 1875, I was standing one afternoon 
in the shade of my little house on a hill, anxiously 
watching the picturesque arrival of an ox-waggon 
laden with my boxes. It was in the very early 
summer, and the exigencies of settling in left me 
no time to worry about the thunderstorms, of 
which, of course, I had often heard. A more 
serene and brilliant afternoon could not be imagined, 
and it was not even hot at all events, out of the 
sun. My two small boys, as usual, trotted after me 


like dogs, and clamoured to assist at the arrival of 
the waggon ; so I lifted the little one up in my arms 
and stood there, with an elder boy clinging to my 
skirts. Suddenly, out of the blue unclouded sky, 
out of the blaze of golden sunshine, came a flash 
and a crash which seemed as if it must be the crack 
of doom. No words at my command can give any 
idea of the intolerable blinding glare of the light 
which seemed to wrap us round, or of the rending 
sound, as if the universe were being torn asunder. 
I suppose I flung myself on the ground, because I 
was crouching there, holding the little boys beneath 
me with some sort of protective instinct, when in 
a second or two of time it had all passed, for I 
heard only a slight and distant rumble. I do not 
believe the sun had ceased shining for an instant, 
though its light had seemed to be extinguished by 
that blaze of fire. Never can I forget my amaze- 
ment, an amazement which even preceded my deep 
thankfulness at finding we were absolutely unhurt, 
the fearless little boys only inquiring, "What was 
that, Mummy ? " There had been no time for their 
rosy cheeks even to pale. I wonder what colour 
/ was. I looked at the little stone house with 
astonishment to find it still there, for I had expected 
to see nothing but a heap of ruins. Nay, it seemed 
miraculous that the hills all round should still be 

I only saw one more flash equally bad during my 


two summers in Natal, and that was whilst a 
thunderstorm was raging, accompanied by terrific 
hail. Of course, I was then in a house and trying 
to distract my thoughts from the weather, which I 
knew must be annihilating my lovely garden, by 
dispensing afternoon tea. I am certain that flash 
came down upon the tea-tray, for when I lifted up 
my head (I defy any one not to cower before a 
stream of electricity which seems poured upon you 
out of a jug), I felt the same surprise at seeing my 
cups and saucers unshattered. I am sure they had 
jumped about, for I heard them, but they had re- 
covered their equanimity by the time I had. 
Almost every day one saw in the newspapers an 
account of some death by lightning, and I know 
of one only too true story, in which our Kaffir 
washerman was the victim. He had left our house 
one fine Monday morning with a huge bag of clothes 
on his back, which he intended to wash in the river 
at the foot of the hill, when he observed one of 
these thunderstorms coming up unusually early, 
and so took shelter in the verandah of a small 
cottage by the roadside. After the worst of the 
storm had passed he was preparing to step outside, 
when a violent flash and a deafening thunderclap 
passed over the little house. The lightning must 
have been attracted by a nail carelessly sticking up 
in its shingled roof. The poor Kaffir chanced to be 
standing exactly beneath this nail and was struck 


down dead at once. I was told that he was in the 
act of speaking, promising some one that he would 
return the same way that very afternoon. 

The streets of Maritzburg used, in my day, to be 
mended or hardened with a sort of ironstone which 
abounds in the district, and in one of these daily 
thunderstorms it was not uncommon to see the elec- 
tricity rising up as it were from the ground to meet 
the descending fluid. Of course, the rivers soon be- 
come impassable, and I have a vivid recollection of 
four guests, who had ridden out rather earlier than 
usual one afternoon to have tea with me, being 
kept in our tiny house all night. More than one 
attempt was made before dark to find and use the 
little wooden bridge over the stream, which could 
hardly be called a river, but its whereabouts could 
not even be perceived, and the horses steadily 
refused to go out of their depth. So there was 
nothing for it except to return, drenched to the 
skin, and bivouac under our very small roof for 
the night. 

And yet one is glad of these same rains after 
the long dry winter, when all vegetation seems to 
disappear off the baked earth and the cattle be- 
come so thin that it is a wonder the gaunt skeletons 
of the poor trek-oxen can support the weight of 
their enormous spreading horns, The changes of 
temperature in winter were certainly very trying. 
The day began fresh and cold and bracing, but the 


brilliant sunshine soon changed that into what 
might be called a very hot English summer's day. 
About four o'clock, when the sun sloped towards the 
western hills, it began to grow cold again, and no 
wrap or greatcoat seemed too warm to put on then. 
By night one was only too glad of as big a fire on 
the open hearth as could be provided, for fuel was 
scarce and very expensive in those days. Doubt- 
less, the railway has improved all those conditions ; 
but Natal, as far as I saw it, is not a well-wooded 
country, except on the Native Reserves, and the 
only forest " bush," as they call it in Australia 
which I saw, cost me a fifty-mile ride to get to it ! 

Our poor Kaffir servants used to get violent and 
prostrating colds in winter, in spite of each being 
supplied with an old greatcoat which had once be- 
longed to a soldiej. This the master provides ; 
but if the man himself can raise an aged and 
dilapidated tunic besides, he is supremely happy. 
Anything so grotesque as this attire cannot well be 
imagined, for the red garment (it was almost un- 
recognisable, as eve,r having been a tunic by that 
time) is worn with perfectly bare legs, a feather 
or two stuck jauntily on the head or with a crown- 
less hat, and the true dandy adds a cartridge-case 
passed through a wide hole in the lobe of his ear 
and filled with snuff ! Nor will any Kaffir stir out 
of doors without a long stick, on account of the 
snakes : but only the police used to be allowed to 


carry the knobkerry, which is a sort of South 
African shillelagh and a very formidable weapon. 

It always seemed strange to me that a climate 
which was, on the whole, so healthy for human 
beings should not be favourable to animal life. 
Dogs do not thrive there at all, and soon become 
infested with ticks. One heard constantly of the 
native cattle being decimated by strange and weird 
diseases, and horses, especially imported horses, 
certainly require the greatest care. They must 
never be turned out whilst the dew is on the grass, 
unless with a sort of muzzling nosebag on, and 
the snakes are a perpetual danger to them, though 
the bite is not always fatal, for there are many 
varieties of snakes which are not venomous. Still, 
a native horse is always on the look-out for snakes 
and dreads them exceedingly. One night I was 
cantering down the main street of Maritzburg on 
a quiet old pony on my way to the Legislative 
Council, where I wanted to hear a very interesting 
debate on the native question (which was the burn- 
ing one of that day), and my pony suddenly leaped 
off the ground like an antelope and then shied right 
across the road. This panic arose from his having 
stepped on a thin strip of zinc cut from a packing- 
case which must have been opened, as usual, outside 
the store or large shop which we were passing. As 
soon as the pony put his foot on one end of the 
long curled-up shaving, it must have risen up and 


struck him sharply, waking unpleasant memories of 
former encounters with snakes. 

Railways were but a dream of the near future 
in my day. Indeed, the first sod of the first railway 
that between Durban and Pietermaritzburg was 
only turned on January i, 1876, amid great en- 
thusiasm. A mail-cart made a tri-weekly trip be- 
tween th two towns fifty-two miles apart and 
that was horsed, but on anything like a journey 
either oxen or mules were used. 

I have seen an ox-wagon arriving at a ball, with 
pretty young ladies inside its sheltering hood, who 
had been seated there all day long, having started 
in their ball-dresses directly after breakfast ! 
Mules were in great request for draught purposes, 
and up to a point they answered admirably, jogging 
along without distress over bad roads which would 
soon have knocked up even the staunchest horses. 
But a mule is such an unreliable animal, and his 
character for obstinacy is, thoroughly well deserved. 
When a mule, or a team of mule's, stops on a par- 
ticularly sticky bit of road, no power on earth will 
move him, and there is nothing for it but to await 
his good pleasure. I have, two or three times, 
journeyed behind a team of sixteen mules, and I 
always suffered great anxiety lest they should 
cease to respond to the incessant cries of their 
" Cape-boy " driver, or the still more persuasive 
arguments of his assistant, who bore quite a collec- 


tion of whips of different lengths for emergencies. 
Happily the roads were then in fairly good order, 
and beyond a tendency to drop into a slow walk 
at the slightest hill the mules behaved irre- 

Locomotion was the great difficulty in those 
days, and we island -dwellers cannot easily realise 
the vast and trackless spaces which lie between the 
specks of townships on a huge continent. Natal 
is magnificently watered and grassed in the summer, 
but the big rivers are not only a hindrance to 
journeying, but from a sanitary point of view 
they are as undrinkable as the Nile, and probably 
for the same reasons. Still, they are there, and 
future generations will doubtless use them for 
irrigation and canals and all the needs of advancing 

In my day the Boer was quite an unconsidered 
factor, and we felt we were performing a Quixoti- 
cally generous action when, at his own earnest 
entreaty, we took him and his debts and his native 
troubles on our own shoulders in 1876. He was 
always extremely dirty, and about a thousand 
years behind the rest of the civilised world in his 
ideas. His religion was a superstition worthy of the 
Middle Ages, and his notions of morality went a 
good deal further back than even those primitive 

I confess the only Boer I ever was personally 


brought into contact with seemed to me a delightful 
person ! This is how it happened. Soon after my 
arrival in Maritzburg, a bazaar was held in aid of 
some local literary undertaking. Bazaars were 
happily of very rare occurrence in those parts, and 
this one created quite an excitement and realised 
an astonishingly large sum of money. The race- 
week had been chosen for the purpose of catching 
customers among the numerous visitors to Pieter- 
maritzburg in that gay time, and the wiles employed 
seemed very successful. I never heard how or why 
he got there, but I only know that a stout, com- 
fortable, well-to-do Dutch farmer suddenly appeared 
at the door of the bazaar. He was, of course, at 
once assailed by pretty flower-girls and lucky-bag 
bearers, and cigars and kittens were promptly 
pressed on him. But the old gentleman had a plan 
and a method of his own, on which he proceeded 
to act. He had not one single syllable of English, 
so it was a case of deeds not words. He began 
at the very first stall and worked his way all round. 
At each stall he pointed to the biggest thing on it, 
and held out a handful of coins in payment. He 
then shouldered his purchase as far as the next 
stall, where he deposited it as a gift to the lady sell- 
ing, bought her biggest object, and went on round 
the hall on the same principle. When it came to 
my turn he held out to me the largest wax-doll I 
ever beheld, and carried off a huge and unwieldy 


doll's house which entirely eclipsed even his burly 
figure. My next door (or rather stall) neighbour 
had a table full of glass and china, and she conse- 
quently viewed the approach of this article of bazaar 
commerce with natural misgiving, but as our ideal 
customer relieved, her of a very large ugly breakfast 
set, she managed to make room for the miniature 
house until she could arrange a raffle and so get 
rid of it. The last I saw of that Boer, who must 
have contributed largely to our receipts, was his 
leading a very small donkey, which he had just 
bought at the last stall, away by a blue ribbon 
halter. I believe it was the only " object " in the 
whole bazaar which could have possibly been of the 
slightest practical use to him, but the contrast 
between the weak-kneed and frivolously attired 
donkey and its sturdy purchaser was irresistibly 
comic. No one seemed to know in the least who he 
was, but we supposed he must have come down for 
the races and backed the winners very successfully. 
Our little house stood on a hill about a mile from 
Maritzburg, and, remembering the formation of 
the surrounding country, one realises how badly 
the towns in Natal, and probably all over South 
Africa, are placed for purposes of defence. Every 
town, or even little hamlet or township, which I 
ever saw, stood in the middle of a wide plain with 
low hills all round it, so it is easy for me to realise 
how soon cannon planted on those hills would wreck 



buildings. There was a great and agreeable differ- 
ence in the temperature, however, up on that little 
hill, but towards the close of the dry winter season 
the water-supply became an anxiety. In spite of 
the extremely cold nights up there, any plant for 
which I could spare a daily pail of water blossomed 
beautifully all through the winter. I was advised 
to select my favourite rose-bushes before the summer 
rains had ceased, and to have the baths of the 
family emptied over them every day, which I did 
with perfect success, and was even able to include 
some azaleas and camellias in the list of the favoured 

I was much struck with the rapid growth of trees 
in Natal, and it was astonishing to see the height 
and solidity of trees planted only ten years before, 
especially the eucalyptus. But grass walks or 
lawns are much discouraged in a garden on account 
of the facility they afford as cover for snakes, and 
red paths and open spaces are to be seen everywhere 
instead. Even the lawn-tennis of that day was 
played on smooth courts of firmly stamped and 
rolled red clay. I wonder how the golf-players 
manage, for play they do I am certain, as nothing 
ever induces either a golfer or a cricketer to forego 
his game. 

One morning, very early, I was taken to the 
market, and it certainly was an extraordinary 
sight. The market-place is always one of the most 


salient features of a South African town, and is 
the centre of local gossip, just as is the " bazaar " 
of the East. It was an immense open space 
thronged with buyers and sellers ; whites, Kaffirs, 
coolies, emigrants from St. Helena, and many on- 
lookers like myself. It was all under Government 
control and seemed very well managed. There 
were official inspectors of the meat offered for sale, 
and duly authorised weights and scales, round 
which surged a vociferous crowd. I was specially 
invited to view the butter sent down from the 
Boer farms up country, and I cannot say it was 
an appetising sight. A huge hide, very indifferently 
tanned, was unrolled for my edification, and it 
certainly contained a substance distantly resem- 
bling butter, packed into it, but apparently at 
widely differing intervals of time. The condiment 
was of various colours, and how shall I put it ? 
strengths ; milk-sieves appeared also to have been 
unknown at that farm, for cows' hair formed a 
noticeable component part of that mass of butter. 
However, I was assure'd that it found ready and 
willing purchasers, even at four shillings a pound, 
and that it was quite possible to remake it, as it 
were, and subject it to a purifying process. I con- 
fess I felt thankful that the butter my small family 
consumed was made under my own eyes. 

Waggons laden with firewood were very con- 
spicuous, and their loads disappeared rapidly, as 


did also piles of lucerne and other green forage. 
There was but little poultry for sale, and very few 
vegetables. I remember noticing in all the little 
excursions I made, within some twenty miles of 
Maritzburg, how different the Natal colonist, at 
least of those days, was from the Australian or 
New Zealand pioneer. At various farmhouses 
where there was plenty of evidence of a kind of 
rough and ready prosperity, and much open-handed 
hospitality and friendliness, there would be only 
preserved milk and tinned butter available. Now 
these two items must have indeed been costly by 
the time they reached the farms I speak of. Yet 
there were herds of cattle grazing around. Nor 
would there be poultry of any sort forthcoming, 
nor a sign of a garden. Of course, it was not my 
place to criticise ; but if I ventured on a question, 
I was always told, "Oh, labour is so difficult to 
get. You know, the Kaffirs won't work." I longed 
to suggest that the young people I saw lounging 
about might very well turn to and lend a hand, 
at all events to start a poultry yard, or dairy, 
or vegetable garden. 

Now, at Fort Napier the only fortified hill near 
Maritzburg every little hollow and ravine was 
utilised by the soldiers stationed there as a garden. 
The men, of course, work in these little plots them- 
selves and grow beautiful vegetables. Potatoes 
and pumpkins, cabbages and onions, only need to 


be planted to grow luxuriantly. Why cannot this 
be done in the little farms around ? I am afraid 
I took a selfish interest in the question, as it was 
so difficult, and often impossible, to procure even 
potatoes. Such things grow much more easily, I 
was told, at Durban, so probably those difficulties 
have disappeared with the opening of the railway 
that very railway of which I saw the first sod 
turned. My own attempt at a vegetable garden 
suffered from its being perched on the top of a hill, 
where water was difficult to get ; but I was 
very successful with some poultry, in spite of having 
to wage constant war against hawks and snakes. 

How fortunate it is that one remembers the 
laughs of one's past life better than its tears ! That 
morning visit to the Pietermaritzburg market 
stands out distinctly in my memory chiefly on 
account of an absurd incident I witnessed. I had 
been much interested and amused looking round, 
not only at the strange and characteristic crowd, 
but at my many acquaintances marketing for 
themselves. I had listened to the shouts of the 
various auctioneers who were selling all manner of 
heterogeneous wares, when I noticed some stalwart 
Kaffirs bearing on their heads large open baskets 
filled entirely with coffee-pots of every size and 
kind. Roughly speaking, there must have been 
something like a hundred coffee-pots in those 
baskets. They were just leaving an improvised 


auction-stand, and following them closely, with an 
air of proud possession on his genial countenance, 
was a specially beloved friend of my own, who I 
may mention, was also the beloved friend of all 
who knew him. " Are all those coffee-pots yours ? " 
I inquired. " Yes, indeed ; I have just bought 
them," he answered. " You must know I am a col- 
lector of coffee-pots and have a great many already ; 
but how lucky I have been to pick up some one 
else's collection as well, and so cheap too ! " 

The Kaffirs were grinning, and there seemed a 
general air of amusement about, which I could not 
at all understand until it was explained to me later 
that my friend had just bought his own collection 
of coffee-pots. His wife thought that the space 
they occupied in her store-room could be better 
employed, and, believing that their owner would 
not attend the market that day, had sent the whole 
lot down to be sold. She told me afterwards that 
her dismay was indeed great when her Kaffirs 
brought them back in triumph, announcing that 
the " Inkose " (chieftain) had just bought them, 
so the poor lady had to pay the auctioneer's fees, 
and replace the coffee-pots on their shelves with 
what resignation she could command. 

One of my pleasantest memories of Natal, especi- 
ally as seen by the light of recent events, is of a 
visit I paid to the annual joint encampment of the 
Natal Carabineers and the Durban Mounted Rifles. 


It was only what would be called, I suppose, a 
flying camp, and the ground chosen that year 
(August 1876) was on ''Botha's Flat," halfway 
between Maritzburg and Durban. I well remember 
how beautiful was the drive from Maritzburg over 
the Inchanga Pass, and how workmanlike the little 
encampment looked as I came upon it (after some 
break-neck driving), with its small tents dotted on 
a green down. 

Although one little knew it, that same encamp- 
ment was the school where were trained the men 
who have so lately shown the worth of the lessons 
they were then learning. The whole training seemed 
practical and admirable in the highest degree. It 
had to be carried out amid every sort of difficulty, 
and, indeed, one might almost say discouragement. 
In those distant days such bodies of volunteers 
were struggling on with very little money, very 
little public interest or sympathy, and with great 
difficulty on the part of the members of these 
plucky little forces in obtaining leave for even this 
short annual drill. I was told that both the corps 
were much stronger on paper, but that the absentees 
could not be spared from the stores, or sugar 
estates, or offices to which they belonged. 

I had, much earlier in the year, at our midsummer, 
in fact, seen some excellent swimming drill at 
certain athletic sports held in the little park at 
Maritzburg, through which a river runs. The 


keenest competition on that occasion lay between 
these same Natal Carabineers and a smart body of 
Mounted Police. The most difficult part of the 
stream, with crumbling banks and mud-holes, was 
chosen, and at a given signal they all plunged in 
on horseback, holding their carbines high above 
their heads. In some cases the riders slipped off 
their horses and swam by their side, mounting 
again directly the opposite bank was gained ; and 
I noticed how well trained were the horses, and how 
at their master's whistle they stood still to allow 
them to remount instantly. How well this training 
has stood the test of practical warfare let the late 
campaign tell. And we must also bear in mind 
that all this training was going on nearly thirty 
years ago I 

It was partly to show my own sympathy and 
interest in this same movement that I accepted 
the invitation of the commandant to spend a couple 
of nights at the camp and see what they were doing. 
A lonely little inn hard by, where a tiny room could 
be secured for me, made this excursion possible, 
and I can never forget some of the impressions of 
that visit. When I read in the papers how splen- 
didly the Natal colonist came forward in the late 
campaign, even from the purely military point of 
view, I remember that camp, and I understand that 
I was then watching the forging of those links in our 
long imperial chain. The men who came out so 


grandly as " soldiers of the Queen ," no matter by 
what local names they might have been called, are 
probably the sons of the stalwart volunteers I saw, 
but the teaching of that and succeeding encamp- 
ments has evidently borne good fruit. 

It was indeed serious work they were all engaged 
on during those bright winter days, and my visit 
was not allowed to interrupt for a moment the drill 
which seemed to go on all through the daylight 
hours. What helped to make the lesson so valu- 
able to the earnest learners was, that all went pre- 
cisely as though a state of war existed. There were 
no servants, no luxuries all was exactly as it pro- 
bably was in the late campaign. 

I dined at the officers' mess that evening. Our 
table-cloth was of canvas, our candles were tied to 
cross pieces of wood, and the food was served in 
the tins in which it was cooked. Tea was our only 
beverage, but the open air had made us all so hungry 
that everything seemed delicious. It was, I re- 
member, bitterly cold, and the slight tent did not 
afford much shelter from the icy wind. How well 
I recollect my great longing to wrap myself up in 
the one luxury of the camp a large and beautiful 
goatskin karosse on which I was seated ! But that 
would have been to betray my chilliness, which 
would never have done. We separated somewhere 
about half-past eight for we had dined as soon as 
ever it got too dark to go on drilling but not before 


the whole encampment had assembled to sing " God 
save the Queen," with all their heart as well as with 
all their lungs, a fitting finish to the day's work. 

I had some other delightful rides in Natal, one 
especially on the peaceful errand of a visit to a 
Wesleyan Mission station about a dozen miles off 
at Edendale. It was a perfect winter's day, and 
the road was fairly good. 

I have often wondered why our own beloved 
Mother Church employs such slow and cumbrous 
machinery in dealing with native races. She is 
apparently considering the subject in the time it 
takes for the Baptists or Wesleyans to start a 
settlement. So long ago as 1851 a certain James 
Allison, a Wesleyan missionary who had worked 
among the Basuto and Amaswasi tribes, bought 
some six thousand acres hereabout from old 
Pretorius, the Dutch President of Natal, and 
set to work to teach the Kaffirs not only Chris- 
tianity but citizenship. Now-a-days there are 
two chapels and four schools, all built by the 
natives themselves, as well as several Sunday 
Schools. In former days there had also been an 
industrial school which had turned out capital 
artisans, but the yearly grant of 100 from Govern- 
ment had been withdrawn before my visit, and 
the school was in consequence closed. The 
existing schools only receive fifty pounds a year 
from outside, and all the other expenses of the 


flourishing little Mission are borne by the people 
themselves. Such neat, comfortable brick houses 
and such gay gardens, to say nothing of " provision 
grounds " full of potatoes, pumpkins, and even 
green peas. Lots of poultry everywhere, and an 
air of neat prosperity over everything. I was told 
there were many excellent Norwegian Missions on 
the borders of Zululand, and I hope they still 
flourish, for it is difficult to overrate the value of 
such settlements as a factor in the spread of civilisa- 
tion as well as in that of Christianity. 

But I had really only one long ride during my 
thirteen months in Natal, and that was later in the 
same winter season, in fact, quite at the end in 
September. Five cruel months of absolutely dry 
weather had reduced the roads to fine red powder, 
and the vegetation to sun-dried hay, but still the 
air was beautiful and exhilarating as we set forth 
a little party of four, including a Kaffir guide 
very early one lovely morning. At first we headed 
for Edendale, but soon left it on our right, and 
pushed on, before the sun got too hot, and whilst 
our somewhat sorry steeds were fresh, for "Taylor's" 
a roadside shanty twenty miles off. Our destina- 
tion was a fine forest called " Seven-mile Bush," 
only fifty miles away but with several hill-ranges 
to be crossed. Two hours' bait started us again 
at 2 P.M. in good fettle, and it was fairly easy going 
to Eland's River, which we reached at 4 o'clock, 


and where we off-saddled for half-an-hour. The 
rough waggon- track which had been our only road 
had been steadily rising ever since our first halt, and 
we were now amid beautiful undulating downs with 
distant ranges ever in front of us. No sooner had 
we climbed painfully over one saddle than another 
seemed to block our way, and I confess my courage 
rather sank when, with twilight fast coming on 
and the path getting steeper with every mile, I 
inquired of the guide how far off we still were. Of 
course, my question had to be in pantomime, and 
his answer five dips of his hand towards the hills 
told me we had yet five low ranges to cross. 

The last few miles seemed a nightmare of stum- 
bling up and down break-neck places on tired 
horses in the dark, and the contrast of a charming 
little house at last, with lights and blazing fires, 
was all the more delightful. Indeed, it seemed to 
us, stumbling out of the darkness and a chilling 
mist, that nothing short of Aladdin's lamp could 
at all account for the transport of all the nice 
furniture, pictures, glass and china along such 
impassable tracks. However, they were all there, 
and everything which goes to make up a pretty 
and refined home besides, including a charming 
hostess and two rosy children. We were waited 
on by Kaffir boys in long white garments, look- 
ing for all the world like black-faced choristers. 
But after gallons of tea and a capital supper, 


bed seemed the most attractive suggestion, and 
many hours of dreamless sleep wiped away all 
fatigue and started us off early next morning in 
splendid health and spirits to explore the magnifi- 
cent forest close by. 

I have often thought that the three most distinct 
memories of beautiful scenes, which must ever re- 
main vividly before me, are, my first view of the 
Himalayas, early one morning from the Grand 
Trunk Road, when I complained that I could 
not see them, and discovered it was because I 
had not looked half high enough. That was indeed 
a revelation of solemn mountain grandeur. Next 
to it ranks the mighty sweep of the Niagara river 
as you see it from the railway, and a few moments 
later behold it thundering over the edge. And the 
third is that long, lonely morning in the magnificent 
forest in the heart of Natal, the recollection of 
which dwarfs all other trees to insignificance. The 
growth not only of giant timber but of exquisite 
under-growth of ferns and delicate foliage was 
indeed superb. Of flowers there were none, because 
the sun could not enter those cathedral glades 
except at the very edge and outskirt where the 
big trees had been felled. 

I confess I should greatly have preferred to 
wander as far as I dared, and looked longer into the 
old Elephant pits, and heard more stories of the 
comparatively recent dates at which tigers, panthers, 


and leopards could be met with. And I also 
wanted to go deep enough among the overhanging 
lianes, or monkey-ropes as they call them, to see, 
perchance, the great baboons swinging on them. 
But our host evidently regarded his new saw-mill as 
the greatest point of interest, and thither we betook 
ourselves all too soon for my enjoyment. There, 
indeed, one beheld a marvellous chaos of wheels 
and chains and saws, which took hold of these same 
giant trunks and tossed them out and passed them 
from one to the other, until they emerged, shaven 
and shorn into the planks of e very-day commerce. 
Very wonderful, no doubt, and one asked one's-self 
every moment, " how did these huge masses of 
machinery get over that last range ? " But still I 
feel that it was the forest I came to see and I was 
only peeping into it. 

However, next day I had a fine long ramble in 
it, and explored to my heart's content, but it was 
damp and drizzling, and so it remained the day 
after that again, when we started very early for 
home. The horses were quite fresh and rested, and 
carried us well, in spite of the extreme slipperiness 
of the mountain tracks. Curiously enough as soon 
as we got clear of the ranges we rode into the thickest 
fog I have ever seen. We could only go at a slow 
walk in Indian file, with the Kaffir leading, and 
every few minutes he got off his rough little pony 
and patted the ground to feel where we were. They 


said it was a sea fog, but it wrapped us up as 
thoroughly as if it had been the thickest of blankets, 
and one felt quite helpless. Certainly nothing is so 
demoralising as a fog, and I never wish to repeat 
that morning's experience. We should have 
tumbled over " Taylor's," or rather passed it, though 
it stood quite close to the track, if a cock had not 
fortunately crowed, and the leading pony neighed 
in reply, calling forth a chorus of barks from quite 
unseen dogs, who dared not venture an inch from 
the sheltering porch. 

Although my stay in Natal lasted very little over 
a year, I made many friends there, and it is with 
sympathising regret I often saw in the roll-call of 
her local defenders the familiar names of those whom 
I remember as bright-eyed children. They have 
all sprung to arms in defence of the fair land of 
their fathers' adoption, and when the tale of this 
crisis in the history of Natal comes to be written, 
the names of her gallant young defenders will stand 
out on its pages in letters of light, and the record 
of their noble deeds will serve as an example for 
ever and for ever. So will they not have laid down 
their lives in vain. 



" THE Star and the Key of the Indian Ocean " lay 
smiling before me on Easter Sunday, April 1878. 

The little schooner in which I had come across 
from Natal had just dropped her anchor in the 
harbour of Port Louis after seventeen days of light 
and baffling winds. The tedium of that past time 
slipped quickly out of my mind, however, as the 
fast-growing daylight revealed the beauties of 
Mauritius, a little island which I had so often read 
of and yet so little expected ever to behold. The 
interest of the tragic tale of " Paul and Virginia " 
had riveted my wandering attention during the 
French reading-lessons of my youth, though I 
always secretly wondered why Virginia had been 
such a goose as to decline help from a sailor, ap- 
parently only because he was somewhat insuffi- 
ciently clad. But I should not have dared to 
give utterance to this opinion, so prudish was the 
domestic atmosphere of those early days. 

The first real interest I felt in Mauritius arose 
from the frequent mention of the little island as 


a health-resort, in some charming letters of Miss 
Eden's published about five-and-twenty years ago, 
but written long before that date, when she was 
keeping house for her brother, Lord Auckland, 
then Governor-General of India. Miss Eden speaks 
of many friends as well as of Indian tourists (for 
" Paget, M.P.'s " existed apparently even in those 
distant times) having gone for change of air to 
" the Mauritius " and coming back quite strong 
and robust. She mentions one instance of a whole 
opera company, whose health gave way in Cal- 
cutta, and who made the excursion, returning in 
time for their next season with restored health, 
and she often longs in vain for such a change for 
her hard-worked brother. 

But all this must have been many years before 
the first mysterious outbreak of fever which ravaged 
the place in 1867. I was assured that before that 
date the reputation of the pretty little island had 
stood very high as a sanatorium, but no doctor 
could give me any reason for the sudden appear- 
ance of this virulent fever. There were, of course, 
many theories, each of which had earnest supporters. 
Some said the great hurricane which had just before 
swept over the island brought the malaria on its 
wings. Others declared the de'boisement which had 
been carried on to a devastating extent in order 
to increase the area available for sugar-cane plant- 
ing was to blame ; whilst a third faction put all 



the trouble down to the great influx of coolie 
immigrants introduced about that date to work in 
the cane-fields. Perhaps the truth lies in a blend- 
ing of these three principal theories'. Anyway, I 
felt it sad and hard that so really lovely an island 
should have such dark and trying days behind as 
well as before it. 

But, after seventeen days of glaring lonely seas 
and dark monotonous nights, one is not apt to 
think of anything beyond the immediate " blessings 
of the land," and I gazed with profound content 
on the chain of volcanic hills, down whose rugged 
sides many cascades tumbled their gleaming silver. 
Coral reefs, with white foam tossing over them, 
in spite of the calm sapphire sea on which we were 
gently floating into harbour, seemed spread all 
around us, and indeed I believe these re'cifs circle 
the whole island with a dangerous though protect- 
ing girdle. Sloping ground, covered with growth 
of differing greens, some showing the bluish hue of 
the sugar-cane, others the more vivid colouring of 
a coarse tall grass, led the eye gently down to the 
flowering trees and foliage round the clustering 
houses of Port Louis, whose steep high-pitched 
roofs looked so suggestive of tropic rains. Port 
Louis was once evidently a stately capital, and 
large handsome houses still remain. These have, 
however, nearly all been turned into offices or 
banks, and the fine large Government House, or 


Hotel du Gouvernement, is always empty as to its 
numerous bedrooms. Hardly a white person sleeps 
with impunity in Port Louis, though all the busi- 
ness official and private is carried on there, and 
it contains many excellent shops. 

You must climb up, however, some few miles by 
the steep little railway before you realise how 
really lovely the scenery of Mauritius can be. All 
in miniature, it is true, but very ambitious in char- 
acter. Except for the glowing tints of the volcanic 
rocks and the tropic vegetation, one might be look- 
ing at a bit of Switzerland through the wrong end 
of a telescope ; but nowhere else have I ever seen 
such tints as the bare mountain sides take at sunset. 
The tufa rocks glow like wet porphyry, and so 
magical are the hues that one half expects to see 
the grand recumbent figure of the old warrior of 
the Corps de Garde hill outlined against the 
purple sky, rise up and salute the island which 
once was his. 

Mauritius is in many ways an object-lesson 
which is not without its significance just now. 
Here we have a little island thoroughly French in 
its history and people, and inhabitated by many 
of the vieille roche who fled there in the Terror days. 
Battles between French and English by land and 
sea raged round its sunny shores in the first few 
years of the just-ended century. Dauntless at- 
tacks and valiant resistance have left heroic 


memories behind them. We took it by force 
majeure in 1811, but it was not until the great 
settling up at the Restoration in 1814 that the 
hatchet may be said to have been finally buried, 
and the two nationalities began to pull together 
comfortably. I was rather surprised to see how 
thoroughly French Mauritius still is in language 
and in characteristics ; but the result is indeed 
satisfactory. I found it quite the most highly 
civilised of the colonies I then knew, and from the 
social point of view there was nothing left to be 
desired. The early class of French settler had 
evidently been of a much higher type than our 
own rough-and-ready colonist, and the refinement 
so introduced had influenced the whole place. Did 
I find any race-hatred, oppression, or heart-burn- 
ings ? No, indeed ; of all the dependencies of our 
Empire not one has come forward more generously 
or more splendidly with substantial offers of help 
than that little lonely isle, " the Star and Key of 
the Indian Ocean." I venture to say, speaking 
from my experience of those days, that the King 
has no more loyal subjects than the Mauritians. 

It may be that the trials and troubles we have 
all borne there side by side in the past half-century 
have knitted and bound us together. We have 
had hurricane, pestilence, and fire to contend with, 
besides the chronic hard times of the sugar industry. 
In these fast-following calamities French and English 


have stood shoulder to shoulder, and the only race 
or religious rivalry has been in good and noble 
deeds. In the Zulu War of 1881, when Sir Bartle 
Frere sent a ship down with despatches to my dear 
husband, then the Lieutenant-Go vernor of Mauritius, 
urgently asking for help to " hold the fort " until 
the English reinforcements could arrive, Mauritius 
sprang to her feet then as now, and gave willing and 
substantial help. Every soldier who was able to 
stand up started at twenty-four hours' notice for 
Durban. The same day the mayor of Port Louis 
held a meeting, at which a volunteer corps of 
doctors and nurses was at once raised, with plenty 
of money to equip them, and they, as well as cooks 
and cows both much needed were on their way 
to Durban before another sun had set. It was 
indeed gratifying to hear afterwards that not only 
had our little military effort been of gre#.t service, 
but that the abundance of fresh milk supplied had 
helped many a case of dysentery among the garri- 
son at Durban to turn the corner on the road to 

Nothing can be much more beautiful than the 
view from the back verandah at " Reduit," as the 
fine country Government House, built by the 
Chevalier de la Brillane for the Governors of Mauri- 
tius more than a century ago, is called. Before 
you spreads an expanse of English lawn only broken 
by clumps of gay foliaged shrubs or beds of flowers, 


and behind that again is the wooded edge of the 
steep ravine, where the mischievous " jackos " hide, 
who come up at night to play havoc with the sugar- 
canes on its opposite side. The only day of the 
week on which they ventured up was Sunday after- 
noon, when all the world was silent and sleepy. 

It used to be my delight to watch from an upper 
bedroom window the stealthy appearance of the old 
sentinel monkeys, who first peered cautiously up 
and evidently reconnoitred the ground thoroughly. 
After a few moments of careful scouting a sort of 
chirrup would be heard, which seemed the signal 
for the rest of the colony to scramble tumultuously 
up the bank. Such games as then started among 
the young ones, such antics and tumblings and 
rompings ! But all the time the sentinels never re- 
laxed their vigilance. They spread like a cordon 
round the gambolling young ones, and kept turning 
their horribly wise human-looking heads from side 
to side incessantly, only picking and chewing a 
blade of grass now and then. The mothers seemed 
to keep together, and doubtless gossiped ; but let 
my old and perfectly harmless Skye terrier toddle 
round the corner of the verandah, and each female 
would dart into the group of playing monkeys, 
seize her property by its nearest leg, toss it over her 
shoulder, and quicker than the eye could follow 
she would have disappeared down the ravine. The 
sentinels had uttered their warning cry directly, but 


they always remained until the very last, and re- 
treated in good order ; though there was no cause 
for alarm, as " Boxer's " thoughts were fixed on 
the peacocks apt to trespass at those silent and 
unguarded hours and not on the monkeys at all ! 

This is a sad digression, but yet it has not led 
us far from that halcyon scene, which is so often 
before the eyes of my memory. The beautiful 
changing hues of the Indian Ocean binds the 
horizon in this and every other extensive island 
view, but between us and it there arises in the 
distance a very forest of tall green masts, the spikes 
of countless aloe blossoms. I have heard Mauritius 
described as "an island with a barque always to 
windward," and there is much truth in the saying ; 
though one could easily mistake the glancing wing 
of a huge seagull or the long white floating tail- 
feathers of the " boatswain bird " for the shimmer 
of a distant sail. 

I fear it is a very prosaic confession to make, but 
one fact which added considerably to my comfort 
in Mauritius was the excellence of the cook of 
that day. I hear that education and Board schools 
have now improved him off the face of the island, 
but he used to be a very clever mixture of the best 
of French and Indian cookery traditions. The food 
supply was poor. We got our beef from Mada- 
gascar, and our mutton came from Aden. We 
found it answer to import half-a-dozen little sheep 


at a time ; they cost about i apiece for purchase 
and carriage, but could be allowed only a month's 
run in the beautiful park of five hundred acres 
which surrounded Reduit. More than that made 
them ill, so rich and luscious was the grass ; for 
sheep, like human beings, seem to need a good deal 
of exercise, and, as Abernethy advised the rich 
gourmet to do, ought to " live on a shilling a day 
and earn it." 

These same sheep, however, or rather one of the 
servants, gave me one of the worst frights of my 
life. We were at luncheon one day when an under 
servant, who never appeared in the dining-room, 
rushed in calling out, " Oh, Excellence, quel mal- 
heur ! " then he lapsed into Hindustani mixed with 
patois, declaring there had been a terrible railway 
accident and that all were injured and two killed 
outright ! As this same line, which had a private 
station in the Park about a mile away, constantly 
brought us up friends at that hour, I nearly 
fainted with horror ; and yet I remember how 
angry, though relieved, I felt when the same 
agitated individual wailed out, " and they were 
all so fat ! " One is apt to be indignant at having 
been tricked into emotion before one is grateful 
for the relief to one's mind. 

Almost the first thing which struck me in 
Mauritius was the absence of cows as well as sheep. 
I never saw a cow grazing, and yet there seemed 


plenty of good milk, and even a pallid pat of fresh 
butter appeared at breakfast. But there were really 
plenty of cows, only the coolies kept them in their 
houses, to the despair of the sanitary inspectors, 
who insisted on proper cowsheds being built at an 
orthodox distance from the little case or native 
house, only to find that the family moved down 
and lived with the cow as before. One year there 
was an outbreak of pleuro-pneumonia among the 
poor cows, and I heard many pathetic stories of the 
despair of the owners when sentence of death had 
to be pronounced in the infected districts against 
their beloved cows. It was impossible to make the 
coolies understand that this was a precautionary 
measure, and the large and liberal compensation 
which they received seemed to bring no consolation 
whatever with it. I was assured that in many 
instances the owner of the* doomed animal would 
fling himself at the inspector's feet, beseeching him 
to spare the life of the cow, and to kill him (the 
coolie) instead ! 

The' roads in Mauritius were admirably kept, but 
very hard and very hilly. The big horse, usually 
imported from Australia, soon knocked his legs to 
pieces if much used up and down these hills ; but 
an excellent class of hardy, handsome, little pony 
came to us from P6gou and other parts of Burma, 
as well as from Timor and Java. These animals 
were very expensive to buy, but excellent for work, 


and I should think would have made splendid polo 
ponies ; but polo did not seem to be much played 
in Mauritius at that date. 

Since my day another frightful hurricane has 
devastated the poor little island, but I heard many 
stories of former ones. During the summer season 
that is, from about November until March or 
April the local Meteorological Office keeps a sharp 
eye on the barometer, and every arrangement is 
cut and dry, ready to be acted upon at a moment's 
warning, for a coup de vent is a rapid traveller and 
does not dawdle on its way. 

We had many false alarms during my stay, for 
it sometimes happens that the hurrying winds are 
diverted from the track they started on, and so we 
escaped, quitte pour la peur. When the first warning 
gun fired all the ships in harbour began to get ready 
to go outside, for the greatest mischief done in the 
big hurricane of 1868 was from the crowded vessels 
in the comparatively small harbour of Port Louis 
grinding against each other ; to say nothing of 
those ships which, as Kipling sings, were 

" Flung to roost with the startled crows." 

At the second signal gun, which meant that the 
force of the wind was increasing and travelling 
towards us, the ships got themselves out of harbour, 
and every business man who lived in the country 
betook himself to the railway station, as after the 
third gun, which might be heard within even half- 


an-hour, the trains would cease to run. I chanced 
to be returning from Port Louis on one of these 
occasions, and certainly the railway station pre- 
sented a curious sight. All my acquaintances 
seemed to be there, hurrying home with anxious 
and pre-occupied faces. Each man grasped a ham 
firmly in one hand and his despatch-box in the 
other, whilst his pion, or messenger, was following, 
closely laden with baskets of bread and groceries, 
and attended by coolies with live fowls and bottles 
of lamp oil ! My own head servant, " Monsieur 
Jorge," always made the least sign of a " blow " 
an excuse for demanding sundry extra rupees in 
hand for carriole money, and started directly in one 
of these queer little vehicles for a round of market- 
ing in the neighbourhood. 

At the first gun heard at Reduit an army of 
gardeners used to set to work to move the hundreds 
of large plants out of the verandahs into a big 
empty room close by. They were followed by the 
house-carpenter and his mates, armed with enormous 
iron wedges and sledge-hammers. These worthies 
proceeded to close 'the great clumsy hurricane 
shutters, which so spoil the outer effect of all 
Mauritian houses, and besides putting the heavy 
iron bars in their places, wedged them firmly down. 
It really looked as if the house was being prepared 
for a siege. Happily, my own experience did not 
extend beyond a couple of days of this state of 


affairs, nor was any storm I assisted at dignified 
by the name of a hurricane, but I could form from 
these little experiences only too good an idea of 
what the real thing must be like. Personally, my 
greatest inconvenience arose from the pervading 
smell of the lamps, which were, of course, burning 
all day as well as all night, and from our never 
being able to get rid of the smell of food. One was 
so accustomed to the fresh-air life, with doors and 
windows always open, that these odours were very 

But the noise is, I think, what is least under- 
stood. Even in a "blow" it is truly deafening, 
and never ceases for an instant. At R6duit there 
was a long well-defended corridor upstairs, and I 
thought I would try and walk along its length. 
Not a breath of wind really got in, or the roof would 
soon have been whisked off the house ; but although 
I flatter myself I am tolerably brave, I could not 
walk down that corridor ! Every yard or so a re- 
sounding blow, as if from a cannon-ball, would 
come thundering against the outer side, whilst the 
noise of many waters descending in solid sheets on 
the roof, and the screams of the shrieking, whistling 
winds outside, were literally deafening. It was 
impossible to believe that any structure made by 
human hands could stand ; and yet that was not 
a hurricane ! Never shall I forget my last outdoor 
glimpse, which I was invited to take just before 


the big hall-door on the leeward side was finally 
shut and barricaded. I could not have believed that 
the sky could be of such an inky blackness, except 
at one corner, where a triangle of the curtain of 
darkness, with sharply denned outlines, had appa- 
rently just been turned back to show the deep 
blood-red colouring behind. It was awful beyond 
all words to describe ; but " Monsieur Jorge," who 
held the door open for me, said : " Dat not real 
bad sky." He seemed hard to please, I thought. 

However, a couple of days' imprisonment was 
all we suffered that time, and the instant the gale 
dropped, at sunrise on the second day, the rain 
ceased and the sun shone out. It was a curious 
scene the rapidly- opened shutters revealed. Every 
leaf was stripped off the trees, which were bare as 
mid-winter. A few of the smaller ones had been 
uprooted bodily and whisked away down the ravine. 
Some were found later literally standing on their 
heads a good way off. It was quite a new idea to 
me that roots could be snowy white, but they had 
been so completely washed bare of soil by the 
down-pouring rain that they were absolutely clean 
and white. A few hours later I was taken for a 
drive round some neighbouring cane-fields. Of 
course, the road was like the bed of a mountain 
torrent, and how the pony managed to steer him- 
self and the gig among the boulders must ever 
remain a mystery. Already over three hundred 


Malagashes (coolies) were at work covering up the 
exposed roots of the canes, for each plant stood in 
a large hole partly filled with water, which was 
rapidly draining away. The force of the wind 
seemed to have whirled the cane round and round 
until it stood, quite bare of its crown of waving 
leaves, in the middle of a hole. Had the sun 
reached these e'xposed roots nothing could have 
saved the plant. 

But my memories must not be all meteorological. 
Rather let me return in thought to the merry and 
happy intercourse with pleasant friends, of which 
so many hours stand brightly out. In all the 
colonies I know hospitality is one of the cardinal 
virtues, and nowhere more so than in pretty little 
Mauritius. I heard many lamentations that in 
these altered times the gracious will far outran the 
restricted possibilities, but still there used to be 
pleasant dances, without end and number, most 
amusing cameron-fishing dejeuners, and chasses 
au cerf in the winter months. It so chanced 
that we had a guest hailing from Exmoor, who was 
bidden to one of these popular forms of le sport, 
and never shall I forget his horror at finding he was 
required to carry a gun and shoot a stag if he could ! 
No fox-hunter invited to assist at a battue of foxes 
in the Midlands could have been more shocked and 
disgusted, and it was quite in vain that we cited 
Scotch deer-stalking in excuse. This was not deer- 


stalking he vowed, for you sat on a camp-stool in 
a thick forest and took pot shots at the poor 
animals as they were driven past certain spots ! An 
excellent luncheon was served in the middle of the 
chasse, so it was always a favourite diversion, but 
the hospitable owner of one of the best deer districts 
told me that he had to inflict fines on these sports- 
men who only wounded the poor deer. Some very 
handsome " heads " could be got among them how- 
ever. But, indeed, I am constrained to say that 
the idea of sport, as we understand it, seemed 
rather undeveloped in that fairy island, and it was 
difficult to keep one's countenance when, in answer 
to the Governor's inquiry as to the success of a 
morning among the cane-fields in pursuit of red- 
legged patridges and quail, the sportsman rose in 
his place, bowed low, and answered, " Excellence, 
j'ai tue un, mais j'ai blesse deux." 

The annual race-meeting, held on the Champ- 
de-Mars outside Port Louis, was remarkable for the 
crowds of coolies it attracted from all parts of the 
island. The horses were the least important or 
interesting part of the performance, and the betting 
on even the principal races appeared to be confined 
to a fe~w Arab merchants, who certainly did not 
look at all " horsey " in their gay and flowing 
robes. It so chanced that I was being driven 
home very late the night before the third principal 
day of one of these race-meetings, and I thought 


the shuffling, sheeted crowds with which the roads 
were thronged by far the most curious and sug- 
gestive part of the proceedings. No cemetery 
giving up its silent sleepers could have furnished 
a more ghostly crew. Young and old, babes 
astride on their mothers' hips, older children 
carried by their fathers, aged men and girls in 
their shrouding veils, all gliding, barefooted, in 
absolute silence along the dusty roads in such a 
dense and never-ending crowd that my carriage 
could only move, and that with difficulty, at a 
foot's pace. It was a lovely starlight, cold night, 
and I had the hood of the victoria lowered so as 
to better take in the weird scene, to which the 
dangling cooking-pots carried by all, added a gro- 
tesque touch. At various parts of the road the wily 
Chinaman had hastily set up a little booth of palm 
branches, from which he dispensed refreshments of 
sorts doubtless at a high price. These moving 
masses were perfectly orderly, nor did they seem 
to require any restraining or even guiding force. 

Next day I naturally looked out from my beauti- 
ful rose-wreathed stand on the Champ-de-Mars for 
these white-clad crowds, and there they were, sure 
enough, covering the slopes of the encircling natural 
amphitheatre, but to my astonishment, though it 
was barely noon and the principal race was yet to be 
run, the massed mob was rapidly dispersing. As a 
matter of fact, none of these fifty thousand coolie 


spectators cared in the least about the races. That 
final Saturday of the race week had come to be 
regarded as a public holiday. Work was suspended 
at the sugar estates all over the Island, and the race 
meeting was just an occasion on which all ex- 
pected to meet their friends. Every coolie had 
washed his garment to a snowy whiteness, and 
this, taken in conjunction with the vivid touches 
of colour dear to the Oriental eye, furnished by 
the babies' little scarlet caps and the red edging 
of the women's veils, made up an enchanting 
picture set against the vivid green and glowing 
blue of earth and sky. 

It was always great fun when the flagship of the 
East Indian squadron paid us an all too brief visit ; 
and, indeed, the arrival of any man-of-war used 
to be made an excuse for a little extra gaiety. It 
was my special delight to get the midshipmen 
to come in batches and stay at Reduit, although 
I often found myself at my wits' end to pro- 
vide them with game to shoot at, for that was 
what their hearts were most fixed on. They all 
brought up weird and obsolete fowling-pieces, which 
the moment they had finished breakfast they 
wanted to go and let off in the park. What fun 
those boys were, and what dears ! One chubby 
youth, being questioned as to whether midshipmen 
were permitted to marry, answered, " No, but 
sometimes there was a candlestick marriage." 



" A what ? " 

" A candlestick marriage, sir, not allowed, you 

" Clandestine " was the proper word, but the 
mistake had great success as a joke. 

My young soldier guests were quite as gallant 
and susceptible to the charms of the bright eyes 
and pretty, gentle manners of my pet French girls, 
but I often felt disconcerted to find that at my 
numerous bats prive's there was a difficulty in getting 
the,m to dance with each other, because the red- 
coated youths would not or could not speak one 
word of French, whereas that difficulty never 
seemed to weigh with the middy for a moment. 

I dare say things are now different, and that 
improved mail and cable services have changed 
the loneliness of my day, when there was no cable 
beyond Aden and only a mail steamer once a month. 
I always felt as though we ourselves were on a ship 
anchored in the midst of a lonely ocean, and that 
once in four weeks another ship sped past us, cast- 
ing on board mail bags and cablegrams. But even 
as we stood with stretched-out hands, craving for 
more news or more details of what news was flung 
to us, the passing steamer had sunk below the 
horizon, and we were left to possess our souls in 
what patience we might until the next mail day 
came round. 

The consequence of this comparative isolation 


was that few visitors came our way, so that it 
aroused quite a little excitement in our small com- 
munity to hear that the Government of Madagascar 
a curious mixture in that day of power vested in 
the hands of a Queen, who was always expected to 
marry her prime minister intended to send three 
delegates to Europe via Mauritius to protest 
against the proposed French protectorate. These 
delegates were dignified by the name of Ambas- 
sadors, and their mission was to seek the interven- 
tion of Great Britain and other European powers. 
We were instructed to receive them with all official 
courtesy, including salutes from big guns and 
guards of honour and so forth ; the worst of all 
this ceremonial being that the idea became firmly 
impressed on their minds that England was quite 
prepared to take up their quarrel, or, at least, to 
remonstrate with France. So it was a very happy 
and hopeful trio of " Ambassadors " who presented 
themselves, with a number of attendants, including 
several interpreters, at Rduit one evening to go 
through the ordeal of a formal banquet. 

I confess to a certain amount of curiosity when 
I heard that the ambassadors were not only as 
black as jet, but they were quite unused to the 
forms of society, and that, in fact, their only experi- 
ence of the ways of English folk was gathered 
from Wesleyan missionaries near their chief towns. 
Indeed, the only English entertainment they had 


ever seen was a school-feast to little native children, 
at which they had been onlookers, and which, as 
one of the interpreters informed me, had seemed 
to them a strange and puzzling performance. 

However, when the dinner-hour arrived I beheld 
three fine, dignified and stately gentlemen, quite 
as black nevertheless as their faultless evening 
dress, the only false note being a massive gold 
watch chain, from which dangled rather an 
aggressive bunch of lockets and other ornaments, 
and with which each ambassador was decorated. 
Beautiful bows were exchanged, and nothing could 
be more correct than the fashion in which the 
senior dignitary offered me his arm. With an in- 
terpreter on my left hand we got on famously all 
through dinner, with absolutely no mistakes in 
essentials, though I often observed some anxiety 
in the interpreter's face. I suppose he felt re- 
sponsible for their manners. But the false hopes 
were there all the time, and I felt myself to be 
quite a cruel monster when I had to whisper to 
the interpreter to explain to his black Excellency, 
that it was only the usual custom for the Governor 
to propose after the toast of our own Queen the 
health of the sovereign of any foreign guests at table. 
Poor ambassadors ! they thought this common- 
place courtesy meant a public announcement of 
England's intention of ranging herself on their side 
of the question at issue. One did not realise at 


the time what a deadly importance they attached 
to all these trifles, nor would we perhaps have 
wondered at it so much had we known that they 
felt their own lives depended on the success of 
the mission. They considered it a most hopeful 
sign when I asked them after dinner to write 
their names in my little birthday-book ; and most 
astonishing names they were, each name occupying 
three lines, but all apparently forming one syllable ! 
They seemed quite familiar with a pen, and each 
letter was beautifully formed, only they were all 
joined together. 

There is an excellent and most comfortable rule 
in the Colonial Service which forbids a Governor 
to receive any gifts. I suppose it would also apply 
to a Governor's wife if the said gifts were of any 
intrinsic value ; but I did not see my way to wound- 
ing the feelings of my poor guests that evening by 
sheltering myself behind official etiquette when 
they tendered a hideous little glass biscuit-box 
and a sort of native quilt (spoiled by vivid aniline 
dyes) for my acceptance. Yet I had terrible mis- 
givings all the time that they thought they were 
securing my interest and co-operation in their 
affairs, and I even edged in a word or two in my 
thanks through the interpreter to imply that ac- 
ceptance of their gifts must be taken " without 
prejudice." I do not believe, however, that he 
had the heart to pass my remark on, for the 


ambassadors beamed joyously on me and the rest 
of the company all the time. 

I heard afterwards that they had made desperate 
efforts at all the European Courts, beginning with 
that of St. James's to secure intervention, and that 
it was impossible to make them understand that 
no one was able or willing to take up their quarrel. 
So in the fulness of time, their money being all 
spent, they had to return to their own land, where 
failure meant death, which I believe they welcomed 
rather than the new order of things. 


I FEEL as if no sketch, however slight, of my short 
stay in beautiful Mauritius would be complete 
without a reference to General Gordon. Soon 
after our own arrival Colonel Charles Gordon came 
in command of the small body of Royal Engineers 
stationed there. From the very first his delightful 
personality made itself felt, and although I suspect 
that very few of the island-dwellers had the least 
idea of what a name to conjure with " Chinese 
Gordon " was, still he at once assumed that amazing 
sway over men's hearts of which he possessed the 
secret. Looking back on it through all these years 
I think the wonderful humility of the man is the 
first thing one realises. He took up his duties and 
his position in that obscure little corner of the 
Empire with just as much interest and simplicity 
as though he had never led armies to victory or 
changed the fate of nations. I am proud to say 
we saw a great deal of him, though it had to be on 
his own terms and in his own way. Of course, he 

was asked to the large and formal entertainments 



at Reduit, but he always excused himself, and only 
came to dine with us when we were quite alone. He 
would change into the mess uniform, which it was 
the custom always to wear at Government House, 
in the carriole which brought him up, and he once 
gave this as an excuse for the extreme crookedness 
of his black neck-tie. 

On these occasions, which I am happy to say 
were very frequent, the dinner had to be of the 
most simple character and compressed into the 
shortest possible space. I do not remember whether 
he took wine or not, but he consumed an immense 
amount of black coffee, not at dinner, but directly 
after, when we adjourned to the verandah and 
cigarettes were lighted. Every half -hour a servant 
brought a fresh cup of fragrant coffee, and noise- 
lessly put it on the little table at Colonel Gordon's 
elbow, and this went on for hours ! It is im- 
possible to convey in words any idea of the singular 
charm of Gordon's conversation. With so apprecia- 
tive and sympathetic a listener as my dear husband 
was, he gave of his best and that was very good. 
Not in the least egotistical, his vivid narratives 
were the most thrillingly interesting it has ever 
been my good fortune to listen to. Every word 
he said, for all its picturesqueness, bore the 
stamp of reality, and the scenes he described at 
once stood out before your eyes. A question now 
and then was all that was needed to sustain the 


delightful flow of talk. He never uttered a word 
which could be called " cant," nor did he bring 
his religious opinions into prominence. One 
gathered from his utterances that he was more 
deeply imbued with the " enthusiasm of humanity " 
than with any dogma. 

His eyes were the most remarkable part of his 
face, and I cannot imagine any one who has ever 
seen them forgetting their wonderful beauty. It 
was not merely that they were of a crystal clear- 
ness and as blue as a summer sky, but the ex- 
pression was different to that of any other human 
eye I have ever seen. In the first place, 
instead of the trained, conventional glance with 
which we habitually regard each other and which, 
certainly at first, tells you nothing whatever 
of your new acquaintance's character or inner 
nature, Gordon's beautiful, noble soul looked 
straight at you, directly from out of these clear 
eyes. They revealed him at once, as he was, and 
I am sure the secret of his extraordinary and almost 
instantaneous influence over his fellow-creatures 
lay in that glance. There was a sort of wistful 
tenderness in it for all its penetration, an extra- 
ordinary magnetic sympathy, and yet you felt its 
authority. The rest of his face was rugged, and, 
I suppose, what would be called plain, but one never 
thought of anything beyond the soul shining out 
of those wonderful windows. To look at any other 


face after his was like looking at a lifeless mask. 
A few months after he arrived the General com- 
manding the troops in Mauritius left, and Colonel 
Gordon was promoted and succeeded him. He 
had been very active among the Chinese mercantile 
class (a very numerous one) and had done much 
good, not merely of a missionary but of a social 
nature, explaining the duties of citizenship to them, 
and enforcing local laws and rules which they 
probably had not understood. That part of the 
community became much easier to manage after 
he took them in hand. 

But there was a strangely unpractical side to 
General Gordon's nature, apart from his utter 
disregard of what might be called his own interests. 
Those he never thought of for one moment, and 
I honestly believe that his feelings about the value 
or importance of money as money we're on a 
par with the ideas of a nice child of five years old ! 
Coins of the realm remained but a short time in 
his pocket, and were only welcome to him as a 
means of helping others. Still his charity was 
not at all indiscriminate, and in the numerous 
instances of which I knew his help was always 
judiciously given. 

Curiously enough, the scheme of defence for 
Mauritius, which General Gordon was requested 
officially to draw up, was found to be absolutely 
impossible. He bestowed much pains and care 


on it, but his plans involved many alterations 
and changes not one of which were found practic- 
able. I have in my possession some charming 
letters of his to my husband, who had written 
privately to the General to state that in forward- 
ing this scheme of defence to the War Office, he, 
as Lieutenant-Governor, had felt obliged to dis- 
agree entirely with it, and to point out the utter 
impossibility on every ground of carrying it out. 
Now my husband was one of General Gordon's 
warmest and most discriminating admirers, and he 
showed me the private correspondence on the 
subject as illustrating the noble and beautiful 
nature of the man. There was not the slightest 
trace of annoyance or even pique at the uncom- 
promising terms in which a civilian Governor had 
felt it his duty to differ from so eminent a military 
authority. The General just recognised that it 
was a plain expression of an honest opinion and 
respected it accordingly, nor was there the slightest 
friction between them nor the least check upon 
their friendly intercourse. 

I remember particularly one merry evening in 
the verandah after dinner, when the General had 
just returned from an official visit to the Seychelles, 
a little group of islands nearly 1000 miles from 
Mauritius, but in those days one of its dependences. 
He was full of a brand new theory, based on the 
coco-de-mer, a gigantic palm which he saw for the 


first time, and which convinced him that he had 
discovered the site of the Garden of Eden. He 
explained with great eagerness how he felt sure of 
the existence of the four encircling rivers of that 
favoured spot (only they now ran underground), but 
his strong point was the strange weird fruit which 
hung, some eighty feet or so above the ground, 
from those splendid palms which are peculiar to 
the Seychelles group. In vain the Governor pointed 
out, with much laughter, that our first parents 
must have been of a goodly height to reach this 
fruit, and in the next, that it was not good to eat ! 

The dear General bore all our chaff with the 
sweetest good-humour, but remained as firmly 
fixed as ever in his idea. He was most eager and 
earnest about it all, and, though he found our 
laughter infectious and joined heartily in it, nothing 
made the least impression on him, and I believe 
he always thought the Garden of Eden had once 
united that little group of islets in one exquisite 
whole for Mahe is certainly a lovely spot and as 
fertile as it is fair. 

We always felt we could not expect to keep him 
long with us in Mauritius though he never chafed 
nor repined in any way, and just did his duty from 
day to day, and whatever other work for his fellow- 
me'n his hand found to do, with all his might. But 
all too soon he was summoned home, and quite the 
next thing we heard of him was that he was going 


out to India with the new Governor-General, Lord 
Ripon, as his Private Secretary. We all exclaimed 
at once, " Think of the dinner-parties ! " and were 
not at all surprised to hear how short a time that 
arrangement had lasted, though the dreaded form 
of entertainment had really nothing whatever to 
do with Gordon's resignation of his post long before 
India was reached. From time to time he wrote 
to my husband, and we followed every step of his 
subsequent career with the deepest interest. I 
have since heard, I do not know with what truth, 
that it was a mistake in a telegram which pre- 
vented his going to the Congo on King Leopold's 
business instead of to Egypt on ours. However 
that may be, the rest of the story was quite in 
harmony with what one had known of him, but 
of all those who sorrowed for his tragic fate and 
it was a nation that grieved no one lamented him 
more than his official chief of the Mauritian days. 


FEW people can realise how rapid is the growth 
of a colony when once it begins to grow. Like a 
young tree, after reaching a certain stage, it may 
seem to have almost attained its limit, and one 
often feels disappointed that more visible progress 
has not been made. But come again a little later, 
and you will find your sapling shooting rapidly 
up into a splendid tree. It was really growing, 
as it were, under ground ; searching with its roots 
for the most favourable conditions. Perhaps there 
was a piece of rock to be got round before the good 
soil could be reached, but the little tree was cover- 
ing that rock all the time with a network of roots 
so that it ceased to be an obstacle and was gathered 
up and assimilated with its growth. In the decade 
between 1880 and 1890 Western Australia was 
just in that stage, and the splendid young giant of 
to-day must have been growing underground th,en, 
though it did not seem to be making much progress 
as a colony. In those days we sadly called our- 


selves " Cinderella," but the Fairy Prince Re- 
sponsible Government was not far off, and I am 
proud to remember that my dear husband, then 
Governor of the colony, was one of those who 
helped to open the door and let Prince Charming in. 

They tell me the colony is quite different now, 
and that Perth is unrecognisable. I try to be 
glad to hear it, and keep repeating to myself that 
the revenue of a month now is what we thought 
good for a year, fifteen years ago. But no one can 
be more than happy, and I question very much if 
the rich people there to-day are any happier or 
even better off, in the true sense of the words, 
than we were. Of course, enormous progress has 
been made, and many of the works and wants 
which we only dreamed of and longed for, have 
suddenly become accomplished facts. Our Cinder- 
ella's shoes have turned out to be made of gold, 
but they pinch her now and then, and have to 
be eased here and there. Still they are, no doubt, 
true fairy shoes, and will grow conveniently with 
the growth of her feet. 

In our day which began in May 1883 the 
colony was as quiet and primitive as possible, but 
none the less delightful and essentially homelike. 
I must confess that one of its greatest attractions 
in my eyes was what more youthful and enter- 
prising spirits used to call the dulness of Perth. 
But it never was really dull. To me their always 


appeared to be what I see American newspapers 
describe as " happenings " going on. 

For instance, one morning I was called into the 
Governor's office to look at a tin collar just sent 
up from the port of Freemantle for the Governor's 
inspection. It appeared that the two little children 
of a respectable tradesman in Freemantle had that 
morning been playing on a lonely part of the beach, 
and had observed a large strange bird, half floating, 
half borne in by the incoming tide. It was a very 
flat bit of shore just there, and the sea was as 
smooth as glass, so the boy bold and brave, as 
colonial boys are fearing to lose the curious 
creature, waded in a little way, and, seizing it 
by the tip of the outstretched wing, dragged it 
safely to land. There, after a few convulsive 
movements and struggles, the poor bird died, 
and the little ones wisely set off at once to fetch 
their father to look at what they thought was an 

enormous seagull. When Mr. arrived at the 

spot, he at once saw that the bird was an albatross, 
and furthermore that a large fish was sticking in 
its throat. A closer inspection revealed that a 
sort of tin collar round the neck, large enough to 
allow of its feeding under ordinary circumstances, 
but not wide enough to let so big a fish pass down 
its gullet, had strangled it. The collar had evi- 
dently formed part of a preserved meat tin of 
rather a large size, with the top and bottom knocked 


out, and around it were these words, punched 
quite distinctly in the tin, probably by the point 
of a nail : 

" Treize nauf rage's sont refugie's sur les lies Crozets, 
ce " then followed a date of about twelve days 
before. " Au secours, pour V amour de Dieu / " 

In those days everything used to be referred 

to the Governor, so Mr. at once went to the 

police station, got an Inspector to come and look 
at the bird, hear the children's story, take the 
collar off a work of some difficulty, in fact the 
head had to be cut off and bring it up by next 
train to Perth. 

It was an intensely interesting story, and aroused 
all our sympathy. A telegram was at once sent 
off to the Admiral commanding on the Australian 
station, telling the tale, and asking for help to be 
sent to the Crozets ; but the swiftly returned answer 
stated, with great regret, that it was impossible to 
do this, and that the Cape Squadron was the one 
to communicate with. Now unfortunately this was 
impossible in those days, so another message was 
despatched directly to the Minister for Marine 
Affairs in Paris, and next day we heard that the 
Department had discovered through an apparently 
admirable system of ship registry that a small 
vessel had sailed from Bordeaux some months before 
and that the way to her destined port would cer- 
tainly take her past the lies Crozets. No news of 



her arrival at that port had ever been received, so a 
message was even then on its way to the nearest 
French naval station ordering immediate relief to 
be sent to the Crozets. This reply, most cour- 
teously worded, added that there were caches of food 
on these islands, which statement was borne out by 
the fresh look of the tin collar. A curious confirma- 
tion of the story was elicited by the volunteered 
statement of the captain of a newly-arrived sailing 
wool-ship, who said that in a certain latitude, which 
turned out to be within quite measurable distance 
of the Crozets, an albatross had suddenly appeared 
in the wake of the ship, feeding greedily on the 
scraps and refuse thrown overboard, and the crew 
observed with surprise that the bird followed them 
right into the open roadstead which then represented 
Freemantle harbour. The date coincided exactly 
with the figures on the tin. The bird must have 
found the collar inconvenient for fishing, and had 
joined the ship to feed on these softer scraps, until, 
with the conclusion of the little vessel's voyage, the 
supplies also ceased. 

Stories should always end well, but alas ! this 
one does not. We heard nothing more for several 
weeks, and then came an official document, full of 
gratitude for the prompt action taken, but stating 
that when the French gunboat reached the Crozets 
it was found quite deserted. A similar tin, with 
the same sort of punched letters on it, had been 


left behind saying that the contents of the cache 
had all been used, and that, supplies being ex- 
hausted, the nauf rages were going to attempt to 
construct some sort of a raft on which to try to 
reach another of the islets where a fresh supply 
of food might possibly be found hidden. This 
message had briefly added that the poor ship- 
wrecked sailors were literally starving. 

The most diligent and careful search failed, how- 
ever, to discover the slightest trace of the unfortu- 
nate men or their raft. Probably they were already 
so weak and exhausted when they started that they 
could not navigate their cumbrous craft in the 
broken water and currents between the Islands. We 
felt very sad at this tragic end to the wonderful 
message brought by the albatross, and only wished 
we had possessed any sort of steamer which could 
have been despatched that same day to the lies 

AnotheY morning and such a beautiful morning 
too ! F. looked, in at the drawing-room window, 
and asked if I would like to come with him to the 
Central Telegraph Office a very little way off 
and hear the first messages over a line stretching 
many hundreds of miles away to the far North- 
west of the colony. Of course, I was only too 
delighted, especially as I had " assisted " at 
the driving in of the very first pole of that 
same telegraph line two or three years before 


at Gerald ton, some three hundred miles up the 

I was much amazed at the wonderful familiarity 
of the operator with his machine. How he seemed 
hardly to pause in what he was himself saying, to 
remark, " They are very pleased to hear your Excel- 
lency is here, and wish me to say," and then would 
come a message glibly disentangled from a rapid 
succession of incoherent little clicks and taps. 
Presently came a longer and more consecutive series 
of pecks and clicks, to which the operator conde- 
scended to listen carefully, and even to jot down a 
pencilled word now and then. This turned out 
to be a communication from the sergeant of police 
in charge of the little group of white men up in that 
distant spot, where no European foot had ever 
trodden before, to the effect that he had lately 
come across a native tribe who had an English- 
woman with them. The sergeant went on to say 
that this woman had been wrecked twenty years 
before, somewhere on that North-west coast, and 
that she and her baby-boy the only survivors of 
the disaster had ever since lived with this tribe. 
She could still speak English, and had told the 
sergeant that these natives had always treated her 
with the utmost kindness, and had in fact regarded 
her as a supernatural and sacred guest. Her son 
was, of course, a grown-up man by this time, and 
had quite thrown in his lot with the tribe. She 


declared she had enjoyed excellent health all those 
years, and had never suffered from anything worse 
than tender feet. She hastened to add that when- 
ever her feet became sore from travelling barefoot, 
the tribe halted until they had healed. 

Naturally, we were deeply thrilled by this un- 
expected romance clicked out in such a common- 
place way, and the Governor at once authorised 
the sergeant all by telegraph to tell the poor 
exile that, if she chose, she and her son should be 
brought down to Perth at once, cared for, and sent 
to any place she wished, free of all expense. 

Of course we had to wait a few moments whilst 
the sergeant explained this message, though he had 
wisely taken the precaution of getting the tribe 
to " come in " to the little station as soon as he 
knew the line would be open. I spent the interval 
in making plans for the poor soul's reception and 
comfort, promising myself to do all I could to make 
up to her for those years of wandering about with 
savages. But my schemes vanished into thin air 
as soon as the clicks began again, for the woman 
steadily refused to leave the friendly tribe who, 
I may mention, were listening, the sergeant said, 
with the most breathless anxiety for her decision. 
She declared that nothing would induce her son 
to come away, and that she had not the least desire 
to do so either. The Governor tried hard, in his 
own kind and eloquent words, to persuade her to 


accept his offer, or, failing that, to say what she 
would like done for her own comfort, and to reward 
the tribe who had been so hospitable and good to 
her. She would accept nothing for herself, but 
hesitatingly asked for more blankets and a little 
extra flour and " baccy " for the tribe. This was 
promised willingly, and some tea was to be added. 

My contribution to the conversation was to de- 
mand a personal description of the woman from the 
sergeant, but I cannot say that I gathered much 
idea of her appearance from his halting and some- 
what laboured word-portrait. Apparently she was 
not beautiful ; no wonder, poor soul ! tanned as 
to skin, and bleached as to hair, by exposure to 
weather. Only her blue eyes and differing features 
showed her English origin. She had kept no count 
of time, nothing but the boy's growth told that 
many years must have passed. 

" They look upon her as a sort of Queen," the 
sergeant declared, " and don't want her to leave 
them." It was very tantalising, and I felt quite 
injured and hurt at the collapse of all my plans 
for restoring such an involuntary prodigal daughter 
to her relatives. 

I fear I became rather troublesome after this 
episode, and got into a way of continually demand- 
ing if there were nothing else interesting going on 
up in that distant region ; but, except the sad and 
too frequent report of interrupted communication, 


which was nearly always found to mean a burned- 
down telegraph pole, there was nothing more heard 
of the tribe or its guest whilst we remained in the 
colony. But these burned telegraph poles held a 
tragedy of their own ; for they were always caused 
by a fire lighted at their base as the very last re- 
source of a starved and dying traveller to attract 
attention. I fear I was just as grieved when, as 
sometimes happened, it turned out to be a convict, 
who was making a desperate and fruitless effort to 
escape, as when it was an explorer who perished. 
The routine followed was that, as soon as the line 
became interrupted, two workmen with tools and 
two native police officers would set out from the 
hut, one of each going along the line in opposite 
directions until the " fault " was found. As the 
huts or stations were at least a hundred and fifty 
miles apart, and the dry burning desert heat made 
travelling slow work, this was often an affair of 
days, and I was assured that the relieving party 
never yet found the unhappy traveller alive. All 
this is now quite a thing of the dark and distant 
ages, for a railway probably now runs over those 
very same sand plains, and no doubt Pullman 
cars will be a luxury of the near future. 

I wonder, however, if the natives of those North- 
west districts still contrive, from time to time, to 
possess themselves of the insulators, which they 
fashion with their flint tools into admirable spear- 


heads. Also if they have at all grasped the mean- 
ing of those same telegraph poles. In the days I 
speak of, they considered the white man " too much 
fool-um," as the kangaroos could easily get under 
this high fence, which was supposed to have been 
put up to keep them from trespassing ! 

It must have been towards the end of 1889 that 
men began to hope the statement of an eminent 
geologist, made years before, was going to prove 
true, and that " the root of the great gold-bearing 
tree would be found in Western Australia." Re- 
ports of gold, more or less wild, came in from distant 
quarters, and although it was most desirable to 
help and encourage explorers, there was great danger 
of anything like a " rush " towards those arid and 
waterless districts from which the best and most 
reliable news came. 

One of the many " gold " stories which reached 
us just then amused me much at the time, though 
doubtless it has settled into being regarded as a 
very old joke by now. Still it is none the less 

A man came in to a very outlying and distant 
station with a small nugget, which he said he had 
picked up, thinking it was a stone, to throw at a 
crow, and finding it unusually heavy, examined it, 
and lo ! it was pure gold. Naturally there was 
great excitement at this news, and the official in 
charge of the district rushed to the telegraph office 


and wired to the head of his department, some 
five hundred miles away in Perth : " Man here 
picked up stone to throw at crow." He thought 
this would tell the whole story, but apparently it 
did not, for the answer returned was : " And what 
became of the crow ? " 

Diggers used to go up the coast, as far as they 
could, in the small mail steamers, and then strike 
across the desert, often on foot, pushing their tools 
and food before them in a wheelbarrow. Naturally, 
they could neither travel far nor fast in this fashion, 
and there was always the water difficulty to be dealt 
with. Still a man will do and bear a great deal 
when golden nuggets dangle before his eyes, and 
some sturdy bushmen actually did manage to reach 
the outskirts of the great gold region. The worst 
of it was that under these circumstances no one 
could remain long, even if he struck gold ; for there 
was no food to be had except what they took with 
them. As is generally the case in everything, one 
did not hear much of the failures ; but every now 
and then a lucky man with a few ounces of gold in 
his possession found his way back to Perth. Nearly 
all who returned brought fragments of quartz to 
be assayed, and every day the hope grew which 
has since been so abundantly justified. 

It happened now and then that a little party of 
diggers who had been helped to make a start would 
ask to see me before they set out, not wanting any- 


thing except to say good-bye, and to receive my 
good wishes for their success. Poor fellows ! I 
often asked about them, but could seldom trace 
their career after a short while. Once I received, 
months after one of those farewell visits, a little 
packet of tiny gold nuggets, about an ounce in all, 
wrapped in very dirty newspaper, with a few words 
to say they were the first my poor friends had 
found. I could not even make out how the package 
had reached me, and although I tried to get a letter 
of thanks returned to the sender, I very much doubt 
if he ever received it. 

However, one day a message came out to me 
from the Governor's office to say H. E. had been 
hearing a very interesting story, and would I like 
to hear it too ? Nothing would please me better, 
and in a few minutes the teller of the story was 
standing in my morning room, with a large and 
heavy lump, looking like a dirty stone, held out 
for my inspection. I wish I could give the whole 
story in his own simple and picturesque words, but 
alas ! I cannot remember them all accurately. Too 
many waves and storms of sorrow have gone over 
my head since those bright and happy days, and 
time and tears have dimmed many details. How- 
ever, I distinctly remember having been much struck 
by the grave simplicity of my visitor's manner, and 
I also noticed that, although it was one of our 
scorching summer days, with a hot wind blowing, 


he was arrayed in a brand-new suit of thick cloth, 
which he could well have worn at the North Pole ! 
He seemed quite awed by his good fortune, and 
continually said how undeserved it was. But I 
suppose this must have been his modesty, for he 
certainly appeared to have gone through his fair 
share of hardships. He had been one of what the 
diggers called " the barrow men," and had held on 
almost too long after his scanty supplies had run 

The little party to which he belonged had been 
singularly unfortunate ; for, although they found 
here and there a promise of gold, nothing payable 
had been struck. At last the end came. This man 
had reached the very last of his resources without 
finding a speck of gold, and although men in such 
extremity are always kind and helpful to each 
other, he could not expect any one to share such 
fast dwindling stores with him. There was nothing 
for it, therefore, but to turn back on the morrow, 
whilst a mouthful of food was still left, and to re- 
trace his steps, as best he might, to the nearest 
port. He dwelt, with a good deal of rough pathos, 
on the despair of that last day's fruitless work 
which left him too weak and exhausted to carry 
his heavy tools back to the spot they called " camp." 
So he just flung them down, and as he said 
" staggered " over the two or three miles of scrub- 
covered desert, guided by the smoke of the camp- 


fire. Next morning early, after a great deal of 
sleep and very little food, he braced himself up to 
go back and fetch his tools, though he carefully 
explained that he would not have taken the trouble 
to do this if he had not felt that his pick and barrow 
were about his only possessions, and might fetch 
the price of a meal or two when it came to the last. 

I have often wondered since if the impression of 
the Divine mercy and goodness, which was so 
strong in that man's mind just then, has ever worn 
off. He dwelt with self -accusing horror on how he 
had railed at his luck, at Fate, at everything, 
as he stumbled back that hot morning over his 
tracks of the day before. The way seemed twice 
as long, for, as he said, " his heart was too heavy 
to carry." At last he saw his barrow and pick 
standing up on the flat plain a little way off, and 
was wearily dragging on towards them, when he 
caught his toe against a stone deeply imbedded in 
the sand, and fell down. His voice sank to a sort 
of awestruck whisper, as if he were almost at Con- 
fession, as he said, " Well, ma'am, if you'd believe 
me, I cursed awful, I felt as if it was too hard 
altogether to bear. To think that I should go and 
nearly break my toe against the only stone in the 
district, and with all those miles to travel back. 
So I lay there like Job's friend and cursed God 
and wanted to die. After a bit I felt like a pas- 
sionate child who kicks and breaks the thing which 


has hurt him, and I had to beat that stone before 
I could be at all quiet. But it was too firm in 
the sand for my hands to get it up, so in my rage 
I set off quite briskly for the pick to break up that 
stone, if it took all my strength. It was pretty 
deep-set in the ground, I assure you, ma'am ; but 
at last I got it up, and here it is solid gold and 
nearly as big as a baby's head. Now, ma'am, 
I ask you, did I deserve this ? " 

He almost banged the rather dirty-looking lump 
down on the table before me as he spoke, and it 
certainly was a wonderful sight, and a still more 
wonderful weight. He told me he had searched 
about the neighbourhood of that nugget all day, 
but there was not the faintest trace of any more 
gold. So, as he had no time to lose on account of 
the shortness of the food and water-supply, he 
just started back to the coast, which he reached 
quite safely, and came straight down to Perth in 
the first steamer. The principal bank had ad- 
vanced him 800 on his nugget, but it would 
probably prove to be worth twice as much. I 
asked him what he was going to do, and was rather 
sorry to hear that he intended to go back to England 
at once, and set up a shop or a farm I forget 
which among his own people. Of course, it was 
not for me to dissuade him, but I felt it was a 
pity to lose such a good sort of man out of the 
colony, for he was not spending his money in 


champagne and card-playing, as all the very few 
successful gold-finders did in those first early days. 
I believe the purchase of that one suit of winter 
clothing in which to come and see the Governor had 
been his only extravagance. 

That was the delightful part of those patriarchal 
times only fifteen or twenty years ago, remember 
that all the joys and sorrows used to find their 
way to Government House. I always tried to divide 
the work, telling our dear colonial friends that 
when they were prosperous and happy they were 
the Governor's business, but when they were sick 
or sorrowful or in trouble they belonged to my 
department ; and thus we both found plenty to do, 
and were able to get very much inside, as it were, 
the lives of those among whom our lot was cast 
for more than seven busy, happy years. 


THERE had never been a bushranger in Western 
Australia before Bill (I forget his " outside " name) 
appeared on the scene, and I don't suppose there 
will ever be another. If any one may be said to 
have drifted indeed, almost to have been forced 
by circumstances into a path of crime and peril, 
it was this same unlucky Bill. Until his troubles 
came he was always regarded as rather a fine 
specimen of a colonial youth. Tall, strong, and 
good-looking, apt at all manly sports and exercises, 
he was adored by the extremely respectable family 
to which he belonged, and who brought him up 
as well as they could. For Master Bill must always 
have been a difficult youth to manage, and from 
his tenderest years had invariably been a law unto 

At school he had formed a strong friendship 
with another lad of his own age, who was exactly 
opposite to him in character, tastes, and pursuits, 
but nevertheless they were inseparable "mates," 

and all Bill's people hoped that the influence of 



this very quiet, sedate youth would in time tame 
Bill's wild and lawless nature. As the boys grew 
into their teens it became a question of choosing 
a career, and the quiet boy always said he wanted 
to get into the police. That was his great ambition, 
and a more promising recruit could not be desired. 
It came out afterwards that when the lads discussed 
this subject the embryo policeman often observed : 
" If you don't look out, Bill, and alter your ways, 
I'll be always having to arrest you." Bill laughed 
this suggestion to scorn, not that he had any in- 
tention of amending his ways, but he could not 
believe that any one who knew his great physical 
strength and utter recklessness would dare to lay 
a hand on him. The ways he was advised to amend 
consisted chiefly in worrying the neighbours, with 
whom he lived in constant feud and Border war- 
fare. No old lady's cat within a radius of five 
miles was safe from him, and he chased the goats 
and harried the poultry, and generally made him- 
self a first-class nuisance all round. 

The strange thing was that, in spite of this strong 
instinct of tormenting, Bill was universally acknow- 
ledged to be a splendid " bushman " that is, one 
familiar with all the signs and common objects of 
the forests. He would have made an ideal explorer, 
and could have lived in the Bush in plenty and 
comfort under conditions in which any one else 
would have starved or died of thirst. It seemed 


odd to find in the same youth this passionate love 
of Nature and familiarity with her every wild bird 
or beast, and a certain amount of cruelty and 

Time passed on, and one of the boys at least got 
his heart's desire and was enrolled in the very fine 
police force of Freeman tie. Bill could not be in- 
duced to settle to any profession, though his know- 
ledge of bush-craft and his superb powers of 
endurance would have insured him plenty of well- 
paid employment as an explorer or pioneer in the 
unknown parts which were just beginning to be 
opened up in our day, for the first faint whispers 
of the magic word " gold " were being brought to 
the ears of the Government. 

Just about this time one of the neighbours im- 
ported a special breed of fowls, which Bill forthwith 
proceeded to torment in his leisure moments. The 
owner of the unhappy poultry bore Bill's worrying 
with patience and good nature for some little time, 
but at last assured him that he would take out a 
summons against him if he persisted in harrying 
his sitting hens. Bill's answer to this was buying 
a revolver and announcing that he would certainly 
shoot any one who attempted to arrest him. Of 
course, no one believed this threat, and in due time 
the summons was taken out, and the task of making 
the arrest devolved upon his friend and school- 
mate, who warned him privately that he would 



certainly do his duty and that he need not hope 
to escape. Bill fled a few miles off and kept out of 
the way for a little while. No one wanted to be 
hard on the youth for the sake of his very respect- 
able family, and a good deal of sympathy was 
expressed for them ; also, every one hoped and be- 
lieved that this little fracas would sober Master Bill 
down, and that he might yet become a valuable 
member of the community. 

However, one Sunday evening, just at dusk, Bill 
was hanging about the poultry yard with evil in- 
tent, when he suddenly perceived his friend in 
uniform and on duty the other side of a low hedge. 
The owner of the fowls had asked for a constable 
to watch his place, and, as ill luck would have it, 
Bill's friend was sent. The two boys looked at each 
other for a moment across the hedge, and then the 
policeman said : 

" Now, Bill, you had better come along quietly 
with me ; there's a warrant out against you, and 
I've got to take you to the police station." 

" If you come one step nearer, I'll shoot you 
dead," answered Bill. 

" That's all nonsense, you know," the poor young 
constable replied, and began pushing the hedge 
aside to get through it. Bill drew his revolver and 
shot the friend and playmate of his whole life dead 
on the spot. He then rushed back to his own place, 
and, hastily collecting some food and cartridges, 


was off and away into the heart of the nearest 
" bush " or forest, the fringe of which almost 
touched even the principal towns in those days. 

It is hardly possible to imagine the state of ex- 
citement into which this crime threw the primitive 
little community. Murders were comparatively rare, 
and I was told that they were almost always com- 
mitted by old " lags," men who had begun as con- 
victs perhaps thirty-five or forty years before, and 
had generally only been let out a short time before 
on a ticket-of-leave. But this catastrophe was 
quite a fresh departure, and called forth almost as 
much sympathy for the relatives of the wretched 
Bill as for those of his victim. The native trackers 
set to work at once and picked up Bill's trail with- 
out any difficulty, but the thing was to catch him. 
No Will-o'-the-wisp could have been more elusive, 
and he led the best trackers and the most wary 
constables a regular dance over hills and valleys, 
through dense bush and scrub-covered sand, day 
after day. News would come of the police being 
hot on his tracks thirty miles off, and that same 
night a store in Freeman tie would be broken into, 
and two or three of its best guns, with suitable 
cartridges, would be missing. As time went on the 
various larders in Perth were visited in the same 
unexpected manner, and emptied of their contents. 
Bill never took anything except ammunition, food, 
and tobacco, but whenever the police came up with 


his camping-ground often to find the fire still 
smouldering they always found several newspapers 
of the latest dates giving particulars of where he 
was supposed to be. 

In the course of the many weeks nine I think 
that this chase went on, the police often got near 
enough to be shot at. One poor constable was 
badly wounded in the throat, so that he could never 
speak above a whisper again, and another was shot 
dead. But Bill was never to be seen. Sometimes 
they came on his " billy " or pannikin of tea, stand- 
ing by the fire, and another time he must just have 
flung away his pipe lest its smell should betray him. 
One is lost in amazement at his powers of endur- 
ance, for he could have had no actual sleep all that 
weary while. The general plan of campaign was 
to keep him always moving, so as to tire him out. 
What strength must he have possessed to do without 
sleep all that time, and to cover such fabulous dis- 
tances day after day. The police themselves, or 
rather their horses, and even the trackers, got quite 
knocked up, in spite of a regularly organised system 
of relief ; so what must it have been for the hunted 
boy, who could never have had any rest at all ? 

It was the year of the first Jubilee, and numerous 
loyal festivities were taking place during all the 
time of Bill's chase. Of course, June is the Anti- 
podean midwinter, and cold and wet had to be 
reckoned with, as well as very bad going for both 


horse and man, and great fatigue for the pursuers. 
Bill apparently thought the Jubilee ought in some 
way to do him good, and he used to stick notices 
up on trees with his terms fully set forth. One 
proposition was that he should be let off entirely 
because of the Jubilee. Another notice stated 
that he would give himself up to me, if he was 
guaranteed a free pardon. The grim silence with 
which all these tempting offers were received must 
have exasperated the young ruffian, for after a 
time these bulletins breathed nothing but melo- 
dramatic threats of vengeance, especially against 
the Governor, and he began to attempt to carry 
them out in many ways. 

But the wickedest idea to my mind was the 
plan he evidently formed of wrecking the special 
trains which were to convey almost all the 
Perth people down to Freeman tie, some thirteen 
miles away, in the middle of the Jubilee week. 
The citizens of the Port were determined to show 
themselves every bit as loyal and exultant as 
we were in Perth, and had bidden the Governor 
and the officials, as well as the rest of the little 
society, to a fine ball at their grand new Town 
Hall. The railway authorities and the police 
were quite alive to the risks we should all run ; 
every precaution was taken, and especially not a 
whisper was allowed to creep out as to Mr. Bill's 
murderous intentions. A pilot engine went first 


the night of the ball, and the best native trackers 
were " laid on " the line. Next morning's day- 
light showed how much all this vigilance and care 
had been needed, for in numerous places Bill's 
footsteps could b tracked down to the rails, and 
large branches of trees, rocks, and other handy 
impediments lay within a foot of the line, and he 
must have been hunted off when quite 1 close many 
times during that cold wet night. I believe I was 
the only woman in the long special train who knew 
of Mr. Bill's intentions, and I confess I found it 
somewhat difficult to conceal a tendency to pre- 
occupation and to start at slight sounds. How- 
ever, it would have quite spoiled the Freemantle 
ball if the least breath of the risk to the guests 
from Perth had got abroad, so all the men bore 
themselves as Englishmen do quietly and serenely 
and I had to hide my nervousne'ss for very 
shame's sake. Especially when we were coming 
back, quite late, and I saw how tired and sleepy 
every one was, the thought would cross my mind 
of wonder if the poor watchers on the outside 
were as tired as we were, and so, perhaps, not 
quite so much on the alert. My private fears 
proved groundless, happily, but I can never forget 
the relief of finding myself (and my far dearer self) 
safe in our beautiful home again that night. I 
had felt so wretched at the ball when I looked at 
my numerous pet girl friends dancing blithely away, 


and thought of the dangers which might easily 
beset their homeward road. 

By this time every one, especially those whose 
larders had been raided, took the keenest interest 
in Master Bill's capture, and the local papers were 
full of his hairbreadth escapes. I remember a 
paragraph which interested me very much stated 
that once, when, " from information received," 
the police had drawn quite a cordon round his lair 
and were creeping stealthily towards it, a bird 
suddenly uttered a piercing shrill note ; and one 
of the trackers, learned in bush-lore, remarked 
that their chance of catching him then was gone, 
for that bird would have warned him, as it never 
uttered its cry except when it saw a stranger 
suddenly. I may mention here that I never rested 
until I heard that bird's note myself, and I spent 
the next summer in organising bush picnics, and 
then wandering away as far as I dared in order to 
alarm the bird by a sudden appearance. At last 
one day, when I had very nearly succeeded in 
losing myself in the bush, a sudden shrill note 
terrified me out of my life. If the bird was 
frightened so was I, for it was a most piercing cry. 

At last the end came ; at earliest dawn one 
morning Bill, resting on a log in the bush without 
even a fire to betray him, opened his eyes to the 
sound of a command to " put up his hands," and 
saw half-a-dozen carbines levelled straight at him 


a few yards off. He showe'd fight to the last, and 
managed before holding up his hands to fire a shot 
at the approaching constables, wounding one of 
them in the leg. The men rushed in, however, 
and he was soon overcome and handcuffed and 
brought into Perth. But the most curious part 
of the story lies in the universal sympathy and, 
indeed, admiration immediately shown by the 
whole of our very peaceable and orderly little 
community for this youth. Of course, the officials 
did not share this strange sentimentality, for they 
regarded Master Bill and his exploits from a very 
different point of view, and I used really to feel 
quite angry, especially with my female friends, 
who often asked me if I was not " very sorry " for 
the culprit ? My sympathies, I confessed, were 
more with the families of his victims, especially 
the poor policeman with his mangled throat, whom 
I had often seen in my weekly visits to the hospital. 
When I expressed surprise at the interest all the 
girls in the place took in the young ruffian, the 
answer always was : "Oh, but he is so brave." 
It appeared to me the bravery lay with his 
captors ! 

He was duly tried, but the jury did not convict 
him of premeditated murder, and in face of the 
verdict he' could only be sentenced to imprisonment 
for some years. Master Bill's captivity did not 
last very long on that occasion, for he watched his 


opportunity, sprang upon the warder one day 
knocking him senseless, scrambled over the wall 
of the exercise ground, near which chanced to be 
a pile of stones for breaking, and so got away. Then 
the pendulum of Public Opinion that strange and 
unreliable factor in human affairs swung to the 
other side, and a violent outcry arose, and Bill's 
immediate death was the least of its demands. 
He was caught without much difficulty that time, 
however, and it was curious to find no one taking 
the least interest in his second trial, which resulted 
in a lengthy and rigorous imprisonment. Poor 
wretch ! I believe even I ended by being " sorry " 
for him and his wasted life, with all its splendid 

Another tragedy was enacted in the North-west 
not long after Bill's adventures had ended ; and 
yet, terrible as this incident was, one could hardly 
help an ill-regulated smile. 

I wonder how many people realise that Western 
Australia holds a million square miles within its 
borders. True, most of it is, as Anthony Trollope 
said, only fit to run through an hour-glass, being 
of the sandiest sort of sand. But then, again, all 
that that sand requires to make it " blossom like 
a rose " is water. Given an abundant supply of 
water, and all those miles of desert will grow any- 
thing. You have only got to see the sand-plains 
as they are called, before the winter rains and after 


them. These sand-plains are just a sort of tongue 
or strip of the great Sahara in the middle of the 
Island Continent which runs down some seventy 
miles wide towards the sea-shore three or four 
hundred miles to the north-west of Perth. 

The rumours of gold which had begun to fill the 
air during our day, necessitated first, telegraph 
stations, and then the establishment of outlying 
posts of civilisation ; the nucleus of what are 
already turned or turning into flourishing towns. 
I have always declared that when there were' three 
white men in any of these distant spots, the first 
thing they started was a race-meeting, with a 
Governor's Cup or Purse (value about 5), and 
then next would come a Rifle Association, with a 
Literary Institute to follow, to all of which H.E. 
would be invited to subscribe. However, the out- 
lying settlement I speak of had not attained to 
these luxuries, for it consisted of only one white 
man. He combined the offices of Warden and 
Magistrate and Doctor, and several other duties 
as well ; but he must have led a truly Robinson 
Crusoe sort of life, poor man. I should mention 
that these settlements had always to be close to 
the sea-shore in order to keep in touch, by means 
of the little coasting steamers, with a base of supply. 
This gentleman for he was a man of unblemished 
character as well as of education and refinement 
had not a creature to speak to beyond a few half- 


tamed natives, except when the steamer touched 
once a month, I believe at his little port. He was 
a splendid shot and a keen sportsman, but there was 
not much scope for his " gunning " talents, and sea- 
gull shooting formed one of his few amusements. 

One fine evening he was lazily floating in a light 
canoe about the bay, with a native to paddle, 
whilst he looked out for a difficult shot, when the 
man suddenly pointed to an object on a rock some 
fifty yards from the shore which he announced 
was a " big-fellow " gull. It did look rather large 
for a gull, but the sportsman thought it might be 
some other sort of strange sea-bird, and, after care- 
fully adjusting the sight of the rifle and taking 
most accurate aim, he fired. To his horror the 
crouching object gave a sort of upward leap and 

then fell flat. Poor Mr. seized the oar and 

paddled with all speed to the spot, to find a white 
man lying dead with his bullet through his heart. 

One can hardly realise the dismay of the in- 
voluntary murderer, for anything so unexpected as 
the presence of any human being in that lonely 
spot with darkness coming on, and a difficult 
path, from rock to rock, to be retraced to the 
shore, cannot be imagined. There was nothing 
for it but to take the body into the boat and return 
home. The most careful inquiries carried on for 
months failed to elicit the slightest information 
as to that lonely victim's identity. He had not a 


mark of any sort on his clothing, nor a scrap of 
paper about him, which could throw the least 
light on his name or history. No one knew that 
another white man was in the district at all. If 
he had dropped from the sky on to that rock he 
could not have been more un traceable. It was 
all tragic enough, but what made me smile in the 
midst of my horror at the details of the story 
of which I first saw the outline in a local news- 
paper was to hear that Mr. had sat as 

coroner on the body, also fulfilled the duties of 
the jury, then became police magistrate, and 
finally brought himself down to Perth as the author 
of the " misadventure." Of course, there was no 
question of a trial, for it was the purest and most 

unlucky accident, regretted by Mr. more than 

by any one else. No advertisements or amount 
of publicity given to the story ever threw the least 
light on the poor man's name or antecedents. Of 
course, here and there letters came from individuals 
who thought they saw their way to exploiter the 
Government and extract some sort of money 
compensation for the death of their hastily adopted 
relative, but as their story invariably broke down 
at the very outset in which case they generally 
lowered their demands by next post from 1000 
to zos. no ray of light was ever thrown on the 
mystery of how that white man came to be sitting 
quietly on those rocks at sunset that evening. 


I fear these two stories have been rather of 
what an Irish servant of mine once called " a 
blood-curling " nature, so I must end with a 
less tragic note. 

During one of the many war scares in which we 
have indulged any time these twenty years, a 
couple of her Majesty's gunboats were watching the 
Australian coast, or rather watching any suspicious 
craft in those waters. As is often the case along 
that coast, they had met with dreadful weather, 
and had been buffeted about and their progress 
greatly delayed, so by the date the harbour I speak 
of was reached ample time had elapsed for war 
to be declared, and it had seemed imminent enough 
a week before, when the ships had left their last 
port of call. Now this great bay held a sort of inner 
harbour which would have been very convenient 
to an enemy for coaling, and where in fact large 
stores of coal were kept on board hulks. So it 
was quite on the cards that if war had broken out 
during those few blank days, the enemy might have 
made a pounce for the coal, more especially as in 
those days the harbour was absolutely undefended. 
Now, I am told, it bristles with big guns ! 

It was late of a full-moon night when these 
vessels crept quietly into the outer harbour. All 
looked peaceful enough, and the lamp in the 
lighthouse shone out as usual. It did not take 
long to decide that a small armed party had better 


pay a surprise visit to that lighthouse and learn 
what had taken place during the last week or so 
in its neighbourhood. The young officer who told 
me the story described most amusingly the pre- 
cautions taken to avoid any noise, and to surround 
the lighthouse whilst he and some others went in 
to see what was to be found inside. Only one 
solitary man met them, however, who stood up 
and saluted stolidly, but offered no shadow of re- 
sistance, and all seemed en regie. The next thing, 
naturally, was to question this lighthouse-keeper, 
but to every demand he only shook his head. The 
stock of foreign languages which had accompanied 
that expedition was but small, however, and a 
shake of the head was the only answer to the same 
questions repeated in French and German. It was 
therefore decided to take the silent man back to 
the gunboat (leaving a couple of men in charge of 
the light), and see whether, as my informant said, 
they could " raise any other lingo " on board. 
But by the time the ship was reached the doctor 
and not the schoolmaster was required, for the 
poor man was found to be in an epileptic fit. Day- 
light brought a little shore-boat alongside with his 
wife in it, who gave them all a very disagreeable 
quarter of an hour, for the lighthouse-keeper was 
deaf and dumb, and could not imagine what crime 
he had committed to be taken prisoner in that 
summary fashion. He knew nothing of wars or 


rumours of wars, but tended his lamps carefully, 
and his wife had been allowed, under the circum- 
stances, to share his solitude. She had only left 
him for a few hours, and when she returned at 
earliest dawn, and found her husband gone and a 
couple of sailors in charge of the lighthouse, it did 
not take her long to rush down the hill, get into 

her boat, and so on board H.M.S. . I believe 

she expected to find her spouse loaded with irons, 
and on the eve of execution, instead of being com- 
fortably asleep in a bunk, with a good breakfast 
awaiting him. 

When the story was finished I remarked to the 
teller : " Quite an illustration of Talleyrand's ' Sur- 
tout, point de zele,' isn't it ? " And the young 
officer shook his head sadly, as much as to say that 
it was indeed a wicked world. I fancy that 
" wiggings " had followed. 



THE wheel of Time brought round many changes 
during our eight years stay in Western Australia, 
all making for progress and improvement. Under 
the latter head the disbandment of the old Enrolled 
Guard must be classed ; but it was really a sad day 
for the poor old veterans, and the Governor deter- 
mined to try and make the parting as little painful 
as possible. So, on the thirty-first anniversary of the 
battle of Alma, he invited all the non-commissioned 
officers and men to a mid-day dinner at Government 
House in Perth. Our best efforts could only collect 
fifty- three, and many of these were very decrepit, 
poor old dears. They were nearly all that were 
left of the soldiers who had been brought out to 
guard the convicts fifty years before, and who, 
when convicts were no longer sent out to Western 
Australia, were induced to remain, in what was then 
a very distant and unknown colony, by gifts of land 
and a small pension. Some were enrolled as a Guard 
for Government House and other public buildings, 
and it was the remains of this little force, gradually 
grown too infirm and decrepit for even their light 
duties, who had, on that bright spring morning, to 
give way to the smart up-to-date young policemen. 



The step had been contemplated for some little 
time, and we had just returned in 1885 from a short 
visit to England, during which there had been an 
opportunity for my husband to mention the subject 
to his Royal Highness the late Duke of Cambridge, 
then Commander-in-Chief. It will not surprise 
those who remember the deep interest in the British 
soldier always shown by H.R.H. to hear that the 
Duke listened with great attention to all that was 
told him, asked many questions, and ended by 
saying, " Well, give them all my best wishes, and 
tell them how glad I was to hear about them." It 
is needless to say that these kind and gracious 
words formed the text as it were of the little parting 
address made by the Governor after the parade 
which preceded the dinner, and it was touching 
to see how gratified the veterans were. In spite of 
the old habits of discipline which they were all 
dping their very best to remember and act upon, 
there was a movement and a murmur all down 
the ranks, and I strongly suspect there was some- 
thing very like a tear. 

It was, indeed, a pathetic sight, as all last things 
must always be, to see these old men in their quaint, 
antiquated uniforms, shouldering their obsolete 
rifles, and to realise this was the very last time they 
would ever stand in rank as soldie'rs. On every 
breast gleamed medals, and there were two Victoria 
Crosses. Men stood there who had fought both 
in the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny, as well as 



in China, Burmah and New Zealand, and now it 
was all over and done with, and they would never 
step out to the dear old familiar tunes any more. 

Still we did our best to keep up their spirits, 
and not to allow the occasion to become at all a 
mournful one. Both the Governor and their own 
Commandant said kind and cheering words to 
them, and they were soon marching off to the big 
ball-room which had been given as military a char- 
acter as possible. 

If I had at all realised what the united ages of 
my guests would have amounted to, I think I 
should have had all the roast beef and turkey 
passed through a mincing-machine, for I soon 
foresaw difficulties in that way. We, i.e. my large 
band of girl-friends and I, waited on them, and the 
gentlemen carved. It was difficult to get the men 
to choose what they wanted to eat, for the general 
answer to their young waitresses was, " Bless your 
pretty heart, I'll have just whatever you likes, and 
thinks I can bite ! " 

Of course, the repast ended with the one toast 
of the " Health of her Majesty the Queen," with 
musical honours and equally, of course, it was cheered 
and shouted at to the echo, and one felt it was by 
no means a perfunctory and empty ceremony, for 
every man there had fought and bled for her. 
Then we gave them each a pipe (they called it 
either a " straw " or a " dhudeen " according to 
their nationality) and a stick of tobacco, and left 


them in charge of our house steward, who gave a 
most amusing account afterwards of how they had 
at once begun to fight their battles over again, for 
many of them had been brought from other parts 
of the Colony for this occasion and had not met 
for a long time. Their reminiscences were some- 
what grisly it seems, for Pat would relate how he 
had " bayoneted a nagar " in Africa or New Zealand, 
capped by Mike's announcement that he " took 
the shilling fifty years ago, served in six general 
engagements, was twice wounded, and three times 
nearly kilt." Whereas Dick would only regret 
that he had served twenty years, eleven months 
and thirty days, and claimed sympathy on the 
ground that if he had served " tin days more, bad 
luck to me if I wouldn't have 1 had another pinny 
a day on me pintion." But why he did not put in 
that ten days extra service never seems to have 
come into the story. 

I do not know whether, unlike his comrades, 
Mickey's teeth were still serviceable, but he boasted 
that, although he was sixty-six years old, he " hadn't 
a grey hair in me head, and I can run, jump or 
leap with 'ere a man in barracks ! There boys, 
hurroo ! " Paddy was only a soldier for two 
years, but he had been badly wounded at Sebastopol 
and spent a long time in hospital ; an experience 
which he would not have missed for the world 
however, for the Queen visited him there and gave 
him a silk handkerchief hemmed by herself. " D'ye 


hear what I say, boys ? The Queen hemmed it 
with her own fingers and I've got it still, and it's 
to be buried with me, so it is." 

Then there were reminiscences of the dinner on 
the Alma day. " We had raw pork served out 
with biscuit, and divil a stick of wood to cook the 
meat with." The V.C. man who had ridden in 
the Charge of the Light Brigade could only re- 
member a raw onion as having formed his rations 
on that day, but he spoke fondly of it. 

If I had felt any doubts as to whether the enter- 
tainment had been a success they would have been 
dissipated by the question put to me whenever 
I came across an old Enrolled Guardsman after- 
wards. No matter what I spoke of he invariably 
brought the subject round to that dinner and 
ended it with, " I suppose you'd hardly be thinking 
of giving us another party like that, would you 
now, mum ? " It rather went to my heart to say 
I was afraid not, but I really believe it was the 
meeting each other and talking over old times 
which they had so enjoyed. That is all nearly 
twenty years ago, and I sadly fear there are but 
few of our guests of that day still alive, and when 
I think of how many dear ones who stood by my 
side that day, not old and decrepit like the soldiers, 
but in the full flush of youth and health and 
strength, have, like them, gone into the Silent Land, 
I wonder at my own courage in writing at all of 
those happy days. 


TRINIDAD had nearly completed its first century of 
British rule when we went there in 1891, for it was 
in February 1797 that the British Fleet, eighteen 
vessels in all, under Admiral Harvey came through 
the Bocas, carrying a land force of nearly 8000 
men under General Sir Ralph Abetcromby. The 
Spanish Governor, Chacon, felt that no defence 
was possible, for he only had at his command a 
small, passing squadron of five ships and about 
700 soldiers. So, with an amount of practical 
common-sense and humanity which might be 
borne in mind with advantage at the Hague Con- 
ference, he surrendered to the tremendous odds 
brought against him. Not a single life was lost in 
this change of flags ; but the Spanish Admiral, 
Apodoca, burned his ships sooner than give them 
up. Chacon seems to have been an excellent 
Governor, and to have done much for his colony 
before he had to yield to force majeure. Indeed, 
it always struck me in looking over the history of 
Trinidad that it had been exceptionally fortunate 



in its Governors. Colonel Thomas Picton was 
its first English proconsul, and though, as might 
be expected, somewhat high-handed and hasty in 
his dealings, especially with the natives, the colony 
made great progress under his rule ; but it only 
lasted six years, which was considered a short time 
to manage the affairs of a colony in those days. 
It is a fact, however, that when Sir Thomas Picton 
fell at Waterloo, he was practically under trial for 
the alleged murder of two slaves in Trinidad. The 
case was only standing over for further evidence. 
Certainly, things justice among other things 
seem to have been done in a loose and free-and- 
easy way in the early days of the last century ! 

The Governor par excellence of Trinidad, how- 
ever, is, and always will be, Sir Ralph Woodford, 
although Lord Harris and Sir Arthur Gordon run 
him very close in enduring popularity of the best 
sort. But Sir Ralph was truly a born empire- 
maker. He was so young, too only twenty-nine 
when he began (in 1813) his fifteen years of 
hard work in a tropical climate. It must have 
been extremely difficult to change the whole state 
of affairs, even the language for it was not until 
his day that English was used in the Law Courts 
and that the minutes of the " Cabildo " the 
precursor of our Legislative Council were kept 
in the new tongue. Poor Sir Ralph died at sea 
on his way to England in 1828, and it is sad to 


think how completely his valuable life seems to 
have been thus early sacrificed to the ignorance 
of the commonest rules of health. But he would 
not leave his work in time, and so died in harness 
very shortly after he had been persuaded to leave 
his beautiful and beloved colony. 

Lord Harris did not take up the reins of govern- 
ment until 1846, only eight years after slavery had 
been abolished, so he had to deal with as complex 
a state of affairs as Picton or Woodford. But he 
ruled splendidly and successfully until 1854, an d 
it was delightful to hear, nearly half a century 
afterwards, how well the numerous reforms and 
systems he had started still worked. 

All this time the various Governors had dwelt 
in many and different Government Houses, all 
more or less near the site of the present one. Don 
Jose" Maria Chacon, captain in the Spanish Navy, 
and his predecessors seem to have lived on the 
side of a neighbouring hill, but it is difficult to trace 
even the foundations of that house, for when once 
" the jungle is let in " it soon covers up and does 
away with bricks and mortar. Then came a 
strange and ugly little dwelling where the pastures 
of the Government farm now spread, and that was 
succeeded by a house of sorts (of which I could 
find no pictured record) in the Botanical Gardens. 
That must have been near where the present beauti- 
ful dwelling stands, for whenever I said what a pity 


it was that the stables should be so near the house, 
I was always told that they were a survival of a 
former Government House in the same spot. But 
the jungle also seemed to have been let in on the 
minds of my informants, for I never could elicit any 
accurate information about that house. Sir Ralph 
Woodford lived in a large Government House in 
Port of Spain, used as Government Offices and 
burned in the late riots, but the really historical 
Government House in Trinidad will always be the 
Government Cottage about a quarter of a mile 
away, still in the Botanical Gardens, where Sir 
Arthur Gordon lived and Kingsley wrote his " At 
Last." Nothing now remains of what must have 
been a picturesque and romantically pretty little 
dwelling but the swimming-bath and an outbuilding 
used as a cottage for the house carpenter. But I 
often used to go and look up the valley with " At 
Last " in my hand, and try to identify the trees 
described. The ravine or dell immortalised by 
Kingsley has, however, suffered many changes 
from the woodman's axe and forest fires, for the 
only tree I could ever recognise is the big Saman 
outside the ballroom windows. 

A propos of the existing building, " I call this a 
tropical palace," was the remark made to me 
several times a day by one of our numerous shall 
I say globe-trotting ? guests, who certainly ought 
to have been a judge of palaces. And there was 


some truth in the criticism as applied to the present 
Government House at Trinidad. Because the 
popular idea of a palace is that it is not a very 
comfortable dwelling, and chiefly constructed with 
a view to first impressions. This " palace," how- 
ever, is really a beautiful house, and stands in the 
large Botanical Gardens of Port of Spain. It has 
a charming view over the wide savannah in front, 
and is sheltered from the cold north winds by the 
low, beautifully wooded hills behind. The natives 
say of this same wind, which is so alluringly fresh 
and cool, " vent de nord, vent de mort," and the 
chill it brings to the unwary, especially at night, 
is doubtless accountable for many of the local colds 
and fevers. Nothing can be much more beautiful 
than the first effect of the entrance hall to this 
Government House, and the long vista through 
the large saloon and ballroom beyond ends with a 
glimpse of that magnificent Saman tree on whose 
wide-spreading branches grows what Kingsley so 
aptly calls speaking of this same tree " an air- 

To my mind that tree was quite one of the sights 
of those beautiful gardens. Beneath it flourishes 
a small grove of nutmeg-trees, and tall, spreading 
palms, all of which seem mere shrubs and bushes 
compared to its lofty splendour. When it is loaded 
with its pink feathery blossoms, it attracts every 
bird and insect in the island, but our winter visitors 


never really saw that tree in its full beauty, for the 
wondrous air-garden growth did not develop until 
after the first heavy rains. Then it is indeed 
wonderful to see the sudden spikes of brilliant 
blossom, the fantastic orchid growth, and the mar- 
vellous wealth of ferns clustering and drooping all 
along the massive branches. I endured great 
anxiety lest the weight of the wet verdure should 
break down these giant limbs, for the wood is 
rather soft and unsubstantial. However, no such 
calamity has yet occurred. 

But to come back to the tropical palace. It was 
certainly an ideal house for entertaining. I always 
declared that the balls gave themselves, and there 
never was the slightest trouble in arranging any 
sort of party in the large rooms, which were always 
as cool as possible after sunset. The ballroom was 
lofty, open " to all the airts that blow," and pos- 
sessed a perfect floor. Then when you have Kew 
Gardens for decorative purposes growing outside 
your windows, there is not much difficulty in pro- 
ducing a pretty effect. Indeed, the entire house was 
arranged for coolness, from the great hall which 
went up the whole height of the building, to the 
wide verandahs which surrounded it on three sides. 
But in the bedroom accommodation there is a woeful 
falling-off, and I was often at my wits' end to 
know how to house the numerous guests who flock 
to these " Summer Isles of Eden " every winter. 


There is no place in the house for English servants, 
and your own and your visitors' servants can only 
be put up in some of the guest-rooms. There is one 
magnificent bedroom which is called " the Prince's 
Room," as H.R.H. the present Prince of Wales 
inhabited it during his last visit, in 1891. But it 
is a very hot room, and if you are to coax any cool 
air into it you must resign yourself to keeping 
your doors wide open. The suite of rooms generally 
used by the Governor are at the end of another long 
corridor, and, though good, comfortable, and cer- 
tainly the coolest in the house, are so close to the 
stables that one hears the horses stamping and 
fidget ting all night, especially when the vampire 
bats are tormenting them. The only back stair- 
case in the house also passes close to these rooms, 
so they can hardly be described as quiet or private. 
Still, it was a very pretty house, and I took great 
pride and delight in hearing it admired. 

It is not until one lives in a place oneself that 
one realises in what degree it is accessible. Cer- 
tainly I never thought I should welcome many 
English friends coming out to Trinidad just for a 
little change after influenza ! But that constantly 
happened, and beautiful yachts often looked in 
there for a few days, to say nothing of training 
ships of all nationalities. The attraction to them 
was the placid nature of the Gulf of Paria, which 
made it an ideal playground, or rather school- 


room, for them, and many intricate evolutions on 
its smooth surface have I been invited to witness. 
There I beheld with interest as well as amuse- 
ment the young idea being taught how to shoot 
torpedoes as well as to lay or find mines and other 
fiendish contrivances. 

It always amused me, especially with the foreign 
vessels, to watch the degree of ardour with which 
the naval cadets pursued their deep-sea studies. 
But the most ardent and promising pupil who ever 
visited our shores was a young Japanese prince, 
who, if his proficiency of those ten-year-old days is 
any guide, ought certainly to have played a very 
distinguished part in the present struggle with 
Russia. Anything like that boy's thirst for know- 
ledge and anxiety to do every other cadet's work 
I never beheld. He was studying at that time on 
board a German training ship, but he told me he 
hoped to go for a second course of instruction to 
an English one. His captain said he had never 
seen any cadet work so hard or so conscientiously, 
and his one waking thought was to make himself 
acquainted with every detail of his profession. 

The naval cadets of every nation were always 
free to spend their shore leave at Government 
House, and play tennis or amuse themselves in 
the beautiful gardens in any way they liked, for 
the thought of my own boys made me anxious to 
provide a safe and pleasant play-place for them, 


and it delighted me to see how much they liked 
coming up to us. The huge fresh-water swimming- 
bath in the grounds counted for a great deal in their 
simple amusements, as did the iced " lime-squash " 
afterwards. The little prince came but seldom, and 
if I asked' after him, I was always told, "Oh, he is 
doing so and so's work." 

One beautiful evening we were going to take tea 
on board this same German man-of-war, and I 
noticed in the launch which was sent to tow our 
own barge a grimy little figure working away at 
the miniature stoke-hole. " Who is that ? " I 
asked. " That ? oh, that's the Prince, of course. 
He begged to be allowed' to come and stoke for you. 
He wanted to learn just how that furnace went." 

Prince K. did not seem to know how to play 
tennis, nor could he dance, and I do not believe 
his idea of amusement extended beyond his ship's 
side. At his Captain's request we gave him a 
formal dinner-party, receiving and treating him 
just as we would our own royalty. Poor boy, he 
went through it all courageously, but it must have 
been a terrible infliction, for he could not speak 
one word of English, and even his knowledge of 
German was scanty. He brought two gentlemen 
of his suite with him, and depended on them for 
translation. They both spoke French as well as 
English tolerably well, but as far as appearance 
went the little Prince had decidedly the advantage, 


and looked very high-bred in his plain and correct 
evening dress, but it was the only time I ever saw 
him out of uniform. He' maintained a true Oriental 
gravity all through dinner, and it was quite a 
revelation of his real expression of face when the 
Governor, after the usual toast of the Queen's 
health, proposed that of the Emperor of Japan, 
and one of his gentlemen, whom I had taken the 
precaution of putting near him, told him of the 
terms of the toast. The lad sprang to his feet at 
once, and with really a beaming countenance bowed 
low, first to the Governor and then to the rest of 
the company. He looked absolutely delighted, and 
it did not need his Secretary's whispered comment 
of " His Highness ver much please " to tell me 
how gratified he was. 

But after dinner things became terribly dull for 
him, poor boy. He did not dance, nor seem to care 
about music or anything else which was going on, 
so it fell to my share to walk him about the large 
salon, and show him whatever I thought might 
possibly interest him. Of course, his two gentle- 
men were in close attendance, or we should indeed 
have suffered conversational shipwreck. When I 
arrived at an enormous elephant's foot, I thought 
we had now certainly reached a turning-point in 
the tide of boredom which had evidently set in 
for the poor youth. But in spite of my explana- 
tion of how the big beast had fallen to my eldest 


son's rifle and various exciting details of the said 
fall, all duly passed on by the other gentlemen, 
I could not see the faintest trace of interest or 
even of comprehension in that irnrnovable ivory 
countenance. At last the Secretary murmured: 
" Highness not know elephant ver well." This 
was indeed despairing, but my eye was caught by 
a clumsy little ebony model of an elephant, which 
I seized as an object-lesson, handing it to the Secre- 
tary, and saying, " Please explain to his Highness 
that this is an elephant." The Prince murmured 
some words in reply which were translated to me 
as : " Ah, I see ! a large sort of pig." 

After this I felt I must let things take their course, 
and I have no doubt the polite adieux which soon 
followed were as great a relief to the guest as they 
were to me. 

The greatest daytime treat I could ever give 
my guests was to send them round the Botanical 
Gardens under the escort of the gifted superin- 
tendent. They always returned hot and thirsty, 
but with their hands full of treasures. I think a 
freshly-gathered nutmeg, with its camellia-green 
leaves and its apricot-like fruit, enlaced with the 
crimson network we know later as mace, procured 
them the greatest joy of all. Then came breathless 
accounts of the soap-nut with which they had 
washed their hands, of the ink galls with which they 
had written their names, of orchids growing beneath 


long arcades "Out of doors you know!" of palms 
of every size and sort and description, each more 
lovely than its neighbour, of strange lianes which, 
dropping down from lofty trees and swinging in 
the breeze, are caught and twisted by Nature's 
charming caprice into the most fantastic shapes 

There are many advantages connected with the 
Government House standing in these beautiful 
gardens, but it cannot be said to conduce to its 
privacy. I always pined for " three acres and a 
cow " to myself, but I never got it ! A tiny iron 
fence, six inches from the ground, marked out the 
tennis-courts, and certain narrow limits beyond, 
which were supposed to be private, and little iron 
notice-plates repeated the idea. But if any enter- 
prising tourist wished to enlarge his sphere of 
observation, none of these trifles stood in his or her 
way, and I have sometimes been awakened at day- 
light by vociferous demands, just outside my bed- 
room window, to know " where the electric eel 
lived." Poor thing, it djd not live anywhere latterly, 
for it had died ; but there was no persuading the 
energetic visitor, who only had a couple of hours 
in which to " do " the Botanical Gardens, that I 
had not secreted it in my bathroom. 

I must hasten to add, however, that it was only 
the tourist who sometimes harried us, for it seemed 
well understood by the people of the island that a 


certain small space round Government House was 
private ground, and we never had the least diffi- 
culty with even the 4 numerous nurses and babies 
who flocked, for whatever fresh air was going, to 
these charming gardens where the capital police 
band plays twice a week. We often strolled about 
this public part of the gardens on Sunday after- 
noons, when many people were about, and I enjoyed 
it thoroughly, until it came to the final " God save 
the Queen," and then I confess I always felt sur- 
prised and indignant to see how few hats were 
taken off. Every white man, from the Governor 
downwards, stood bare-headed of course, from the 
first note to the last, so did the ever-courteous 
foreign visitor ; but hardly a well-clad, well-fed 
young coloured man followed their example. I was 
always deeply ashamed at visitors seeing this lack 
of loyalty or manners (I don't know which). I ob- 
served the elder black men nearly always uncovered, 
but the dark, gilded youth of Port of Spain cer- 
tainly did not. 

One does not realise how close Trinidad is to 
Venezuela until one goes there. My very first 
drive showed me a fine mountain range blend- 
ing beautifully with the fair and extensive land- 

" I thought there were no really high mountains 
in Trinidad ! " I exclaimed in surprise. 

" But those are not in Trinidad," was the crush- 



ing answer ; " they are on the mainland, which is 
only twenty miles off, just there." 

I little thought, that day, how anxiously I should 
watch the political horizon of Venezuela ! But as 
the supply of beef depended on the numerous re- 
volutions or threatenings of revolutions, I grew to 
take the liveliest interest in those social convul- 
sions, and I became an ardent advocate of peace 
at almost any price of beef. 

I always longed yet never made time, I am sorry 
to say, to go up one of the numerous mouths of the 
Orinoco which run into our Gulf, the Gulf of Paria ; 
many of our guests made the excursion, getting up 
as far as Bolivar in one of the comfortable, almost 
flat-bottomed river steamers which provide an ex- 
cellent service. The accounts brought back were 
always so glowing that I longed to go, but home 
duties and home ties pinned me firmly down. 

Venezuela seems to be a perfect land of Goshen 
compared to even our tropical luxuriance, and the 
cocoa-pods, bananas, and plantains brought back 
from the mainland were, without the least exaggera- 
tion, quite twice as large as those grown on the 
island. " But, then, what would you have ? " I 
was asked. " Trinidad is only a little bit of South 
America which the Orinoco has washed off from the 
mainland." If this be so, then the mighty stream 
dropped several of the pieces on the way, for there 
are many islets, some five miles or more away from 


Trinidad, and towards the Bocas or mouths of the 
great river. These little islands are a great feature 
of Trinidad, and splendid places for change of air 
or excursions. They all have houses on them, and 
one tiny islet may, I think, claim to be the smallest 
spot of earth which holds a dwelling. It is just a 
rock, on the top of which is perched a small but 
comfortable and compact house. Beyond its outer 
wall is, on one side, a minute plateau about ten or 
twelve feet in length, and that is all the exercise- 
ground on the island. I was assured it was the 
favourite honeymoon resort, which certainly seemed 
putting the capabilities of companionship of the 
newly -married couple to a rather severe test ! 
Fishing, boating, and bathing are the resources at 
the command of the islet visitors, and the air is 
wonderfully fresh and cool on these little fragments 
of the earth's surface. Whenever I could make 
time it was my great delight to take the Govern- 
ment launch with tea and a party of young friends 
to one of these islets, and it was certainly a de- 
lightful way of spending a hot afternoon. 

Trinidad is a great place for cricket, and boasts 
a beautiful ground belonging to a private club. 
First-class teams often go out there to play matches, 
and I used to see incessant cricket practice going 
on on the savannah in front of Government House. 
Certainly that savannah is a splendid " lung " 
to the low-lying town, and the people of Trinidad 


may well be proud of it. On its south-western side 
is a small walled enclosure ; it is the graveyard of 
the original Spanish owners of the soil, and a large 
sugar estate once stood where races are run and 
cricket played nowadays. The living owners have 
all, long ago, disappeared ; only the dead remain 
in their peaceful little resting-place under the shade 
of the spreading trees which grow inside the low 

To return for a moment to the Botanical Gardens. 
Within the limits of the so-called private part is 
a small plot of ground planted with vegetables for 
the Governor's use. In my eyes it was chiefly 
remarkable for the three large, coarse sort of bean- 
vines which grew at its entrance, and which were 
further decorated at the top of the stick round 
which they clung (in very tipsy fashion) by an 
empty bottle and some tufts of shabby feathers. 
These aicjs to horticulture being quite new to me, 
I inquired their use, and was assured they con- 
stituted the Obeah police of the garden, and that 
so long as those vines grew there, no young lettuce 
or tomato or yam would be stolen from that garden ; 
and certainly theft was never assigned as the reason 
for the scanty contents of the gardener's daily 
basket. It was always the time of year or the 

I used to feel very envious when some of the older 
residents would speak of these gardens as having 


been the home of the humming-bird. Alas ! the 
lovely little creatures are seldom to be seen there 
now, in spite of the protective legislation of many 
years past. But the ruthless tourist will always 
buy a humming-bird's nest, especially with its two 
sugar-plum-like eggs in it, so the enterprising black 
boy keeps a sharp look-out for these articles of 
commerce. Soon after we first went there, I found 
a wee nest on a low branch of a tree close to Govern- 
ment House, with a darling little bird sitting in it. 
I peeped cautiously very often during the next few 
days, and the young mother grew so accustomed to 
my visits that she would let me stand within a 
yard of the bough. At last some microscopic frag- 
ments of eggshell appeared on the moss beneath, 
and on my next visit, when the little hen was away 
getting food, I beheld a thing very like a bee with 
a beak. This object seemed to grow amazingly 
every few hours, so that in a week it looked quite 
like a respectable bird. Imagine my rage and 
despair when I found one morning the branch 
broken off and the baby bird dead on the ground. 
My sweet little nest had been taken for the sake 
of the sixpence it would fetch next time a tourist- 
laden yacht came in ! 

A much happier fate attended a humming-bird 
which built its nest in a small palm growing in a 
friend's drawing-room. I paid many visits to that 
drawing-room during the bird's occupancy, and any- 

{) 1 1 f Ai f I H 


thing so interesting as its manners and customs 
cannot be imagined. Instead of bringing material 
from outside for the nest, the tiny builder requi- 
sitioned the floss silk from an embroidered cushion 
and the wool from a ball-fringe. The nest, un- 
usually gay in colour, hung down a couple of inches 
from one of the serrated points of the palm leaf ; 
but when I was first invited to come and look on, 
it was not quite completed to the feathered lady's 
satisfaction, for she still darted in and out of the 
open windows and about the room. 

The master of the house, at my request, seated 
himself in his usual arm-chair and opened his news- 
paper, and I made myself as small as I could in 
a distant corner. Our patience was soon rewarded, 
for there was the little bird balancing itself with 
its vibrating wings just above the newspaper. How- 
ever, as no building material was forthcoming from 
that source, she flashed over to my corner, and, 
quicker than the eye could follow, had snatched 
a thread of silk from a work-table and was off to 
her work again. The little creature got quite tame, 
and her confidence was well placed, for nothing 
could exceed the charming kindness of her host and 
hostess. The eggs were laid and hatched in due 
time, and the master of the house told me he used 
to get up at the day-dawn and open his drawing- 
room window to let the little mother out to get 
food for her babies. This necessitated his remaining 


the rest of the morning in the drawing-room, as he 
said it would not have been safe to have left it. I 
naturally thought he feared for the safety of his 
wife's pretty things, but oh, no what he guarded 
was the nest, lest it should meet the fate of mine 
and be stolen. 

It was on this occasion I found out what humming- 
birds feed on. The popular idea is that they live on 
honey, and attempts have often been made to keep 
them in captivity on honey, or sugar and water, 
with the result that the poor little birds died of 
starvation in a day or two. The honey theory has 
sprung from seeing the birds darting their long bills 
and still longer tongues into the cups of honey- 
bearing flowers. What they are getting, however, 
is not honey, but the minute insect which is 
attracted and caught by the honey. 

I never saw any but the commonest sort of 
humming-bird during my stay in Trinidad, and 
very few of those, and I was told that even in the 
high woods it was rare now to behold them. In 
spite of the stringent ordinance against killing 
colibris, I fear many skins are taken away every 
year by the tourist, especially by the scientific 
tourist. Never can I forget my feelings when, on 
bidding adieu to a delightful foreign savant, he in- 
formed me that he had enjoyed his trips into the 
interior of the island immensely, and had collected 
many interesting specimens of flora and fauna, in- 


eluding a hundred humming-bird skins ! I nearly 
fainted with horror, but my one effort then was to 
prevent this dreadful boast reaching the Governor's 
ears, for I felt sure that international complications 
of a very grave character would have followed. 

Pages might be written on the scientific value of 
the beautiful gardens which surround this tropical 
palace, as well as of the opportunity they afford of 
studying insect life. At first it is disappointing to 
see so few flowers in them, but in the summer the 
large trees are covered with blossom, and, in fact, 
the flowers may be said to have taken refuge up 
the trees from the all-devouring ants. But the 
serious business of the gardens is really to make 
experiments in the growth and cultivation of the 
various economic products of the island raising 
seedling canes, coffee, and cocoa, and determining 
which variety would most successfully repay culture. 
It is a mistake to regard them only from the orna- 
mental point of view, though their beauty is very 
striking, for they are chiefly valuable for their 
practical results. 

TRINIDAD Continued 

BESIDES the humming-birds there were many less 
welcome denizens of the Gardens. There were 
ants of every species known to even Sir John 
Lubbock. Parasol ants, who occasionally took a 
fancy to my dinner-table decorations, especially 
if the beautiful and brilliant Amherstia were 
used. I have often been requested to say what 
was to be done with long lines of myriad ants 
ascending by one leg of the dinner-table and de- 
scending by another, each carrying a good-sized 
bit of scarlet petal tossed airily over his shoulder ! 
Anything so quaint as these processions of gay 
colour marching across the white cloth cannot be 
imagined. It was a case of " Tiger in station, 
please arrange," and there was just as little to be 
done except to give up the Amherstia. These ants 
occasionally took a fancy to the flowers on my 
writing-table also, but we never seriously inter- 
fered with each other. I naturally thought that 
the ants ate these leaves and petals, but they only 

chew them up and spread them out like manure 



on the feeding-grounds near the nests. From this 
sort of cultivation a minute fungus-like growth 
springs, and on that they feed. So destructive are 
their operations that a functionary is specially 
retained in the Botanical Gardens to follow them 
up and discover and destroy the nests, which are 
generally at a very great distance from the scene 
of their labours, and I often watched with interest 
a lantern apparently creeping along the ground of 
a dark night. 

What I really wanted to see was a raid of Hunter 
ants. I had read a fascinating description in a 
book of early days in Trinidad, of a domiciliary 
visit paid to the author's house in the country, 
which she and her children h'ad hastily to vacate 
at earliest dawn, taking with them their pet birds 
and a kitten, which the slave-women, who warned 
them to " turn out sharp," declared would be 
devoured if left behind. The Hunter ants spent 
the whole of that day inside the house, clearing 
it of every lizard, mouse, cockroach, beetle, and 
such small deer. The writer describes the ants as 
having wings when they first appeared ; but when 
their day of gorging was over they emerged wingless, 
and rested in vast dark masses in her garden. They 
had not touched anything except the small reptile 
and insect colonies, which, we must remember, 
were likely to flourish under the deep thatched 
roof of those days, long before galvanised iron 


or shingles from America were known. The writer 
goes on to say that at dawn next day she heard 
strange and weird screams from numerous small 
sea-gulls, who, in their turn, were making an ex- 
cellent breakfast off the fat Hunter ants. Such 
scenes as this are hardly ever to be met with in 
these days, for the 1 houses are so different, and 
more of the high woods are cleared every year. 

On these hillsides cocoa is grown very successfully 
by the small cultivator. I have often, during our 
excursions up the lovely lonely valleys within an 
easy drive of Port of Spain, watched the process, 
which seemed very primitive. The clearing ap- 
peared to entail far the most labour, in spite of as 
much burning as was compatible with the lush- 
green foliage. Banana-suckers were the first things 
planted round the hole which held the young cocoa 
plant, to shade it ; next came small trees of the 
madre di cocoa, or bois immortel, which are 
indispensable to a cocoa plantation. This tree 
is at all stages of its growth a very straggling one, 
and can give but little shade. I suspect it is chiefly 
valuable from its draining properties, for the fact 
remains that cocoa steadily declines to flourish any- 
where without its madre. 

Anything so beautiful as the hills towards San 
Fernando in the very earliest spring when the 
dense woods of bois immortel are in full blossom 
cannot be imagined. At sunset the whole country- 


side glows with a radiance which looks like enchant- 
ment, and the green effect of this beautiful tropic 
island then merges over those low hills into a vivid 
scarlet, melting away into the indigo shadows of 
the quick-falling dusk. Cocoa is a most beautiful 
crop, for the broad glossy leaves do not at all conceal 
the large brilliant pod, which grows in an inde- 
pendent manner, in twos and threes, right out of 
the stem or the thickest branches. At no time of 
year are the trees quite bare of pods, which are of 
various colours. I have often seen a pale green 
pod, a scarlet one, and a rich dark crimson or 
brilliant yellow pod growing quite happily side by 
side ; of course they were all in different stages 
of ripeness, but that did not seem to matter at 
all, and cocoa-picking appeared always going on. 

Those drives up the valleys were always delightful, 
and we found that different patois seemed to be 
spoken in places half a mile apart and with only a 
low ridge between. Up one valley a sort of spurious 
Spanish would be heard, up another Creole French, 
whilst a hybrid Hindustani was the language of a 
third cleft in the hills. We made great friends, 
however, with the different races, and the children 
always rushed out to greet us. 

An especial beauty of those valleys were the 
fire-flies and what are locally called the fire-beetles 
large hard-backed creatures with eyes like gig 
lamps and a third light beneath, which only shows 


when they fly. My ardent desire all the time I 
was in Trinidad was to get a specimen of a rare 
fire-beetle, which is said to have a luminous pro- 
boscis. I did want that beetle dreadfully, and 
offered frantic rewards all up the valleys for a 
specimen. Needless to say I was regarded more 
or less as a lunatic, and the carriage was often 
stopped either by children waving an ordinary 
beetle snapping violently in its efforts to escape, or 
by a grinning policeman who saluted and tendered 
me a common fire-beetle tied up in a corner of 
his blue pocket-handkerchief. I once tracked with 
infinite pains and trouble a specimen to its owner, 
but, alas ! it was dead and half-eaten by ants. 

By the first week in January the fire-flies dis- 
appear, and are not to be seen again before the 
heavy May rains have fallen. Then they come 
forth in full beauty, and it certainly is a wonderful 
sight as one drives home in the short gloaming, 
for every blade of grass holds many tiny sparkles, 
winking in and out with a bewildering effect. The 
fire-beetles chiefly haunt the lower branches of 
the cocoa groves, where they look like small lamps 
swinging among the trees. Indeed the magnifying 
effect of the damp atmosphere beneath these 
bushes is so powerful that I often found it difficult 
to believe that some one carrying a lantern was 
not stepping down the bank towards us. I once 
kept some of these beetles, fed them with sugar- 


cane, and sprinkled them with water every day ; 
but they soon lost their brilliancy, and I felt it 
so cruel to retain them in a dark prison, that I 
emptied them on the Thunbergia outside the 
verandah railing. One of my prettiest girl-guests 
used often to wear a dagger in her hair made of 
these fire-beetles, ingeniously harnessed together with 
black thread, and they showed brilliantly amid her 
dark braids, even beneath the ballroom chandeliers, 

Nor did any winter visitor ever see the wonderful 
mass and succession of flowering trees, for they 
do not cover themselves with sheets of brilliant 
blossom until after the rainy season begins. I was 
disappointed in the actual flowers to be found in 
the Gardens. Even the imported ones do not 
manage much of a blossom, and bulbs, &c., have 
to wage an incessant warfare against the all-devour- 
ing ant. It is for this reason I suspect that the 
flowers confine themselves to high trees, where they 
are safe from the ants, for they certainly make 
but a languid attempt to grow in the ground. In 
vain I steeped the seeds of my particular favourites 
in a strong solution of quassia. That was all very 
well for the actual seed, but the ants only deferred 
their meal until my poor little plants were a couple 
of inches high. 

I will not dwell here on my private sentiments 
regarding the cockroaches, for I feel that I should 
pass the grounds of permissible invective if I 


attempted to describe my feelings towards the 
creatures who devoured or defaced the bindings 
of all my favourite books. Nothing daunts them 
or keeps them away ; they seem to thrive and 
fatten on all the destructive powders of which I 
used to lay in large stores for their undoing. They 
would take the poison and the cover of my book 
as well, and ask for more ! How can you deal 
with creatures who fly in at the window and run, 
literally, like " greased lightning " ? Their fiendish 
cleverness must be seen to be believed ; how they 
will dart to a knot of exactly their own colour 
in the polished wooden floor, and lie still as death 
under your eyes ! 

Next to the cockroaches might be ranked as 
irrepressible torments the mole-crickets, who would 
not allow of a lawn anywhere. There were some 
beautiful grass tennis courts in these Botanical 
Gardens, costing an appalling sum to keep in 
tolerable order thanks to the crickets which 
burrow like moles and devour like locusts and 
hatch out in myriads. I used often to see a small 
army-corps of little black boys on the tennis grounds 
headed by tall coolies with watering-pots of strong 
soapsuds which they poured on the ground. This 
douche brought the mole-cricket out of his hall 
door in a great hurry, to be snapped up and flung 
into a bucket of water by the attendant imp. But 
it was very difficult to keep them down, even by 


these means, and the lawns had to be dug up and 
replanted constantly. It is impossible to keep 
the rapacious insect-world in order in a climate 
which, for certainly half the year, resembles an 
orchid-house watered and shut up for the night. 

The Harlequin beetle is, no doubt, quite as 
destructive as his less gaudy brethren, but one 
forgives him a good deal, partly because of his 
brilliant beauty, and partly because his depreda- 
tions are carried on chiefly underground. Then 
the shady places are always made glorious by 
large slow-moving butterflies of gorgeous colouring 
and quaint conceit, such as transparent round 
windows let in, as it were, amid their brilliant 

Any one who fears bats should not visit " le're, 
or the home of the humming-bird " (as the Indians 
told Sir Walter Raleigh Trinidad was called), for 
all sorts and conditions of bats abound. The 
fruit-eating variety is greatly attracted to the 
Botanical Gardens by the star-apple trees growing 
there. I always feared lest sentence should be 
passed against these beautiful trees with their 
copper-beech-like foliage, on account of the bats, 
who, by the way, don't seem ever to eat the fruit 
where it grows, but always carry it off and devour 
it in another tree. The Vampire bat is a great deal 
bigger than the ordinary bat, but mosquito netting 
is quite sufficient protection in a house, and the 


stables are generally guarded by galvanised wire 
netting, and if ordinary care is taken about not 
leaving stable-doors open after sundown, the horses 
do not suffer ; but when did a negro groom ever 
think of a detail of that sort ? 

It was very amusing to watch the native bees 
going back to their hive at dusk. I don't know 
how they had been persuaded to take up their 
abode in a box fastened against the wall of the 
Superintendent's office in the Botanical Gardens ; 
but the colony was in a very flourishing condition 
when I was taken to view it at sundown, and it had 
evidently established Responsible Government. The 
bees themselves were small and shabby, regarded 
as bees, and did not trouble to make more honey 
than enough for their daily needs ; they scouted 
the idea of storing it, for there were lots of flowers 
all the year round, and no wintry weather to provide 
against. Their chief anxiety seemed to be to keep 
their hall-door shut, and they were very particular 
on that point. When I was watching them, the 
great mass of the bees had already gone into the 
hive, and only an occasional loiterer was to be seen 
creeping in at a very small hole. 

" Now here comes the last bee," said my com- 
panion. " Look carefully at him." So I did, 
and saw that the little creature was carrying a 
pellet of mud nearly as big as himself. It was 
too big to go in at the hole, so he had to break bits 



off ; but he twice picked up some of the fragments 
which had fallen down, and stuffed them also into 
the hole. Then he went in himself, and the Super- 
intendent opened a sliding panel commanding a 
view of this hall-door, at which three or four bees 
were busily working, blocking it up with the mud 

" They do that eVery night," I was told, " and 
open it the' first thing in the morning." I wanted 
very much to know what would happen if any 
belated bee turned up afterwards, but the story 
did not say. 

English bees were introduced into the island 
many years ago, but they have lost most of their 
thrifty ways, and become demoralised by the 
flower wealth all the year round. They also decline 
to be confined in hives, which I dare say they find 
too hot, and so they build wherever they like. 
An enormous colony had settled years and years 
before, evidently, under the flooring of one of the 
cool north verandahs of Government House. As 
long as they went in and out from outside it did 
not matter, but latterly they took to pervading 
the verandah inside and violently assaulting the 
passers-by. This was too much to bear often, so 
the house-carpenter and his assistants were set 
to work to prise up the boards of the verandah. 
They chose a cloudy day when the bees would be 
out, taking advantage of the comparative coolness, 


but they soon found that many boards had to 
come up, for the comb was thickly formed every- 
where. At last all the verandah floor was up, and 
I certainly never saw such a sight. Yards and 
yards of comb ! Most of it black and useless, 
nearly all quite empty of honey (that was for fear 
of the ants), and hardly any bee-bread even. When 
the men went away to their breakfast the orioles, 
who must have been watching the proceedings 
with deep interest, came down from the Flamboyant 
outside the window, and had a sumptuous break- 
fast oft the immature bees. There was a terrible 
revenge, however, when the bees returned later, 
and the workmen had to retreat hastily. I found 
upon that occasion that silver quarter-dollars made 
the best salve for bee-stings. 

When we first we'nt to Trinidad our evening 
drives often led us past fields of sugar-cane, which 
seemed even then fast falling out of cultivation, 
and long before we left in 1896 they had been 
replaced by plantations of Guinea grass, which 
appeared to thrive extremely well, and for which 
there was an excellent market in and near Port 
of Spain. The land was evidently worn out for 
sugar-cane, but answered capitally for this tall grass, 
on which all four-footed beasts seem to thrive. 

Much has been written and preached about the 
terrible fondness of the West Indian negro for 
smart clothes ; but if he had not that passion 


with which surely the modern fine lady can well 
sympathise it would be extremely difficult to get 
him or her to work. Why should he, in a climate 
where bodily exertion is very undesirable, and 
where food and shelter grow, so to speak, by the 
roadside ? 

They expend vast sums on their wedding fes- 
tivities, at which the guests are expected to appear 
in perfectly new garments. I once offered a comely 
young black housemaid leave of absence to go 
to her brother's marriage, but she declined on the 
score of expense. Now I had seen this girl, a week 
or two before, very smartly dressed for a friend's 
wedding, so 1 said : 

" But surely you have still got that beautiful 
hat and frock you wore at Florinda's marriage the 
other day ? " 

Aurelia gave me a shocked glance as she 
answered : 

" Oh, lady, me can't wear that ! " 

" Why not ? " I asked. 

" All peoples very much offended if I wear same 
dress to their wedding ; must be quite new every 

And nothing I could urge had the least effect 
in shaking her resolution not to disgrace her family 
by appearing in garments which had done duty 
before on a similar occasion. I always noticed at 
the cathedral that every female member of the 


very large and devout coloured congregation had 
on her head a hat which must have cost a good 
deal more than my own bonnet. From a picturesque 
point of view the effect of the coloured women's 
spotlessly clean white dresses and brilliantly flowered 
and ribboned hats was excellent, though doubtless 
the political economist would have sighed. I once 
asked a friend where and' how these smart damsels 
obtained their patterns, for nothing could be more 
correct or up-to-date than their skirts and their 

" Oh, the washerwomen set the fashions here, 
especially yours. It is very simple : when you 
send a blouse or a muslin or cotton dress to the 
wash and these women wash beautifully the 
laundress calls in her friends and neighbours, and 
they carefully study and copy that garment before 
you see it again ; and the same thing happens with 
the gentlemen's tennis flannels, and other garments." 

But the most amusing, and absolutely true, story 
I heard was this one : 

Our house steward told me that, when he was 
superintending tKe moving of our numerous boxes 
and packages on the return from our short annual 
visit to England, he noticed on the wharf one of 
the young black men employed who was unusually 
active in dealing with the luggage. Nothing could 
be a greater contrast to the ordinary sleepy loafer, 
who used to smoke and talk a good deal more than 


he worked. This youth was strong and smiling, 
and made nothing of handling any big boxes which 
came in his way, so most travellers rewarded his 
good-humoured exertions by an extra sixpence for 

A couple of years later Mark was missing from 
the landing jetty. No one knew what had become 
of him, nor could the most anxious inquiries elicit 
any information. At last one day, when my in- 
formant was in one of the principal " Stores," as 
the excellent and comprehensive shops of Port of 
Spain are called, there suddenly entered his friend 
Mark, smiling as ever, and still dressed in his 
primitive working garments of three old sacks 
two for his " divided skirts," and one with a hole 
cut in it for his head to go through, and worn as a 
sleeveless smock-frock. Before any questions could 
be asked, Mark took one of the assistants aside, 
and began to choose, very carefully and deliberately, 
an entire outfit of black cloth clothes. He evi- 
dently knew exactly what he wanted, and paid for 
each article, as he selected it, from a roll of five- 
dollar notes, which, for want of a pocket, he carried 
in his hand. The broad-cloth suit was followed 
by other indispensable garments, and finally a pair 
of lavender gloves, shining boots, a tall hat, a 
slender umbrella, and even a showy gilt watch- 
chain were purchased, and the happy possessor 
of a complete rig-out of " Europe clothes " left the 


store with only a few cents to put in his new and 
numerous pockets. He was often seen afterwards 
in this fine suit of clothes walking about the Gardens 
when the band was playing, but, so far as any one 
knows, he has never done a stroke of work since ! 


" THE deaf, cold official Ear " used to be a favourite 
phrase in the Crown Colonies in my day, and re- 
ferred, of course, to the Ear of Downing Street ; 
but even then it seemed to me a very undeserved 
reproach, for, so far as my own experience went, 
or rather the experience of my dear husband, it 
was only necessary to bring a grievance small or 
large before that much-abused department for 
at least an attempt to be made to remedy it 

Take the case of Rodrigues as an example. It 
had been for many years a " most distressful " 
dependance of Mauritius. Once upon a time 
early in the nineteenth cetitury it was a favourite 
sanatorium of the East Indian squadron, and 
ships were constantly calling there to leave sick or 
wounded sailors and take away the convalescents. 
For, until 1814 brought peace and the Treaty of 
Paris, a good deal of fighting went on in that part 
of the Indian Ocean, Bourbon and L'lle de France 
being the prizes of the victor. 


Apropos of those same prizes, I have always 
heard that L'lle de France, as Mauritius used to 
be called in those days, was only captured by 
stratagem, and that its protecting circle of reefs, 
quite as effectual as a chain of torpedoes, had kept 
the British frigates cruising outside for many a 
weary day. There was no reliable chart, and, 
naturally, no pilot was forthcoming. At last, 
very early one morning, a pirogue was sighted, and 
a smart man-of-war's boat intercepted it before 
the shelter of the coral girdle could be gained. 
Its solitary occupant was a young fisherman, who 
was directly taken to the admiral's ship, and, with 
great difficulty and with the aid of what was to 
him an enormous bribe, persuaded to guide the 
landing-party's boats through difficult passages 
to a suitable and unexpected landing-place. The 
choice lay between that and death, and the lad 
chose life and wealth. But I was assured that from 
that day to this the poor man and his descendants 
had been regarded as outcasts, with whom no one 
in the conquered island would have any dealings. 

Then, as to Bourbon, the story goes that it was 
given back to the French by that same Treaty 
of Paris owing to a mistaken idea at our own 
Colonial Office thiat it was a West Indian island, 
instead of lying only a hundred miles south of 
Mauritius. So ever since 1814 poor little Rodrigues 
has been deserted by her naval visitors, and Port 


Mathurin had welcomed only two men-of-war in the 
sixty-five years which had passed before our visit. 

The real bad times, however, set in with the 
abolition of slavery, for it is the sort of climate 
where one need not work, or only work very little, 
to live. The sugar and coffee estates soon fell 
out of cultivation, as did the cotton and even the 
vanilla bean, which grows so easily, and the island 
seems to have come in for more than its fair share 
of hurricanes. Then the want of communication 
and a market for exports completed the tale of its 
trouble ; and when an unusually dry season killed 
the rice crops, something very like a famine set in. 
This had happened several times before our day, 
and relief for the moment had, of course, been sent. 

But when, one day in the middle of the hur- 
ricane season of 1881, a wretched little open boat 
struggled across the 350 miles of Indian Ocean, 
bringing the island pilot and another sailor with 
a piteous tale sent by the magistrate in charge, 
of the hunger and distress which prevailed in 
Rodrigues, the Lieutenant-Governor of Mauritius 
felt that nothing but a personal visit and inquiry 
into the cause of the constantly recurring evil 
would satisfy his Government. So an application 
was made at once through the Colonial Office for 
the loan of a man-of-war to visit the afflicted little 
island. There was no telegraph nearer than Aden 
twenty-three years ago, so, although the matter 


was taken in hand at once in Downing Street, it 
was early in June of the same year before it could 
be finally arranged. A small gunboat was all that 
had been asked for, and lo ! the flagship herself 
the stately Euryalus was put at the Lieutenant- 
Governor's disposal through the courtesy of the 
admiral of the East Indian station, who made 
an official visit of his own to Madagascar fit in 
with the date of the proposed trip to Rodrigues. 

I have felt this little explanation to be necessary 
of how we came to be standing on the poop of 
H.M.S. Euryalus that lovely afternoon of June the 
best mid-winter month. Our party had been kept 
as small as possible, for there was only the accom- 
modation reserved for the admiral and his flag- 
lieutenant vacant, and our good bishop had begged 
to come to look after the spiritual needs of his 
small flock in that distant part of his diocese. 

The scene is still vividly before me ; the pro- 
found calm of everything after the noise and bustle 
of our reception on board were over, of which the 
only trace was the smoke of the saluting cannon 
still curling over the calm water. We seemed to 
be stationary, and the lovely hills, with their deep 
purple shadows, their glistening waterfalls, and 
the vivid green of the fields of sugar-cane in the 
valleys, appeared to be slowly gliding away under 
the most exquisite sunset sky. But all too soon 
the Euryalus had made her way through the 


crowded harbour of Port Louis to what seemed 
a gate in the wall of coral reef, and headed, a few 
moments later, out to sea. A sea beautiful to 
behold, indeed, but of so rough-and-tumble a nature 
that the dinner-party that evening was but small. 
In fact few of our party showed up much during 
the three days of alternate rolling and pitching 
across that rough bit of water, with a strong head- 
wind from south-east. We had really been making 
the best of our way all the time because the captain 
was very anxious to get in early on the 28th to 
celebrate her Majesty's coronation. No sooner, 
therefore, had we dropped anchor in the open 
roadstead opposite Port Mathurin than the royal 
standard flew out from our main, and the gallant 
old ship was, in a moment, dressed from stern to 
bow in gay flags. At noon a royal salute pealed 
out over the water but this is anticipating a 
little, for long before noon every available boat 
was crowding round the Euryalus. The magistrate 
had come on board directly ; so had two very 
agreeable Roman Catholic priests. Every one con- 
cerned in the matter was soon deep in the arrange- 
ment of details connected with our official landing. 

As I had nothing to do except to put on my best 
bonnet at the proper time, I had plenty of leisure 
to admire the tiny island, which, with no other 
land to dwarf it, looked quite imposing from the 
deck of the Euryalus. It was difficult to believe 


that the highest hill I could see was only 1800 feet 
above the sea-level, for the beautiful clear atmos- 
phere seemed to magnify everything, as if one were 
looking at it through water. And there were 
ravines plainly marked, each with its little tumbling 
cascade, and a great deal of bright green foreground, 
which we afterwards found was not the inevitable 
sugar-cane, but a coarse, rather rank grass, afford- 
ing excellent grazing for cattle. Indeed, Rodrigues 
could supply Mauritius entirely with beef if only 
there were proper communication, but as matters 
then stood our supply used to come chiefly from 
Madagascar by weekly steamer. 

It was really like an English April day, even to 
the bite in the air whenever the sun was absent 
during the constant scudding squalls squalls which 
kept the poor reception committee in a state of 
anguish and anxiety not to be described. Most of 
them had come on board to arrange details, and 
were condemned to watch their beautiful arches 
and masts and flags being most roughly handled 
by the sou'-wester. I did my best to comfort any 
one who came my way by predictions of a fine 
afternoon, and to assure them that business stern, 
serious business was the real object of the visit. 
The heart-breaking part of it all, however, was to 
find that the entire population of Rodrigues in- 
sisted on regarding the gaily-dressed ship, the 
royal salute, even the royal standard, as all being 


part and parcel of the show, and in the Lieutenant- 
Governor's honour. I never can forget the horrified 
faces both of poor dear F. and the flag-captain of 
the Euryalus when this fact dawned on them. 
They were quite tragic over it, and thought me 
most heartless for laughing at the mistake. 

The alternations of sun and shower showed up 
with curious clearness the water-path which a boat 
would need to follow between the ship and the 
shore. It was traced quite distinctly, as if in a 
very devious track of indigo, through the bright 
blue water and the white tips breaking on the 
coral reefs, whilst every here and there a wee islet, 
on which earth and grass-seed were quickly finding 
their way, had pushed its head up. It seerned 
an object-lesson on the very beginning of things. 
The worst of all this was that the big ship could not 
come at all near the shore, and, as we were always 
to sleep on board, the little voyage twice a day 
entailed a good deal of forethought on account of 
the tide. 

However, both weather and tide were highly 
favourable by three o'clock that same afternoon, 
when the official landing took place with perfect 
success. I could not help glancing triumphantly 
at the now radiant reception committee" as, with 
hardly a breath of air stirring and not a cloud in 
the sky, we stepped out of the admiral's barge. 
Needless to say, the entire population of Rodrigues 


were crowded on the little wharf, which was gaily 
carpeted with red and roofed with palm branches. 
Even the two condamne's, representing the evil- 
doers of the community, stood in the background 
in friendly converse with their gaoler, who would 
not on any account miss the show. Our friend 
the pilot was there also in great form, and it seemed 
he had been taking to himself the credit of having 
arranged the visit. He was not in carpet slippers 
this time, however, which was a pity ; for, if he 
had only known it, the carpet slippers in which he 
had been forced to present himself before the 
Lieutenant-Governor, after his terrible voyage in 
February, had, as he called it, dbimed, his feet, and, 
adding a certain dramatic touch of reality to the 
tale of suffering counted for something in the end. 
A resplendent guard of honour of Marines had 
preceded us, and so had the ship's band. " Ces 
Messieurs avec les trompettes " became at once first 
favourites, and remained so to the end. Primitive 
and friendly as it all was, there yet was no escaping 
the inevitable addresses, which had to be in French, 
as that is really the language of the little island, 
though I fear it was not of the purest Parisian type. 
Happily, I could perceive no traces of famine or 
even of hard times in the crowds which surrounded 
us. All seemed fat, and buxom, and beaming. I 
looked anxiously at the children, for I remember 
the heart-breaking sight the poor little ones had 


presented when I had passed through an Indian 
famine district long years before the Rodrigues 
visit. These babies were as plump as ortolans, 
and as merry as crickets. 

Friendly and almost universal handshaking 
brought the affair to an end " une vraie fete de 
famille," as I heard it called and we were free 
to adjourn to the magistrate's pretty house for a 
welcome cup of tea. The moment it had been 
hastily swallowed and F. had got out of his gold- 
laced coat, he and the magistrate adjourned to 
the little court-house close by and plunged at once 
into business, being with difficulty hailed forth in 
time to return on board for a very late dinner. 
Nothing had any effect on their movements except 
threats of the falling tide. In fact, the state of the 
tide governed not to say tyrannised over our 
arrangements that whole week. " Pray be punctual 
to-morrow morning, on account of the tide," was 
the last thing I heard at night, and no engagement 
on shore could be made until the state of the water 
at a given hour was ascertained. In spite, how- 
ever, of punctuality and care, we had to make some 
ridiculous trajets, beginning in great pomp in the 
admiral's barge, changing half-way into smaller 
boats, then into canoes, and finally being piloted 
through the shallows standing on a tiny plank laid 
across a stout leaf and propelled by a swimmer ; yet 
one always arrived dry-shod though much agitated. 


We had only a very few days to stay in Rodrigues, 
for the Euryalm had to return to Madagascar to 
pick up her admiral ; but there were two things 
which must absolutely be accomplished during our 
visit. One was an expedition to " The Mountain " 
to visit the good priests and make a closer ac- 
quaintance with the needs of that particular district, 
and the other was to have a day's sport. This, I 
must add, was chiefly in the interests of our kind 
naval hosts, for I honestly believe that both F. 
and the magistrate would have greatly preferred 
a long and happy day in the court-house, hard 
at work. 

The mountain excursion entailed our leaving the 
ship at eight o'clock of a lovely morning. In fact, 
the bad weather seemed to have ceased with our 
landing, and it proved ideally calm and beautiful 
all that week. As no wheeled vehicle, or horse 
to draw it, exists on Rodrigues, chaises a porteurs 
were provided for the two ladies of the party, 
and all the gentlemen walked. For the first five 
miles the road was excellent, having, indeed, been 
a " relief work " during one of the famines. It 
zigzagged up the steep hill-sides very easily, and 
wound through natural groves of oranges and 
lemons, plantains and palms, which afforded a 
welcome shade. The small houses cases, as they 
are called looked trim and pretty, each with its 
" provision ground " of yams and sweet potatoes, 



and one soon got high enough to look over them 
on to the little town nestling among trees, with 
large patches of bright green grass between it and 
the sea. The Euryalus made a stately object in 
the foreground, and dwarfed the little fishing- 
boats and pirogues which swarmed around her 
to the size of toys. I noticed that the sails of 
these tiny craft were stained with much the same 
vivid colours one sees at Chioggia, and the colour- 
ing of both sky and sea was truly Italian, as were 
the " soft airs of Paradise," which made walking 
a pleasure. 

Still, many halts were called, ostensibly to 
admire the charming panorama, but also to pick 
wild oranges and other juicy fruits. Flowers, more 
or less wild, grew in profusion all round us, and 
I was soon laden with beautiful blossoms. 

We were already a large party when we started, 
and our enormous " tail " increased as we passed 
through each hamlet. The last part of the road 
proved merely a mountain track over rough 
boulders, and all felt glad when the hill-top was 
reached and we were once more on a tolerably 
level track. The village of Gabrielle appeared 
to have availed itself of every inch of cover from 
the summer hurricanes, and each ravine or dip 
in the ground was occupied by a little case and 
garden. A fine triumphal arch awaited us here, 
beneath which stood the two abbes, with the 


whole population of the district as a background. 
Such a smiling crowd, and such a cordial welcome ! 

After the inevitable address, an attempt was 
made to raise " le God-save " (as it is always called 
in Mauritius), but its tones were wavering and 
uncertain, and the tune showed a tendency to 
turn into the " Old Hundredth," so it was some- 
what of a relief when it was succeeded by a 
local hymn of welcome, which they all knew, and 
which was given with great heartiness and lung 
power. The refrain " Et vivat ! et vivat ! " was 
most spirited, and went really welL 

By this time, however, we all felt very hungry, 
and were glad to be taken to the presbytery, close 
to the little chapel, where dejeuner awaited us. 
Wild kid, poultry, eggs, and fruit made up an 
excellent meal, followed by perfect coffee ; and 
then the serious business of the day began. 

I betook myself to the sheltered side of a case, 
where I could view the sort of open-air meeting 
which was going on to leeward of the chapel, and 
of which F. and the priests formed the central 
figures. An interpreter had to be found, for the 
island has a patois of its own, different even from 
that of Mauritius. This interpreter was an Irish- 
man, and his gestures were so dramatic that I 
could really make a good guess at the story which 
was being unfolded ; but I felt somewhat puzzled 
when, towards the end, he flung his old hat on 


the ground and danced on it. I wondered if he 
was asking for Home Rule ! All the men in the 
settlement had crowded round F. and the priests, 
so I found myself the centre of a large gathering 
of the women of Gabrielle, Children were there 
in numbers, but had no chance of getting near me, 
and there was always the difficulty of the language. 
What my smiling jet-black friends seemed most 
curious about was my " civil status," and that of 
the other lady. " Madame ou Ma'amzelle ? " was 
the incessant question to both of us. I singled 
out one extraordinarily ugly but beaming and 
big, fat girl to put the same question to, and I can 
never forget the' droll air of coquetry with which 
she laid one black finger against an equally black 
cheek, turned her head aside, and murmured bash- 
fully, " Moi, je suis Modeste." 

This out-of-door parliament lasted a couple of 
hours, and by that time all the burning questions 
and even the grievances had been laid before the 
Lieutenant-Governor, and it was necessary to 
make a start if we were to catch the tyrant tide. 
So the procession re-formed, only with the chaises 
a porteurs left out, for we ladies preferred to walk 
down, especially at first ; and off we set, the priests 
leading, our little party next, and a dense crowd 
everywhere. They all sang hymns, winding up 
with the first we had heard, and lusty shouts of 
" Et vivat ! et vivat ! " pursued us almost to the 


bottom of the hill. Never was a more affectionate 
leave-taking, and the expressions of gratitude to 
F. for the trouble he had taken were really most 
touching. We carried the dear abbes back to dine 
on board with us, as there was yet much to be 

The next day was supposed to be one of rest as 
far as exercise went, and whilst F. was busy indoors 
with work, I was taken by the magistrate's wife 
round the little town of Port Mathurin to visit 
the school and the tiny hospital, as well as to return 
the calls of some of the leading ladies. It is a 
very healthy island apparently, much more so than 
Mauritius, but then it is not so desperately over- 
crowded as its big sister. The chief complaint I 
heard was of the idleness and inertia of the people 
themselves, and of how difficult it was to induce 
them to do anything except dawdle good- 
humouredly enough through their lives. Of course, 
this partly accounts for the famine and distress. 
They just live from day to day, and make no sort 
of provision for even the morrow, still less the 
rainy or hurricane day. 

There certainly was no inertia, however, on the 
part of the children at a christening service the 
bishop held in the schoolroom that afternoon. 
Such vigorous protests against the sacred rite 
could not be imagined, and it was difficult to get 
through it on account of the noise of the children's 


shrieks. The mothers did not seem in the least 
distressed or alarmed at the outcries of their off- 
spring ; indeed, one black lady remarked to me 
I was the universal godmother " C'est peut- 
tre M. le Diable qui s'en va ? " I can't think 
why the children were so terrified, because the 
bishop christened the babies first, and all was calm 
and holy peace until I attempted to lead up a 
small boy of about four years old. He started 
a wild yell and frantic struggles, in which all 
the others joined, till at last I felt inclined to 
take part in the chorus of sobs myself. The 
bishop's tact and gentle patience were marvel- 
lous, but did not avail to allay the fears of the 

Our last day at Rodrigues held, indeed, hard 
work, for we spent it from an early hour en chasse, 
the paraphernalia of which might have served for 
at least a small punitive expedition. Such muni- 
tions of war, in the shape of guns and cartridges ! 
and the commissariat was on an equally liberal 
scale. This excursion took us quite to the other 
side of the island, and we crossed a little bay to 
get to it, so a small fleet of fishing-boats had been 
commandeered for the occasion. This brought us 
in touch with most of the fisherfolk, and F. seized 
the opportunity of thoroughly investigating their 
needs and wants. 

There is really a good deal of game on the island ; 


deer, partridges, and wild guinea-fowl were pro- 
mised us ; but, alas ! we had reckoned without 
the first lieutenant of the Euryalus, who availed 
himself of our absence to have a thoroughly happy 
day with his big guns, the noise of which drove 
every beast and bird as far away as possible. How- 
ever, there was still the long delightful day in the 
open air, and it was always possible to get shade 
beneath the vacoas, a sort of palm, common also 
in Mauritius, of whose fibre sacks, baskets, and 
lots of useful things are made. But the Latanier 
is the maid-of-all-work among palms. All the 
little cases are built and thatched with it, its fibre 
makes excellent rope, and doubtless it could be 
turned to many other uses. 

In spite of our really enormous luncheon, we 
were bidden to a banquet on our return to Port 
Mathurin, and that day actually ended with a 
ball ! We had made ourselves independent of the 
tyranny of the tide for once, and had brought our 
evening things on shore with us, so a very sunburnt 
and sleepy group in uniforms and ball dresses 
made the best of their way on foot to the court- 
house somewhere about nine o'clock, and absolutely 
danced with spirit and vigour until the coxswain 
put his head in at the door and murmured, " Tide's 
falling, sir." It was just about midnight, and we 
all fled like so many Cinderellas. No need to 
wrap up, for a lace scarf was sufficient on such 


a balmy night, and the moonlight felt quite 

We certainly would not have been allowed to 
take so hurried a departure had it not been settled 
that we were to breakfast on shore next morning 
and make our real farewells then. The guard of 
honour and the trompettes preceded us once more, 
and there was a sort of attempt at an official 
" send-off." But the islanders took the matter 
into their own hands this time, and I really believe 
every human being in Rodrigues came to see us 
off, and to thank and bless " Excellence " for having 
paid them so long a visit. The condamnes 
were there too, and solemnly promised me to be 
models of good behaviour for the future. My 
numerous god-children were now (scantily) clothed, 
but in their right minds, and their mothers tried 
hard to get them to express their regret for having 
been si mechant ; but that part of the perform- 
ance did not come off. However, they got their 
bags of sugar plums all the same. 

The inevitable address was got through in dumb 
show, and we were followed not only to the water's 
edge but into the water itself by the affectionate 
farewells of all the poor people. It was so touch- 
ing, the way they brought gifts. Modes te was there 
with oranges and eggs in each hand. Indeed, I 
may mention here that eggs, however fresh, are 
very embarrassing tokens of affection when given 


in dozens. I presented all mine to the fo'castle, 
as well as sundry sacks of oranges ; and as for 
my bouquets, they would have stocked a flower- 
shop. It was quite with difficulty we pushed off 
at last. Fortunately, the tide allowed the admiral's 
barge to come up to the little jetty, for I am sure 
if we had started on a palm leaf, as we sometimes 
did, there would have been disasters and wet feet, 
to say the least of it. 

By the time the Euryalus was reached, she was 
found to be ringed round by boats of all sorts and 
sizes, and it was quite difficult to get, first on board 
and then off. " Et vivat ! " rang out in great 
force on every side, and even a tremulous " God- 
save " ; but the hearty thanks and benedictions 
were the pleasantest sounds. At last the screw 
turned, and the fine old ship headed once more 
for the wide ocean. The boats and waving kerchiefs 
were soon dwarfed into so many dots on the dancing 
waves, and in an hour or two we had looked our 
last on Rodrigues. 

The wind was fair for going back, and the voyage 
proved quite smooth as well as very pleasant. 
" Ces Messieurs avec les trompettes " discoursed 
delightful music to us after dinner, and the soft 
moonlight lasted all the way back. The dear old 
Euryalus has gone the way of old ships, but has 
happily left a smart successor to her name and 
fame. Regular communication (that is to say, 


as regular as the hurricanes will allow) has been 
established with Rodrigues, and it must be more 
prosperous, for I see by the latest returns that 
the population has doubled itself since that de- 
lightful visit. 


MY very first experience of the eccentricities of 
colonial servants dates a good deal more than half a 
century ago, and the scene was laid in Jamaica, where 
my father then held the office of " Island Secretary " 
under Sir Charles afterwards Lord Metcalfe the 
Governor. It was Christmas day, and I had been 
promised as a great treat that my little sister and 
I should sit up to late dinner. But the morning 
began with an alarm, for just at breakfast- time an 
orderly from one of the West Indian regiments, 
then stationed in Spanish Town, had brought a 
letter to my father which had been sent upstairs 
to him. I was curled up in a deep window-seat 
in the shady breakfast- room, enjoying a brand-new 
story-book and the first puffs of the daily sea-breeze, 
when I heard a guttural voice close to my ear 
whispering, " Kiss, missy, kiss." There stood what 
seemed a real black giant compared with my childish 
stature, clad in gorgeous Turkish-looking uniform 

with a big white turban and a most benignant 



expression of face, holding his hand out, palm 

I gazed at this apparition for I had only just 
returned to Jamaica with paralysed terror, while 
the smiling ogre came a step nearer and repeated 
his formula in still more persuasive tones. At 
this moment, however, my father appeared and 
said, " Oh yes, all right ; he wants you to give him 
a Christmas-box. Here is something for him." It 
required eve'n then a certain amount of faith as well 
as courage to put the silver dollar into the out- 
stretched palm, but the man's joy and gratitude 
showed the interpretation had been quite right. 
I did not dare to say what my alarm had conjured 
up as the meaning of his request, for fear of being 
laughed at. 

As well as I remember, at that Christmas dinner- 
party and it was a large one the food was dis- 
tinctly eccentric, edibles usually boiled appearing 
as roasts and vice versa. The service also was of a 
jerky and spasmodic character, and the authorities 
wore an air of anxiety, which, however, only added 
to the deep interest I took in the situation. But 
things came to a climax when the plum-pudding, 
which was to have been the great feature of the 
entertainment, did not appear at its proper time 
and place, and a tragic whisper from the butler 
suggested complications in the background. My 
father said laughingly, "I am sorry to say the 


cook is drunk and will not part with the plum- 
pudding," so we went on with the dinner without 
it. But just as the dessert was being put on the 
table there was a sound as of ineffectual scrimmaging 
outside, and the cook a huge black man clad in spot- 
less white rushed in bearing triumphantly a large 
dish, which he banged down in front of my father, 
saying, " Dere, my good massa, dere your pudding," 
and immediately flung himself into the butler's arms 
with a burst of weeping. I shall always see that 
pudding as long as I live. It was about the size of 
an orange and as black as coal. Every attempt to 
cut it resulted in its bounding off the dish, for it 
was as hard as a stone. Though not exactly an 
object of mirth in itself, it certainly was " a cause 
that mirth was in others," and so achieved a success 
denied to many a better pudding. 

Several years passed before I again came across 
black servants, and the next time was in India. I 
was not there long enough, nor did I lead a suffi- 
ciently settled life, to be able to judge of the Indian 
servant of that day. Half my stay in Bengal was 
spent under canvas, and certainly the way in which 
the servants arranged for one's comfort under those 
conditions was marvellous. The camp was a very 
large one, for we were making a sort of military 
promenade from Lucknow up to Lahore my 
husband being the Commanding Officer of Royal 
Artillery in Bengal but I only went as far as the 


foot of the Hills and then up to Simla. It was 
amazing the way in which nothing was ever for- 
gotten or left behind during four months' continuous 
camp-life. All my possessions had to be divided, 
and, where necessary, duplicated, for what one used 
on Monday would not be get-at-able until Wednes- 
day, and so on all through the week. No matter 
how interesting my book was, I could not go on 
with it for thirty-six hours i.e. from, say Monday 
night till breakfast- time on Wednesday morning. 
I could have a new volume for Tuesday, but the 
interest of that had also to remain in abeyance 
until Thursday. Still, I would find the book pre- 
cisely where I laid it down, and if I had put a mark, 
even a flower, it would be found exactly in the 
right place. 

I always wondered when and how the servants 
rested, for they seemed to me to be packing and 
starting all night long, and yet when the new 
camping-ground was reached the head-servants 
would always be there in snowy garments, as fresh 
and trim as if they came out of a box. There were 
two sets of under-servants, but the head ones never 
seemed to be off duty. 

We started with the first streak of daylight, and 
there was no choice about the matter, for if you 
did not get up when the first bugle blew, your plight 
would be a sorry one when the canvas walls of the 
large double tent fell flat at the sound of the second 


bugle, half-an-hour later. The roof of the tent was 
left a few moments longer, so one had time for 
hot fragrant coffee and bread and butter before 
starting either on horse or elephant back. I gene- 
rally rode on a pad on the hathi's back for the first 
few miles while it was still dark, and mounted my 
little Arab some six or eight miles further on. The 
marches were as near twenty-five miles daily, as 
could be arranged to suit the Commander-in-Chief s 
convenience as to inspections, &c. 

Everything was fresh and amusing, but I think 
I most delighted in seeing the modes of progression 
adopted by the various cooks. Our head-cook 
generally requisitioned a sort of gig, in which he 
sat in state and dignity, with many bundles heaped 
around him. Part of his cavalcade consisted of 
two or three very small ponies laden with paniers, 
on top of which invariably stood a chicken or two, 
apparently without any fastenings, who balanced 
themselves in a precarious manner according to the 
pony's gait. No one seemed to walk except those 
who led the animals, and as the camp numbered 
some 5000 soldiers and quite as many camp-fol- 
lowers the supply- train appeared endless. 

Just as we neared the foot of the Himalayan 
range, where the camp was to divide, some of us 
going up to Simla, leaving a greatly lessened force 
to proceed to Lahore, smallpox appeared among 
our servants. I wonder it did not spread much 


more, but it was vigorously dealt with at the out- 
set. I had as narrow an escape as anybody, for one 
morning, while I was drinking my early coffee and 
standing quite ready to start on our daily march, 
one of the servants, a very clever, useful Madras 
" boy " whom I had missed from his duties for 
several days, suddenly appeared and cast himself 
at my feet, clutching my riding-habit and begging 
for some tea. He was quite unrecognisable, so 
swollen and disfigured was his poor face, and I 
had no idea what was the matter with him. He 
was delirious and apparently half -mad with thirst. 
The doctor had to be fetched to induce him to let 
me go, and as more than once the poor lad had 
seized my hands and kissed them in gratitude for 
the tea I at once gave him, I suppose I really ran 
some risks, for it turned out to be a very bad case 
of confluent smallpox. However, all the same, he 
had to be carried along with us in a dhooly until 
we reached a station where he could be put into 
a hospital. 

But certainly the strangest phase of colonial 
domestics within my experience were the New 
Zealand maid-servants of some thirty-five years 
ago. Perhaps by this time they are " home-made," 
and consequently less eccentric ; but in my day 
they were all immigrants, and seemed drawn almost 
entirely from the ranks of factory girls. They were 
respectable girls apparently, but with very free and 


easy manners. However, that did not matter. 
What seriously inconvenienced me at the far up- 
country station where my husband and I had made 
ourselves a very pretty and comfortable home was the 
absolute and profound ignorance of these damsels. 
They took any sort of place which they fancied, 
at enormous wages, and when they had at great 
cost and trouble been fetched up to their new home 
I invariably discovered that the cook, who demanded 
and received the wages of a chef, knew nothing 
whatever of any sort of cooking and the housemaid, 
had never seen a broom. They did not know how 
to thread a needle or wash a pocket-handkerchief, 
and, as I thought, must have been waited on all 
their lives. Indeed, one of my great difficulties was 
to get them away from the rapt admiration with 
which they regarded the most ordinary helps to 
labour. One day I heard peals of laughter from 
the wash-house, and found the fun consisted in the 
magical way in which the little cottage-mangle 
smoothed the aprons of the last couple of damsels. 
So I who was extremely ignorant myself, and had 
no idea how the very beginnings of things should 
be taught had to impart my slender store of 
knowledge as best I could. The little establishment 
would have collapsed entirely had it not been for 
my Scotch shepherd's wife, a dear woman with the 
manners of a lady and the knowledge of a thorough 
practical housewife. What broke our hearts was 



that we had to begin this elementary course of in- 
struction over and over again, as my damsels could 
not endure the monotony of their country life longer 
than three or four months, in spite of the many 
suitors who came a-wooing with strictly honourable 
intentions. But the young ladies had no idea of 
giving up their liberty, and turned a deaf ear to 
all matrimonial suggestions, even when one athletic 
suitor put another into the water-barrel to get him 
out of the way, and urged that this step must be 
taken as a proof of his devotion. 

After the New Zealand experiences came a period 
of English life, and I felt much more experienced 
in domestic matters by the time my wandering star 
led me forth once more and landed me in Natal. 
In spite, however, of this experience, I fell into the 
mistake of taking out three English servants, whom 
I had to get rid of as soon as possible after my 
arrival. They had all been with me some time in 
England, and I thought I knew them perfectly ; 
but the voyage evidently " wrought a sea change " 
on them, for they were quite different people by 
the time Durban was reached. Two developed 
tempers for which the little Maritzburg house was 
much too small, and when it came to carving-knives 
hurtling through the air I felt it was more than my 
nerves could stand. The third only broke out in 
folly, and showed an amount of personal vanity 
which seemed almost to border on insanity. How- 


ever, I gradually replaced them with Zulu servants, 
in whom I was really very fortunate. They learned 
so easily, and were so good-tempered and' docile, 
their only serious fault being the ineradicable 
tendency to return for a while after a very few 
" moons " of service to their kraals. At first I 
thought it was family affection which impelled this 
constant homing, but it was really the desire to 
get back to the savage life, with its gorges of half- 
raw meat and native beer, and its freedom from 
clothes. It is true I had an occasional very bad 
quarter of an hour with some of my experiments, 
as, for instance, when I found an embryo valet 
blacking his master's socks as well as his boots, or 
detected the nurse-boy who was trusted to wheel 
the perambulator about the garden stuffing a half- 
fledged little bird into the baby's mouth, assuring 
me it was a diet calculated to make " the little 
chieftain brave and strong." 

I think, however, quite the most curious instance 
of the thinness of surface civilisation among these 
people came to me in the case of a young Zulu girl 
who had been early left an orphan and had been 
carefully trained in a clergyman's family. She 
was about sixteen years old when she came as my 
nursemaid, and was very plump and comely, with 
a beaming countenance, and the sweetest voice and 
prettiest manners possible. She had a great love 
of music, and performed harmoniously enough on 


an accordion as well as on several queer little pipes 
and reeds. She could speak, read, and write Dutch 
perfectly, as well as Zulu, and was nearly as pro- 
ficient in English. She carried a little Bible always 
in her pocket, and often tried my gravity by dropping 
on one knee by my side whenever she caught me 
sitting down and alone, and beginning to read aloud 
from it. It was quite a new possession, and she 
had not got beyond the opening chapters of Genesis 
and delighted in the story of "Dam and Eva," as 
she called our first parents. She proved an ex- 
cellent nurse and thoroughly trustworthy ; the 
children were devoted to her, especially the baby, 
who learned to speak Zulu before English, and to 
throw a reed assegai as soon as he could stand 
firmly on his little fat legs. I brought her to 
England after she had been about a year with me, 
and she adapted herself marvellously and un- 
hesitatingly to the conditions of a civilisation far 
beyond what she had ever dreamed of. After she 
had got over her surprise at the ship knowing its 
way across the ocean, she proved a capital sailor. 
She took to London life and London ways as if she 
had never known anything else. The only serious 
mistake she made was once in yielding to the 
blandishments of a persuasive Italian image-man 
and promising to buy his whole tray of statues. 
I found the hall filled with these works of art, 
and " Malia " tendering, with sweetest smiles, a 


few pence in exchange for them. It was a dis- 
agreeable job to have to persuade the man to 
depart in peace with all his images, even with a 
little money to console him. A friend of mine 
chanced to be returning to Natal, and proposed 
that I should spare my Zulu nurse to her. Her 
husband's magistracy being close to where Maria's 
tribe dwelt, it seemed a good opportunity for 
" Malia " to return to her own country ; so of 
course I let her go, begging my friend to tell me 
how the girl got on. The parting from the little 
boys was a heart-breaking scene, nor was Malia 
at all comforted by the fine clothes all my friends 
insisted on giving her. Not even a huge Gains- 
borough hat garnished with giant poppies could 
console her for leaving her " little chieftain " ; 
but it was at all events something to send her off 
so comfortably provided for, and with two large 
boxes of good clothes. 

In the course of a few months I received a letter 
from my friend, who was then settled in her up- 
country home, but her story of Maria's doings seemed 
well-nigh incredible, though perfectly true. 

All had gone well on the voyage and so long 
as they remained at Durban and Maritzburg ; 
but as soon as the distant settlement was reached, 
Maria's kinsmen came around her and began to 
claim some share in her prosperity. Free fights 
were of constant occurrence, and in one of them 


Maria, using the skull of an ox as a weapon, broke 
her sister's leg. Soon after that she returned to 
the savage life she had not known since her infancy, 
and took to it with delight. I don't know what 
became of her clothes, but she had presented her- 
self before my friend clad in an old sack and with 
necklaces of wild animals' teeth, and proudly an- 
nounced she had just been married " with cows " 
thus showing how completely her Christianity 
had fallen away from her, and she had practically 
returned, on the first opportunity, to the depth 
of that savagery from which she had been taken 
before she could even remember it. I soon lost 
all trace of her, but Malia's story has always re- 
mained in my mind as an amazing instance of 
the strength of race-instinct. 

My next colonial home was in Mauritius, and 
certainly the servants of that day twenty years 
ago, alas ! were the best I have ever come across 
out of England. I am told that this is no longer 
the case, and that that type of domestic has been 
improved and educated into half-starved little 
clerks. The cooks were excellent, so were the 
butlers. Of course, they had all preserved the 
Indian custom of " dustoor " (I am not at all sure 
of the spelling) or perquisite. In fact, a sort of 
little duty was levied on every article of consump- 
tion in a household. 

I never shall forget the agony of mind of one 


of my butlers at having handed me a wrong state- 
ment of the previous day's " bazaar." I had 
really not yet looked at it, but he implored me 
with such dreadful agitation to let him have it 
back again to " correct " that I read it aloud before 
him, to his utter confusion and abasement. The 
vendor had first put down the price paid him for 
each article, and then the " dustoor " to be added ; 
needless to say, I was to pay the difference, and 
the tax had been amply allowed for in the price 
charged. As " Gyp " would say, Tableau ! 

Curiously enough, it was the dhoby or washer- 
man class which gave the most or rather the only 
trouble. They i.e. the washerman and his numer- 
ous wives fought so dreadfully. Once I received 
a petition requesting me in most pompous language 
to give the youngest or " last- joined " wife a good 
talking to, for in spite of all corrections that is, 
beatings she declined entirely to iron her share 
of the clothes, and had the effrontery to say she 
had not married an ugly old man to have to work 
hard. The dhoby on his side declared he had 
only incurred the extra expense and bother of a 
fourth and much younger wife in order that the 
" Grande Madame' s " white gowns might be beauti- 
fully ironed, fresh every day. 

I handed the letter almost undecipherable on 
account of its ornate penmanship and flourishes 
to the A.D.C. who was good enough to help me 


with my domestic affairs, and he must have arranged 
it satisfactorily, for when he left us hurriedly to 
rejoin his regiment, which had been ordered on 
active service, he received a joint letter of adieu 
from all the dhobies, wishing him every sort of 
good fortune in the campaign, and expressing a 
hope that he might soon return with " le 
croix de la reine Victoria flottant de sa casaque." 
Rather a confusion of ideas, but doubtless well 

In spite, however, of the general excellence of 
Mauritius servants, my very dignified butler at 
Reduit cost me the most trying experience of my 
party-giving career. Once upon a time I had an 
archery meeting at Reduit, and a dance after- 
wards for the young people. This programme 
combining, as it did, afternoon and evening amuse- 
ments required a certain amount of organisation 
as to food. The shooting was to go on as long as 
the light lasted, and it was thought better to have 
the usual refreshments in the tents during that 
time, and then an early and very substantial supper 
indoors so soon after the dancing began as the 
guests liked to have it. 

There used in those days to be an excellent 
restaurant in Port Louis which furnished all the 
ball suppers. The cost was high, but all trouble 
was saved, and the food provided left nothing to 
be desired. The manager of the " Flore Mauri- 


cienne " never made a mistake, and only needed 
to be told how many guests to provide for ; every- 
thing was then sure to be beautifully arranged. 
So I had no anxieties on the score of ample supplies 
of every obtainable dainty being forthcoming. 
Great, therefore, was my surprise, when, after the 
first batch of guests had been in to the supper- 
room, I was informed in a tragic whisper that 
everything looked very nice in there, but that 
there was no second supply of food to replenish the 
tables. This seemed impossible, and I sent for 
the butler and demanded to know what had become 
of the supper. " Monsieur Jorge " smiled blandly 
and, waving his hands in despair, ejaculated " Rien, 
rien, Madame," repeatedly. So, although I had 
not intended to go in to supper myself just then, 
I fastened to the scene. There were the lovely 
tables as usual, a mass of flowers and silver, but 
with empty dishes. I felt as if it must be a bad 
dream from which I should presently awake, but 
that did not make it less terrible at the moment. 
Of course the A.D.C.s were active and energetic, 
but they could not perform miracles and produce 
a supper which they had themselves ordered and 
knew had arrived, but which seemed to have 
vanished into thin air. Tins of biscuits were found 
and sandwiches were hastily cut, and every one 
was most kind and good-natured and full of sym- 
pathy for me. 


If " Monsieur Jorge " and his myrmidons had 
appeared in the least tipsy, the situation would 
have been less perplexing, but except a profound 
and impenetrable gravity of demeanour every 
servant seemed quite right. My guests danced 
merrily away, and hunger had no effect on their 
gay humour, but the staff and I (who had had no 
supper) were plunged in melancholy. 

The moment our telegraph clerk came on duty 
next morning a message was sent to Port Louis 
(eight miles off) asking the manager of the " Flore " 
what had become of his supper, and by the time 
I came down to breakfast that worthy had appeared 
on the scene, and, more versed in the ways of 
Mauritian servants than any of us were, had elicited 
from Monsieur Jorge that he remembered putting 
the numerous boxes of supper away carefully, 
but where, he could not imagine. The night before 
he had insisted that he had placed all the supper 
there was, on the tables. So a search was instituted, 
and very soon the melancholy remains of the supper 
were discovered hidden away in an unused room. 
All the packing ice had, of course, melted, and 
jellies, &c., were reduced to liquid. There was 
about fifty pounds' worth of food quite spoiled 
and useless, most of it only fit to be thrown away. 
The manager's wrath really exceeded mine, and 
he stipulated that not one of the crowd of servants 
should have a crumb of the remains of that supper, 


which I heard afterwards had been given to the 
garden coolies. As a matter of fact, I believe 
Monsieur Jorge was somewhat tipsy, and it took 
the form of complete loss of memory. But it was 
a dreadful experience. 

From the "belle isle de Maurice" we went to Wes- 
tern Australia, where we arrived in the middle of 
winter, and the contrast seemed great in every way, 
especially in the domestic arrangements, for ser- 
vants were few and far between and of a very elemen- 
tary stamp of knowledge. I tried to remedy that 
defect by importing maid-servants, but succeeded 
only in acquiring some very strange specimens. 
In those days Western Australia was such an un- 
known and distant land that the friends at home 
who kindly tried to help me found great difficulty 
in inducing any good servant to venture so far, 
and although the wages offered must have seemed 
enormous, the good class I wanted could not at 
first be induced to leave England. Later, things 
improved considerably and we got very good 
servants, but the first importations were very dis- 
heartening. I used to be so arrized at their love 
of finery. To see one's housemaid at church abso- 
lutely covered with sham diamonds, large rings 
outside her gloves, huge solitaire earrings, and at 
least a dozen brooches stuck about her, was, to say 
the least of it, startling ; so was the apparition of 
my head-cook, whom I sent for hurriedly once, 


after dinner, and who appeared in an evening 
dress of black net and silver. I also recognised 
the kitchen-maid at a concert in a magnificent 
pale green satin evening dress, which, taken in 
conjunction with her scarlet hair, was rather con- 
spicuous. Of one gentle and timid little house- 
maid, who did not dazzle me with her toilettes, 
I inquired what she found most strange and un- 
expected in her new home which, by the way, 
she professed to like very much. 

" The lemons, my lady, if you please." 

" Lemons ! " I said ; " why ? " 

" Well, it's their growin' on trees as is so puzzlin' 
like, if you please." 

" Where else did you expect them to grow ? " 
I inquired. 

" I thought they belonged to the nets. I'd 
always seen them in nets in shops, you know ; 
and lemons looks strange without nets." 

My next and last experience of colonial servants 
was in Trinidad. By this time I had gained so 
much and such varied experience that there was 
no excuse for things not working smoothly, and as 
I was fortunate in possessing an excellent head- 
servant who acted as house-steward I had practi- 
cally no trouble at all, beyond a little anxiety at 
any time of extra pressure about the head-cook, 
who had not only heart disease, but when drunk 
flew into violent rages. Our doctor had warned 


the house-steward that this man who was a half- 
caste Portuguese from Goa might drop dead at 
any moment if he gave way to temper and drink 
combined. So it was always an anxious time when 
balls and banquets and luncheons followed each 
other in quick succession. On these occasions, 
besides his two permanent assistants, G. was 
allowed a free hand as to engaging outside help. 
But he seemed, to take that opportunity to bring 
in his bitterest foes, to judge by the incessant 
quarrels, all of long standing, which poor Mr. V. 
(the house-steward) had to arrange. I only did 
the complimenting, and after each ball supper or 
big dinner sent for the cook and paid him extrava- 
gant compliments on his efforts. That was the only 
way to keep him going, and things went well on 
the surface ; but there were tragic moments to be 
lived through when the said cook had refreshed 
himself a little too often, and about midday would 
declare he had no idea what all these people were 
doing in his kitchens, and, arming himself with a 
rolling-pin, would drive them forth with much 
obloquy. I chanced to be looking out of my 
dressing-room window one day when he started 
a raid on the corps cTarmee of black girls who 
were busily picking turkeys and fowls for the 
next night's ball supper. I never saw anything 
so absurd as the way the girls fled into the 
neighbouring nutmeg - grove, each clasping her 


Of i" 


half -picked fowls and scattering the feathers 
out of her apron as she ran with many " hi ! 
hi's ! " 

I really began to think it would be necessary 
to summon the police sentries to protect them, for 
G. was flinging all sorts of fruit and vegetables at 
them, and had quite got their range. However, 
as Mr. V. emerged from his office and began to 
inquire of the cook if he was anxious to die on the 
spot, I only looked on. At first there was nothing 
but rage and fury on the cook's part, to which 
Mr. V. opposed an imperturbable calm and the 
emphatic repetition of the doctor's warning. Then 
came a burst of weeping, caused, G. declared, by 
his sense of the wickedness of the human race in 
general and " dem girls " in particular. After that 
a deep peace seemed to suddenly descend on the 
scene, and the cook returned to his large and airy 
kitchens, still weeping bitterly. Mr. V. vanished, 
the picking girls reappeared one by one, and, cau- 
tiously looking round to see if it was safe to do so, 
took up their former positions under shady trees. 
Presently I saw other forms stealing back into the 
kitchens, from which they too had been forcibly 
ejected ; and then I heard the cook's voice start 
one of Moody and Sankey's hymns, with apparently 
fifty verses and a rousing chorus. After that I 
had no misgivings as to the success of the supper. 

We succeeded, as it were, to most of our servants, 


for they had nearly all been at Government House 
for some years, and at all events knew their duties. 
I met one functionary, whose face I did not seem 
to know, on the staircase one day, and inquired 
who he was. " Me second butlare, please," was the 
answer. The first " butlare " was an intensely re- 
spectable middle-age'd man, of apparently deeply 
religious convictions, and I always saw him at 
church every Sunday, and he was a regular and 
most devout communicant. Judge, then, of my 
surprise and dismay, when, poor Jacob having died 
rather suddenly of heart disease, I was assured that 
four separate and distinct Mrs. Jacobs had appeared, 
each clad in deepest widow's weeds, and each 
armed with orthodox " lines " to claim the small 
arrears of his monthly pay. But I am afraid that 
similar inconsistencies between theory and practice 
are by no means uncommon in those " Summer 
Isles of Eden." 


MY experience of being interviewed began many 
years before the invention of the present fashion 
of demanding from perfect strangers answers to 
questions which one's most intimate friend would 
hesitate to ask. My interviewers had not the 
smallest desire to be informed as to what I liked 
to eat or drink, or at what hour I got up of a morning. 
The conversation on these occasions used to be 
strictly confined to my visitor's own affairs. Per- 
haps " strictly " is not the word I want, for I well 
remember that my greatest difficulty at these inter- 
views was to keep the information showered on 
me at all to the subject in hand, and to avoid 
incessant parenthetical reminiscences of bygone 

Both in Natal and Mauritius we lived so far 
away from the town that it was too much trouble 
for the interviewer to seek me out, nor indeed do 
I remember hearing of cases which needed help and 
advice there so often as at other places. 

My real debut in being interviewed was made in 


Western Australia some twenty years ago in the 
dear old primitive days, when I felt that I was the 
squire's wife and the rector's wife rolled into one, 
and most of the troubles used to be brought straight 
to me. Indeed, so numerous were my visitors of 
this class that a special room had to be set aside 
in which to receive them ; and certainly, if its walls 
had tongues as well as ears, some droll confidences 
might be betrayed by them. 

But I must confess I began badly. Almost my 
first visitor in that room was a " pensioner's " 
widow. There can be very few " pensioners " left 
now, for fifteen years ago, when we left dear Western 
Australia, hardly thirty of the old " Enrolled 
Guard " survived. The colloquial name by which 
they were known in those latter days was Pensioner, 
though it does not really express their status. 

Fifty years ago a large military force had been 
sent out to the Swan River Settlement all that 
was then known of a colony now a million square 
miles in extent to guard the convicts asked for 
by the first settlers to help them to make roads 
and bridges and public buildings. After twenty 
years the deportation of convicts to Western 
Australia ceased, and the troops "were withdrawn. 

As, however, it was desirable to induce respect- 
able settlers to make the colony their home, special 
advantages had been offered to soldiers to remain 
and take up free grants of land. Many of those 



who had wives and families accepted the offer, and, 
whenever they proved to be sober and industrious 
men, did extremely well. In addition to the liberal 
grants of land, each man was given a small pension, 
and ever since the convicts left his military functions 
had been confined to mounting guard at Govern- 
ment House. Even that slight duty came to an 
end, however, during our stay, and smart young 
policemen replaced the old veterans in out-of-date 
uniforms, their breasts covered with numerous 
medals for active service in all parts of the globe. 

But to return to my first interviewer an old 
Irishwoman, very feeble and very poor, her man 
long since dead, and the children apparently scat- 
tered to the four winds of heaven ; the grant of 
land sold, the money spent, the pension always 
forestalled, and the inevitable objection to entering 
the colonial equivalent for " the House." To more 
practised ears it would no doubt have sounded' a 
suspicious story, but it went to my heart, and I 
gave the poor old body some tea and sugar, an 
order for a little meat, and fatal mistake a few 
shillings. Next day there was a coroner's inquest 
on the charred remains of my unfortunate friend, 
who had got, as it seems she usually did, very 
drunk, and had tumbled into her own fireplace. 
Every one seemed to know how weak and foolish 
I had been in the matter of even that small gift 
of money, and the newspapers hinted that I must 


be a Political Economist of the lowest type ! So 
pensioners' widows tried in vain to " put the com- 
mether " on me after that experience. 

" If you please, my lady, an 'Indoo wants to 
speak to you," ushered in a little later my next 
interviewer. I beheld a small, trim, and cleanly 
clad little man entering at the door. His request 
was for a pedlar's licence. I timidly pointed out 
that I did not deal in such things, and that he must 
have been wrongly advised to apply to me for the 
document. This brought on a rambling story, very 
difficult to comprehend until I furbished up the 
scanty remains of my own knowledge of Hindustani. 
I then gathered that my friend was somewhat of 
a black sheep in character as well as complexion, 
and had so indifferent a record in the police sheets 
that he could not get a licence to start a hawker's 
cart unless some one would become security for his 
good behaviour. He explained very carefully how 
he could manage to raise sufficient money to stock 
his cart, but no one would go security for him. I 
knew that hawkers made quite a good living in the 
thinly populated parts of the colony, and he seemed 
desperately in earnest in his desire to make a fresh 
start and gain his bread honestly. I told him that 
I would consult the Commissioner of Police and see 
him again ; which I did, with the result that I 
went security for his good conduct myself ! No 
doubt it was a rash thing to do, but I wanted him 


to have another chance, and I impressed on him 
how keenly I should feel the disgrace if he did not 
run straight. " Very good, lady Sahib ; I won't 
disgrace you," were his last words in his own 
language ; and he never did. It all turned out like 
a story in a book, and two or three times a year 
my " Indoo " turned up, bringing a smiling little 
wife and an ever-increasing series of babies, to 
report himself as being on the high road to fortune, 
if not actually at her temple gate. It was one of 
the most satisfactory interviews that little back 
room witnessed. 

Sometimes I had a very bad quarter of an hour 
trying to explain to the relatives of prisoners that 
I did not habitually carry the key of the big Jail 
in my pocket, and so was unable to go up that 
very moment, unlock its door, and let out their, of 
course, quite wrongfully tried and convicted friends. 
I have often been asked, " Why did you see these 
weeping women at all ? " . but at the time it was 
very hard to refuse, for, in so small a community 
as it then was, one knew something of the circum- 
stances, and how hardly the trouble or disgrace 
pressed on the innocent members of the family. 
Sympathy was all there was to give, and it was 
impossible to withhold that. 

Looking back on those interviews one sees how 
comedy treads all through life on the heels of 
tragedy, and I am sure to a listener the comic 


element, even in the most pathetic tales, would 
have been supplied by my legal axioms. I used to 
invent them on the spot in the wildest manner, 
and I observed they always brought great comfort, 
which is perhaps more than can be claimed for the 
real thing. For instance, when I was very hard 
put to it once to persuade a weeping girl who had 
flung herself on her knees at my feet, and was 
entreating me to at once release her brother, who 
was in prison for manslaughter, that I had no power 
to give the order she begged for, I cried, " Why, 
my poor girl, the Queen of England could not do 
such a thing, how much less the wife of a Governor ? 
I dare not even speak to my husband on the sub- 
ject." I have often wondered since if the first part 
of that assertion was true. The second certainly 

Although I could not promise to overthrow the 
action of the Supreme Court in the high-handed 
manner demanded of me, still I have never regretted 
my habit of seeing these poor women and listening 
to their sad stories. It really seemed to comfort 
them a little to know how truly sorry I felt for 
them, and I always tried to keep up their own self- 
respect, and so help them over the dark days. I 
had very few demands on me for money, which was 
seldom needed for such cases ; only when illness 
rare in the beautiful climate supervened, was that 
sort of aid at all necessary. 


But my interviewers did not invariably consist 
of supplicants against the course of justice. When 
it was found that a visit to me did not affect in 
any way the carrying out of the just-passed sentence, 
my petitioners fell off in numbers, for which I was 
very thankful. Sometimes I received visits of the 
gratitude which is so emphatically a sense of favours 
to come, but I very soon learned the futility of 
attempting to deal with those daughters of the 
horse-leech, and cut their visits as short as I could. 

Once, however, after a brief interview with a fluent 
and very red-faced lady, leading a demure little 
boy by the hand, a great and bitter cry was raised 
in my establishment, and I was implored by my 
housemaids not to " see any more of them hussies." 
The lady in question said she came to thank me 
for letting her dear, innocent, good little boy out 
of the reformatory. In vain I protested that I 
knew nothing whatever about the matter. The 
boy had been one of six or seven little waifs who 
had been sent to the reformatory on Rottnest 
Island, where we always spent our summers. These 
children used to come down to me every Sunday 
afternoon for a sort of Bible lesson, which I tried 
to make as interesting as I could ; but beyond 
their names I knew nothing about them. I found 
that they were well taught and cared for, and, as 
they could not possibly escape from the island (I 
never heard that they had ever tried to do so), 


were allowed a good deal of liberty after the hours 
spent in school or the carpenter's shop. I presume 
this boy's sentence had expired in due course, 
and that he had returned to his loving mother ; 
hence the wail from my distracted handmaidens, 
who found empty clothes-lines in the back-yard, 
through which these visitors had departed, taking 
with them all the socks, stockings, and pocket- 
handkerchiefs of the whole household. As a feat 
of legerdemain it certainly deserves credit for the 
rapidity with which it was done, as well as the 
way the articles had been hidden so as to escape 
the sentries' eyes. I don't know what happened 
to the lady, who I heard was quickly caught, but 
I saw the little boy, looking as cherubic as ever, 
the next summer when we went over to Rottnest. 
The subject was, however, never alluded to between 
us, and he used to get his stick of barley sugar as 
did the others after the Bible lesson was ended. 

Once I had a visit from a delightful old gentle- 
man who certainly possessed the nicest " derange- 
ment of epitaphs " I have ever met with in real 
life. And he was so proud of his choice language, 
and repeated his distorted expressions so con- 
stantly, that I don't know how I preserved the 
smallest show of gravity. He was an office-keeper 
of some sort, and was threatened with the loss 
of his post for neglect of duty. " You know, my 
lady, it's with regard to that there orfice fire. I 


never did know fires was my special providence, 
never. No one could be more partikler than me 
about my dooty. Why, when we was over at 
Rottnest last year, I was always a prevaricating 
with the shore for orders. There was never no 
inadvartences about me, never ; " and so on. I 
wish I could remember half his flowers of rhetoric. 

There was, however, one class of interviewer of 
whom I saw far too many specimens during the last 
year or two of my stay in Western Australia. The 
colony had been making great progress in every 
direction. The first indications of its splendid 
gold-fields were passing from vague rumours to 
hopeful facts. Railways were being rapidly pushed 
on to every point of the compass, work at high 
wages was plentiful, and every week brought ship- 
loads of men for the railways and all other public 
works. As a rule, I believe, the immigrants were 
fairly satisfactory, and I heard of the various con- 
tractors glad,ly absorbing large numbers of work- 
men. In many instances these men brought their 
wives and families with them, and it was with the 
modern colonist's wife that my troubles began. 

I had heard wonderful stories of the struggles 
and hardships of the early settlers, and admired 
the splendid spirit in which the older sons and 
daughters started empire-building. One dear old 
lady showed me the packing-case of a grand piano, 
which she declared she should always treasure, 


as she had brought up a large and healthy family 
in it. 

" You see, my dear, my piano was not much use 
to me in those days, and I don't know what became 
of it, but the case made a splendid creche for the 
babies." And on every side I saw instances of 
difficulties overcome and hardships borne with the 
same indomitable pluck and cheerfulness. But 
the modern colonist's wife is a very different 
lady. We seem to have educated the original 
woman off the face of the earth, and we have got 
instead a discontented, helpless sort of person, 
who is wretched without all the latest forms of 
civilisation, who wants " a little 'ome " where she 
can put her fans and yellow vases on the walls, 
and sit indoors and do crewel work. 

One woman wept scalding tears over the cruel 
fate which brought her to a country as yet innocent 
of Kindergartens. She had two sweet little girl- 
babies, certainly under three years old, who looked 
the picture of rosy health. I tried to comfort her 
by saying that surely there was -no hurry about 
their education. 

" Oh no, it's not the schooling I mind, ma'am," 
she sobbed ; " it's the getting 'em out of the way. 
They do mess about so, and I want 'em kept safe 
and quiet out of the house." This elegant lady's 
hardships consisted in being required to go a 
hundred miles or so up the railway line to live in 


a little township, where her husband had highly 
paid work. She wished me to tell him that she 
could not possibly go away from Perth, though 
she despised our little capital very heartily. I 
declined to interfere, and told her she ought to 
be ashamed of herself, so she ended the interview 
by sobbing out that " she did think a lady as was 
a lady might feel for her." 

" And what can I do for you ? " was my question 
to a neat, rather nervous young woman, who said 
she was Mrs. Jakes. 

" Well, mum, would you be so good as to ask his 

Excellency to order Mr. " (the great contractor 

of that day) " to send my 'usband back to me." 

" Why ? " I inquired. 

" Well, mum, Jakes, he wants me to go up the 
line ever so far and live in a bush, leastways in a 
tent, and I never can do it." 

" Dear me, why not ? " I inquired. " Many of 
my friends camp out in the bush, and like it very 
much. Why don't you go ? " 

With a deeply disgusted glance at my cheerful 
aspect Mrs. Jakes answered with dignity, " I don't 
'old with living among wild beasts, mum, and Jakes 
ought to be ashamed of 'isself asking a decent 
woman to go and live in bushes with lions and 

As soon as I could speak for laughing, I assured 
Mrs. Jakes that the forests of Western Australia 


were absolutely innocent of such denizens, but she 
did not seem to willingly believe my assertions, 
and left me much disappointed at my advice to 
go up and join her husband, who was perfectly 
well and happy, and working for excellent wages. 

I stopped at that very same road-side station 
later, in one of my spring excursions after wild 
flowers, and I inquired if Jakes was still working 
there. " Yes ; he is a capital man, and is now 
foreman, getting over two pounds a week." So 
then I asked to be conducted to his tent, which I 
found pitched in a lovely sylvan glade, and there, 
to my great satisfaction, I saw Mrs. Jakes pre- 
paring his tea. She was fain to confess that bush- 
life was very different from her alarming anticipa- 
tions of it. She looked ever so much better her- 
self, and the children, whom I carried off to tea 
with me only on account of the buns were as 
rosy as the dawn. 

Some of my interviews were too sad to be spoken 
of here : interviews in which I had often to help- 
lessly witness the awful creeping back to the 
capacity for suffering which is the worst stage in 
that long via dolor osa. 

One terrible night, spent in walking up and down 
the shore at Rottnest with a distracted lighthouse- 
keeper, who had just heard that his young wife 
had been wrecked and lost on her way out to him, 
can never be forgotten. The poor man was literally 


beside himself. His mates brought him down to 

me, declaring that they could not manage him, 

and felt sure he meant to jump into the sea. There 

was not much to be said, so we paced the shore 

in the moonlight outside my house in silence. I 

did not dare to leave him for a moment, and it was 

not until I saw the smoke of the kitchen fire very 

early in the morning that I took him indoors, gave 

him some hot tea, and made him go and lie down. 

He promised me, like a child, " to be good," and 

kept his word bravely poor, heart-broken mourner. 

And then there was my " loving boy Corny," a 

red-headed imp of mischief, whose mother used, 

when he " drove her past her patience," to bring 

him to me to scold. Poor Corny 's mischief was 

only animal spirits unemployed, and we became 

great friends. The difficulty was to induce Corny 

to go to school or to learn anything, but it chanced 

that I was going to England for a few months, 

and Corny declared himself grieved, so I promised 

to write to him regularly, if he would learn to write 

to me, which he did with ease, clever little monkey 

that he was, and signed himself as above. From 

what I knew of Corny I strongly suspect he would 

be one of the very first to volunteer for service 

in South Africa. Our troublesome boys generally 

make splendid " soldiers of the Queen," and bestow 

their troublesomeness on her enemies. 

Instead of interviews, which were seldom or 


never asked for in the next colonies we went to, 
I was assailed by letters, which, however, were 
chiefly directed to the Governor, who passed on 
some to me in inquire into, though the Inspector- 
General of Police made short work of those sub- 
mitted to him. A visit from a constable to the 
suppliant's address would generally discover the 
existence of a very different state of affairs from 
what was represented in the piteous application. 
A youthful and starving family, afflicted by 
divers strange maladies, would resolve itself into 
a comfortable old couple, who could not even be 
made the least ashamed of their barefaced im- 

The language employed in these begging letters 
was of the finest, if not always the most intelligible. 
I sometimes wondered in what dictionary they 
found the words they used. For instance, here is 
a literal copy of what I imagine was meant for a 
sort of appeal from a decision on a very barefaced 
case of imposture. " We rectitudely beg to recog- 
nise our hesitation of his Excy 8 dogma thereon." 

Perhaps the most wonderful of these epistles 
purported to come from an old woman who begged 
for money, and detailed her ill-success in obtaining 
an order for a coffin for her daughter, who, she 
declared, was "in a ridiculous condition on the 
roof of her cottage." This statement seemed to 
open up such a vista of horrors that a mounted 


policeman was at once despatched to inquire into 
the case. It was then found that the young lady 
was in rude health and wanted the money for 
toilette purposes. 

One of the most unsatisfactory interviews I ever 
had was in one of those languid sunny isles. My 
interviewer was a nice, pretty young widow, slightly 
coloured, who had lost her excellent husband under 
very sad and sudden circumstances. Of course, 
help was forthcoming for the moment, but it was 
suggested that I should try to find out from her 
how she could be helped to earn her own living. 
She appeared at the stated hour, most beautifully 
and expensively dressed, and had charming, gentle 
manners. But any one so helpless I never came 
across. She seemed to have received a fairly good 
education, but to be quite incapable of using it. 
I asked if she would undertake the care of little 
children. " Oh, no ! " she " did not like children." 
Could she set up as a dressmaker ? " Oh, no ! " 
she " did not like dressmaking," and so on through 
every sort of occupation. There were plenty of 
openings for any talent of any sort which she might 
possess. At last, in despair, I asked if she had 
a plan of her own, and it seems she had, but the 
plan consisted in my making her a handsome 
weekly allowance out of a large fund which she 
had been told I had at my disposal. This I ener- 
getically denied, so at last she wound up by asking 


if I would order a certain insurance office to pay 
her a small sum for which her husband's life had 
been insured. I suggested that no doubt she would 
receive the money in due time without my inter- 
ference. But she thought not, " Because the 
premiums had not been paid lately, as she always 
wanted the money for something else." Dress, I 
should think. 

I often wish I had kept any of the wonderful 
letters we received upon every sort of subject. 
One was addressed to " Sa Majest< le Roi de 
Trinidad," and contained a request for a decora- 
tion or order of some unknown kind. Another, 
with a similar address, only asked for stamps. 
It appeared later that both these epistles were 
intended for the other Trinidad, which at present 
is only inhabited by hermit-crabs, and certainly 
could not be expected to furnish either commodity. 


I OFTEN think, as I pass the handsome and sub- 
stantial building in Buckingham Palace Road, 
known as the National School of Cookery, how 
much it has grown and developed since my day, 
nearly thirty years ago. 

That was indeed the " day of small things," 
for we started work in a series of sheds, lent by 
the trustees of the South Kensington Museum, 
in Exhibition Road, near what used to be the 
temporary site of the Royal School of Art Needle- 
work. The idea originated with the late Sir Henry 
Cole, and was one of the many excellent plans 
he conceived and started. As often happens, the 
first outcome of Sir Henry's scheme proved widely 
different from his original intention ; but on the 
whole there is no doubt that the teaching of the 
National School of Cookery has worked a great 
improvement in our culinary ideas and knowledge. 

Sir Henry at once gathered a strong working 
committee together, including the late Duke of 

Westminster, the late Lord Granville, Mr. Hans 



Busk, Sir Daniel Cooper, Mr. (Rob Roy) McGregor 
and many other experts. I was asked to be the 
first Lady Superintendent, to my deep amaze- 
ment, for I have never cared in the least what I 
ate, provided it was " neat and clean." I was a 
very busy woman in those days, and it seemed 
difficult to give the necessary time to the school, 
from 10 A.M. to 4.30 P.M. every day except Saturday 
afternoon. I have, however, never regretted the 
extra work my acceptance entailed, for it was of 
incalculable benefit to me to learn Sir Henry Cole's 
method of dealing with subjects, and to watch his 
habits of patient attention and care of even the 
minutest details. 

We started with very little money to our credit 
as well as I remember, less than two hundred 
pounds ; but Sir Henry had thorough confidence 
in the depth of the purse of the British public. 
This confidence was abundantly justified, for want 
of money was never one of the difficulties be- 
setting our earliest efforts towards teaching a 
better kind of cooking. We at once set to work 
to provide ourselves with really good cooks, and 
in this respect we were exceptionally fortunate, 
for three out of the five young women we selected 
remained with us many years, and indeed they 
were all very satisfactory. The only thing I 
had to teach them was how to impart their know- 
ledge, for they jibbed, as it were, at the idea of 



having to speak aloud, especially to ladies. There 
were dreadful moments when I feared I should 
never be able to induce them to accompany their 
lessons by a few explanatory words, loud enough 
to be heard, at every stage of the dish. I acted 
a whole benchful of pupils of every grade of ignor- 
ance before them, without eliciting anything beyond 
painfully dee'p blushes or an occasional laugh. 
So long as I was the only imaginary pupil we did 
not make much progress ; but at last I left them 
alone, to get on their own way, with just two or 
three clever girls as their first pupils, whom I 
had previously begged to ask every sort of question 
about the very beginning of things. 

It is pleasant to think that my successor 
who is still the lady superintendent of the school 
was one of those same pupils, and so took an 
early part in removing one of the greatest diffi- 
culties. In spite of much impatience on the part 
of the public, who were, as usual, possessed by 
an erroneous idea of what the work of the school 
aimed at, we had to devote some weeks to this 
same teaching of the teachers, and organisation 
of what was to be taught. 

There was no difficulty about providing ranges 
and' stoves of every sort and kind, for the makers 
of such wares offered us numerous samples. It was, 
however, necessary for the five cooks to sit in judg- 
ment on each novelty, and decide whether it was 


worth accepting, for of course we wanted to use 
the best sort of cooking apparatus, but yet not 
to depart too much from familiar paths. We felt 
sure it would be of no use teaching beginners to 
cook on a stove or range which, from its costliness 
or some other reason, would be rarely met with. 
Every sort of cooking utensil was also offered to 
us free of expense, besides many and various 
kinds of patent fuel ; but this latter gift was in- 
variably declined with thanks by the cooks, who 
would have none -of it. 

Sir Henry Cole had foreseen that we ought to 
begin at the very beginning, so the first thing 
taught was how to clean a stove? with all its flues, 
puzzling little doors, &c. Then it was ordained 
that the practical pupil was to be shown how 
to clean, quickly and thoroughly, saucepans, frying- 
pans, and in short all kitchen utensils. This 
was followed by a course of scrubbing tables and 
hearths. The morning lessons were devoted gene- 
rally to the acquisition of this useful knowledge, 
supplemented by little lectures on choosing pro- 
visions, and how to tell good from bad, fresh 
from stale, and so forth. In the afternoons 
for the poor cooks had to be given an interval of 
rest and refreshment the lessons were given in 
two ways : by demonstration, where the instructor 
prepared the dish before her class from the be- 
ginning, and the pupils watched the process and 


took notes ; or else by practical experience, where 
they prepared and cooked the dish themselves 
under the cook's superintendence. 

In those early days we attempted the cooking 
only of simple food; such as soups and broths, 
plain joints, simple entrees, pastry, puddings, 
jellies, salads, and such like. One day was set 
apart entirely for learning "sick-room cookery," 
and this was found to be very popular, only the 
pupils invariably began by asking to be shown 
how to make poultices ! I soon observed that 
each of these very nice cooks of ours excelled in 
just one thing, and so they had to fall into line, 
as it were, and the soup-lesson would be given 
by the expert in soups, and so all through. Fortu- 
nately one dear, nice little woman had a perfect 
genius for sick-room cookery, and that day's 
lessons were confided entirely to her. Not one 
of them, however, could make really good pastry, 
for we aimed at producing the very best of every- 
thing we attempted. I tried in vain to get it right, 
until I mentioned my difficulty to Lord Granville, 
who at once sent his chef down to give private 
lessons to the cook whose ideas on pastry were 
most nearly what we wanted. This was a great 
help and of immense benefit ; but I was much 
amused when, a week or two after, as I was sitting 
in my little office all very shabby and incon- 
venient, but we were too deeply interested to 


mind trifles a most elegant young gentleman 
appeared, faultlessly attired, and carrying a large 
envelope, which, with a beautiful bow, he tendered 
to me. 

" What is this ? " I inquired. 

" A State PapeY on Pastry, Madam," was the 
answer, and the bearer of the important document 
proved to be the chef himself, who had taken the 
trouble to commit his lesson to paper. 

At last everything was ready, and one fine 
Monday morning the school opened its doors to a 
perfect rush of pupils. We ought to have been 
happy, but Sir Henry certainly was not, for these 
same pupils were by no means the class he wanted 
to get at. Fine ladies of every rank, rich women, 
gay Americans in beautiful clothes, all thronged 
our kitchens, and the waiting carriages looked as 
if a smart party were going on within our dingy 
sheds. It was certainly a very curious craze, and 
I can answer for its lasting the two years I was 
superintendent. I asked many of the ladies why 
they insisted on coming to learn how to clean 
kitchen ranges and scrub wooden tables, as nothing 
short of a revolution could possibly make such 
knowledge useful to them, and I received very 
curious answers. One friend said it was because of 
their Scotch shooting-box, where such knowledge 
would come in very handy ; but this statement 
has never been borne out by any subsequent ex- 


perience of my own. Others said they wanted to 
set an example. Some stated that their husbands 
wished it ; but I cannot imagine why, as they 
were all people who could afford excellent cooks. 

For a long time we could not get one of the class 
we wanted, nor did a single servant come to learn, 
though the fees were purposely made as low as 
possible in fact, almost nominal for servants. 
We also wished to get hold of the class of young 
matron who is represented in Punch as timidly 
imploring her cook " not to put lumps in the 
melted butter," but even they were very shy of 
coming. Sometimes, I think, they were really 
ashamed of their stupendous and amazing ignor- 
ance, for it was in that rank we found, when we 
did catch one or two, that the most absolute want 
of knowledge of the simplest domestic details 
existed. Whether or no it is due to the many 
schools of cookery which now happily exist all 
over Great Britain, I will not venture to say ; but 
surely it would be impossible nowadays for any 
young woman to give me the answer one of our 
earliest pupils gave. She was very young and 
very pretty, and we all consequently took the 
greatest interest in her progress ; but alas ! she 
was privately reported to me as being a most un- 
promising subject. One day, when her lesson 
was just over, I chanced to meet her and inquired 
how she was getting on. She took the most hopeful 


view, and declared she " knew a lot." I next 
asked her to tell me what she had learned that day. 

" Oh, let me see ; we've been doing breakfast 
dishes, I think." 

" And what did you learn about them ? " 

" I learned " this with an air of triumph 
" that they are all the same eggs which you poach 
or boil. I always thought they were a different 
sort of egg, a different shape, you know ! " 

I think one of my greatest worries was the way 
in which the British middle-class matron regarded 
the National School of Cookery as an institution 
for supplying her with an excellent cook, possessing 
all the virtues as well as all the talents, at very 
low wages. Every post brought me sheaves and 
piles of letters entering into the minutest details 
of the writers' domestic affairs, and requesting 
I might almost say ordering me to send them 
down next day one of the treasures I was supposed 
to manufacture and turn out by the score. In vain 
I published notices that the school was not a 
registry office, and that no cooks could be 1 " sent 
from it." Sometimes I tried to cope with any 
particularly beseeching matron by writing to 
explain the nature of the undertaking, and suggest- 
ing that she should send her cook, or a cook, to 
learn ; but this always made her very indignant. 
At last I found the only way to get rid of the 
intolerable nuisance of such correspondents was to 


answer by a lithographed post-card, stating that 
the school did not undertake to supply cooks. 
This missive appeared to act as a bombshell in 
the establishment ; for apparently the existing 
cook immediately gave warning, eliciting one more 
despairing shriek of " See what you have done," 
to me, from the persevering mistress. I was not, 
however, so inhuman as to launch this missile until 
I had many times said the same thing, either by 
letter or by enclosing printed notices of the work 
and plan of the school. 

I often wonder we had not more accidents, con- 
sidering the crass ignorance of our ladies. Oddly 
enough, the only alarming episode came to us 
from a girl of the people, one of four who had begged 
to be allowed to act as kitchen-maids. Their idea 
was a good one, for of course they got their food 
all day, and were at least in the way of picking up 
a good deal of useful knowledge. These girls also 
cleaned up after the class was over, so saving the 
poor weary cooks, who early in the undertaking 
remarked, with a sigh, " The young ladies do make 
such a mess, to be sure ! " Well, this girl, who 
was very steady and hard-working, but abnormally 
stupid, saw fit one morning to turn on the gas in 
certain stoves some little time beforehand. The 
sheds were so airy to say the least of it that 
there was not sufficient smell to attract any one's 
attention, and the gas accumulated comfortably 


in the stoves until the class started work. It 
chanced to be a lesson in cooking vegetables, and 
potatoes were the " object." About twenty-five 
small saucepans had been filled with water and 
potatoes, and the next step was to put them on to 
boil. I was not in that kitchen at the moment, 
or I hope I should have perceived the escape, and 
have had the common-sense to forbid a match 
being struck to light the gas in certain stoves. 
But I was near enough to hear a loud " pouf," 
followed by cries of alarm and dismay, and I rushed 
in while the potatoes were still in the air, for they 
went up as high as ever they could get. Happily 
no one was hurt, though a good deal of damage 
was done to some of the stoves ; but it was a very 
narrow escape, owing doubtless to the space and 
involuntary ventilation of these same sheds. In 
the midst of my alarm I well remember the ridiculous 
effect of that rain of potatoes. Every one had 
forgotten all about them, and their re-appearance 
created as much surprise as though such things 
had never existed. 

I am afraid the object of much of the severity 
of cleanliness taught in the morning lessons was 
to discourage the numerous fine and smart ladies 
who beset our doors, though Sir Henry had always 
declared it was only to test their intentions. I 
always made a round of the kitchens after work 
had been started, and it was really touching to 


see beautiful gowns pinned back and covered by 
large coarse aprons, and jewelled hands wielding 
scrubbing brushes. Once, as I came round the 
comer, I heard one of the cook teachers say to 
a fair pupil who was kneeling amid a great slop 
of soapy water, and calling upon her to admire the 
scrubbing of a kitchen table, " No, my lady, I'm 
afraid that won't do [at all. You see her lady- 
ship " (that was I, bien entendu) " is a tiger about 
the legs ! " I certainly had no idea such was my 

I wonder what has become of all the certificates 
gained, with a great deal of trouble and fatigue, 
by strict and lengthy examinations, which used 
to be so proudly exhibited, framed and glazed, 
in stately mansions thirty years ago. 

Of course there were absurd proposals made to 
us of all sorts and kinds. It was suggested by 
some wiseacres that we should instruct both the 
army and navy, to say nothing of the merchant 
service. I entreated to be allowed first to teach 
the ordinary middle-class cook of the British 
Empire, before I soared to the instruction of its 
gallant defenders. True, that same cook was a 
very shy bird to catch, and I really never caught 
her in the two short years of my management ; 
but I am glad to know that my successor has 
since managed to attract and teach the exact 
class we always wanted to reach. The odd thing is, 


that the cooks generally did not want to be taught, 
and I have constantly known of lessons being 
declined, even when they were offered at the ex- 
pense of the mistress. No reason whatever against 
the method of the school was given, and the refusal 
seemed to spring merely from a dislike to be taught : 
" Thank you, ma'am ; I had rather not," being 
the general formula. I know of one or two in- 
stances where an excellent teacher had been sent 
down from the school by special request to a small 
town some thirty miles from London, but when 
the various mistresses in the neighbourhood 
attempted to form a class of pupils from their own 
servants and at their own expense, they were 
met on all sides by flat refusals, and assurances 
that the cooks would rather give up their situa- 
tions than join a cooking class. Those were among 
the early and the most disheartening difficulties 
of the school. If we could only have infused the 
desire for culinary knowledge, which seemed sud- 
denly to take possession of the ladies, into the 
minds of their humbler sisters, how glad we should 
have been ! 

I cannot conclude this paper without telling of 
one of my own most confusing experiences, the 
problem of which has never been solved. One 
day I received a letter stating that the writer 
was most anxious to become a pupil of the school. 
It was from a young curate in a distant and out- 


of-the-way part of the north (I think) of England. 
I never read a more clever and amusing letter, 
describing his sufferings in the food line at the 
hands of the good woman who " did " for him in 
his modest lodging. He was evidently desperate, 
and professed himself determined to learn how 
to cook, so as to be independent of this dame. 
But although I assured him of my profound 
sympathy and pity, I had at the same time to 
decline him as a pupil, alleging that we did not 
teach men at all. Letter after letter followed 
this pronouncement of mine, each one droller 
than the last, though the poor man was evidently 
in deadly earnest all the time. He pleaded and 
besought in the most eloquent words, assuring 
me of his harmless nature and wishes, offering 
to send testimonials as to character, &c., from 
his bishop, or his rector's wife, anything, in short, 
that I required to convince me of his worthiness. 
I had no time, however, to waste on so fruitless, 
though so amusing, a correspondence, and I had 
to cut it short, by merely repeating the rule, and 
declining peremptorily to go on with the subject. 
I had nearly forgotten all about it, when, one 
morning, some weeks later, my deputy-superin- 
tendent came into my office and said : 

4 There is such a queer girl among the new 
pupils this morning." 

" Is there ? What is she like ? " I asked rather 


indifferently, for a " queer girl " was by no means 
unknown in the crowded classes. 

" Well, she is so big and so awkward, as if she 
had never worn petticoats before, and has such 
huge hands and feet, and quite short hair with a 
cap, and, oh ! such a deep voice. But she works 
very hard, and is rushing through her lesson at 
a great rate." 

" What is her name ? " I asked, as a light seemed 
suddenly to dawn on me. 

" Miss Miss oh, here it is," said the deputy- 
lady, holding out the counterfoil of her book of 
receipts for fees. " She sent me up a post-office 
order for the fees some little time ago, but there 
was no room for her in any class until to-day." 

I looked at the name, rather a remarkable one, 
though I have quite forgotten it, turned to the 
letter-book, and, lo, it was the same as the curate's ! 
I did not say anything to my second in command, 
but made an opportunity for going into the kitchen 
where the " queer girl " would be at work. No 
need to ask for her to be pointed out, for a more 
singular-looking being I never beheld, working away 
with feverish energy. The cook who was giving 
the lesson told me afterwards that the dismay of 
that pupil was great at being first set to clean 
stoves and scrub tables, and that " she " had 
piteously entreated, in a deep bass voice, to be 
shown at once how to cook a mutton chop. The 


set of lessons were also much curtailed in that 
instance, for the queer girl did not appear after 
the end of that week, instead of going on for 
another fortnight. 

There is every reason to believe that the National 
School of Cookery in which I must always take 
a deep interest is much nearer now to fulfilling 
its original design of constant and careful in- 
struction in the difficult art of cooking than it was 
in those early but amusing days, and its many 
constant friends and supporters must rejoice to 
see how it has emerged from that chrysalis stage 
and become a self-supporting concern, doing steady 
excellent work in the most unobtrusive manner. 


A GREAT reaction of feeling in favour of the mon- 
goose has set in since Mr. Rudyard Kipling's de- 
lightful story of " Rikki-tikki," in the "First 
Jungle Book," presenting that small animal in 
an heroic and loveable aspect. But to the true 
bird-lover the mongoose still appears a dreaded 
and dangerous foe. It is well known that its 
introduction into Jamaica has resulted in nearly 
the extermination of bird life in that island, and 
the consequent increase of insects, notably the 
diminutive tick, that mere speck of a vicious little 

There are, I believe, only a very few mongooses 
in Barbados, and strong measures will doubtless 
be adopted to still further reduce their number ; 
for no possible advantage in destroying the large 
brown rat which gnaws the sugar-cane can make 
up for the havoc the mongoose creates in the 
poultry yard, and, indeed, among all feathered 
creatures. It has also been found by experience 
that the mongoose prefers eggs to rats, and will 

2 55 


neglect his proper prey for any sort or size of egg. 
He was brought into Jamaica to eat up the large 
rat introduced a century ago by a certain Sir 
Charles Price (after whom those same brown rats 
are still called), instead of which the mongoose 
has taken to egg and bird eating, and has thriven 
on this diet beyond all calculation. Sir Charles 
Price introduced his rat to eat up the snakes with 
which Jamaica was then infested, and now that 
the mongoose has failed to clear out the rats, 
some other creature will have to be introduced 
to cope with the swarming and ravenous mongoose. 

It was therefore with the greatest satisfaction I 
once beheld in the garden at Government House, 
Barbados, the clever manner the birds circum- 
vented the wiles of a half-tame mongoose which 
haunted the grounds. 

Short as is the twilight in those Lesser Antilles, 
there was still, at midsummer, light enough left 
in the western sky to make it delightful to linger 
in the garden after our evening drive. The wonder 
and beauty of the hues of the sunset sky seemed 
ever fresh, and every evening one gazed with 
admiration, which was almost awe, at the mar- 
vellous undreamed of colours glowing on that 
gorgeous palette. Crimsons, yellows, mauves, 
palest blues, chrysoprase greens, pearly greys, all 
blent together as if by enchantment, but changing 
as you looked and melting into that deep, inde- 


scribable, tropic purple, which forms the glorious 
background of the " meaner beauties of the 

In this same garden there chanced to be a couple 
of low swinging seats just opposite a large tree, 
which I soon observed was the favourite roosting 
place of countless numbers of birds. Indeed, 
all the fowls of the air seemed to assemble in its 
branches, and I was filled with curiosity to know 
why the other trees were deserted. At roosting 
time the chattering and chirruping were deafening, 
and quarrels raged fiercely all along the branches. 
I noticed that the centre of the tree was left empty, 
and that the birds edged and sidled out as far 
as ever they could get on to its slenderest branches. 
All the squabbles arose from the ardent desire with 
which each bird was apparently filled to be the 
very last on the branch and so the nearest to its 
extreme tip. It can easily be understood that 
such thin twigs could not stand the weight of 
these crowding little creatures, and would therefore 
bend until they could no longer cling to it, and so 
had to fly off and return to search for another 
foothold. I had watched this unusual mode of 
roosting for several evenings, without getting any 
nearer to the truth than a guess that the struggle 
was perhaps to secure a cool and airy bed-place. 

One hot evening, however, we lingered longer 
in what the negro gardener called the " swinggers," 



tempted by the cool darkness, and putting off 
as long as possible the time of lights and added 
heat, and swarming winged ants, and moths, and 
mosquitoes. We had begun to think how de- 
lightful it would be to have no dinner at all, but 
just to stay there, gently swaying to and fro all 
night, when we saw a shadow for at first it seemed 
nothing more dart from among the shadows 
around us, and move swiftly up the trunk of the 
tree. At first I thought it must be a huge rat, 
but my dear companion whispered, " Look at 
the mongoose ! " So we sat still, watching it 
with closest attention. Soon it was lost in the 
dense central foliage, and we wondered at the 
profound stillness of that swarming mass of birds, 
who had not long settled into quiet. Our poor 
human, inadequate eyes had, however, become 
so accustomed to the gloom by its gradual growth, 
that presently we could plainly observe a flattened- 
out object stealthily creeping along an out-lying 
bough. It was quite a breathless moment, for 
no shadow could have moved more noiselessly 
than that crawling creature. Even as we watched, 
the bough softly and gradually bent beneath the 
added weight, but still the mongoose stole on- 
wards. No little sleeping ball of feathers was 
quite within reach, so yet another step must needs 
be taken along the slender branch. To my joy 
that step was fatal to the hopes of the brigand 


beast, for the bough dipped suddenly, and the 
mongoose had to cling to it for dear life, whilst 
every bird flew off with sharp cries of alarm which 
effectually roused the whole population of the 
aerial city, and the air was quite darkened round 
the tree by fluttering, half-awakened birds. 

It was plain now to see the reason of the pro- 
ceedings which had so puzzled me, and once more 
I felt inclined to as the Psalmist phrases it 
"lay my hand on my mouth and be still," in 
wonder and admiration of the adaptable instincts 
of birds. How long had it taken these little help- 
less creatures to discover that their only safety 
lay in just such tactics, and what sense guided 
them in choosing exactly the one tree which pos- 
sessed slender and yielding branch-tips which 
were yet strong enough to support their weight ? 
They were just settling down again when horrid 
clamorous bells insisted on our going back into 
a hot, lighted-up house, and facing the additional 
miseries of dressing and dinner. Though we 
carefully watched that same tree and its roosting 
crowds for many weeks, we never again saw the 
mongoose attempt to get his supper there, so I 
suppose he must also be credited with sufficient 
cleverness to know when he was beaten. 

A Toucan does not often figure in a list of tame 
birds, and I cannot conscientiously recommend 
it as a pet. Mine came from Venezuela and was 


given to me soon after our arrival in Trinidad. It 
must have been caught very young, for it was 
perfectly tame, and, if you did not object to its 
sharp claws, would sit contentedly on your hand. 
The body was about as big as that of a crow, but 
it may be described as a short, stout bird, with a 
beak as large as its body. Upon the shining surface 
of this proboscis was crowded all the colours 
certainly of the rainbow, blended in a prismatic 
scale. The toucan's plumage would be dingy if 
it were not so glossy, and it was of a blue-black 
hue with white feathers in the wings and just a 
little orange under the throat to shade off the 
bill, as it were. Some toucans have large fleshy 
excrescences at the root of the bill, but this one and 
those I saw in Trinidad had not. 

The toucan was, however, an amiable and, at 
first, a silent bird. He lived in a very large cage, 
chiefly on fruit, and tubbed constantly. But the 
curious and amusing thing was to see him pre- 
paring to roost, and he began quite early, whilst 
other birds were still wide awake. The first thing 
was to carefully cock up for it was a slow and 
cautious proceeding his absurd little scut of a 
tail which was only about three or four inches 
long. This must in some way have affected his 
balance, for he never moved on the perch after 
the tail had been laid carefully back. Then, later 
in the evening, he gently turned the huge unwieldy 


bill round by degrees, until it too was laid along 
his back and buried in feathers in the usual bird 
fashion. By the way, I have always wondered 
how and why the myth arose that birds sleep 
with their heads under their wings ? A moment's 
thought or observation would show that it is quite 
as impossible a feat for a bird as for a human being. 
However, the toucan's sleeping arrangements re- 
sulted in producing an oval mass of feathers sup- 
ported on one leg, looking as unlike a bird as it 
is possible to imagine. When he was ruthlessly 
awakened by a sudden poke or noise, which I 
grieve to state was often done in my absence, 
needless to say I heard that he invariably tumbled 
down in a sprawling heap, being unable to adjust 
the balance required by that ponderous bill all 
in a moment. 

For many months after his arrival the toucan 
was at least an unobjectionable pet and very 
affectionate. He used to gently take my fingers 
in his large gaudy bill and nibble them softly 
without hurting me, but I never could help thinking 
what a pinch he might give if he liked. His in- 
offensive ways, however, only lasted while he was 
very young, for in due course of time he began to 
utter discordant yells and shrieks, especially during 
the luncheon hour. This could not be borne, and 
the house-steward a most dignified functionary 
used to advance towards the cage in a stately manner 


with a tumbler of water concealed behind his 
back which he would suddenly fling over the 
screaming bird. The toucan soon learned what 
Mr. V.'s appearance before his cage meant, and 
always ceased his screaming at the mere sight of 
an empty tumbler. These sudden douches, or else 
his adolescence, must have had a bad effect on 
his temper, for he could no longer be petted and 
played with, and any finger put within reach of 
his bill suffered severely. Then he got ill, poor 
bird, and the Portuguese cook was called in to 
doctor him. But the remedies seemed so heroic 
that I determined to send the toucan away. I 
could not turn him loose in the garden on account 
of his piercing screams, so he was caught when 
asleep, packed in a basket, and conveyed to the 
nearest high woods, where he was set at liberty, 
and I can only hope he lived happy ever after, 
as a less gaudy and beauteous variety of toucan 
is to be found in those virgin forests. 

As might naturally be expected, there are many 
beautiful birds in the large botanical gardens of 
Trinidad in the midst of which Government House 
stands. It used to be a great delight to me to 
watch the darting orioles flash past in all their 
golden beauty, and some lovely, brilliantly blue, 
birds were also occasionally to be seen among 
the trees. I was given some of these, but alas! 
they never lived in captivity, and after one or 


two unsuccessful efforts I always let them out of 
the cage. The ubiquitous sparrow was there of 
course, and so was a rather larger black and yellow 
bird called the " qu'est-ce que dit ? " from its 
incessant cry. 

In these gardens the orioles built their large 
clumsy nests of dried grass without any precaution 
against surprises ; but I was told that in the interior 
of the island, where snakes abound, the " corn- 
bird " as he is called up-country has found it 
expedient to hang his nest at the end of a sort 
of grass rope some six feet long. This forms a 
complete protection against snakes, as the rope 
is so slightly put together that no wise serpent 
would trust himself on it. Sometimes the oriole 
finds he has woven too large a nest, so he half fills 
it with leaves, but after heavy rains these make 
the structure so heavy that it often falls to the 
ground, and from this cause I became possessed 
of one or two of these nests with their six or eight 
feet of dangling rope. Anything so quaint as 
these numerous nests swinging from the topmost 
branches of lofty trees cannot well be imagined. 
It is impossible to reach them by climbing or 
in any other way except shooting away the slender 
straw rope, which rifle-feat might surely rank 
with winning the Queen's Prize at Bisley ! 

It has always interested me to examine birds' 
nests in the different colonies to which the wander- 


ing star of my fate has led me, and I have observed 
a curious similarity between the houses made 
with and without hands. For instance, take a 
bird's nest in England, where human habitations 
are solid and carefully finished, and you will see 
an equal finish and solidity in the neatly constructed 
nest with its warm lining and lichen-decorated 
exterior. Then look at a bird's nest in a colony 
with its hastily constructed houses made of any 
slight and portable material. You will find the 
majority of birds' nests equally makeshift in char- 
acter and style, just loosely put together anyhow 
with dried grass, and evidently only meant for 
temporary use. I saw one such nest of which the 
back must have tumbled out, for a fresh leaf had 
been neatly sewn over the large hole with fibre. 
In strong contrast, however, to such hastily con- 
structed bird-dwellings was a nest of the " schnee- 
vogel " which came to me from the foot of the 
Drakenberg Mountains in Natal. Beautifully made 
of sheep's wool, it had all the consistency of fine felt. 
It was a small hanging nest, but what I delighted 
in was the little outside pocket in which the father 
of the family must have been wont to sit. The 
mouth of that nest was so exceedingly small that 
at first I thought that no bird bigger than a bee 
could possibly have fitted into it, but I found that 
it expanded quite easily, so elastic was the material. 
One could quite picture the domestic comfort, 


especially in so cold and inhospitable a region, 
of that tiny menage. 

I always longed to make a journey to the north- 
west of Western Australia expressly to see the 
so-called " bower-bird " at play. This would have 
necessitated very early rising on my part, how- 
ever, for only at dawn does this bird not the 
true bower-bird, by any means come out of his 
nest proper, and lie on his back near the heap 
of snail shells, &c. which he has collected in front 
of his hastily thrown-up wind-shelter, to play with 
his toys. It is marvellous the distance those 
birds will carry anything of a bright colour to 
add to their heap, and active quarrels over a 
brilliant leaf or berry have been observed. A 
shred of red flannel from some explorer's shirt 
or blanket is a priceless treasure to the bower- 
bird and eagerly annexed. But the wind-shelter of 
coarse grass always seemed to me quite as curious 
as the heap of playthings. The photographs 
show me these shelters as being somewhat pointed 
in shape, very large in proportion to the bird, and 
with an opening something like the side-door in 
a little old-fashioned English country church. 
This habit of hastily throwing up wind-shelters 
is not confined to this bird only. I was given 
some smaller birds from the interior of Western 
Australia, and at the season of the strong north- 
west gales such a horrible, hot wind as that 


was I found my little birds loved to have a lot 
of hay thrown into their big cage with which in 
a single morning they would build a large con- 
struction resembling a huge nest, out of all pro- 
portion to their size. At first I thought it was 
an effort at nest-building, but as they constantly 
pulled it to pieces, and never used it except in a 
high wind, it was plain to see that their object 
was only to obtain a temporary shelter. 

Next to the brilliant Gouldian finches, which, 
by the way, were called " painted finches " locally, 
I loved the small blue-eyed doves from the north- 
west of Australia better than any other of my 
feathered pets. These little darlings lived by 
themselves, and from the original pair given to 
me I reared a large and numerous family. They 
were igentle and sweet as doves should be, of a 
lovely pearl-grey plumage, with not only blue 
eyes, but large turquoise-blue wattles round them, 
so that the effect they made was indeed blue-eyed. 
They met with a tragic fate, for I turned some 
eight or ten pair loose in the large garden grounds 
of the Perth Government House. Alas ! within 
a week of their being set at liberty not one was 
left. They were much too confidingly tame to 
fend for themselves in this cold and cruel world. 
Half-wild cats ate some, hawks pounced on others, 
but the saddest of all the sudden deaths arose 
from their love of me. Whenever I was to be 


seen, even inside the house, a dove would fly to 
me and dash itself against the plate-glass windows, 
falling dead in the verandah. They did not seem 
able to judge distance at all, and it was grievous 
to know they met their death through their de- 
votion to their mistress and friend. 

A dozen miles to windward, opposite the flourish- 
ing port of Freemantle, Western Australia, lies 
a little island with a lighthouse on it, known on 
charts and *maps as Rottnest. It is astonishing 
what a difference of temperature those few miles 
out to sea make, and on this tiny islet was our 
delightful summer home, for one of the earliest 
governors had built, years before, a little stone 
house on a charming site looking across the 

I was comparatively petless over there, for I 
could not well drag large cages of birds about 
after me, when it was difficult enough to convey 
chickens and ducks across the somewhat stormy 
channel, so I hailed with delight the offer, made 
by a little island boy, of a half-fledged hawk, as 
tame as it is in a hawk's nature to be. There 
was no question of a cage, and I am sure " Alonzo " 
would not have submitted to such an indignity 
for a moment, so he was established on a perch 
in a sheltered corner of the upstair verandah out- 
side my bedroom door. I fed him at short inter- 
vals for he was very voracious with raw meat, 


and he took rapid gulps from a saucer of water ; 
but he sat motionless on his perch all day, only 
coming on my hand for his meals. This went on 
for two or three weeks, when one morning at 
earliest daylight I heard an unusual noise in the 
verandah, and just got out in time to see my little 
hawk spreading his wings and sailing off into 
space. He had, however, been wise enough to 
devour all the meat left in readiness for his break- 
fast. Of course I gave him up for lost and went 
back to bed thinking sadly of the ingratitude 
and heartlessness of hawk nature. I certainly 
never expected to see my bird again, but a few 
hours later, as I was standing in the verandah, 
I stretched out my hand as far as I could reach, 
when lo ! the little hawk dropped like a stone 
from the cloudless blue and sat on my arm as 
composedly as if he had never left the shelter of 
his home. It is needless to say that the return 
of the prodigal called forth the same rapturous 
greeting and good dinner as of yore. After that 
it became an established custom that I should every 
evening put a saucer of chopped-up raw meat 
on a table in the verandah just outside my window, 
and a pannikin of water to serve for the hawk's 
early breakfast, but he foraged for himself all 
day, coming back at dusk to roost in the verandah. 
It was curious to watch his return, for he generally 
made many attempts before he could hit off the 


exact slope of the roof so as to get beneath it. 
After each failure he would soar away out of sight, 
but only to return and circle round the house 
until he had determined how low to stoop, and 
then like a flash he darted beneath the projecting 
eaves. Apparently it was necessary to make but 
the one effort, for there was no popping in and 
out or uncertainty, just one majestic swoop, and 
he would be on his perch, as rigid and unruffled 
as though he had never left it. 

When our delicious summer holiday was over, 
and the day of return to the mainland fixed, it 
became an anxious question what to do with the 
hawk. To take him with us was of course out of 
the question, but to leave him behind was heart- 
rending. Not only should I miss the accustomed 
clatter of saucer and pannikin at earliest streak 
of dawn, but not once did I ever hold my hand 
out during the day that he did not drop on it at 
once. He never could have been far off, although 
no eye could follow him into the deep blue dome 
where he seemed to live, poised in the dazzling 
sunshiny air. But " Alonzo " settled the question 
for himself a couple of days before we left, by 
suddenly deserting his old home and leaving his 
breakfast untouched. We watched in vain for 
his return on two successive evenings, nor did he 
drop on my hand for the last two days of our 
stay. I then remembered that on the last evening 


he had come home to roost I had noticed another 
hawk with him, and rather wondered if he intended 
to set up an establishment in the verandah. But 
I suppose the bride-elect found fault with the 
situation, and probably said that, though well 
enough for a bachelor, it was not suitable for 
the upbringing of a family, and so the new 
home had to be started in a more secluded 
spot, and the sheltering roof knew its wild guest 
no more. 

I am afflicted with a cockatoo ! I can't " curse 
him and cast him out," for in the first place I 
love him dearly, and in the next he is a sort of 
orphan grandchild towards whom I have serious 
duties and responsibilities. And then he arrived 
at such a moment, when every heart was softened 
by the thought of the Soudan Campaign with 
its frightful risks and dangers. How could one 
turn away a suppliant cockatoo who suddenly 
and unexpectedly presented himself on the eve 
of the Battle of Omdurman, with a ticket to say 
his owner had gone up to the front and he was 
left homeless in Cairo ? It would have been 
positively brutal, and then he was the friendliest 
of birds ! No shyness or false pride about him. 
He had already invited my pretty little cook to 
" kiss him and love him," and was paying the 
housemaid extravagant compliments when I ap- 
peared on the scene. To say he flew into his 


grandmother's arms is but feebly to express the 
dutiful warmth of his greeting. In less than ten 
minutes that artful bird had taken complete pos- 
session of the small household, and assumed his 
place as its head and master. Ever since that 
moment he has reigned supreme, and I foresee that 
he will always so reign. 

But he certainly is the most mischievous and 
destructive of his mischievous species. Nothing 
is safe from his sudden and unexpected fits of 
energy. I first put him in a little conservatory 
where he had light and air, and the cheerful society 
of other birds. This plan, however, only worked 
for two or three days. One Sunday morning I 
was awakened by ear-piercing shrieks and yells 
from Master Cockie, only slightly softened by 
distance. These went on for some time until I 
perceived a gradual increase of their jubilant note, 
which I felt sure betokened mischief, so I hastily 
got myself into a dressing-gown and slippers and 
started off to investigate what trouble was " toward." 
It was so early that the glass doors were still shut, 
and I was able to contemplate Master Cockie's 
manoeuvres unseen. The floor of the little green- 
house was strewn with fern-leaves, for gardening, 
or rather pruning, had evidently been his first 
idea. The door of his travelling cage which I 
had left overnight securely fastened lay flat on 
the pavement, and Cockie with extended wings 


was solemnly executing a sort of pas seul in front 
of another cage divided by partitions, in which 
dwelt a goldfinch and a bullfinch side by side. Both 
doors were wide open and the bullfinch's com- 
partment was empty, but the goldfinch was crouched, 
paralysed with terror, on the floor of his abode. 
He evidently wanted to get out very badly, but 
did not dare to pass the yelling doorkeeper, who 
apparently was inviting the trembling little bird 
to come forth. The instant the artful villain 
perceived me, he affected perfect innocence and 
harmlessness, returning instantly to his cage, 
and commencing his best performance of a flock 
of sheep passing, doubtless in order to distract 
my attention. How could one scold with deserved 
severity a mimic who took off not only the barking 
dogs and bleating sheep, but the very shuffle of 
their feet, and the despairing cry of a lost lamb. 
And he pretended great joy when the bullfinch 
more dead than alive at last emerged from the 
shelter of a thick creeper where he had found 
sanctuary, asking repeatedly after his health in 
persuasive tones. 

I gave up the cage after that and established 
him on a smart stand in the dining-room window ; 
for I found that the birds in the conservatory 
literally could not bear the sight of him. A light 
chain securely fastened on his leg promised safety, 
but he contrived to get within reach of my new 


curtains and rapidly devoured some half-yard or 
so of a hand-painted border which was the pride 
of my heart. Then came an interval of calm and 
exemplary behaviour which lulled me into a false 
security. Cockie seemed to have but one object 
in life, which was to pull out all his own feathers, 
and by evening the dining-room often looked as 
though a white fowl had been plucked in it. I 
consulted a bird doctor, but as Cockie's health 
was perfectly good, and his diet all that could be 
recommended, it was supposed he only plucked 
himself for want of occupation, and firewood was 
recommended as a substitute. This answered very 
well, and he spent his leisure in gnawing sticks of 
deal ; only when no one chanced to be in the room 
he used to unfasten the swivel of his chain, leave 
it dangling on the stand, and descend in search 
of his playthings. When the fire had not been 
lighted I often found half the coals pulled out of 
the grate, and the firewood in splinters. At last, 
with warmer weather, both coals and wood were 
removed, so the next time Master Cockie found 
himself short of a job he set to work on the dining- 
room chairs, first pulled out all their bright nails, 
and next tore holes in the leather, through which 
he triumphantly dragged the stuffing ! 

At one time he went on a visit for some weeks 
and ate up everything within his reach in that 
friendly establishment, His " bag " for one after- 




noon consisted of a venerable fern and a large 
palm, some library books, newspapers, a pack 
of cards, and an armchair. And yet every one 
adores him, and he is the spoiled child of more 
than one family. 


" Birds in their little nests agree." 

DR. WATTS, though doubtless an excellent and 
estimable divine, must have had but little experi- 
ence of the ways and manners of birds when he 
wrote this oft-quoted line. Birds are really the 
most quarrelsome and pugnacious creatures amongst 
themselves, though they are capable of great affec- 
tion and amiability towards the human beings 
who befriend them. 

I have always been a passionate bird-lover, 
and have had opportunities of keeping, in what I 
hope and believe has been a comfortable captivity, 
many and various kinds of birds in different lands. 
My first experience of an aviary on a large and 
luxurious scale was in Mauritius, many years ago, 
and was brought about by the gift of a magnificent 
and enormous cage, elaborately carved by Arab 
workmen. It was more like a small temple than 
anything else. But the first steps to be taken 
were to make it, so to speak, bird-proof, for the 
ambitious architect had left many openings in 



his various minarets and turrets, through which 
birds could easily have escaped. 

Regarded as a cage it was not a success, for 
it was really difficult to see the birds through the 
profuse ornamentation of the panelled sides. How- 
ever, I stood it in a wide and sunny verandah, 
and proceeded to instal the birds I already pos- 
sessed in this splendid dwelling. I had brought 
some beautiful little blue and fawn-coloured finches 
from Madeira, and I had a few canaries. Gifts 
of other birds soon arrived from all quarters ; a 
sort of half-bred canary from Aden there were a 
dozen of those and many pretty little local birds. 
I made them as happy as I could with endless 
baths, and gave them, besides the ordinary bird 
seed, bunches of native grasses, and even weeds 
in blossom, which they greedily ate. The little 
Aden birds would not look at water for bathing 
purposes. They came from a " dry and thirsty 
land, where no water is," and evidently regarded 
it as a precious beverage to be kept for drinking. 
They had to be accommodated with little heaps 
of finely powdered earth, in which they disported 
themselves bath-fashion, to the deep amazement 
of the other birds. 

But how those birds quarrelled ! At roosting- 
time they all seemed to want one particular spot 
on one particular perch, and nothing else would 
do. All day long they quarrelled over their baths 


and their food, and the only advantage of the 
ample space they enjoyed was to give them more 
room to chase each other about. They all insisted 
on using one especial bath at the same moment, 
and would not look at any other, though all the 
baths were exactly alike. One fine day a batch 
of tiny parrakeets from a neighbouring island 
arrived, and I congratulated myself on having at 
last acquired some amiable members of my bird 
community. Such gentle creatures were never seen. 
With their pale-green plumage and the little grey- 
hooded heads which easily explained their name 
of " capuchin," they made themselves quite happy 
in one of the many domes or cupolas of the Arab 
cage. In a few days, however, a mysterious ail- 
ment broke out among all the other birds. Nearly 
every bird seemed suddenly to prefer going about 
on one leg. This did not surprise me very much 
at first, as the mosquitoes used to bite their little 
legs cruelly, and I was always contriving net 
curtains, &c., to keep these pests out. At last 
it dawned on me that many of the canaries had 
actually only one leg. An hour's careful watching 
showed me a parrakeet sidling up to a canary, 
and after feigning to be deeply absorbed in its 
own toilet, preening each gay wing-feather most 
carefully, the little wretch would give a sudden 
swift nip at the slender leg of its neighbour, and 
absolutely bite it off then and there. Of course 


I immediately turned the capuchins out of the 
cage with much obloquy, but too late to save 
several of my poor little pets from a one-legged 

I had also several parrots and cockatoos, but 
they had to be kept as much as possible out of 
earshot, for their eldritch yells and shrieks were 
too great an addition to the burden of daily life 
in a tropic land. 

There was one small grey and red parrot, however, 
from the West Coast of Africa, which was different 
from the ordinary screaming green and yellow 
bird. This was certainly the cleverest little 
creature of its kind I have ever seen. Dingy and 
shabby as to plumage, and with a twisted leg, 
its powers of mimicry were unsurpassed. It picked 
up everything it heard directly, and my only 
regret was that it appeared to forget its phrases 
very quickly. Before it had been two days in 
the house it took me in half-a-dozen times by 
imitating exactly the impatient peck at a glass 
door of some tame peacocks, who always invited 
themselves to " five o'clock-er." I used to go 
to the door and open it ; of course to find no 
peacocks there, for they were punctuality itself, 
and never came near the house at any other time. 
After the pecks exactly reproduced as if on 
glass came an impatient note, followed by the 
exact cry of an indignant peacock. I believe 


that grey parrot had the utmost contempt for 
my mental powers, and delighted in victimising me. 
I was a constant sufferer in those days from 
malarial fever, and when convalescent and com- 
fortably settled on my sofa in the drawing-room, 
the parrot would first gently cough once or twice, 
then sigh, and finally, in a weak voice, call " Garde, 
Garde." This was to a functionary who lived in 
the deep verandahs, and whose mission in life 
seemed to be the regulating of the heavy outside 
blinds made of split bamboo. The next sound 
would be the awkward shuffling of heavy boots 
(for the " Garde " usually went barefoot, except 
when in uniform and on duty), followed by 
" Madame." Then my voice again, " Levez le 
rideau." " Bien, Grande Madame." Then you 
heard the creak of the pulleys as the curtain was 
raised, followed by the Garde's tramping away 
again, all exactly imitated. 

The A.D.C.'s way of calling his " boy " (gene- 
rally a middle-aged man) was also faithfully rendered, 
beginning in a very mild and amiable voice, rising 
louder as no " boy " answered, and finally a sten- 
torian " boy " produced a very frightened and 
hurried " 'Ci, Monsieur le Capitaine, 'ci." I grieve 
to say this performance generally ended with a 
confused and shuffling sound as of a scrimmage. 

There used also to be an orderly on duty out- 
side the Governor's office, who, once upon a time, 


was afflicted with a violent cold in his head. This 
malady, and his primitive methods of dealing with 
it, made him a very unpleasant neighbour, so 
his Excellency requested the Private Secretary 
to ask for another orderly without a cold in his 
head. Of course this was immediately done, and 
the desired change made, but not before Miss 
Polly had taken notes. Next day I was startled 
by the most violent outburst of sneezing and 
coughing in the verandah, followed by other trying 
sounds. I next heard a plaintive and deeply 
injured voice from the Governor's office it must 
be remembered that every door and window is 
always wide open in a tropic house. 

" I thought I asked for that man to be changed." 

This brought the Private Secretary hurriedly 
out of his room, to be confronted by a small grey 
parrot, who wound up the performance by a sort 
of sob of exhaustion, and " Ah ! mon Dieu ! " the 
real orderly standing by, looking as if he was 
considering whether or no he ought to arrest the 

One likes to have parrots walking about quite 
tame, free and unfettered, but it is an impossibility 
if a garden or any plants are within reach, for the 
temptation to go round and nip off every leaf 
and blossom, and even stem, seems irresistible to 
a parrot or a cockatoo. 

Soon after I went to Western Australia, in 1883, 


I was given a pair of beautiful cockatoos called 
by the natives " Jokolokals." They did not talk 
at all, but were lovely to look at, and as they had 
never been kept in a cage and were reared from 
the nest, they were perfectly tame and their 
plumage most beautiful, of a soft creamy white, 
with crest and wing-lining of an indescribable 
flame tint. I never saw such exquisite colouring, 
and they looked charming on the grass terraces 
during the day, and for a while roosted peaceably 
in a low tree at night. 

But one morning, early, I was told the head- 
gardener wished to speak to me, and he was with 
difficulty induced to postpone the interview until 
after breakfast. I tremble to think what the 
expression of that grim Scotch countenance would 
have been at first ! It was quite severe enough 
when I had to confront him a couple of hours 
later. The Jokolokals had employed a long bright 
moonlight night in gardening among the plants 
with which the many angles and corners of the 
wide verandahs were filled, and such utter ruin as 
they had wrought, especially among the camellias ! 
Not only had every blossom been nipped off, but 
they had actually gnawed the stems through, 
and few pots presented more than an inch or two 
of stalk to my horrified eyes. After that on 
the principle of the steed and the stable-door 
the beautiful villains were put in a large aviary 


out of doors, and revenged themselves by awaking 
me every morning at daylight by fiendish yells. 
The gardener's cottage was out of earshot. 

I had also a very large cage of canaries, in which 
they lived and multiplied exceedingly. In a country 
where there are no song-birds a canary is much 
prized, and every year I gave away a great many 
young birds. There was also another large cage 
with small (and very quarrelsome) finches, in- 
cluding many brilliant Gouldian finches from the 
North-west (they call them Painted finches there), 
a tiny zebra-marked finch, and many different 
little birds kindly brought to me from Singapore 
and other places. 

However, to return for a moment to the cockatoos. 
The large white Albany cockatoo, which has a very 
curved beak and wide pale-blue wattles round the 
eye, talks admirably, and is easily tamed if taken 
young. In spite of its ferocious beak it is really 
quite gentle, and mine for I had several were 
only too affectionate, insisting on more petting 
and notice than I always had time to bestow. 

There were often garden-parties in the lovely 
grounds of the Government House at Perth, and 
at one of the later ones some of my guests came to 
me complaining, as it were, of the weird utterances 
of the Albany cockatoo, who lived with other 
parrots in a kind of wire pagoda among the vines. 
" What does he say ? " I asked laughingly. " He 


wants to know if we like birds," was the answer. 
So I immediately went down to the cage, and 
was at once asked by the cockatoo in a very earnest 
voice, " Do you like birds ? " Alas for the want 
of originality in the human race ! He had heard 
exactly that remark made by every couple who 
came up to the cage, and had adopted it. My 
little son taught that bird to call me " Mother," 
and it never used the word to any one else. If 
I ever passed the cage without stopping to play 
with or pet the cockatoos, I was greeted with 
indignant cries of " Mother," which generally 
brought me back, and the moment I opened the 
door the big cockatoo would throw himself on his 
back on the gravel floor, that I might put the 
point of my shoe on his breast and rub his back 
up and down the gravel. -I never could under- 
stand why they all loved that mode of petting. 

But the Australian magpie is one of the most 
delightful pets, and can be trusted to walk about 
loose, as he does not garden. " Break-of-d ay- 
boys " is their local name, and it fits them admir- 
ably. At earliest dawn only do you hear the 
sweet clear whistle which is their native note. 
They learn to whistle tunes easily and correctly, 
but nothing can be compared to their own note. 
They are exactly like the English magpie in ap- 
pearance, only a little larger. I had a very tame 
one, which had 1 been taught to lie on its back on 


a plate with its legs held stiffly up as if it were 
dead. I have a photograph of it in that attitude, 
and no one will belie've me when I assure them 
the bird was alive ; not even its open and roguish 
eye will convince them. I only wish the sceptics 
had been by when I clapped my hands to signify 
that the performance was over, and Mag jumped 
up like a flash of lightning and made for the nearest 
human foot, into the instep of which she would 
dig her bill viciously. It must have been her idea 
of revenge, for she never did so at any other time ; 
and she scattered the spectators pretty swiftly, I 
assure you. 

Dear, clever Mag was lost or stolen just before 
we left Perth. I intended to have brought her to 
England, but one morning I was informed by the 
sentry that he could not see her anywhere, and 
she always kept near him. Further and anxious 
inquiries elicited that she had been observed follow- 
ing a newspaper boy near the back-gate. The 
police were communicated with, and the result 
was my being confronted at all hours of the day 
and night by an indignant and rumpled mapgie 
tied up in a pocket-handkerchief, who loudly pro- 
tested Itfiat we were absolute strangers to each 
other. And so we were, for among the numerous 
arrests made of suspicious characters among mag- 
pies, not one turned out to be my poor Maggie. 

But I must not loiter too long over my West 


Australian aviary, in spite of the great temptation 
to dwell on those dear distant days. I brought 
a small travelling- cage of Gouldian and other lovely 
finches from the neighbourhood of Cambridge Gulf 
home with me. What I suffered with that cage 
during a storm in the Bay of Biscay no tongue can 
tell. However, they all reached London in safety, 
and in due time were taken out also with great 
personal trouble and difficulty to Trinidad. Here 
they were luxuriously established in four large 
wired compartments over the great porch of 
Government House. No birds could have been 
happier. The finches had one compartment all 
to themselves, so had thq canaries ; whilst the 
laughing jackass, another Australian magpie, and 
a beautiful Indian hill mynah occupied a third 
compartment, the fourth being brilliantly filled 
by troupials, moriches, and sewing crows from 
Venezuela, besides many lovely local birds of 
exquisite plumage. 

In each compartment stood large boxes and 
tubs filled with growing shrubs, whilst creepers, 
brought up from the luxuriant growth at the 
pillars below, were twined in the fine meshes of 
the netting. Of course there were perches and 
nests, all sizes and at differing heights. It was 
really one man's business to attend to them, but 
they were beautifully kept. Every morning the 
grasscutter brought in a large bunch of the waving 


plume-like seed of the tall guinea grass ; and they 
had plenty of fresh fruit, in which they greatly 
delighted. Of course they quarrelled over it all, 
and a fierce battle would rage over half an orange, 
of which the other half was utterly neglected. 

The canaries led a commonplace existence and 
had only one adventure. I had noticed that for 
some few weeks past the numbers of these little 
birds seemed rather to diminish than increase at 
their usual rapid rate. But I saw so many hens 
sitting on nests very high up that I accounted 
for the small number in that way. However, one 
day a perch fell dpwn, and the black attendant 
went into the cage with a tall ladder to replace it. 
Presently I heard a great scrimmage and many 
" Hi ! my king ! " and other agitated ejaculations, 
which soon brought me to the spot. It was indeed 
no wonder that my poor little birds had been 
disappearing mysteriously, for there was a large, 
well-fed, but harmless snake. It must have got 
in through the mesh when quite young and small, 
but had now grown to such stout proportions 
that escape through the wire netting which would 
only admit the very tip of my fourth finger was 
impossible, and it was easily slain. The snake 
was found coiled on a ledge too high up to be 
easily perceived from below. 

Soon after that episode the little finches under- 
went a sad and startling experience. One morning 


the coachman brought me in a beautiful little bird 
of brilliant plumage which I had never seen before. 
It had been caught in the saddle-room, and was 
certainly a lovely creature, though unusually 
wild and terrified. However, I was so accustomed 
to new arrivals soon making themselves perfectly 
at home and becoming quite tame, that I turned 
the splendid stranger into the finches' compart- 
ment with no misgivings, and went away, leaving 
them to make friends, as I hoped. About half- 
an-hour later I passed the tall French window, 
carefully netted in, which opened on the corridor, 
and through which I could always watch my little 
pets unperceived. My attention was attracted 
by two or three curious little feathered lumps on 
the gravelled floor. On closer examination these 
proved to be the heads of some of my especial 
favourites, which the new arrival (a member of 
the Shrike family, as I discovered too late) had 
hastily twisted off. Besides these murders he had 
found time to go round the nests and turn out all 
the eggs and young birds. My dismay and horror 
may be imagined, but I could not stop, for luncheon 
and guests were waiting. I hastily begged a tall 
Irish orderly who was on duty in the hall to catch 
the new-comer and let him go. Now this man loved 
my birds quite as much as I did, and seemed to 
spend all his leisure-time in foraging for them. 
They owed him many tit-bits in the shape of 


wasps' larvae or the nursery of an ants' nest nicely 
stocked, or some delicacy of that sort. There was 
only time for a hurried order, received in grim 
silence, but when I was once more free and able 
to inquire how matters had been settled, all I 
could get out of O'Callaghan was : " I've larned 
him to wring little birds' necks." 

" Did you catch him easily ? " I inquired. 

" Quite easily, my lady, and / larned him." 
This in a voice trembling with rage. 

" What have you done to him ? " No answer 
at first, only a murmur. 

" But I want to know what has happened to 
that bird," I persisted'. 

" Well, my lady, I've lamed him ; " a pause ; 
" I've wrunged his neck." 

So in this way rough and ready justice had been 
meted out to the wrong-doer very speedily. 

Perhaps of all my birds the one I called the 
Sewing Crow was the most amusing. It was a 
glossy black bird about the size of a thrush, with 
pale yellow tail and wing-feathers, and curious 
light blue eyes with very blue rims. It was brought 
from Venezuela, and its local Spanish name means 
" The Rice-bird," but it never specially affected 
rice as food, preferring fruit and mealworms. I 
had several of these crows, but one was particularly 
tame, and rambled about the house seeking for 
sewing materials. I found it once or twice inside 


a large workbag full of crewels, where it had gone 
in search of gay threads, with which it used to 
decorate the wire walls of an empty cage kept 
in the verandah outside my own sitting-room. 
The extraordinary patience and ingenuity of that 
bird in passing the wool through the meshes of 
the wire can hardly be described. I suppose it 
was a reminiscence of nest-building, because it 
always worked harder in the springtime. It had 
a great friend in a little " moriche," black and 
yellow also, but of a more slender build, and with 
a very sweet whistle. The " moriche," too, was 
perfectly tame and flew all about the house, and 
it was very comic to watch its efforts at learning 
embroidery from its friend. It arrived at last at 
some sort of cage decoration, but quite different 
from that of the crow, who evidently disapproved 
of it, and often ruthlessly pulled the work of a 
laborious morning on the " moriche's " part to 
pieces. Now the " moriche " knew better than 
to touch the crow's work, though he often appeared 
to carefully examine it. 

One day the crow must have persuaded the 
moriche to help him to roll and drag a reel of 
coarse white cotton from the corridor of the work- 
room, across the floor of my sitting-room, into the 
verandah. I saw them doing this more than 
once, and had unintentionally interfered with the 
crow's plans by picking up the reel and returning 



it to the maids' work-basket. However, one after- 
noon the crow got rid of me entirely, and on my 
return from a long expedition I found both the crow 
and moriche just going to roost in the empty cage, 
which was really only kept there for them to play 
in. I then perceived what the reel of cotton, 
which was again lying on the verandah floor, had 
been wanted for. The crow had sewn a straw 
armchair with an open-patterned seat securely 
to the cage by nine very long strands, and was 
sleepily contemplating the work with great satis- 
faction. It was quite easy to see how it had been 
managed once a start was made with the cotton ; 
but it must have entailed a great deal of flying 
in and out with the end of the cotton, for it had 
not been broken off. Of course I left the chair 
in its place, and it remained untouched for some 
months ; but I always had to use it myself, lest 
any one should move it too roughly, and so break 
the connecting strands which had cost my little 
bird so much labour and trouble. 

The most popular of my birds, however, was 
certainly the laughing jackass, who dwelt in com- 
pany with the magpie and the mynah. Unhappily 
a misunderstanding arose, when I was away in 
England, between these two birds, once such great 
friends. If I had only been there to adjust the 
quarrel, all might have gone well ; but the magpie, 
after many days of incessant battle, I was told. 


fell upon the mynah and killed it. It was curious 
that they should have lived together for a couple 
of years without more than the ordinary share of 
bird-quarrels. I do not know what active share 
the jackass took in this affair. I always doubted 
his intentions towards that mynah, and he' always 
regarded it with a bad expression of eye, but as he 
was very slow and cumbrous of movement I thought 
the mynah could well take care of himself. The 
only time the laughing jackass ever showed agility 
was when a mouse-trap with a live mouse in it 
was taken into his cage. With every feather 
bristling he would watch for the door of the trap 
to be opened, when he pounced on the darting 
mouse quicker than the eye could follow, and 
killed and swallowed it with the greatest rapidity. 
Once a mouse escaped him, and the magpie caught 
it instead, and a more absurd sight could not be 
imagined than the magpie flitting from perch to 
perch, holding the mouse securely in his beak, 
through which he was at the same time trying 
hard to whistle ; whilst the jackass lumbered 
heavily after him, remonstrating loudly, for the 
magpie did not want to eat the mouse, and he did. 

It always amused me to see the jackass take his 
bath, though it was rather a rare performance, 
whereas all the other birds tubbed incessantly. I 
had a large tin basin full of water placed just 
beneath one of the lowest perches, and when the 


jackass intended to bathe he descended cautiously 
to this perch and eyed the water for some time, 
uttering with head well thrown back his melan- 
choly laugh. As soon as his courage was equal 
to it he suddenly flopped into the water, as if by 
accident, and then scrambled hastily out again. 
After repeating these dips many times he seemed 
to think he had done all that was necessary in 
the washing line, and scrambled up to a sunny 
corner where he could dry and preen his beautiful 

Yes, my birds were the greatest delight and 
amusement to me for many years, and I had nearly 
a hundred of them when my happy life in that 
beautiful tropical home came to a sad and abrupt 
end. Many of my friends have often asked me 
if I did not regret leaving my birds ; but as I left 
everything that the world could hold for me in 
the way of happiness and interest and work behind 
me at the same time, the loss of the birds did not 
make itself felt just then. I miss them more now 
than I did at first, but I believe they have nearly 
all found kind and happy homes, where they 
are cherished a little for my sake as well as for 
their own, the dear things ! 



" COMPARISONS are odious " we know, but yet 
when one gets past middle age one is constantly 
invited to make them. 

My life is brightened and cheered by many girl 
friends, and there is nothing about which they 
show a more insatiable curiosity than my own 

I think it is the going back so constantly to 
that distant time, and being forced by my imperious 
pets to drag every detail out of the pigeon-holes 
of memory, which has impressed so forcibly on 
me the superiority of the modern girl. 

I began to answer their questions with the full 
intention of proving to the contrary, but alas, in 
the course of the talks, I often felt how heavily 
handicapped we had been. I am afraid the first 
point upon which I had to dilate was our clothes, 
the description of which always provoked peals of 
laughter. It is to be presumed that pretty women 
set the fashions and that they suited them, but 

the rigour of the fashion laws prescribed that every 



one should wear exactly ^and precisely the same 
gown or bonnet, with, of course, disastrous results 
as to appearance. Then we all had to dress our 
hair in precisely the same way. The ears especially 
were treated as though they were monstrous de- 
formities, and had to be carefully concealed. What 
the modern girls find most difficult to believe is 
that these same fashions lasted for three or four 
years without the slightest change, so there was 
no escape from an unbecoming garment. Of 
course I impressed upon my laughing audience, 
with all the dignity at my command, that we 
looked extremely nice, and at all events were quite 
contented with our appearance. 

If I could not defend the colours and cut of the 
material provided for our bodies, still less could I 
champion the diet prescribed for our minds. Look- 
ing back on it all I see there was the same cardinal 
error ; the want of recognition of any individu- 
ality. As in our frocks so in our studies, no allow- 
ance whatever used to be made for our different 
natures. In fact, the great aim of every mother 
and teacher was to make her girl exactly and pre- 
cisely like every other girl. No matter in what 
direction your tastes and talents lay, you had to 
plod through the same list of what was called 
" accomplishments." The very word was a mis- 
nomer, for nothing was really accomplished. A 
girl's education was supposed to be quite " finished " 


(Heaven save the mark !) at about sixteen or seven- 
teen, but if she were studiously inclined, or even 
dimly suspected that she had not exhausted all 
the treasures of knowledge, she would have found 
it difficult to pursue any course of study. And 
the idleness of that stage of girlhood was one of 
its greatest dangers. A reaction from the practical 
days of our own grandmothers had set in, and 
there was no still-room, or work-room, or any 
branch of domestic education to which we could 
turn to find an outlet for our energies. 

A girl with any musical talent could of course 
go on practising, and had a chance of achieving 
something, but art education must have been at 
its lowest ebb half a century ago. It is difficult 
to believe that a " drawing class " of that day 
generally consisted of a dozen girls or so meeting 
at the house of some rising or even well-known 
artist. The great point seemed to be his name. 
Drawing materials and every other facility, except 
instruction, used to be provided by our " master." 
Perhaps the poor man recognised the hopelessness 
of his task, but he certainly let us severely alone 
even in our choice of subjects. We were only 
asked to copy other drawings, and I well remember 
selecting, as my first attempt at painting, a most 
ambitious sketch of a pretty Irish colleen with a 
pitcher on her head emerging from a ruined arch- 
way. I dashed in her red petticoat and blue 


cloak with great vigour, but took little pains with 
her uplifted arm or bare legs. They must indeed 
have been curious anatomical studies, for I recol- 
lect the master heaving a deep sigh, if not a groan, 
as I presented my drawing for his criticism. But 
he made no attempt whatever to teach me how to 
do better, only took possession of my picture, kept 
it a few days and returned it what was called " cor- 
rected," though we never knew where our faults lay. 

Our " fancy work " was truly hideous also, and 
as useless as it was ugly. It makes one's heart 
ache to think of the terrible waste of time and 
eyesight which our awful performances in wool 
work and crotchet entailed. Hardly any girl was 
taught to do plain sewing, and I really think one 
of my keenest pangs of regret for my misspent 
youth in the way of needlework was caused the 
other day, by my youngest girl friend telling me 
that at her school she was taught to cut out and 
make a whole set of baby clothes, as well as 
garments for older children. 

Our amusements were few and far between, but 
we took to them a freshness and keenness of en- 
joyment which I suspect is often lacking in the 
much amused damsel of the present day. But 
then, on the other hand, " vapours " had gone 
out of fashion, and " nerves " had not yet been 
invented, so one never heard of rest cures being 
prescribed for young matrons ! 


I am thankful to say that the day of tight lacing 
and small appetites was over before I became 
aware of the dangers I had escaped, but I remem- 
ber the pity with which I listened to my poor 
young mother's stories of how she was required 
to hold on to the bedpost while her maid laced 
her stays, and how she often fainted after she was 

I am often asked what exercise we were allowed 
to take. We rode a great deal, though girls were 
hardly ever seen in the hunting field, and I won- 
der we survived a ride on a country road, 
considering that our habits almost swept the 
ground'. We had no out-door game except croquet, 
which was just coming into fashion, and was pur- 
sued with a frenzy quite equal to that evoked by 
ping-pong or any other modern craze. Of course, 
there was always walking and dancing, though 
over the latter there' still hung a faint trace of the 
stately movements of the generation before us. 
We all did elaborate steps in the quadrille, and 
although the waltz was firmly established in the 
ball-rooms of my youth, it was a slow measure 
compared to the modern rush across the room. 
The polka woke us all up, and we hailed its pretty 
and picturesque figures with enthusiasm. 

I often hear of the iniquities of girls of the 
present day, but I don't come across those specimens, 
and I confess that I honestly believe the modern 


girl, as I know her, to be a very great improve- 
ment on the early Victorian maiden. To begin 
with, she is much nicer and prettier to look at, 
because she can suit her dress and her coiffure to 
her individuality. Then she is not so dreadfully 
shy not to say gauche, as we were, because she is 
not kept in the school-room until the hour before 
she is launched into society, as ignorant of its ways 
as if she had dropped from the moon. 

I distinctly remember being reproached for my 
want of "knowledge of the world," when I had 
not even the faintest idea what the phrase meant. 
When I came to understand it, it seemed a rather 
unreasonable criticism, for I certainly should have 
been regarded with horror had I made any 
attempt to acquire such knowledge on my own 

Now so far as my experience goes the up-to- 
date girl has pretty and pleasant manners, and is not 
secretly terrified if a new acquaintance speaks to 
her. She is more sure of herself, and has the 
confidence of custom, for she has probably been 
her mother's companion out of school hours. I 
fear girls are not quite as respectful and obedient 
to their elders as we used to be, although the days 
of " Honoured Madam " and " Sir " had passed 
away with the generation before mine. Still the 
modern mother seems quite content with her 
pretty girl, and it is often difficult to distinguish 


between them, but I always observe the daughter 
is the most proud and delighted if " Mummie " 
is taken for her elder sister. 

Then the New Girl is so companionable. Her 
education has been conducted on very different 
lines to ours, and she does not dream of giving up 
her studies because she is no longer obliged to 
pursue them. Her individual tastes have been 
given a chance of asserting themselves, and I am 
often told of " work " gone on with at home. In 
fact her education has really taught her how to 
go on educating herself. Of course I am speaking 
of intelligent girls, and I am happy to think they 
are far more numerous than they were even one 
generation ago. There will always be frivolous, 
empty-headed girls, but with even them I confess 
I find it very difficult to be properly angry, as 
they are generally so pretty and coaxing. 

The delightful classes and lectures on all subjects 
and in all languages now so common were unknown 
in my day, to say nothing of the numerous aids 
to difficult branches of knowledge. Even history 
was offered to us in so unattractive a form that 
although we swallowed, so to speak, a good deal 
of it, we digested little or none. Poetry was 
generally regarded as dangerous mental food, and, 
perhaps to our starved natures, it may have been. 
Our reading was most circumscribed, and every- 
thing was Bowdlerised as much as possible. I am 


not sure, however, that miscellaneous reading 
does not begin too soon now, and certainly I 
am often astonished at the books very, very 
young girls are allowed to read. In this respect 
I confess I think the old way safer, to say the 
least of it. 

In considering the subject of the new ways of 
girls, however, one must bear in mind how many 
more girls there now are, and that marriage is not 
the invariable destiny of every pretty or charm- 
ing girl one meets. The consequence is girls cer- 
tainly do not talk and think of future or possible 
husbands as much as they used to a couple of 
generations ago. Such talk was quite natural and 
harmless under the old conditions, but I must say 
it seems healthier and nicer that now it should 
be the merits of the favourite " bike," or the last 
" ripping " run, or the varying fortunes of golf 
or hockey, or even croquet, which claims their 
attention when they get together. I often wonder 
how a man could have encumbered himself with 
any of us as his life's companion ! It is true that 
he had not any option, but still we must have been 
rather trying. I know of one girl who amazed 
her husband by appearing before him the first 
Sunday morning after their marriage, with her 
Prayer Book, which she handed to him with the 
utmost gravity, and standing up with her hands 
clasped behind her back, in true school-girl fashion, 


proceeded to rattle off the collect, epistle, and 
gospel for the day, having no idea she was doing 
anything the least unusual ! 

The only comfort I have in looking back on our 
crudeness and ignorance is that we were really 
good girls. That is to say we were trained to be 
unselfish, and certainly we were obedient and 
docile, though in many ways what would now be 
called silly. Still, we were as pure minded and 
innocent as babes, and quite as unworldly. No 
doubt this white-souled state sprang from crass 
ignorance, but who shall say that it was not good 
to keep us from tasting the fruit of that terrible 
Tree of Knowledge as long as possible ? 

" You must have been dears," is the verdict 
with which a talk of these distant days is often 
ended by my laughing critics. And I feel in- 
clined to say, " Well, and you are dears, too," so 
I suppose that is the real solution of the question. 


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