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G. A. Henty occupied so large a place in the hearts 
of boys that, when his active life all too soon came to 
a close, it seemed desirable that those readers whom 
he had entertained for so many years should have an 
opportunity of knowing something more of the man 
himself than was contained in his books. Every 
writer, consciously or unconsciously, reveals himself 
in his work, but nevertheless it cannot fail to be 
interesting to boys to read of the actual experiences 
of the sturdy war correspondent — those experiences 
which furnished him with many a vivid background 
for his romances. It was at once the fascination and 
the value of his tales that, while nominally fiction, 
they were built up on a solid substratum of fact. 
When the present writer, however, was asked to 
undertake this memoir of his old and valued friend, 
he was confronted with a grave difficulty. Of few 
men of George Henty's eminence is less known about 
their private lives. A staunch and loyal friend, he 
yet strongly believed, to use the old Cockney phrase, 
in "keeping himself to himself". His letters were 
never autobiographical, and about himself he was 
never very communicative. Little more than his 
vivid letters from foreign countries exist to give an 
insight into the man and his character. 

K3 i G56 



vi Prefatory Note 

In his many absences from England during his 
career as a war correspondent, Henty contented him- 
self with the briefest of home communications, and 
these told little more than where he was and what 
was the state of his health. He always said that 
those he loved could refer to the newspaper he repre- 
sented for the rest. 

To the courtesy of Mr. C. Arthur Pearson, the 
present proprietor of The Standard^ who placed the 
whole of the files of that paper unreservedly at his 
disposal, the writer is very greatly indebted, while for 
much valuable information he would like to thank the 
editors of The Captain^ Churns^ The Boy's Own Paper^ 
Great Thoughts^ Young England, and Table Talk. 

G. M. F. 


Chap. Page 

I. Early Days . i 

II. From Cambridge to the Crimea .... 15 

III. Invalided Home 29 

IV. The First Glimpse of Italy ^2 

V. The Italian War 38 

VI. The Search for an Army and a Meal . . 54 

VII. The Battle of Lissa 63 

VIII. The End of the War 74 

IX. Impressions of Italy 81 

X. The Visit to San Marino 94 

XI. A Land of Mystery 105 

XII. A Subterranean Excursion 112 

XIII. Mining for Mercury 122 

XIV. The Abyssinian Campaign 130 

XV. Incidents of Transport 138 

XVI. En Route for Magdala 145 

XVII. Jottings by the Way 151 

XVIII. King Theodore at Bay 156 

XIX. The Fall of the Curtain 160 

XX. The Suez Canal 165 

XXI. The Franco-German War 174 

XXII. The Commune 180 


viii Contents 

Chap. Page 

XXIII. The Vendome Column 191 

XXIV. The Days of Reprisal 196 

XXV. A Word about Politics 204 

XXVI. On the Life of a War Correspondent . . 209 

XXVII. A Risky Cruise with H. M. Stanley . . 221 

XXVIII. The "Weaker Sex" in Ashanti . . -233 

XXIX. Warfare in the Bush 237 

XXX. The March up Country 247 

XXXI. The Battle of Amoaful 256 

XXXII. A Carlist War 268 

XXXIII. The Royal Tour in India 276 

XXXIV. Among the Turks 284 

XXXV. Philosophy in Camp 290 

XXXVI. The Turkish Army 295 

XXXVII. A Busy Convalescence 304 

XXXVIII. Concerning War Correspondents . . . 307 

XXXIX. Henty and his Books 314 

XL. An Appreciation 333 

XLI. Personal Notes 345 

XLII. Club Life 351 

XLI 1 1. His Great Hobby 359 

XLIV. A Final Word 369 


Portrait ....... Frontispiece 

Portrait— At the Age of 23 17 

Portrait — At the Age of 28 49 

Corner of Mr. Henty's Library 81 

Portrait — At the Age of 45 113 

Mr. Henty's Pets 145 

Mr. Henty at Work 177 

Mr. Henty's Yacht "The Egret" 209 

Portrait — At the Age of 60 241 

Mr. Henty Reading Proofs 273 

A "Savage" Bill of Fare 305 



Early Days 

We might know very little of the life of the late 
George Alfred Henty — writer for and teacher of 
boys, novelist, and one of the most virile of our war 
correspondents — but for one fortunate fact. His busy 
pen soon made him popular, and in course of time this 
popularity was sufficient to make editors of journals 
for the young realize that their readers would gladly 
learn something of the early life of the man whose 
vivid tales of adventure were being read with avidity 
wherever the English language had spread. In these 
days few are content to know a man only by his work, 
and even boys like to know something about the 
personality and experiences of the writers who have 
given them keen pleasure. As a result the inevitable 
came to pass, and the modern chronicler of personal 
details sought out the author. To his interviewers 
Henty told fragments of his past life, and these re- 
miniscences were taken down in short or long hand, 
and built up into articles, and have remained, to bring 
before us vividly what would otherwise never have 
been known save perhaps by tradition. 

It is strange now to reflect that the big, robust, 
heavy, manly -looking Englishman of whom these 
lines are written, was once a puny, sickly boy who 
was looked upon by his relatives as one who could 
never by any possibility attain to man's estate; but so 

(B837) 1 2 

Early Days 

it was. Here are his own words: " I spent my boy- 
hood, to the best of my recollection, in bed". 

Descended from an old Sussex family, George 
Alfred Henty was born at Trumpington, near Cam- 
bridge, on December 8, 1832, and it would appear 
that he was a confirmed invalid. This ill-health was 
the more unfortunate because it was in the days when 
doctors were inclined to be narrow-minded, and 
parents and guardians in almost every household had 
intense belief in the virtues of physic. Most mothers 
then were given to doctoring, and at spring-time and 
fall considered it to be their duty to administer filthy 
infusions, decoctions, and very often concoctions, to 
unhappy boyhood; and a powder at night, to be fol- 
lowed by a nightmare of the draught that was to be 
taken in the morning, is a painful recollection to some 
of us. 

Happy boys of the present generation ! Why, who 
among them now know the meaning of words which 
must almost seem like cabalistic characters? Jalap, 
rhubarb, magnesia, salts and senna, gamboge, 
James's powder — these were all in constant request, 
without taking into consideration the secrets pro- 
mulgated by the wicked writers of books on domestic 

It was in those days that George Henty was born. 
He tells of an early removal at the age of five to 
Canterbury, to a fine old house whose garden ran 
down to the River Stour. Here for the next five 
years his mind became stored with those most whole- 
some of recollections connected with boy life. It was 
the bird, bee, and butterfly time, brightened by the 
presence of a grand trout stream, to whose banks he 

A Great Reader 3 

would creep, so as not to send the spotted beauties 
darting off in a flash of ruddy gold to seek some 
hiding-place from the gigantic shadow that had sud- 
denly been cast athwart the stream. He tells, too, in 
many a page of his later life, how the influences of 
this good old garden were a solace and delight to him 
during many a weary tramp or journey in the saddle 
far away; in the course of his journeys through 
Europe, the wilds of Asia, and the savage mountains 
and dense tropic forests and swamps of Africa. 

The boy was fortunate, too, in his leanings towards 
natural history, for he speaks of a grandfather who 
was always ready to play the part of instructor to the 
young enquiring mind in regard to scientific matters, 
and explain the why and the wherefore of such objects 
as he collected. 

When not confined to his bed, Henty attended a 
Dame school, where the love of reading was started, 
and grew and grew so that the sick boy's lot was 
softened to the extent that the weariness and suffering 
of confinement to his bed became almost pleasant in 
the forgetfulness begotten by books. That which was 
wanting in the way of education was made up in 
these long hours by reading. To use his own words, 
he "read ravenously" — romance, adventure, every- 
thing—perfectly unconscious, of course, of the fact 
that he was laying in a mighty store for the future, 
preparing himself, in fact, for the great work of his 
life, the broad and wide education of the boys of a 
generation to come. 

In those days, though the classics hardly had place 
(there was little of Latin or Greek), he was piling up 
general knowledge such as comes to the lot of few 

Early Days 

lads now, in spite of the boasted advance in educa- 
tional matters and all the elaborate apparatus and 
routine. And yet it must not be supposed that the 
boy's regular education was neglected. When ten 
years old there was an end to his simple country life, 
for though far from well he was sent to London to 
begin life in a private boarding-school, a life sadly 
interfered with by sickness and relapses into ailments 
more or less severe, among them being that terrible 
disease whose sequels have shattered many lives 
— rheumatic fever. One of his ailments seems to 
have been near akin to that of the late Prince 
Leopold, namely, a tendency to profuse bleeding. 
For this he was attended by a well-known specialist 
of the time, whose great remedy for the boy's com- 
plaint was camphine, this being the popular term in 
those days for one of the refinements of the so-called 
rock oils, nowadays known as petrol or paraffin. 

Henty recorded to one of his interviewers that he 
was so thoroughly dosed with this peculiar medicine 
that the specialist warned the nurse in these words: 
" I don't say that if you put a light to the boy he will 
catch fire, but I advise you not to risk it". This was 
accompanied with further counsel that the future 
chronicler of boys' adventures should not be allowed 
to handle sharp instruments, lest a cut or puncture 
should result in his bleeding to death. 

Much reading in these early days had so influenced 
the boy that he had already become a story-teller, and, 
as is often the case with first attempts at writing, 
pleased with the jingle and flow of words, he had 
dropped into poetry. Now a young poet, as soon as 
he has satisfied himself with his lines and has care- 

Unpopular Poetry 

fully copied them in his best penmanship, burns to 
see himself in print. He then imagines, or is flattered 
into the belief, that numbers of people are as anxious 
as he to see his work become public; and it appears 
to have been so here, for owing to the well-meant 
kindness of a friend, certain of his early verse was 
printed, and it would appear to have been extremely 
sentimental and remarkably mild. 

It was soon after this, when Henty was fourteen, 
that he went to Westminster School. Liddell was 
head-master then, and the boy became a half-boarder, 
and in a very little while, in his boyish and very 
natural vanity, he let his tongue run a little too fast. 
He had written verse, and consequently esteemed 
himself something of a poet, so it was not long before 
he mentioned the fact of his having his work in print. 
He quickly began to wish he had held his tongue. 
He had not counted upon the mischievous delight a 
pack of school-boys would take in their special poet. 
If he had written Latin verses it would have been a 
different thing; but a love-tale with threatened diffi- 
culties to a lady was too much for them, and a long 
and continuous "roasting" ensued. Chaff flew, 
indirect and covert allusions were made, and then 
came bullying. Henty says: "It seemed as if the 
whole school bore a personal animosity towards poets, 
and as if they looked upon my publishing the un- 
lucky book as a bit of 'side' unworthy of a West- 
minster scholar". 

This particular poem was unfortunately lost, and 
the same fate befell another attempt written later, 
for the school banter did not crush out the rhyming 
faculties. The later work was written upon a more 

Early Days 

serious occasion, and, devoted to his future wife, it 
was cared for and preserved for long years as a valued 
treasure; indeed, only about ten years before his 
death, Henty was taking it up to town and acciden- 
tally left it in the railway carriage. Attempts to 
recover it proved vain, and though he offered a large 
sum of money as a reward, he never heard of it again. 

As the lad's education progressed at Westminster 
it was not long before he began to realize that the 
curriculum was not complete, and that no boy's 
studies were perfect without a thorough knowledge 
of the noble science of self-defence. Indeed, he had 
not been long at the great school before he came in 
contact with one of the regular school bullies, who 
began to tyrannize until young Henty awoke to the 
fact that he possessed a high spirit and an absence of 
that weak pusillanimity which makes men slaves. He 
was no mute inglorious Milton, though he aimed at 
being a poet. 

The boy was father to the man he became, and 
he bore little before he turned in defiance and 
challenged his tyrant. The natural result was that 
he was thrashed out of hand and sent smarting 
with pain and mortification to where he could 
ponder over his defeat. But he was not of the 
mettle to sit down painfully under humiliation, 
and, to use his own words, "I soon changed all 
that ". 

It was something to learn, something to study; 
how to acquire the power, the science, which makes 
a comparatively weak man the equal of one far 
stronger, and, judging the boy by what he was as a 
man, it was from no desire to become bully in his 

The Noble Art 7 

turn that he took lessons in boxing, but from a 
genuine ambition to hold his own in the matter of 
self-defence and to be able to protect those who looked 
to him for help. It was with this desire that, later, 
when he left Westminster for Cambridge, at a time 
when the so-called noble art was at its highest tide, 
and when professors of the science had quite a stand- 
ing at the universities, he continued its study, and 
one of the first professors to whom he applied for 
lessons (out of college) was the once celebrated Nat 
Langham, who, by the way, was the only man who 
ever vanquished Tom Sayers. Not contented Avith 
this, but being then in the full burst of his growing 
youth and strength — a sort of young athlete thirst- 
ing for power like a boyish Hercules — he took to 
wrestling, perfectly unconscious then of the good 
stead in which it might stand him in the future. 
In this sport he chose as his instructor a Newcastle 
man, one Jamieson, famed in his way as being 
champion of the Cumberland style as opposed to the 
Cornish. It must be borne in mind that all this was 
prior to the days of the Great Exhibition, when 
pugilism was considered no disgrace, and before 
young men had begun to foster athleticism in other 

It was a strange reaction in the youth who had 
passed the greater part of his early life upon a sick- 
bed, and it seemed as if the brave nature within him 
was exerting itself to throw off his natural weak- 

That thrashing he received in his early days at 
Westminster seemed to have roused him, spurred 
him on to gain strength, and he was encouraged 

8 Early Days 

too by the stirring times in which he found himself. 
Boating and cricket were all-important at West- 
minster. The studies were hard, but the masters, 
wisely enough, encouraged all sports; for the West- 
minster boys, as our chronicles have shown us, 
learned there to hold their own the wide world round. 
One need not here point to the long roll of famous 
names. These pages are devoted to one alone. 

Henty takes a very modest view of his own 
prowess, and says of his life at Westminster: 
"Boating or cricket — you had your choice; but 
once made, you had to be perfect in one or the 
other. Fellows rowed then and played cricket then. 
They had to." 

The Thames was their course. There was no 
St. Thomas's Hospital then, and the boat-houses 
were on the banks. The river was pretty handy to 
the great school, and at the sight of the West- 
minster crews the boatmen used to come across to 
fetch the boys. These were the days before the 
Thames Embankment, when the river sprawled, so 
to speak, at low water over long acres of deep mud, 
swarming with blood-worms, and though the river 
tides ran swirling to and fro the current was greatly 
quickened. Later the number of steamers increased 
and cut up the Westminster rowing, so that it 
went all to pieces. It was so greatly affected that 
the Old Westminsters' Club tried to move the sport 
to Putney; but it never regained its old standing. 
Westminster, however, though known best as a 
boating school, was a great cricketing one as well. 
At one time five Westminster men played in the All 
England Eleven ; but Henty was not a cricketer. 

A Latin Scholar 9 

As a young athlete, he selected rowing. Both 
sports could not be managed; the standard was too 

Henty describes himself in his growing days 
and at Cambridge as a sort of walking skeleton ; 
but he was big -boned, and the life he led as man- 
hood approached made him fill out and grow fast 
into the big, muscular, burly man that he was to 
the end of his life. In fact, he has said that in 
later days, when he went down to the Caius College 
Annual Dinners, while he knew most of the men of 
his own standing, not one recognized him. And 
this can easily be grasped when it is understood 
that in his college days at nineteen he weighed 
nine and a half stone, while as a man in vigorous 
health he was as much as seventeen. 

He does not forget to credit his school with 
the education his Alma Mater afforded him. He 
says: "She did give me a good drilling in Latin. 
Perhaps not elegant classical Latin, but good, 
every -day, useful, colloquial stuff." In his time 
the masters were great upon the old dramatic author 
whom so many of our modern dramatists have 
tapped right through Elizabethan, Restoration, and 
more modern times, down to the present. In 
Henty's early days, just as is annually the custom 
now, one or other of Terence's comedies was 
chosen for a performance by the Queen's Scholars, 
while every other boy as a matter of course had to 
get up one play as the lesson of the year as well, and 
doubtless, as has been the case with many a school- 
boy in turn, would fall a -wondering how it was 
that the great Latin poet possessed an Irish name. 

lo Early Days 

Latin verses and Latin colloquial phrases were 
hard enough to pile up, while parents and 
guardians, ready enough to complain, found fault 
at so much time being devoted to the dead lan- 
guages to the exclusion of those which are spoken 
now. Hear, ye grumblers, what George Henty says 
thereon to an interviewer: — 

" When I went out to the Crimea, and later, to 
Italy, I found that everyday Latin invaluable. It 
was the key to modern Italian, and a very good key 
too. But more than that, it meant that wherever I 
could come across a priest I had a friend and an 
interpreter. Without my recollections of Terence I 
don't know where I should have been when I first 
tackled life as a war correspondent." 

He speaks of Westminster as giving him his 
first introduction to boating, not merely rowing, but 
boating with the use of the sail. There was a man 
on the Surrey side in those days, named Roberts, 
from whom the boys used to hire their four-oared 
and eight-oared cutters, wager boats, and the occa- 
sional randan for three, two oars and sculls. This 
man had a small half-decked boat which Henty first 
learned to handle. In it he learned also the stern 
necessity of always being on the alert after hoisting 
sail — a necessity which doubtless gave rise to the 
good old proverbial warning, "Look out for squalls". 
Yet, in spite of everyone knowing and often using 
this warning phrase, it is too often neglected by care- 
less boating people, who will not realize what a duty 
it is never to make fast the sheet. 

Here at Westminster and in the little half-decked 
boat commenced the healthy passion of Henty's 

Evils of Cramminor 


life, and he acquired something of the skill which 
enabled him through manhood to go to sea and 
feel no fear even in rough weather, strengthened as 
he was by the calm confidence that accompanied, in 
the broad sense of the term, "knowing the ropes". 

The days of a public-school boy came to an end, 
and with their conclusion arrived the feeline that 
he was a man. But after all it was the school-boy 
feeling of manhood, though it was very manly in 
one thing, for it brought with it the knowledge 
that he had spent too much time in play, and with 
it too the feeling that he must make up for the past. 
Hence it was that he went in for what he termed 
a burst of hard reading as soon as he reached 
Cambridge and entered at Caius College. In the 
full realization of his failings he proved that he was 
still a boy, for he set to and began reading night 
and day for about three weeks, so as to acquire as 
much as should have taken him about six months' 
work. As a result nature said nay, and gave him a 
severe lesson in the shape of an illness which knocked 
him over, so that he had to go down for a year's rest, 
as it was termed, but it was in reality a good spell of 
health -giving instructive work which greatly influ- 
enced his future career. In fact, he now began to 
pick up the information which he so largely utilized 
afterwards in his books. Here was his first study 
for Facing Deaths one of his most widely read boys' 
stories — boys', <-hough it was as much read by 
men. For he went down into Wales, where his 
father possessed a coal - mine and iron works, and 
at the latter he acquired such knowledge and 
insight into engineering as to enable him at a 

12 Early Days 

critical time in his career as a war correspondent 
to call himself an engineer. Reporting himself as 
an English engineer desirous of studying the prac- 
tical effect of great gun fire, he had no difficulty in 
getting permission to accompany the Italian Fleet 
in what was virtually the first battle between iron- 
clad men-of-war. 

Henty's subsequent military training, together with 
his physique and stern decision of manner, made him 
naturally an excellent leader of men. In ordinary 
civilized life he was one who, at a gathering, would 
be pretty well sure to be selected as chairman, for 
upon occasion he could abandon his quiet soft-spoken 
manner, fill out his chest, and, if slightly roused by 
opposition, speak out with a decision and a firmness 
that would lay antagonism low; while, if it happened 
to be in a lower stratum of not to say savage but un- 
civilized life, his training had made him a picked dis- 
ciplinarian, one who had his own particular way of 
maintaining order and gaining the affections as well 
as the obedience of those whom he had to command. 

This was simple enough in the army with dis- 
ciplined men, but there were occasions when his 
services were selected to guide and govern the undis- 
ciplined and those of the roughest and most obstre- 
perous nature. 

Upon one occasion fate placed him, the cultivated 
scholar and Westminster boy, as foreman, or as it 
was termed amongst the men, "ganger", over a strong 
body of men engaged upon the construction of some 
small military railway. His men were a very lively 
party, extremely insubordinate at first, and ready if 
matters did not go exactly as they pleased — if the 

Enforcing Discipline 13 

work seemed too rough, or the supply of available 
strong drink too handy — to throw down their tools, or 
reply with insolence to their foreman, whose calm, 
quiet ways and speech seemed to invite resistance. 
It was in ignorance that the fellow who offended did 
this thing, and he did not offend a second time, for 
Henty was leader with plenary powers, and he had 
but one way of dealing with a rough. It was to order 
him at once to the place which he used as his business 
office, and with quiet firmness and decision, and in 
the presence of his following, to pay the man off there 
and then, to the great delight of the rest of the gang, 
who knew what was to follow. The offender was 
paid in full and told to be off from the line. He, of 
course, retaliated with an outburst of flowery lan- 
guage, noting the while the gathering together of his 
mates. Henty meantime was quietly taking off his 
coat and rolling up his sleeves preparatory to show- 
ing- the unbelieving ruffian how a muscular athletic 
English gentleman, a late pupil of a great professor 
of boxing, could scientifically handle his fists and give 
the scoundrel, to the intense delight of the lookers 
on, a thoroughly solid and manly thrashing. This 
invariably ended in the offender crying, "Hold! 
Enough!" and accepting his punishment without 
bearing malice; and in almost every case the gang 
was not only not weakened by the loss of a man, 
but it maintained a more willing worker than it had 
possessed before. 

As may be readily supposed, the gentleman ganger 
lost no prestige amongst his men by such an exhibi- 
tion of his prowess, for he knew most accurately with 
whom he had to deal, that is to say, so many big 

14 Early Days 

stalwart men of thews and muscle, such as our con- 
tractors have utilized for linking land to land with 
road and bridge, men of untiring energy and endur- 
ance, but with the mental capacity of stupid children. 
These formed Henty's gang, and to his credit be it 
recorded that his treatment proved as efficacious as 
it was firm, the punishment being given calmly and 
in cold blood, to the astonishment of the man who 
received it. 


From Cambridge to the Crimea 

Soon after his return to Cambridge troubles with 
Russia were "on the tapis", and as it to show the pre- 
paredness for war which did not exist, Punch, as is 
usually the case, began to take notice of our army and 
navy. It signalized the latter by referring to an event 
of the day, to wit, the sham-fight at Spithead, and 
represented a theatrical combat of the melodramatic 
Surrey or Victoria Theatre type between two British 
sailors, one being down and his comrade resting over 
him, hands on knees and cutlass in suspense, with the 
lines beneath: "Ah, it's all werry well, Bill, but my, 
if you'd been a Rooshian!" 

Then sham-fights and assumed preparation for war 
died into thin air. Matters came to a head, and our 
unpreparedness was awfully written in disease, star- 
vation, and death for those who studied the columns 
of news from the Crimea. 

All young England was in a state of excitement. 
The Crimean War was upon every lip, and every 
hot-blooded young man burned to get to the front. 
Among these was George Henty. The quiet student 
life at the university became painful ; the days passed 
in Caius College seemed to be prison-like. He too, 
strung up by that natural instinct that has made 
"Englishman " a name famous in the world's history, 
grew more and more restless. In the nick of time he 


i6 Cambridge to the Crimea 

was offered an appointment in the Commissariat De- 
partment of the army, and the first steps were taken 
which enabled him to claim the rank of lieutenant in 
the British army, though it was to be in the utility 
more than in the fighting ranks. 

One of our distributors of Attic salt once wrote, in 
the plain and pungent witticism of his time, that an 
army crawled upon its stomach in its progress to con- 
quest; and by a strange irony of circumstances the 
young lieutenant — for, as said above, that was the 
rank Henty bore during the few years he served in 
the British army— found himself providing and super- 
intending the supplies of that army in order to enable 
it to progress on that portion of its anatomy which 
keeps it alive, that is to say, when he was not busily 
engaged in superintending hospital wards and organ- 
izing arrangements, sanitary and otherwise, in those 
depressing asylums for the wounded and the sick. 
The work was arduous enough, but Henty was the 
man to do it, in spite of the fragile promise of his 
youth, and the head-shaking as to his future of those 
who knew him. He must have been a very disap- 
pointing man to his social prophets, seeing that he 
grew above the ordinary height, and came to be big- 
boned and stalwart, his powerful frame well clothed 
with sinew and muscle. He was endowed with 
everything in fact suited to the making of what would 
be called a good all-round man, while his education, 
fostered by his natural pluck and determination, ren- 
dered him one who in his early manhood was a 
thorough athlete. Enough indeed has been said to 
show that in addition to being a powerful and skilful 
wrestler, and a formidable competitor in a friendly 


A Thorough Athlete 17 

contest with the gloves, he was a dangerous adver- 
sary when necessity compelled him to make full use 
of what was veritably the noble art of self-defence 
against the brutal scum of European life with which 
he was brought into contact. 

In the full vigour of his manly youth he was a 
splendid walker, thinking nothing of doing fifty miles 
in a day, and this not at the expense of exhaustion, 
for after a brief period of rest he could repeat the 
walk with comparative ease. Muscular to a degree, 
he was a steady and dependable comrade in a boat. 
In addition, aided by the possession and the capacity 
of a broad deep chest, whose buoyancy was a tre- 
mendous asset, he could swim with ease and untiring 

Then, too, he made himself a good wielder of the 
foils, and the usual training of a military man enabled 
him to handle the service sword with as much ability 
as he displayed in pistol practice or with the rifle. 
Following up the ordinary education of a youth and 
young man with the acquiring and strengthening of 
such accomplishments as these, his appearance was 
such as would render him in competition one who 
would be chosen on any emergency as a leader of 
men, one who would be obeyed, and whose word 
would be law to those over whom he was placed. 

Excitement was raging in England after the fail- 
ures and disappointments that were being canvassed 
during the Crimean War; all England was wroth as 
William Howard Russell's letters were read, telling 
the terrible tales of disease, starvation, and neglect 
suffered by our brave soldiers. Accusations against 

the authorities were rife, accusations which stirred the 
( B 8;j7 ) 3 

i8 Cambridge to the Crimea 

Government to action and to making more systematic 
provision for our troops. It will be readily under- 
stood, therefore, that the offer made by a man, so full 
of energy as Henty, to become a recruit in the Pur- 
veyors' Department in the Crimea, that is to say, the 
Hospital Commissariat, was accepted at once, though 
his place would more naturally have been in the 
fighting line. 

However, fate ordained that he was to do good 
work in connection with the provisioning of the un- 
fortunate soldiers who had suffered so cruelly during 
the previous winter. Attacking his task with his cus- 
tomary energy, as soon as he reached Balaclava in the 
early spring of 1855 he was found busy among the 
stores which were to be distributed, or arranging 
the contents of the huts which were filled with wine 
and the more medicinal stimulants which were to 
be reserved for the sick or the wounded that were 
brought into the temporary hospital. 

Here he was brought into touch with the officers of 
the medical and surgical department, and in connec- 
tion with the transport service, for order was now 
springing up fast where chaos and despair had 
reigned so long. 

Henty writes home about the preparation of food 
and comforts for the sick, and the provision of mules 
and their drivers for the transport of the sick and 
wounded. And now his fighting times commence — 
not with the sword and revolver with which he was 
armed; his encounters were with the shadow of death, 
as an adjunct to the strong body of surgical and 
medical men who were struggling so hard to make up 
for the want of preparation in the past. 

His First Campaign 19 

With regard to the mule service there is a grim 
touch in one of Henty's letters home concerning the 
duties of these useful, hard-working but stubborn 
brutes. Where he found himself this portion of the 
transport service was kept in readiness, some fifty 
strong, to take ammunition down to the trenches, and 
on their return journey to bring the wounded back. 

A strange life this, superintending and aiding 
in such matters, for a young man fresh from Cam- 
bridge University. It must have been a curious 
disillusionizing to be hurried out to the Crimea, nerve 
and brain throbbing with warlike aspirations con- 
nected with the honour and glory of war, and then to 
find himself in the sordid atmosphere of the wet tents 
and rough huts, where the winter was still holding its 
own, while the constant booming of the great guns 
added to the general misery and wretchedness. The 
possibility of an explosion was another cause of 
anxiety, for there was ever the prospect of a shell 
falling in one or other of the magazines which sup- 
plied the batteries, and a resulting disaster unless the 
fire could be extinguished in time. These alarms 
generally occurred in the night, when, following upon 
the lurid display of flames from some hut or workshop 
set on fire bv Russian shot, there would be the roar of 
orders, the shouting of men, and the dread of the fire 
being communicated to the crowd of shipping in the 
little sheltered harbour. 

It was a wondrous change from the calm and quiet 
of the university city to the roar and turmoil of the 
besieging camp with the thvmder of our batteries, the 
return fire from Sebastopol, and the constant shells 
dropping in from the enemy's forts. 

20 Cambridg:e to the Crimea 

Very shortly after he reached Balaclava he seized 
an opportunity to ride over the field of Inkermann, the 
scene of the surprise attack made by the Russians 
nearly six months before, and he says that at the top 
of the hill where the principal struggle took place 
the ground was still covered with the remains of the 
contest — ammunition pouches, Russian caps, broken 
weapons and other grim relics — while, rather ironi- 
cally, in allusion to the way in which the allies were 
surprised, he says that this spot is now commanded 
by heavy batteries recently erected, and alludes to the 
old adage about locking the stable door after the 
horse is stolen. Even then, so many months after 
the fight, many bodies of the Russians were still 
unburied, and lay there as though to demonstrate the 
horrors of war, the while the hill slope and a valley 
were so exquisite that the writer fell into raptures 
about the beauty of the place. The steep cliffs were 
honeycombed with caverns, a ruined castle stood on 
an eminence, and the place was beautifully wooded, 
a stream that trickled through the valley amidst the 
exquisitely fresh and green grass adding to the won- 
der and the beauty of the scene. But his day-dream 
was given a rude awakening by a hint thrown out, of 
the risks to which a war correspondent is exposed in 
the pursuit of his duty, for there was the sharp crack 
of a rifle and the dull thud of a bullet burying itself 
in a tree, having missed him narrowly, for luckily the 
Russian who had fired at him had not been quite 
correct in his aim. 

Hurrying back, he forgets the danger that he has 
escaped, and to his mind it is April once more, and 
he begins to describe the beauty of the wild flowers 

Balaclava Bread 


with which the slopes are clothed — irises varying 
in tint from pale yellow to orange, others alter- 
nating from light blue to purple, the early spring 
crocus of pure white, and wild hyacinths in abun- 

On his way, as everything is fraternal among the 
besiegers, he and his companions pass through the 
French camp and taste the hospitality of their allies, 
receiving proof that in this camp, too, matters have 
been mended after the horrors of the past winter, 
for the English visitors are welcomed with what 
Henty declares to be first-rate provisions. But he is 
dreadfully matter-of-fact and business-like directly 
after, as behoves an officer of the Purveyors' Depart- 
ment, for he falls a-wondering why it is that the 
French bread is far superior to that made by the 
bakers in Balaclava, the latter having a sour taste 
that is unpleasant and, he thinks, unwholesome. 
For his part he prefers the biscuit, but feels that on 
their return to England he and his comrades will be 
entitled to a handsome compensation for wear and 
tear of teeth in the service of their country. Then, 
as if by way of comparison with the alarms that had 
suggested a fresh attack, he states that the night was 
less noisy than usual. " In the early part our sharp- 
shooters and the Russians' were cracking away, but 
about eleven the Russian works opened upon the 
parties engaged in the new parallel." The next 
night he announces that a colonel of a French regi- 
ment of infantry was struck down while talking in the 
trenches to a subaltern — "a sixty-eight pound shot 
shattered him frightfully". 

At this time England was in the throes of expecta- 

22 Cambridge to the Crimea 

tion. The long-delayed assault upon Sebastopol was 
expected at any moment, and the main subject of 
conversation out in the camp was what day would 
be appointed. But Henty says, "What day that 
will be no one but Lord Raglan knows — even if he 
does himself". However, at last the long-expected 
bombardment did begin. From a complete circle 
of batteries round the town, jets of smoke were burst- 
ing, while a perfect shower of shot and shell was 
poured into the town and was as incessantly answered. 
The wonder was that buildings did not crumble into 
dust before such a tremendous fire, for from our great 
crescent of mortars a shell was sent every ten minutes 
during the night, and the mules that bore the ammu- 
nition to the trenches came back sadly laden with 

Day after day the assault went on, and Henty 
devoted his spare moments to recording the various 
proceedings of the historic siege — the continuous fire 
of the English and their French allies, which, in spite 
of their vigour, only silenced the Russian batteries 
for fresh ones to be opened again after a few hours' 
hard work; the occasional skirmishes where attack 
was made by the Russians to carry a battery and be 
repelled; the destruction of rifle pits; the surprises 
caused by the Cossacks beginning to show themselves 
out upon the plain ; attacks when prisoners were 
taken ; replies and rescues. Then his interest was 
taken by the allies who now appeared upon the field 
in the shape of the Turks commanded by Omar 
Pasha in person. He describes them as a fine body 
of men who spend most of their time in drilling; for 
they display a great want of military discipline, and 

The Ottoman Atkins 

their movements are little better than a shuflfle. But 
Henty compliments them with the remark that they 
are getting into order. Then he describes their arms 
and the excellence of their French rifles, and goes 
on to display the keenness of his observation as 
he seems to bring to bear old recollections of the 
Arabian Nights and the peculiarity of the immense 
number of hunchbacks among the Turks, nearly all 
of whom have high round shoulders, which in a great 
many amounts to actual deformity. It is hard to 
understand, though, why this should be attributed 
to their sitting cross-legged. However, he says the 
Turkish cavalry and artillery are good, the horses 
small but strongly made and in good condition. 
Altogether he thinks the Turkish army a most wel- 
come reinforcement. All the time the siege goes 
on vigorously, with the English men-of-war and gun- 
boats rendering all the help they can by checking the 
fire of the forts. 

Something of the weird state of affairs around the 
young Commissariat officer and correspondent is seen 
in his description of a leisurely walk he took to one 
of our marine batteries. "The air", he says, "was 
so still that I could hear not only the explosion but 
the whiz of every shell most distinctly, though distant 
seven miles as the crow flies." 

The delicious spring weather that lasted for a time 
was followed by a gale with sleet, and then by forty 
hours of rain. The change was mournfully depress- 
ing, the streets of Balaclava were a perfect sea of 
mud, everything was forlorn, miserable, and deserted, 
the officers in their waterproofs were dejected, and 
everyone was despondent. However, the purveyor 

24 Cambridge to the Crimea 

officer remarked that the Guards were by this time all 
provided with waterproof coats, which kept them dry 
as they stood at their posts. But a thick mist hung 
over everything; the rain was soaking through all 
the tents; the ground had become so soft that the 
horses sank in over their fetlocks, while their heads 
were drooping, and they appeared the picture of dis- 
comfort. The soldiers going down into the trenches 
carried a perfect load of clay upon their shoes, while 
those returning came back wet, knocked up, and 
soaked to the skin. 

In another letter, written just after this dreary time, 
Henty writes that the night closed in dark and lower- 
ing with every promise of wet, a horror for those 
dwelling in tents; just the sort of night, he says, 
which the Russians delight in for making a sortie 
from the besieged city, besides which, he says, they 
had been unusually quiet, a sign that mischief was 
afloat; but as the attacking force was growing pretty 
well accustomed to the habits of the enemy, a very 
strong body of men was sent down into the trenches. 
In proof that this was wise, about ten o'clock there 
came somewhere out of the darkness in front the 
sound of men using picks and shovels, as if the 
Russians were raising a breastwork prior to an attack. 
Then an order rang out, and from our own trenches 
a sharp fire was opened upon the attacking party; but 
owing to the darkness and want of aim it was pro- 
bable that little damage was done, and the de- 
fenders crowded together in utter silence, listening 
and waiting for the attack that all felt was bound to 

At last, about one o'clock, there was a dull, heavy 

Night in Trenches 25 

roar from out of the foggy night. It was the signal 
gun, and instantly the enemy made a rush at the 
advanced trenches, to be met with a tremendous 
volley and stagger back, but only to come on again 
bravely out of the darkness, thousands strong, while 
the musketry firing was fiercer than anything that 
had taken place since the commencement of the siege. 
This went on for two hours, during which time the 
whole of the Russians, according to custom, supple- 
mented their fire with the most demoniacal yells, 
which were responded to by their friends in the town 
and answered in defiance by the cheers of our men 
in the other batteries at each repulse which the 
Russians sustained, for never once, in spite of the 
bravery of the attack, did they succeed in enter- 
ing our advanced trenches. The next morning, 
after they had retired, in spite of the number of 
wounded and the dead, whom it was their practice 
to carry off with them, the ground was covered with 
the fallen. 

What an experience for the young war correspon- 
dent who was making his first essay in that which 
was to become his profession for years, and who in 
this instance proved how thoroughly adequate he was 
for his task ! 

Undaunted by their failure and their immense 
losses, but a short time elapsed before the besieged 
made another sortie, which proved as unsuccessful 
as the last; and though the Russian losses must 
have been immense, in our bayonet-bristling trenches 
but few men suffered. Henty goes on to say it is 
quite impossible to describe these night sorties accu- 
rately, for those engaged in them know next to 

26 Cambridge to the Crimea 

nothinof in the darkness and confusion. If asked in 
the morning, they would reply that the Russians came 
out strong, and that our men loaded and fired in their 
direction as fast as they could, that the Russians 
yelled awfully, and the shot whizzed about like hail! 
This was the invariable account of a sortie by those 
engaged in repelling it, unless there was a surprise 
and the Russians got inside our trenches, when in 
the darkness and confusion all were so mixed up that 
it was hard to know enemy from friend. "Can any- 
thing wilder be conceived?" Henty asks in a descrip- 
tion of an attempt made by the Russians to seize one 
of our batteries and spike the guns. The confusion 
was tremendous. Imagine an attack on a dark night, 
the rain pouring, the men up to their knees in mud, 
fighting away all mixed up together, the constant 
flashes and reports of guns and pistols — the revolver 
being a most useful weapon on these occasions — the 
cheers of our men and the yells of the Russians. At 
the commencement of one of these attacks one of our 
men saw someone crouching over one of the guns. 
He asked him what he was doing. The only answer 
was a cut of the sword, which took off luckily only 
the tip of his nose. He immediately pinned the man 
to the gun with his bayonet. He turned out to be 
a Russian artilleryman who had managed to get in 
to spike the gun. 

These were strange surroundings for a young liter- 
ary man, for a rough hut was often the study of one 
who was to grow by degrees one of the widest known 
of English writers. Not only the pen, but the pencil 
had become familiar to his fingers, and, possibly to 
fill up dull moments, he began to make sketches of 

Artist and Writer 27 

such objects as took his attention; and the idea strik- 
ing him that such subjects might prove attractive to 
one of the editors of an illustrated paper at home, he 
from time to time tried his hand at some little scene 
or some quaint-looking character which had caught 
his eye. 

These supplemented his long letters to a relative, 
and the idea growing upon him, he elaborated his 
writing, making these letters, evidently with latent 
hopes for the future, the germs of those which 
later grew to be so familiar to the British public. 
Everything is said to have a beginning. Certainly 
this was the commencement of George Henty's life 
as a war correspondent, but these efforts were not 
entirely successful. The sketches were duly taken 
by their recipient to the different London illustrated 
papers, but whether from not being up to the editorial 
artistic mark, or from the fact that each paper was 
already fully represented, no success attended their 
presentation. The letters, however, fared better in 
one case, for upon their being offered to the editor 
of the Morning Advertiser, with a statement as to 
who and what the writer was, and where he was 
engaged, the editor promised to read them. He 
kept his word, and proved his acumen by writing 
out to the young lieutenant with an invitation to 
him to represent the paper and send him from time 
to time a series of letters containing the most interest- 
ing occurrences of the campaign that came under his 

The opening was eagerly seized upon, and proved 
highly advantageous to both parties. The young 
officer was a privileged person at head-quarters, and 

28 Cambridge to the Crimea 

his letters show that he had a keen power of obser- 
vation and a great faculty for selecting subjects that 
were of interest to English readers. As a conse- 
quence, he continued to represent the Morning 
Advertiser until he was invalided home. 


Invalided Home 

Henty's Crimean experiences were to be but short, 
but they enabled him to give us many admirable 
and vivid pictures of those stirring days. Although 
a non-combatant, he was in the thick of the fight 
before Sebastopol, and he seems to have missed 
nothing, from the most sordid features to the 
brightest and best. He paints the horrors, and 
takes note of the pathetic, the good, and true. 

He gives us straightforward, telling lines regarding 
the Turks, and he records how our comparatively 
pitiful strength for the gigantic task upon which we 
had embarked, and in which our meagre forces had 
to be supplemented by the gallant sailors landed from 
the fleet, now grew into immense strength, the last 
ally being Sardinia with her little army of eighteen 
thousand men. 

He has something to say about Soyer and his 
culinary campaign and model kitchen, so urgently 
needed for the sick and suffering, and of the great 
aid it was to the doctors, whose hands were more 
than full of the sick and wounded when their battle 
began with the dire cholera. He has sympathetic 
words, too, for the heroine of Scutari, where she seems 
to have led a charmed life, saving the sinking and 
suffering by her calm sweet presence, and encourag- 
ing in their continuous struggle the nurses who 
would have given up in despair. No wonder that 



o Invalided Home 

the name of Florence Nightingale was at the time 
on every lip, and that even now, from the far West 
and the antipodean South, the English-speaking 
race pay a pilgrim-like visit to the peaceful home in 
Derwent Dale where the illustrious lady is spending 
the evening of her life. 

Henty paints, too, his own existence in camp during 
those spring days when the rain was upon them. 
He says to his readers: *' Let them plant a small tent 
in the centre of an Irish bog, for to nothing else can 
I compare this place [before Sebastopol] when it is 
wet; the mud is everywhere knee-deep, while the wet 
weather has had another bad effect, in that it has 
accelerated the attacks of cholera, which is of a most 
malignant type, and a very large proportion of cases 
are fatal". He begins one paragraph, too, with a 
short sentence which is terribly suggestive of a peril 
that had passed: " Miss Nightingale is better". 

But all through his narrative, so full of the observa- 
tions of a young, clear-minded, energetic man, there 
stands out plainly the fact that he was there upon a 
particular duty — that connected with the department 
of which he was an officer. At one time he is writiner 
about the water, the excellency and purity of the 
supply; then he is condemning the arrangements, 
and no doubt pointing out the need of a better system, 
so that this bounteous supply should not be wasted 
by allowing the horses and mules to trample it into 
a swamp of mud. And the need for these precautions 
was soon shown, even during his stay, for as the 
weeks passed, even where the produce of the springs 
was plentiful, the men had to go farther and farther 
afield for a fresh supply. 

An Attack of Fever 31 

At another time he is falling foul of the bread 
which is served out to the officers and men. He de- 
nounces it as quite unfit for human food. It was by 
no means first-rate at the time of its leaving the ovens 
at Constantinople, but by the time it arrived it was 
"one mass of blue mould"; yet it was served out 
regardless of its condition and at a very great risk 
to the health of the soldiers. In fact, he notes that 
it was so bad that even animals refused it. No 
wonder he made comparisons between this and the 
admirable supply served out to the French army. 

Thoughtful and wise too in these early days, 
Henty has much to say regarding sanitary matters, 
the necessity for care, and above all — no doubt this 
was forced upon him by their propinquity — he is 
eloquent about the hospitals; again, and this would 
scarcely have been expected from one so young, he 
points out the way in which the air is tainted by the 
dead animals which are allowed to lie unburied. 

He began his duties at Balaclava in April, and at 
the beginning of June he writes, as might have been 
expected, that he is sorry that his letter this time will 
have to be a short one, as he has for the last two 
days suffered from a severe attack of the prevailing 
epidemic, which has prevented him from going out at 
all. Three days later he sends word that the great 
bombardment of Sebastopol has recommenced. He 
too is better — well enough to show his interest in the 
great general hospital kept especially for the recep- 
tion of the wounded, and to record that it is filling 
fast. He has sympathetic words for the sufferers and 
their ghastly wounds from shot and shell splinter. 
He talks from personal observation of the firmness 

32 Invalided Home 

and patience of the poor fellows over their wounds, 
and of the extraordinary coolness and sang-froid with 
which they suffer the dressing, even to the amputa- 
tion of an arm above the elbow, both bones below 
being broken by a minie-ball. The conduct of these 
humble heroes brings to mind the old naval story 
of the past, of the Jack whose leg had been taken off 
in action, and who resented the idea of being tied 
up while amputation was performed. "No," he 
said; "only give me my pipe;" and he sat up and 
smoked till the surgeon had operated. This in the 
days, too, when anesthetics were not in use, and 
hemorrhage was checked by means of a bucket of 
tar. Poor Jack sat up consciously and looked on ! 

Henty's record is that when one soldier's operation 
was performed and he was about to be carried into 
the hospital ward, he exclaimed, "I'm all right," 
rose up and walked to his ward, lighted his pipe, and 
got into bed. This is given as a single instance 
taken at random from among numbers of cases. 

In his last letter from the Crimea, dated June i8, 
1855, he records that there had been a serious reverse 
to the allied arms. He had by this time somewhat 
recovered from his severe fit of illness, but he had long 
been over- exerting himself. The doctors delivered 
their ultimatum, and he became one of the many who, 
weakened by the terrible exposure, were invalided 

Unfortunately a harder fate attended his only 
brother, Fred, who left England with him when he 
obtained his appointment to the Purveyors' Depart- 
ment, for he was seized by the prevailing epidemic, 
cholera, and died at Scutari. 


The First Glimpse of Italy 

The department which invahded George Henty and 
sent him home to recoup did not lose sight of the man 
who had earned such a good name in the Crimea, 
and as soon as he was reported convalescent it began 
to look about for a position in which his services would 
prove valuable. 

Here was a man who, in connection with his duties 
in the Purveying Department during the late war, 
had more or less distinguished himself by the acumen 
he had displayed and the reports he had sent in con- 
cerning the state of the temporary hospitals and the 
treatment of the sick and wounded. There is not 
much favour shown over such work as his. The 
fact was patent that in Henty the authorities had a 
man of keen observation who grasped at once what 
was wanted in time of war in connection with the 
movements of an army, one whose mission it was not 
to direct movements and utilize the forces who were, 
so to speak, being used in warfare, but who knew 
how to make himself a valuable aid to supplement 
doctor and surgeon, and to carry on their work of 
saving life — in short, the right man in the right place. 

So he was selected and sent out to Italy charged 
with the task of organizing the hospitals of the Italian 
Legion. The very wording of such an appointment 
as this is enough to take an ordinary person's breath 

( B 837 ) 33 4 

34 The First Glimpse of Italy 

away. It might have been supposed that the depart- 
ment would have selected as org-anizer some mature 
professional man and M.D., with the greatest ex- 
perience in such matters, ripened in the work and 
well known as a great authority; but to their credit 
they grasped the fact that Henty's experience was 
proved and real. Book-lore and the passing of ex- 
aminations were as nothing in comparison with what 
this young man of twenty - seven had learned in 
roughly extemporized hospital, tent, and hut amidst 
the inclemency of a foreign clime, in the face of the 
horrible scourge of an Eastern epidemic, where the 
wounded died off like flies, not from the wounds, 
which under healthy environment would rapidly have 
healed, but from that deadly enemy, pyemia, or 
hospital gangrene. It was this which proved so 
fatal after the otherwise healing touch of the skilful 
surgeon's knife — for these were the days prior to the 
discoveries made by Lister, which completely revolu- 
tionized the surgical art. 

While in Italy in 1859 in connection with the 
hospital work, Henty stored his mind with the results 
of his observations. They were stirring times. War 
was on the way; Sardinia's army, fresh from fleshing 
its sword in the Crimea, was eager for the fight that 
was partially to free Italy, and the name of Garibaldi 
was on every lip, for he and his Red Shirts were 
burning to attack the hated Austrian. While finding 
an opportunity to be present at some of the engage- 
ments, Henty was busy preparing himself for writing 
history, and his brain was actively acquiring the 
language and habits of the people in a way that 
was an unconscious preparation for a future visit to 

The Red Shirts 35 

the country in connection with the duties of a war 

It was during this visit to Italy in 1859, and while 
performing his duties of inspector and organizer of 
the Italian hospitals, that Henty made his first ac- 
quaintance with Garibaldi and his enthusiastic army 
so bent upon freeing Italy from the yoke of Austria. 
In a number of most interesting letters, picturesque 
and full of the observation and training that he was 
gathering for the construction of the series of adven- 
turous stories now standing to his name, he details 
his meetings with the Red Shirts. Bright, high- 
spirited boys they were in many cases, ever with 
the cry of liberty upon their lips, and only too ready 
to welcome and to fraternize with the daring, manly 
young fellow who thought as little as they of the 
personal risks which had to be faced, and who was 
subsequently to chronicle this portion of their history 
and the warlike deeds of their chief. 

After his return from the organizing expedition 
with the Italian Legion, Henty was placed in charge 
of the Commissariat Departments at Belfast and 
Portsmouth, and now held the rank of captain. A 
plodding life this for a military man with all the 
making in him of a strong, thoughtful soldier, one 
who would have become the strongest link in the 
vertebrae of a regiment, so to speak, the one nearest 
the brain. 

Fate, however did not guide him in that direction, 
but, as we know now, led him towards becoming the 
critic of armies instead of an actor in their ranks. 

Judging from Henty's nature and the steadiness 
and constancy of his life in the pursuit of the career 

36 The First Glimpse of Italy 

which he chose, it could not have been lightly that he 
came to the decision that from the way in which he 
had entered the army there did not seem to be any 
future for him worthy of his attention, for the British 
army has always been marked by the way in which 
birth and money have been the stepping-stones to 
promotion. Of course there have been exceptions, 
but the British soldier has never been famed for 
carrying a field-marshal's baton in his knapsack, and 
it is only of comparatively late years that the famous 
old anomaly of promotion by purchase has died 

Certainly Henty entered the army as a university 
man and a gentleman, but he must have begun to 
feel, taught by experience, that he had gone in by the 
wrong door, the one which led in an administrative 
direction and not to the executive with a future of 

During Henty's stay in Ireland he had a very 
unpleasant experience with a rough in Dublin, or 
rather, to be accurate, a rough in Dublin had a very 
unpleasant experience with Henty. Somehow or 
other, while out walking with his young wife, for he 
was now married, a brutal fellow offered some insult 
to Mrs. Henty, in the purest ignorance of the kind of 
man whose anger he had roused. One says roused, 
for in ordinary life Henty was one of the calmest and 
quietest of men ; but he had plenty of chivalry in his 
composition, and moreover, as has been shown, he 
had had the education and training of an athlete, 
leavened with the instructions of the north country 
trainer who taught him the jiu-jitsu of his day as 
practised by a Newcastle man. What followed was 

A Useful " Throw 


very brief, for there was a quick, short struggle, and 
the DubHn Pat — a city blackguard, and no carrier of 
a stick — was sent flying over Henty's head, hors de 
combat^ much surprised at the strength and skill of 
such a man as he had possibly never encountered 
before in his life. 


The Italian War 

Henty proved early the excellence of his capabilities, 
and that he was a man who would be all that was 
required for the preservation of men's lives; but such 
as he meet with scant encouragement, and at last, as 
said above, he made up his mind to try in a fresh 
direction, and resigned his commission. 

Led ho doubt by his leanings, and taught by old 
experience in connection with his father's enterprises 
in coal-mining, he made a fresh start in life in mining 
engineering, and was for some time in Wales, where 
his knowledge of mining, and natural firmness and 
aptitude as a leader and trained controller of bodies of 
men, made him a valuable agent for the adventurous 
companies who are ready to open up new ground. 
His operations were so successful that after a time he 
entered into engagements which resulted in his pro- 
ceeding to the Island of Sardinia. Here there was 
much untried ground to invite the speculation of the 
enterprising and adventurous; for it is a country rich 
in minerals, several of them being so-called precious 
stones, and there seemed excellent promise of profit. 
A good deal of speculative research was at one time 
on the way, and here, following his work in Wales, 
Henty spent some busy years, not, though, without 
finding the value of his early athletic education, for 


On " The Standard " 39 

the lower orders were not too well disposed to 
the young English manager under whom they 

Returning to England early in the sixties, he once 
more turned his attention to his pen, having proved, 
while in the Crimea, his ability for writing quick and 
observant descriptive copy, specimens of which were 
extant in the columns of the Morning Advertiser, and 
of which he had examples pasted up and preserved. 
Moreover, when he began to make application for 
work, he had the satisfaction of finding that his articles 
had already excited notice in the literary world. This 
helped him to obtain an engagement, somewhere in 
1865, as special correspondent of the Standard, and 
he carried out his duties so successfully that he be- 
came a standard of the Standard, and was sent out 
in 1866 as one of the special correspondents of that 
paper to Italy, to report upon the proceedings of the 
Italian armies which had then united in the opera- 
tions against the Austrian forces. 

Italy was to some extent familiar hunting-ground 
for Henty, inasmuch as at the time when he went to 
undertake the task of reorganizing the hospitals of 
the Italian Legion he had seen a good deal of the 
country, picked up much of the language, and had 
become acquainted with Garibaldi and his followers 
when, as said before, they were engaged in the 
encounters which resulted in partially freeing Italy 
from the Austrian yoke. 

It was now that his early experience of the country 
and the mastery he had obtained over the Italian 
language stood him in good stead, while, as a matter 
of course, his experience and general knowledge of the 

40 • The Italian War 

country made him an ideal chronicler of the move- 
ments of the campaign. 

Plung-ed, as it were, right in the midst of the 
troubles, he seems to have been here, there, and 
everywhere, and by some means or another he was 
always on the spot whenever anything exciting was 
on the way. Now he was at sea, now with the 
Garibaldians scouting on the flanks of the Austrian 
army, now making journeys by Vetturinos across the 
mountains, to turn up somewhere along with the 
forces of the king, and always ready to bring a critical 
eye to bear — the eye of a soldier — in comparing the 
three forces, the volunteer Garibaldians, the Italian 
regulars, and the Austrians. The last mentioned 
seemed to him to be, in their drill, unquestionably 
superior to the Italians, displaying a strong esprit de 
corps, rigid obedience to their officers, and an amount 
of German impassibility far more adapted to make 
them bear unmoved the hardships and discourage- 
ments of long struggles and reverses than the 
enthusiasm of the Italians — an enthusiasm which 
was manifested in a perfect furore of delight through- 
out Italy on the news of the declaration of war, 
tidings reaching Henty from every city, of illumi- 
nations, of draping with flags, and other celebra- 

"Even Naples," he says, "which has been far 
behind the rest of Italy in her ardour for the cause, 
began to rejoice at the termination of the long delay;" 
but he declares there was no doubt that the reactionary 
party had been very hard at work there, with the 
result that a number of turbulent spirits had been sent 
away from among the volunteers, the excesses which 

Italy Triumphant 41 

they had committed threatening to bring the Gari- 
baldians into disrepute. 

He now fully proved his ability for the task he had 
undertaken. Writing home as soon as he had crossed 
Switzerland early in June a long series of most in- 
teresting letters, he commenced with his first meeting 
with Garibaldi and his followers at Como, and con- 
tinued throughout the war until victory crowned the 
efforts of the united armies of Italy and the patriots, 
and ended (as in a culminating outburst of pyro- 
technic display) with the triumphant spectacles at 
Venice after the Austrians were finally expelled. 

Later, Henty gave permanency to his ephemeral 
contributions to the journal upon which he was en- 
gaged ; but in these early days he was a comparatively 
unknown man, with nothing to commend him to the 
notice of an enterprising publisher, and the makings 
of a most interesting descriptive work sparkled for 
a few hours in the pages of the big contemporary 
newspaper and then died out, with the ashes only 
left, hidden, save to searchers in the files preserved at 
the newspaper office and in the British Museum. For 
Henty, wanting time and opportunity, never repro- 
duced these letters in their entirety, though they 
remained in the journalistic print and in petto^ ready 
for use, as in a kind of brain mine when, as time rolled 
on, his adventures in story-land began to achieve 
success and excite demand. Then they doubtless 
supplied pabulum for such tales as Jack Archer^ The 
Cat of Biibastes, and The Lion of St. Mark, stories 
quite remarkable for the truth of their local colour. 
The last named so influenced a young American lad 
on a visit to England, that he prevailed upon his father 

42 The Italian War 

to take him to see Henty, while afterwards, on being- 
taken to Venice, he wrote a clever, naive letter, which 
is quoted elsewhere, to the author of his choice, telling 
him of his delight in coming to Europe and seeing for 
himself the Venice of to-day, where he recognized the 
very places that Henty had so truthfully described. 

It is a pity that these letters were not reprinted in 
book form ; but long before an opportunity could have 
served, the brave struggles of the Italians to free 
themselves from the Austrian yoke, and the fame 
of Garibaldi, had grown stale as popular subjects for 
the general reader, and the question with the publisher, 
"would a book upon this subject sell?" being only 
answerable in the negative, nothing was done. In 
fact, in those days, save in one instance, there was 
no demand for the reprinting of a journalist's contri- 
butions to a daily paper. This particular instance 
seemed to stand out at once as the prerogative of one 
man alone, he who has only just gone to his well- 
earned and honoured rest, and whose contributions to 
the Times, My Diary in India, that vivid narrative 
of the suppression of the Indian Mutiny, became a 

It was like old times to Henty, after crossing 
Switzerland, to find himself at Como awaiting the 
arrival of Garibaldi, who was reported to be on his 
way. A portion of the Garibaldian army was already 
there, and in a short time, to his great satisfaction, 
Henty found that their chief was hourly expected to 
take command of the volunteers. 

His information proved to be true, and in the midst 
of tremendous enthusiasm he found the volunteers 
drawn up in double line reaching through the town, 

The Garibaldians' Uniform 43 

flags waving, the people shouting, and everyone 
working himself into a fever of heat. 

As the chief approached, the people seemed to have 
gone out of their minds. Caps were thrown up reck- 
lessly, at the risk of never being recovered, and the 
people literally roared as the general, looking in good 
health, though older and greyer than when Henty 
last saw him in 1859, rode along the ranks of the 
seven thousand or so of volunteers that he was about 
to review and passed on, waving his hand in reply to 
the cheering, as if thoroughly appreciating the greet- 
ing, much as he did during his reception in London. 

The town seemed afterwards to be swarming with 
his soldiers. It appeared as if two out of every three 
persons in the streets upon close examination proved 
to be Garibaldians — close examination was necessary, 
for it needed research to make sure that they were 
volunteers, consequent upon the fact that in many 
cases anything in the shape of uniforms was wanting. 

As a rule their uniform, he points out, should 
have been the familiar red shirt, belt, and dark-grey 
trousers with red stripe, surmounted by red caps, 
with green bands and straight peaks. In one of his 
early letters at this stage Henty describes the incon- 
gruous nature of the men's dress. Perhaps one-fourth 
would have the caps; another fourth would look like 
the ancient Phrygians or the French fishermen. 
Perhaps one-third would have the red shirts; possibly 
nearly half, the regulation trousers; and where uni- 
form was wanting they made up their dress with 
articles of their usual wear — wide-awakes, hats, caps 
of every shape, jackets, coats black and coloured. 
Some were dressed like gentlemen, some like members 


The Italian War 

of the extreme lower order, altogether looking such 
an unsatisfactory motley group as that which old 
Sir John Falstaff declared he would not march with 
through Coventry. 

But in spite of this there seemed to be the material 
for a dashing army amongst these men. They pro- 
mised to make the finest of recruits, though certainly 
the observant eyes of Henty told him that many of 
them were far too young to stand the fatigue that 
they would be called upon to suffer during the war, 
a number of them being mere boys, not looking 
above fifteen. But Garibaldi was said to be partial 
to youngsters, and he liked the activity of the boys, 
who, he declared, fought as well as men. 

On the whole, according to Henty's showing, 
Garibaldi's volunteer troops were very much the 
same as flocked to our best volunteer regiments in 
London during the early days. In short, the en- 
thusiasm of the Garibaldians was contagious, and 
Henty wi-ote of them with a running pen; but his 
enthusiasm was leavened with the common sense and 
coolness of the well-drilled organizing young soldier, 
who made no scruple while admiring the Garibaldians' 
pluck, self-denial, and determination to oust the hated 
Austrian, to point out their shortcomings as an army 
and their inability to prove themselves much more 
than a guerrilla band. 

They were an army of irregulars, of course, but 
with a strong adhesion based upon enthusiastic 
patriotism. With such an army as this it may be 
supposed that the followers of their camp sent order 
and discipline to the winds, and the war correspondent 
had to thank once more that portion of his athletic 

Four at a Time 


education that had made him what he was. To use 
his own words, out there in Italy he "thanked his 
stars " that his youthful experience had made him 
a pretty good man with his hands. He found him- 
self in his avocations amongst a scum of Italian 
roughs ready to play the European Ishmaelite, with 
their hands against every man — hands that in any 
encounter grasped the knife-like stiletto, ready, the 
moment there was any resistance to their marauding, 
to stab mercilessly Italian patriot or believer in the 
Austrian yoke, friend or foe, or merely an English 
spectator if he stood in their way. But to their cost 
in different encounters these gentry learned that the 
young correspondent was no common man, for Henty, 
in recording his experience with the pugnacious Gari- 
baldian camp-followers, says calmly and in the most 
naive manner, and moreover so simply that there is 
not even a suggestion of boastfulness or brag: "I 
learned from experiment that if necessary I could deal 
with about four of them at once ; and they were the 
sort of gentry who would make no bones about getting 
one down and stabbing one if they got the chance ". 
It was no Falstaff who spoke these words, for they 
were the utterances of a perfectly sincere, modest 
Englishman, albeit rather proud, after such a child- 
hood, of his robust physique and of the way in which 
he could use his fists or prove how skilfully he could 
deal with an attacking foe and hurl him headlong, 
much in the same sort of way as a North-country 
wrestler might dispose of some malicious monkey 
or any wasp-like enemy of pitiful physique — com- 
paratively helpless unless he could use his sting. 
Henty took all such matters as these quite as a 

46 The Italian War 

matter of course. He felt, as he wrote, that a war 
correspondent to do his duty must accept all kinds of 
risks in his search for interesting material to form the 
basis of his letters to his journal. But incidentally we 
learn about semi-starvation, the scarcity of shelter, the 
rumours of the old dire enemy, cholera, whose name 
was so strongly associated with past adventures in 
the Crimea, risks from shell and shot, and ugly 
dangers too from those who should have been friends. 

For there is one word — spy — that always stands out 
as a terror, and it was during this campaign that in 
his eagerness to obtain information he approached 
so closely to the lines that he was arrested as such 
by one of the sentries and passed on from pillar to 
post among the ignorant soldiery. 

In this case he had started with a friend for an 
investigating drive in the neighbourhood of Peschiera, 
at a time when encounters had been taking place 
between the Italian army and the Austrians. Upon 
reaching a spot where a good view of the frowning 
earth-works with their tiers of cannon could be ob- 
tained, they left the carriage, and climbed a hill or 
two, when they were attracted by the sound of firing, 
and hurrying on they came to a spot where some of 
the peasants were watching what was going on across 
a river. Upon reaching the little group they found 
out that it was not a skirmish, but that the Austrians 
were engaged in a sort of review on the ground where 
there had been a battle a few days before. 

Henty felt that he was in luck, for he found that the 
peasants had been witnesses of the battle from that 
very position and were eager to point out what had 
taken place, the men giving a vivid description of the 

Captured 47 

horrors they had witnessed and the slaughter that 
had taken place. 

Having obtained sufficient from one of the speakers 
to form an interesting letter, he and his friend re- 
turned to their carriage and told the driver to go back. 
Henty had picked up a good deal of Italian, but not 
sufficient to make himself thoroughly understood by 
the driver, and, as is often the case, a foreigner of the 
lower orders failed to grasp that which a cultivated 
person would comprehend at once. The consequence 
was that the man drove on instead of returning, and 
his fares did not find out the mistake till they caught 
sight of a couple of pickets belonging to the Guides, 
the finest body of cavalry in the Italian service. 
Seeing that they were on the wrong track, Henty 
stopped the driver, questioned him, and then, fully 
understanding the mistake, told him to drive back 
at once. But the pickets had seen them, and came 
cantering up. Explanations were made, but the 
Guides were not satisfied. They had noticed the 
coming of the carriage, and had become aware of 
what to them was a very suspicious act. The occu- 
pants were strangers, and had been making use of a 
telescope, which from their point of view was a spy- 
glass — that is to say, an instrument that was used 
by a spy — while they might have come from the 
Austrian side before ascending the hill. This was 
exceedingly condemnatory in the eyes of a couple 
of fairly intelligent men, but they treated them 
politely enough when they explained matters and 
produced their passports. 

A very unpleasant contretemps^ however, began to 
develop when the pickets said the passports might 

48 The Italian War 

be quite correct, but they did not feel justified in 
releasing- the two foreign strangers, who might be, 
as they said, Englishmen, but who were in all 
probability Austrians. So they must be taken to 
their officer, who was about a mile farther on. 

It was a case of only two to two, and Henty's blood 
began to grow hot at the opposition. He was on the 
point of showing his resentment, but wiser counsels 
prevailed ; after all, it was two well-mounted and well- 
armed soldiers of the flower of the Italian cavalry 
against a couple of civilians, and, feeling that this 
was one of the occasions when discretion is the better 
part of valour, especially as a seat in a carriage was a 
post of disadvantage when opposed to a swordsman 
in a saddle, he swallowed his wrath and told the 
driver to go in the direction indicated by his captors. 
For the first time in his life he realized what it was to 
be a prisoner with a mounted guard. 

The officer, who proved to be a sergeant, received 
them with Italian politeness, listened to their explana- 
tions, and at the end pointed out that the movements of 
the carriage, which might have come from an entirely 
different direction from that which they asserted, and 
the use of the telescope, looked so suspicious in the 
face of the nearness of the enemy, that he must make 
them accompany him to his captain about a couple of 
miles away. 

Matters were beginning to grow dramatic, and the 
feeling of uneasiness increased, for as a war corre- 
spondent no one could have realized more readily 
than Henty that he was undoubtedly looked upon as 
a spy, and one whom the sergeant felt he must in 
no wise suffer to escape, for he and his companion 

G. A. HENTY AT 28 

Unpleasant Scepticism 49 

were now being escorted by a guard of four of the 

There was nothing for it, however, but to put a 
good face upon the matter and keep perfectly cool, 
though, to say the least of it, affairs were growing 
very unpleasant. It was an accident the consequences 
of which might be very ugly indeed, and this appealed 
very strongly to his active imagination. When he 
set off from the offices of the Standard upon his letter- 
writing mission, no thought of ever being arrested and 
possibly sentenced as a spy had ever entered into his 

Henty gives the merest skeleton of his adventure, 
but as a man who was in the habit of writing adven- 
tures and who possessed the active imaginative brain 
previously alluded to, it stands to reason that in the 
circumstances he must have thought out what he 
would have set down if he had been writing an 
account of the treatment likely to be meted out to an 
enemy's spy, especially to a hated Austrian, by the 
hot-blooded patriotic Italians. 

Some distance farther on in the warlike district, 
Henty and his companion were escorted to a small 
village occupied by about a hundred of the Guides 
and about twice as many Bersaglieri. Here they 
were in the presence of superior officers, before whom 
they were brought, and to whom they again explained 
and produced their passports, and in addition Henty 
brought out a letter of recommendation to the officers 
of the Italian army, with which he had been furnished 
before starting on his journey by the kindness of the 
Italian ambassador in London. 

Here there was another example of the refined 

( B 837 ) 5 

50 The Italian War 

Italian politeness, and Henty must have felt a strang-e 
resentment against this extreme civility, so suggestive 
of the treatment that was being meted out to a man 
who was being adjudged before an ultimate condem- 
nation, for the officers declared that the explanations 
were no doubt perfectly correct, but that in the circum- 
stances it was their duty to forward the two prisoners 
to their general. The general was about half a dozen 
miles away, while, as unfortunately one of their men 
had been wounded, they must ask the strangers to 
put their carriage at the service of the poor fellow, who 
was suffering terribly from the jolting of the bullock- 
cart in which he lay with five other wounded men, 
lesser sufferers. 

Accordingly Henty and his friend had to take their 
places on the bullock-cart with five wounded Austrian 
prisoners, and the procession started. A circum- 
stance that was extremely ominous was that they 
were preceded by another cart in which was another 
prisoner. This man was a spy about whom there 
was not the slightest doubt, for he had been caught 
in the reprehensible act, and his fate would most 
probably be to have an extremely short shrift and be 
shot in the morning. These were facts that im- 
pressed themselves very painfully upon the imagina- 
tion of the young war correspondent, who must have 
felt that going before the general in such extremely 
bad company was almost enough to seal his fate, and 
he felt the more bitter from the simple and natural 
fact that it would be most likely impossible for him 
to send a final letter to the Standard to record that 
his unfortunate engagement was at an end. 

The decision having been made as well as the 

Liberty at Last 51 

change, matters looked worse and worse, for the pro- 
cession was now guarded by a line of about thirty 
cavalry. In front and rear marched a company of 
the Italian foot, while the officers proceeded cau- 
tiously, as the road on their side ran close to the 
Mincio, across which the Austrians might at any 
moment make a sortie. 

Then the proceedings grew still more dramatic and 
depressing, for several military camps were passed, 
out of which the men came running to look at the 
prisoners, and on hearing from the escort that one of 
the party was a spy, they began to make remarks that 
were the reverse of pleasant. All the same the young 
captain in command of the Guides was particularly 
civil to Henty, and did all he could to make his posi- 
tion as little unpleasant as possible, chatting freely 
about the last engagement and the part his squadron 
had taken in the fight. But he was much taken up 
in looking after his troops, and his English prisoners 
had plenty of time for meditation as to their future 
prospects, and the outlook was not reassuring. 

At last head-quarters were reached, and after a 
short detention the prisoners were taken before the 
General, Henty preserving all the time the calm, firm 
appearance that he had maintained from the first; 
and in all probability it was his quiet confidence that 
saved his life. 

The General examined the passports and the Italian 
ambassador's letter of recommendation, and at length 
in the most polite way set them at liberty, but in a 
manner that suggested that Henty must grasp the 
fact that in a state of war, if he went too close to the 
scene of action, such incidents were bound to occur. 

52 The Italian War 

Their carriage was brought round, and in better 
spirits they started back. At the first town they 
reached they found the place was full of troops. 
Hungry and hopeful of a pleasant meal, they tried, 
but in vain, at the different hostelries to get some- 
thing to eat, though finally, as a favour, they ob- 
tained a piece of bread, the last in the house, and 
some wine. They again started, but when they 
reached another town their tired horses gave in, and 
they had to get out and walk. 

It was now nearly eleven o'clock at night, and one 
may imagine the weary tramp they had before they 
reached the Garibaldian pickets. There they were 
again stopped and were told that without the pass- 
word they could not enter the town, but must spend 
the night in their carriage. 

More arguments, more explanations, but all proved 
in vain, and there was a wretched prospect of the rest 
of the night being passed in misery; but Fate seemed 
at last to have ceased to persecute them, for by good 
fortune the officer of the night approached making his 
rounds, and after some parley allowed them to accom- 
pany him back to the town. Here, however, more 
trouble awaited them, for on reaching their hotel at 
midnight, utterly famished, and calling for supper, it 
was to find that the Garibaldians had consumed every- 
thing. All they could obtain was a cup of coffee, 
without milk, and they retired to rest, Henty with 
the feeling upon him that he had had a very narrow 
escape from being either shot or hanged. r 

A culminating disaster, by the way, connected with 
the miserable march to the presence of the general, 
who was to decide whether or not the war correspon- 

A " Borrowed " Telescope 53 

dent and his companion were to be treated as spies, 
was the disappearance of the valuable telescope with 
which Henty had come provided for making observa- 
tions in connection with the various engagements 
between the Italian and the Austrian forces. It was 
in the carriage when it had to be given up for the use 
of the wounded, and, as the owner very mildly puts it, 
"someone took a fancy" to his glass, and he never 
saw it again, though he met with plenty of occasions 
when he had bitter cause to regret its loss. 


The Search for an Army and a Meal 

In his early days as war correspondent everything was 
fresh and bright, and his letters display the keenness 
of his observation, especially in the way in which he 
compares, with a soldier's eye, the uniforms and ac- 
coutrements of the Italian soldier with those of the 
troops at home. The special war dress, adapted to 
the season (June), was of coarse brown hoUand or 
canvas, with a loose blue-grey greatcoat, and belt at 
the waist outside; the cavalry, it being summer time, 
wore red caps with tassels in place of helmets; the 
artillery had short jackets and canvas trousers. 
Everything seemed useful and serviceable. But now 
the critic comes in, for he writes: " I do not so much 
like the appearance of the army when on the march ". 
The rate of march was about one-fourth quicker than 
that of our own soldiers, and to keep up this swift 
pace the men seemed to be too heavily laden, the 
greatcoats too hot and cumbrous, and the knapsacks 
of calf-skin too heavy. He begins to calculate what 
a slaughter there must have been of calves to furnish 
skins of exactly the same shade of brown for the four 
hundred thousand infantry of the Italian army. 

Then, to add to their load, the men's water-bottles, 
which were barrel-shaped, were rather larger than 
those of the British soldier, and each man also carried 
a canteen about the same size. They had a blue 


A Picturesque Bivouac 55 

haversack well filled, and to crown all, at the top of 
the knapsack each man bore the canvas and sticks 
which form a little tent under which the Sardinian 
soldier sleeps during a campaign. 

Of course he bore also his rifle, bayonet or sword, 
and ammunition, which increased the weight he had 
to carry; but the tent added immensely to his com- 
fort, for whereas the British soldier has to pass the 
night as best he can, perhaps in heavy rain on wet 
ground, to wake cold, wet through, and unrefreshed, 
with the seeds of rheumatism in his limbs, the Italian 
pitches his tent d^abri and sleeps in comparative com- 
fort. During the campaign in the Crimea Henty often 
had occasion to note the magical way in which the 
Sardinian camp sprang up. The little tents were 
pitched, the cooking-places established, arbours were 
made of boughs of trees for the officers' mess-tents, 
and everything assumed a general air of cheerfulness 
which contrasted favourably with the camps of the 
English and of the French. 

In these early days in Italy difficulties were many, 
and he laughingly commences one letter by stating 
that his doings ought to be headed "The Adventures 
of a War Correspondent in Search of an Army ", 
for though battalions, regiments, brigades, and even 
small armies were on the move, the difficulty of 
getting upon their track was supreme. He writes 
on one occasion: "We drove through the village" 
(he was with a companion) "down to the water-side". 
Here lay the Po, a wide, deep river, as broad as the 
Thames. There was no bridge of boats. How, then, 
had the Italians crossed? There was a sentry who 
looked at them peculiarly, and who when asked if 

56 The Search for an Army 

they could pass over to the other side shook his head. 
They explained that they wished to join the camp, 
where they had friends, but they could obtain no in- 
formation. Meanwhile their presence had been at- 
tracting attention, and it was evident that they took 
Henty's companion, who was w^earing a red shirt, for 
one of Garibaldi's lieutenants in disguise. The people 
were appealed to for information as to whether the 
Italian army had crossed there, and at last they 
managed to gain the information that fifty thousand 
soldiers had crossed in the night. But that was all 
the news to be gleaned. 

At last, however, they got upon the track of the 
army and well amidst the fighting that was going on, 
and he writes to his paper that he proposes during 
the next few days to give full accounts of the desperate 
encounters between the Sardinian army, aided by the 
Garibaldians, and the Austrians, "unless a bullet 
should put a period to my writing". 

But, as stated in another place, w^here Henty deals 
with the effect produced upon an observer by shells 
and the amount of mischief they do in the open, a man 
who has his business to think of in connection with 
reporting the movements of an army has not time to 
think of the risks he runs, and Henty troubled himself 
but little concerning the destiny of a stray bullet. 
The old proverb says that every bullet has its billet, 
the falsity of which statement has been often enough 
proved in modern warfare by statisticians comparing 
the numbers of killed and wounded with those of the 
ball cartridges expended during some fight, unless, 
indeed, the word billet is taken to include the place 
where every missile falls. In fact, \vhen dealing with 

Wasting Ammunition 57 

the firing at Magdala, where the British infantry made 
use of the breech-loading rifle for the first time, Henty 
criticized severely the waste of cartridges by the men, 
who, armed with the new easily- loaded weapon, 
scattered the bullets, without stopping to aim, at a 
rate calculated to leave them without cartridges in a 
very short space of time. 

Speaking as a practised officer of the Commissariat 
Department, his attention was much more drawn to 
the difficulties in connection with the task of obtaining 
enough to eat. As regards shelter and sleep, he was 
ready enough to make shift with anything that offered 
of the former, and many a time the open sky was 
his cover, and a blanket or waterproof sheet his only 
protection from the rain. 

He fared worst, save in the way of sociability, when 
following in the track of those gallant, thoughtless 
Sons of Freedom, the Garibaldians. On one occa- 
sion he and a companion made their way to one of the 
many battlefields by the side of one of the Italian lakes, 
where the ground that had been defended by the Gari- 
baldians was covered with scattered trees. Beyond 
these the hillside was bare, but dotted with huge 
boulders of stone, which had been taken advantage of 
by the Austrian Tyrolese riflemen, and where they 
sheltered themselves to pick off the young patriots. 

Down below, the road ran by the shore of the lake, 
and here the Austrian column had done their best to 
cut off the Garibaldians. On passing through this 
debatable ground the road rose considerably, and it 
became necessary for the two correspondents to prac- 
tise care lest they should be mistaken for enemies, for 
by the side of the road were numbers of the shelter 

58 The Search for an Army 

arbours run up by the Garibaldians, and these were 
occupied, for the sake of the shelter they afforded from 
the burning sun. 

Here Henty describes the beauty of the scene 
across the valley at the head of the beautiful lake. 
Full in view were two villages, occupied, the one by 
the followers of the great Italian patriot, the other by 
the Austrians. The mountain road had been guarded 
on one side by a low parapet wall to save it from the 
rushing storm waters that swept down from above after 
heavy rains, and here in two places ominous prepara- 
tions had been made in readiness to check any advance 
on the part of the Austrians, the parapet being cleared 
away to form embrasures, out of which grinned the 
muzzles of the field-pieces, ready to belch forth their 
deadly shower of grape and round shot. Here, too, 
w^as a deep ravine coming down at right angles to the 
road, offering excellent ground for a tactician to place 
his forces to advantage and deal out destruction upon 
advancing troops. 

Along the side of the ravine ran the road to the 
Italian village, for which the two correspondents were 
making, in the hopes of obtaining food and shelter. 
As they passed on they found parties of Garibaldians 
encamped along the whole length of the road, and their 
sentries were ready to stop farther advance and demand 
their business and their passes. These, however, 
were found to be en regie, and they were allowed to 
continue their journey to the village, which they soon 
found was occupied by portions of a couple of regi- 
ments and a battalion of Bersaglieri, by far the finest 
and most reliable portion of Garibaldi's forces. 

Henty and his friend, warned by previous experi- 

Hunting for Lodgings 59 

ence, had taken the precaution to carry supplies with 
them, the said suppHes being of the simplest descrip- 
tion, a substance, in fact, which is always welcome 
to a hungry man, made delicious by the addition of 
the proverbial sauce. In other words, they carried 
in their satchels portions of the homely cake-bread of 
the country, upon which they depended, feeling no 
anxiety about obtaining their share of the abundant 
spring water of the district. 

Thus provided, they had but one trouble, and that 
was as regarded lodgings. They went at once to the 
only inn of the village, to find it closed. This was 
discouraging, and they passed on, to find that almost 
all the shops of the little place were also closed. 
Checked by this, they made for a group of the Ber- 
saglieri, who seemed to be well supplied with their 
little thin cigars, the pale-blue threads of smoke 
from which curled lightly out in the evening sun- 

The deeply-bronzed soldiery politely exchanged 
salutes as the travellers questioned them about the 
prospect of finding a resting-place for the night, the 
answer to which was: "Have you any bread?" 
"Yes," replied Henty. "Well, then," said a 
Garibaldian, with a smile which showed his white 
teeth, " you may think yourselves very lucky, signori, 
for we have had none to-day, and though we have 
had notice that some will come in this afternoon, it is 
more likely that it will not." 

This was disconcerting; but feeling that they could 
travel no farther they determined to persevere, in the 
hope that something might turn up; and if matters 
did prove to be at the worst they still had their 

6o The Search for an Army 

open carriage, which would, at all events, with its 
cushions make sleep more easy, and keep them off 
the ground. 

They had given a lift to one of the Garibaldians, 
and though amused by their predicament, he laugh- 
ingly tried to assist them by suggesting that they 
should go on, and stop and knock at every door until 
they found someone who would give them a lodging. 
The notion seemed to be good, and to carry out the 
Italian's suggestion they drew up at the best-looking 
house they could see, and knocked boldly at the door. 

This was opened by an elderly priest, who raised 
his eyebrows in wonder, and glanced at the carriage 
and its occupants, and then at the Garibaldian who 
was acting as their guide, when an eager conversation 
ensued in the soft fluent Italian tongue. The guide, 
speaking with energy, explained with enthusiasm 
that those whom he had brought to claim the priest's 
hospitality were two English gentlemen, whose hearts 
were in the Italian cause, and who, much interested, 
had come out on purpose to see the war; they were 
weary with their long journey and sought a refuge 
for the night^ — a lodging for which they were perfectly 
ready to pay with the customary generosity of their 

It was all very flowery, but most effective, for the 
priest smiled and bowed and bade them enter, de- 
claring his readiness to place a room at their service, 
but shrugging his shoulders as he told with much 
gesticulation how he lamented that owing to the 
exactions of the Austrians, who had been there only 
the week before, and many of whom had been quar- 
tered in the house, he had nothing in the way of food 

Foraging for Fowls 6i 

to offer them ; however, anything they could procure 
his servants would cook. 

Perhaps it was due to perseverance having been 
rewarded and to having gained a lodging that, 
hungry though they were, they began to contemn 
their supply of bread. Surely, they thought, in a 
village like this it should not be impossible to find 
something more tasty, now that fate had provided 
them with a cook. So they sallied out, and leaving 
the more frequented streets, which swarmed with the 
hungry volunteers, they turned down first one lane 
and then another with no result. At length Henty, 
tired by his journey, was beginning to feel a return of 
the despondency which attacks a hungry man, when 
he stopped short, catching his companion by the arm 
and holding up his hand, for from a small house on 
one side of the lane he heard a familiar suggestive 
sound, which is precisely the same in the boot of 
Italy as it is in some rustic English county. It was 
the welcome cluck of fowls, shut up somewhere behind 
bars for safety. This promised a prize if negotiation 
were carried to a successful issue, and hands involun- 
tarily plunged into pockets, to be followed by the 
faint and smothered chink of coin. Money should be 
able to purchase poultry at some price or other, even 
in times of war; if not, as it zvas a time of war, and 
as the two young Englishmen were upon a foraging 
expedition in a foreign country, why should they 

Dark thoughts suggested themselves, and visions 
of a bright fire and a browning chicken began to 
dawn and sharpen the rising appetite, but they were 
dissipated at once by the opening of the door, at 

62 The Search for an Army 

which they had loudly knocked. An animated parley 
commenced with the occupant of the cottage, the said 
parley ending at last in the correspondents becoming 
the masters of a couple of fowls, whose united ages, 
by the way, they found, when they came to eat them, 
must have been a long way on towards the age of one 
of themselves. 

But all the same they felt satisfied in their ravenous 
condition at having obtained even these world-worn 
birds at only about live times their proper price, 
especially as on returning towards the priest's house 
they again encountered the friendly Garibaldians, who 
had been less fortunate than themselves. 

There was still another drawback, that which 
comes to a hungry man even though he has obtained 
a whole fowl to himself, and this was the waiting 
while it was cooked. While this was in process 
Henty had to try and curb his impatience by ex- 
amining the beauty of the scenery. But at last the 
repast was ready, and their friend the priest made 
them up beds, on which they passed the night in a far 
more luxurious manner than they had anticipated. 


The Battle of Lissa 

There were times when Henty had to take shelter 
from the Austrian fire, and others when he found 
himself exposed to that of the friendly army, whose 
skirmishers, made plainly visible by their scarlet 
shirts, began to send up little puffs of smoke from 
behind hedges and amongst trees, while crack! crack! 
the reports of the rifles rang out and echoed down the 
ravines, to die away amongst the distant hills. 

Then, too, one of his narrow escapes happened 
when he was on his way to Brescia. He had some 
difficulty in getting there, for every vehicle was re- 
quisitioned for the public service, and he thought 
himself extremely lucky in being able to get his 
lugroraore sent on, leaving- him free to undertake the 
walk of some five-and-twenty miles. This was no 
serious undertaking to a well-shod athlete, being only 
one-fifth more than a tramp across our own Dartmoor, 
but with this difference, that the home walk would be 
through the crisp bracing air some fifteen hundred 
feet above the sea, while here the labour was very 
heavy, the heat of the Italian July sun being tre- 

However, just when he had proceeded half-way on 
his journey, and was suffering severely from the torrid 
air, which felt too hot to breathe, he, little anticipating 
what was to prove the outcome, congratulated himself 


64 The Battle of Lissa 

upon what he looked upon as a stroke of luck, for, 
hearing wheels behind, he drew up by the side of the 
road, to stand panting and wiping his streaming brow, 
signing to the military driver of a government cart. 
This man willingly agreed to give him a lift as his 
destination was the same, and explained that he was 
going to fetch a load of ice for the benefit of the 

It was rough travelling, but the change from the 
labour of tramping the road, which seemed to return 
the heat of the sun with fivefold power, was delight- 
ful, and the rattle and bumping of the clumsy cart 
by contrast became almost an exquisite pleasure. 

In this way five more miles were added to those 
which he had walked, and in describing the adven- 
ture which followed, Henty naively remarks that 
doubtless he should have ridden happily the whole 
distance into Brescia had not the ill-groomed, blind 
mare which drew the cart, suddenly conceived that 
she was being ill-treated by the addition of this 
stranger to her load. She accordingly stopped short 
and began lashing out most viciously, nearly break- 
ing the arm of the soldier who was driving, and then 
dashed off at full speed. Seeing that she was blind, 
her course was not a very long one, and before they 
had gone far down the mountain road which gradually 
grew more and more shelf-like, the mare's flight be- 
came wildly erratic, until she checked herself most 
painfully by running her head against the rocks 
which rose up on their right. After holding his 
breath for some time Henty relieved his overburdened 
chest in a deep sigh, for he had been debating in 
those brief minutes whether he should not risk every- 

A Blind Mare's Vagary 65 

thing and trust to his agility to spring out. He now, 
however, began to breathe freely, and, dropping down 
from the cart into the road, he stared about him at his 
position, and realized how very near he had been to 
bringing his correspondent's task to a sudden end. 
Had the mare in her blindness turned to the left 
instead of the right, horse, cart, and its occupants 
would have gone headlong over the low protecting 
parapet at the side, deep down a stony precipice, with 
only one result. 

In his matter-of-fact way Henty goes on to say: 
" This was not a thing to be tried twice, and I once 
more set off to walk, and in a mile came to a village, 
where by great luck I found a vehicle which brought 
me into Brescia in safety," 

In his eagerness to obtain the fullest information 
about the military proceedings between the opposing 
armies, Henty never spared himself. Wherever there 
was an engagement pending, or taking place, if it 
were in the slightest degree possible he would be 
there, running all risks, and at any cost; so that when 
the news came of the possibility of there being a naval 
engagement between the Italian and Austrian fleets, 
it was only natural that with his sailor-like proclivities 
Henty should wish to be present. 

As we have seen, he was well provided with intro- 
ductions and credentials which facilitated his being 
with the army; but these hardly seemed likely to 
benefit him much with the navy. However, he was 
not the man to be daunted by difficulties. If a naval 
fight did take place, it was bound to be one of special 
interest, for though for years past the old-fashioned 
wooden walls and two- and three-deckers of this and 

( B S37 ) 6 

66 The Battle of Lissa 

other countries had been gradually changing into 
armour-clads, this was to be the first occasion when 
an encounter would take place between the ponderous 
monsters. It was an event which would prove, not 
only to scientists but to their captains and crews, how 
they would behave. 

The question that arose, therefore, was how the re- 
presentative of the Standard could get on board one of 
the vessels. Doubting what reception would be given 
to one who announced himself as a war correspondent, 
Henty proceeded, sailor -like, upon another tack. 
After the training he had gone through and the 
work he had done, he considered himself justified in 
posing as an engineer eager to grasp exactly what 
would take place under fire, and in this character, as 
a scientific man, the difficulty was solved, for he was 
allowed to be present at the naval battle which took 
place in the Mediterranean off Lissa, the principal 
island of Dalmatia, some forty miles from the main- 
land, on the 20th of July, 1866. 

It was no trivial affair, but one as worthy of notice 
as any of the great battles of history, for the Italian 
fleet which set sail consisted of twelve iron-clads and 
eight wooden frigates, with their attendant gun and 
despatch boats. 

The island was strongly fortified by the Austrians, 
and the battle began with an attack upon the forts, 
which responded fiercely, and the grim reality of the 
encounter was soon learned by those on the iron- 
clads when shells began to burst on board. But 
this attack was only in anticipation of the coming of 
the Austrian fleet, which was soon after signalled as 
being in sight, and its formidable nature was evident 

On Board an Iron-clad 67 

directly it approached. Its three lines were com- 
posed of seven iron-clads, one wooden ship of the hne, 
five wooden frigates, two corvettes, and twelve gun- 
boats, the last mentioned carrying six guns each. 

The two fleets were not long in coming to close 
quarters, and it was soon proved that sailors could 
fight as well in iron-clads as in the towering old 
wooden craft of yore. 

The thunder was deeper from the much heavier 
modern guns, the impact of the modern missiles 
(elongated bolts, not balls) and the crash of the 
bursting explosive with which they were charged far 
more awful; but amidst the noise, confusion, and 
deafening explosions the spectator could grasp but 
little of what was taking place outside the vessel he 
was on. 

There was a certain grim novelty about being 
rammed, and the shock sent everyone who was not 
holding on, prostrate, convinced, or at least quite 
ready to imagine, that the vessel struck must be sent 
to the bottom. But this portion of the encounter 
did not prove to be so damaging as was anticipated, 
probably owing to the close quarters into which the 
two fleets were brought, and to the want of impetus 
of the striking ship. In fact, as the broadsides 
were exchanged, and the vessels were passing and 
repassing each other, they were in such close neigh- 
bourhood that at times the muzzles of the guns 
almost touched each other, and the effect was terrific. 
Numbers of men were killed on board the vessel 
upon which Henty made his mental notes. Shells 
crashed upon the iron armour, and were in some cases 
thrown off, but others passed in through the port- 

68 The Battle of Lissa 

holes and burst inside, committing terrible havoc, 
while at one time a broadside was received which 
glanced off. A vast amount of damage was done, 
though, when they ran stem on to the nearest op- 
ponent with an awful crash and then backed off, to 
see dimly through the smoke that the Austrian adver- 
sary was evidently sinking. 

The result was that the Battle of Lissa supplied 
ample proof of the consequences following an en- 
counter between two iron-clad fleets ; but it was days 
after the noise and turmoil of the battle were at an 
end that Henty found an opportunity to pay a visit 
to the Italian fleet with the object of ascertaining how 
the various systems of iron-plating had borne the 
hammering of the shot and shell during this novel 

His first visit was to a vessel of nearly six thousand 
tons burden, and before going on board he was pulled 
slowly round her, stopping from time to time to ex- 
amine the shot marks in her side. And now it was 
surprising to see how little damage had been done. 
The shot had made round dents of four to five 
inches in diameter, and from one to two and a half 
inches deep, but the marks made by the shells in the 
armour-plate were more ragged, some of the dents 
being from eight to twelve inches in diameter, rough 
and uneven, while, when a shell had struck where the 
plates joined, pieces were broken completely off. Alto- 
gether, as far as her iron armour was concerned, this 
vessel, which had been engaged for more than an hour 
with two or three Austrian iron-clads, came out of 
the ordeal remarkably well. Not one of her plates 
was penetrated, cracked, or seriously loosened; but 

When Iron-clads Meet 69 

on getting round to her stern her weak point was at 
once noticeable, and that was the rudder, which was 
quite unprotected. Some six or seven feet of the un- 
armoured stern also was quite exposed, a fact which 
resulted in the loss of a sister ship, whose rudder was 
disabled almost at the beginning of the contest, so 
that she soon became an easy prey to her adversaries. 

In the case of the Re de Porto Gallo, the vessel 
Henty visited, her iron-plating was covered with a 
casing of wood, some nine inches thick, to a height 
of two feet above the water-line, and upon this her 
copper sheathing was fastened. The whole of her 
port bulwark, with the exception of some fifty feet 
at the stern, was carried away by a collision with 
the adversary, the two vessels grinding together 
along their whole length. 

On mounting to the deck, Henty goes on to say, 
he first began to see to what a terrible fire she had 
been exposed. Her rigging had been cut to pieces; 
black ragged holes where shells had struck and burst 
were to be seen; her boats were completely smashed 
to pieces. 

In the case of another vessel, the shot and shell 
marks were rather deeper, and the dents and ragged 
marks of the shells indicated that she had had to 
encounter heavier metal, while Henty's keen scrutiny 
showed him that the iron-plating which protected her 
must have been of a much more brittle nature; but 
even here it was quite plain to him that the protection 
afforded by the ponderous iron plates was most effec- 
tive, and it was remarkable, considering how close 
the adversaries had been together, that more serious 
damage had not been done. 

70 The Battle of Lissa 

In noticing- Henty's account of the iron clothing of 
the ItaHan fleet, and the effect upon the ships of the 
enemy's guns, it must be borne in mind that some 
forty years have \vrought vast changes in naval war- 
fare, and it can easily be conceived how different 
would have been the havoc wrought if the encounter 
had been with the armament of such a vessel as, say 
our own unfortunate Montagtiy or the Sutlcj\ with the 
twin occupants of its revolving turrets and the pon- 
derous bolt-shaped shells they could hurl. 

These investigations appear to have been of the 
greatest interest to the young correspondent, but he 
was not satisfied; the sailor within him made itself 
heard. He was satisfied with the value of armour- 
plates in protecting a man-of-war, but he wanted to 
know how, plated with these ponderous pieces of iron, 
such vessels would behave in a heavy sea. 

He had not long to wait, for he wrote directly after- 
wards that there had been a heavy squall, and one of 
the iron-clad fleet had had to run for the harbour, roll- 
ing so much from her weight, and shipping so much 
water, that she went down ; but, fortunately, all hands 
were saved. 

There had been a day of intense heat. The next 
morning it was hot and close without a breath of wind, 
and Henty states that he had been rowed across the 
harbour for his morning dip. At that time there was 
not a ripple upon the water, but on his return at nine 
o'clock the sky was becoming a good deal overcast, 
while about half-past ten he was a witness of one of 
the squalls peculiar to the Mediterranean, and made 
familiar to old-fashioned people in the words and 
music of **The White Squall". Sheets of water, 

A Tempest 71 

without the least preHminary warning, dropped sud- 
denly from the clouds ; the furious wind tore along, 
driving before it every light object; outdoor chairs 
and tables were swept away, and the wind was master 
of everything for about twenty minutes. When the 
fierce storm had passed on, and the rain had ceased, 
he, knowing what the consequences of such a raging 
tempest must be, hurried down to the landing-place 
to note what the sea had done. 

He was astounded. His first looks were directed 
at the iron-clads. They were lying at anchor, and 
rolling bulwark-deep in so alarming a manner that 
it was fully proved to him that, had necessity forced 
them to go into action, they could not have opened 
their port-holes to work their guns, for had they 
done so they would certainly have been swamped. 

Nature seemed to be mocking at the ponderous 
vessels, and green seas were rushing completely 
along the decks of the iron-clad which afterwards 

He could see at the time by means of a telescope 
that the crew were engaged in dragging tarpaulins 
over her hatchways, while from the funnels of the 
whole fleet dense clouds of black smoke were rolling 
up, as the engineers were evidently working hard to 
get up steam, so as to relieve the strain upon their 
anchors, or to enable their captains to shift their 
berths. Later he could see that several of the 
vessels had taken shelter in the harbour, but the 
Affondatore was still in her berth, with her engines 
hard at work going ahead to relieve the strain upon 
her anchor. 

Speaking as one accustomed to the sea, he was 


The Battle of Lissa 

under the impression that the captain was afraid to 
make for the harbour, outside which the vessel lay, 
for to have done so would have necessitated his ex- 
posing her broadside to the tremendous waves, which, 
though the sea had somewhat subsided, still swept 
right over her bows. These were now apparently 
two or three feet lower than the stern, so that at the 
utmost the ponderous vessel was only six feet out of 
the water altogether, and she looked as if she had 
taken a great deal of water on board. 

At length, as Henty watched, he began to see that 
she was changing her position. Her head turned 
slowly towards the harbour, her main-sail was set to 
steady her, and she began to steam slowly in. But 
in spite of the sail that had been hoisted she rolled 
heavily, and by degrees seemed to have lost all power 
of riding over the waves, which now made a clean 
sweep over her, until at times he lost sight of her bow 
for some seconds together. 

At last, after expecting from time to time to see her 
founder, he saw that she had reached the harbour in 
safety, to anchor just inside the end of the mole, some 
three hundred yards from shore, and, growing ex- 
cited as he felt in doubt about her position, he jumped 
into a boat and pulled out to her, to find that her bow 
was not above two feet out of water, while her stern 
was a foot higher than it had been on the previous 
day. In spite of man-of-war order, a good deal of 
excitement evidently prevailed. The crew were busily 
engaged in relieving her bows by carrying all weight 
as far aft as possible, and evidence of the peril of her 
position was plainly shown by the engines being hard 
at work pumping. 

The Fate of a Battleship 73 

So he began to feel hopeful that as the vessel was 
now in still water she would be safe, but the hope was 
vain. Either recent repairs over the shot holes re- 
ceived in action had given way, or some of her upper 
plating, weakened by a shot, had opened with the 
strain. Whatever was wrong, as Henty watched he 
could see that she was getting lower in the water, 
which in little more than another half-hour was level 
with her bow. 

Then it was that, feeling that it was impossible to 
do more, orders were given which resulted in the 
boats being lowered, and with discipline well pre- 
served they were manned, while launches came out to 
her assistance and took off the crew to the last man. 

It was a painful scene which soon followed. The 
grand vessel's bow was now some distance below the 
surface, while the stern still maintained its buoyancy; 
but all at once, as if the iron-clad monster were making 
a desperate struggle for life, she gave a sudden heavy 
roll before steadying herself, and remained in her 
proper position with only a slight list to starboard. 
Then she sank slowly and calmly, and all was over 
with the gallant ship. 

Henty described at length the battle of Lissa, of 
which no better account could have been given than 
that of this unbiased spectator; but upon the appear- 
ance of a lengthy official report, he did not hesitate to 
turn stern critic and fall foul of the brag and bombast 
which disfigured its columns. No doubt to flatter 
Italian pride this was so full of inflation, that the 
English correspondent flatly compared it with the 
never-to-be-forgotten narrative delivered by the stout 
knight to Prince Hal and his companions. 


The End of the War 

Henty writes of Brescia as a Garibaldian town, that 
is to say, a town garrisoned by volunteers, and after 
being there for some days gaining knowledge of these 
patriots, he takes advantage of the occasion to attempt 
some description of their state. 

At one time he found the station crowded as if the 
whole population had assembled, and he explains 
the reason of the unusual scene. A train of enor- 
mous length had just entered the station crammed 
with red-shirted volunteers, who were being received 
with tremendous cheers, which they responded to as 
lustily. Then ensued an affecting scene, for numbers 
of the regiment had friends and relations in the town 
who were searching eagerly from carriage to carriage 
enquiring if they were safe. 

The train was only to stop for ten minutes, and the 
men were not supposed to alight; but no orders could 
keep them in, and a scene of wild embracing, hand- 
shaking, and kissing ensued, mingled with eager 
enquiries after relatives in other regiments, good 
wishes, and farewells. Then the station bell rang and 
the train moved on, the soldiers waiting till the last 
moment and then jumping on as it was in motion, so 
that as it moved out of the station it presented an 
extraordinary aspect, men in scarlet shirts leaning out 
of every window and standing on the foot-board the 


Bad Commissariat 75 

whole length as closely as they could, while others 
were even on the roofs, and all waving their hands 
and cheering. He heard afterwards that some of the 
men in their enthusiasm and excitement rode the 
whole of their journey upon the steps, while three 
or four in the various trains were killed from leaning 
too far out and striking their heads against the abut- 
ments of brido-es. 

The commissariat arrangements, into which as a 
matter of course he would be prone to enquire, were, 
he declares, vile. In fact, he says the arrangements 
for feeding these poor fellows were, like all other 
matters connected with the volunteers, shamefully 
bad. Some of them, in a three days' journey, had no 
food but bread and cheese and a little wine. 

At another town he found the place crowded with 
Garibaldians, who had taken possession bodily of 
the inn he reached. Tables were spread out in the 
court-yard, at which parties were sitting; upstairs 
and down the inn was thronged. The landlady 
and waiters received their English visitors with an 
air of languid indifference very different from their 
customary manner. At the first complaint Henty 
was assured that for thre days and nights they had 
not rested, and that as fast as one regiment of the 
volunteers went off another took its place. The men 
were all famished by long fasting in the train, and 
only too glad to sit down to a regular meal again. 

Here he found that although the Garibaldians were 
better clad than when he first encountered them, for 
they had all got red shirts, and caps of some shape or 
other, many of them were sadly neglected. Some 
were almost shoeless, others had only just previously 

76 The End of the War 

received their arms. Moreover, with the exception of 
the Bersa(;lieri regiments, which had ten rounds of 
ball cartridge each, no ammunition whatever had 
been supplied. They were in a melancholy state for 
an active force just taking the field — no shelter tents, 
so that they had to sleep in the open air, and most of 
them had only one blanket to serve as a cloak in the 
daytime and a cover at night. 

Some of them had not even this poor protection, 
and had to sleep on the ground, however wet the 
night, with no other protection than their red shirts 
and trousers. Fortunately for them, they had patriotic 
faith and enthusiasm ; but there was no ambulance 
train or any accommodation whatever for the wounded, 
and, speaking generally, the commissariat arrange- 
ments were so bad that it was no unusual thing for 
a regiment to go all day without food. 

The result was indignation on the part of the volun- 
teers at the scandalous treatment they were receiving; 
but this only made them still more desirous to get at 
the enemy and show that, ill-used though they were, 
when it came to fighting they could do as well as the 
line. For it seemed that there was considerable 
jealousy and ill-feeling between the two services, the 
Garibaldians believing firmly that the treatment they 
were receiving was caused by those in authority, and 
when the news came of a disastrous defeat of the 
regular troops, it was received by the volunteers with 
something like satisfaction and a full belief that they 
would do better when their turn came. 

"Indeed," says Henty, "it must be owned that 
they had very much more than a sufficiently good 
opinion of themselves, for they firmly believed that 

A Word for the Guides 77 

they could defeat anything like an equal number of 
Austrians, even though the latter were provided with 
artillery, as they would be." 

Henty learned from the plucky fellows that they 
did not believe much in the value of ball cartridges, 
but pinned their faith entirely on the bayonet, 
against which weapon he did not believe that they 
would be able to stand for an instant. His opinion 
was that if the Garibaldians came upon a body of 
the well-drilled Austrians in a steep place, or where 
they were in confusion, the volunteers' impetuous 
onslaught would be irresistible; but on the other 
hand, he could not believe that out on the plain dis- 
orderly rushes could ever break the Austrians' steady 
steel lines. 

At this time a battery of mountain artillery was 
attached to Garibaldi's command; but the guns were 
so clumsy and the carriages so primitive that Henty 
believed they were not likely to prove of much assist- 
ance, and, continuing his remarks about the uni- 
formity and aspect of the Garibaldian troops, he 
grimly notes that consequent upon sleeping upon the 
wet ground, the red shirts were beginning to lose 
their original brilliancy of colour. He has, though, 
a few words of praise for the volunteer cavalry, the 
Guides, w^ho were extremely useful as vedettes. Their 
grey-blue uniform with black cord braiding, natty 
scarlet caps and high boots, gave them a very soldier- 
like appearance, while for night duty they had very 
long cloaks of the same colour as the uniform, and 
lined with scarlet. 

Henty had always words of praise for the un- 
quenchable pluck of the Garibaldians, the indomit- 

78 The End of the War 

able determination that, in spite of bad drilling, 
clumsy discipline, and bad leading, finally led them 
to success. Garibaldi himself, however, came in for 
criticism, for he declares, after recording a wound 
that the general had received, that it was greatly to be 
regretted that he should expose himself to danger, 
and that his young officers should be so eager to do 
the fighting themselves instead of steadying their men 
and leading them. 

Then again he attacks the commissariat in his 
customary, vigorous way, while reporting after one 
of the fights the wantonness which could send three 
thousand men from a town to march twenty-five 
miles without breakfast to begin with or supper to 
finish with, this being only a common specimen of 
the commissariat arrangements. "Certainly", he 
seems to growl, in a quotation, "somebody ought to 
be hanged; I do not know who it is, nor do I care, 
but such mismanagement has, I believe, never been 
equalled. All the same," he says, "the volunteers 
take it with wonderful good temper." 

Picturesque, he says, as was the appearance of the 
Garibaldian camp, so bright and gay with the scarlet 
shirts of the soldiery and the green arbours, that it 
looked like a gigantic military picnic, it was the 
abode of as badly a fed set of men as were to be 
found in Europe. A little bread or biscuit and soup, 
doled out at the most uncertain intervals, with occa- 
sionally meat and frequently nothing at all, was the 
food which the government of Italy bestowed upon 
her volunteers, many of whom had left luxurious 
homes to fight her battles; and in some cases the 
men were so reduced from weakness that at certain 

Noisy Cicadae 79 

stations many of them had to be taken into hospital. 
The poor fellows were fed, when fed at all, with a 
mixture with bread swimming in it which was called 
soup, but which was utterly innocent of meat in its 
composition, and tasted simply of tepid water; a sort 
of raw sausage, flavoured strongly with garlic, and 
a mess of either rice or macaroni, with something 
called meat in it, but utterly untastable; and yet 
this same food was at one time, while Henty was 
with the volunteer army, all that he could depend 
upon for himself — that or nothing. Campaigning 
with the Garibaldians was sorry work, but, soldier- 
like, Henty tightened his belt and fought his way on 
with the volunteers in expectation until they won. 

Still with the head-quarters of Garibaldi, and in the 
midst of the heat of an Italian July, Henty writes 
again in the midst of warfare, with all day long the 
boom of cannon and the sharp crack of musketry 
sounding in his ears. And as he writes, he says, 
the confusion outside, the talking of innumerable 
Garibaldians under the window of the humble room 
of which he thinks himself fortunate to call himself 
master for the time, the rumbling of carts, the shout- 
ing of the drivers, and the occasional call of the 
bugle, all remind him that he is in the midst of war 
on a large scale. 

The heat has been terrible; not a breath of wind 
stirring, and the cicadae in the vineyards which line 
the roads through which he has passed have been in 
the full tide of song. "The noise", he says, "that 
these insects make on a hot day is something astound- 
ing. It is a continued succession of sharp shrill 
sounds such as might be made by a child upon a 

8o The End of the War 

little whistle." He asks his reader to imagine an 
army of children, thousands strong-, lining the road 
and all lilowing upon these whistles, "and you will 
have an idea of the prodigious thrill of sound produced 
by myriads of these creatures ". 

"Zeno," he says, "the old Greek philosopher who 
was mated to a shrew, is reported to have exclaimed: 
• Happy the lives of the cicadae, since they all have 
voiceless wives'. But I think that it is equally fortu- 
nate for humanity in general, for if the female cicadas 
were in any way as voluble as the males, it would be 
impossible to exist in the neighbourhood of the vine- 
yards at all without losing one's sense of hearing." 

But insects, the boom of cannon, the rumble of 
tumbrels, and the crackle of musketry notwithstand- 
ing, the war correspondent's communications had to 
be written, and two of his most interesting pieces of 
news, which are rather ominous in sound, are that 
the general's son, Ricciotti Garibaldi, who is serving 
as a private in the Guides, is at present ill, though 
nothing serious is apprehended, while Garibaldi's 
wound still causes him great pain and inconvenience. 
He can do nothing for himself, but he is the enthusi- 
astic general still, even though he has to be lifted 
from the sofa upon which he lies all day, and 
carried by four men to his carriage, the anxiety he 
feels at the state of affairs greatly retarding his re- 

Pliotograpli i>y '-t n.infielrl. I imitffd 



Impressions of Italy 

In what had now become a sight-seeing perfect hoH- 
day time for Henty, prior to his being present to 
witness the entry of the Italian troops into Venice 
and the departure of the Austrians, Ravenna, with 
its antiquities, its museums and traditions, was too 
great an attraction to a literary man to be passed 
over. He appreciated to the full the ruins of the old 
Christian churches, the cathedrals, the traces of the 
Roman emperors, the glorious fir woods with their 
pleasant shades, and raked up memories of poet and 
student who had been attracted there in their time, 
such as Dante, Boccaccio, and Dryden. All three 
have written their recollections, while Byron worked 
there, finding other points of interest beyond its quiet 
charm. For it was in Venice that he wrote Marina 
Faliero, The Tim Foscari, Cain, and other poems. 

But every city of the Italian plains had its attrac- 
tions for Henty, and his writings at this date are one 
long record of a country which teems with memories 
of the past. 

Much as he was interested in the fairs and markets 
and antiquities, Henty was too much of the sailor and 
soldier not to be attracted by a little scene at Ancona 
on his last morning there, and that was in connection 
with the landing from the fleet of a body of sailors 
for certain evolutions upon the parade. They brought 

( B 837 ) 81 7 

82 Impressions of Italy 

ashore twelve light guns, apparently about five- 
pounders, each manned by six Italian Jacks. These 
guns were promptly taken to pieces, and a couple 
of the men caught up the gun, the rest the wheels, 
ammunition boxes and carriages, and bore them 
down to the boats. Then, at the word of command, 
they carried them up again to the drill-ground, and 
in a little o\er a minute the guns were put together, 
mounted, loaded, and ready to open fire, the limber, 
in charge of two of the six men, standing a little in 
the rear. The whole evolution was remarkably good, 
and the rapidity most striking. At the word of com- 
mand the guns were fired; they limbered up directly, 
and the men attached a sort of harness which went 
across their chests, and dashed off as fast as they 
could run till a halt was called, fresh position taken 
up, the guns unlimbered, loaded, and discharged 
again in an incredibly short space of time. 

As Henty watched them the sailors seemed to be 
taking their task as if it afforded them the greatest 
amusement, and to one who had never witnessed any 
such drill before it appeared to be an exercise that 
ought to be introduced to our own navy, which, as far 
as he knew, had not been furnished with these light 
portable guns for landing operations, "for there is 
no question," he says, "that they would be of im- 
mense service if two or three of these little guns were 
added to every vessel of our fleet ". 

This was, of course, prior to Henty's experience in 
connection with Magdala and Ashantee, where he 
found our sailors on landing expeditions in no wise 
behind those of the Italian fleet. Later it came to 
his lot, after his own war-correspondent campaigns 

A Romantic Land 83 

were at an end, to deal with correspondence, letters, 
and telegrams connected with the Boer war, in which 
our Jacks performed wonders, not with toy guns, 
but with the monsters on their specially-contrived 
carriages, under the manipulation of Captain Hed- 
worth Lambton and Captain Percy Scott, which 
startled our enemies. 

With ears relieved from the incessant roar of 
cannon to listen instead to the ringing of joy-bells 
and the cheers which welcomed the declaration of an 
armistice, Henty gladly availed himself of an oppor- 
tunity to visit the old Italian cities, so as to see what 
life was like in these old-world places. Much of the 
quaint and antiquated still lingers round these towns, 
not only in the buildings, but in the habits of the 
people, suggestive of the days when Shakespeare and 
his contemporaries constructed their dramas, laying 
their scenes in Verona, Venice, Padua, Mantua, and 
other places, the very names of which suggest 
slashed doublets, rapiers, family enmities, relentless 
vendettas, keen-bladed swords, stilettoes, bravoes, 
feathered caps, poisoned cups, and all the rest. 

Starting from Ancona, he went over to Sinigaglia, 
now upon the railway, but formerly a Roman station, 
and later of considerable importance in the Middle 
Ages, when war used often to rage between the states 
of the Pope and the family of Malatesta at Rimini. 
Here, too, Csesar Borgia made his name infamous by 
causing the Condottieri, his allies, to be strangled, an 
act of treachery suggestive of the massacre of the 
janissaries at Constantinople. 

These names suggest old-world celebrity, but Henty 
had come over for a change, sick for the time being 

84 Impressions of Italy 

of war and its rumours. The bow-string had been 
tight for some time, sending literary arrows speeding 
west, and the fact that a rather famous fair was being 
celebrated attracted him, in expectation of seeing 
what Italy would be like when its people were en 
fete at a function similar to our own old Bartlemy 
or Greenwich. 

In visiting Sinigaglia, a place associated with such 
names as the above, he fully expected to revel in the 
picturesque; but he found that the Italians, troubled 
as they are with such terrible epidemic visitations, 
have grown to pay greater respect to sanitary measures 
than did their ancestors, and in consequence ancient 
ruins with their echoes of the past do not receive the 
respect we pay to them in England. He found one 
grand old citadel, but the Italians had been behaving 
to it like Vandals, or, to be more familiar of speech, 
like our honest old British churchwardens when 
they distribute whitewash. Other ruins, such as 
nowadays we place under the care of some learned 
society, he found had been patched up and turned 
to some useful purpose. 

The fair was in full force, but by no means English- 
looking. There were no roundabouts, either steam or 
worked by expectant boys in return for an occasional 
ride; no swings, no dramatic shows, no giants, no 
fat or spotted ladies, no freaks such as our American 
friends accustomed to St. Barnum of show fame rejoice 
to see, no music, no noise. It did not seem at all like 
a fair; but he found other attractions in the large town 
of about twenty-three thousand inhabitants, which 
was built as a fort about a third of a mile from the 
almost tideless sea, which, after the fashion of Venice, 

Natation at Ancona 85 

was connected therewith by a wide and deep canal. 
This canal offered passage for good-sized vessels, 
and ran up right through the town, all of which 
was very interesting from a commercial point of 
view; but it was the middle of hot August, and the 
place had a greater attraction for our traveller be- 
cause it happened to be one of the most fashionable 
watering-places of eastern Italy. Henty here draws 
attention to the great advantage the Italians possess 
in living on a sea like the Mediterranean, where 
bathing-places can be erected, and where at all times 
there is a sufficient depth of water to enable one so 
desirous, to have a plunge without having to go 
lumbering out in one of the miserable rickety boxes 
on wheels which we call bathing-machines. 

The same advantages are offered in the harbour of 
Ancona, at which town, at this period, Henty was 
making his head-quarters. Here he found floating 
baths represented by a chamber of about fifteen feet 
square, into which the sea had free ingress, and 
also a larger bath big enough for a swim, while 
if one were so disposed there was egress to the 

To return to Sinigaglia: seeing that it was fair time 
the streets were furnished with awnings to keep off 
the sun, and the place was after all very attractive, 
with its streets filled with women displaying their 
baskets of goods for sale. Being a fete day the 
peasantry had flocked in from the surrounding coun- 
try in their best and most picturesque costumes of 
bright colours and snowy white, with their hair care- 
fully dressed in a peculiar fashion, and a plentiful 
display of gold necklaces or ear-rings. Their dark 

86 Impressions of Italy- 

hair, warm complexions, and large dark eyes all 
tended to form a very attractive scene. 

Henty however always displayed a mind receptive of 
anything connected with utility. As a rule he looked 
out for matters concerning sanitation, and while he 
condemned the vandalism, he had a word to say here 
respecting the purifying effect of whitewash. But in 
a place like this, so intimately associated with the old 
and historical, it is amusing to find that he takes a 
walk round the outskirts of the ancient city, and very 
unpoetically notes that the hills about Sinigaglia 
would gladden the heart of a London brickmaker if 
they could be dropped down in the neighbourhood of 
the metropolis. It stands to reason that he must 
have had Southall in his eye, for he sa3'^s that the 
Sinigaglia hills are entirely composed of fine brick 
clay of apparently unlimited depth and extent. 

As far as the fair was concerned, Henty writes soon 
after from Rimini — most poetic of names! — that he 
was glad that he went back to Ancona for the fair 
in that tow^n, for it differed entirely from that at 
Sinigaglia, in that it was especially lively, amusing, 
and attractive. 

"The fair", he says, "begins where Ancona 
ceases." The attractions were almost entirely de- 
voted to the young, so that for the time being the 
place was turned into an attractive toy-land. The 
Grand Promenade of Ancona, in the neighbourhood 
of the sea, and planted with rows of trees, was the 
centre of interest. The fair stalls, which were most 
abundant, were small, but were made most attractive. 
Each had its speciality, and was, of course, thronged 
with eager, bright-eyed children. One contained 

The Fun of the Fair 87 

drums only; the next military toys, small swords, 
guns and pistols; the next would be all small carts; 
then came one with dolls' furniture, most neatly made 
in japanned tin or iron. A little farther on the 
stalls were filled with the noisy playthings so dear 
to children's hearts — whistles, trumpets, accordions, 
and rattles of the most ingenious construction and 
maddening power. Then, again, there were stalls 
displaying the ingenuity and delicacy of Italian 
taste, where they sold only dolls' head-dresses, the 
most jaunty little caps, hats, and veils conceivable, 
quite an equipment, in fact, for the heads of a whole 
troop of little fairies. 

Then, again, there were many stalls with dolls 
dressed in the extreme of fashion ; but in a fatherly 
manner, suggestive of thoughts of home, he goes on 
to say that "the dolls themselves would not at all 
come up to an English child's idea of what such 
a toy ought to be, being all cheap wooden dolls. 
I did not see one made of wax in the fair." 

Many of the toys exhibited were unquestionably 
German, similar to those seen in our own bazaars, 
but some, particularly the drums, he noticed were 
Italian. It was easy to detect the difference in the 
colouring, the paints used being of less clear and 
bright shades; and they were unvarnished, which 
is seldom or never the case with German toys. 
Round these stalls the crowd of little people and 
their friends was constant. 

Observant of the country again, Henty goes on to 
say, with thoughts of home: "Children here have 
few amusements, few toys, and still fewer of those 
charming story-books with which so many of our 

88 Impressions of Italy 

booksellers' shop windows are full, especially about 
Christmas time". It is worthy of notice that this 
was in 1866, about two years previous to the pro- 
duction of Henty's first boys' story, and over thirty 
years before the time when, with scrupulous ref];^u- 
larity, the booksellers' shop windows were annually 
displaying two or more of his own productions spe- 
cially written for the young. 

The parents and the friends seemed disposed to 
indulge the children to the utmost upon this occa- 
sion, for all had their hands full of toys. Boys 
drummed and blew trumpets and whistles till he was 
nearly deafened; little girls clung tightly to the skirts 
of their mothers' dresses with one hand, and with the 
other held out their new dolls admiringly before 
them; and appeared to be continually questioning 
their friends as to whether they were quite sure that 
sundry other purchases carried in paper bags were 

It was a charming scene, for the stalls were lit 
up by candles, which burned steadily in the serene 
summer air. Nothing could have been more attrac- 
tive — the crowds, the pleasure of the children, the 
number of well-dressed people in their varied re- 
finements of fashion, and the peasant women in 
their bright-coloured handkerchiefs, but many with 
no other decoration to their heads save their abun- 
dant smooth and neatly-braided hair. 

Other picturesque features in the crowd were afforded 
by the soldiers, sailors, and marines, with their round 
hats and drooping plumes of black cocks' feathers, and 
the uniforms of the National Guards and officers of all 
these services. 

Baskets and Hats 89 

Passing onward, he came upon stalls significant 
of his being in a hot country, for at these only fans 
were sold — fans of every size and colour. In Italy, 
it must be remembered, as in Japan, nearly everyone 
carries a fan, and uses it instead of a parasol to shade 
the face when walking and to cool the bearer when 
sitting down. 

And now began the stalls of the vendors of more 
useful articles. First were the basket- makers and 
turners, trades which seemed to be generally united, 
as if the women of the family pursued the one branch, 
the men the other. There were baskets of everv size 


and form, from those which might hold a lady's 
fancy-work, right up to the enormous holder in 
which Falstaff himself might have been borne. 

The turners' display of the works of their lathes was 
wonderful in variety, and included wooden bowls, 
platters, distaffs, and spindles, strings of buttons, 
bowls, and articles that were more the work of the 
carving tool, in the shape of spoons, taps, and pegs. 

Then there were stalls w'ith articles made from horn 
instead of wood, followed by displays of articles in 
iron and tin, notably small charcoal stoves, coffee- 
roasting apparatus, and ladles, while last in utility 
there were sieves of cane, wire, and horse-hair. The 
variety was wonderful. Now the stalls were covered 
with hats — from the coarsest straw or chip, to 
those once fashionable in England and worn by our 
grandmothers under the name of Tuscan and Leg- 
horn, — while a brisk sale of cutlery was being carried 
on, men selling wooden-handled knives of the cheap- 
est kind, such as the peasants always have at hand. 

Elsewhere there were copper cooking utensils in 

90 Impressions of Italy 

plenty. Cooking in Italy is almost always done in 
copper pans and pots, and there is no cottage so 
poor that it has not its half-dozen, at least, of these 
brightly kept vessels. 

And now, where the crowd was thickest, Henty 
found that he had been too hurried in his judgment 
of Italian fairs, for he found the old English fair 
equalled, if not excelled. Here were the shows and 
menageries, with the outside pictures of terrific com- 
bats with impossible animals, conspicuous among 
them being a snake, by the side of which the sea 
serpent would sink into insignificance, engaged in 
the operation of devouring a boat-load of Hindus, 
or so they seemed to be by their complexion and 
costume. This show boasted a band, while its 
neighbour contained our old friends the wax figures, 
representing heroes of modern times, among which 
he noted that, in remembrance of the Crimea, the 
showman had done England the honour of placing 
Lord Raglan. By way of extra attraction the little 
exhibition was furnished with an organ and cymbals. 

If he had shut his eyes now, he says, he could 
almost have imagined himself in England — the music, 
the shouting of the touters at the booths, the blowing 
of trumpets and whistles, the beating of small drums, 
all recallin<j home. But there was one difference that 
was unmistakable. There w^as no pushing, no foul 
language; there were no drunken people, no roughs, 
all of which appear to be the inseparable elements of 
an English fair. 

There were a great number of fruit stalls, which 
seemed to be doing a good business among the lower 
orders, especially at the counters devoted to the sale 

Matches of the Past 91 

of slices of water-melon, which the people of Italy 
seem never tired of eating. Henty ventures to say 
they were very nice to one who got used to them, but 
for his part, he declares he would just as soon have 
eaten the same weight of grass. 

When he left the place that night the proceedings 
were still in full swing, and when he returned to it 
at six o'clock the next morning, there was the same 
crowd as late the night before, and a brisk trade was 
still going on. Noticing again the vast number of 
fruit stalls, the thought occurred to him that it was 
fortunate that there was no cholera in the town, for if 
all the fruit that he saw in Ancona were consumed 
by the people before it got bad, it would produce an 
increase of that epidemic which was terrible to con- 
template. There were hundreds of cart-loads of 
melons, water-melons, and peaches, which were poor 
tasteless things and always picked too soon ; he 
declares he never tasted a ripe peach while he was 
in Italy. Pears too, figs, and grapes were plentiful; 
but he gives them no praise. 

To his surprise and amusement, perhaps consequent 
upon Ancona being so old-world a city, he came upon 
one relic of the past, and that was a stall for supplying 
the matches such as our grandmothers used, such, in 
fact, as used to be sold by every pitiful vendor in the 
streets, in the shape of long thin strips of wood cut 
into a sharp point at each end, dipped in melted 
sulphur, and then tied up in bunches like fans. These 
were, of course, the predecessors of the lucifer matches, 
as they were called, which were sold in neat little 
boxes, with an oblong piece of sanded card laid on 
the top. This folded across, and between its folds the 

92 Impressions of Italy 

match was drawn sharply, when it burst into flame. 
These were soon succeeded by a somewhat similar 
match, with the sand-paper a fixture on the bottom of 
the box, and the priming of the match so increased in 
inflammability that the ignition took place as at the 
present time, and the name Congreve Light came 
in, the "light" soon dying out, and giving way to 
Congreve or matches only. Of course, those which 
Henty saw on sale were for use in connection with 
the old-world flint and steel and tinder-box. 

Passing on that morning, he went through the 
Custom House, to find beyond it the regular food 
market at its height. Hundreds of neatly dressed 
peasant women and girls were standing with their 
baskets before them, ready to supply eggs, butter, 
cheeses, fowls, turkeys, ducks, pigeons, and larks, 
for the most part alive, but doomed. There were one 
or two baskets which contained puppies, probably, 
however, not doomed, at least, to be cooked. But 
there were baskets in plenty containing delicacies 
in the nature of molluscs! He was within reach 
of the sea, but they were neither oysters, scallops, 
mussels, cockles, nor winkles, but the fine pale- 
shelled, spiral, Roman snails, that doubtless had 
been captured in the moist eve or early morn when 
ascending the poles of some vineyard. Delicate, but 
not tempting to the English taste. 

To do the fair thoroughly, Henty, before leaving, 
visited the cattle, to find that the supply of horses 
was just then very small ; but there was the prospect 
that, directly peace was signed and the enormous 
transport train paid off, horses would become as 
cheap in Italy as they then were dear. 

A Cattle Show 93 

There was a large show, though, of the beautiful 
patient, docile, draught oxen, which were fetching 
from twenty to thirty pounds a pair; and with these 
he concluded his inspection of the two fairs. He 
then suffered a most Inquisition-like examination of 
his baggage, and started for a visit to one of the 
smallest republics in the world, a country close to 
the Adriatic shore, which had been for some time 
attracting his attention. This he hoped to see and 
report upon before the festivities of peace should 
commence consequent upon the complete freedom 
of Italy, or troubles should arise once more and make 
busy in other ways the war correspondent's pen. 


The Visit to San Marino 

On his way to San Marino Henty found himself at 
Rimini. This place is the Ariminium of the Romans. 
It was enlarged and beautified by Julius and Augustus 
Caesar. Here, too, in a.d. 359 the Aryan doctrine 
was denounced. As the centuries rolled by, the town 
fell into the hands of the Lombards, and was given by 
the Emperor Otho to Malatesta, whose family ceded 
it to the Venetians, from whom it was afterwards 
wrested by the Popes, and it remained part of the 
Papal dominions till i860. 

It has its antiquities, the principal one being an 
arch erected in honour of Augustus, and bearing still 
in perfect preservation the old Roman carvings, 
representing on one side Jupiter and Minerva, on 
the other, Neptune and Venus. 

Another antiquity that took Henty's attention as 
being well worthy of notice, from the way in which it 
brought back to his memory Westminster School and 
his studies of the classics, was a short pillar in the 
market-place with an inscription stating that Caesar 
stood upon it to harangue his soldiers before passing 
the Rubicon. Csesar, history informs us, was a short 
stout man, and Henty's old studies led him to believe 
that he could not have looked well upon that short 

column, upon which he would probably have been 


Caesar and Pickwick 95 

lifted by the officers of his staff; and somehow or 
other — perhaps the weather was not very genial — the 
column did not impress him with any particular feel- 
ing of veneration. His ideas ought to have been 
classic and stern ; but it is strange, as he says, what 
inopportune ideas strike one. He approached the 
stone with a thorough belief in it, prepared to picture 
Caesar aloft, and the heavy-armed legionaries of the 
Roman cohorts standing armed, leaning upon their 
spears, with the eagles they had carried triumphantly 
through so many campaigns erect in their midst. 
But as he came fully into sight of the stone, the 
thought of the difficulty of getting upon it and of 
Cesar's ungraceful figure brought to his mind the 
remembrance of H. K. Browne's etching representing 
the immortal Pickwick standing upon a chair, with 
one hand under his coat-tails and the other out- 
stretched, as he harangued the members of his club. 
And all belief in the legend of the stone faded away 
at once. In fact, Henty was not an imaginative 
man. Neither was he a great humorist; but when 
he was in humorous vein his humour was dry and 

By the way, legend says that it was at Rimini that 
St. Anthony preached to the fishes when the people 
refused to hear him, and that San Marino, who 
was a native of Dalmatia, across the Adriatic Sea, 
came over and settled here. He gave his name 
afterwards to the little republic and to the mountain 
which Henty's driver pointed out to him — rising far 
above all the hills in its neighbourhood, nearly fifteen 
miles away — at the beginning of a very charming 
drive in an open carriage drawn by one of those 

96 The Visit to San Marino 

novelties that are not often let for hire — a very fair 

This curious little state is in its own way perfectly 
unique, and its existence is the more singular from 
its being situated in Italy, though for centuries in the 
Middle Ages that country was the scene of an un- 
interrupted succession of wars. The hand of every 
country was against its neighbours. Towns changed 
owners every few years; states were swallowed up, 
conquered, reconquered, but San Marino has re- 

The law of strength was the only law recognized 
— that law which says he shall take who has the 
power, and he shall keep who can ; for the weakest 
always went to the wall. It is then most singular 
that this little territory of about eight thousand in- 
habitants should have remained intact for more than 
fifteen centuries, and that now, while all its powerful 
neighbours have become merged into one great state, 
this tiny republic should be the sole portion of Italian 
soil possessing a separate autonomy. 

History tells us that in the old Roman days, 
soon after the persecution of the Christians by the 
Emperor Diocletian commenced, San Marino, find- 
ing that there was no rest for his people in Rimini, 
led his little flock out from that city and established 
a Christian colony at the summit of the highest and 
most rugged mountain in that part of the country, 
then probably a place surrounded by untrodden 
forests; and the little state thus founded has re- 
mained separate ever since. 

The road to San Marino led across an undulating 
and very richly cultivated country, where the peasants 

The Maize Crop 97 

were engaged gathering in the grape harvest, which 
that year, from the extreme dryness of the early part 
of the season, was the worst the people had ever 
known. They were also occupied picking the maize, 
which is so important an item of the Italian farmer's 

Indian corn is a little better known now in connec- 
tion with its beautiful growth than when Henty paid 
his visit, but his description of what was to him almost 
a novelty is still pleasant reading. He tells us how 
the plants are thinned out as soon as they appear 
above the ground, and the blades are left to grow on 
about a foot apart in a climate where they spring up 
to the height of about six feet. The stalks, he says, 
" for the first two feet above the ground are about the 
diameter of a man's thumb, but towards the top they 
expand to a considerable extent ". 

He had seen maize growing in its early stage 
during his previous visits to Italy, but never before 
having passed the hot season there, this was the first 
time he had witnessed the harvest, and it was a matter 
of surprise to him that such thin stalks could support 
the weight of a head of maize. But now to him the 
mystery was explained. At about two feet from the 
ground, at the time the plant flowers, the stem in- 
creases in size, presently opens, and a thick shoot 
makes its appearance, apparently composed of a com- 
pressed bunch of leaves. This becomes larger and 
larger, the leaves expand, open more and more, and 
spread out like broad wavy blades of grass. The head 
or cob of maize swells out and forms at its summit 
a great silky pale golden tassel, while, as the cob be- 
comes larger and larger, much of the upper part of 

( B 837 ) 8 

98 The Visit to San Marino 

the stalk in the process of the ripening dies and falls 
off. Then the lower leaves drop away, the grand 
beauty of the field of maize passes, and from the 
time the crop is ripe until the harvest the field seems 
to be composed of stumps with bunches of dead 
leaves at the top. These leaves, however, enclose 
the great solid, regularly formed or apparently built- 
up head of maize, which is left drying as it stands in 
the torrid sunshine, till it is cut off and carted to the 
farms. At this stage the Indian corn is taken in hand 
by the women and children of the family, and the 
separate grains are picked off and exposed on cloths 
to dry perfectly in the sun. 

Passing the cultivated fields and crossing the little 
stream which forms its boundary, Henty learned that 
he was in the Republic of San Marino, that the cir- 
cumference of the state was thirty-five miles, and that 
the mountain, or crag as it should rather be called, 
rose almost in its centre. With the exception of the 
rock itself, every part was extremely fertile and well 
cultivated, and of more value than land in the sur- 
rounding country, on account of the absence of 
taxation and other advantages peculiar to the re- 
public, chief among which was the freedom from 
military conscription. Every male in San Marino is, 
it is true, a soldier, but soldiering involves no fighting 
or absence from home. Although all are liable to be 
called upon to serve in case of necessity, only those 
under a certain age are on ordinary occasions called 
out. The strength of this regular army of the re- 
public is eight hundred men. Of these, seven hun- 
dred form the National Guard ; the remaining hundred 
are the body-guard of the president. 

The Army of Lilliput 99 

They have their uniform of blue, the National 
Guard having red facings, the body-guard yellow, 
the band white. Then they have their national flag 
of blue and white; and a police force administered 
by a chief and five carbineers, whose uniform is dark 
blue with white cross-belts and grey trousers, so that 
they look on the whole much like the carbineers of 
the Italian service. These five are, of course, always 
on duty, and are regular salaried police. The army 
only appears in uniform upon Sundays and fete 
days, when the men are drilled; but the troops 
receive no pay. 

"We arrived", says Henty, "at the village of 
Serravalle. Here the carriage stopped, and I had to 
take my seat in a little pair-wheeled trap drawn by 
a good-sized pony. These berruchinos, as they are 
called, are by no means comfortable, for instead of 
being boarded, the floor is composed of a loose net- 
work of cords, which affords little rest for the feet. 
They have no dash- or splash-board, and you are 
consequently in unpleasant proximity to the horse's 
heels, if it should take it into its head to kick. 
They have, besides, no rail or other rest for the 
back." It was an intensely hot day, and at the 
village from which he made his fresh start he was 
glad to accept the loan of an immense blue umbrella. 
And now began an adventure. 

They had ascended a steep hill, so steep that the 
driver got down and walked, and he had not retaken 
his seat when, without the slightest previous notice of 
its intention, and presumably induced thereto by the 
bite of a fly in some more than ordinarily tender part, 
the wretched little pony started off at full gallop. 

icx) The Visit to San Marino 

At this time Henty was sitting quietly under the 
umbrella, tranquilly smoking and chatting to the 
driver, when there was a sudden jerk. His feet having 
no hold and his back no support, the former flew up 
into the air and his head went back. Instinctively he 
made a desperate grasp at the side rail with his un- 
occupied hand, but it gave way, and in an instant he 
was on his back in the middle of the road with the 
blue umbrella perfectly shut up beneath him. Fortu- 
nately the trap was not very high, and his bones were 
at that period of his life very well protected, so in a 
moment he was on his feet again, much more as- 
tonished than hurt. Bearing the relics of the blue 
umbrella he pursued the trap, which in spite of the 
efforts of the driver was going on at full speed, drag- 
ging him after it, and it was three or four hundred 
yards from the place where the pony started before 
the man was able to bring it to a standstill. 

A little scene ensued, for when he came up Henty 
found the driver looking pale as death, and so much 
scared that it was with the greatest difficulty he could 
be persuaded that his fare was not seriously hurt. 

It was rather a remarkable escape; but Henty states 
that he was so little shaken that he did not even suffer 
with a headache from the effects. Of course, how- 
ever, the principal damage was to the blue umbrella, 
and on his return to Serravalle he had a very lengthy 
amount of talk and argument with the old lady, its 
owner, as to the amount of compensation to be paid, 
for it was irretrievably ruined. 

The rest of Henty's journey to the Burgo of San 
Marino, a village containing about seven hundred 
inhabitants, was uneventful. It is planted at the foot 

A Tiny State loi 

of a precipice, at the top of wiiicii the old town, which 
is populated to about the same extent, is perched. 
It is a remarkable mountain, rising as it does almost 
perpendicularly, and therefore being a very suitable 
spot for the erection of a fortress in the old dangerous 
times, for all around there lie nothing but softly 
swelling hills, no other so suitable a defensive place 
occurring until far back in the Apennines, another 
twenty-five miles inland. 

The rock is about half a mile long, and to the east 
the face is absolutely perpendicular, while to the west 
it has a gradual but still rapid fall, the land being 
cultivated up to the very walls of the town upon its 

There is no flat ground upon the top. It is a mere 
narrow ridge, the descent beginning from the very 
edge of the perpendicular east face. When looking 
up the rock from the road all that is seen of the town 
are three towers perched upon the three highest 
points, and the church. None of the houses is 
visible owing to their position upon the west slope. 

Enquiries brought an introduction to one of the 
ancients of the place, who acted as cicerone to strangers 
visiting San Marino, and during a walk he was found 
to be charged with a pretty full description of the 
politics and history of the little state. 

Everything was in a delightful state of innocency, 
honour more than money seeming to be generally 
the object sought. There were two captains-regent 
instead of presidents, who were allowed seventy-five 
francs each during their term of office of six months. 
The home and foreign ministers were each paid two 
hundred and fifty francs for office expenses, postage. 

I02 The Visit to San Marino 

&c. The commander-in-chief of the army got honour 
alone and not a sou besides, and apparently had to 
pay for his own uniform. Then came the highest paid 
officials of the republic. These were three, two phy- 
sicians and one surgeon, who received thirteen hun- 
dred and fifty francs, or fifty-four pounds a year each, 
and for this had to be at the call of all the citizens of 
the state, to whom they rendered their services gratis. 
The only patients who had to put their hands in their 
pockets were those who lived out of town, and they 
had also to provide conveyance. 

There was a judge who went on circuit, and he was 
chosen for a period of three years, but might be re- 
elected twice. To meet these stupendous demands, 
which meant an expenditure of about three thousand 
pounds a year, the government raised a revenue by 
the profits upon the sale of tobacco and salt, these 
being, as in other parts of Italy, state monopolies. 

In addition to this a very small tax was levied on 
the landed proprietors, and the Italian government 
paid a sum of eighteen thousand francs a year, which 
was used for making roads, assisting the poor, giving 
aid in cases of loss by fire or misfortune, and repair- 
ing the public buildings. This sum was paid by the 
Italian government for customs dues. 

Following his guide, Henty found the city to be 
a long narrow village on and below the crest of the 
cliff. It was enclosed by a wall some twenty -five 
feet high, surmounted by numerous round bastions. 
It showed every proof of having been very strong in 
former times, and even then, although the walls were 
very old and crumbling, it was evident that a thou- 
sand men could defend it for some time against a 

A Strong Fastness 103 

strong force, the rock falling so steeply away below it 
that it would be difficult to bring cannon to bear on 
it. Within the walls the houses were all crowded 
together; the streets, although they all zigzagged 
upwards, were so steep that no horse could draw a 
vehicle up them. 

Among the antiquities of the place were the old 
Assembly Hall and the building which contained the 
rooms of the captain regent, displaying the arms of 
the republic — three towers with plumes on the tops 
and the motto "Libertas". These towers represented 
the three which stood upon the highest points of the 
rocks. The view from the summit of the rock was 
superb. A thousand feet below lay the Burgo. Be- 
yond that for miles upon miles spread a gently 
undulating country, dotted with innumerable towns 
and villages, stretching away to the sea-shore. To 
the north lay a perfectly flat marsh land through 
which the Po and Adige find their way into the sea, 
this — the Adriatic — looking like a blue wall dotted 
with white sails. The guide assured the visitor that 
just before sunrise the mountains of Dalmatia, a 
hundred miles distant at least, were plainly visible. 

Away to the west the Apennines shut in the view. 
Upon one of the spurs the castle of St. Leon was 
visible, where the celebrated Cagliostro was im- 
prisoned and died. 

Henty observed upon his descent to the gate of 
the tower six strong posts, four being placed to make 
a parallelogram with cross pieces at the top, to one of 
which was attached a windlass. The remaining two 
posts were placed one in front and one behind, the 
whole suggesting the possibility that they had been 

I04 The Visit to San Marino 

used in former times in the defence of the tower. On 
being questioned, however, the guide explained that 
they were used for a much more matter-of-fact pur- 
pose. When oxen are being shoved they are not 
so calm and patient over the operation as a horse, 
generally objecting very strongly to the performance. 
Hence they were driven in between the posts, ropes 
were fastened to the cross-bar on one side, these were 
attached to the windlass, and when this was turned, 
the bullock was swung up into the air, and his feet 
fastened to the posts in front and behind. 

It proved to be a delightful visit, the visitor ending 
by dining at a little auberge in the village at the foot 
of the hill, where to his surprise he found that they 
had an excellent cook. 


A Land of Mystery 

Henty, having been interested in mining- early in 
life, was at any time eager to seize upon an oppor- 
tunity to plunge into the bowels of the earth, and not 
long after he commenced as war correspondent to the 
Standard^ that is, at the termination of the Italo- 
Austrian campaign, he took occasion when at Trieste 
to run up into the hill country for a few days and visit 
the three great sights of Carniola, namely, the Grotto 
of Adelsberg, the Lake of Zirknitz, and the quick- 
silver mines of Idria. 

Here the man who had studied mining in his youth 
with the possibility of succeeding to his father's in- 
dustrial occupation was in his element, and showed 
himself ready to study the country with an open and 
receptive mind. He was eager at once to investi- 
gate the mountainous and sterile country covered by 
the Alps and Tyrol, the vast forests and their timber, 
the transport, the burning of charcoal, and the general 
cheerlessness of a land of desolation often covered 
with huge boulders and scaurs of white stone. Quite 
the geologist here, he notes the hard white limestone 
of the secondary formation, quarried extensively, 
being excellent for building, and known through 
Italy as Istrian marble. He speaks of it as being 
the same stone which extends through Carniola and 
through Dalmatia into Greece, and here he seems to 


io6 A Land of Mystery 

revel in a kind of exciting pleasure as he finds him- 
self in a limestone formation somewhat similar to that 
of our own Derbyshire, asking to be explored and 
tempting him to excursions, honeycombed as it is 
with fissures and caverns. 

Probably in no tract of country of equal size in 
the world are there so many singular freaks of nature. 
Rivers of navigable size and depth issue from its 
mountains — rivers which far surpass the subterranean 
streams of Central France — and these, after running 
for a few miles, enter a cavern and lose themselves as 
suddenly and mysteriously as they appeared. 

It is a land of mystery and wonder, and, as if the 
spirit were moving within him to store up his mind 
with the natural wonders for attractive stories to come, 
such as would in some form or another fascinate 
readers yet unborn, Henty, with great eagerness, 
embraced the opportunity here offered to explore 
a w^ld land of savage sterility, where, as if to be in 
keeping with the "crag, knoll, and mound confusedly 
hurled, the fragments of an earlier world ", terrible 
tempests sweep with irresistible force. In the fury 
which rages in this inhospitable region, horses and 
wagons are not infrequently hurled over precipices, 
and a foot passenger, surprised in one of the tempestu- 
ous mountain squalls, is forced to seek for shelter 
beneath the parapets that have been built along the 

Here he found that he was in a country w^here the 
railroads were protected by strong stone walls ten or 
twelve feet high, or equally lofty wooden palisading 
supported on both sides by massive struts, so as to 
afford some shelter to the passing trains which, when 

The Lake of Zirknitz 107 

the gales are at their worst, are quite unable to pursue 
their journey. 

Here, too, the engineering difficulties encountered 
in the construction of one of the lines had the deepest 
interest for Henty as a mining engineer, for not only 
was he face to face with the difficulties of the making 
of the railroad, but also with those of obtaining a 
supply of water at the various stations. Where the 
line ran, all was aridity and desolation. The water 
was below, requiring the help of powerful engines 
to raise it, and aqueducts over the surface to bear it 
along, one of these water-bridges being twenty-five 
miles in length. It was a very giant-land for a writer 
of fiction to fill with adventure. 

Passing through this country of desolation, he at 
last reached the well-named village of Adelsberg, 
which in a state of nature might very well have sup- 
plied the crags where the eagles built. This he found 
a comfortable well-to-do village, Swiss-like in appear- 
ance, with its chalet style of architecture ; but he was 
bent on the works of nature, and drove out to the 
famed Lake of Zirknitz, a piece of water that has 
obtained fame through its peculiar habit of quitting 
its bed once a year for a few weeks and so supply- 
ing the natives of those parts with an opportunity for 
growing a crop of coarse grass and millet before 
its return. This is all a suggestion of the peculiar 
workings of the subterranean waters below, and the 
regularity is more or less wonderful. 

About midsummer the waters of the lake begin to 
shrink, growing lower and lower, and so rapidly that, 
after about twenty days in July, the lake is empty, 
remaining so till September or October, according to 

io8 A Land of Mystery 

the season. This is the rule; but as there is no rule 
without an exception, the lake sometimes remains full 
for three or four years together, to the great loss of 
the people of the stony neighbourhood, who depend 
upon the little crop of buckwheat and millet which 
they are able to grow in the muddy bed. They also 
look forward to another harvest given to them when 
the water dries away; for, strange to state, at this 
time a plentiful supply of fish that flourish in the 
depths of the lake is left high and dry, and forms 
a portion of the natives' food. 

Knowing the character of the lake, Henty on his 
visit had looked forward to finding the place empty; 
but it presented no attraction for the visitor, appear- 
ing to be only an ordinary sheet of water some four 
miles long by three wide. There were villages about 
its shores, and a few small islands dotted its surface; 
but no opportunity was afforded him of examining 
what to a mining engineer would have been a matter 
of intense interest, the natural machinery which 
operates in the remarkable process of emptying and 
refilling. For above ground the lake has neither 
outlet nor inlet; but the limestone which forms its 
bed contains a number of funnel-shaped holes com- 
municating with the vast caves, grottoes, and reser- 
voirs in the mountains, by which the water enters 
or is drawn off. Some of these act as ebbing-pipes 
only; by others the water both enters and retires. 

Upon occasions when the lake is empty, and there 
has been a sudden storm in the mountains, the water 
pours into the dry bed with such wonderful force and 
rapidity that it is sometimes filled in twenty-four 
hours. The annual emptying of the lake, however, 

A Fishing Fete 109 

is observed almost as a fete by the surrounding vil- 
lages. The church announces the strange pheno- 
menon, and the inhabitants become fishers for the 
nonce. Nets are prepared, and every description of 
vessel is held ready for the capture of the fish left 
behind when the water retreats, the nets being prin- 
cipally used as the waters sink and the funnel-shaped 
holes can be reached by the fishermen, who endea- 
vour to cover these orifices before the fish can descend 
through them into the natural reservoirs below. 

As the waters gradually disappear, a certain number 
of little pools are left, each being the property of one 
or other of the villages, and bearing its name. These 
pools vary greatly in the extent of the harvest they 
yield the villagers. One year a pool will contain 
cart-loads of fish, another year perhaps only a few 

Henty gives a most interesting account of the 
strange phenomenon, but says nothing respecting 
the quality of the fish, except such as is conveyed by 
the eagerness of the inhabitants to obtain this natural 
yielding of the lake. They in all probability, how- 
ever, belong to the coregonns family, a kind of lake 
fish which in variety haunt the lakes of Central Europe, 
and which one can answer for being very good eat- 
ing, a quality not often possessed by fresh-water fish. 
In this case, as salt forms a large source of trade 
in the neighbourhood of Lake Zirknitz, the fish 
obtained from its waters most likely partake of the 
firmness and good qualities of those obtained from 
the sea. 

In this mountainous region Henty's observation 
was always busy, and he notes everything, not for- 

no A Land of Mystery 

getting the accommodation. He describes the inns 
as rude, but not uncomfortable, the cookery not bad, 
but considers the people display an undue affection 
for stewed apples, which they look upon as a vege- 
table to be consumed with meat of all kinds. 

He was much interested, too, in the custom of the 
villagers of keeping bees. He noticed in some vil- 
lages several long carts, upon each of which were 
placed some twenty or thirty bee-hives of the shape 
of fig-boxes, but about two feet and a half long by 
a foot wide and nine inches deep. These hives are 
the property of various villagers, who club together, 
take a cart, and send it from place to place, so as to 
give the bees a fresh hunting-ground and a change 
of blossom for their supply. 

Of course it is in the nature of a bee to be busy. 
Here they all seemed to be very active and hard 
at work, but they were rather a nuisance in the 
villages by reason of their numbers. However, 
they seemed particularly good-tempered bees, a fact 
of which Henty gives an example, and were not so 
much a nuisance through offering injury as from their 
habit of clustering upon the grapes and other fruits 
exposed for sale. 

Henty says he remonstrated with a market woman, 
of whom he was willing to buy a bunch of grapes, 
w^hen she held it out to him with eight or ten bees 
upon it, busily extracting honey, whereupon she 
laughed at him, picked the insects off with her fingers, 
and held them out to him to show that they were 
not disposed to use their stings even when roughly 
handled. An interesting fact this in natural history, 
and one which Henty admired, though he preferred 

Peaceable Bees m 

seeing it done with other fingers than his own, and 
was quite content that the woman should have a poor 
opinion of his personal courage. But there are bees 
and bees, some more aggressive than others. 

We all know the qualities of our own native bee, 
and any bee-keeper, unless he has been stung fre- 
quently and become inured, will tell you that the 
bees imported of late years from Liguria, and now 
acclimatized, have a rather vicious disposition. 

These from the neighbourhood of Adelsberg are 
in all probability the reverse in character. Certainly 
they seem to vary, for Henty describes the honey as 
by no means good, being very dark-coloured, and 
having a strong, unpleasant twang. On the other 
hand, the flavour depends upon the neighbouring 
growth of flowers, and the taste may be given 
by some nectary common to the neighbourhood, 
possibly by what Henty describes when he says the 
fields were bright with purple crocus, which he had 
never before seen flowering at this time of year — 
October — evidently a mistake on his part, for the 
colchicum, the producer of the old-world remedy 
for gout. 


A Subterranean Excursion 

The next day Henty started for his eagerly antici- 
pated plunge into the far-famed Grotto of Adelsberg, 
and he frankly declares at once that there are some 
sights of which it is impossible by mere words to 
convey any adequate impression, and to do justice 
to which it would be necessary to combine the 
epithets and imagery of a dozen languages. 

"Foremost among these", he says, "is the Grotto 
of Adelsberg, and I had hardly entered it when I 
became painfully conscious that the idea with which 
I had come — namely, of writing a description which 
should give a vivid conception of the most beautiful 
and varied succession of grottoes in the world — was 
hopelessly beyond my powers." 

The entrance to the caverns is about a mile from 
Adelsberg, and a little way up the side of a limestone 
mountain whose strata dip at an angle of about forty- 
five degrees. Immediately below the entrance a good- 
sized stream plunges into a low cavern and reappears 
only some ten miles distant in a direct line to the 
north. But some idea of the actual course of this 
river may be gained from the fact that pieces of cork 
thrown in where the river disappears do not emerge 
again for twelve hours, which goes to prove that the 
distance they have travelled is more than double the 
above. There are, it seems, two entrances, and in 


G. A. HENTY AT 45 

Nature's Show Place 113 

the one followed, the path at first led through a 
passage or corridor of no great length, and then 
opened suddenly into a noble cavern known as the 

This was all that was known of the grottoes till the 
year 1819, when a workman accidentally destroyed a 
stalactite screen and discovered the entrance to the 
apparently illimitable series of caves beyond. Of 
these, five miles in length have been explored; but 
the end has not been reached, and they extend for 
unknown distances in several directions. The effect 
of the Dome is superlatively grand. It is three hun- 
dred feet in length and one hundred feet in height and 
width. The sides are quite perpendicular, and at 
about half their height a natural gallery runs partially 
round them. The view from this is magnificent in 
the extreme. The guides who accompanied the 
visitors placed candles at short intervals along the 
parapet, but their light barely pierced the gloomy 
expanse. Upward the roof loomed dark and vague. 
Beneath, the river, which had commenced its subter- 
ranean passage, rushed brawling among rocks, and 
was crossed by a wooden bridge lit up by two rows of 
candles, whose rays were reflected in broken flashes 
from the black tumbling water. 

At the extreme end of this vast hall a faint blue 
light showed where the daylight beyond struggled in 
at the outlet of the river cave. Above and around the 
roar of the stream was re-echoed and answered by a 
thousand low reverberating murmurs. The whole 
effect was inefl"ably solemn and awe-inspiring. Henty 
and his companions having provided themselves with 
magnesium wire at Trieste, this was now used, and 

( B 837 ) 9 

114 A Subterranean Excursion 

the effect was absolutely startling. The light streamed 
out into the most distant recesses, the candles faded to 
dim red points, and the roof, which had before ap- 
peared of fabulous height, seemed now to be crushing 
down upon them, the stalactites of its rugged surface 
standing out clear and well defined. Then, as the 
bright white light with its clouding smoke died out, 
the darkness deepened with oppressive heaviness. 
Everything had been so grand, that it needed all the 
persuasions of the guide, who assured the party that 
far more beautiful things were to be seen beyond, 
before they could be induced to leave this spot and to 
ascend the steps which led to the entrance of the inner 

The path which they followed then was upwards of 
three miles long, and so arranged that they returned 
by a different series of grottoes from those they had 
traversed. The variety of scenery displayed in these 
three miles was extraordinary. Sometimes the way 
contracted into low narrow passages, at others opened 
out into enormous halls. Chambers and corridors, 
fairy grottoes and gloomy caves, alternated with each 
other, and the principal halls were popularly named 
the Ball-room, the Concert-room, and the Calvary. 
The Ball-room was of nearly the same proportions as 
the Dome, except that the height was not so great, but 
its character was entirely different. It was graceful 
and airy, and was apparently illuminated with numer- 
ous chandeliers. The floor was perfectly smooth and 
level, and at one end an artificial orchestra had been 
erected in the midst of a group of crags and stalag- 
mites. This, once a year, is really used as a ball-room 
for a dance, to which thousands of the surrounding 

An Underground Palace 115 

peasantry flock. Nothing could be more beautiful 
than the way in which the walls are decked by nature. 
Everywhere from walls and roof depend masses of 
stalactites of the most graceful and elegant forms. 
Floating draperies are festooned around. Filmy, 
semi-transparent veils seem to wave gently to and fro 
as they sparkle in the numerous lights. Here appear 
drooping pendants and tapering spike-like projections; 
there, majestic pillars and clustering columns. 

The Concert-room is similar in character, but larger 
and narrower, and hence issued an immense and 
gloomy corridor more than a hundred feet high. The 
floor was covered with masses of loose rock, whose 
huge and rugged shapes loomed, distorted and un- 
couth, in the faint light of the candles. 

From this abode of gloom they entered the Calvary, 
which appeared to be the largest of all the halls. It 
must have been three hundred feet long and upwards 
of two hundred wide. At one end rose a lofty heap of 
rocks that had fallen from the roof and been cemented 
together by stalagmites. It bore a resemblance to a 
great shrine, and was brilliantly illuminated, while 
the rest of the vast space lay in deep and mysterious 
shadow. From the lower end, where the observers 
stood, the floor sloped steeply up. It was composed 
of misshapen blocks of stone, for at some far-distant 
period the whole interior, now a flat bare surface, 
must have fallen w'ith a mighty crash, brought down 
by the weight of the stalactites that had formed upon 
it. That the catastrophe happened long ages since 
was evidenced by the fact that the whole floor was 
covered with stalagmites of various sizes and heights, 
which looked as though a forest of great pines had 

ii6 A Subterranean Excursion 

once grown there, till their trunks had been snapped 
short off by the swoop of some mighty whirlwind. 

There was a weird grandeur about this hall which 
was almost appalling, producing as it did questioning 
fancies respecting the possibility of a repetition of the 
old-world scene. 

In the corridors and caves that intervened between 
these principal chambers and halls there was an 
infinity of fantastic shapes, in which fancy could trace 
almost every known form. A monstrous bee-hive, a 
Brobdingnagian tortoise, huge fallen trees covered 
with lichens growing rankly, half-rounded nodules, 
and great wart-like protuberances. In one place the 
roof would be supported by Gothic columns, farther 
on by unshapely props and buttresses. In one corner 
rough stems as of ivy seemed to be clinging to the 
wall, or the gnarled trunks of oaks thrust them- 
selves up between the blocks. Above one cave it 
seemed as if a great tree were growing, whose twining 
roots hung down from the roof. 

And so on, and so on, fancy helping the visitor 
to believe that he was gazing upon long ranges of 
organ pipes, upon stems of palm-trees with well- 
defined marks whence the broad leaves had sprouted, 
or upon basaltic columns, with wide steps slowly 
formed by ages, where water had trickled down. 
Farther on, too, at intervals, creamy-red couches 
seemed to be temptingly placed, with folds of a soft 
white material thrown carelessly over them, while 
long flags and fringed draperies of admirable texture 
and design drooped down from chinks and crannies 
in the roof, as if to form decorations for some fete in 
the world of the gnomes. 

A Classic Reminder 117 

There was no end to the wonders wrought by 
nature's own sculptors — fonts, chalices, exquisitely 
chased imaged shrines, and strange confessionals; 
groups of statuary wrought in beauty, with roofs 
above covered with fretwork of the most delicate 
tracery; and in opposition there was the grotesque on 
every hand, with squat heathen idols, grim corbels, 
and in the darkness, with Dore-like effect, diabolical- 
looking creations or works as of some enchanter's 
wand. In parts everything was so real, that it was 
impossible not to believe that that cascade, glistening 
as it did when the lights were turned upon it, was not 
deep water, but only stone, or that a fountain glitter- 
ing with diamond spray in the passing light was not 
composed of liquid drops. 

In one cave the wall seemed to be hung in ruddy 
masses of stalactite of so truly a fleshy tint that they 
seemed to be palpably strips of flesh, which carried 
the spectator back to old classic readings and the 
legends of the Latin ancients. For it seemed as if the 
cave might be the spot where Apollo had skinned 
Marsyas, and Henty listened as if expectant of hear- 
ing the sufferer's howls re-echo through the vast laby- 
rinth. For here seemed to hang his flesh — great 
strips of muscle and tendon, some looking cold and 
stiff, others soft and limp, with the glowing tint of life 
still warm upon them. It was terribly real. 

Earthy solutions had stained some of the stalactites 
of a dirty grey hue, the material of the carbonate of 
lime being dull and coarse; but others again were 
white as alabaster, the carbonate giving place to the 
sulphate, and looking pure and semi-transparent. In 
many places the surface of the deposit of lime, slowly 

ii8 A Subterranean Excursion 

formed of nature's great patience, was smooth as 
polished marble, while in other places, suggestive of 
the more ready work of heated springs of water 
charged with lime, the deposit was uneven as masses 
of coral. The tints, too, varied from clear white to 
cream colour, orange, and red; and while in many- 
places the drooping stalactites were dull and soft-look- 
ing, and reflected no light, in others they sparkled with 
myriads of coruscations as of diamonds, emeralds, 
and rubies; or rather, as they changed and flashed in 
the passing light, they resembled rocks over which a 
thin film of jewels was streaming, or a sudden blaze 
of sunshine upon hoar frost. 

And it was not only the eye that was dazzled and 
seemed to gather an imagination of its own ; but there 
were wonders for the ear, for now and again there 
were hanging masses offering themselves to be struck, 
waiting there in the whispering silence of the vast 
halls of wonder, to give out a clear bell-like sound 
which varied from the sharp ring of a struck glass to 
the deep soft boom of some cathedral bell, the tone 
being invariably much purer and sweeter from the 
semi-transparent blocks than from those that were 
formed of material which was loose and coarse. 

Many of the caves that closely adjoined each other 
varied in the most extraordinary manner. Some 
seemed to be dark and murky, suitable homes for 
gnomes and evil genii. Misshapen monsters ap- 
peared to lurk, eerie and gruesome, in obscure 
corners; slimy and uncouth reptiles seemed to crawl 
and grovel in the damp mire, looking horribly real, 
though only fancy save in the solidity of stone. 

And then, gloomily seen on high, weird, shadowy 

Strange Imaginings 119 

creatures, dank and bat-like with their dusky wings, 
appeared to be hovering just beneath the roof, till a 
nameless horror seemed to pervade the gloomy atmos- 
phere, and the imagination peopled the place with 
unearthly creatures which the mind refused to be- 
lieve were illusory, so real were they in their stony 
extravagance ; yet all were the work of nature, 
formed through the dark ages slowly, drop by 

There they were in the dim nooks and recesses, 
seeming, as the smoking candles flickered upon their 
glistening surfaces, to beckon and grin, peering round 
twisted buttresses, gloating, vampire- like, on the 
passer-by from behind the fallen columns, and pro- 
ducing a shuddering horror, as they seemed to be 
only waiting till the visitors to these awful shades had 
passed before they sprang. 

It was here that even the brilliant rays of mag- 
nesium failed to dispel the gathered blackness, and 
the strange shapes stood out more spectral and awe- 
inspiring than before. And it was water — water 
everywhere, drip, drip, drip, never ceasing — the 
hardest of hard water, that the most thirsty in these 
caverns would shrink from drinking, for he would 
know that he was sipping liquid stone, the stone 
that had built up everything around, and which 
would go on almost silently building fresh wonders 
until Time should be no more. And in spite of the 
flash and brilliancy of beauty as opposed to the dull, 
glistening, slimy look of much of nature's work, there 
was something shuddering in its inspiration as he 
who gazed at the same time had what was going on 
conveyed to him through his ears — the drip of water 

I20 A Subterranean Excursion 

never ceasing, and its feeble echoes seeming to rustle 
with mysterious whisper throughout these shadowy 
cells and proclaim the wonder-work in process of 

It was with a strange feeling of relief that they 
passed on out of these awe-inspiring caverns into a 
region where, in delightful contrast, the eyes were 
welcomed with a sight of what could only be the 
dwelling-places of the inhabitants of a kind of fairy- 
land. Here all was graceful pinnacle, delicate spire, 
tapering point, and slender pillar, each frosted alike 
with silvery rime, which made the finger shrink when 
touching them ; for it seemed, according to everyday 
knowledge, quite startling that these beautiful works 
of nature should feel cool and temperate; the visitor 
felt that they ought to sting the nerves with pain, 
for their sparkling effect looked so exactly as though 
it had been produced by frost. 

Icy, too, appeared much of the beauty now — the 
sparkling fairy couches spread with frosty lace, the 
gauzy floating folds encrusted with gems. Every- 
where the lights flashed and glittered, refracted in 
a thousand colours; for here, too, seemed to be the 
caves of crystal-land, the homes of the water sprites 
who dwelt where water had now become pure, solid, 
and perfect for evermore, where water had become 
pure ice that was not cold, where even the floor was 
white sparkling sand scattered with gleaming shells, 
above which the water fays floated, and the sea sprites 
played and chased fish in the ice grottoes. 

Such were some of George Henty's impressions of 
the Grotto of Adelsberg, and he concludes by saying 
that any traveller who has ever had the opportunity 

A World of Wonders 121 

of seeing that home of nature's wonders lit up as 
he had, would surely bear him out in saying that, 
so far from exaggerating, he has but touched upon 
a few of the varied and extraordinary beauties of the 


Mining for Mercury 

Still feeling his great interest in mining to an ex- 
tent that makes one wonder that he did not make that 
pursuit the work of his life to the same extent as he 
made yachting the pleasure, Henty now made his 
way to Idria to make a careful examination of the 
quicksilver mines, the property of the Austrian 
government. The journey was undertaken partly 
from its being likely to form an interesting letter, but 
still more probably from a desire to foster his own 
inclinations. And no wonder! For it is not every 
man who could write in perfect sincerity, " My ex- 
perience of mines is very extensive", and then go 
on to talk like a past master of mining in general, 
not in support of this assertion, but in proof of his 
general know'ledge. 

Reaching the quicksilver mines, which are, as is 
probably known, very few and far between upon the 
face of the earth, he gives a thorough description of 
the place. The workmen, he tells us, number some 
six hundred, the buildings connected with the mine 
are good and well kept, the posts and doors painted 
the familiar black and yellow of Austria, while the 
imperial arms, surmounted by the two crossed 
hammers, are fixed to the various offices. 

In old works accounts are given about condemna- 
tion to the quicksilver mines and the convict life of 


A Miner's Relaxations 123 

the unfortunates, but Henty's account of the place 
seems to prove everything to be very businesslike 
and matter-of-fact, and the old descriptions that 
blackened the administration would appear to have 
been extremely highly coloured. The government 
has erected a theatre for the use of the workmen, and 
has in other ways laid itself out to study their com- 
forts in a manner for which its habitual detractors 
would hardly have given it credit. 

The pay of the miners is about eightpence a day, 
apparently a very small sum, but which is above the 
average gain in a country where the necessaries of 
life are extremely cheap. When they are ill, and 
this is not infrequently the case, for the fumes of 
mercury are extremely deleterious, they receive three- 
quarter pay, together with medicine and medical 
attendance, while they are provided for in old age. 

After this brief socio-political statement, the busi- 
ness-like miner and student of geology speaks of the 
formation of the country where the mines are situated. 
This is an oolite limestone, that is to say, the cream- 
coloured soft building stone so familiar in building, 
which hardens in time, and is generally dubbed Bath- 

He was rather surprised that a quicksilver mine 
should be here, and he made a careful examination 
of the surface of the neighbourhood before descend- 
ing, but could discover no signs of the existence of 
a mineral vein, and so felt at a loss to imagine what 
induced the original investigators to set to work at 
that particular spot. 

Here is his version of the old story which credits 
the discovery of quicksilver as being due to a barrel- 

124 Mining for Mercury 

maker who, after making a tub, placed it under a 
dropping spring to see if it would hold water. When 
he came to look at it again, he found it contained 
what he took to be a certain amount of glistening 
water; but on attempting to move the tub, he dis- 
covered it to be so heavy that he could not lift it, the 
supposed water being the enormously heavy liquid, 

Henty also relates that a spring that arose in Idria 
had been observed to deposit in the hollows of the 
stone small quantities of quicksilver. This came to 
the notice of a merchant from Trieste,- who happened 
to be stopping in the neighbourhood. Being a busi- 
ness man whose head was screwed on the right way, 
he came to the conclusion that this quicksilver must 
issue from the rock in company with water, and that 
if he sank to a sufficient depth, the source from which 
the spring drew the mercury would be discovered. 
Without any delay he obtained a grant from govern- 
ment, began to sink, and carried on quicksilver- 
mining for some years with success. But it soon 
became evident to him that the primary source of the 
fluent metal was much deeper down, and to reach it 
much larger capital was required than he could com- 
mand; so, still acting as the business man, he sold 
his works to the government, no doubt at an excellent 
profit, and by the government they have been carried 
on ever since. They are now the richest and most 
extensive of any in Europe, with the exception only 
of those at Almaden, in Spain. 

Henty's stay in Idria was only short; but being 
furnished with a guide, and having put on the suit 
of miner's clothes provided for visitors, he commenced 

A Scientific Explanation 125 

his descent. This was made by means of a number 
of inchned shafts of admirable masonry, worked in a 
perfect oval, and about seven feet in height. These 
can be best conceived by imagining a perfectly dry 
London sewer being placed nearly on end. In these 
shafts small stone steps were formed, by which the 
descent was made without fatigue or difficulty. He 
considered that these shafts were superior, both in 
arrangement and workmanship, to anything he had 
ever seen in his great experience. 

On descending he noticed that the mine was 
worked, to speak technically, in five levels, and that 
in some places the quicksilver was in the familiar 
glistening globules in a soft and partially decom- 
posed state. But the greater portion occurred in the 
aforesaid limestone itself, and even where it was 
present in the enormous proportion of eighty per 
cent it was not visible; but the ore resembled very 
rich brown hematite ironstone. In describing his 
visit, Henty goes on to write about the warmth of 
the atmosphere and the close mineral odour, and to 
relate how, in consequence of the deleterious mer- 
curial fumes, the miners are unable to work in the 
richest parts for more than two hours at a time. 

He continues, then, quite as a man accustomed to 
inspecting mines, declaring that the timbering, i.e. 
the supports, of the levels, ventilation, and other 
arrangements of the mine are good. But he never 
saw labour so completely thrown away in any under- 
taking of the kind he ever visited; for the miners were 
constantly employed upon poor barren-looking stuff, 
which the most unpractised mining man — including, 
of course, himself — might have seen would never lead 

126 Mining for Mercury 

to anything. Had their work taken the shape of 
small galleries for exploration, it might have been 
explicable; but the men were almost all engaged in 
greatly widening previously -made passages where 
nothing whatever had been found, nor was likely to 
be. He accounts for this, like a practical man, by 
supposing that, as a miner could only work for a few 
hours a week upon the rich spots, and as the manage- 
ment are obliged to keep a large succession of men 
for working continuously, they put the men to work 
in the barren places purely to keep them employed. 

Satisfied with his inspection, he at last made the 
ascent, coming up a nearly perpendicular shaft, 
worked by water-power, in the large and dirty basket 
in which the ore is lifted to the surface. He then 
proceeded to the smelting-houses, where the quick- 
silver is extracted from the ore. These were about 
a mile from the town ; but the furnaces were not at 
work at that time of year — October — on account of 
the fumes thrown oif being so extremely deleterious 
to vegetation and to the cattle which fed upon it, as 
in grazing they, of course, took up a certain amount 
of the mercury deposited upon the herbage. 

The smelting, or, as it might more properly be 
called, the distilling, of the mercury is only carried 
on in winter, when the fumes that escape from the 
furnaces fall upon the surface of the snow, which in 
that mountainous country covers the earth, and are 
washed away when the thaw comes in the spring. 
The poorer ores are crushed under stamps, and the 
mineral is separated by dressing and shaking tables. 
The richer stuff is at once carried to the furnaces, 
where it is roasted, and the mercurial fumes which 

The Genus Miner 127 

are evolved by this process are collected in adjoining 
chambers. Henty goes on, like a mining expert, to 
criticize the imperfect way in which the processes are 
carried out, adjudging that under better manage- 
ment the fumes which spread over the surrounding 
country would be far less noxious. 

The total amount of quicksilver produced by this 
one mine annually is about two thousand five hundred 
pounds, and this is exported in iron bottles for the 
use of the gold and silver mines of Mexico, Peru, 
and Brazil. 

Surprise was expressed at the commencement of 
this chapter that literature had not lost her able writer 
for boys by his being absorbed by the mining pro- 
fession. His remarks concerning miners gained from 
his own observation pretty well justify this comment, 
for, moralizing upon the people under observation at 
the quicksilver mines of Idria, he says that among 
no class of the population of various countries is there 
so great a resemblance as between miners. However 
the peasantry in general may attire themselves, the 
miner wears a universal garb. He shaves closely, so 
that the dust and dirt, which his occupation in- 
volves, may be the more readily removed when he 
returns to the upper air; and if the workers in the 
lead-mines of the island of Sardinia (where he had 
been, to study them), the Slav from lUyria, the 
Frenchman, the Belgian, the Cornish, Welsh and 
Newcastle miner, with all of whom he had made 
acquaintance, were massed together, the shrewdest 
observer would be puzzled to separate the men 
belonging to the different nationalities. They wear 
the same coarse flannel attire; they have the same 

128 Mining for Mercury 

loosely-hung limbs, the same muscular development 
about the shoulders, and the same weakness of \es:: 
their faces are uniformly pale and sallow from work- 
ing in places where daylight never penetrates; they 
are hard drinkers, strong in their likes and dislikes, 
very independent, and great sticklers for their rights. 

Certainly, he continues, these Idrian miners are 
more fortunate in many respects than their fellows, 
for their houses are singularly large, clean, and 
commodious. Their government lays a considerable 
extra tax upon wine, because its use is very hurtful to 
the men engaged in the mercury works, but its price 
does not prevent the miners from partaking of it freely. 

Henty slept in Idria but one night, and he found it 
very late before the little town settled into tranquillity. 
Every time he closed his eyes and endeavoured to go 
to sleep, a burst of discordant singing from parties 
returning from wine-shops reminded him unpleas- 
antly that miners will be miners all the world over. 

The next morning he left for Italy, and he amus- 
ingly describes his experiences of travel in a primitive 
conveyance hung very low, without any springs 
whatever. This should have been drawn by a pair 
of horses, but was actually only drawn by a single 
beast trotting upon one side of the pole. The shak- 
ing upon the rough road traversed was something 
terrible, and in the course of a six hours' journey 
he was rather glad of a rest of half an hour and a 
relief from the shaking. 

As the village inns were all alike, he describes one 
as a sample, in which he partook of some very weak, 
warm stuff which they called broth. The room set 
apart for the meal was low and whitewashed, crossed 

*' Struddle " 129 

by the rough beams which supported the room above. 
In one corner was an immense stove, five feet high 
and six feet square, covered with green-glazed earthen- 
ware tiles. A seat ran round this, and upon the top 
a layer of maize was spread out to dry. In another 
corner was a small cupboard. But even there art 
was represented by roughly-coloured prints dealing 
with the Prodigal Son, in the attire of a Venetian 
senator of the Middle Ages. There was a crucifix 
with a small lamp upon it, a great clock like those 
seen in English country cottages, with a preternatu- 
rally loud tick, and there was a strange-looking table, 
which he found upon examination was a paste-board 
and flour-bin combined. Three puppies and two 
kittens scampered and played about upon the floor, 
which was of stone, but beautifully clean. 

Reader, do you like struddle? Most probably you 
are quite ignorant of what the question means. 
Henty was in precisely the same mental condition 
when, after eating his soup, his hostess asked him if 
he would like some struddle. 

Henty assented, without having the slightest idea 
of what struddle might be, and the hostess brought in 
a plate of what resembled boiled three-corner puffs ; 
but, though sweet, they were not triangular jam tarts, 
for the contents were principally onions and parsley, 
and quite uneatable. 

(B837) 10 


The Abyssinian Campaign 

Henty was not one who, during a long life, indited 
many letters dealing with his ordinary social com- 
munings with his friends, from which chapters might 
be extracted concerning his thoughts upon political 
or social subjects, his leanings towards life in general, 
or his interest in some special subject. He rarely 
wrote home save, as has been before said, to tell of 
the state of his health, referring those he loved to 
his long professional letters in the columns of the 
journal he represented. But in justice to one of 
the most industrious of men, his family fared, as far 
as interesting and descriptive matter was concerned, 
much better than those connected with the most 
chatty of correspondents, who scatter manuscript as 
opposed to his print. 

Autobiographies are few. There are plenty of the 
young and enthusiastic who begin life by writing a 
journal, but those who keep it up to the end are very, 
very rare. Unconsciously, however, George Alfred 
Henty pretty well passed his days in writing his own 
life, and, as fate would have it, a life of the most 
stirring kind. 

The letters he did write to his colleagues upon 
business, those of a social nature, or on matters con- 
nected with some literary transaction to a fellow club 
member, as well as those between editor and con- 


The Strenuous Life 


tributor, or with the positions reversed, were always 
the same — written in a minute neat hand upon 
small note-paper and in violet ink. But of the many 
possessed by the writer not one seems to contain 
material that w^ould be interesting to the general 
reader. Owing, perhaps, to their want of egotism, 
they do not tell their own tale of the man's nature 
one half so well as the columns he wrote during his 
long connection with the newspaper press. 

And thus it is that through his early manhood 
onward, through maturity to his thoroughly vigorous 
old age — if it can be termed old age when a man is 
robust and virile till beyond three-score years and ten 
— Henty's life formed so many chapters of energetic 
and active career, marked, as it were, by passages 
generally warlike, connected with the warfare of 

At the time of which one is writing, that is, the 
year following the freeing of Italy, he spent much of 
his time making tentative unofficial efforts with his 
pen; but this was prior to the commencement of the 
long series of novels and stories written especially for 
the youth of England. For the next year he began 
to devote considerable attention to his little yacht, 
finding exercise and refreshing peaceful life afloat. 
Yachting was the one hobby of his manhood, and 
a recreation in which he indulged himself at every 
opportunity, even to the very last. In this way he 
recouped himself, and made up for the worry and 
excitement such as falls to the lot of a war corre- 
spondent, who is never free from the strain of think- 
ing out what will be the most interesting thing to 
record among the many incidents occurring around 

132 The Abyssinian Campaign 

him. There is invariably anxiety about how to 
write and where to write, and when the account is 
written the additional worry of how to get in touch 
with the post and make sure that you have done 
everything possible to ensure the matter reaching its 
destination safely and expeditiously. 

The year's comparative rest that followed the ad- 
ventures in Italy was needed, for Henty was awaking 
fully to the fact that a war correspondent's life makes 
a heavy drain upon the stored-up forces of the Bank 
of Life; and it must not be forgotten that his health 
exchequer in youth was at a very low ebb. 

It may have been instinct — the natural desire of 
the weak to gain strength — that induced Henty to 
direct his attention so much to the sea; and without 
doubt this favourite pursuit of yachting, which took 
him away from town life, from the strain of mind and 
the weary hours at the desk, to where he could breathe 
the free air of heaven and cast off care, strengthened 
him and prepared him for the next bout of duty that 
he would be called upon to undertake. 

It was just a year after the conclusion of the Italian 
war when he was called upon to gird himself for 
another period of active service, and leave civilized 
Europe for the heats and colds of semi-barbarous 
mountainous Africa. The cry of the sufferers had 
awakened patient Britain to the fact that she could 
no longer stop her ears to the piteous plaint of the 
captives, no longer suffer the mocking insolence of 
the defiant ignorant ruler. King Theodore of Abys- 
sinia; and Sir Robert Napier was preparing his 
forces for the invasion of that comparatively un- 
known and warlike land. 

Worries of the Voyage 133 

All this is well-recorded history. Henty's adven- 
tures begin with his start for the front, after reaching 
Bombay, where his first troubles commenced with the 
choice of attendants. Servants swarmed, but ex- 
perience seemed to show that it was considered the 
correct thing to hire oneself out to a master bound 
for Abyssinia, and, just before he left, to disappear 
with his purse and any handy portable property. 

Henty's first experience was with a mild Hindoo, 
who directly after fell sick, while this man's brother, 
engaged by a colleague, was at the last moment 
melted by the tears of an aged and despairing 
mother, and the two rogues decamped laden with 

This difficulty got over, necessaries were packed, 
and a vessel was chosen in which Henty and a friend 
were to sail in company with some of the troops. 
They were a little disturbed, though, when they dis- 
covered that the only available bath below had to be 
removed to make room for three and a half tons of 
gunpowder. It was a change which by no means 
added to their comfort or to their feelings of security. 

However, in spite of hindrances and delays, he, 
a brother special, and three officers made their start, 
choosing by preference to sleep on deck, partly be- 
cause the nights al fresco were delightful, though 
rather cold, but more on account of the imaginary 
dangers that might arise from the monsters which 
haunted the berths below. It may have been the 
effect of imagination and extreme terror, but these 
creatures appeared to be as large as cats, and much 
quicker footed, probably from having more legs. 
Their horns resembled those of bullocks, and in their 

134 The Abyssinian Campaign 

utter fearlessness of man they attacked him fero- 
ciously. Henty christens them vampires, though he 
does not record that they practised the bloodthirsty 
habits of those creatures, and then he comes down to 
plain fact and explains that his betes noires answered 
to the common name of cockroach. 

One of his first experiences of sleeping on deck 
with his comrades was to be awakened by a splash 
of wa'cr in his face, and as the vessel was given to 
rolling he attributed this to spray; but only for an 
instant, for down came a rush of water as if emptied 
from a bucket. In a moment he was upon his feet to 
begin dragging his bed over to leeward. Then came 
a rude awakening to the fact that the splash and the 
bucketing were caused by rain, which raged down as 
if pumped by a hundred steam fire-engines. There 
was nothing for it but to laugh, as the party gained 
the cabin floor drenched, and with their silken pyjamas 
clinging to their skins. 

The customary troubles on board the small vessel, 
laden to a great extent with heterogeneous stores, 
came to an end, but not without incident, for naviga- 
tion in the Red Sea is a most intricate and dangerous 
business, as its western shore is studded with islands 
and coral reefs. 

The vessel was running along with a favourable 
breeze, and Henty had been watching the low shore 
with its stunted bushes and strange conical hills 
bearing a fantastic resemblance to hay-cocks, while 
a mighty range of mountains loomed up in the 
distance. The outlook was interesting enough, for 
this was his first sight of Abyssinia; but then came 
a very narrow escape. They were sauntering about. 

Aground 135 

watching the land and listening to the calls of the 
sailor heaving the lead in the chains. First it was 
ten fathoms, then two minutes elapsed and the man 
cried five fathoms, whereupon a shout came from 
the captain: "Stop her! Turn her astern!" In the 
momentary pause of the beat of the screw the sailor's 
v^oice came again: "Two fathoms!" — a dire warning 
to those on board the steamer. 

But the screw had been reversed, and the yellow 
water was foaming round them, showing that the 
sand at the bottom of the shallow water was being 
churned up as the steamer, still forging more and 
more slowly ahead, came to a standstill. Then the 
fact was patent that they were ashore ; while thoughts 
of shipwreck began to be busy in the brain. 

The customary business of trying to get the vessel 
off ensued; orders flew about; the vessel was driven 
ahead, then astern; but she remained fast, and seemed 
to be moving only on a pivot. 

The troops and crew were ordered up and tramped 
here and there — marching aft, then forward, but with- 
out result. They were run in a body from side to 
side, to give the vessel a rolling motion. Still no 
result. Then another plan was tried, so as to loosen 
the craft from the clinging sand and work out a sort 
of channel ; and this was managed by the soldiers 
running to one side and then jumping together, then 
back across the deck and jumping again, the effort 
being made by every active person on board, till it 
seemed as if all were engaged in a frantic war-dance. 

After this anchors were got out, and the men set to 
work at the capstan, the only result being that they 
seemed to be fishing for coral, pieces of which were 

136 The Abyssinian Campaign 

dragged up looking ominously suggestive of what 
would happen if some of the glistening white dead 
rock pierced the vessel's skin. 

There seemed at last to be no chance of getting 
off unless a portion of the cargo were discharged. 
Accordingly when an Arab dhow came into sight 
and dropped anchor, a bargain was made with the 
sheich, her captain, for him to come alongside and 
lighten the steamer by taking on board a portion 
of the cargo and the whole of the troops. This, 
Eastern fashion, took an enormous amount of talk- 
ing, and when all was settled it was found that the 
water was too shallow for the big dhow to come 
alongside, with the result that this expedient was 
given up. 

Then another dhow came and anchored at a short 
distance, presenting something novel to the traveller. 
This vessel proved to be bound for their own port, 
namely, Annesley Bay, and it was laden with a por- 
tion of the transport that was to help the expedition 
across the wild country towards Magdala, to wit, a 
herd of no fewer than twenty-two camels. The poor 
animals, the so-called ships of the desert, were packed 
together in a boat that did not look large enough to 
hold half that number. 

At last real help came within signalling distance, 
and this proved to be one of the Peninsular and 
Oriental Company's big steamers. She had half of 
one of our regiments on board, and was towing a 
consort with the remaining half of the 33rd Regiment 
from Karachi. 

A boat was sent from the great steamer, and an 
officer came on board to examine the state of affairs. 

A Friend in Need 137 

He very soon came to the decision that the water was 
too shallow for his vessel, the Salsette, to come within 
towing distance. As the grounded ship was in no 
danger, he was obliged to leave it to its fate; but to 
the great satisfaction of Henty and his colleague, on 
ascertaining their destination he offered them a pas- 
sage for the rest of the way. In due course they 
arrived very comfortably at the starting-point for 
the expedition. 


Incidents of Transport 

There was plenty to see at the far-from-cheerful place 
which was to become the depot of troops and stores. 
A pier was being run up for landing purposes, and 
vessels were discharging slowly, with the promise of 
a deadlock unless more convenience for landing the 
contents of the vessels that were lying idle was pro- 

To all intents and purposes they were at the edge of 
a desert, and here everything that was necessary for 
the expedition had to be landed. An enclosure was 
filled with stacks of pressed hay for the mules and 
piles of grain and rice — goods that would be easily 
damaged, but were fairly safe, nevertheless, owing to 
being in a hot and comparatively rainless district. 

Besides the regular labourers that had been en- 
gaged, brightly clothed women, looking particularly 
picturesque, had been sent over from India on purpose 
to grind the corn for the troops. Tents had arisen, 
forming quite a canvas town ; and storehouses were 
being constructed by Chinese carpenters, so that the 
place was rapidly becoming busily populous. In 
addition to those at the landing-place, clusters of tents 
were scattered within a circle of a mile, while the 
main camp of the expedition was a mile and a half 
inland, consequent upon the scarcity of water. For 
at the beginning all living things, men and beasts, 


Where the Carcass Is 139 

had to depend for the principal Hfe-sustainer, water, 
on the supply obtained from the ships. Consequently 
every steamer in the harbour was at work night and 
day condensing, at a cost of twopence halfpenny a 
gallon for the coal consumed in the process. 

Henty's senses of sight and smell were offended as 
they had not been since the Crimea. Dead mules, 
camels, and oxen lay everywhere about the shore, and 
attempts were being made to get rid of the offence 
by burning the carcasses. Wherever the poor brutes 
were lately dead, vultures were congregated, many so 
gorged with flesh that they could hardly rise when 
approached, while others, where some poor beast had 
lately expired, were walking about at a distance, as 
if not quite certain that the animal was dead. 

It was a doleful picture — one of the accessaries 
of the glories of war. Here and there half-starved 
mules were wandering about, their heads down, their 
ears drooping, and their eyes growing dim with 
the approach of death ; others staggered down to 
where the sea rippled on the sands, and tasted again 
and again the briny water; while others still, half- 
maddened by the heat and thirst, drank copiously, to 
drop dead where they stood, or crawl away to die 
miserably in the low desolate-looking scrub. 

A man with a great love for domestic animals, 
Henty generally had about half-a-dozen dogs of the 
Scotch terrier and other breeds to share with him 
the quiet of his home study, supplemented by two 
or three cats which lived in fairly good harmony; 
the sight of these suffering dumb creatures there- 
fore strongly moved his sympathies. 

Before his landing, his attention had been attracted 

I40 Incidents of Transport 

by the cruel way in which the wretched, doleful camels 
were packed in the dhow, and the sight of these 
beasts of burden being disembarked drew his atten- 
tion at once. 

The native boats could not get nearer than two or 
three hundred yards from the shore, for the water was 
not more than three or four feet deep, and into these 
shallows the poor brutes were dragged and thrust, 
when, dazed by the novel position, they for the 
most part lay down, their long necks raising their 
curious heads just above the surface, while they made 
no attempt to make for the land. Some never did 
make any effort, and later their bodies would be 
seen drifting here and there, growing more buoyant 
under the hot sun as decomposition set in. Others, 
however, struggled to within fifty yards of the shore 
before lying down, to look, with their erect necks 
and partly submerged bodies, just like gigantic 
waterfowl. As for those that were driven ashore, 
want of food and the evil treatment received during 
their transit had reduced them to the most miserable 
plight. Their bones were almost starting through 
their skins; and while at the best of times, when well 
fed and watered, a camel in its utterances is a most 
doleful, murmurous creature, these poor brutes lay 
as if dead upon the sand, uttering feebly the almost 
human moaning and complainings peculiar to their 

Whether from mismanagement or callous brutality, 
the treatment of the unfortunate mules and camels 
landed on these desolate shores was painful in the 
extreme, and droves of hundreds untended were 
wandering about, striving for a few days' existence 

Thirsty Mules 141 

by plucking scanty shoots, previous to sickening and 

The scenes, Henty says, were frightful everywhere, 
but worst of all at the water-troughs, where the half- 
mad animals, especially the mules, struggled for a 
drink at a time when water was almost worth its 
weight in gold. They fought wildly for a draught 
of that for which they were dying, biting and kicking 
till many of them in their weakness were knocked 
down and trampled to death, a fate which at least 
saved them from perishing miserably under their 
burdens upon the road. 

Thoroughly angered by the neglect, and in accord- 
ance with the intense desire of the practical man to 
have everything done orderly and well, Henty busied 
himself and inquired why these scattered mules were 
left untended, to learn that nearly the whole of the 
mule and camel drivers had deserted. In fact, at the 
beginning of the arrangements in connection with the 
transport, everything seemed to have gone wrong. 
The mules and camels were dying of thirst and 
neglect; consequently the advance brigade could not 
be supplied with food. Someone was in fault, but, as 
is often the case, the mistakes of one are visited upon 
no one knows how many. But there, it is easy to 
find fault. 

It must have seemed almost bliss to get away from 
the misery and confusion in the neighbourhood of 
Annesley Bay. At least there was the hope of ceasing 
to be tormented by the flies that were increasing and 
multiplying, as they did farther north in the old 
Pharaonic days. There was the prospect of a weary 
desert journey over sand and rock, with a pause here 

142 Incidents of Transport 

and there where wells existed with their scanty supply 
of water, or others were being dug, but there was the 
promise of a pleasanter existence afterwards, since the 
camp station was nearly five hundred feet above sea- 
level, with a likelihood of comparative coolness. 

It was a long and dreary ride, with nature appa- 
rently against the intruders. As a consequence, with 
animals as well as with man everything seemed to 
go wrong. One of Henty's principal complaints was 
still of the flies, which he considered to be, up to the 
present, the greatest nuisance he had met with in 
Abyssinia. He declared them to be as numerous and 
as irritating as they were in Egypt; but he consoled 
himself with the fact that they went to sleep when 
the sun set, and as there were no mosquitoes to take 
their place, he was able to sleep in tranquillity, that 
is to say, to lie down in the sand. Water, of course, 
was too scarce for a wash ; but here again there was 
consolation — a good shake on rising, and the dry 
clean sand all fell away. 

Still, there was a fresh anxiety for him in connection 
witli the traveller's greatest worry, that is, luggage. 
He was much troubled by the fact that the troop of 
mules which bore the officers' necessaries had not 
turned up, and one of the missing animals was the 
carrier of his own luggage and stores. 

On this march Henty had his first experience of the 
desert wells. These wells were dug in the bed of 
what in the rainy season must have been a mighty 
torrent fifty yards wide. He states that he had seen 
many singular scenes, but this was the strangest. 
The wells were six in number, about a dozen feet 
across and as many deep. All the water had to be 

Desert Wells 143 

raised in buckets by men standing upon wooden 
platforms who passed the full buckets from hand to 
hand. The water was then emptied into earthen 
troughs, which soon became mud basins, and from 
these the animals were allowed to drink to the tune 
of a perpetual chant kept up by the natives, without 
which the latter seemed unable to work. 

Round the wells was a vast crowd of animals — 
flocks of goats and small sheep, strings of draught 
bullocks, mules, ponies, horses, and camels, and 
about them stood the regular inhabitants of the 
country in their scanty attire, armed with spears, 
swords like reaping-hooks, and heavy clubs. The 
women among them were either draped in calico or 
picturesquely clothed in leather, and plentifully 
adorned with necklaces of seeds or shells. 

Here, too, the trouble with the thirsty animals was 
often terrible, the camels being especially unmanage- 
able. One of them, for instance, because its pack had 
slipped beneath it, began to utter strange uncouth 
cries, kicking and plunging wildly, until it started a 
stampede among the mules, many of which had pro- 
bably never seen any of these ungainly beasts before. 

When matters settled down, the little party made 
for the commissariat tent to draw their rations, and 
here a religious trouble arose among some of the 
Parsee clerks of one of the departments. They 
complained bitterly that there was no mutton, and 
that it was contrary to their religion to eat beef. The 
commissariat officer regretted the circumstances, but 
pointed out that at present no sheep had been landed, 
while the small ovine animals of the country were 
mere skin and bone. 

144 Incidents of Transport 

Henty closes this little scene with the moral that 
Parsees should not go to war in a country where 
mutton is scarce, and he wonders how the Hindoo 
soldiers will manage to preserve their caste intact. 









En Route for Magdala 

The famous march to Magdala had now begun, and 
Henty's recorded recollections are full of interest 
and observation. 

At one time he came upon a party of excited 
soldiers who had suddenly disturbed a troop of the 
great baboons which haunt the stony mountains, 
and, with visions of specimens flashing across his 
mind, he joined in the chase, revolver in hand, racing 
and climbing among impeding thorns, compared to 
which an English quickset hedge was nothing at all. 
After a couple of hours' hunt, followed out as eagerly 
as when he was a boy, he found that the quarry was 
quite at home and that he was not, with the result 
that he thought he lost pounds in weight by his 
exertions, but that the toil did him good. 

Before the starting of the expedition, the press had 
been full of the predictions of the busybodies who 
know all about everything, and had prophesied that 
those who went were to die of fever, malaria, sun- 
stroke, tsetse fly, guinea worm, tape-worm, and other 
maladies. It was soon found, however, that every- 
body enjoyed vigorous health, and that though the 
army was in expectation of being hindered by, and 
of having to fight their way through, the forces of 
the petty kings or chiefs through whose countries 
they passed, very little of a serious nature occurred 

( B 8:i7 ) 145 11 

146 En Route for Magdala 

to hinder the advance to the stronghold of the 
stubborn monarch of Abyssinia. 

Nothing seems to have been too small for Henty's 
observation, and his letters to the journal he repre- 
sented teem with references to the various objects 
that caught his eye. At one time he was describing 
the appearance, uniforms, and physique of the Indian 
troops, the Beloochs, or the manners and customs 
of the scoundrelly camp-followers. Then he would 
descend directly afterwards to such minor matters in 
natural history as the feeding habits of the sheep 
ticks, which in places swarmed. In another place 
he discourses in a much more interesting fashion 
than a scientific student (for he omits the hard tech- 
nical names) of the vegetation seen around, such as 
gigantic tulip trees, and a shrub of whose name he 
confesses his ignorance, though he considers it 
notable from the sprays resembling asparagus. He 
is attracted by plants of the cactus tribe, particularly 
by one that spreads out a number of arms point- 
ing upwards, making it resemble a gigantic cauli- 
flower. Then, evidently feeling doubtful about the 
suitability of so matter-of-fact a description, he makes 
a brave shot at the Latin name — almost the only one 
he records — the scientific italics. Euphorbia candala- 
briensis, looking novel and strange. Later, with 
a frank display of doubt, he declares that he does 
not vouch for the correctness of this name. 

Onward still, hour by hour and day by day, we 
follow him, noting how eager and fresh he is in 
the morning, and how weary as the day's march 
approaches its end. At these times we find him 
recording the unpleasantnesses of the route, such as 

Enemies to Sleep 147 

the influence upon the atmosphere of the dead car- 
casses of the worn-out animals, from whose neighbour- 
hood the great vultures rose lazily and wheel away. 

The heat of the sun was at times intense, but the 
nights were sometimes bitterly cold, too cold to sleep, 
and when at last sleep came, again and again the 
weary travellers were disturbed by the antics of one 
of the beasts that bear about the worst character of 
any that have been brought into domestic use, and 
whose obstinacy has become a proverb. One of these 
mules would break loose from its head ropes, and, 
as if urged on by some malignant spirit of mischief, 
would nearly upset the tent by stumbling over the 
pegs and getting itself involved amongst the ropes, 
when, as if bitterly resenting the presence of their 
mischievous distant relative, the horses would seem 
perfectly savage, and threaten to break loose and 
stampede. Four or five times in a night Henty or 
one of his colleagues would have to get up and go 
out in the cold to stone the brute, while the grooms, 
who were sleeping for mutual protection close to the 
horses' heads, and who were rolled up in their rugs, 
wonderful to state, heard nothing. 

But this was not the only manner in which the 
calm of the night's rest would be disturbed, for the 
black followers who acted as servants to the group 
of war correspondents seemed to have a natural pro- 
clivity for quarrelling among themselves, often rous- 
ing up their masters in alarm to find out what some 
outburst might mean. Long after his return from 
Abyssinia, Henty would amuse his literary friends 
by chatting over these troubles of the night. 

As a change from this we find Henty noticing the 

148 En Route for Magdala 

beauty of the country, the picturesqueness of the 
narrow gorges through which they passed, and the 
profusion of wild figs, golden-blossomed laburnum, 
and acacias, the last white-flowered and with pods of 
the clearest carmine. Getting now upon colour, he 
describes the beauty of the numerous humming-birds 
(query, sun-birds) and the gorgeous plumage of others 
of larger size that, startled by the strangeness of their 
visitors, perched at a short distance from the path. 
Again, the descriptions of the brilliant butterflies 
which flitted here and there among the flowers are 
strongly suggestive of the observant boy longing for 
a net and a few cardboard boxes and pins. 

These charming rides had to give way to work of 
a very different nature, which included dismounting, 
leading their ponies, and preparing to ascend the 
mountain side; for the valleys and ravines gave way 
to steep tracks covered with boulders, the tropical 
valley with its beautiful foliage was succeeded by 
stunted pines, and the sappers were set busily at work 
forming a track of zigzags for the force to ascend. 

At times the store and ammunition-bearing mules 
had to ascend places as steep as flights of stairs, with 
the steps as much as three feet high ; but, nothing 
daunted, the force pressed on. 

Later, an ambassador from one of the local kings, 
whose country was being traversed, met the advanc- 
ing force, and it was considered an act of wisdom to 
give him a sample of what our well-drilled troops 
could do, in the way of a little sham-fight. The dis- 
play was so effectively carried out that this monarch 
considered it good policy not to support King 
Theodore with his army of seven thousand men. 

A Steady Advance 149 

At the first camp among the mountains the native 
Abyssinians, led by curiosity, or possibly with other 
intentions if opportunity served, swarmed around, 
exciting Henty's interest in their swords and spears. 
Certain specimens he managed to secure (not those 
of the poorer classes, but those of costly silver), and 
these he afterwards hung upon the walls of his study 
at home. 

As compared with the slight bayonet of our men, 
fixed to the rifle barrel, the Abyssinians' spears were 
formidable weapons, from six to ten feet long, and 
weighted at the butt. Their bearers could throw them 
over thirty yards with great force and with no little 
accuracy, while in a hand-to-hand fight, or when 
offering resistance to a charge, they were dangerous 
weapons in the grasp of an active man. 

At one time Henty records an unpleasant check to 
his proceedings in the shape of an order being pro- 
mulgated that no correspondents were to accompany 
the expedition ; but when another general took over 
the command, this embargo was removed, and we 
find him at the front again, after a long weary pause 
which had forced him into inactivity at the base. 

In spite of obstacles upon obstacles the troops 
were progressing. The heavy guns surmounted the 
rugged mountain-paths, and the savage cruel tyrant 
passed from mocking defiance to alarm, as his scouts 
brought him tidings of the slow and determined 
march, higher and higher towards his stronghold, 
of the punitive force which conquered slowly and 
steadily every physical difficulty. 

Then there were rumours that King Theodore was 
beginning to repent, and that he was ready to give 

I50 En Route for Magdala 

up his many prisoners, releasing them from their 
long captivity. But the expedition still rolled on- 
wards and upwards — cavalry, infantry, and the heavy 
and light mountain guns — ready to carry Magdala by 
coup de main if it were feasible, or bring the tyrant 
into submission by a prolonged siege. 

Though everything seemed to be done very de- 
liberately, the advance never stayed, with the troops 
still healthy and well, the losses only occurring 
among the transport animals as the result of acci- 
dent, hard usage, and disease. It was a varied little 
army which composed this expedition, horse and foot 
— light-mounted Hussars, sturdy infantry, and dark- 
browed men of India in their picturesque uniform, 
— green frocks, red sashes, and scarlet turbans. The 
picturesque was not lacking, either, in the work of 
surmounting the stern rugged passes, where the en- 
gineer officers with their sappers cleverly and speedily 
constructed bridges over gully and gash. 

The progress by this time had become steady 
and methodical. The losses were terrible, but fresh 
animals arrived to take the place of those which were 
swept away by disease. The chief halts were made 
at the stations formed at the wells, many of the latter 
being constructed on the new ingenious principle 
which came into note at that time. These wells 
were afterwards familiar at home as Abyssinian wells. 
Thus slowly, but steadily, our lightly burdened troops 
continued on their way, each day bringing them nearer 
to where Theodore had gathered his forces in the 
mountain aerie, which he had believed impregnable. 


Jottings by the Way 

During the advance Henty relates that three of the 
officers of the 4th Regiment of Foot were witnesses 
of a horribly barbarous custom practised among the 
natives of Abyssinia, a custom which shows the 
callousness of the natives to the sufferings of the 
animals in domestic use. The practice was recorded 
by James Bruce as witnessed by him during his 
travels in Abyssinia, towards the end of the eight- 
eenth century, in connection with his attempts to 
discover the sources of the Nile. Upon his return, 
when he described the manners and customs of the 
people of Abyssinia, his narratives were received with 
mingled incredulity and ridicule, and the practice now 
in question was treated as an outrageous traveller's 
tale. Certainly the problem whether nature would 
readily heal the wound described gave some excuse 
for want of faith in what approaches the marvellous. 
The operation described by Bruce, but which has 
been denied by all subsequent travellers, and by the 
Abyssinians themselves, probably through some feel- 
ing of shame at their own barbarity, was that of 
cutting a steak from the body of a living ox. Our 
officers came upon the natives just as they were 
engaged in the act. The unfortunate bullock was 
thrown down, and its four legs were tied together. 
The operator then cut an incision near the spine, just 


152 Jottings by the Way 

behind the hip joint. Next, separating the skin from 
the flesh, he cut two other incisions at right angles to 
the first, this enabUng him to hft up a flap of skin four 
or five inches square. After this, by cutting with his 
knife diagonally, so as to pass the keen instrument 
partly under the skin, he cut out a lump of flesh 
larger in length and width than the flap of skin. 
The hole made was then filled with a particular pre- 
paration, and the flap of skin was replaced and plas- 
tered over with mud. Finally, the feet of the poor 
animal, which had kept up a low moaning while the 
operation was going on, were untied, and it was given 
a kick to make it get up. It should be mentioned 
that the operator cut two or three gashes in the neigh- 
bourhood of the wound, apparently as a sign to show 
that the animal had been operated upon in that part. 
The officers observed that several of the other cattle 
of the same herd were marked in a precisely similar 
manner. It was remarked, too, that during the opera- 
tion the poor animal bled very little, and half an 
hour afterwards was found walking about and feeding 

Anatomists have denied, Henty continues, the pos- 
sibility of an animal being able to walk after such 
treatment; but here was the indisputable fact. There 
is the possibility that the antiseptic nature of the 
huge plaster, used to fill up the vacancy from which 
the piece of flesh had been cut, was sufficient to make 
it heal in the pure clear air of mountain Africa. 

Fortunately, from our few losses — unfortunately, 
from a scientific point of view — we have no record of 
how clean-cut wounds in the human being fared in 
Abyssinia. On the other hand, the rapid healing 

Rocket Practice 153 

of flesh and muscle on the lofty tablelands of the 
Transvaal during the Boer War was almost mar- 

Everywhere on his way to the front Henty found 
something fresh to describe. One day there was to 
be rocket practice, the operators being the Naval 
Brigade, with its frank-looking, free-and-easy Jacks, 
who were anxious to be ready to astonish the natives 
with their singular missiles. There was not room in 
the valley where they were in camp, so the plan was 
tried of drawing the tubes up one hill and firing across 
to the next hill, about two thousand yards away. 

There were twelve mules, each with a tube and a 
supply of ninety rockets. There were four men to 
each tube, besides the one who led the bearer. At 
the word "Unload!" the tubes, each about three feet 
in length, were taken off the mules and arranged in 
line upon a sort of stand, with an elevator, which 
could be adjusted to any required angle. 

The order first given was to try ten degrees of ele- 
vation, and at the command " Fire!" a stickless rocket 
rushed from the tube like a firework, and buzzed 
through the air to the opposite hill. Three rockets 
were fired at this elevation, and then three from an 
elevation of five degrees, all apparently passing to 
their mark in a way likely to strike terror into the 
hearts of the defenders of Magdala. 

These men of the Naval Rocket Brigade, who had 
come up to join the military, proved to be an admir- 
able body of men, ready to endure fatigue and hard- 
ship with the good temper peculiar to sailors. Con- 
trary to what might have been expected, seeing how 
little marching a man-of-war's man is accustomed to 

154 Jottings by the Way 

get, they marched better than soldiers, and never fell 
out, even on the most fatiguing journeys. Their 
quaint humour provided great amusement to the 
troops, and the way in which they talked to their 
mules, which they persisted in treating as ships, was 
irresistibly comic. 

Henty mentions one sailor who was leading a mule 
with a messmate walking behind, when they came 
to where a body of soldiers was stationed. This did 
not seem to concern the sailors, who had been given 
orders to carry out, and so they went straight on. 
"Hallo, Jack!" cried one of the soldiers good- 
humouredly. " Where are you coming to?" " Com- 
ing?" said Jack. " I ain't a-coming anywheres. I 
am only towing the craft. It's the chap behind who 
does the steering. Ask him." It was always the 
same with the tars. The mule's halter was either the 
tow-rope or the painter. They starboarded or ported 
their helm, tacked through a crowd, or wore the ship 
round, in a most amusing way. On one occasion an 
officer called out: *' Sergeant-major!" There was no 
answer. '* Sergeant- major!" (louder). Still no 
reply. A third and still louder hail produced no 
response. '* Boatswain, I say, where are you?" 
"Ay, ay, sir!" was the instant answer from the 
man who was close by, but who had quite forgotten 
that in the service ashore of the Rocket Brigade he 
took the new rank of Sergeant-major. 

The Jacks made curious friendships during the 
advance, and a good deal of comradeship soon existed 
between them and the Punjabis, although neither 
understood a word of the other's language. During 
a halt the cheerful sailors would sometimes get up a 

A Bluejacket Ball 155 

dance to the music of the band of the soldiers from 
the Five Rivers Region. The band played well, 
seated in a circle and looking extremely grave, while 
the sailors would stand up in couples or octettes and 
solemnly execute quadrilles, waltzes, and polkas, to 
the great astonishment of the natives, who crowded 
round looking on in wonder at what to them seemed 
a profound mystery. 

The Punjab Pioneers seem to have been a splen- 
did regiment, and their services under their gallant 
major proved to be most valuable during the expe- 
dition, for their leader divined the spots where water 
ought to be found, and it was dug for until a gushing 
supply of the precious necessary was forthcoming. 


King Theodore at Bay 

At last the spot was reached where the army could 
take up its position to look across at Magdala, which 
appeared like a three-topped mountain with almost 
perpendicular sides. And here the whole force rested 
and girded up their loins for the final struggle. 

The advance had been long and wearisome; but as 
soon as the men were refreshed by a rest all was 
excitement, and the next morning the troops were 
again in motion. Henty started early in the full con- 
viction that something would take place, while the 
men in his neighbourhood, who had been suffering 
after their last march the night before from want of 
water, were looking eagerly forward to reaching the 
welcome stream that could be seen flowing at the 
bottom of the ravine below. 

Here, however, came a disappointment. There was 
abundance of water in a river eighty yards wide, and 
waist deep; but it was the colour of coffee with milk, 
and nearly opaque with mud. In fact, it was like 
a dirty puddle in a London street just after being 
churned up by an omnibus. However, there was 
nothing for it. All had a drink, and then the men 
filled their canteens before they prepared to wade 

Later, the heat was terrible. Everyone was de- 
voured with a burning thirst, and any money would 


A Brave Assault 


have been given cheerfully for a drink of pure water. 
When, that afternoon, a storm passed over, and they 
caught just the tail end of the rain which fell, Henty 
was glad to spread out his waterproof sheet, and he 
caught nearly half a pint of what he declared was the 
most refreshing draught he had ever tasted. 

Matters now grew very exciting. Henty and his 
colleagues could see with their glasses the enemy's 
guns upon the fortifications, with artillerymen passing 
from gun to gun and loading them in succession. 

Behind the spectators the troops were still advanc- 
ing. The Naval Rocket Brigade emerged from the 
flat below and were joining the Punjabis, when, 
almost at the same moment, a dozen voices pro- 
claimed that a large force was coming down the road 
from the fortress. Glasses were turned in that direc- 
tion, and a large body of horse and footmen were 
seen hurrying down pell-mell. The question arose, 
did this mean a peaceful embassy or fighting? 

All doubt was soon at an end: a gun boomed, and 
a thirty-two pound shot struck the ground in front of 
the Indian troops. It was war, then — defiance. King 
Theodore meant to fight, but not within the walls of 
Magdala; he was coming out to engage the British 
forces in the open. 

The fight had begun; a steady fire was kept up 
from the fortress guns, and Henty says: "A prettier 
sight is seldom presented in warfare than that of the 
enemy's advance. Some were in groups; some 
were in twos and threes; here and there galloped 
chiefs in their scarlet cloth robes. Many of those on 
foot were in scarlet and silk, and they came on at a 
run, the whole force advancing across the plain with 

158 King Theodore at Bay 

incredible and alarming rapidity. It was for some 
time doubtful whether they would not reach the brow 
of the little valley, along which the Rocket train was 
still coming in a long single file, before the infantry 
could arrive to check them. After a few minutes, 
however, the infantry came up at the double, all their 
fatigue and thirst having vanished at the thought of 
a fight. 

Almost immediately the enemy had their first 
answer to the guns of the fortress in the shape of a 
rocket whizzing out upon the plain, for Jack was 
alive, and a cheer rang out as other rockets followed 
in rapid succession, making the Abyssinians stop 
short in utter astonishment at this novel way of 
making war. But the chiefs urged them forward, 
and they advanced again, being now not more than 
five hundred yards from where Henty and his 
colleagues stood watching them. 

With his glass he could distinguish every feature, 
and as he looked at them advancing at a run with 
shield and spear, he could not help feeling pity for 
them, knowing what a terrible reception they were 
about to meet with; for in another minute our line 
of skirmishers had breasted the slope and opened a 
tremendous fire. 

The enemy, taken completely by surprise, paused, 
discharged their firearms, and then slowly and dog- 
gedly retreated, increasing their speed as they felt 
how hopeless was the struggle against antagonists 
who could pour in ten shots to their one. 

Meanwhile the infantry regiment advanced rapidly, 
driving the retreating men before them. The native 
regiment followed up, and the lookers-on could see 

A Withering Fire 159 

the battle was almost won, for the troops advanced 
so rapidly that the Abyssinians could not regain the 
road to the fortress, but, chased by the rockets, 
were driven to the right, away from INIagdala. 

All this time the guns from the fortress kept up 
their fire upon the advancing line, but most of the 
shot went over the men's heads. So bad was the 
aim of the king's gunners, that he himself was nearly 
killed while superintending the working of one of his 
big guns by his German prisoners. 

In another portion of the field a more desperate 
fight was being carried on by the defenders, and step 
by step Sir Robert Napier's forces were developing 
the attack. The mountain train of steel guns got into 
position and sent in a terrific fire, speedily stopping 
the head of another of the enemy's columns, while the 
Punjaubis poured in a withering fire and afterwards 
charged with the bayonet. As a result King Theo- 
dore suffered a crushing defeat, for upwards of five 
thousand of his bravest soldiers had sallied out to the 
attack, while scarcely as many hundreds returned. 

All this took place in the midst of a tremendous 
thunderstorm, with the deep echoing roar of the 
thunder completely drowning the heavy rattle of mus- 
ketry, the crack of the steel guns, and the boom of 
the enemy's heavy cannon upon the heights. 

A tremendous cheer rose from the whole British 
force as the enemy finally retired, and thus terminated 
one of the most decisive skirmishes which had perhaps 
ever occurred ; it was memorable, too, as being the 
first encounter in which British troops ever used 
breech-loading rifles. 


The Fall of the Curtain 

The eventful day was now closing in, and everyone 
was glad to wrap himself in his wet blanket and to 
forget hunger and thirst for a while in sleep. Strong 
bodies of troops were thrown out as pickets, and the 
men were under arms again at two in the morning, lest 
Theodore should renew his attack before daybreak. 

Then news was brought in that there was plenty of 
water to be had in a ravine near at hand, and the 
Indian bheestees were sent down with the water-skins, 
in company with soldiers with their canteens. But 
the water was worse than any they had drunk before, 
for the place had been a camp of Theodore's army. 
Numbers of animals, mules and cattle, had been 
slaughtered there; the stench was abominable, and 
the water nearly as much tainted as the atmosphere. 
Still, there was no help for it; all had to drink the 
noxious fluid. After obtaining a little food, Henty 
rode over to where he could leave his horse and go 
down into the ravine. Here fatigue parties were 
engaged in the work of burial; and in plain simple 
words Henty describes the scene as shocking — cer- 
tainly his picture is too dreadful to be dwelt upon. 

In good time that morning there was a tremendous 
burst of cheering, for two of the prisoners had come 
in with proposals from the king; and the embassage 
reported that Theodore had returned after the battle 


A Brutal Despot i6i 

to say to them with a noble simplicity: "My people 
have been out to fight yours. I thought I was a great 
man and knew how to fight. I find I know nothing. 
My best soldiers have been killed ; the rest are scat- 
tered. I will give in. Go you into camp and make 
terms for me." 

There was something almost Scriptural in the tone 
of resignation these words breathed — words which 
invited the sympathy of all thinking men for the 
conquered. But this feeling was deadened directly 
news arrived of the horrors that had taken place in 
Magdala on the very day before the arrival of the 
British. Theodore had ordered all the European 
captives out to be witnesses of what he could do, 
and before their eyes he put to death three hundred 
and forty prisoners, many of whom he had kept in 
chains for years. These included men, women, and 
little children. They were brought out and thrown 
upon the ground, with their heads fastened down to 
their feet, and the brutal tyrant went among the 
helpless group and slashed right and left until he 
had killed a score or so. Then, growing tired, he 
called out his musketeers and ordered them to fire 
upon the crowd, which they did until all were de- 
spatched, when their bodies were thrown over a 
precipice. His usual modes of execution were the 
very refinement of cruelty, the sufferers being tortured 
and then left to die. 

With this knowledge Sir Robert Napier declined 
to grant any conditions whatever, demanding an 
instant surrender of the whole of the European 
prisoners and of the fortress, promising only that the 
king and his family should be honourably treated. 

( li 837 ) 12 

i62 The Fall of the Curtain 

The two captives who had borne the king's message 
returned with this answer, to come back in the after- 
noon with a message from Theodore begging that 
better terms might be offered him ; but the general 
felt obliged to refuse, and the ambassadors departed 
once more amid the sorrowful anticipations of the 

To the great joy of all, however, Mr. Flad, one of 
the messengers, again came to camp with the joyful 
news that all the captives would be with them in an 
hour. This proved correct, and with the exception 
of Mrs. Flad and her children the whole of the cap- 
tives were released. 

Meanwhile the king was allowed till noon the next 
day to surrender Magdala, otherwise the place would 
be stormed, and the making of scaling-ladders was 
begun ; long bamboo dhooly poles were utilized for 
the sides, and handles of pickaxes for the rungs. 

Within the next few days Mrs. Flad and her 
children were brought into camp, and several of the 
principal chiefs came in and showed that Theodore's 
strength was crumbling away, for they declared their 
willingness to surrender; but the king held out. The 
storming parties were arranged, and the cavalry were 
sent out to cut off the tyrant's retreat. Meanwhile 
a great exodus of the people was going on, the 
fortress being cleared of the non-combatants. 

During the attack which followed, while the garri- 
son kept up a scattered fire wnth bullets, none of 
which reached our troops, there were not wanting 
signs to indicate the despair of the partly-forsaken 
monarch. Driven frantic by his position, the 
wretched man could be plainly seen galloping about 

Truculent Gallas 163 

with some half a dozen of his chiefs in a sort of 
aimless frenzy. 

At last the storming party advanced, the defenders 
of the gate were cleared away after a feeble defence, 
and the fighting was over, with no killed on the 
British side and only fifteen wounded. The remain- 
ing inhabitants, rejoicing that the days of the tyranny 
were over, crowded out to offer the conquerors re- 
freshing drink, while Theodore was discovered lying 

Henty's task was done, and not choosing to wait 
for the slow return of the troops, he, together with 
three others, making with the ten servants, syces and 
mule-drivers, a formidable and well-armed little com- 
pany, started on the way down. It was a bold under- 
taking, nevertheless, for they had to pass through a 
disturbed country where convoys were being con- 
stantly attacked and muleteers murdered, and where 
scarcely a day passed without outrages being com- 
mitted by the Gallas, the inhabitants of Northern 
Abyssinia, who were always upon plunder bent. 

Their servants were all armed with spears, the 
baggage mules were kept in close file, and Henty 
and another rode in front, the two others in the rear, 
with cocked rifles and revolvers readv to hand. 
Owing to their state of preparedness, and the fierce 
look of the well-armed English leader, though they 
passed a party or two of sixty of the Gallas, equipped 
with spears and shields, and a desire to use the 
former if they had the chance, these rogues sneaked 
off among the bushes, and the war correspondent 
and his colleagues reached the depot and port in 
peace. But not entirely, for, to use Henty's own 

i64 The Fall of the Curtain 

words, "When coming down country from the Abys- 
sinian business the Gallas stopped us on one occa- 
sion and proposed to loot the entire caravan, but 
I was able to half-choke the life out of the gentleman 
who tackled me personally". In fact, the party had 
ample opportunity of realizing the risk and danger to 
which a war correspondent is exposed. 


The Suez Canal 

Upon Henty's return from the Abyssinian campaign 
in 1868 his active busy mind incited him to take a 
calm home rest from his warHke labours by writing 
one of his first books, based upon his correspondent 
letters, and entitled. The March to Magdala. This, 
published towards the end of the year, was full of 
vigorous description, and as an epitome of the war 
it achieved a very fair success. In addition it served 
to make the reading public better acquainted with 
a name already familiar to the newspaper world. 

Very shortly after this essay now, he wrote and 
sent out through the same publishers, Messrs. Tinsley 
Brothers, his second three- volume novel, All hut 
Lost. This was in 1869, and long before the days 
when he devoted himself to the young readers of his 
works of adventure. 

At the end of the year he undertook another expe- 
dition. This, however, was of a peaceful nature, 
to wit, the task of describing the epoch- marking 
inauguration of M. Ferdinand de Lesseps's magnum 
opus, the Suez Canal. It was a pleasant duty, for 
the correspondent was practically a privileged visitor, 
and one of the representatives of civilization who had 
come to partake of Ismail Pasha's munificent hospi- 
tality, in company with other guests who may fairly 
be classed as representing " the world ". 

i66 The Suez Canal 

He wrote a series of letters full of vivid word- 
painting, descriptive of Cairo en fete, of ball and 
banquet, of the illuminations, and of the state of the 
ancient city — of the Egypt where of old the children 
of Israel were enslaved, and helped to build the 
monuments which still remain. He also touched 
on the homes which were raised and built with the 
straw-mingled clay that ages ago crumbled into dust, 
and is now being excavated and basket-borne to spread 
upon the agricultural land as an extra fertilizer of the 
almost too fertile earth. 

Henty had a great opportunity here for his descrip- 
tive pen, and his letters abound with pictures of the 
Aladdin-like state of the place, of the way in which 
money was lavished to provide a grand reception for 
empress and emperor, viceroy and prince, and the 
rest of the distinguished guests whom the Khedive 
delighted to honour. Cairo presented such a scene, 
that the writer felt that he could readily imagine him- 
self transported into the times of the Arabian Nights 
as it might have been on the occasion of the marriage 
of Aladdin to the princess of his heart, one Badroul- 
boudour. The illuminations in the soft transparency 
of an Egyptian atmosphere presented a fairy-like as- 
pect. Flags of all nations hung perfectly still in the 
soft air, side by side with lanterns and decorations of 
a more national kind. There were fireworks every- 
where ; rockets ascended with a hiss and roar in rapid 
succession, while dazzling fires of every hue that 
chemistry has won from earth's minerals threw broad 
floods of colour like nocturnal rainbows, only more 
iridescent in their mingling, along the street and 
across the square. Noise was not wanting, for 

Cairo en Fete 167 

petards exploded with unpleasant frequency; and as 
the salvoes died out there was constantly arising 
the peculiar dull subdued roar of the thronging 
multitude in ecstasy at the unwonted sight. 

In the side streets the crowd was strangely novel 
to the eyes of the foreign visitor, and as carriages 
crowded with spectators made their way slowly 
through the throng of the ordinary Egyptian city 
dwellers, strongly reinforced by the inhabitants from 
all the country round, the eyes of the stranger were 
constantly attracted by the silent, solemn -looking, 
white-turbaned Mussulman, and the dark, blue-robed, 
muffled, and yashmak-wearing women — all eyes for 
the looker-on. It was a strange and constant change 
from light to darkness in the generally ill-lit city. 
One minute the spectator would be traversing a street 
that presented the appearance of a long ball-room, 
with lines of chandeliers running down the centre 
only a few paces apart. From these hung festoons 
and garlands of coloured lamps, while several lines 
of lanterns ran along the houses on either side. Then 
a few steps and the visitor plunged into a narrow way, 
sombre, suggestive,andgloomy, possibly illuminedonly 
by the glowworm-like rays of a single lamp, with a few 
slippered people hurrying softly, almost shadow-like, 
as they made their way towards the line of illuminations. 

In the brightly lighted streets the looker-on from 
any elevation gazed down upon a perfect sea of 
turbans and also at a long line of carriages, each 
preceded by its wand-bearing runners shouting bois- 
terously to the crowd to clear the way. It was one 
long festival for rich and poor alike, and the variety 
of the scene was wondrous. The occupants of the 

i68 The Suez Canal 

carriages, whose drivers forced their way through the 
good-tempered crowd, were often the closely-veiled 
inhabitants of the harems of the rich, not as a rule the 
harem of the Eastern story, the word harem now more 
truly meaning simply the ordinary home. But in 
many cases these were guarded jealously by attendant 
eunuchs, and preceded by runners bearing braziers or 
cressets of flaming wood. 

But the houses on either side were not occupied 
merely by flaming lamps, for from the latticed win- 
dows over the shops the female inhabitants of the 
city, eagerly throwing off the customary reserve, 
peered down upon the passing throng. Colour in 
the lighted streets and diversity were everywhere in 
company with rampant irregularity, for each decorator 
had worked according to his own sweet will. No two 
streets were alike either in occupants or in decoration. 
Sombre and sordid buildings crowded close upon 
palaces, and while one street was dark and empty, 
with its sporadic lamps, the next was crowded with a 
dense mass listening to the plaintive music of the 
native bands discoursing wild and, possibly to the 
hearers, delicious strains, but strains containing too 
much bagpipe and cymbal for the foreign ear. In 
another, as if it were some gigantic old-world fair, the 
merry-featured, strangely robed throng was clustering 
round a knot of dancing girls, Egyptian Terpsicho- 
reans. These displayed their ideas of the poetry of 
motion in a singularly wild and picturesque manner, 
and were evidently frantically admired by the holiday- 
keeping lookers-on. 

By way of change, after hours of wandering through 
the crowded and illuminated streets, Henty describes 

Lavish Hospitality 169 

one of the palaces where the principal guests were 
accommodated by the Khedive. This was reached 
after a quiet drive to its site, a short distance from the 
town. Here in the soft darkness of the Egyptian 
night the illuminations were superb, and the descrip- 
tion exemplifies the lavish recklessness of the host on 
behalf of his guests. In front of the palace was a 
space forming a parallelogram of considerably over 
a quarter of a mile long by some three hundred yards 
wide. This was surrounded by an arched trellis-work, 
resembling somewhat in its detail the delicate tracery 
of a cathedral cloister. The wooden structure was 
literally covered upon both sides with illumination 
lanterns, and looked like some gnome or fairy fabric 
of fire. Round it was a carriage drive which passed 
between it and the palace, and against the walls of 
the palace itself glittering lights were fixed in the 
same order as upon the wooden framework, so that to 
the spectator it was as if he gazed down a vista of 
two interminable walls of fire connected by arches of 
coloured lamps. The effect was exquisite, heightened 
as it was by the ascending rockets which burst and 
showered down coloured stars in constant succession. 
Pyrotechnic fires burned here and there, and thread- 
ing as it were the falling stars, the strains of band 
after band of music blended their enchantment with 
the beauty of the scene. 

This is but a slight description of one of the many 
sights embraced by the enormous fete provided for 
the Khedive Ismail's world-invited guests, and picture 
after picture Henty painted of these scenes by night 
and by day. He also visited the various points of 
interest in the neighbourhood, notably the Pyramids, 

I70 The Suez Canal 

goirii;- by the road to these ancient monuments which 
had been slave-constructed by order of the Khedive, 
as if in a fit of lavish recklessness he had determined 
to emulate the doings of some Pharaoh of old, so 
that his French empress visitor should have a special 
way made smooth across the desert to the old world- 
famous pyramidal tombs. Visitor and special corre- 
spondent Henty was, but he spoke out as the quiet, 
thoughtful Englishman in translating the words of 
the wise old Orientals who thoughtfully shook their 
heads and added their quiet Cui bono? over the thrift- 
less wanton expense. There was banqueting and 
feasting, and all at a time when the treasury was 
depleted, when the civil and military forces had their 
payments in arrear, and when national debt heaped 
upon national debt. All this could only end in the 
bankruptcy which too surely came. 

Most of this renowned spectacle was preliminary to 
the long-expected opening of the canal, and, ignoring 
the head-shaking of the thoughtful, the great mass 
of the light-hearted Egyptians, rich and poor alike, 
went to see and share in the festivity, and took no 
thought of the future. The world had come to see 
the opening of the canal, the finish of a stupendous 
undertaking, the inception of a clever western, but 
thoroughly Egyptian and Pharaoh-like in its audacity. 
At last the shovel and basket of the drudging slaves 
as well as workers for hire, were cast aside, and 
the waters flowed through what American visitors 
sardonically styled "the ditch", opening nearly a 
hundred miles of waterway extending from Suez to 
Timsah, now re-christened, or Mahommedanized into 
Ismailia. Along this ** ditch " there was a grand pro- 

A Great Frenchman 


cession of state barges, steam launches, and visitor- 
bearing craft, all made the more imposing by the 
presence of a squadron of British battleships, whose 
approach to the entrance with the saluting thunder 
of their great guns Henty dwells upon, though, ap- 
parently with a grim chuckle of British irony, he 
relates how two of the marine monsters got aground. 

The procession, however, seems to have been petty 
in comparison with the innate grandeur of M. de 
Lesseps's enterprise and what it meant to the future 
of the civilized world. Later, as if to make up for 
his words respecting the grounding of the huge iron- 
clads, which were doomed to flounder like whales in 
a rivulet before they got off, Henty hastens to paint 
vividly and evidently with a feeling of pride the 
aspect of the ships of war of every European nation, 
the dark line of sailors who manned the yards, 
cheering vociferously, the clouds of powder smoke 
mingling with the volumes from the funnels drifting 
slowly across the water, the lofty lighthouse, and the 
populous town which had sprung up as if under the 
wand of a magician. And that magician was M. de 
Lesseps, the sun of whose greatness sank in sadness 
years after, when, as if vaulting ambition had over- 
leaped itself, he died half-forgotten and broken-hearted 
at the temporary failure of his other great venture, 
the canal to join Pacific and Atlantic, which, these 
many years after the great man's death, promises to 
be the accomplished fact of the twentieth century. 

George Henty was always a sailor at heart, and 
never happier than when, hatless in a brisk breeze, 
he was watching the easing off or the tightening of 
a sheet, while his hands played with the spokes of 

172 The Suez Canal 

the wheel which governed a vessel's course. So it 
is not surprising that in his description of the grand 
fetes and rejoicings over the opening of the canal he 
should find a business-like corner at the bottom of one 
of his letters to talk about the chances of a vessel 
passing easily through the sand-bordered ribbon of 
water which joined the Mediterranean and Red Seas. 
He says: "I have been favoured with a log of the 
soundings taken on board the Cambria during her 
passage through the canal " — he speaks like the man 
in his element — "and I am bound to say that they are 
far more favourable than from all other accounts I could 
have believed possible. The total number of sound- 
ings were seventy-six. They were taken, with the 
exception of the passage of the Bitter Lakes, during 
the whole passage at intervals of a nautical mile, and 
of the seventy-six soundings no fewer than fifty-six 
gave a depth of twenty-seven feet and over, while of 
the remaining twenty only four were below twenty-two 
feet, one only giving as little as nineteen feet of water. 
This table of soundings shows that the canal is upon 
the average of a depth of twenty-six feet; and although 
it is unquestionable that the vessels drawing only 
eighteen feet did scrape the ground in several places 
during their passage, the soundings taken by Mr. 
Ashbury showed that these must have been, with the 
exception of the lump of rock at Serapium, mere 
accidental mounds and banks which had been left in 
the process of dredging." 

And here, too, it will not be out of place to add 
a few words written after the inauguration, and 
finis coronal opus had been added to Henty's descrip- 
tions of the great event. Just overleaf it was the 

Counting the Cost 173 

sailor speaking upon the achievement and the canal's 
possibilities of carrying out the objects for which it 
was designed. He is now speaking as the thought- 
ful leader-writer, and somewhat in these words he 
begins to count the cost of the entertainment pro- 
vided by the Khedive. "Admitting", he says, "that 
the cost of all this enterprise has been enormous, 
amounting as they say here to two millions sterling, 
to what good has this sum been spent? For it is not 
the viceroy's private money, but the national revenue, 
and one feels in the position of the guests of the 
directors of some public company. One says, ' Yes, it 
is a splendid banquet; but what will the unfortunate 
shareholders say?' I can reply that the shareholders 
do not like it at all. Why should French journalists, 
German professors, and English heads of chambers of 
commerce be taken up the Nile at the expense of the 
people of Egypt?" 

But it is only fair to say that this was not written 
in a grudging spirit, for Henty had found time to 
praise warmly the admirable management and kindly 
welcome given to the Khedive's guests, and his final 
remarks were veined with a feeling of sorrow that the 
hospitality should have been so profuse. 

At the dispersal of the crowd of visitors it seems 
as if it occurred to Henty that this would be a most 
favourable opportunity, after making himself ac- 
quainted with the land of the captivity and the ancient 
works in Egypt, to take in reverse the journey made 
of old in the days of famine, and visit the Holy 
Land. This happy thought he put into execution, 
and making a tour through the Holy Land, he ended 
by visiting Jerusalem before his return to England. 


The Franco-German War 

There was very little time for rest in this life of work 
between the Egyptian festivals, Eastern travel, and 
the terrible European disaster looming ahead, the 
crisis which culminated in the declaration of war 
between France and Germany in the June of the year 
following his return home. But somehow or other, 
before starting for Berlin Henty contrived to have 
one of his first boys' books upon the stocks, and 
this was published at the end of that year — 1870 — 
during his absence. 

Meanwhile he started for the front, and on his way 
he writes: "We had a break of nearly two hours at 
Cologne before the departure of the train for Berlin. 
Here for the first time I had before me the actual pre- 
paration for war. In France, in Brussels, and at 
various stations along this line, soldiers in uniform 
had been conspicuously absent. Here they were 
everywhere busy. Baggage wagons moved hither 
and thither loaded with stores; tumbrels with am- 
munition rumbled along the streets. Here was a 
company of soldiers each with two new needle-guns 
upon his shoulder; there another party was dragging 
stores in hand carts. Going on to the bridge and 
looking down on to the river, I saw a steamer with 
some field-gun carriages packed on her deck, while 
a gang of men were loading her with countless coils 


On the Way 175 

of field-telegraph wire. Upon the walls was a notice 
that two thousand labourers were required on the 
following day for work upon the fortifications. Judg- 
ing by the number of troops I saw about, the garrison 
of Cologne must at present be very large indeed, and 
every hour must increase it as the reserves flock in. 
All the young men are leaving." 

The waiter at the hotel where he dined, a delicate- 
looking young fellow, told him that he was off 
directly to join the infantry, while a comrade who 
came in to say good-bye was on the point of starting 
for the cavalry. There was no brag or pretence of 
indifference about any of the young fellows. The 
country required them, and they were perfectly ready 
to go, and, if necessary, to die for her. 

At the station the confusion was tremendous. 
Trains had come in, and other trains were starting. 
The one for Berlin was of enormous length, and 
literally crammed. Cheers and counter cheers were 
being exchanged by the occupants and the people 
on the platform. Hands and handkerchiefs waved 
adieux, which in many cases would be for long in- 
deed. There was but little weeping on the part of 
the women, of whom only a few were present. No 
doubt they had wept over the parting ones, and 
blessed them when they left, remaining behind to 
pray rather than shake the confidence of their loved 
ones at the start. As the train moved slowly out of 
the station, across the bridge, and out into the level 
country beyond, the darkness was falling and the mist 
rising; but on through the night they went, stopping 
occasionally, taking in men and more men, adding 
carriage after carriage to an already enormous length. 

176 The Franco-German War 

until, had not the line been perfectly level, the two 
powerful locomotives could not have drawn the load. 
Trains were waiting at the various junctions, all 
crowded, and at every halt, as daylight came, 
labourers were seen gathering to work upon the 
fortifications, showing that Germany meant to be 
fully prepared for the worst, while side by side with 
the manifold preparations for war there was smiling 
peace, with the crops extending as far as eye could 
reach. The wheat was ripe and ready for the sickle, 
the oats and barley coming on, while the ground 
was covered with the blossoms of the poppy and the 
bright yellow of the lupins. The crops were un- 
usually heavy over the whole of Prussia, and there 
were to be no hands to gather them, save those of 
the women and old men, for the whole country was 
joining the ranks of the able-bodied and marching 
for the seat of war. 

At length he was in the city which the French 
anticipated entering when in their mad enthusiasm 
they paraded their own streets, shouting "A Berlin!" 
and from here, now grown to be one of the band 
of trusted war correspondents, Henty writes to the 
journal he was again representing of the wild state 
of confusion and growing excitement connected with 
the Prussian preparations. 

Matters, moreover, did not work easily for the war 
correspondent, for he had to pass his time in Berlin 
in a series of attempts to obtain permission to accom- 
pany the Prussian army to the front. Delays and 
promises followed each other, and he was kept eager 
and fretting with disappointment like a hound in the 
leash, hoping and yet doubting, till at last all he 


official Opposition 177 

could get was an official reply to his application, 
stating that it had been decided to follow the example 
of the French and refuse permission for correspon- 
dents to accompany the army, or even to hover after 
it to pick up information in the rear. 

To hesitate and not take action in some shape 
Henty felt might prove loss of time, and perhaps 
the missing of some vastly important piece of news 
for the journal he represented, and this at a time 
when rumour was quietly whispering that before long 
a mandate would be issued from head-quarters that 
postal as well as travelling communication would be 
almost entirely cut off. 

Henty was a thoughtful man of stern determination, 
and once he had made up his mind he satisfied him- 
self by making a final application to the authorities. 
All he could learn though was that his requests 
were under consideration, and that a decision would 
be given later. This decision, he felt sure, would 
be in the negative, and he determined to return to 
England for the purpose of making a fresh start. 

He made for the station at once, to find that the 
difficulties had already begun. A fierce struggle for 
tickets was going on among those who wished to 
leave the city, and he was informed by a clerk that 
tickets were only issued for a short distance on the 
way. This, of course, meant that the railways were 
already in the hands of the government for the con- 
veyance of troops, and pretty evident proofs of this 
change in the state of affairs were all around him in 
the shape of piled rifles ornamented with pickelhaubes, 
the spiked helmets of the Teutons. 

It would be of no use, he felt, to wait the pleasure 

(B837) 13 

178 The Franco-German War 

of the stolid, head-shaking Germans, fretting and 
worrying, while possibly he would be receiving from 
his own head-quarters, from an angry editor, letters 
asking what he was about in keeping him waiting 
for that which is the very life-blood of a newspaper 
in time of war. 

It was all plain enough, that he had come to a wise 
decision. The great dislocation of the German rail- 
way system had begun, and ordinary passengers were 
having to make way for the movements of troops. In 
spite of his energy he was stopped again and again, 
before finally reaching Frankfort, whence he gained 
England, and in roundabout fashion crossed to 
France, where after endless difficulties he managed 
to get pretty close to the French army, and saw what 
he could of the war. 

During his enforced sojourn in Berlin, and while 
waiting impatiently for his official permit to accom- 
pany the German army, the soldier within him was 
not idle, and, doubtless with a map at hand, he began 
to make his notes, in the shape of a letter dwelling 
upon the position, and the possibilities of how the 
men would fight. He dwelt upon the dash and go 
of the French in the role of invaders, and came to the 
conclusion that if France took the offensive, crossed 
the Rhine, and struck first at Stuttgart and then at 
Munich, the Prussians would be at their best, for 
they would be fighting in defence of their native soil. 

These conclusions were come to at a time when 
he was still waiting, for he writes: " To my applica- 
tion to be allowed to accompany the army I have 
as yet received no reply". In the event of an ac- 
quiescence to his request, he says: *' I shall have 

A Faulty Forecast 179 

no further difficulty, but shall go where the army- 
goes. In the event of a refusal, my object will be 
to gain some central point and then wait events." 

All these surmises were followed by the stern re- 
fusal, as aforesaid, which turned him back, to learn 
afterwards how futile were the conclusions to which 
he had come, for, as will be well remembered, the 
battle-cry of the French, "A Berlin!" proved to be 
so much vanity, the Germans themselves assuming 
the offensive and sweeping everything before them 
almost from the first. 

Afterwards he was one of the lookers-on when mad- 
dened France was in the throes of those wild scenes 
which are history now — times of disorder and dis- 
organization, of brigades being marched here and 
there in purposeless movements until, when at last 
they did encounter their foe, defeat followed defeat; 
the civilized world meanwhile watching with bated 
breath for the next news of disaster till there came 
la debacle, the crowning horror of Sedan, and the 
surrender of the emperor. 


The Commune 

Early in the year 187 1, after the signature of peace, 
Henty in pursuit of his journalistic duties entered 
Paris, and during the wild days of its occupation by 
the Commune he passed a Hfe of adventure of which 
volumes might be written, for, in brief, he saw all 
the fighting very closely. It was a wild time, in 
which no man's life was safe, and in the absence of 
law and order an Englishman bound to investigate 
and report upon the proceedings of the ill-governed 
city dare hardly call his soul his own. 

During this period Henty's letters teem with in- 
formation, all showing his keen observation of 
minutiae. He describes the gathering and march- 
ing down the Rue de Rivoli of one of the first 
armies of the Commune, an army the more dangerous 
to the republic through so many trained fighting men 
of the regular army having joined its ranks. The 
determination and hatred of the settled government 
of the motley company made up for their want of 
uniformity. With respect to their weapons, he de- 
scribes how a great many in the ranks, numbering 
in all some ten thousand, were armed with the 
chassepot rifle, but the majority had old muskets 
converted into snider breech-loaders, while a certain 
percentage had nothing better than the old muzzle- 
loader. It was an armed mob, though mingled with 


Street Fighting i8i 

it were battalions of the National Guard in the pay 
of the Commune. Later, when encountering the 
forces of the regular army, the solidity of the much- 
talked-of fraternity was exemplified at the first en- 
counter, for, amidst cries of *'Vive la Republique!" 
and patriotic outbursts, one side would appeal to the 
other with a touching cry: "Surely you will not 
fire on your brethren!" The answer to this would 
be a volley, with the weaker side making a rapid 
retreat in search of shelter. 

Henty was very soon saying to the newspaper he 
represented: " I write my daily letter in doubt as to 
whether it will ever come to hand. The post has 
ceased to run, and we are cut off from all news from 
the provinces. The gates of Paris are closed, we are 
in a state of siege, and the passengers of such trains 
as are running are told that they will not be allowed 
to return." The misery and suffering connected with 
the great siege were quite forgotten, the fighting 
began again, and once more the streets of the bril- 
liant city were echoing with the rattle of musketry, 
a sound punctuated with the sharp thud of the field- 
pieces that were more and more brought into action, 
and whose shells in the early days had a startling 
effect upon the insurgent members of the Commune. 
For Henty observed the steadiness of the National 
Guards, who remained at their posts and showed no 
signs of flinching, while on the other hand the inex- 
perienced, undrilled men of the insurgent ranks were 
prone to throw themselves down flat in the road at 
each flash of a cannon and remain there until the 
shell had burst, perhaps three hundred yards away. 

In these early revolutionary days, sometimes a 

i82 The Commune 

strong body of the Communists, in a state of wild 
excitement, would be on their way to attack the 
regulars and carry all before them, when one of the 
forts would open fire and send shells among them. 
To use the writer's words, "the effect was magical". 
About one-half of the column "skedaddled back to 
Paris". It was not a retreat; the war element had 
evaporated much more quickly than it had been 
generated, and doubtless if the leaders of law and 
order had been more energetic, the Commune would 
have been crushed in its infancy. Indeed the men of 
the lower orders from the wildest parts of Paris were 
so utterly cowed, that they gave up their muskets, 
refusing to have any more to do with the business. 
One man was heard to remark naively, " If you call 
this fighting, I have had enough of it," while one 
of the leaders of the mob, a self-dubbed general, an 
enthusiast and a fanatic, but a man of courage, a vara 
avis in the party which his mania induced him to 
join, was seen no more. Presumably he was shot, 
and died a soldier's death. Throughout his descrip- 
tions of the fighting, of the firmness and pluck of the 
trained men, and of the cowardice and shuffling of 
the mob, eager for plunder and rapine if they could 
get the upper hand, and only too ready to escape 
into shelter, Henty seems to consider the Commune 
as a thing gone stark-staring mad, while its leaders 
were incited at this critical juncture by the ill-judged 
articles that fulminated in the Red Press. 

As an example of the state of affairs in these early 
days of the Commune, and of the way in which he 
did his duty as a correspondent, whatsoever the risk, 
Henty once related to a friend a couple of the most 

A Crucial Moment 183 

exciting- incidents in his life, which took place soon 
after his arrival in Paris on account of the proclamation 
of the Commune. The first occurred in the Place 
Vendome, which was being held by the National 
Guards, just at the time when the head-quarters of 
the Insurrection were at the Hotel de ville. The 
latter had been strongly fortified with barricades and 
was held by thousands of the Communists, who had 
strengthened their position by a battery of field- 
pieces. Matters had arrived at a pass when a 
strong feeling of bitterness existed between the 
body of order and those who were in favour of an 
entirely new form of government, and the general 
feeling prevailed that unless the insurgents realized 
the futility of their aims, bloodshed would ensue. 
In his search for information Henty had learned 
that the loyalists were about to make the first ad- 
vances in the shape of a peaceful demonstration 
in order to point out that matters might be easily 
settled if the insurgents would listen to reason. But 
on going into the streets and studying the appearance 
of the rough-looking mob that had gathered in the 
neighbourhood of the Hotel de ville, the result of 
this inspection was so unsatisfactory, that Henty felt 
full of doubt as to whether the peaceful demonstration 
would have a peaceful end. 

The demonstrators would have to come in proces- 
sion down the Rue de la Paix, and, wishing to have 
a good view of what would take place, he chose a 
position near the Vendome Column, so as to see 
whether the body of Communists who held the place 
in military force would allow them to go by. After a 
time the head of the procession was seen approaching. 

i84 The Commune 

It appeared to be a well-dressed crowd selected for 
the occasion — people of repute, in black coats and top 
hats, many of them even in evening dress, and the 
most striking point of all, as evidence of their peace- 
ful demonstration, was that they were all unarmed, 
while in their midst a white flag was carried, bearing 
the words, " Vive I'ordre!" 

Apparently the party, about five hundred strong, 
were members of the business classes, and in this 
form, that of a large deputation, they began to descend 
the Rue de la Paix. But immediately upon this, 
indications as to what their reception was to be began 
to be heard. Directly after, sharp military commands 
rang out from the lines of the defenders who held the 
Hotel de ville, on the Place Vendome bugles were 
sounded, and a body of the National Guard advanced 
at the double and formed four deep across the end 
of the Rue de la Paix. This thoroughly blocked 
farther advance, while, to form a reserve, the Place 
was occupied by a strong body of nearly three 
thousand National Guards, who stood looking- calm 
and determined and ready to prevent the party of 
order from passing. Looking more peaceful than 
ever, the demonstrators came steadily on without the 
slightest suggestion of military formation. 

Henty relates that he did not anticipate trouble, for 
he felt sure that the demonstrators would not attempt 
to force their way through the solid body of Com- 
munists, and, satisfied with his excellent position as 
spectator and gatherer of news, he stood fast. 

As the black-clothed body of men drew near the 
line of National Guards they began to wave their 
handkerchiefs, shouting, "Vive la Republique!" or 

A Fatal Ending 185 

" Vive I'ordre ! " and then, seeing that the Communists 
stood firm, they distributed themselves across the street 
and began to enter into conversation. They formed 
an irregular group some five or six feet deep, and 
everything appeared as if it would come to an amicable 
conclusion. The excitement of the gathering of 
armed men had passed away, and nothing was heard 
but the murmur of conversation. So far from antici- 
pating danger, Henty had joined the demonstrators, 
and was standing in the second row facing the Com- 
munists, when all at once something occurred which 
was like the dropping of a spark into a heap of gun- 
powder. A musket went off. The Communist who 
held it had fired in the air, whether accidentally or 
of malice intent it is impossible to say. The result 
was that, startled by the report, the lines of unarmed 
men who faced the Communists took a step or two 
backward; then, as if ashamed of their alarm, in the 
silence that followed, a cry arose that it was nothing, 
an accident, and directly after there was another 
shout, that of "Vive la Republique!" 

But the spark had fired the mass. Another shot 
was fired. A sensible and visible thrill ran through 
the front line of the Communists, they levelled their 
guns, and the next moment, as if without orders, 
they commenced a heavy fusillade upon the unarmed 
lines in front. The French citizen who stood next to 
Henty, and with whom he had just been in conver- 
sation respecting the probable termination of the 
affair, fell dead at his feet, and many of those in 
the front row met the same fate, for they were so 
near the Communists that the latter's muskets almost 
touched them when the firing began. 

i86 The Commune 

Thore was utter paralysis for the moment, and then 
a wild rush began, men turning upon their heels and 
running straight up the Rue de la Paix along which 
they had approached, while others, Henty included, 
turned off to the right down the first street, a short 
distance from the entrance to the Square. It was a 
state of wild excitement, a sauve qui pent, men stum- 
bling and tripping over each other in their desperate 
haste to escape the storm of bullets that were whistling 
by them, too many of which reached their mark, 
probably without aim in the excitement of the dis- 
charge. It was a matter of minutes, but the time 
seemed long enough before the angle of the street 
was turned and the retreating crowd were in compara- 
tive safety, though all were in full expectation, as they 
tore on, of hearing the Communists' advancing tramp 
and halt as they stopped to fire down the street. This 
did not follow, for the insurgents were too busy in 
expending their cartridges upon the flying men who 
were running straight up the Rue de la Paix, giving 
Henty and those with him time to escape up the next 
street before they fired in their direction. How many 
were killed was never exactly known, but it must 
certainly have been sixty or seventy; and he recalled, 
long years after, the rage of the peaceful demon- 
strators against their cowardly assailants. This was 
undoubtedly the match that fired one of the long 
trains of disaster that ran through Paris during the 
holding of the Commune. 

It might have been supposed that, warned by the 
risk of mingling too much with the excited people, 
Henty would have held aloof and avoided too near 
proximity to the explosive race, ready to take fire 

Order versus Anarchy 187 

without a moment's warning. Yet his thirst for news 
would not allow him to stay in the background when 
information reached him a couple of days later of the 
possibility of there being a regular battle in the streets. 

At this time the quarter of the Bank was strongly 
held by the National Guard of that arrondissement^ 
and every approach was thoroughly guarded. A 
messenger came to Henty at the hotel where he 
was staying, with the information that the Com- 
munists were astir in earnest, and had sent two 
battalions of their infantry with a battery of artillery 
to seize the Mairie of the First Arrondissement. 

Hurrying off, he reached the entrance to the Place 
St. Germain I'Auxerrois as the head of the column of 
Communists came up, to find themselves much in the 
same position as their victims of the peaceful demon- 
stration had occupied two days before, for they were 
immediately facing a strong party of the National 
Guard, who were faithful to the body of order. These 
men were drawn up eight deep across the street, the 
windows of the houses on either side were also filled 
with men who commanded the approach, while the 
main body of the Reserve occupied the Place. 

Everything looked threatening in the extreme, for 
upon this occasion it was not the armed against the un- 
armed, but two strong bodies of determined men face 
to face. The Communists as they marched up filled 
the whole street ; and while their officers advanced and 
began to parley, their battery of field - pieces was 
brought forward and took up position threateningly 
in front of the attacking party. 

There was an excited interval. The defenders of 
the Mairie absolutely refused to give way, and the 

i88 The Commune 

anerrv conference went on, for the Communists were 
determined to carry out the orders they had received 
from head-quarters and to obtain possession of the 

At length, after angry debate, fierce bluster began, 
and the commander of the Communist force shouted 
to the gunners in front to load with grape — an order 
which was immediately carried out. Henty states 
that, in his eagerness to see and learn everything 
that passed, he was standing on the footway with 
a couple of civilians in a line with the officers parley- 
ing. He now shifted his position a few yards to an 
open door leading into one of the houses, which was 
held by the party of order, so as to be able to rush 
into shelter when the first shot was fired. 

Still the excitement grew. Nothing could have 
exceeded the calmness and determination of the de- 
fenders who stood facing the loaded cannon ten 
paces away. Meanwhile, though, their comrades 
who occupied the houses on either side of the line 
had their pieces levelled in readiness to shoot down 
the artillerymen as soon as matters came to the 
worst and the officers in front had withdrawn from 
their conference. So firm and commanding, indeed, 
was the position of the defenders, that Henty felt 
convinced that, in spite of the field-pieces, had the 
orders to fire come, although outnumbered by fully 
two to one, the scowling ruffians bent on advance 
would have been driven down the street, leaving their 
battery in the hands of their foe. This, however, 
could only have been a short-lived success, for there 
were thousands of their comrades at the Communists' 
head-quarters, with several batteries of cannon. 

Bluster and Firmness 189 

Be that as it may, the tension was extreme. The 
defenders of the Mairie stood silent and waiting for 
the worst, whilst a roar of angry denunciations and 
revilings came from the Communists. In spite of the 
threats levelled at them, the defenders of the Mairie 
stood fast, waiting for the orders to be given, and this 
without even attempting to load. Their instructions 
were to fix bayonets ready for the order "Charge!" 
and there they stood with their pieces levelled, waiting 
for the signal before springing forward with a dash 
to clear the Place and street with the bayonet; the 
signal was understood to be the firing by the enemy 
of the first gun. It was, as has been said, a time of 
extreme tension, and the firm aspect of the defenders 
had its effect upon the insurgent mob. 

The blustering on the part of the Communist offi- 
cers was succeeded by thought. These men, these 
leaders of the Communists, were the noisy dema- 
gogues and declaimers of the various cabarets; they 
were men selected not for political knowledge, nor 
for military instinct, nor for ability as men of brain, 
but entirely on account of their policy of bluster, their 
savageness of language, and their denunciation of 
everything that was opposed to decent policy and 
order; and now they felt that they were face to face 
with defeat and probably with their own death. They 
were being put to the test, and it was no time for 
carrying matters with words. 

They gave a look round, and at the first glance 
saw muskets at all the windows aimed at them as 
well as at the gunners at their posts, and the sight 
of these menacing muzzles made such courage as 
they possessed begin to ooze. They fully realized 

I go The Commune 

that their notion of being able to overawe the de- 
fenders by ordering the field-pieces to the front and 
having them charged was a failure, and they felt 
pretty certain that were a field-piece discharged they 
would be among the first of the victims of the defence. 
Accordingly the leaders gathered together and ex- 
changed whispers, the result of which was that the 
parley which had come to an end in a fierce bullying 
way was reopened in a much tamer spirit. There 
was no shouting, no gesticulation, and at the end 
of a minute or two these self-constituted heroes of 
the moment issued fresh orders to their followers, 
with the result that the battery of field-pieces was 
run back about a hundred yards. Henty and his 
companions, who were standing, as it were, strung 
up and waiting between two fires, now began to 
breathe again, seeing as they did that the threats 
of the Communists upon that occasion were empty 
wind, for the latter had backed down and dared not 
carry out their threats. The struggle with all its 
horrors was averted for the time, and to the intense 
satisfaction of the civilian spectators, the Communist 
infantry fell back level with their guns; mounted 
officers who acted as aides-de-camp to the leaders 
of the enemy cantered to and fro to the Hotel de 
ville with messages and fresh orders, with the result 
at last that each party agreed to hold its own till 
after the elections that were about to take place. 
Henty, who had stood fast through all, narrates 
that of all the episodes he witnessed during the 
Commune, these were the most exciting incidents 
through which he passed. 


The Vendome Column 

Of course there were patriots and patriots, but, as an 
observer, Henty's intercourse with those who vapoured 
under the self-assumed title seems to have aroused in 
him scarcely anything but scorn, and more than once 
he attaches the adjective drunken to the savage barri- 
caders with whom he came in contact during his busy 
watching of proceedings and his visits to barricade 
and trench. He describes vividly the state of the 
streets which had been under fire^ — shop fronts 
smashed in, windows shattered, gables and roofs 
riddled with shrapnel, trees splintered. Every second 
lamp-post lay a battered wreck on the ground. Here 
and there a yawning hole revealed a gas-pipe laid 
open. In another place there would be a pit made 
as if by pickaxe and shovel, showing where a shell 
had plunged into the soil, and where the earth had 
been thrown up as if by some internal revulsion. 
And everywhere, when firing had ceased, spectators 
collected to see what mischief had been done where 
shells had entered and shattered walls. In one spot, 
where there was something to attract the curious 
seekers after novelty, upwards of fifty people had 
collected like a London crowd at an accident, risking 
their lives as they watched a foolhardy fellow who was 
digging out a bomb which had not exploded. It was 
exciting in the extreme, and the spice of danger added 


192 The Vendome Column 

to the interest, though the people were so crowded 
together, that if, as the man dug, the bomb had ex- 
ploded, the tale of killed and wounded must have been 
awful. Shakespeare writes of him who gathered sam- 
phire half-way down the Dover cliffs, and speaks of it 
as "dreadful trade", and this man's occupation of 
gathering shells, though profitable, was full of risks. 
Still it went on, and in spite of the horrors connected 
with these revolutionary times there were plenty of 
quick-witted men ready to speculate and take their 
chances of making an honest penny. Planted in 
spots where they were out of fire, telescopes were 
propped up on the side-ways, offering views of the 
enemy at work in the forts. There was a busy time, 
too, for the French representatives of the owners of 
Pantechnicon vans, which bulky vehicles were drawn 
up at many a door for the removal of the furniture 
where the houses were within reach of shells. 

Horrors were plentiful, and among the statistics 
gathered by the learned in such matters Henty men- 
tions the fact that the mortality in the National Guard 
during this stupid civil war was greater in fifty days 
than for the entire period of the Prussian investment. 

A propos of the mock patriots of the Commune 
engaged in this imbecile insurrection, Henty with his 
military instincts and contempt for vanity has a word 
or two for a great soldier. Bonaparte, he says, has 
left a name that is imperishable in the annals of his 
country. He fought for France at the head of the 
French armies. He was the idol of the people, and, 
dying, his last thoughts were of France. " I desire ", 
he said, " that my ashes shall be laid to repose on the 
banks of the Seine, in the midst of the people I love 

Base Uses 193 

so well;" and his remains were brought back from St. 
Helena to be interred as he had asked. Yet his people 
assisted at the deerradation of the memorial raised to 
his fame — not all the people, but the very dregs of it. 
" I am no convert", says Henty, " to the faith of con- 
quest as foreign policy, and an autocracy as the best 
of domestic governments, but I avow it did cost me, a 
stranger, something like a pang to see the Vendome 
Column fall down on a litter of stable dung, amidst the 
obscene ribaldry of a mock patriotic rabble and the 
unmusical fanfares of a make-believe soldiery. Out 
of the purest love for the nations, they pretended this 
was done, and as a gage of amity to the world all 
round. These hypocrites seized a moment when 
their country was prostrate and galled by defeat in a 
war with a foreign invader as the fit one to kindle the 
flames of civil war! They profess that when they rule 
there shall be no more bloodshed. It shall be the 
millennium. And yet at the same moment they 
condemn the generals of the Second Empire for not 
having overwhelmed the hordes of the German army, 
and they press their own unwilling fellow-citizens, 
under pain of court-martial, to go into the ranks to 
slay or be slain by their brothers. With all their 
declarations of attachment to the Goddess of Peace, 
they would be ready to bow to the popular clamour if 
it took up again the shout, 'A Berlin! A Berlin!' 
sooner than lose the power they have momentarily 
succeeded in clutching within their grasp, and this 
while they jabber of despotism, and swear they have 
pulled over the pillar to Bonaparte because he was 
a despot. The circumstance that the tricolour was 
hoisted on the column before it fell, and waved so 

(ii8:j7) 14 

194 The Vendome Column 

that all mii::^ht see it, is safe evidence that these igno- 
rant Frenchmen knew not what they did. For the 
tricolour is the national emblem, and these harlequins 
desired that this national symbol should go down into 
the dust with the emperor's statue before their sheet of 
unhallowed crimson. It was but a poor victory to 
raise the red flag- of the Commune over the tricolour 
in the heart of the disarmed city, while the same red 
was retiring before the tricolour in the outskirts. As 
I looked on at this sorry spectacle from the head of the 
Rue de la Paix, I overheard a Forfarshire man remark 
in Doric English to an acquaintance among the by- 
standers, ' I am not sanguinary, but I own I would 
not weep if a volley were fired into those blackguards '. 
Neither am I sanguinary, but I own I could almost 
sympathize with the Scotchman's wish. 

" As soon as this piece of vandalism had been per- 
petrated a picket of cavalry some score strong, which 
had been keeping the ground, trotted backwards and 
forwards for a few minutes to prevent the mass of 
spectators from pushing on to the scene where the 
colossal memorial in bronze and stone lay like a 
corpse. When the crowd found there was no danger, 
it streamed along the thoroughfare, and the members 
of the Commune yielded to the desire of the public 
to walk by the fallen monument. As soldiers are 
marched by the dead body of a comrade who has 
been shot, the Parisians that chose had the privilege 
of penetrating into the Place by batches, and leaning 
over the fallen Caesar. National Guardsmen stood 
on either side on the top of the barricade, barring the 
entrance, and behind them on the crest of the work 
were ranged masquerading mariners, some with 

A Sorry Farce 195 

revolvers in their belts and cigars in their mouths, 
a few gaping miscreants in the uniform of soldiers of 
the line, and of course the Paris urchin with his bold, 
merry face, who turns up in every scene of popular 
commotion. The base of the column was still erect 
on the Place, its jagged surface, where the shaft had 
broken off, covered over with plaster dust as if snow 
had fallen there recently. Red flags had already been 
fixed on cross poles on the platform it afforded, and 
captains of the staff, with the inevitable vivandiere, 
lounged in graceful attitudes, looking on the world 
beneath from their novel and unaccustomed elevation. 
The capital of the column seemed to have turned in 
the fall, for the figure of the emperor lay buried in the 
litter with the face to the sky." 

Some of those admitted to the spectacle of great 
Caesar low had the bad taste to spit on the face, 
thus proving how thoroughly justified was the 
English correspondent's feeling of utter scorn for 
mob patriotism. Henty ends his description of the 
fall with the words: "I should have mentioned that 
the only display of bunting in the Rue de la Paix 
during the fete of the rabble was on the houses of 
the British and American residents, and their flags 
were floating merely to signify that the property 
beneath was foreign. One flag peculiarly suited to 
the Commune at the time was conspicuous by its 
absence — the black flag of death." 


The Days of Reprisal 

The day which marked the fall of the Vendome 
Column heralded the coming of the end, the termina- 
tion of the short-lived triumph of the Commune. For 
the party of safety was fully awake now to the 
necessity of saving France from what threatened 
to prove a perhaps more bloody repetition of the 
Revolution of 1793. MacMahon's commands came 
sharp and to the point, and every week made 
the position of the Communists so desperate, that 
it seemed as if in feline rage they had deter- 
mined to die fighting, marking their end with every 
mischievous piece of destruction they could effect. 
Hence it was that not only was fire set to buildings, 
but the destruction was rendered more furious by the 
application of mineral oils. Civilization shuddered 
as reports were sent in of the work of the petroleuses, 
which seemed to indicate that the fairest city of the 
world was doomed to become a heap of ashes. In 
these latter days Henty writes that " never since the 
days of St. Bartholomew has Paris passed through 
such a terrible twenty-four hours as those which I 
spent there. I question if even that famous massacre 
was more terrible. I do not remember the number of 
victims which history records to have fallen then, but 
since the troops entered Paris seven or eight thousand 
of the Communists were estimated to have been shot, 


Risky Times 197 

and to this slaughter must be added the horrors of the 
conflagration. To make a comparison, it was a 
mingling of the great Protestant massacre and the 
burning of Rome. The smoke of the blazing city, 
after hanging like a pall, as if to hide the horrors, 
drifted slowly away, and flakes of incandescent paper, 
which fluttered down in the suburbs as thick as 
snow, were some of them carried a distance of fifty 
miles away. At this time it was apparently lawful for 
anyone to shoot his neighbour. An unguarded word, 
a movement which an excited man might consider sus- 
picious, and a cry was raised, 'A Communist!' The 
voice of the accused was drowned in the tumult, and 
the unfortunate man was lucky if he was not at once 
held up and shot by the first armed men who came 
upon the scene. Innocent and guilty alike fell victims; 
and, as instancing the risk of strangers being about, 
two of our English officers, not being in uniform, had 
got as far as the Louvre just as the troops were about 
to advance against the Hotel de ville. They were at 
once seized and questioned. The answer was: 'We 
are English officers. We have our papers to prove 
our position.' The reply to this was : ' Messieurs, 
we have no time to examine papers now. Fall in 
behind, and if you attempt to escape you will be shot.' 
There was nothing for it but to obey. The regiment 
went off at the double; the officers followed. Another 
regiment seeing these two officers in mufti running 
behind the troops, at once seized them. Question and 
explanation were again postponed, for there was no 
time to talk. ' Put these fellows in front,' said an 
officer; and this time in front of the troops they went 
forward under a tremendous fire, until, the insurgents 

198 The Days of Reprisal 

falling back, there was time to inspect papers. This 
is the sort of thing," Henty concludes naively, "to 
which one was every moment exposed in Paris. I 
can assure you that a special correspondent's duties 

were no sinecure." 

For the fighting in Paris was now going on more 
fiercely than ever. Grape-shot and shell from the 
batteries of field-pieces, from the various barricades 
and the forts engaged, worked dire havoc, and just 
at this time in particular, Henty relates the fact that 
from nearly every house and almost every window 
in the better streets hung the gay tricolour flag, in 
proof that the occupants were anti-Communists, and 
opposed to the red. In the boulevards and elsewhere 
the openings, whether gratings or windows, were all 
covered up with heaps of wet sand or mud, or by 
tightly-fitting boards. This precaution was taken on 
account of the fiendish women belonging to the Com- 
mune, who were going about pouring petroleum into 
the cellars and then throwing down lighted matches. 
On one day alone, marked by fresh fires constantly 
breaking out, Henty saw lying on the pavement the 
bodies of two women, who had just been taken in 
their deadly pursuit and shot. Six more were lying 
close to the ruins of the Palais Royal. The death 
sentence had been promulgated by MacMahon, not 
only for the protection of the city, but of the lives of 
the troops as well, for the Communists were desperate, 
and again and again wires laid for communication 
with mines were torn up; this saved the principal 
buildings. Despite all the horrors of destruction and 
the retribution that followed, it was necessary for 
orders to be issued as to the early closing of public 

The Dying Commune 199 

buildings. Something had to be done to put an end 
to the sight-seeing of the people who were prowhng 
about, eager to get a glimpse of a stray corpse or 
a pool of blood, or to follow the troops leading off a 
prisoner, man or woman, to be shot; any sensation, 
no matter how terrible, was followed up with the same 
eagerness with which at home in England people 
would hurry to a race meeting or to some royal event. 
That monstrous cataclysm, the Commune, was in 
its last throes, though dying hard. Its lurid sun was 
setting in blood. Retribution w^as falling heavily 
and sensational reports were in the air. One of the 
Parisian papers that had shown a ghoul-like thirst for 
blood, and had exhibited the desire further to inflame 
the fury of the victorious party, asserted that a hun- 
dred and fifty firemen had been shot at Versailles on 
the date previous to its appearance. This, on au- 
thority which Henty considered unimpeachable, was 
utterly false, for there had been no summary execu- 
tions there. Soon after, as a special correspondent, 
he had to read a communication addressed by a 
Frenchman to one of our English papers, charging 
his colleagues with exaggerating their accounts of the 
wholesale and summary executions which they wit- 
nessed, and with feeling undue compassion for the 
men, women, and children thus butchered. In reply 
to this Henty says: "No correspondent that I am 
aware of has ever regarded as other than inevitable 
the fury of the troops whose duty it was to avenge 
the burning of the Tuileries and the murder of the 
hostages. That they would give no quarter was 
what everyone supposed. Such deeds done in hot 
blood, horrible as they may be to w^itness, are 

200 The Days of Reprisal 

common incidents in warfare, and though the corre- 
spondents might regret to find a regular army so 
entirely beyond control, they would hardly be sur- 
prised. But that which the correspondents saw with 
feelings of horror and disgust was people arrested 
on a mere hue and cry of their being insurgents 
or having thrown petroleum, and then dragged 
away amidst showers of blows from the ruffianly 
middle-class mob that had tamely put up with the 
Commune, and shot down like dogs. To make my 
meaning clear, I will give you a couple of instances. 
At the corner of one street there was a barricade. 
The insurgents had run away when the troops came 
up and carried it. It was not until the following 
morning that the neighbouring houses were searched 
for fugitives. Six men, and a boy in the uniform of 
the National Guard, were found. The men pleaded 
piteously for their lives; the boy, who had retained 
his musket, resisted to the last, and wounded two 
men before he was disarmed. Then all the seven 
were put up against the barricade and shot. This 
is bad, but it is not what my colleagues or myself 
mean by atrocious reprisals. But what will the 
French writer of the letter to the English press say 
to this. At a house in the Faubourg St. Germain 
there was a native of Chaillot, who fled thither with 
his family to escape being forcibly incorporated in 
the troops of the Commune. He had belonged to 
the National Guard during the first siege, and had 
retained the kepi which most Frenchmen then wore. 
The troops searched the house, dragged the man 
down into the street, and without listening to a word 
of explanation blew out his brains. In the wholesale 

Wholesale Accusations 201 

razzias that were made, prisoners overcome with fear 
and falling^ down from utter nervous exhaustion were 
dragged out, shot, and left lying in the road. As 
regards the women supposed to be going about with 
bottles of petroleum to set houses on fire, all I can say- 
is that 1 have seen what has made me understand the 
old cry of * A witch! a witch!' with us. Any ugly 
old crone, who might be mingling with the crowd, 
was liable to instant execution, and many were thus 
butchered. I will only add that so far as I have seen, 
the correspondents of the English press have rather 
underrated than overstated what took place, and so 
far as I am concerned, I have never reported what I 
did not see myself, and have even carried my scruples 
so far as not to mention the wholesale butcheries 
of which a well-known general was guilty, and from 
which a former officer in our artillery was rescued by 
something little short of a miracle. As for the troops, 
they did not, that I ever saw, exhibit any ferocity. 
They left that to the cowardly curs who were crying 
'Vive la Commune!' the very day before the Ver- 
saillais came in. Had all the insurgents been put 
to death, I should not say a word. Such atrocities 
are part of the business of war. But what I do say 
is, that thousands have been sacrificed without their 
executioners taking the trouble to ascertain their 
identity. The clamour of the mob was considered 
to be sufficient proof of guilt." 

Henty was very reticent about a good many of his 
adventures in Paris and just outside the Ville Lumiere 
during those days streaked with political trouble and 
dire calamity which followed the close of the war. 
He looked on at the Commune just as a soldier 

202 The Days of Reprisal 

thoroughly accustomed to horrida hella might, and 
what is more, he saw through its egotism and hollow 
pretence, and criticized its opera boujfe absurdities and 
its crimes. When the Commune was at its height, 
however, he got out of Paris and set out to join the 
investing Versaillais. From the vantage point of 
Meudon he and one or two other correspondents us( d 
to watch the firing of the Communists, and came to 
entertain a very poor opinion of it, except from a 
spectacular point of view. To the uninitiated, shell- 
firing seems a form of warfare of the most deadly 
kind; but that is where the mistake comes in, for, 
as Henty says, "in no case is artillery fire really 
dangerous except at point-blank range". With 
elevation, a shell, to do great damage, must " drop 
straight on top of you ". Then, of course, the effect 
is bad ; otherwise there is a good deal of sound and 
fury signifying the vagaries of shells, and with a pro- 
perly constituted " obus " the looker-on has time to 
decide, as he watches the firing, which way he had 
better go to avoid any unpleasant consequences. 
Henty seems to have rather enjoyed the sensation, 
as a matter of fact, and he pricks the bubble — of the 
cannon's mouth, as it were — by destroying a popular 
delusion as to the awful results bound to follow from 
heavy shell-fire. To read what he says, one is driven 
to the conclusion that the projectiles in question have 
been masquerading as far more dangerous than is 
really the case, in the same way as the Russian 
has built up a bogus reputation for fearsomeness on 
the strength of the big boots he wears. "Why, 
in the Turco-Servian War," Henty writes, " I was 
with some four thousand men on a knoll twice the 

Facing Shells 203 

size of Lincoln's Inn Fields. Into that space the 
enemy dropped three thousand shells in eight hours, 
and killed — three or four men!" One chance in a 
thousand was fairly small. 

But to return to that charming spot, Meudon, at 
the time when it was residentially risky. What is the 
sensation like of being under fire? Henty, of course, 
was fortunately constituted, and did not mind little 
things. "At first", he says, "you are too flustered 
to be really afraid, and when you get used to that 
you've got your business to think about. You're 
there for a purpose, you must remember. Besides, 
use enables one to estimate danger very quickly, and 
often that estimate reveals the fact that there is no 
danger at all." 

He gives a vividly interesting, and yet a matter-of- 
fact impression of watching shell-firing. "When 
the flash showed at the far-off battery, one listened 
for the missile — that horrible whistle, growing louder 
and louder as the shell travelled towards one. Until 
it was about thirty yards away it was impossible to 
tell whether it was coming within dangerous proximity 
or not. Thirty yards off, the sound altered if it was 
moving at an angle that would carry it out of range. 
If the sound didn't alter, one fell flat on one's face; 
if it did, one stood still. A matter of nerve, perhaps, 
but nerve backed up by knowledge." Familiarity, of 
course, produces an easier way of looking at such 
things, but viewed in this way the ordinary every- 
day idea of artillery fire has to be considerably 
altered. Henty's observations might well be incor- 
porated in some little manual on etiquette when 
meeting shells. 


A Word about Politics 

It is impossible not to admire the single-mindedness 
and directness of purpose which characterize Henty's 
letters from Paris written at this period of dire 
trouble, when chapters which rival in tragedy and 
sadness any of those that have gone before were 
being added to the history of France. He viewed 
this time of heart-stirring crisis in a matter-of-fact 
style, such as was to be expected from a man of his 
temperament and business-like attributes. He went 
straight forward with the work of the day, chronicling 
details which came under his notice, and keeping to 
hard plain facts at a time when visionary speculation 
was the rule, and when all those who followed the 
prodigious happenings in France were amazed and 
bewildered by the complexity of the situation, and 
by the startling suggestiveness of what the morrow 
might have in store for the high-strung and imagi- 
native French people. He kept sedulously to the 
point, despite of all, notwithstanding the rumours 
concerning what Thiers meant to do, and what 
Marshal MacMahon had said to the Comte de Cham- 
bord regarding the possibility of the latter being 
received at Versailles as "Henri Cinq". 

Outside the heated arena of politics in Paris there 
were all these larger issues of extreme importance, 
issues of such significance that they brought into 


The Crown of France 205 

the tumult of that day the quieter spirit of the old 
past. At the dinner tables, and in the salons of Paris, 
and elsewhere as well, even up to 1875, the talk was 
of the coming of Henry the Fifth, the king of the old 
line, the great-nephew of his majesty, Louis Seize, 
and of King Louis the Eighteenth, and the grandson 
of Charles the Tenth. Such an advent would have 
been in curious contrast to the wild " chicken-and- 
champagne " days of the corrupt and materialistic 
Second Empire, for the Comte de Chambord had 
lived in monastic seclusion ever since his protest in 
the early "fifties". Maybe in his mimic court at 
Frohsdorff, surrounded by all the respect and divinity 
of a prince who represented an illustrious tradition, 
and who found in religion his greatest solace, the 
heir to the French crown was nearer to happiness 
than he would have been had he boldly come forward 
and assumed the reins of power, as he might have 
done had his character been of blunter fibre. If this 
had occurred, the change for Paris from the red 
dominion of the Commune to the white lilies, with all 
they signified, would have been another strikingly 
dramatic episode in the chronicles of France. 

All these things Henty saw and lived among at 
that time when people were disgusted with the pre- 
ceding twenty years, and wished for something which 
was better and more earnest, though precisely what 
was desired it would be hard to say. Side by side 
with rank, uncompromising Anarchism, were the 
echoes of an old and aristocratic regime, and learned 
theorists were busy weighing the various proposals in 
the balance, while a sort of hybrid military republic 
kept the lists. And all this at a time when the streets 

2o6 A Word about Politics 

of the capital were perhaps the most dangerous of 
any in the world, and social order had gone by the 
board. At one time it really seemed as though 
the spirit of the older France would prevail, that 
certain incontestable rights would come up for 
final adjustment, and that a thread of policy, of which 
sight had been lost for some years, would be finally 

Vague speculation about matters which lay outside 
his immediate purview was, however, never Henty's 
method, but here and there a " newsy" item crops up 
in his correspondence, such as that the Prince of 
Orleans politely saw Thiers to his carriage, and that 
people were talking of the Due d'Aumale, also that 
the Princes of Orleans, who had always followed 
social and military things rather than political, would 
abide by what France said. Of course this was 
rather a doubtful policy, for France sometimes speaks 
with an uncertain voice. The demagogue shouts 
enough for a hundred, but the silent thinker who 
disdains noise would be better worth hearing. That 
Henty followed all these things we know, and his real 
views crop up here and there; but he was a narrator, 
not a commentator. The empire was dead. As an 
actual political power it died in 1867, and however 
much Napoleon the Third might protest against his 
deposition, the fact that he had finally lost the throne 
was there patent to all. Even the statement of 
the astute M. Pietri, the secretary of the disinterested 
ex-monarch, that his master had not one centime in 
foreign funds, seems to have had no effect on the 
course of events. 

Henty was only a bird of passage, an observer of 

A Faithful Chronicler 207 

Paris during a few moments at a period when the 
influences of centuries were at work, and his was 
by no means exclusively a political view. Empty 
theorizing or the peering into empty houses did not 
lie his way; but maybe for this reason more than any 
other is it most interesting to con over his lengthy 
contributions to the newspapers of that time. The 
almost photographic minutiae give the reader a vivid 
impression of the crucible period, for everything was 
in the course of remaking. There was the first 
review after the Germans had packed up and gone 
away, the recoming of the martial spirit under the 
leadership of MacMahon, who turned in his saddle 
with a "There, gentlemen, what do you think of 
that?" as the battalions of cadets, the future officers of 
the armies of France, came swinging by before the 
staff and the foreign attaches. There was the bright 
spot of the Belfort incident, when the devoted garri- 
son marched out with all the honours of war. It was 
a great and stirring time, when every moment was 
lived at fever heat; and Henty looked on as a soldier 
as well as a correspondent. 

Very soon the French were beginning to look up 
again. "We have an army of 450,000 men," was 
the cry. There were a few pride-saving laurels won 
in the defeat of the Commune, civil war though it 
was. Then we see the recommencement of the social 
life of the capital. Wonderful was the exhibition of 
recuperative power. The broken bits of civic life 
were put together, and an order sent to the factories 
for a new outfit, as it were. The Comedie Fran9aise 
Company toured in London, and refilled the empty 
exchequer; the loan necessary to pay off the more 

2o8 A Word about Politics 

urgent demands was easily subscribed; and Henty 
fills in the picture with the unerring touch of a master 
hand. It is a pen such as his — dispassionate, ob- 
serving, restrained — on which the historian rightly 


On the Life of a War Correspondent 

Europe being once more at peace, with France 
settling down, Henty turned from fact to fiction, 
producing The Young Settlers, and later a book for 
boys. The Young Franc Tireurs and their Adventures 
in the Franco-Prussian War, the source of his in- 
spiration being evident. 

Little more than a year though elapsed before the 
cry in the north and east was again havoc. The dogs 
of war were let loose by Russia, and Henty 's pen was 
again busy for his paper. This was in connection 
with the restless Turkoman dwellers in Khiva, a 
name which brings up recollections of Captain Bur- 
naby, who described his solitary ride to that city, and 
graphically narrated his extraordinary journey upon 
a camel in love. Burnaby was a thorough specimen 
of the heau sabreur, as well set up and muscular as 
any Lifeguardsman (or Blue) in his regiment. He 
was good company, and a very welcome guest at 
Henty's club, where he came one evening shortly 
before his departure for Egypt. His fate was that 
of a gallant soldier. Dismounted, he stood warding 
off the spear-thrusts of the Mahdi's followers with his 
sword, what time they had succeeded in breaking the 
British square at Abu Klea, and he held them back 
until he received in his neck the fatal thrust which 
robbed the service of a brave soldier. 

(B837) 209 15 

2IO Life of a War Correspondent 

Upon Henty's return from Russia the preparations 
for another campaign were not far distant, for the 
Ashanti expedition had been decided upon, and in 
September 1873 he sailed for Cape Coast Castle in 
the Ambris, with Sir Garnet Wolseley. 

In speaking of a correspondent's duties he tells us 
how, when at home, he receives a telegram saying, 
"Come up to the office at once", he knows that it 
means that there is something serious on the way, 
and from general knowledge of what is going on 
abroad he is pretty well aware why his services are 
required. On reaching the room of the manager of 
the newspaper, or that of the editor, he is told that he 
is to accompany this or that expedition, and most 
probably he is informed that he must be off the very 
next day. 

If the journey is by rail, it may be that it has to be 
commenced at once, or if by steamer, it may depend 
upon when the vessel starts east, west, north, or south, 
and he learns that it will be better to go and take his 
passage at once. 

If the conversation is with the editor, there are 
many things to be discussed, such as the length of 
the letters he is to send, the people he is to see; there 
is talk about passports, discussion on letters of recom- 
mendation, and hints about the political line he is to 
take, while various little ins and outs have to be dwelt 
upon. In fact, editors have special ideas of their 
ow-n, and often in petto a disposition to come to con- 
clusions as to what is about to take place. 

At the end of the business discussion the corre- 
spondent receives a big cheque, and what remains 
to do is soon got over. The passage to wherever it 

Kit and Necessaries 211 

may be is taken, and the adventurer — for such he is — 
hurries home to make the preparations which ex- 
perience has taught him are necessary. The fewer 
things he has to lumber himself with the better, but 
stern necessity has taught him that certain provisions 
must be made; and when a man has followed the 
head-quarters of an army time after time, he knows 
that he must have with him, to face heat, cold, and 
storm (often in extremes), a stock of clothes suitable 
for all climates, saddle and bridle of the best, revolvers, 
and a tent. The reader may raise his eyebrow^s as 
he reads this list of "necessaries" and think of the 
amount of luggage. Pooh! One has not half done. 
Our correspondent has to look after his health and 
strength, and the chances are many that he will starve 
if not provided for the worst. He has to take cooking 
apparatus for field work. He must be provided with 
waterproof sheets to spread on the damp ground and 
supplement the canvas of his tent. He has to take 
a portable bed, three or four blankets, and much 
other impedimenta which experience has taught that 
he must carry with him if he is to be in condition 
to write "o-Qod stuff" when he wants to commit 
the information he has learned to paper. 

With regard to Ashanti, Henty says in addressing 
an imaginary person who wants to know what it is 
to become a war correspondent: "You will probably 
pause, after visiting the bank, to buy a case or two 
of spirits and one of cocoa and milk, a few pounds of 
tea in a tin, and if you are a smoker — and I don't 
know any special correspondent who is not — a good 
supply of tobacco, also in tins". 

Then there is the health to be considered ; and a 

212 Life of a War Correspondent 

man of experience knows how necessary it is to nip 
any threatening of disease in the bud. He must take 
remedies which suit his constitution in an ordinary 
way, and certain others which are bound to be wanted 
by a man who is about to cross rivers and swamps, 
and force his way through tangled forest and the 
other strongholds of jungle and malarial fever. 

"Bless the old Jesuit fathers," he says, "for their 
grand discovery of quinine!" as he fortifies himself 
with that most wonderful of discoveries, as useful 
in India and in Africa as in South America, its 
ancient home. He provides himself, too, with little 
blue hexagonal bottles of chlorodyne. He takes 
aperients also, but not in paper boxes such as a 
doctor uses, with the contents to be taken two at 
bed-time, but safely garnered behind tin or glass to 
preserve them from the mould produced by damp. 

Then, too, there is the remedy against one of the 
most lowering of diseases, dysentery — ipecacuanha, 
and in addition, as a warming tonic, a bottle of 
essence of ginger, and another of that valuable cor- 
rective that is so strongly suggestive of a draught 
from a very soapy wash-tub, ammonia. Thus pro- 
vided with these absolute necessaries for use when 
the doctor is not within reach, he may feel that he has 
done what is necessary to guard against any trouble 
that may come. And is that all? Not quite. A war 
correspondent is a very expensive luxury to his em- 
ployers, though the British public obtains the results 
of all that he has done for the homely penny. He is 
a costly luxury, and he must be taken care of, even 
though his necessaries possess height, breadth, and 

A Portable Home 213 

He receives hospitality and protection and per- 
mission to accompany an army, but this does not 
include anything in the nature of a tent. " My own," 
says Henty, " which accompanied me in many cam- 
paigns, was about seven feet square. It was a tente 
d'abri, to which had been added a lower flap about 
two feet high, giving it a height in the centre of some 
four feet and a half. The two poles were joined like 
fishing-rods, and the whole affair packed up in a bag 
and weighed about thirty pounds. Of course the bed 
was on the ground and occupied one side of the tent, 
serving as a sofa by day as well as a bed at night. 
There was a passage left down the centre of the tent, 
whose other side was occupied by my trunks, which 
were, of course, small in size for facilities of transport. 
Here, too, were my other paraphernalia." 

Thus provided for service in the field, the corre- 
spondent, as it will be seen, is pretty well burdened; 
but during his travels he is always independent, for 
he has a home where he can write and rest and 
recruit himself against hunger, albeit his cooking 
has to be done in the provided apparatus in the open 

For warmth in the bitter nights there is a watch-fire ; 
but in some instances Henty depended upon his own 
natural warmth and a wonderful coat of sheep-skin 
tanned, with the thick wool on. He sometimes came 
to the club in this in the winter, looking feet more in 
girth than was his natural size. 

One of the first things to be done on arriving at the 
scene of action is for the correspondent to apply at 
head-quarters for a form of permission to accompany 
the army, a general permission having been obtained 

214 Life of a War Correspondent 

from the home authorities before starting. With 
regard to this, Henty did most of his campaigning 
in the days before generals had begun to grow more 
and more strict and reticent, until now they go so far 
as to refuse permission altogether. In the case of the 
Russo-Japanese War, the British correspondents on 
the Japanese side were, in spite of every civility and 
attention, so hindered and obstructed, under the pre- 
tence of being protected from danger, that one of 
Henty's colleagues, E. F. Knight, gave up the duty 
in disgust. 

But to return to a war correspondent's necessities: 
his next task on reaching the front is to buy a good 
dependable horse to bear the saddle and to be guided 
by the bit and bridle with which he has come pro- 
vided. In addition he should have a couple of ponies, 
or two of the patient but hardy obstinate animals 
known as mules, to bear the whole of his baQoao-e 
and stores. Lastly comes one of the most important 
businesses, that of hiring a couple of servants, one as 
personal attendant and general factotum, the other to 
attend to the horse and baggage-animals. Great 
things often depend upon little, and there is a little 
matter called experience upon which depends not 
merely a man's comfort and convenience, but also 
the success or failure of his campaign. 

Henty praises warmly a class of men who seem to 
have devoted themselves to the profession of serving, 
and have earned for themselves the credit of being the 
best men for the purpose in the world. These are the 
Goa Portuguese men, with European features, but 
looking as dark as other natives of India. For 
many years they have been accustomed to furnish 

A Great Career 215 

all ships trading in the East with stewards, and as 
a consequence most of them speak English fairly- 

Henty speaks of having been fortunate enough to 
obtain two such men at different times — one accom- 
panied him from Bombay on the Abyssinian ex- 
pedition, the other on the Prince of Wales's tour 
through India. Here is the admirable character he 
gives them: "Both were excellent fellows, always 
ready and willing, and absolutely uncomplaining 
whatever happened ". And much did happen, of 

To a young man of energy who longs to change 
some ordinary humdrum career for one of excitement, 
there is something wonderfully attractive in the career 
of a war correspondent. Certainly the army always 
offers itself as a life full of wild episodes, but then 
there is something deterrent in the forced and severe 
discipline, as well as in the dangers which a soldier 
has to face. The risks an energetic war correspondent 
takes are of course many, for he is often compelled to 
be under fire, and if matters are adverse he may be 
taken prisoner; but there is great attraction in being 
a witness of the moves in the great game of chess 
played by nations in stern reality, though there are 
innumerable troubles to be encountered that are 
terribly irritating in their pettiness, and this makes 
them seem exasperatingly far-reaching and vast. For 
instance, it is maddening, when wearied out with a 
long day's march, to have to be called by necessity to 
help the baggage man in the constant readjustment of 
the animals' loads, which always seem to be slipping 
off through the ropes coming untied. This is bad 

2i6 Life of a War Correspondent 

enough with ponies, but it is very much worse with 

The Yankees have one particular way of tying the 
hide lariats, or ropes, that secure the burdens upon a 
mule's back. This knot, or series of knots, they term 
the diamond hitch, perhaps from its value or its shape; 
both may be applicable. The Goa men have ways 
of their own, but these grow useless with the cunning 
animals. Sundry awkward packages have appa- 
rently been made perfectly secure on a mule's back, 
but almost directly afterwards they become loose, 
owinsr to the fact that the animal had swelled himself 
out when the ropes were being hauled tight, and then 
drawn himself in till everything seems to have shaken 
loose. The whole burden then starts to slide side- 
ways, and threatens to glide under the little brute, 
so that he begins to stumble and trip. Much of this 
soon becomes galling to a weary man, and one has 
heard of people under such circumstances who vow 
that, as soon as they begin to pull upon the loose 
rope to make all taut again, a mule will draw back 
his lips and show his teeth in a hideous grin, as if 
he were looking upon the whole transaction as the 
best of fun. 

Then, too, there is the misery attending the arrival 
at the camping-ground and the selection of the place 
to set up the tent to make things comfortable, perhaps 
with the rain pouring down. A pleasant accompani- 
ment this last to the lighting of a fire and the cooking 
of a dinner, while ultimately the correspondent may 
be able to get no tent erected, and may be forced to 
lie down in the open, wrapped in a blanket and a 
waterproof sheet. 

A Malingerer 217 

This was not one of his troubles in the Abyssinian 
expedition, for there Henty encountered but little 
rain; but he and his companion, who represented 
the Morning Post and who travelled with him, met 
with plenty of petty troubles consequent upon the 
behaviour of one of the servants, an Indian syce. 
This fellow looked after the horses, but especially 
after himself, for he was always provided with the 
one great excuse to avoid his work, that he was not 
well. He ended by coming one day to announce that 
Abyssinia did not agree with him, and that he must 
go down to the coast and return in some ship that 
was sailing for India. 

When accompanying a British force on an expedi- 
tion like this, a correspondent is allowed to draw the 
same rations as those served out to officers and men — 
meat, biscuits, preserved vegetables, and a certain 
amount of tea and sugar — while in the Abyssinian 
campaign, possibly owing to the presence of a Naval 
Brigade, who worked the rockets, rum was served 
out regularly. This, however, was given only very 
occasionally in Ashanti, where, Henty says, "it was 
much more necessary. A small quantity of spirits 
served out to be taken at the evening meal is con- 
sidered a very great benefit to men who arrive utterly 
exhausted after their march in a tropical climate." 

Henty goes on to add that the meat served out in 
the Ashanti campaign was either that of some freshly- 
killed bullock which had accompanied the march day 
after day, and whose flesh was as tough as leather, or 
else it was tinned meat, upon which after a short time 
everyone looked with loathing. This had to be washed 
down with a decoction of the commonest and worst 

2i8 Life of a War Correspondent 

tea, perhaps made with muddy water, and to an ex- 
hausted man it was well nigh impossible. But in that 
awful climate the addition of a small quantity of 
spirits to the tea acted as a restorative, giving the 
stomach a fillip, and enabling the food to be eaten 
and digested. 

Fortunately, upon the Ashanti expedition the cor- 
respondents had clubbed together and taken with them 
a small supply of wine, which proved invaluable in 
bracing them up to do their work, when but for it they 
would have been incapable of doing anything at the 
end of some of the specially hard and exhausting 
marches. It was to this claret that Henty largely 
attributed the preservation of his health, when so 
many not thus provided were prostrated by the deadly 
effects of the climate. 

In a hot country like Ashanti it might have been 
supposed that native fruits and vegetables would be 
plentiful and easily to be purchased of the people at 
the various villages; but nothing of the kind was 
obtainable, and the correspondents had to depend 
entirely on the stores they carried with them upon 
their ponies or mules. The commissariat supply was 
not abundant or appetizing: for breakfast, oatmeal, 
eaten with preserved milk; but before that, at day- 
break, they always contrived a cup of chocolate and 
milk. Dinner consisted of a banquet of tinned rations 
and preserved vegetables, made eatable by being 
flavoured with Worcester sauce or pickles, and when 
things were at the worst and appetite rebelled, there 
was an occasional addition of boiled rice with pre- 
served fruit from their stores. Altogether, the weary 
correspondents were so lowered by exhaustion that 

A Varied Menu 219 

they came to look upon their meals with utter dis- 
gust, consequent upon the heat and terrible nature of 
a cHmate which, higher up at the coast, was looked 
upon by old writers as the white man's grave. 

Matters were very different in the breezy, bright 
uplands of Abyssinia, where, owing to the difficulties 
of carriage, the correspondents were only allowed to 
carry with them a very small quantity of stores. Here, 
however, they were generally able to eke out their 
rations by making purchases from the natives, who, 
as soon as they found that they could receive honour- 
able treatment in the way of payment, and that they 
were not dealing with an invading army who confis- 
cated everything in the way of food, began to bring 
to market capital additions to the correspondents' fare. 
Now it would be eggs, now chickens, or the meals 
were truly sweetened by the contents of a jar of honey. 
It was a land, too, of flocks of sheep, which were pur- 
chased by the commissariat, and the heads, which 
were looked upon by the officers who superintended 
the rations as what is technically termed "offal", and 
not to be served out as rations, could often be obtained 
by the correspondents' cook. He was able to make of 
them a dainty dish, although he had probably never 
heard the Scotchman's remark that there was "a deal 
of meescellaneous feeding" in a good sheep's head. 

There was shooting, too, with an occasional present 
of guinea-fowls or a hare shot by friends; and on 
these occasions they generally had a small dinner 
party. So famous was the cooking of their servants, 
that one day when Lord Napier asked Henty and his 
companion to dine with him he said: " You will have 
to put up with plain fare for once, for my staff tell 

220 Life of a War Correspondent 

me that when any of them dine with you they fare 
infinitely better than they do with me". 

Henty gives an example of one of the menus on a 
festive occasion : Soup; slices of sheep's face, grilled 
with the tongue, and brain sauce; a joint of mutton, 
jugged hare; and an omelette with honey — a proof 
that during the Abyssinian expedition the special 
correspondents fared well. 


A Risky Cruise with H. M. Stanley 

To come back, after this long digression on the life 
of a war correspondent, to the Ashanti campaign, 
upon which the subject of this memoir had now 
embarked, it may be taken quite as a matter of course 
that two such men as Henry Stanley and George 
Henty, bound on the same mission on behalf of the 
New York Herald and the London Standard^ should 
be on intimate terms together, the more especially 
as they were both men who loved being afloat, and 
in the pursuit of business let nothing in the way of 
danger stand in their way. 

It was not surprising then that when the war corre- 
spondents were impatiently waiting for progress to be 
made by the expedition, such as would call them to 
the front and give stirring work for their pens to re- 
cord, Stanley, with his customary defiance of risks 
when attempting an adventure, and being in want of 
a companion, should turn to his colleague Henty and 
ask him if he would take a turn with him along the 
coast in his yacht. It need hardly be said what was 
Henty's answer. The very word yacht was sufficient 
to make him accept eagerly, and he immediately ac- 
quiesced, delighted with the chance of a run of some 
seventy miles along the African shore from Cape 
Coast to Addah. At the time he was only aware that 
Stanley had brought out a small vessel at the cost of 


222 A Risky Cruise 

his newspaper, expressly so as to enable him to take 
runs up the West African rivers, and penetrate where 
he pleased in comparative independence. The use 
of a boat among the great flooded rivers was no 
novelty, of course, to the famous African explorer, 
and at the first blush, and with such an experienced 
pilot, there seemed to be no cause for hesitation, 
although at the time Henty was not aware in what 
kind of boat he was to be a passenger. All he knew 
was that the vessel was called the Dauntless^ and 
that it was a Thames pleasure yacht which had been 
brought out by Stanley under the mistaken idea that 
Lord Wolseley's advance upon Coomassie was to 
be made by way of the river Prah. 

Now, for the river Thames, where it was first 
launched, or for the river Prah, the Dauntless, which 
proved to be a little steam pleasure yacht, or launch, 
about thirty-six feet long by six feet wide, would 
have been admirably suited; but it suddenly began 
to dawn upon Henty that the craft in which he was 
about to take his trip, sailing in the evening and 
through the night, was about as ill-adapted for ocean 
work as any vessel that ever put out of port, and 
most particularly unsuited to sail out upon an ocean 
so wholly devoid of harbours as is the Atlantic upon 
the West African coast. 

He must have known, though possibly it did not 
occur to him for the moment, that he was in a district 
where landing on the surf-bound shore was only 
possible with the aid of specially built boats rowed 
by the experienced blacks, who are thoroughly accus- 
tomed to the huge breakers that come rolling in. 
Their light boats are as buoyant as corks, and the 

Stanley's Ship 22 


rowers take a capsize and the filling of their craft as 
merely an excuse for exercising their great swimming 
powers, regarding it as an easy task to right their 
surf-boat and row on again. Stanley's steam launch, 
however, was made heavy and unsuitable by the dead 
weight of its engine and machinery, to which for a 
long run would of course be added heavy clumsy 
coal by the ton. 

In describing his trip, and speaking as a man who 
is no mean sailor, Henty says that he is bound, in 
justice to his own character as a man who preferred 
to take reasonable care of his life, to say that when he 
accepted the offer he had not seen the boat. It was 
then lying moored up the Elmina river, and soon 
after, when entering into conversation with friends, 
who began to expostulate with him about the risk 
he was going to run, he felt disposed to laugh at 
them. One said it was madness, another that it was 
folly, and that it might be all very well for a reckless, 
venturesome man like Stanley, who dared go any- 
where to find Livingstone, or penetrate the dense 
forests of Central Africa, but that the expedition was 
not one on which a sane man should embark. To 
quote the words of the counsellor, ''You are an 
ordinary Englishman, and father of a family. Take 
care of yourself and your paper; for if you go out 
to sea in that little miserable tea-kettle of a thing, 
you will never come back; and we can't spare our 

Expostulations from other friends followed, in the 
shape of prophecies of all sorts of evil things, and 
matters began to shape themselves in a manner that 
was not likely to prove encouraging. In his quiet 

224 A Risky Cruise 

way there was an enormous amount of firm deter- 
mination in Henty; but it is not too much to say that 
he began to pass through a phase of indecision, and 
to wish that he had not given his word. Certainly 
he would much rather not have gone, but he was 
not the man to throw a friend over by breaking his 
promise at the last moment. All the same, though, 
he began to think and to turn matters over in h 


mind. Assuredly the Dauntless was a thoroughly 
non-seagoing boat; but if Stanley could go in her, 
why he, Henty, could go in her likewise, and he 
was perfectly aware that Stanley had at once started 
for Elmina to bring the boat down. 

He felt himself nevertheless in a very different 
position from that which he would have occupied at 
home when calculating whether he should go out 
in his own fore-and-aft-rigged boat, in a sea whose 
currents he understood, and whose waters he knew 
how to sail. 

But, Englishman-like, as the hours glided by he 
grew more firm and determined, and was almost 
ready to accuse himself of cowardice; so that when 
about ten o'clock at night he was joined by Stanley, 
who announced that he had brought the launch round, 
that the men were busy coaling, that the moon was 
up, and all would be ready for a start at midnight, 
Henty assumed a cheerful and gratified expression ot 
countenance and promised to be there. 

Now it may not be out of place to say that even in 
the calmest weather the breakers that come boominer 
in upon that coast are quite sufficient to shake the 
nerves of even the most stoutly built, and to put out 
to sea in a Thames steam yacht, specially built for 

A Heavy Cargo 223 

smooth water, was enough to make a brave man think 
twice of what he was about to do. 

However, Henty put together a few necessaries, 
and was prepared for the start when some friends 
dropped in ready to shake hands with him, and to 
assure him encouragingly that this was a final good- 
bye; then he started for the beach, with the roar of 
the breakers thundering in his ears. 

There was a little delay as he joined Stanley at 
the place from which the surf-boat was to start, to be 
rowed out to where the steam yacht was lying, for the 
coal had not yet all come down ; but after about half 
an hour the final sacks were brought down and placed 
in the bottom of the boat, he and Stanley took their 
places, the black rowers ran the light craft out, sprang 
aboard, and began to paddle, and fortunately they got 
through the line of breakers without a wetting. Then 
they made towards the tiny launch, which, as they 
rose high upon the swell, before dropping down into 
the trough of the sea, they could perceive showing a 
light about a quarter of a mile off the shore. 

And now it was that Henty could see clearly what 

manner of vessel it was in which he was to make his 

voyage. For about six feet at either end she was 

decked, with the engine and boiler taking up half the 

remaining space, but just leaving a cockpit of about 

six feet long at either end. 

When Henty boarded her he found that these open 

spaces were for the time being piled full of coal, of 

which ponderous awkward lading the little vessel had 

somewhere about two tons on board, and this was 

quite enough to bring her down within a few inches 

of the water. In fact, when steam was turned on, the 
( B 837 ) 1 6 

226 A Risky Cruise 

water was a-wash over the after-deck, a state of affairs 
pretty startling for any but the most reckless. 

As a matter of course, Henty (a business-Hke and 
thorough seaman, who knew what he was about in 
the management of a saiHng boat) must have set his 
teeth hard; but war-correspondent-like, he was ready 
to make the best of things, and after running his eye 
over the little steamer in the moonlight, he cheered 
himself with the thought that, as they went on, the 
weight of the coal would gradually grow less, and 
the launch become lighter in the water. 

It was past the time for starting, so the anchor was 
soon drawn up, the little engine commenced to pant 
and rattle away merrily, while the lights upon the 
shore began to grow faint, for, in spite of being 
heavily laden, the steam launch showed herself 
worthy of her name, rising easily over the long 
heavy Atlantic swell. To Henty's great satisfaction 
it seemed to be time to enjoy a calm and thoughtful 
pipe, for it was at once apparent that unless the wind 
freshened and made the sea get up, and this was only 
probable in the event of a hurricane, there was no 
cause for any uneasiness as to the safety of the little 

In about half an hour they had settled down, for 
Henty was thoroughly at home on board the smallest 
of craft, and loved to see things ship-shape. Thick 
mats were spread over the blocks of coal, rugs were 
unrolled, and preparations were made for indulgence 
in the ever-welcome cup of tea. 

The crew, all told, were only six in number. 
Stanley, the skipper; an English lad, who acted as 
his amanuensis and general help; the engineer, two 

Night at Sea 227 

black boys, who acted as servants and assistant 
stokers; and Henty himself. The last mentioned 
immediately began to talk business, and was for the 
time being the most important man on board, for it 
was not in him to be aboard a vessel of any kind 
without being ready to consider where their bearings 
lay and what effect the local currents would have 
upon their course. 

Things were a little haphazard on board a vessel 
made only for steering by the shore, for the most part 
at the mouth of a river, so they had only a pocket 
compass. Quite nautically, Henty says that he knew 
that their course was slightly to north of east; but 
all the same it seemed extremely doubtful whether 
they ought to steer by such bearings, for they had 
no means of knowing how far the iron of the engine 
would affect the compass; "and besides, as there was 
a strong set of the current on the shore," he con- 
tinues, "we agreed to steer by the land". 

He goes on philosophically to say that steering by 
the land is simple enough by daylight, but at night, 
situated as they were, it was no easy matter, for 
though the moon was up, the customary African haze 
hung on the water and rendered the outline of the 
coast so indistinct that it was difficult in the extreme 
to judge the exact distance. Sometimes, too, the land 
lay so low that they could see little besides the white 
line of the surf, with here and there the head of a 
palm-tree. Once or twice, feeling that it was neces- 
sary to go cautiously, steam was turned off, and they 
stopped a few minutes to oil heated bearings or to 
tighten a nut; and then in the stillness of the night 
the loud roar of the surf seemed startlingly near. 

228 A Risky Cruise 

Then on again and on, not knowincr what was to be 
their fate, for there was always the possibility that 
they might be carried by a current too near one of 
the breakers and then be caught up, borne along at 
a tremendous rate, till, striking upon the sand, the 
little vessel would be rolled over and over, prior to 
being cast ashore a complete wreck. 

In this way they steamed through the dull half- 
transparent haze, a feeling of ignorance and helpless- 
ness troubling the man to whom the navigation was 
most strange. 

They took it in turns to steer, and the one who was 
off duty was supposed to take a nap; but Henty says 
quietly, "I do not think there was much sleep on 
board the Dauntless, and there was a general satis- 
faction when the morning broke ". 

The general idea of a reader is that the West Coast 
of Africa is a land where the surf rushes in over the 
cast-up sand to where the dull olive-green of the 
weird-looking mangrove fringes the shore. But be- 
tween Cape Coast Castle and Accra, although the sea- 
shore lies flat for a few miles inland, it, for the most 
part, impressed Henty as a beautiful undulating coun- 
try, with the hills rising occasionally from the very 
edge of the sea and attaining at times a thousand feet 
in height, the highest eminence in the neighbourhood 
being double that elevation. 

And yet, he says, this beautiful hilly portion of the 
coast is as unhealthy as, if not worse than, the low 
shores with their mango swamps. This evil repute is 
said to apply most strongly to parts where the land 
is rich in gold, and it deters the adventurous who are 
disposed to exploit the precious metal. There is no 

Fetish Faith 229 

doubt about its presence, and abundance might be 
had, but gold is too dear at the cost of life ; and though 
it might be considered that the native black would 
prove immune if employed at gold-digging, it has 
been demonstrated again and again that the fever — 
the malaria — that is set free as soon as the earth is 
disturbed, is just as fatal to the black as to the white. 
The latter, with a smattering of science, attributes it 
to the disturbance of the soil and the setting at liberty 
of the germs of disease buried therein, and points to 
the fact that where new plantations of coffee, cinchona, 
or india-rubber are being made almost anywhere in 
the Malay Peninsula, the effects are, at the first culti- 
vation of the soil, precisely the same, though in time, 
when the ground has been stirred again and again, it 
becomes healthy. 

The West Coast black, however, has a very different 
theory, which he will freely impart, but with an almost 
awestricken whisper. Death comes to anyone who 
digs for gold, because it is fetish. It is of no use to 
laugh at his superstition. He knows that this is the 
case, and if any careless, contemptuous personage 
ridicules his superstition, he is angered; if a more 
rational explanation is propounded, he pities the 
enquirer's ignorance. It is fetish, and fatal. Fatal 
enough, but unfortunately the horrible fetish belief is 
utilized in connection with poison and the destruction 
of an enemy. Hence the power of the Obeah man, 
the impostor-like native priest, witch-doctor, or medi- 
cine man. This fetish idea lingers still in the West 
Indies, where it has been handed down by the early 
unfortunate slaves from the West Coast, who formed 
the trade of the old plantation times. 

230 A Risky Cruise 

This by the way. There were no further troubles 
about the steering in the bright morning sunshine, 
and Henty spent his time probably dreaming of future 
stories and mentally describing the beauty of the 
plains and hills. Birds abounded as they drew near 
to Accra, and they caught sight of little African ante- 
lopes dashing across the plains. For in this neigh- 
bourhood horses, mules, and oxen can live; and, in 
fact, the town itself is one of the most healthy along 
the coast, while, strange anomaly, it is one of the 

Upon reaching Accra in safety the engineer dis- 
covered that the intense saltness of the water had 
encrusted up the gauge, rendering it necessary to 
blow out the boiler, allow it to cool, and fill it again 
before proceeding. So the Dauntless was moored to 
a hawser from the stern of one of the ships at anchor. 
While leaving the engineer to put all right, the two 
correspondents prepared to go ashore and see what 
the town was like. Henty found time to note the 
tremendously rampant population of pigs, which, with 
the help of dogs and fowls, were the scavengers of 
the place. He makes no allusion, however, to the 
quality of the pork, but goes on to discourse upon 
the intense love of the women of the place for beads. 
These ranged from the tiny opaque scraps of all 
colours used by children for their dolls, to cylinders 
of variegated hues, yellow being the favourite, which 
were sometimes as long as the joint of one's thumb 
and as thick round. The women wear these round 
the wrist, round the neck, and round the loins, while 
the occupation of threading the lesser beads is one 
of their greatest pleasures. 

skilful Oarsmen 231 

At seven the next morning they started back, con- 
gratulating themselves that they had met with no 
serious accident. But they were not fated to escape 
scot free, for on their return journey it was found that 
the rudder was gradually losing its power, proving at 
last to be broken, and when at length Addah was 
reached, and the Dauntless made fast to the stern of 
one of the vessels, they had to whistle for nearly half 
an hour before any effort was made to send out a surf- 
boat. When at last one was on the way, they began 
to understand the reluctance of the boatmen to make 
the trip, for over and over again, as the boatmen 
strove to cross the breakers, their vessel was thrown 
almost perpendicularly into the air, so that only a 
foot or so of the end of the keel touched the water. 
To quote Henty's own words: — 

"As we watched she still struggled on, though she 
was so long in getting through the hurtling foam that 
we began to fear that the men would give it up as 
being impracticable; but at last they got outside the 
surf, to lie upon their oars, utterly exhausted and wait- 
ing to recover from their exertions, when they rowed 
out to where we lay and took us on board. 

"Nothing could have been better than the way in 
which they managed the landing. They hung upon 
their oars as we watched them breathlessly, and then, 
keen-eyed and watchful as they waited their time, 
they caught the exact moment when one of the 
breakers was, as it were, balancing itself as if waiting 
to pounce upon the surf-boat and its occupants. 

"It was a race between man and nature, and man 
won, for the black boatmen seized the exact time, and 
then went at it with racing speed. Their steersman 

232 A Risky Cruise 

was one of the finest specimens of the negro I have 
ever seen. Nothing" could be finer than his attitude 
as he stood upon the seat in the stern, one hand rest- 
ing upon the long steering-oar, while in the other he 
held his cap. 

'* For some time he stood half-turned round, gazing 
keenly seaward, while the boat lay at rest just outside 
the line of breakers. Then all at once he waved his 
hat and gave a wild shout, which was answered by 
his crew, and every man plunged his oar into the 
water, rowing desperately, while their helmsman 
cheered them on with his frantic shouts. 

"How they pulled! And it seemed in vain, as if 
we had started too late, for a gigantic wave was roll- 
ing in behind us, looking as if it were about to curl 
over, break into the stern, and sweep us from end to 

"But the boatmen knew what they were about. 
They rose upon the wave just as it was turning over, 
and in an instant they were sweeping along a cata- 
ract of white foam with the speed of an arrow. The 
next wave was smaller, but it carried them onward, 
and before a third that had been pursuing them hard 
could reach the boat, they were run up on the drip- 
ping sand. 

"Just then a dozen men rushed out to meet them. 
The occupants of the boat threw themselves anyhow 
upon their shoulders, and directly after they were 
high and dry upon the sands." 


The " Weaker Sex " in Ashanti 

Almost at the start of his campaigning in Ashanti 
Henty found himself confronted with a serious 
problem, and anyone who, like the present writer, 
had known him intimately for years will find it easy 
to imagine the look of annoyance, puzzlement, and 
wrath that his features must have displayed upon 
waking up to this fact. He was bound upon an 
important mission, one which compelled him to keep 
in company with the expeditionary army, or portions 
of it, just about to start from Cape Coast Castle for 
the river Prah, in order to follow its windings 
through the dense tropical forest; he was a thorough 
athlete, and ready to make any shift to forward his 
progress that was possible, but he was now brought 
face to face with the unexpected. An expedition, he 
found, would start upon the following day at three, 
and as a matter of course, in spite of experience 
and the knowledge that he must not burden himself 
with what the old Romans so aptly called impcdi- 
nienta during a campaign — a knowledge which had 
made him cut down his luggage to the narrowest 
limits, in fact made him take nothing more than he 
was obliged to take — he found to his dismay that it 
was impossible to procure hammock-bearers. It was 
not that he wished to travel in luxurious style, but 
nature had ordained that, to a European, walking 


234 " Weaker Sex " in Ashanti 

through the prevalent intense heat was an impossi- 
bility; not because of the intense sunshine, for the 
way for the most part was through the shadow of the 
dense tropical forest, but because of the strange 
lowering prostration which followed the slightest ex- 
ertion and compelled the most robust, able-bodied 
men to throw themselves down and rest after walkino" 
a distance that was absurdly short. 

Hammock-bearers, however, he found it impossible 
to procure. He had engaged eight men for the 
purpose, but they had all been summoned by their 
chiefs the night before, and the whole of the men 
in the neighbourhood who Avere not under arms as 
combatants were engaged by the government as 
porters. In his ignorance of what he had to contend 
with, he was ready to abandon the idea of having 
hammock-bearers, and prepared to trust to his own 
walking powers and start afoot; but matters looked 
very serious when he was informed by the native 
merchant he had employed that it was impossible 
to find even four men to carry his tent and necessaries. 
Four women could be obtained, and that was all! 

Women! Henty indignantly declined, and turned 
over in his mind what he should do. Then the idea 
struck him that the Army Control Department might 
have more men than they wanted, or would possibly 
spare him a few. Going up to the Castle Yard he 
found all in a state of animation and bustle, with 
plenty of labourers rolling casks and carrying cases 
up from the beach; but to his utter astonishment 
there were a hundred women working with them, 
chattering and laughing, as they worked more vigor- 
ously than the men. A few questions to one of the 

A Question of Dignity 235 

Control officers brought the explanation that they 
were short of hands in consequence of the number 
of men at work upon the roads and at the various 
stations, while numbers more had obeyed the sum- 
mons of their chiefs and deserted to go to the war. 
There was a vessel laden with war stores that must 
be unladen, and consequently the Control had been 
driven to enlist women carriers to take up the bales 
of military greatcoats, blankets, and waterproof sheets, 
in addition to other stores. 

Henty began to think, urged on as he was by dire 
necessity, what is sauce for the goose under certain 
circumstances may be sauce for the gander. In other 
words, if it was not undignified for her Majesty's 
officials to make use of women labour, he began to 
see that it ought not to be bad form for him at such a 
supreme moment to follow their example. So under 
these circumstances he went back to the native White- 
ley and accepted his offer to supply female bearers, 
and very shortly afterwards four women were brought 
forward for him to inspect. He objected to two of 
these at once, for one of them had what must be 
a great drawback to her power of carrying a load, 
in the shape of a child of two years old clinging to 
her back. The other was similarly circumstanced, 
but her little one was a mere infant. It was, however, 
these or none ; and as the other two were smart good- 
looking girls of about sixteen years old, and as many 
of the women working for the Control were handi- 
capped with children, he made no further demur, in 
spite of a lingering feeling of doubt about the banter 
which he would receive from his colleagues and the 
officers with whom he was brought in contact. It 

236 ^' Weaker Sex " in Ashanti 

was so evidently the fashion, however, to employ 
women, that he hoped to escape scot free. But it 
was not so, for Henty's became one 
of the jokes of the expedition. 

Sir Evelyn Wood, in his exhaustive and chatty 
work. From Midshipman to Field-Marshal^ alludes 
to the state of affairs in connection with bearers at the 
same time and place. He says: "The women have 
most of the qualities which are lacking in the men. 
They are bright, cheerful, and hard-working, and even 
under a hot fire never offer to leave the spot in which 
we place them, and are very strong. As I paid over 
;^ 1 30 to women for carrying my loads up to Prahsu, 
I had many opportunities of observing their strength 
and trustworthy character, for to my knowledge no 
load was ever broken open or lost. They carried fifty 
or sixty pounds from Cape Coast Castle to Prahsu, a 
distance of seventy-four miles, for ten shillings, and 
the greater number of them carried a baby astride of 
what London milliners used to call a 'dress im- 
prover'." High praise, this, for the weaker sex, 
when Sir Evelyn describes the male bearers as being 
prone, as soon as they came under fire, to throw their 
loads down on the ground and run for their lives. 


Warfare in the Bush 

It was only natural that wherever he went for an 
expedition there were two points to which Henty 
made frequent allusion. One was hospital practice 
and the care of the sick and wounded ; the other 
the Commissariat Department and the supply of 
wholesome drinkino- water. 

Plenty of such references are found in his account 
of the march to Coomassie. There is mention of the 
women bearers rolling the water-casks, and the native 
bearers, as they came in sight of one of the village 
markets, depositing their burdens upon the ground, 
to make a rush to the stores to lay in an extra supply 
for their wants during the tramp through the forest, 
these supplies consisting of native bread and dried fish. 
A rose by any other name, it is said, may smell as 
sweet; so it may be taken for granted that the native 
name for bread — " Kanky " — may not seriously affect 
its qualities. But when it comes to the dried fish, 
of which the blacks are very fond, Henty has some 
remarks to make. It is, though, by the way, rather 
curious what an instinctive liking the natives of some 
countries have for preserved fish. For instance, in 
the Malay Peninsula the natives have a great fancy 
for a concoction which they term blachang, as an 
appetizer to flavour the dull monotonous tameness of 
the ever-present boiled rice. This blachang is com- 


238 Warfare in the Bush 

pounded of shrimps, saved up till they are in a 
state of putrefaction, and then beaten into a paste, the 
odour of which puts the ripest snipe to the blush. 

The dried fish of the West Coast of Africa are to an 
Englishman (unless he has learned to like the flavour 
of asafoetida from long experience of the smoked 
dainties called in India Bombay ducks) excessively 
nasty, being smoked with some herb strongly resem- 
bling foetid gum in smell and flavour. 

But to turn from fish to soup. Henty discourses very 
wisely about the latter in connection with the weariness 
and exhaustion consequent upon a long tramp through 
the forest. After an experience of ten miles or so of 
the hot, oppressive air there is no desire for eating, 
only a longing for a cup of hot cocoa or tea, as soon 
as a fire can be set going — not always an easy task 
in a land where the tropical downpours are tremen- 
dous, saturating everything and rendering the super- 
abundant wood unfit to burn. Hunger, even after 
many hours' march, is completely quenched, and it 
might be expected that the weary traveller would be 
prone to fly for a stimulus to the commissariat rum. 
But to quote Henty's own words, spoken from experi- 
ence, "Soup is undoubtedly the thing in this country"; 
and it grew to be the custom on the march, for the 
first party who arrived at the halting-place to start 
a fire and prepare what the soldiers spoke of as a 
jorum of hot broth, ready for the next comers. " After 
a fatiguing day's march one has no appetite for solid 
food, but a basin of soup sets one up at once." 

This march to Coomassie was a dreary tramp 
through a jungle. The way being along a narrow 
native path, the progress was so slow, encumbered 

The Mighty Forest 239 

as they were with the necessaries of the journey, that 
on one occasion it took more than two hours and a 
half to accomplish four miles, for the heat was ter- 
ribly trying. Yet to an observant eye the vegetation 
and the mighty trees were most attractive. The 
underorowth of the forest consisted of broad-leaved 
plants, sword-bladed flags and the like, above which 
the great plantains, looking like Brobdingnagian 
hart's-tongue ferns, spread their great green, often 
split and ragged leaves, while every here and there 
the cotton-trees, lovers of moist swampy land, rose 
to an immense height. The heat all the time gradu- 
ally increased, and the men suffered severely during 
the delays caused by difficulties with the baggage, 
or from the column having to climb over trunks of 
trees that had fallen across the path, while sometimes 
it was necessary to pass through swamps in which 
the water varied from ankle to knee deep. 

On such occasions the halts were most trying, for a 
small obstacle caused considerable delay in the passage 
of a column in single file. Men would pause for a 
moment to pick their way before entering the swamp; 
others would stop to turn up their trousers; and so 
the stoppage would often accumulate until what was 
merely a second's wait of the leading man became 
five minutes with the five hundredth. A wait of even 
two minutes in the sun when there was not a breath of 
wind was most trying, for great as was the heat, it was 
not felt so much while moving, partly, perhaps, be- 
cause the attention was directed to picking the way, 
but more because of the profuse flow of perspiration. 
In reference to this, though, Henty adds: — 

" We did not suffer so much from the heat upon 

240 Warfare in the Bush 

this coast as we do in parts of India; but this was 
because there was always either a sea or a land breeze 
blowing, which kept down the temperature in the 
shade to 84 or 85 degrees, which was by no means 
unpleasant. But when the sun blazed down the heat 
was really intense. A thermometer placed in the sun 
upon the wall of the hospital marked over 150 degrees 
for some hours three or four days during the week, 
and I should say that the heat of the bush, where 
there was no shade, was fully as great. Under these 
circumstances it was not to be wondered at that a cer- 
tain number of men at the end of each day's march 
were found unfit for further work, and had to be sent 
back in hammocks. Still, the number that fell out 
was very small indeed, for men struggled to the last 
rather than give in." 

When the men broke down, the officers noticed 
the poor fellows' flushed faces and dull eyes, and said 
that they could only speak coherently with an effort. 
These were cases of attacks by the sun, not of sun- 
stroke, for they were not sudden. The doctors called 
them sun-fever, and the cure adopted was for the 
poor fellows to be sent back in hammocks to the coast 
and placed on board ship, where in most cases the 
sea air restored them to health. 

Henty is pretty severe in his description of the 
Sierra Leone men, the over-civilized and spoilt blacks 
with whom he came in contact during the advance. 
He describes them as "the laziest, most discontented, 
most self-sufficient and most impudent set of rascals 
the world contains. They are no more", he says, "to 
be compared with the Fantis, or any of the other 
native tribes, than light is to darkness." 

G. A. HENTY AT 60 

Nautical "Persuasion" 241 

In one case they started a mutiny, refusing to work 
unless money was paid to them instead of stores; but 
they had Englishmen to deal with, and when two of 
the ringleaders offered to strike the Control officers, 
the latter at once seized them single-handed, forced 
them apart, and treated them with firmness. Subse- 
quently, as the men grew more threatening and deter- 
mined in their refusals to work, one of the naval 
officers of the expedition. Captain Peel, interfered, 
and in true naval fashion threatened that the first 
man who refused to obey orders should be had up 
to the triangles and receive three dozen lashes. If 
the fellow resisted after this, he declared he would 
summon his sailors on shore, take him on board ship, 
and give him five dozen ; while, if his companions 
and fellow-mutineers attempted any violence, he 
would without hesitation give orders for the sailors 
to fire. The threat sufficed. 

The term ''spoiled" has been applied by Henty to 
the Sierra Leone negro, and he is not the first writer 
by many who has dealt with the vanity and conceit 
that inflate the half-educated native. Allusion may 
be made to the humorous description of Captain 
Marryat concerning the Badian boy: "King George 
never fear, sir, long as Badian boy 'tan' 'tiff". 

The Sierra Leone negro, says Henty, is in his 
native country lord and master. He believes that he 
is the white man's equal in every point, his superior 
in most. But this game of indolence and insolence 
did not pay at Cape Coast. The negroes were en- 
listed in the service of the Queen for six months, 
and although the work they did was less than that 
which a Fanti girl of twelve years old would get 

(ii*=37) 17 

242 Warfare in the Bush 

throug-h, it had to be done without insolence or 

Night in the jungle produced its memories. After 
his day's tramp with the troops and bearers, nine 
o'clock in the evening saw ail but the sentries lying 
down, and Henty retained for many years very vivid 
recollections of these nights in the forest on the way 
to Coomassie — close nights, with scarcely a breath of 
wind stirring. Somewhere outside the hut where the 
correspondents sheltered, a native would be demon- 
strating that chest troubles are not peculiar to our 
bronchitic, foggy isles, for here in the midst of this 
tropic heat one of the blacks would keep up a per- 
petual coughing that made sleep next to impossible; 
next, a legion of rats could be heard gnawing and 
scratching, as they tore about the shelters and raced 
in every direction over those who were seeking for 
rest; and then there were the insects. The mosquitoes 
would begin, and it seemed as if they knew the com- 
mand in the old opera "The Siege of Rochelle" — 
"Sound the trumpet boldly!" Every now and then, 
too, upon fell intention bent, they would make a raid 
from above on some unprotected face, while, to sup- 
plement this trouble, a colony of the wretched insects 
which make their attacks from below — thin, flat, silent, 
and secretive — carried on their assault, and retired 
afterwards singularly misshapen, grown, to use the 
old countrified expression, " quite out of know- 
ledge ". 

"Now", says Henty, "I imagine that here were 
assembled all the elements which make night horrible, 
with the exception only of indigestion after a heavy 
supper. Had I been in any other country, I would 

A Sad Loss 243 

have moved my rug outside and slept there, but here 
such a proceeding would have entailed an attack of 
fever. Consequently I had nothing to do but lie still 
till morning." 

Henty relates a sad incident in connection with the 
encounters with the warlike Ashantis. He tells how 
the first of their merry party on the screw steamer 
Avibriz, the vessel on which Sir Garnet Wolseley 
went out to take up his command, had fallen, and 
"as usual," he says, "death had taken one of the 
most gentle, brave, and kindly spirits from among 
them ". Lieutenant Wilmot, of the Royal Artillery, 
had fallen, fighting like a hero, and the news of his 
death, when it was brought in, produced the keenest 
regret among those who knew him. A promising 
young officer, attached to his profession, a zealous 
worker, and a favourite with all because of his quiet 
cheerfulness and modest unassuming manner, he was 
one of the leaders in a reconnaissance that had been 
thought necessary. The force consisted of a hundred 
of the West India Regiment, nine hundred native 
allies, and some of the Hausas with rockets, the last 
being under the command of the young officer. It 
seems that when he approached the Ashanti camp 
an alarm was given, and the fight began at once. 
The bush was extremely dense, and from out of its 
shelter the enemy poured a fierce fire, and in those 
short minutes the British officers had a severe lesson 
in the amount of confidence that could be placed in 
the native allies. Out of the nine hundred levies 
only about a hundred stood firm, and these might, 
for all the good they did, have followed their king or 
chief. This "noble" warrior headed the party who 

244 Warfare in the Bush 

took to flight, and he, with his company, did not 
cease to run until they were safe back at camp, while 
many did not even stop there, but continued right 
on till they reached their own villages. Those that 
did stand fast made use of their muskets in the wildest 
and most useless manner, in contradistinction to the 
West India Regiment, which behaved with great 
steadiness and gallantry, and for two hours kept up 
a heavy Snider fire at their invisible foes, the 
Ashantis. Lieutenant Wilmot had dependable men 
in the Hausas, who had been well trained in the use 
of rockets, weapons formidable and awe-inspiring to 
natives; but early in the fight he received a severe 
wound in the shoulder from one of the Ashanti 
bullets fired from the bush, and this tore through 
flesh and muscle and narrowly missed the bone. The 
wound was bad enough to have necessitated imme- 
diate retirement; but it meant the loss of their leader 
to the Hausas, and in spite of the severity of the 
wound and the acute pain, he held on to his task, 
encouraging his men for two long hours, during 
which time the rockets discharged against the enemy 
dislodged them again and again from their strong- 
holds. At last, when the gallant young officer's work 
was pretty well done, another bullet struck him down, 
and this time it was no mere painful flesh wound — the 
missile found its way straight to his heart, and he fell 
back dead. With the exception of one native, poor 
Wilmot was the only man killed. But the Ashantis 
had stood their ground well, and the wounds of the 
attacking party were many. So vigorous indeed was 
the defence of the brave savages, that just about the 
time when Wilmot fell. Colonel Festing, who was in 

A Coast Funeral 245 

command, and was also hit, seeing that an attempt 
was being made by the enemy to cut off his retreat, 
fell back upon the village from which the attack had 
been made. The many wounds were for the most 
part very slight; for though put down as severe be- 
cause received in spots where a rifle bullet wound 
would have been a serious matter, they were mostly 
inflicted by slugs from clumsy muskets. These pellets 
only penetrated a short distance, with the result that 
the injuries only entailed a day or two's confinement. 

The death of poor young Wilmot moved the whole 
camp to deep feeling, and the funeral took place at the 
cemetery of Cape Coast on the following day. Sir 
Garnet Wolseley and the staff and nearly every officer 
in the town attended, while the navy was represented 
by the officers from the fleet. The procession was 
solemn and impressive, bringing to the minds of 
many the sad little poem which recounts the burial of 
Sir John Moore. The body had been brought down 
from Prospect House, to which it had been first 
taken, and was placed in a room of the General 
Hospital. A gun was brought, dragged by a party 
of marine artillerymen and marines, who, commanded 
by a naval officer, had come ashore for the purpose. 
An officer of the Royal Artillery superintended the 
preparations and followed as chief mourner. As the 
coffin, covered by a flag, was brought out and placed 
upon the gun carriage, all the officers saluted their 
dead comrade, and then fell in behind at a slow 


" Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note." 

There was no military music, but Henty says: " I 
think the slow measured tramp was more moving 

246 Warfare in the Bush 

than any pomp or military display could have been. 
Never before has such a procession of officers been 
seen on the Gold Coast; and a crowd of natives 
assembled to look on." 

The road led by the sea, and the dull moan of the 
surg-e was more appropriate music than any made by 
mechanical instruments. A quarter of a mile brought 
them to the cemetery, and as they stood around and 
listened to the solemn words, " it is, I trust, no 
derogation to our manliness to say that many a lip 
was bitten hard, many a hand dashed across the face 
to hide that emotion which, however great the cause, 
Englishmen always strive to conceal ". 

" During his month's stay at Cape Coast, Lieu- 
tenant Wilmot had assisted Captain Rait to turn the 
wild Hausas into steady gunners. He had won all 
hearts, and among us there was but one feeling — that 
of deep regret for the unselfish young fellow who had 
left us but a few days before in high health and 
spirits, and who was brought back only to be laid 
in his lonely grave by the never-ceasing surf of the 
Atlantic Ocean." 


The March up Country 

The lessons learned in dealing with the native allies 
in the attack upon the daring savages who had set 
the British forces at defiance were too sharp to be 
neglected. There was, of course, something very 
attractive and cheering about being backed up by 
some hundreds, or even thousands, of well-armed, 
fierce-looking, stalwart natives. They were wonder- 
fully skilful in performing upon the tom-tom, or in 
producing thunder from the war drum — sounds which 
could be kept up, suggesting dire threats, all through 
the night, and were often accompanied by yells and 
shouts such as would send dismay into any enemy's 
breast — while, when they were partially drilled and 
supplied with musket or rifle and cartridge-box, they 
were looked upon as being invincible, and even be- 
lieved it themselves. But the proof of the pudding 
is said to be in the eating, and the flavour of the com- 
pote of native allies proved only to be vile. Indeed, 
in the opinion of our officers many of the blacks 
seemed to be only of use for the labour of road- 
making, preparing stations, and accumulating stores 
up the country, business, all this, which would have 
been much better carried on by the women, who had 
already proved themselves invaluable for carrying 

Encounter after encounter had taken place with the 


248 The March up Country 

Ashantis, in which the native allies had done a great 
amount of shouting when they stood their ground; 
but they had more often done this shouting while in 
full retreat, for they seemed to consider it a duty to 
alarm everyone in the rear. Hence it was decided 
to do away with our native army, which had proved 
itself to be worse than useless ; and the police were 
ordered to arrest all the men belonging to the Cape 
Coast contingent as they came sneaking in through 
the bush when the fights were at an end. 

Their arms were taken away from them, and orders 
were given for them to be marched up under a guard 
to where the road had been commenced towards the 
interior for a more strenuous attack to be made on the 
enemy. This was considered to be a move in the 
right direction, but all wished that the entire force 
of the allies had come in to be disarmed, for as long 
as they remained under arms they were a trouble and 
an anxiety. They had to be fed; they expended 
ammunition largely; they had to be driven towards 
the foe, and when they reached his neighbourhood 
they proved themselves to be more likely to shoot 
their friends than their enemies. In fact, where the 
British regiments were strengthened — such was the 
term — by these native allies, the latter proved to be an 
immense anxiety and cause of weakness to any troops 
they accompanied. Even now their measure is not 
quite taken. They proved to be useless as scouts; 
they would not go in front; and they were dangerous 
in the rear. They were unreliable even as watch-dogs, 
for they would run from their own shadow, and they 
would blaze away at nothing for half an hour if they 
heard a night bird flutter in the bush. 

Lazy Poltroons 249 

But with all these disadvantages and objections to 
their presence, the leaders of the expedition could not 
but feel the difficulty of taking such a step as to disarm 
them en masse. There was the risk of incurring the 
wrath of the whole population of Cape Coast, as these 
men, if they could do injury in no other way, might 
refuse altogether to work or carry loads. There was 
also the fact that the British had no force which could 
compel a thousand men to go out and labour on the 
road. They might have been taken up, of course, 
under an escort, but no contingent which the little 
British army could spare could prevent these allies 
from taking to the bush the first day they went out, 
and so finding their way down again. 

Finding that the men would not come forward to 
carry loads after the disarmament, it occurred to one 
of our officers to appeal to the women, as they had 
proved to be so much better than the men; and this 
proved to have excellent results, two of the wives of 
the chiefs going round and haranguing their sisters 
in very able speeches. They called upon the women 
to come forward and help the white men by carrying 
loads up the country. The white men, they said, had 
come there to protect them from the Ashantis, and 
the people of Cape Coast ought to help in every way 
they could. The men, they said, had not done well. 
They had refused to fight; they had disgraced them- 
selves. Let the women ^come forward, then, and do 
their best, and let every one of them go and offer to 
take a load up the country. 

These speeches produced a good deal of talk and 
excitement among the women, who came to a general 
agreement that they ought to do as they were asked. 

250 The March up Country 

Whether they would come forward in any numbers 
remained to be seen, for, as related by the American 
humorist, each woman was ready and willing that 
all her female relations should come forward as 
carriers, but each was disposed to view her own as 
an exceptional case. However, after much talk, the 
assistance of the women did prove valuable, and later, 
when the Control was much troubled about getting 
the loads up into the interior for the use of the troops, 
a brilliant idea occurred to one of the officers of the 
department. This was, that the services of the chil- 
dren of the place could be utilized, and that by paying 
half the usual price for the carriage of half the usual 
load, they might get the troublesome little barrels 
of provisions taken up the country. The idea was 
carried out with immense success, for no sooner was 
it known that boys and girls could get half wages for 
carrying up light loads, than there was a perfect rush 
of the juvenile population to the store where the 
barrels were served out. 

Three hundred were sent off the first morning, 
nearly four hundred the second, and a large number 
of applicants were told that they must come next day. 
The glee of the youngsters on being employed was 
worth watching. They were all accustomed to carry 
weights, such as great jars of water and baskets of 
yams, far heavier than those which they had now to 
take up country, and the fun of the expedition and the 
satisfaction of earning money proved delightful, while 
as four hundred boys and girls carried up ten thou- 
sand pounds of rice, this addition to the army of 
carriers was no small help. 

The march to Coomassie proved to be a time for 

Captain Rait's Expedient 251 

carrying out invention. Wants had to be made up 
for, and in accordance with the proverb that neces- 
sity is the mother of invention, our officers appealed 
pretty largely to that mother. 

For instance, during a long halt before making a 
serious advance, one of the most amusing sights in 
the town was provided by Captain Rait, of the Royal 
Artillery. He had a certain number of guns to get 
to the front, and he very soon discovered that, for 
purposes of hauling a field-piece through a dense 
tropical forest, the native black was worse than useless. 
This discovery, too, was made at a time when there 
were no Jacks available from the men-of-war to har- 
ness themselves on to the limber and run the lioht 
pieces up to the front in sailors' cheery fashion. 

But Captain Rait made his plans, knowing as he 
did that in camp there were a number of young 
bullocks which had been sent down from Sierra 
Leone to the contractor who supplied the meat. 
"Why", said the gallant officer, "should not these 
young bullocks be broken in to draw my guns?" 

Why, indeed? But here was where the amusing 
side — amusing to the forces who looked on — came in, 
for as soon as the attempt was made to yoke or 
harness the oxen, they began to object. 

The heavy dull oxen have never been known to dis- 
play much understanding, but had they known that the 
acquirement of the hateful accomplishment in which 
they were being instructed was saving them from 
immediate slaughter, they might perchance have be- 
come more tractable. The French have a proverb 
that it is necessary to suffer so as to become beautiful. 
The oxen were not required to become beautiful, only 

252 The March up Country 

useful, and, says one of our writers, the useful and 
the beautiful are one. At any rate, they were called 
upon to suffer but slii^htly. 

The animals were small, but the weight behind 
them was not very great — an old-fashioned howitzer 
weighing, with its cannon and limber, about two 
hundredweight. The artillery officer acted as driver, 
and the Hausa gunners ran alongside, leaving the 
oxen alone when they progressed slowly and steadily, 
and, when not so disposed, giving them a thrust here 
and a push there so as to keep the sluggish brutes 
straight, while others urged the guns along whenever 
the beasts did not submit readily to the yoke. 

So every afternoon for some days the artillery cap- 
tain drove these peculiar war chariots about the place 
to the no slight risk of his neck, for the roads were 
ill-made and intersected by drains, some of which 
were two feet deep. But the gallant officer faced all 
this, to the delight of the lookers-on, and he was 
quite happy and contented, for no accident beyond 
the occasional breaking of a pole took place. Finally, 
as a reward for his perseverance Captain Rait had 
the satisfaction of taking his guns up to the front 
drawn by these sturdy bullocks, which, though not 
entirely broken in, were yet sufficiently so to draw 
their loads in very fair order. 

At this time bullocks were being driven regularly 
up to the front, so as to give the white troops a meal 
of fresh meat twice a week, and the sailors and 
marines, who were accustomed to the salt junk served 
on board, got on very well with an occasional change. 
"But," says Henty, "for white men not so used to 
salt meat, it would be difficult to imagine a more 

Salt Meat and Fresh 253 

objectionable food for a tropical climate," and, he con- 
tinues, once more well launched upon the Commis- 
sariat Department, "the preserved meat, which was 
issued much more frequently than the salt, was no 
doubt healthier, but men grew very sick of it. Aus- 
tralian meat at the best of times is not an appetizing 
food, but once or twice a week one can eat it without 
any great effort. Four or five times a week, however, 
in a climate where the appetite requires a little 
humouring, it is really a trial ; so that the discovery 
that bullocks could at any rate live for some time up 
the country, and that they were able to pick up a sub- 
sistence for themselves in the old clearings, was an 
immense benefit for us all." 

Cattle were brought from Sierra Leone, from the 
Canaries, from Madeira, and even from Lisbon, and 
in this way an abundant supply was obtained for the 
use of the white troops. "Had they", says Henty, 
" been obliged to subsist solely upon salt and Aus- 
tralian meat during the march up and back again, I 
believe that the mortality would have been vastly 
greater than it really was." 

After one of the encounters with the Ashantis, 
rumour began to reach the British from prisoners and 
escaped slaves that the enemy had lost a great number 
of men, and that immediately the action was over 
they had begun to retreat. But upon the day after 
the fight the partly-conquered black army was met 
by reinforcements seven thousand strong, bringing 
orders from the king that they were not to retreat, but 
to attack the English and drive them back. This the 
retreating army refused to do, declaring that they had 
done all that was possible and that they could do no 

254 The March up Country 

more. The new-comers, struck by their wretched 
appearance, and by their tales of misery and distress, 
which they now heard for the first time, refused to 
advance alone, and the whole force fell back together. 
Several slaves now made their escape, and brought 
the news that the Ashanti army was crossing the 
river in canoes and on rafts. But such intelligence 
could not be relied upon, and Sir Garnet Wolseley, 
after much enquiry, finding it impossible to obtain 
trustworthy information, called for volunteers to go 
on ahead and discover whether the Ashantis had 
really got across. His troops had plenty of pluck, 
and two men belonging to one of the West India 
regiments at once undertook the task, which meant 
an advance alone some twenty-five miles to the 
river Prah. 

They found how severe had been the enemy's 
defeat, for all along the whole route of the retreat 
men were lying dead, while on reaching the banks of 
the stream it was to find that the survivors of the 
beaten army and the reinforcements had all crossed. 

Elated by their success, the two scouts stopped on 
the river bank to write their names on a piece of 
paper and fasten it on a tree to prove that they had 
been there. This done, in the coolest manner pos- 
sible they fired their rifles across the stream in the 
direction of the enemy, as if in contempt for their 
prowess, and then in the most matter-of-fact way 
shouldered their pieces and marched back towards 
their general's camp to bear their news. 

"This feat", Henty writes, "appears to me one of 
the most courageous, if not the most courageous, 
which was performed during the whole campaign. 

Plucky West Indians 255 

Nothing could have been more trying to the nerves 
than that long march through the lonely forest, with 
the knowledge that at any moment some body of 
Ashantis who had lingered behind the rest might 
spring upon them, and that, if not killed at once, 
they were doomed to a lingering death by torture at 


The Battle of Amoaful 

At last, after endless hindrances, the expedition was 
within measurable distance of coming into direct 
touch with the Ashantis, and Henty records in dra- 
matic style the great decisive battle of the campaign, 
when, after five hours and a half of stubborn fieht- 
ing, the Ashantis were completely discomfited. The 
Battle of Amoaful will long remain a memory in 
Ashanti, where it is a superstition to swear by the 
days which have brought misfortune in their train. 
And the last day of January in that eventful year, or 
the word Amoaful, will for centuries be the most 
solemn of words to the Ashanti people — an oath by 
which kings will be bound; a legend with which 
children will be awed. But yet there was no shame 
in the defeat. The Ashantis fought like the brave 
men they are, and though worsted they added to their 
reputation, while nothing but admiration can be felt 
for the manner in which they came on time and again, 
notwithstanding the fierce musketry fire which was 
intended to stop their assaults. 

On the day of the battle the marching orders came 
early. The Naval Brigade and the 23rd Regiment 
had to come from Kiang Bossu. These united at 
Insafoo with the 42nd, the Rifle Brigade, and the 
artillery of Captain Rait, the officer who had suc- 
ceeded so well in his attempt to utilize oxen for 


Marines and Handy Men 257 

hauling the guns up country. At Quarman things 
were well under weigh at dawn, but it was half-past 
seven ere the head of the 42nd Regiment entered the 
village, through which they swung without a halt. 
Following them came Rait's artillery, a company of 
the 23rd, and the Naval Brigade, which included the 
Marines, eighty in number, who distinguished them- 
selves like their comrades. Henty, in reference to 
the disappointment that was felt in England at the 
doings by the Marines not being specially commented 
upon, rightly points out that it would have been 
difficult to go into details respecting the deeds of this 
small body, wholly apart from the force with w^hich 
they were linked. It was enough that they shared 
in all the glory of the brigade of the "handy 

men ". 

Wood's regiment had only three companies and 
Russell's four, owing to the garrisons which had 
necessarily to be left en route, and these regiments 
took their position in the rear of the naval men, whom 
they were to follow in the fight. 

When the staff reached Quarman, Henty learned 
that the difficulties of transport were at last sur- 
mounted. Colonel Colley proved an excellent trans- 
port officer, and had succeeded in amply provisioning 
Insafoo. Henty proceeded with the staff in the rear 
of Russell's regiment, and had not been more than ten 
minutes on the march ere the brisk rattle of musketry 
told him that the 42nd were busy at work clearing 
the village. There was a short pause, and then the 
firing began again. At this time he was annoyed at 
the progress being so slow. In front there was much 
lumber in the way of ammunition and hammocks, 

( B 837 ) 18 

258 The' Battle of Amoaful 

which impedimenta was in the charge of a large 
number of bearers — "somewhat scared and wholly 
stupid men ". Still, he managed to get a very good 
panoramic view of the proceedings, and in the course 
of his exciting narrative he describes accurately the 
position of all the leaders of our troops, from Sir 
Garnet downwards. He says that the first shot was 
fired a few minutes before eight, and it was nearly 
half an hour later that the troops came out into the 
open place of Agamassie, a village of six or eight 
houses. The firing was unceasing, and with bush 
all round there was heavy work for the engineers in 
clearing a way for the baggage. The enemy's fire 
came from the front and right and left, and the 
English progress was slow. • 

At the entrance to Agamassie Captain Buckle, of 
the Royal Engineers, a brave man and a brilliant 
officer, was found breathing his last, shot with two 
slugs just above the heart, while the doctors were 
hard at work attending to the wounds of several men 
of the 42nd. Not far away Dr. Feagan, of the Naval 
Brigade, was also busy, having taken up his station 
under a tree — a tree which Sir Garnet promoted to be 
his head-quarters. 

Here three roads converged, and he was able to 
receive reports from Colonel M'Leod on the left, 
Sir Archibald Alison in the centre, and Colonel 
Wood on the right. It seems that the 42nd drove 
the enemy's outposts helter skelter out of the village, 
and then pushed on for nearly a quarter of a mile, 
when they were checked by a tremendous fire. The 
undergrowth was dense in the extreme, and the 
Ashantis contested every inch, while a great difficulty 

A Fight in a Swamp 259 

which our men had to face was the risk of firing at 
friends, in consequence of the intricacy of the bush, 
which was so bewildering that all idea of the points 
of the compass was lost. Sir Garnet sent orders to 
commanding officers to warn their men against this 
danger, and to prevent it from happening the rear of 
Colonel Wood's column was swung round so that it 
advanced more towards the right. "Five minutes 
with the Naval Brigade", Henty says, "showed me 
sufficiently that I should gain nothing in the way 
of incidents by remaining there, for no enemy was 
actually in sight, while I was running a very con- 
siderable risk of being knocked over. I therefore 
returned to the head-quarters at the village." 

It was now ten o'clock; wounded men were coming 
in fast — 42nd Rifles, Naval Brigade, and native allies. 
On the left the firing had nearly ceased, and a de- 
spatch was received from Colonel M'Leod saying that 
all was comparatively quiet on his side. Orders were 
accordingly sent to him to bear to the north-east until 
he came in contact with the enemy. In so doing he 
came upon a partial clearing, where a sharp opposi- 
tion was experienced. The Hausas carried the clear- 
ing at a rush, but the enemy, as usual, opened a heavy 
fire from the edge of the bush. The Hausas were re- 
called and a fire was opened with the rockets, which 
soon drove the Ashantis back. The 42nd were mean- 
while in the thick of things, and the men were admir- 
ably handled by Major M'Pherson; but generalship 
availed nothing in a swamp where the firing was 
terrific, so the regiment suffered a temporary check. 
The enemy could not be seen, but every bush had its 
white puff of smoke, and the air was full of slugs. 

26o The Battle of Amoaful 

At this juncture Captain Rait's guns proved their 
efficacy. Assisted by Lieutenant Saunders, the Cap- 
tain advanced boldly in front of the line and poured 
round after round of grape into the enemy, with the 
result that their fire slackened and the 42nd were 
enabled to continue their advance. Through the 
camp and up the hill they went; and now the effect of 
the English fire was to be seen, for the dead Ashantis 
lay in heaps. Beyond the camp upon the hill the 
bush was thicker than ever, and here, where it was 
impossible for the white soldier to skirmish, the 
Ashantis made a last desperate stand. The narrow 
lane up which alone the troops could pass was torn as 
if by hail with the shower of slugs, but a large tree 
which stood nearly in the centre of the path, and 
caused it slightly to curve, afforded some shelter to 
our men, and they sent back a storm of bullets in 

The 42nd suffered greatly, and Major M'Pherson 
had been shot in the leg; but he declined to go to the 
ambulance, and, helped by a stick, still led his men. 
Eight other officers were wounded, and the total of 
104 killed and wounded out of a force of a little over 
450, showed plainly enough how hard fought was 
the day. However, victory was not far off. The 
Ashantis found the bush a trifle too hot, and had to 
take to the open, where the Sniders and the guns 
proved too much for them. From this point the 
advance was rapid. Led by Sir A. Alison, the 42nd 
went with a rush up the narrow path and out into 
the clearing beyond. There was desultory firing 
from the houses, but the men drove the enemy out 
of these, and a single shell down the space (hardly 

Five Arduous Hours 261 

a street) which divided the village burst in a group 
at the farther end, killing eight and completing the 

It was mid-day then, but the Ashantis were not 
finally beaten, and throughout Henty has high praise 
for their courage and tenacity, which was evidenced 
once again in a determined but abortive attempt to 
retake the village. 

Finally, when Sir Garnet gave orders for the gen- 
eral advance, a number of our allies, who had fought 
admirably while on the defensive, raised their war-cry 
and, sword in hand, rushed on like so many panthers 
let loose, while by their side, skirmishing as coolly 
as if on parade, were the men of the Rifle Brigade. 
The latter searched every bush with their bullets, and 
in five minutes from the beginning of the advance 
the Ashantis were in full retreat. 

Such is the story of the Battle of Amoaful, a battle 
which reflects as much credit on all engaged in it as 
many affairs in which the number of combatants have 
been ten times as large. 

" Never", says Henty, "was a battle fought admit- 
ting less of description. It is impossible, indeed, to 
give a picturesque account of an encounter in which 
there was nothing whatever picturesque; in which 
scarcely a man engaged saw an enemy from the 
commencement to the end; in which there was no 
manoeuvring, no brilliant charge, no general con- 
centration of troops. The battle consisted simply of 
five hours of lying down, of creeping through the 
scrub, of gaining ground foot by foot, and of pouring 
a ceaseless fire into every bush in front which might 
conceal an invisible foe." 

262 The Battle of Amoaful 

The scene in Agamassie after the day had been 
won was full of interest. In the centre of the village 
Sir Garnet was busy issuing instructions and making 
sure that his orders were carried out. Fortunately for 
the wounded, there was but little sunshine, and Henty 
has a word of praise for the fortitude of the natives, 
who submitted to the operation of probing and ex- 
tracting slugs without a murmur. There were in all 
250 casualties, but only fifteen or twenty deaths. One 
poor fellow of the 42nd, unluckily, was separated from 
his comrades in the bush and was killed, while when 
found later he was headless. 

It was difficult to estimate the number of natives 
engaged. The total might be anything from fifteen 
to twenty thousand. No accurate details could be 
obtained from the enemy, for the Ashantis seem to 
be unable to count anything higher than thirty. 
Beyond that the figures are to them too vast for 
comprehension. They always carry off their killed 
and wounded unless extremely hard pressed ; but 
after the Battle of Amoaful their dead lay very thickly 
together, often in groups of five or six. Henty 
considered, too, that numbers of the wounded could 
only have crawled away to die. In and about the 
village eighty bodies were found, and he estimates 
the Ashanti loss at two thousand, and these the best 
fighting men. Ammon Quatia, a famous leader, was 
among the slain, and Aboo, one of the six great feudal 
kings, fell also, likewise the king's chief executioner. 
The Ashantis were wretchedly armed, and yet for five 
hours they held out against picked troops who were 
equipped with the best weapons of precision. The 
choice of a position, too, was, he considered, admirable. 

A Dirty Town 263 

After the din of the battle the succeeding silence 
was very strange, but this was soon broken by the 
rattle of firing to the rear. The Ashantis were still 
in force along the road, and the first convoys of 
wounded were forced to return, while Quarman had 
been attacked — "unpleasant news to a man whose 
baggage was in that town, and who knew that the 
garrison was a small one ". Fortunately, a few hours 
later the village in question was relieved. 

Amoaful was found to be a dirty town, capable of 
housing about two thousand people. It was divided 
into two parts by the high road, some thirty yards 
wide, and down this road grew three or four shady 
trees. Under these officers and men sat in groups, 
the central tree being left to the officers, just as 
in a French town one cafe is tacitly reserved for 
their use. There was nothing to eat, apart from the 
limited haversack ration, but everyone was in high 
spirits. Fortunately an immense supply of grain 
was found, and this came in usefully to the Control. 
It was served out to the carriers, who much preferred 
it to rice. 

Bequah, only a mile and a quarter from Amoaful, 
was the capital of a powerful Ashanti king. Here 
on the following day the enemy were only dislodged 
after a severe fight, they being in great force; and 
Henty attributes this victory in part to the moral effect 
produced by the proceedings at Amoaful. The place 
was burned down, which action of course proved a 
damaging blow to the prestige of the king, though so 
far as permanent damage went, the houses with their 
palm-leaf roofs could easily be rebuilt. 

The many villages that they passed were much 

264 The Battle of Amoaful 

like each other, and the proc^ramme of the troops in 
the course of the march onward to Coomassie was 
marked by a good deal of repetition — bush dangers, 
sudden fusillades, and then a searching of the scrub 
in every direction before camp was formed. 

Some of the convoys suffered, and in the Quarman 
attack several officers lost their kits, and were reduced 
for the remainder of the campaign to the clothes on 
their backs. This was in consequence of the action 
of the cowardly carriers, who threw down their loads 
and ignominiously ran away. 

The native troops fought well, and "rushed" 
several of the villages in good style; still, the advance 
was slow, the enemy hanging on the flanks. Here 
and there, though, in the villages there was evidence of 
panic — war-drums, horns, chiefs' stools and umbrellas 
being scattered broadcast. Up to the time, however, 
of a message being received from General Sir Archi- 
bald Alison to the effect that all the villages save the 
last were taken, the firing had been going on without 
cessation, and Sir Garnet himself received a blow on 
the helmet from a slug. 

A pestilential black swamp surrounded Coomassie, 
and after this was passed and the town had been 
entered, the General rode up to the troops, who had 
formed in line, and called for cheers for the Oueen. 

There was a great deal to be done, and a beginning 
was made with disarming all the Ashantis possible. 
The first night in Coomassie was eventful, for fires 
broke out in several directions, the result of carriers 
and others plundering. Pour encourager les autres, 
one man — a policeman, of all people — was hanged at 
sight. Several others had the lash. The General 

A Helter-Skelter Flight 265 

was much vexed at these fires, as he had asked the 
king to come in and make peace, stipulating that the 
town should be spared. 

Coomassie was decidedly picturesque, many of its 
houses resembling Chinese temples. But the great 
feature was the "fetish". Everything was fetish. 
Near the door of each house was a tree, at the foot 
of which were placed little idols, calabashes, bits of 
china, bones — an extraordinary medley. Inside there 
was dust and litter, the result of years of neglect, 
and the chief apartments were filled with lumber, all 
kinds of paraphernalia, umbrellas, drums, wooden 
maces, and what not. 

Up to the last it was believed by the Ashantis that 
the fetish would save the day, and the optimism of the 
king was shown by the state of the royal palace. It 
was in all respects exactly as he had left it, except that 
the gold-dust must have been carried off or buried. 
The royal bed and couch lay in their places, the royal 
chairs were in their usual raised positions, only oddly 
enough they had been turned round and over. 

In the palace there was a curious jumble of gold 
masks, gold caps, clocks, china, pillows, guns, &c. 
It was rather like a sale-room. There were many 
great alcoved courts, one containing war-drums orna- 
mented either with skulls or thigh-bones. In two or 
three there was simply a royal chair upon which his 
majesty used to sit to administer what passed for 
justice, and several stools were found covered with 
thick coatings of recently-shed blood. Henty says 
that a horrible smell of gore pervaded the whole 
palace. The nauseating odour was everywhere per- 
ceptible; and this was not to be wondered at, for 

266 The Battle of Amoaful 

twenty yards from one of the fetish trees was a charnel 
place where thousands had perished. Here were scores 
of bodies in various stages of putrefaction. 

The palace contained fetishes of all kinds, little 
dolls, and other articles. The king's bed-room was 
ten feet by eight, and the bed had a ledge on the near 
side, which the monarch had to step over when he 
sought his pillow. Among other weapons found here 
was an English general's sword, inscribed, "From 
Queen Victoria to the King of Ashanti ", presented 
to his predecessor. 

There is only one term that can be applied to 
Henty's work in connection with the march to Coo- 
massie, and that is thorough, for danger seems not to 
have been considered for a moment. What the troops 
had to do, he told himself, that he had to see, and self 
was never spared. 

After the desperate fighting was at an end, and the 
General's offers to the defeated monarch had been 
made known, it was anticipated that the king would 
come in and surrender. But in spite of much waiting 
and patience on the General's part nothing happened, 
and all delay and expectation were ultimately brought 
to an end by a terrific storm. For now, after much 
thought, it was decided — and Henty applauded the 
decision — to mark the visit of the punitive troops by 
the destruction of the place as a warning and an 
object-lesson in Britain's power to the king and the 
petty chiefs around. For the moment it was antici- 
pated that to fire the place would be impossible after 
the saturating by the tremendous rains, as this, it was 
feared, would prevent the thatch from burning; but 
the engineers went to work with axe, powder, and 

The Last of Coomassie 267 

palm-leaf torch, with the result that the whole fabric 
of the place was brought down like a piled-up pack of 
cards. Palm, bamboo, and thatch, as soon as the 
flames once got hold and began to leap, rapidly 
disappeared, and it was soon abundantly clear that 
before long Coomassie would be a city of the past. 
The royal residence, which was little more than a 
cemetery, shared in the general destruction, for it was 
blown up; and then the men cheered, and every heart 
grew light, for the task was done. 


A Carlist War 

Henty's return from Ashanti in 1874 is memorable to 
the writer from its being the commencement of his 
introduction to a good fellowship which lasted till that 
event which turns all friendships into a memory. 

The meeting was in that famous old street named 
after the little river of such modest and retiring nature 
that it was only written down as a ditch, though pro- 
bably in its beginnings, long before it was lost in 
Father Thames, it was christened Fleet. 

It was just outside the Standard office that the ac- 
quaintance began with the singular-looking, swarthy, 
not sun-tanned, but blackened war correspondent 
freshly arrived from the deadly swamps and black 
shadows of the West Coast forests. 

Scientific writers on the physiology of man and his 
coloration tell us that the black races have been en- 
dowed by nature with a curious black pigment lying 
beneath the skin, and that this is evidently intended 
as a protection from the too ardent and otherwise in- 
jurious rays of the sun. In the case of Henty, his 
appearance on his first return from the CoomaSsie 
campaign was that of one upon whom nature had 
begun to bestow some of this strange protection. He 
did not look embrowned, but blackened ; so dis- 
coloured, in fact, that there was one who laughingly 
spoke of the discoloration — which lasted for some 


Spanish Troubles 269 

considerable time — as making him strongly resemble 
a chimney-sweep who had been trying hard to wash 
himself clean for Sunday and had dismally failed. 

Henty found time in 1874 to send to the press in 
book form his account of the West Coast expedition, 
under the title of The March to Coomassie^ a work 
which ran through two editions. But he was not al- 
lowed long for the purpose of resuming the natural tint 
of an Englishman. Fresh work was looming in the 
almost immediate future, and, as if fate had ordained 
that he was to have something to do with nearly 
every warlike episode that recent history records, the 
summons came that he should start for that hotbed of 
revolution and insurrection, Spain. Here he was to 
busy his pen with his accounts of the long-drawn-out, 
never-seeming-to-end troubles in connection with the 
succession, and the long duel between Don Alfonso 
and Don Carlos to decide which should reign as king. 
Moreover a short-lived Spanish republic was in these 
days much to the fore. He had come back from 
Ashanti looking forward to rest and change. The 
rest was withheld, but the change came in plenty. 
Peace had been proclaimed in one part of the world, 
and one war was at an end, but this other war was 
in full swing, and so almost immediately he received 
his orders to start for Spain. 

Arrived in the Peninsula, he hurried to head- 
quarters, where he was received with the greatest 
courtesy and furnished with the means of following 
the army before Bilbao. Here he was soon in his 
element, penning one of his graphic letters, describing 
the forces and dealing with the fortifications, batteries, 
and the strategy of the contending armies. There 

270 A Carlist War 

was no waiting here, no want of exciting matter such 
as would interest his readers at home, and in the 
pursuit of information he seems to have kept well to 
the front, meeting the sad traces of battle in the shape 
of stretcher after stretcher being brought in laden with 
the dead and wounded. 

He never seems to have flinched from the duty 
that was his, and above all, he never lost sympathy 
with the wounded, even, as in former cases, making 
a point of exploring the temporary hospitals that were 
being filled. 

He describes soon after his arrival at the front, and 
just at the close of one of the encounters, how he 
went out one night in search of information, stopping 
by the roadside for the space of a couple of hours. 
The scene was as striking as it was sad. There was 
but little moonlight, and by the glare of a few camp 
fires he saw the long line of stretchers go by bearing 
officers and men to the ambulances. The procession 
was watched by the startled uninjured soldiers, whose 
faces showed that they were gazing for the first time 
on the victims of a civil war. 

Those they looked upon were in a way fortunate, 
for in the long line that passed Henty, or which he 
passed by, there were many who had found no 
bearers, and so had crawled along by the aid of some 

Here and there there were ambulances for dressing 
the wounds of those who required most attention. 
Many who had been hit in the neck, arms, or feet, 
had been temporarily bandaged, and he came upon 
one poor fellow who had been severely wounded in 
the neck and shoulder, whose dressing had become 

A Friend in Need 271 

disarranged as he struggled onward. At length, 
forced by his suffering, he was resting by the way, 
moaning piteously, and after Henty had rearranged 
the dressing: with a handkerchief and the sufferer's 
cravat, the man murmured in Spanish his grateful 
thanks to the young Englishman who had helped 
him in his need. 

It was truly a time of suffering, for hundreds of 
wounded had passed the night untended upon the 
ground, and even the dead could not be buried, as 
neither side dared expose themselves to the severe 
fire that was kept up. 

In Henty's earlier letters the sympathy above men- 
tioned affected his descriptions, which were sad in 
the extreme, in fact those of a man who suffered too. 
All through the period when he was with the Spanish 
army, in a quiet unobtrusive way the letters constantly 
showed how often he was placed in circumstances 
where there were calls made upon his humanity, 
and invariably he displayed his readiness to join 
hands with the members of the Red Cross Society 
and help the wounded sufferers in their distress. 

Experience and his own nature generally found 
him friends, who from day to day were ready to 
share with him such provision as was to be had, or 
to accept a portion of his own scanty military rations. 
Then setting danger at defiance, he was glad to yield 
to fatigue and prepare himself for the next day's toil 
by sleeping anywhere, beneath a shelter if it was to 
be found, if not, rolled in a waterproof, one of his 
principal cares always being the protection of his 
writing-case and pens. Here, however, in spite of 
his care, he was called upon to suffer the war corre- 

272 A Carlist War 

spondent's great difficulty. It is comparatively easy 
for an energetic man, supplied with proper credentials, 
to gather enough stirring facts in the progress of a 
war to form an interesting article for his paper, but 
after hurrying to the nearest shelter where he could 
write and finish his letter, there would always come 
the difficulties of despatch. It was not always easy 
to find a messenger to bear it to the nearest place 
where postal communication could be ensured, and 
afterwards only too often he had the mortification of 
discovering that the carefully-written communication 
had miscarried. 

The war which Henty was now engaged in de- 
scribing was not one of great battles with massed 
brigades against massed brigades, and troops spread 
over miles of country, but it was a desultory con- 
tinuance of what might be spoken of as village war- 
fare. The Carlists fought in a guerrilla-like fashion, 
and were continually being driven from one position 
to start up again unexpectedly in another. 

There was plenty of artillery brought to bear at 
times, but more often it was hand-to-hand fighting, 
kept up with very small results, as far as the main 
issue was concerned, though defeat and destruction 
were frequently the fate of either party, while the 
country itself was the greatest sufferer. 

In his many journeyings from place to place in 
search of information, Henty was constantly brought 
face to face with the more or less petty horrors and 
often mischievous ruin caused by civil war — desolated 
villages, ruined homestead and mansion, and the 
stagnation of the country's social life by the passing 
through it of fire and sword. And for what? Too 


Carlist Characteristics 273 

often the answer might be given in the words which 
our own poet placed in the mouth of Old Kaspar: 
" I know not why they fought, quoth he, But 'twas 
a famous victory ". The politician alone can tell. 
What we know is that it seemed to be a never-ending 
war, one which supplied George Henty with the 
material which he afterwards made the basis of 
interesting historical tales. For he was ever to the 
front, and seems to have led a charmed life, living 
as he did an existence wherein there was always an 
impending attack, with the enemy starting up here 
and there in greater or less force. 

One Sunday he was in a town on the banks of 
a river, when the Carlists suddenly appeared on the 
other bank and began firing volleys across the water, 
the bullets coming whistling unpleasantly about the 
streets. He naively says that the inhabitants were 
getting into a great state of alarm. Naturally! But 
by mid-day on Monday the fire ceased, and by the 
evening it appears that the Carlist commanders re- 
ceived some news that involved retreat, and made 
them start off guerrilla -like with all their forces 
through some of the passes leading into the more 
impregnable valleys. Then came pursuit, till cart- 
ridges and grenades began to run short, and a fresh 
enemy appeared in the shape of a scarcity of pro- 
visions. Meanwhile the Carlists distinguished them- 
selves by burning several houses, including a convent 
and a very fine mansion, which were in no way inter- 
fering with their attack. In his description of this 
petty warfare Henty goes on to say: "From what 
I gather of the peasantry, the Carlists must have 
suffered from the shells. Twenty bullock carts with 

(B837) 19 

274 A Carlist War 

wounded were removed, and a chief is said to have 
been killed, while on the other side the Republican 
loss did not exceed a hundred. How pitiful ! A sample 
this of much of the warfare that was carried on, and 
with so little result!" 

In another letter, written from Burgos in June, 
1874, he gives a charming description of the beauty 
of the districts where the Carlists had again and 
again appeared during their January raids. By this 
time, though, there was a fresh enemy in the field, 
namely the weather, and on a certain railway journey 
he had ample evidence of the havoc wrought by 
the elements. A lowering sky, he says, and dark 
clouds which almost touched the roofs of the village 
churches gave warning of the severest thunderstorm 
he ever witnessed in that part of Spain. As the 
train dashed across the plains, the storm burst with 
such fury that the hailstones actually broke some of 
the carriage windows, while the clouds were so low 
that the train seemed to be passing through them. 
In fact, within human record no storm had done such 
damage in Old Castile. Finally the train was brought 
to a standstill in a little station, and the officials made 
the announcement that the line had been destroyed 
by the flood. Henty with his colleagues, therefore, 
had to pass the night as best they could with the rain 
pouring in torrents and the wind moaning around. 
Fretting was in vain, and the unhappy station-master 
could only shrug his shoulders and listen patiently to 
the upbraidings of the correspondents, who accused 
him of obstinacy in not sending the train forward. 
But with the dawn the little party became aware that 
they had had a very narrow escape. A previous train 

A Pitiful War 275 

had become derailed some hours before they came 
up, and seven poor creatures were lying wounded 
in the station. The daylight showed them too that, 
as far as their eyes could see, the country was 
flooded; fields and crops, walls and roads, were 
covered with the yellow muddy water. The line 
was a wreck; the sleepers were held together by the 
rails, and the embankment had been washed away. 
Miles and miles of rich country had been destroyed 
by the fury of the inundation, while the rays of the 
rising sun cast a lurid glare over the scene. The 
correspondents had to continue their journey along 
the line on foot, passing the ruins of the wrecked 
train which had preceded them, and then onwards 
to the next quarters of the northern army. Here they 
learned of the doings of the Carlist generals, and 
found that four stations had been burned, and that in 
every peaceful village in this land of vineyards the 
houses were fortified and held by the soldiery, for 
the war was being carried on in a more pitiable way 
than ever. It was the custom for the Carlist bands 
to sweep down from Navarre in the dead of night, 
to burn farms or stations, then take up a few rails, 
or attempt to destroy a bridge, while by daybreak the 
mischief would be done and the raiders far away. 

It was an adventurous life for a war correspondent, 
and one can only repeat how ample was the supply 
of material for Henty's ready pen. But the end came 
at last, for in spite of a brave struggle the Carlist star 
went down in gloom, and Henty returned to England 
to enjoy a brief rest before taking part in a bright and 
enjoyable expedition, that of the Prince of Wales — 
His Majesty, King Edward — to India. 


The Royal Tour in India 

The Royal Tour in India being a matter of supreme 
importance, it was only right that Henty should be 
chosen by the journal for which he had done such 
admirable work to accompany His Majesty, King 
Edward, then Prince of Wales, and accordingly, in 
''875, we find him one of the select corps of artists 
and correspondents who went on this memorable 

It was an agreeable change from the picturesque 
squalor and misery of civil war to a triumphal spec- 
tacular tour through the principal cities of the Indian 
Empire, in the train of the heir-apparent to the throne. 
No correspondent's journey can be anything less than 
arduous. He is always face to face with a heavy call 
upon his energies; he must be continually on the 
strain in order that he may feel that he is doing his 
best for his paper; above all, he must miss nothing 
that is of importance and worthy of the chronicler's 
pen. Still, in comparison with Henty's last journey, 
this was a pleasure trip, with all difficulties smoothed 
away. He travelled through a country in holiday 
guise, where day after day the various rajahs and 
Eastern potentates vied with each other in the splen- 
dour of their receptions, in their displays of Eastern 
magnificence, and in the opulence of their trains. It 
was all like a long series of Eastern fields of the 


Wonderful Pageantry 277 

cloth of gold. Notwithstanding that this was the 
latter half of the nineteenth century, it was like 
stepping to where medieval pageantry was in full 
swing, and the brilliant East surpassed itself in 
dazzling spectacle to do honour to the son of the 
august lady who on the first of May of the following 
year was to be proclaimed Empress as well as Queen. 

Henty reached Bombay in November. He was 
present at the receptions at Baroda and Goa, and then 
went southward to Ceylon. Turning north he went to 
Madras, and he reached Calcutta at Christmas to be 
present at the brilliant receptions of the Indian poten- 
tates. At the beginning of the following year he 
saw the unveiling of the statue of the Governor- 
general, the unfortunate Lord Mayo, who was assas- 
sinated by one of the convicts during a visit to the 
Andaman Islands. 

From Calcutta the Prince's train visited the grand 
old cities of Benares and Lucknow — name of ill omen, 
shadowed by the horrors of the Mutiny, but now 
glittering with splendour, the streets crowded with 
peaceful subjects eager to add to the brilliancy of the 
scene and to give fitting welcome to the son of the 
Great White Queen. 

Henty visited city after city brilliantly coloured with 
the pomp of the Orient, before the Prince went north- 
ward to Nepaul. He was present too at the river- 
crossing by the great train of elephants in their 
gorgeous trappings, a scene transferred to canvas by 
his old fellow club member and companion of the 
journey, Herbert Johnson, who has also since passed 

It was in Nepaul that Henty was brought face to 

278 The Royal Tour in India 

face with much of the barbaric splendour of Northern 
India, whose rulers, proud of their independence, 
have kept up much of the tradition of the past. There 
are some among us still who can recall the display- 
made by the Nepaulese ambassadors in 1850, with 
their prince, Jung Bahadoor, and it was fitting that 
our Prince should visit an Eastern king who fought 
bravely and stood firm for England during the hor- 
rors of the Mutiny in 1857. The name of the brave 
little hill men, once our opponents and at war with 
us, is historic in connection with many a hard fight 
in which they have done good service for England. 
They have made their British officers proud to be in 
command of a Gurkha regiment, and though rifle- 
armed, they are still wielders of their ancient weapon, 
the curved, willow-bladed, deadly kiikri. 

It is in Nepaul that the primeval tract of jungle, 
dear to all sportsmen under the name of the Terai, is 
to be found, and Henty's pen was called upon here 
to describe the hunting expeditions, with the train of 
howdah-bearing elephants and beaters in pursuit of 
tiger and the other savage denizens of the wide-spread 
forest. Here the Prince was able to show his prowess 
with the rifle, and among the presents he received is 
there not still living one of the little plump elephants 
he brought back, to become in course of years a huge 
bearer of juvenile visitors at the Zoo? 

At Bombay Henty, of course, had to describe the 
brilliant illuminations, and he put in a word too for 
the marvellous coloured fires which flashed from the 
port-holes of the fleet, also for the illuminated fort 
and esplanade, in all about three-quarters of a mile 
of general brilliancy and display of loyalty. Refer- 

Reviews and Receptions 279 

ence is made also to the Byculla Club ball and the 
arrival of the Prince and suite. There was a grand 
banquet to the soldiers of the Bombay garrison and 
the sailors of the fleet, and it was a pleasant time 
for the writer generally, especially after describing 
the horrors of war. 

The display of loyalty to the young Prince was 
tremendous. Fete succeeded fete, and Henty speaks 
of a banquet to the juveniles, of receptions galore, 
and of the Parsee ladies in their wonderful dresses. 

He, of course, saw the famed Temple of Elephants, 
but it has been described ad nauseam. He has a 
word in season as to the overpowering force of the 
sun. After such heat, welcome indeed was the shade 
of the Cave Temples with their religious figures. 
Then came the visit to Poona and the approach to the 
ghauts. There were reviews and more fetes before 
returning to and leaving Bombay. At the reviews 
he was struck by the brilliancy of the native troops, 
especially the Bombay Lancers and Poona Horse. 
He touched, too, on the trooping of the colours of the 
Marine Battalion for the last time prior to being 
presented now with new colours. The Bombay 
Marine Battalion had been raised a hundred years 
previously, and enjoyed a fine record. 

At Baroda came the visit to the Gaekwar and Sir 
Madhava Rao. Here the Prince mounted the ele- 
phant in waiting, his host having provided a majestic 
beast, richly caparisoned and gorgeously painted. 
The howdah was of silver, beautifully decorated with 
cloth of gold, the gorgeous housings reaching to the 
ground. It was a resplendent spectacle. The base of 
the howdah was a platform on which stood attendants 

28o The Royal Tour in India 

to drive off the flies and fan the air. A procession 
was formed, all the elephants being splendidly capari- 
soned, and a small escort of dragoons rode in advance. 

In the afternoon there was an elephant fight — one 
of the popular amusements in Baroda — and on the 
next day a barbaric display of combats between other 

The following day came a cheetah hunt, to dis- 
play the skill of the highly-trained, greyhound-like 
leopards. Shooting followed during the rest of the 
stay, including pig-shooting. The Prince took part 
in the pig-sticking, which he greatly enjoyed. 

The expedition returned to Bombay and started at 
once for Ceylon, taking Goa, the picturesque and 
Lilliputian Portuguese Indian Empire, en route. 

At Colombo there was a brilliant assemblage of 
Europeans and native chiefs at the railway station. 
At Kandy the thoroughfares were thronged with 
vociferous crowds, while triumphal arches were every- 
where, and this in a land where every tropical road 
seems to pass under a series of nature's beautiful 
bowers. The Prince left Kandy en route for two 
days' elephant-shooting and for Colombo, and Henty 
describes the Botanical Gardens and the Temple of 
Buddha, where the chief head-man displayed Buddha's 

Afterwards there took place a grand torchlight pro- 
cession, with fifty elephants, bands of native music, 
and natives in the guise of devils performing antics— 
a novel and successful pageant. The town was illu- 
minated, and beacon fires were lit on neighbouring 
hills, enhancing the natural picturesque beauties of 
the place. 

An Exciting Incident 281 

It was when returning from an elephant hunt at 
Colombo that the royal carriage was overturned and 
smashed, the Prince being thrown underneath, but 
fortunately escaping unhurt. An exciting feature of 
the hunt came when the party was pursued through 
the dense bamboo jungle by a herd of fierce, wild 

At Madras there were grand festivities, with an 
elaborate Nautch and Hindustani drama. At Cal- 
cutta the niaidan was lined with troops, and, as a 
sign of peace and prosperity, the National Anthem 
was sung by ten thousand school-children. Here the 
renowned Zoological Gardens came in for notice. 
Everywhere the natives flocked in thousands to see 
the royal visitor, while the programme at Calcutta 
also included tent-pegging and another procession 
of elephants. 

At Benares there were visits to the temples. The 
Prince was the Rajah of Benares' guest in a splendid 
castle on the Ganges, the roof of which afforded a 
view of the magnificent illuminations. Lucknow sup- 
plied more sporting features. At Cawnpore a visit 
was made to the sad memorial of the cemetery, while 
at Delhi there was further military display and an- 
other grand review. Henty touches on the remark- 
able appearance of the elephant batteries. The Prince 
and the brilliant staff rode along the line of eighteen 
thousand troops. At Lahore they saw the old palace 
of Jamoo, another brilliant display of fireworks, and 
a dance of lamas from Ladak. 

At other of the great cities of the country there 
were receptions by the rajahs. The account of the 
illumination of the Golden Temple reads like an 

282 The Royal Tour in India 

extract from the Arabian Nis^hts. At Agfra the 
procession to meet the Prince was gigantic, a 
most brilliant affair in every way, several hundred 
elephants bearing gorgeous trappings marching past, 
while seventeen rajahs were present. Every available 
man, horse, camel, and elephant were utilized on the 
occasion of a visit to the Taj Mahal monument, which 
was illuminated with wondrous effect. 

At Gwalior, accompanied by a strong British escort, 
the Prince was met by the Maharajah Sanda, who 
accompanied him to the old palace, the route of which 
was lined by fourteen thousand of the Maharajah's 
picked troops, who looked uncommonly well, while 
a sham fight which was arranged was a noteworthy 
affair. This, in fact, was one of the grandest recep- 
tions of the visit. 

From Gwalior the expedition moved on to Jaipur, 
where the Maharajah gave the Prince the opportunity 
of shooting his first tiger. The next visit was to the 
camp at Bunbussa, where the Prince was received by 
Sir Jung Bahadoor, the ruler of the Nepaulese. Here 
there was a guard of honour of Gurkhas, and it was 
worthy of remark that the Prince and Sir Jung were 
in plain clothes; but after a brief interval Sir Jung 
Bahadoor returned, with his suite, all in full dress, 
blazing with diamonds, A durbar was held, and the 
Prince paid a return visit. At each durbar there were 
presentations, and to each member of the Prince's 
suite the servants brought in trays of presents. Two 
tigers in cages, many other wild creatures, and a 
splendid collection of the beautiful pheasant-like birds 
from the Nepaulese mountains, were offered to the 
royal visitor. 

Returning Home 283 

Splendid sport was enjoyed here in the Nepaulese 
dominions, seven tigers being shot, six falling to 
the Prince's rifle. Upwards of six hundred elephants 
were employed in beating the jungle, and the sight 
was of an imposing character. Before leaving, the 
royal party had a most exciting hunt. The Prince 
and his suite, accompanied by Sir Jung Bahadoor, 
went in pursuit of a wild rogue elephant, a splendid 
animal with huge tusks, which at the end of a long 
day's chase, and after charging the royal party 
several times, was eventually captured by means 
of tame elephants. 

Such were some of the scenes and incidents which 
Henty was called upon to witness and describe, and 
to a man fresh from the arduous trials of the Coomassie 
campaign the change must have been both refreshing 
and delightful. 

It is amusing to read a telegram from Aden which 
gives an account of some of the Prince's presents: — 
"The menagerie is quite comfortable. It contains 
eighty animals. The elephants walk about the deck " 
— this, of course, meaning our two little friends that 
were known so well at the Zoo — "the deer are very 
tame, and the tigers are domesticated, though they 
exhibit tendencies to relapse." So says the chronicler 

At the conclusion of the Prince's visit, in March, 
1876, and shortly after Henty's return, there was 
more food for his pen, but of a very different char- 
acter. The Turko-Servian War had broken out, and 
once more he was the busy war correspondent, though 
this proved to be the last time that he went to the 


Among the Turks 

The year 1876, which was a memorable year in the 
life of Henty, is familiar to the elders among us in 
connection with the troubles in the East and the 
risings in Bulgaria and Servia. Christian England 
was, politically, ringing with the charges made 
against Turkey in the matter of the stern suppression 
of the risings in the former country. *' Bulgarian 
Atrocities " were made a party question, and debate 
followed debate. All our great parliamentary speakers 
delivered columns of speeches in the House, denounc- 
ing Turkey or speaking in her defence, while special 
deputations were made to Government by leading 
members of Parliament, Mr. Gladstone being fore- 
most in the attack. 

It fell to the lot of the writer to be in the gallery of 
the House of Commons upon one of the most im- 
portant evenings, when he had the opportunity of 
hearing Mr. Gladstone deliver one of his most fer- 
vent and denunciatory speeches — a speech which 
was replied to by Mr. Disraeli calmly, coldly, and 
disdainfully. The future Lord Beaconsfield expressed 
his disbelief in the charges made by the Opposition. 
He declared that it was not in the nature of the Turks 
to stoop to such atrocities, that they were too gentle- 
manly a race of men. They might, when stirred up 
to anger and in the hot blood of war, slay outright, 


The Hospitable Turk 285 

but they would scorn to commit the ruffianly acts of 
which they were accused. 

It was at this time that the Turks were sending 
their armies into Servia to suppress the rising in 
that country, in defiance of the protecting asgis of 
Russia, and Henty, as representative of the Standard, 
was despatched to the head-quarters of the Turkish 
army to fulfil one of his familiar missions. His letters 
from the seat of war ring all through with a sturdy 
conservative belief in the qualities of the Turk as 
vouched for by the late Lord Beaconsfield; indeed, 
he is full of high praise for the patience, kindliness, 
and hospitality of the Turkish soldier. He was well 
received everywhere by officer and man alike. One 
and all were ever ready to share with the English 
representative of the press their shelter, or their last 
crust of bread and cup of water. 

The whole of Asia Minor was at the time in a 
political volcanic state of eruption, and Prince Milan's 
name was constantly reaching the Turkish head- 
quarters, while beneath, like a muttering under- 
current of rumour, there was the constant rumble 
of what was doing among the Russ. 

Henty's pen was, of course, as busy as ever, and 
when he was not reporting some attack or some 
defence, the creaking of the tumbrel wheels that 
bore away the wounded from the field, or the rattle 
and roar of musketry and artillery, he was making 
his letters attractive with descriptions of the beauty 
of the country, and of the richness of the orchards 
whose fruit was to supply the plum brandy of the 
country. Then, full perhaps of recollections of 
Moore's poetry descriptive of the attar of the rose, he 

286 Among the Turks 

reverted to the showering petals of the nightingale 
flower, and drew attention to the copper stills, to be 
found in almost every cottage or village, used by the 
peasantry for the distillation of the wondrous pene- 
trating attar of roses. One cannot help thinking, 
though, that in a country where the inhabitants de- 
pend upon obtaining their alcohol from the juice of 
the plum, their brandy may possibly by accident be 
occasionally obtained from the same copper still. 

Be that as it may, the descriptions of the dreamy 
beauty of such a picturesque and flowery land bring 
up a feeling of sadness that the nature of both people 
alike, Christian and Moslem, should tend so strongly 
towards bloodshed and rapine. 

Here, too, in the midst of constant travel and 
change of quarters, in spite of friendly treatment 
from the people among whom his lot was cast, the 
special correspondent was called upon to suffer 
severely from the intense heat and the consequent 
thirst, and though he knew it not at the time, it 
was to find later that he had been laying the founda- 
tion for much ill-health and trouble to come. 

But Henty was too busy making up, column by 
column, the long and always interesting letters that 
by some means or another he sent north and west on 
their way to the Standard^ to think much about self. 
In fact, every note he sent seems to have running 
through it the spirit of the earnest, hard-working 
man with a certain duty to fulfil. 

There was always something to write about, and 
when short of material and if in doubt, it seemed as 
if he played trumps — by this one means that, soldier- 
like, he fell back upon his old habit of giving a 

Freebooting Tcherkesses 287 

picturesque description of the uniform of the soldiery 
amono- whom he was cast. In the case of the Turks 
the richness of its colour — blue; its newness and well- 
kept aspect came in for much praise, while at other 
times he was as graphic and true to nature about 
the rags to which this uniform was reduced. He 
always noted, though, that the men's weapons were 
perfectly serviceable and bright. 

In spite of the friendliness with which Henty found 
himself greeted by the Moslem, Turk, and the Gr^co- 
Christian Bulgar alike, he noted that invariably when 
he and his zaptieh (servant) approached the Circas- 
sians — the dreaded Tcherkesses constituting the 
Turkish irregular soldiery, who w^ere fierce mer- 
cenaries, and undoubtedlv answerable for whatever 
atrocities were perpetrated in Bulgaria — they turned 
away their heads with a scowl of mingled scorn and 

It was here again that Henty's old training came 
to his aid, giving him the firmness and determination 
that impressed those whom he passed, as showing 
that he was well armed, and that he was ready, if it 
should prove necessary, to use his weapons. For he 
states that in spite of their peaceful mission, he and 
his man had to hold revolver and rifle ready during 
their advances till they were quite certain that they 
were approaching Turkish regular soldiers and not 
Circassians, for if they met the regulars they were 
always cordially welcomed and received with black 
coffee and cigarettes. 

This reception may possibly be due to the fact that 
the Turks seem to have a sort of traditionary feeling 
that a European who is travelling must be a hakeem 

288 Among the Turks 

■ — in plain English, a doctor, in which belief they are 
somewhat supported by the meaning of the good old 
word doctor — a learned man. 

Now a glance at Henty's portrait seems to stamp 
him, big-bearded and bluff, with the learned look of 
one who, being a traveller, must be endowed with the 
knowledge that would enable him to treat any com- 
plaint with skill. As a matter of fact, if called upon 
for aid in a case of emergency or ordinary ailment, he 
was quite prepared to open a medical battery upon a 
sufferer. It is, therefore, in no wise surprising that 
during his travels in Servia the Turkish gendarmes 
occasionally applied to him to treat their complaints. 
Even his own zaptieh, who after a few drops of 
opium was ready to cry, like the man in the old tooth- 
tincture advertisement, " Ha, ha! Cured in a in- 
stant!" was always afterwards ready to spread his 
master's reputation and increase the number of his 
grateful patients. 

Of course there are some who would shrug their 
shoulders at this and softly murmur, "Quack!" 
But one fails to see it. In fact, the writer feels dis- 
posed to assert that the reputation of hakeem was 
very honestly earned by one who had commenced his 
profession with a good sound English education, who 
had served a certain time in the military hospitals 
of the Crimea and in Italy, who had been a student 
in sanitary matters, who had worked hard among the 
sick and wounded, and to whom anything in the 
shape of a military hospital had an intense attraction. 
We must remember, too, that he had learned much 
from the sufferings he was called upon to witness in 
this later war, where the surgeon and physician were 

Henty: Hakeem 289 

so terribly in the minority, and in a country where, 
during certain of the horrible attacks and defences, 
it was no unusual thing for the camp-followers to 
go round at night, and, to use a horrible, old, and 
familiar expression, put the enemy's wounded out of 
their misery. 

This knowledge on the part of Henty, and his 
readiness also and ability to give some slight allevia- 
tion of their sufferings and help to the wounded, en- 
abled him to make sure of a friendly welcome, to say 
nothing of smiles and gratitude, almost wherever he 
went — except among the Tcherkesses. 

( B &37 ) 20 


Philosophy in Camp 

No one need wonder that enthusiastic boys and young 
men who read Henty feel the spirit of emulation rise 
within them, while their young hearts glow with the 
desire to imitate him and to become a war corre- 
spondent. Well, so it would be grand; but the 
question has arisen since the last war — Is a war 
correspondent of Henty's type not a thing of the 
past? One writes this with the recollection of how 
a friend met with such discouraging treatment in the 
Russo-Japanese War that he and his fellows were 
ready to turn back homeward in disgust. They found 
that it had become general versus editor, and that the 
general had all the winning cards in his hand, while 
the troubles which Henty encountered during the 
Franco-German War, and in which he was worsted, 
had all become intensified. War correspondents, in 
brief, were treated as individuals who were to be kept 
out of danger and hoodwinked as to what was going 
on; in short, they realized that Othello's occupation, 
to be Shakespearean, was about gone. 

But yea or nay, such a life as Henty's is enough 
to raise the spirit of emulation among the young, 
always too prone to see the bright side and not the 
dull. It is only fair, though, that they should read 
both sides. Of course, after the weary tramp, the 
sufferings from heat and cold, hunger and thirst, 


Miseries of a Campaign 291 

there was something- very ''jolly", as a boy would 
say, about the hearty welcome of the camp fire, the 
odorous cigarette, the fragrant coffee, the song, the 
story, and the genial looks of man to man in the full 
enjoyment of a well-earned evening's rest. But then 
there was that other side: the places he had to stop 
at, fagged, faint, and hungry after a long day's 
journey; the bare mud floor, a mat for a bed, the 
momentary rejoicing at the fact that he had found a 
sheltering hut, though one innocent of window and 
with no means of fastening the door. The correspon- 
dent is, however, only too glad to throw himself down 
and yield with a sigh to that terrible overmastering 
sleep, that letting go of everything, that slackening of 
the too tight bow-string, that general relaxation — yes, 
only to sleep — sleep — sleep, and then — ugh! — only 
to be awakened by the attack, fierce and combined, 
of every sort of vermin mentioned in natural history, 
quadrupedal and entomological. Ugh ! Horrors, dia- 
bolical and disgusting these, calculated to promote a 
vivid wakefulness such as would make the war corre- 
spondent feel keenly that what before had seemed to 
be impossible had suddenly become possible. With 
a feeling of despair at such times he would unbuckle 
his writing-case, tear open ink-holder with a snap, 
light his lantern, and begin to make notes, or set 
his teeth hard as he continued to write a portion of 
a letter already begun — one of those letters so full of 
picturesque description and vivid account of that last 
coming-on of the enemy and his gallant defeat, or 
the enforced retreat, with the horrible slaughter that 
it entailed — one of those letters, in short, that are so 
enthralling to read in the morning paper, and tell so 

292 Philosophy in Camp 

well of the ability of the practised writer, but which 
he, poor fellow, has written from beginning to end 
in misery and also in supreme doubt as to whether 
it would ever reach its destination. 

But whether it did or not, whatever failure there 
might be to face in connection with the postal com- 
munication, the letters had to be written. How, 
when, or where — that is nothing to the reader. There 
before the writer was the something attempted, and 
at last the something done, to earn the night's repose, 
though that repose was too often disturbed or made 
impossible in the way which one has attempted to 
depict in connection with the natural history that 
frequently haunted a Servian hut, in the lovely 
country where often only man was vile. 

Again and again, too, there was the deafening roar 
of the guns, the Turks especially being great in ar- 
tillery, and the nauseous, dank, sulphuretted hydro- 
genous clinging smell of powder in the air, a most 
familiar odour to the industrious war correspondent 
who strives hard to do his duty by his paper; and 
this too often supplemented by that other sickening 
odour frequently associated with death, horrible when 
fresh, most horrible when days have gone by and the 
slain have not been hidden by the busy spade. 

The frequent smell of powder in the air to the 
weary correspondent is often enough safe and anti- 
septic, though still associated with the horrors of war 
and connected with death ; but with so many risks 
to be run, one asks in wonder this question, how is it 
that the war correspondent usually manages to escape 
unharmed? Fortunate for him it is that he, like so 
many others who have urgent duties to perform. 

An Ignorant Cook 293 

has no time to think of aught save that which comes 
in the day's work. 

Then there is the food difficulty in a devastated 
country. That is a matter, of course, which has to 
be got over; but it is not so easy to surmount the 
difificukies with servants, and in the Turco-Servian 
War Henty had a varied experience. He states that 
he engaged one who professed to be able to cook, but 
who could not prepare food even in the most primitive 
way, while another who had undertaken to look after 
the horses, it would be quite reasonable to declare, 
had most probably never touched a horse in his life. 
The consequence was that those most patient of beasts, 
which were often the very life of a war correspondent, 
suffered badly, while as to the action of the professed 
cook — for it is presumed that a man who undertakes 
to cook properly professes to be that artist, even 
though he may not be a chef — a diet of very bad 
bread, caviare, and German sausage, though con- 
venient in the extreme in the way of transportation 
from place to place, begins after a time to pall. 

But Henty seems to have taken for his moral 
aphorism: "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof". 
Had it not been so, he could never have passed un- 
scathed through what he did. In fact, his murmurs 
about the troubles he encountered were few and far 
between. So patient, indeed, does he show himself 
to have been, judging from his letters, that one is 
tempted at times to go so far as to call him a great 
man. To judge from the calm, easy-going way in 
which his letters paint him as taking life, he seems 
often enough to be regarding it and its accidents as 
a great joke, while one would imagine that if there 

294 Philosophy in Camp 

were one person whom he encountered who deserved 
to be laughed at, it was himself. 

His philosophy is often really great, even if he 
does not himself deserve the appellation, while his 
letters read as if he had reached a stage in educating 
himself wherein the ordinary troubles of life, which 
we as a rule are accustomed to regard as very serious, 
were during this campaign shrunk in his eyes to the 
calibre of the very small. What he does set forth 
as being a really terrible difficulty is that of obtaining 
water for an " honest wash ". 


The Turkish Arm 


Henty carefully studied the ways and means of the 
Turkish army, not only the uniform and ornament, 
but the customs in connection with the various bat- 
talions. Thoug^h the Ottoman forces are not such 
as can be held up as examples of military excel- 
lence, he extols them as being composed of brave 
and admirable fighting men who are on the whole 
abominably paid, whose pittance is shamefully in 
arrear, but who still go patiently and uncomplain- 
ingly on, content with the small mercies they receive, 
and the kindly treatment of their officers who suffer 
with them. They march the more cheerfully from 
the fact that during a campaign every battalion has 
its own band, while as a rule the bandsmen have 
gained so much from the West that their performances 
of popular music are far above contempt. 

As a rule here in England ordinary people do not 
know much of Turkish music. ''The Turkish Patrol " 
and that very old favourite, *'The Caliph of Bagdad", 
seem to belong nearly as much to the West as to the 
East; but in Servia Henty was made familiar with 
plenty of good Western operatic music, which was 
always bright and cheering in dreary times when on 
march. And while discoursing upon the bands he 
notes that, just as in English regiments, they take 
their serious part in the war, their play being of course 


296 The Turkish Army 

connected with the production of enlivening strains to 
hghten the dull hours of a heavy march, their work 
being as bearers of the wounded. 

National music such as is familiar to the people of 
the country is abundant and popular, of course; but it 
was amusing at one time in camp, when the war was 
dragging slowly on, to find that a band which played 
every evening under the Pasha General's tent finished 
up with a few bars of " God Save the Queen ". 

Constantly observant, Henty was always attracted 
by everything connected with the Turkish hospitals. 
He was quite fair. If he saw anything in their 
management deserving of condemnation he spoke out. 
On the other hand, if he noticed anything, however 
trifling, worthy of praise, it was carefully noted. 
He records with something like a feeling of pride in 
his fellow-men, how an officer, having the power to 
command, had ordered that one of the bands should 
go down to the camp hospital to play for an hour 
every day, the Turkish officers declaring to him that 
the music raised the spirits and improved the condition 
of the sick and wounded. He continues with an anec- 
dote of the se non e vero, e ben trovato type, namely, 
that a poor fellow, who had lost his arm in one of 
the first skirmishes, had been so revived by the music 
that he had begged permission to join the ranks again 
with a limb of wood! Of course it may be true; but 
everyone is at liberty to doubt, and one cannot help 
giving the Turkish narrators the credit of trying, a 
joke upon their foreign chronicler. 

During this campaign, on the principle that straws 
sometimes indicate the direction from which the wind 
blows, Henty grew more observant of matters con- 

A Few Comparisons 297 

nected with the sufferings of human Hfe. It was as 
if many of his notes and remarks were forced upon 
him by his own feelings, and as though his personal 
sensations sharpened his observation. 

Here was he, a man who had passed through the 
heats and colds of mountainous Africa in the march to 
Magdala, complaining, justly enough, of course, but 
in words that indicated how keenly he must have 
suffered, of the heat and cold of Asia Minor. He 
says of the one that it is terrible by day, while the 
other is piercing by night, and both extremes even 
he, a strong man, found very hard to bear — harder 
terms these than any which he applied to the heavy 
stagnant heat of Ashanti. 

Then he speaks of the skin tents as being simply 
unbearable when the sun was up, while the flies were 
maddening, and he has a thoughtful word for the poor 
horses, which suffered as much as their riders, being 
almost devoured by the darkening swarms. 

He notes, too, that the Turkish sentinels when on 
duty were provided with a small umbrella tent to 
shelter them from the heat of the sun and from the 
rain; that a Turkish sentinel does not pace up and 
down when on sentry-go, but stands immovable all 
the time while he is on duty, and adds dryly that he 
has plenty of time for observation in the Turkish 
camp, for the army is dilatory in its movements. 
Then he turns to make some fresh observation, as 
there is no fighting going on, upon the appearance 
of a battalion of Egyptian soldiers which had joined 
the camp. The men were clothed in white from head 
to foot, with the exception of the tarboosh, which was, 
of course, scarlet, and, with his old military instinct 

298 The Turkish Army 

aroused, he compares the Egyptian uniform with the 
Turkish, to the disadvantage of the latter in their 
blue serge. 

He goes on, too, to comment not only upon their 
dress, but upon their evolutions — unfixing bayonets, 
grounding arms, &c. — and their activity. The Egyp- 
tians were dark brown of skin, but the Turks were no 
darker than Spaniards, often as fair as Englishmen. 

On another day his attention is attracted by a raid 
that has been made by the irregulars connected with 
the army, ending in a skirmish with the Servians, and 
a return laden with plunder, consisting of goats, cattle, 
and horses. He ends up with a pithy memorandum 
that the Bashi-Bazouks receive no pay, so make the 
surrounding country keep up their supplies. 

With regard to the food supplies of the regulars, it 
seems that every Turk carries a leathern pouch which 
contains ground coffee and sugar, so that with a little 
bread and water they can get on pretty well. 

As for the Bashi-Bazouks, who depend upon the 
country, which would probably account for their un- 
popular character, Henty noted them a good deal. 
They were a peculiarly mixed lot, apparently raised 
wherever men could be obtained, many of them being 
negroes of Herculean proportions. He notes, too, 
how laughter seems to go with the black, whether he 
be in the Turkish army, a negro from the Guinea 
Coast (such as strengthened or weakened our army 
in the Ashanti campaign), seen civilized in the West 
Indies, or serving in New York. There is always at 
the slightest provocation the disposition to part the 
thick lips, bare the big white ivory teeth, and burst 
into the hoarse horse-laugh. A rough lot, these Bashi- 

The Callous East 299 

Bazouks, but Henty's eyes must have glistened with 
eager interest and flashed with the desire of a collector 
who had a little museum of his own at home, as he 
examined their weapons. These were the arms of a 
dozen different nations, some carrying rusty, worth- 
less old pistols, while others had damascened blades 
of beautiful wavy forging and razor-like keenness, 
such as could not be bought for money. 

Towards the end of his connection with this cam- 
paign he constantly recurs to the various skirmishes, 
many being encounters mostly brought on by Servian 
patriots — small affairs in which no military skill was 
brought to bear, and in which the injuries were, for the 
most part, the result of musket bullets, the wounds by 
sword and bayonet being few. He goes on to com- 
plain bitterly of the Eastern callousness and conduct 
of man to man, the indifference he witnessed being 
revolting. And then later, when at last the war be- 
came fiercer, his humanity was again stirred and he 
referred to the hospitals in one of the towns, which he 
described as "choke full", so encumbered, in fact, 
that wounded men had to lie in the streets from day 
to day, the people passing them by and noticing them 
no more than if they were logs of timber. 

In some of the rooms used there were neither beds 
nor mattresses, but simply the hard brick floor, for the 
wounded to lie upon in their blood-saturated clothes, 
waiting till one of the medical men could find time to 
attend to them. The doctors were working the while 
like slaves, extracting bullets or dressing wounds, and 
then giving the poor fellows a little plum brandy 
before they were lifted into a bullock-cart, with a truss 
of hay for a seat, and sent to recover or die else- 

300 The Turkish Army 

where, while many who could not bear transport had 
to stay until nature mercifully intervened, and glory 
and patriotism became the mists of another and a 
brighter day. 

Henty described how he was pulled up on one 
occasion because a river had to be crossed, and the 
army had to wait until a bridge then being made 
was finished. At least half a dozen times did the 
infantry get under arms and the artillery harness 
their horses. A more tedious day, he said, he never 
passed. His tent was packed, he had no place to sit 
down to write, and his sole amusement was watching 
the Circassians and Bashi-Bazouks come in laden 
with plunder. 

The selection made by these freebooters had been 
strange and miscellaneous at first, but as things grew 
scarce, nothing was considered unworthy of the 
scoundrels' notice, for they scraped together trifles 
that would not have fetched a piastre, and they took 
not the slightest notice of the ridicule of the regular 
Turkish soldiers around. These laughed scornfully 
at the plundering habits of the irregulars, and were 
not above pointing them out to the English looker-on, 
exclaiming, " No bono Tcherkess — no bono Bashi- 
Bazouk!" Henty does not scruple to call these men 
a disgrace to the Turkish government; but it seems 
that the army often had to depend upon them for 

And after this fashion the weary war went on. The 
inexhaustible letters were despatched, each teeming 
with interest, till rumours began to reach the writer of 
overtures being made by the Servians to the Turks 
for peace; but these were only contradicted and fol- 

Many Difficulties 301 

lowed by a desperate encounter, or the siege of some 
little stronghold. 

Then more rumours of peace; suggestions in the 
way of news; a short interregnum; then a recrudes- 
cence of the war, with Henty once more afoot, fol- 
lowing the movements of the Turkish army or some 
brigade, to be present at an attack or to watch some 
threatening Servian movement being driven across 
one or other of the rivers. All the time the quiet, 
thoughtful correspondent was supplying his columns 
of interesting material to his messengers. The long 
chronicle grew and grew, and no mention was made 
of weariness, cruel suffering, semi-starvation, want of 
rest, and the difficulty of obtaining the sinews of war 
to carry on his fight. For no matter how careful the 
means taken for transmitting funds, the difficulties of 
cashing orders, and the troubles incident upon the 
money passing through foreign hands, which closed 
upon coin and objected to reopen, were often distress- 
ing in the extreme. 

Now and then, though, a letter gives a hint about 
the difficulty of the war correspondent's task — the sort 
of hint for which one has to read between the lines — 
and at last, with the year waning and passing into 
autumn, and while chronicling that difficulties were 
arising in connection with the army he accompanied, 
and that Russia, long threatening and working in 
connection with the politics of Europe, was at last 
thoroughly taking the field and preparing to give 
check in the cause of Christianity against the Moslem, 
Henty touches on his own situation. Now it was, too, 
that the time arrived for an announcement of the 
armistice that was to come into force. 

302 The Turkish Army 

At this period, completely worn out, the correspon- 
dent writes: "I leave the camp to-morrow for Eng- 
land, with the conviction that the war is over, as it is 
hardly possible that the European powers can permit 
it to recommence. . . . But even did I think other- 
wise, I must most reluctantly have given up my post 
of correspondent with the Turkish army, for the long- 
continued indisposition brought on by bad food and 
hard living has at last overpowered me, and the 
doctors tell me that it is absolutely necessary for me 
to have rest, good living, and home comforts. I 
never quitted an army more reluctantly, for never 
have I been with one where I have received such uni- 
form kindness, and whose men I had so much reason 
to like. I defy the most anti-Mohammedan fanatic to 
stop a month with this army without experiencing a 
complete change of sentiment, for a more liberal set 
of men than these quiet, willing, patient, and cheerful 
soldiers does not exist on the face of the earth. I 
have been with the troops of most nations of Europe, 
including, of course, our own, under circumstances of 
hardship and fatigue, and I can say that none of them 
can compare with the Turkish troops in point of good 
humour and patient endurance." 

Henty struggled on, however, to the last, and we 
read of him in connection with the campaign in the 
Dobrudscha. Here his health completely broke down, 
and for some time he was an invalid. 

He never did any further war correspondent's work, 
but for many years edited the telegrams and letters 
that came in to the Standard from the younger and 
more active men who had taken up his work. In fact, 
he went abroad no more, except on one trip through 

A Western Trip 303 

the United States to see for himself what mining Hfe 
was Hke in Omaha, Cahfornia, and elsewhere, and 
also to explore the rich copper country of the shores 
and islands of Lake Superior. No better man could 
have been found, from his old experience, for the in- 
vestigation. But this was to him more of a holiday. 


A Busy Convalescence 

Nature had given George Henty plenty of latitude, 
but now he was compelled to accept her warnings 
that he must take no more liberties with his health. 
He was so broken down by hard work and the 
rough experiences through which he had passed that 
he had become quite an invalid, with the stern task 
plainly before him of doing everything possible to 
restore his health. 

As the old epitaph says, ''Affliction sore long time 
he bore"; but physicians were not in vain, for Henty 
was a man of strong common sense, who knew well 
the value of self-denial. His ailments, too, were not 
of his own seeking, for no man knew better than he 
the value of moderation and attention to hygiene. 

He followed out what he knew was due to a man 
who wished to lead a healthy life, and he supple- 
mented his medical men's advice by devoting himself 
more than ever to his favourite pursuit of yachting. 
He spent almost every hour he could spare on board 
his little craft, keeping her within easy reach of town 
and taking a few hours here, a day there, and when 
work did not enchain him, making his little vacation 
a week, with the result that he was rapidly restored 
to health. It is doubtless due to the health-giving, 
strength -producing breezes that blow around the 
British shore that he retained the vigour of a care- 


Daily Work 305 

fully -preserved manhood to the very last, so that 
when his summons came it found him upon his 

If a candid recorder of George Henty's career is 
bound to set down all and criticize adversely, he 
might reasonably say that this man's one great excess 
was his indulgence in ink. This fault, however, was 
not a very black one, for, so to speak, he softened it 
by using ink of a pleasant violet hue! But, to be 
matter-of-fact, writing when at home and at rest in 
his study seems to have been a perfect stimulant, 
and, combined as it was with his open-air pursuit, a 
complete recreation, and in no sense a work of toil. 

Many men are great readers. Henty, in one accep- 
tation of the term, was a great writer, who, with the 
assistance for a score of years of his swift-penned 
amanuensis, Mr. Griffith, sat down daily, not to 
write, but to call upon his wonderful imagination. 
This he supplemented by what he had seen, and 
when necessary by the study of history, and literally 
passed hours of what to him must have been intense 
enjoyment. Picture after picture of the past at these 
times floated before his brain as he set his young- 
characters to work performing the manly tasks his 
brain suggested, otherwise there would never have 
been the reality, the variety, and above all the 
long series of entertaining and instructive works 
which have so largely aided the schoolmaster in 
Great Britain in the education of our youth. 

During the period of Henty's convalescence he was 
never idle, though the year 1876 marks the comple- 
tion of his long career as a war correspondent. 
Others took up his old duties abroad, but his pen and 

(BS37) 21 

3o6 A Busy Convalescence 

his kno\vIed£*"e were still of so much value to the 
journal with which he was connected, that it became 
his duty, as already indicated, to receive all the tele- 
graphic messages sent in by the Standards corre- 
spondents in time of war. He carefully read and 
studied the crabbed and condensed messages that had 
come over the wire, as well as the communications of 
Renter and other agencies from different parts of the 
world, and rewrote them in the vulgar tongue so that 
they might be comprehensible to the British public. 
This placed him, as it were, still at the head of war 
correspondence, so that when war broke out he was, 
so to speak, always at the front. Even though his 
post was his editorial chair in his journal's office, the 
wires kept him in touch with everything that was 
taking place at all points of the compass. 

Fate ruled in this restless age that his work should 
be pretty constant, and the exigencies of this form of 
historical chronicle kept him tied very tightly to his 
journalistic duties, the late arrival or expected arrival 
of fresh telegraphic news forcing him to stay till 
almost the time of the great newspaper's going to 
press in the extremely early hours of the day; and 
this lasted right down through the troublous times 
and agitation in England during the Boer War. 


Concerning War Correspondents 

There is a sadness attached to the task of describing 
Henty's capabilities as a war correspondent, from the 
fact that so many of his colleagues and brothers of the 
pen who knew him well and went to the front have 
passed away. Some who shared the lot of the brave 
officers and men, ran the same risks, and died the same 
deaths. Cameron was shot soon after being at a fare- 
well dinner at his club, where he sat next to the writer 
of these lines ; Pearce, though he lived through the 
horrors and starvation of the siege of Ladysmith — to 
see by the strange working of fate his own son ride 
up in the train of Lord Dundonald with the gallant 
relief party, as one of the volunteers — came back a 
mere shadow of his former self and died soon after, 
weakened by the privations connected with his duties; 
Archibald Forbes, possibly the hardest worker and 
most energetic of all, shortened his life in the cause of 
duty; and the same may be said of Henry Stanley; 
while of those who might have supplied many recol- 
lections or anecdotes, and who knew Henty well, 
death has claimed a long roll of brothers of the pen 
and correspondents, including Charles Williams, 
Godfrey Turner, Walter Wood, and Robert Brown. 
One good old friend, active as ever, William Senior, 
now editor of Ihe Fields gives a genial tribute to 
Henty's memory from personal knowledge when he 


3o8 War Correspondents 

says, that as a special correspondent his readiness to 
help, and the practical manner in which he set about 
his work, combined with the thoroughness with which 
he took care of every small detail, were at once an 
encouragement and a stimulus to his colleagues. 

Fortunately one has at command Henty's own de- 
scription of what he considers a special correspondent 
should be. To begin with, he says that he should be 
a man capable of supporting hardships and fatigues; 
that he should possess a certain amount of pluck, a 
good seat in the saddle such as would enable him to 
manage any mount whose services he could com- 
mand ; and lastly, that he should have the manners of 
a gentleman and the knack of getting on well with all 
sorts and conditions of men. This is a good deal to 
expect from one man, but without being eulogistic it 
may rightly be said that Henty possessed all these 

To a certain extent he was gifted with these qualities 
by nature, and where he felt himself to be wanting in 
any one point, his energy urged him to strengthen 
that weakness and strain every nerve until he had 
mastered the failing. 

Accident has had much to do with the making ot 
war correspondents, as in his own case; but Dr. 
Russell and Wood of the Morning Post had both 
been connected with the press before being sent to the 
Crimea. Sometimes, however, military men with a 
ready gift of writing have offered their services to 
report on the wars in which their regiments were 
engaged, as in the case of Captains Hozier and 
Brackenbury, who made excellent correspondents and 
still continued in the army. Archibald Forbes, when 

A Critical Moment 309 

quite a young man, served in a cavalry regiment, and 
after leaving the army did a little reporting before 
going out with a sort of roving commission to the 
Franco-German War. Thence he sent divers reports 
to a London newspaper, with the unpleasant result 
of being recalled, and this, too, at a time when he 
was primed with news of the most important nature. 
So special was his information, and of such extreme 
value, that, without writing a line, as he told the 
writer, he hurried over to England with all the speed 
possible, presented himself at the Times office, and 
asked to see the editor. In most newspaper offices, 
when the application is made by a perfect stranger, 
this is a privilege that the busy head of an important 
paper is rather loath to grant, and a messenger was 
sent out to Forbes asking his business. Forbes's 
reply was that he had come straight from the front 
with most important news, and he was told, after send- 
ing in that message, that if he would write an article 
containing what he had to communicate, the editor 
would consider his manuscript, and, if it were ap- 
proved, use and pay for it. Forbes told me in his 
sharp military way that he was not going to write 
and be treated like that, knowing how important 
was his information; and he said, "I went out from 
the Times office, walked into Fleet Street, and stood 
at the edge of the pavement half-way between, hesi- 
tating as to whether I should go to the Telegraph 
office, or down Bouverie Street to the Daily Nexvs ". 
His hesitation did not last long. He went down 
the latter street and asked to see the manager. He 
was shown in at once to the office of my old friend, 
the late Sir John Robinson (Mr. Robinson in those 

3IO War Correspondents 

days), who listened to what he had to say, and like 
the keen man of business that he was, he grasped the 
value of Forbes's information, and told him to go into 
a room which he pointed out and write a column. 
This he did, and it was put into type as fast as it 
was written. Soon after it was done he asked to see 
the manager again, and being shown in once more, 
Sir John Robinson said, *' Have you got any more?" 
"Yes," said Forbes; *' plenty." ''Then go and 
write another column." 

This was written in turn, and after it was done 
Forbes, still rather indignant about his previous ill- 
successes with the press, and not being blessed with 
Henty's way of dealing with all sorts and conditions 
of men, took offence at some words spoken by Sir 
John, which roused his acerbity and resulted in his 
being highly offended and leaving the manager's 
room in dudgeon. The Daily News "chief" was 
taken by surprise at the way in which the hot- 
blooded Scot had quitted him, and, hurrying down 
the stairs out into Bouverie Street, he overtook the 
angry ex-dragoon in Fleet Street. Having thus cap- 
tured him and brought him back to his own room, he 
explained to him laughingly that he wanted him to go 
on writing until he had exhausted his information, 
and then he was to go off back immediately to the 
front as the representative of the Daily N'e7vs, with 
full munitions, and to send over at his discretion all 
information that he could collect concerning- the war. 


This was a strange commencement of the important 
career of one who in the opinion of journalists began 
at once to make a brilliant name for himself, for this, 
Forbes's first literary coup, placed him at one stride 

Sending Despatches 311 

in the same rank as William Howard Russell of 
the Times ^ the well-known author of My Diary in 
India. The opinion of the journalistic world was 
directly endorsed by the British public, who proved 
it by sending up the circulation of the Daily News 
to a wonderful extent throughout the war; and this 
lasted until the day when, passing by the Daily 
News publishing ofhce in Fleet Street, the writer saw 
posted up Forbes's terse telegrams announcing to an 
astonished world the utter defeat of the French. The 
rest is familiar history. 

Henty states that a good seat upon a horse is one 
of the valuable qualifications for a war correspondent, 
for it may come to pass that when at great risk and 
effort the gleaner of intelligence has obtained his 
requisite information by following the vicissitudes 
of the campaign wheresoever the battle rages, he 
may find himself perhaps thirty or forty miles away 
from the nearest telegraph station. There is nothing 
to be done in such a case but for the correspondent to 
write his valuable despatch as crisply and as carefully 
as possible, and then ride away at full speed so as to 
get the message at the earliest moment upon the 
wires. This task accomplished, he must, after a brief 
rest, mount once more and return to the front. 

Later, it was in this way that, during the Zulu 
War, Forbes was the first to send home an account ot 
the Battle of Ulundi, bearing with him, so trusted was 
he, some of the general's despatches as well as his 
own report. Where, however, the telegraphic facili- 
ties are not within reach, it is necessary for the corre- 
spondent to entrust the report he has written to the 
official post-bag, for he dare not absent himself long 


War Correspondents 

from the front, not knowing what events of impor- 
tance may happen while he is away. 

In the Franco-German war another correspondent, 
Beattie Kingston — pohshed gentleman, scholar, and 
able musician, who had been representing the Daily 
Telegraph in Vienna and elsewhere — was acting as 
correspondent with the German army; and of other 
war correspondents it remains to mention the familiar 
names of Bennett Burleigh and E. F. Knio-ht, the 
latter of whom distinguished himself by writing the 
brilliant little account of The Cruise of the '^Falcon ", 
which reads as graphically as if it had come from 
the pen of Defoe. After Knight had taken up the 
risky duties of reporting wars, and had been sent 
to the Pamir to report our little frontier engagement 
with the restless mountain tribes, he did something 
more than go to the front, for in one of the engage- 
ments he was with a little column whose officers were 
all shot down, and with the splendid energy and pluck 
of the fighting penman he dashed into the fighting 
line, took the place of the fallen leader, and led the 
men to success. 

This struggle — not his own special fight, for he 
is too simple and modest a man to play the part 
of Plautus's braggart captain — he recorded in his 
work, Where Three Empires Meet. Later, when 
journalism claimed him again to be the war corre- 
spondent and he went out to the Boer War, news 
came to the little club of which he is one of the most 
popular members, that he was with the advancing 
line of the 42nd Highlanders at Magersfontein and 
had been shot down. He lay with the rest of the 
unfortunates of that saddening day, trusting for first 

A Famous Surgeon 31 


aid to one of the sergeants of the regiment who knelt 
down to bandage his shattered arm, panting with 
excitement to be off the while. 

Another sufferer this in the great cause of gathering 
the freshest news, for E. F. Knight paid dearly for his 
well-earned fame. He was sent down with another 
wounded man picked out from about forty hopeless 
cases, "just to give me a chance", and though he 
suffered the complete loss of an arm, he finally re- 
covered, thanks to Sir Frederick Treves. After this 
he studied and practised the art of writing quickly 
and clearly with his left hand, and from the Far East 
sent graphic reports of the Russo-Japanese War. 
That is the kind of stuff of which George Henty's 
friends and companions were made. 


Henty and his Books 

For the benefit of his many boy readers with whom 
Henty's stories were most popular, a writer on the 
staff of CJunns paid Henty a visit one day. He de- 
scribed him as a tall man, massive in build, with a 
fine head and a commanding presence, the lower part 
of his face adorned with a great flowing beard, and 
though his hair was almost white, the dark beard was 
only slightly flecked with silver threads. He had the 
appearance of a man who had knocked about the 
world and rubbed shoulders with strange bed-fellows, 
and looked as though he would be a capital com- 
panion and just the sort of person with whom one 
v/ould like to share the solitude of a desert island. 
There is no doubt that the writer said this in the 
full belief that Henty would have been an ideal 
comrade — a brave man, amiable, happy in temper, 
straightforward, and ready at a pinch to dare danger 
to the very death. 

The visit paid to him was, primarily, to ask him 
how he wrote his books. "How does a man write 
his books?" is a question that calls for a little thought 
before answering. One man will write them mentally 
from end to end before putting pen to paper; another 
will jot down sketchy notes which, after months of 
thought and labour, represent so many scraps that 


The Art of Writing 


have to be picked out, set in something like order, 
and then fitted into shape as if they were pieces of 
a dissected puzzle; and only then, after much work, 
do they take form as a comprehensive whole. Again, 
another will spend years over the construction of a 
book, sparing no pains, in the full knowledge that 
he will never be able to write another; and after 
all it may prove to be not worth the reading, or, if 
worth the trouble, it may be utterly wanting in that 
indescribable element which enchains the reader at 
once and keeps his attention riveted to the very end. 
Yes, that indescribable something which is given to 
so few by nature — the few who, somehow, find them- 
selves writing as no man to their knowledge ever 
wrote before; and so say their readers. For there 
is a peculiarity in some men's thoughts when placed 
on paper in print — a something which attracts, through 
the soul that is in it, people of all ranks and classes 
— the highly-cultivated classical scholar, the student 
of other men's works, the great criminal or civil judge 
whose life has been spent in examining the ways, 
thoughts, and acts of every form of human nature, 
the best as well as the vilest and worst. 

And yet this book which affords such intense 
delight to its reader, often by its pathos, less often by 
its mirth — for, strangely enough, one finds that the 
gift of being humorous is extremely rare — will give 
as much pleasure to the half-educated child as it does 
to the man whom poor old Captain Cuttle, Dickens's 
simple-hearted child-like creation, described as "chock- 
ful of science". Now, how is this? I, the writer of 
these lines, have been a reader for seventy years, and 
I must frankly confess that I don't know, and my 


i6 Henty and his Books 

honest belief is tiiat I never shall. But this I do 
know, that I found all this attraction ready for my 
reading thirst in a story entitled Rip Van Winkle, 
in the pages of an old, old magazine called the Queen 
Bee. This story somehow painted a picture in my 
young brain of the Catskill Mountains and the Dutch- 
men playing ninepins, while the roll of the balls 
resounded and re-echoed like thunder, and the voice 
that rang out, crying, " Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van 
Winkle!" sounds, at any time when I think upon it, 
loud and clear. There is the picture still, like a 
dream of the photography that I was to live to see in 
all its present beauty, only clear and bright and better 
still; for there are the colours of nature which some 
of us yet may see photographed in the continuation 
of these wondrous days in which science has given us 
so much. 

There is no saying how a man contrives to write a 
book; but this is the question that George Henty's 
visitor asked, as he sat near a table where closely- 
written sheets lay in a heap, apparently just as they 
had been laid together by the writer. There was a 
half laugh, followed by the rather disconcerting reply : 
'* I do not write any of my books myself. I get a 
man to do them for me — an amanuensis, of course; 
it all comes out of my head, but he does all the actual 
writing. I never see any of my work until it comes 
to me from the printers in the shape of proof sheets. 
My amanuensis sits at the table, and I sit near him, 
or lie on the sofa, and dictate the stories which I 

So said Henty to his visitor, and he might have 
added, ''and smoke the while", for nature must have 

A Day's Work 


needed something in the way of sedative for the brain 
so constantly upon the strain. 

Then questions were asked by the eager enquirer 
as to how long this writing went on for so great 
an output, as a manufacturer would call it, to result. 
In the words that followed the real secret was ex- 
plained — and it lay in the quiet, steady, regular 
application which is seen in the man who is dis- 
covered one day, trowel in hand, by a small pile of 
bricks which he goes on laying in position ; he gives 
each a tap or two and a scrape, and in course of time, 
lo and behold! as the old writers say, there stands 
a magnificent house. 

" What do I call a good day's work?" said Henty. 
"Well, say my man comes at half-past nine in the 
morning and stays for four hours, till half-past one; 
we can get through a good deal of work in that space 
of time. Then perhaps he comes round in the 
evening for a couple of hours; so in the course of 
a day I finish a chapter, that is, about six thousand 
five hundred words. I call that a good day's work." 

And so would anyone. Six thousand five hundred 
words of consistent description and conversation, all 
forming a portion of an interesting tale which will 
hold a boy's attention — often a man's! Think of it! 
At half-past nine that morning there was nothing; 
when work was knocked off in the evening there was 
a chapter that would some day be read with satis- 
faction — a something made out of nothing save a few 
flying thoughts. With George Henty that was how 
a story was written. 

Such books as these would average in length 
from a hundred and thirty to a hundred and fifty 


i8 Henty and his Books 

thousand words; that is to say, about the lene^th 
of the old three-volume novel, a class of work at 
which Henty also tried his hand. One of his first 
novels, A Search for a Secret, was published by 
Tinsley Brothers in 1867, and from time to time 
another was turned out which achieved a fair amount 
of success; indeed, almost up to the end of his life 
Henty wrote an occasional novel when a good plot 
occurred to him and when he felt in the mood. But 
quite early in his career he was invited by an old club 
friend, the late Thomas Archer, to contribute a story 
suitable for the reading of boys to a series of juvenile 
works that Messrs. Blackie & Son were about to 
produce, and which Mr. Archer was to see through 
the press. 

This was the commencement of a long series of 
boys' books — a long way on towards a hundred- — 
which achieved universal success, and for the task 
of writing which their author, in his avocation of 
war correspondent and descriptive writer, had in a 
manner passed his life priming himself. 

In his choice of subjects, almost from the first, he 
drew on his old experience, and in one of his earliest 
essays he, the son of a coal-mine proprietor, naturally 
enough began upon a story dealing with the perils 
and dangers (not of the sea where the stormy winds 
do blow) encountered by the stern-visaged grimy 
men who gain their daily bread by descending with 
their lives in their hands into the bowels of the earth. 
He tells a tale here of the men who, with Davy lamp 
in hand, go right down among the coal seams, to 
where the atmospheric pressure is light and the 
insidious gas can be heard hissing out of the strata. 

" Facing Death " 319 

He describes how, weary and tempted by the longing 
for a pipe, some weak-minded comrade may contrive 
by the help of a nail to pick the lock of his carefully- 
secured safety lamp, so as to expose the flame for a 
pipe to be lit. Then comes the ignition of the gas 
in one scathing burning blast, the herald of death 
to the offender and to those nearest the explosion, 
while for those who are farther away, and who are 
warned by the thunderous roar, there is the race for 
life as they tear for the pit's mouth, to be too often 
overtaken by the deadly choke-damp, whose poison- 
ous strangling fumes follow the firing of the gas. 
Others, imprisoned by the falling rock and coal, after 
fighting hard to escape, have to sit and wait and pray 
that the help which they know will be trying to reach 
them as soon as comrades can descend, may not come 
too late. 

This, Facing Deaths was Henty's first story for boys. 
But a soldier by training, he soon turned to the 
military element. It speedily dawned upon him that 
there is nothing a boy likes better than a good descrip- 
tion of a fight — with fisticuffs not objected to against 
some school tyrant — and here, in his descriptions, the 
writer was thoroughly at home. He knew how his 
heroes should behave, and in such encounters there 
was the vraisemblance that added power to his narra- 
tive. Then, too, as war correspondent who had seen \/ 
fighting in the Crimea, in Italy with Garibaldi during 
the War of Independence, with Lord Napier in 
Abyssinia, in the Franco-German War and during 
the Commune, in Russia, in the West Coast forests 
on the way to Coomassie, in Spain during the Carlist 
Insurrection, and in the Turco- Servian War, his 

320 Henty and his Books 

mind was stored with material and with picturesque 
backg'rounds for stories to come. 

Here was a stupendous collection of embryo "copy" 
for boys' books on fighting full of reality from begin- 
ning to end. From his wide experience he knew and 
described how fighting should be, and was carried 
on. When he felt a desire for change, he struck 
farther back, and enlisted as the years went by various 
heroes of history whose names have been immor- 
talized. At one time he would be weaving a story 
about the prowess of our men in India with Clive, 
at another time following Wellington through the 
Peninsular War. He was, in imagination, with 
Roberts at Kandahar, with Kitchener at Khartoum, 
and with Duller in Natal. He often made a plunge 
into naval history and dealt with our naval heroes. 
Unconsciously, too, all this while he was building up 
a greater success for his boys' books by enlisting on 
their behalf the suffrages of that great and powerful 
body of buyers of presents who had the selection of 
their gifts. By this body is meant our boys' in- 
structors, who, in conning the publishers' lists, would 
come upon some famous name for the hero of the 
story and exclaim: "Ha! history; that's safe". In 
this way Henty linked himself with the great body 
of teachers who joined with him hand in hand; 
hence it was that the book-writer who kept up for so 
many years his wonderful supply of two, three, and 
often four boys' books a year, full of solid interest 
and striking natural adventure, taught more lasting 
history to boys than all the schoolmasters of his 

Naturally the works that dealt with his own ex- 

Honest Excitement 321 

perience were the simple honest truth; but the same 
may be said of those in which he had to deal with the 
past, and therefore had to strengthen and supplement 
his knowledge by the study of the best works he 
could get hold of preparatory to writing fiction deal- 
ing with some particular epoch. For, following upon 
the choice of his subject, say the battles of some 
war through which he carried his heroes, he confessed 
that he got together a pile of books from one of the 
big libraries and stored his mind with material for 
the purpose of the story he was about to weave ; so 
that his fiction was very near akin to fact, though 
possibly it was highly coloured. No boy dislikes 
colour, and Henty's readers did not object to a little 
blood. His boys were fighting boys, and very 
manly, full, as he termed it, of pluck; and though 
he dressed them up and carried them through peril 
and adventure galore, it was all good honest excite- 
ment, even if here and there a little too bright in 
hue. As to that, he had the example of the famous 
romanticist of the north, the great Sir Walter, who 
said that in equipping a character in one of his 
romances he liked to give him a cocked hat and a 
walking-stick to add to his appearance. 

There was nothing namby-pamby in Henty's writ- 
ings, for his adolescent characters were not so much 
boys as men, saving in this, that he kept them to boy 
life, and never made his works sickly by the introduc- 
tion of what an effeminate writer would term the tender 
passion. *' No," he said, " I never touch on love 
interest. Once I ventured to make a boy of twelve 
kiss a little girl of eleven, and I received a very indig- 
nant letter from a dissenting minister." 

( B 837 ) 22 

322 Henty and his Books 

Men who write books build up for themselves 
plenty of critics besides the authorized judges to 
whom their works are sent out by the publishers, 
and unfortunately the self-constituted censors do not 
possess the broad knowledge of the genuine critic. 

But for outspoken, downright, honest but self- 
satisfied criticism, no one equals the " cocky" school- 
boy who has entered upon the phase when he begins 
to feel that he can write, and has begun to get over 
the natural repugnance to express himself in corre- 
spondence. Early in life your natural boy only 
writes as much as he feels bound to set down with 
pen, ink, and paper. These effusions one may call 
duty-letters home. The next letters are those relating 
to his wants ; they come more freely, and of course 
often savour of pocket-money. It is later, when he 
has taken to reading, and has arrived at the stage 
when his spelling is more regular, his grammar 
fairly correct, and his words flow more freely from 
his pen, that he becomes opinionated, and informs 
those to whom he writes what he thinks. 

Sometimes an author is favoured by these young 
gentlemen, and more than one communicated with 
Henty and informed him that he had read his last 
book, which was, of course, satisfactory; but the 
criticisms and the points fallen foul of would have 
been unpleasant only for the fact that they formed 
food for mirth. 

One day, during a chat concerning the success of 
a well-known magazine that was current some five- 
and-twenty or thirty years ago, which he edited, 
Henty laughingly complained to the writer about 
the way in which boys of this type troubled him 

Boyish Admirers 323 

with their opinions. One of them — it was in the 
early days when this corrupt word was beginning to 
be utiUzed in boy life as something very forcible and 
expressive — wrote and asked him why he put such 
"rot" in his paper. One fancies one can recall at 
the present moment the grim, half-amused, half-angry 
expression of the editor's face as he related the anec- 
dote. But it is only fair to say that such young gentle- 
men are the exceptions, and when a boy does praise, 
he can do it with a warmth that makes his favourite 
author's cheeks glow with pride, for he feels that the 
criticism is very honest and true. 

And boys can write very very pleasant letters, 
such as set one thinking that one would like to 
know the writers. Some of their letters show very 
plainly what the young correspondents have thought 
as they read, though they often enough cause much 
amusement by their naivete^ especially those which 
come suddenly from the most out-of-the-way places. 
These are some of the great rewards which come to 
a writer, and make up for many a long day of 
drudgery in the cause of duty on days when nature 
is preaching idleness to a worker, and is calling to 
him with her myriad voices to leave the pen and 
desk and come and commune with her while there 
is time; on days — those rare days — when she is all 
smiles, and full of suggestions of those bright days 
of the past, which seem to have become rarer as one 
has been growing old. 

Henty had a little selection of correspondents' 
letters sent from out-of-the-way places. One was 
from an American boy, written with all the quaint 
naivete and ignorance of one who was on his travels 

324 Henty and his Books 

to see what the world was really like. He writes 
from Italy, after "doing" England with his father: — 

Hotel Europa, Venezia, 
March 22nd, 1889. 
Dear Mr. Henty, 

I am an American boy, ten years old, travelling" in 
Europe. I read some of your books at home, and enjoyed them 
so much that, as soon as I arrived in London, I wanted to go to 
Mr. Bhickie's, hoping to see you and all your books. So when 
1 had been to Westminster Abbey and the Tower, my father took 
me there ; but I could not see you, and the books were shut up. 
But the gentleman was very kind to me, and brought some of 
them out, and I went home laden. I think The Lion of St. Mark 
is splendid. I am reading it here, and am sure Matteo lived in 
this house. I have been to the very place in the Piazetta where 
Matteo and Francis had their first conversation. 

Yours respectfully, 

Nothing could be more amusing than the boy's 
mingling of shrewdness and innocence respecting the 
author's connection with his publisher. There is 
something in it suggestive of the days of Newbery 
and Dodsley, with an idea evidently in the boy's mind 
that publishers kept authors in stock. But it is the 
letter of a clever boy notwithstanding, blessed with a 
father aiming at increasing his boy's store of know- 
ledge in the wisest way extant. 

Such letters come abundantly to a boys' author; but 
Henty thought far more highly of those which he 
received from girls, for where there is a girl in the 
same family the brothers' books are generally common 
stock, and are carefully read, appreciated, and judged. 
The author declares that girls write more intelligently 
and evince greater judgment in their criticisms, while 

Autograph Collectors 325 

those who write, especially American girls, make a 
point of requesting an answer, and do not shrink from 
asking for the author's autograpli to add to the collec- 
tion being made. 

At the same time, unconscious of the estimation in 
which the sister is held by her correspondent, the boy 
does not fail to write in a half-contemptuous spirit like 

this: " Dear Mr. , I have read your story, which 

I and my brother think splendid. Emmie has read it 
too, and she says it's delightful; but then, she's only 
a girl." 

A propos of the boy seeker for an author's autograph, 
there are many of these acquisitive young gentlemen 
who make applications by post and do not get one, 
even on days when the author is in his most amiable 
frame of mind. Possibly this is due to the fact that 
they are perfectly unconscious of being propagators 
of a custom which has grown into a heavy tax. 
Others, more wise in their young generation, make a 
point of enclosing a carefully-directed and stamped 
envelope, which places the person addressed in the 
position of a creditor, whose conscience immediately 
smites him with the suggestion that it would be 
churlish and rude not to reply. And somehow almost 
invariably those young gentlemen obtain the addition 
to their collection that they have sought. 

Boys' writers most probably do not have more 
worries than other people, but they have to submit 
to one nuisance fr(im the selfish and thoughtless which 
does go very mucn against the grain. Fancy being 
a man who feels himself in duty bound to fulfil an 
engagement to write some four, five, or six thousand 
words of a story pretty well every day. Is it not 

326 Henty and his Books 

extremely probable that when that long tale of words 
is written he will lay the pen down with a feeling of 
weariness, almost of loathing and disgust. Imagine 
his feelings, then, when he finds in his correspond- 
ence a letter from some absolute stranger, enclosing 
a long manuscript which he has written ''especially 
for boys", with the request that "as the recipient is 
so clever and knows so well exactly what a boy likes, 
he will be good enough to read it at once and give 
his opinion upon its merits"? Now, human nature is 
human nature, and as a weary writer has a great deal 
of that sad human nature in his composition, and is 
prone to be irritable, surely it is not surprising that 
for a few minutes he falls into a fretful state, and 
mentally asks this would-be scribe why he does not 
send his MS. to an editor or other practised judge of 
people's works for his opinion about the unknown 
one's literary production? 

Henty uttered his wail to one of his visitors who 
recorded an interview, and then confessed to being as 
weak and amiable as many others of his craft, for he 
says: " I do generally read them, and have helped 
several men to get publishers; but, of course, the 
great majority of the stories are hopelessly unfit for 
boys. One does not like to write back and say that 
the work is confounded rubbish, although I suppose 
it would be the most merciful thing to do, as it would 
prevent the writer from wasting his time. I let them 
down as lightly as I can." 

There is a well-known old proverb, for which we 
have to thank one of the old Roman writers, who 
spread their Latin and their works through the 
civilized world, that a poet is born, not made, and it 

Story Spinning 327 

applies equally to the story-teller or writer of narra- 
tive. Henty was a story-teller from quite early days ; 
for, following- up his boyish attempts, the days came 
when, as a married man, with his children gathering 
round his fireside, it became a custom for them to 
come and say the familiar good-night, with the appeal 
to father to tell them a story. At first the stories were 
brief of the briefest, and doubtless versions of the old 
popular nursery tales. These, however, soon began 
to give way to invention, and these again would be 
followed by flights of fancy as the young author's 
wings grew stronger, till, from being so brief that 
they only sufficed for one evening, his stories ex- 
panded and gradually merged into those which were 
cut short with, " There, it's growing too late now. I 
must finish to-morrow night." Doubtless invention 
in the furnishing of these little narratives, composed 
expressly for the juvenile audience, soon had to give 
way to study, and their author began to seek his in- 
spiration from some incident in history. Gradually, 
too, as he realized the interest taken in his narratives 
by his own children, they began to be more thought- 
fully designed, and grew longer, while the idea 
strengthened that they might prove as attractive to 
other children as to his own, until by a natural 
sequence the story-constructing took up more thought, 
grew more business-like, and developed, as it were, 
into a profession. 

It is easy, too, to imagine that as some of these 
stories — which were told for the benefit of his two 
boys, and the two little girls who were carried off 
by consumption on the verge of womanhood — ran 
to a length of four or five nights, they gave their 


28 Henty and his Books 

/ originator the power to compose with fluency and 
^ ease. For throughout his life Henty practised story- 
telling as opposed to story-writing. It is not every- 
one who finds dictation easy, but for twenty years he 
dictated all his fiction to his secretary and amanuensis, 
Mr. Griffiths, even down to the very last tale which 
he finished, prior to his being stricken down by 
V' paralysis. 

In writing his books Henty was wonderfully prac- 
tical. He thoroughly enjoyed a quiet evening and a 
dinner with friends at his club, but, speaking from old 
experience, he never allowed this to interfere with the 
work he had on hand. More than once the writer has 
said to him, "What! going already?" ("already" 
being almost directly after dinner). " Yes," he would 
reply; " I shall perhaps have some telegrams to write 
up next door" ("next door" being the Standard 
office). On other occasions it w^ould be, "Yes; going 
home. My man will be w^aiting w^hen I get there " 
("my man" representing his amanuensis, ready for 
him in his study at Lavender Hill). And in response 
to the remark, "Rather late to begin when you get 
home", "Oh yes, but I daresay I shall get a couple 
of thousand words done" ; and that meant from Henty 
that the work w^ould be done, for he was a man who 
meant w^ork, and did it. This would happen usually 
when he was extra busy preparing some book for the 
press. He had a quiet, determined way of making 
hay when the sun shone, for the Standard made great 
calls upon his time, requiring him to wTite matters of 
fact, and at such times fiction had to be laid aside. 
His long absences from home in times of war inter- 
fered greatly with his peaceful avocations, but he 

A Youthful Correspondent 329 

treated all these journeys as so many copy-collecting- 
trips. They provided him with material which he 
would afterwards cleverly utilize, as can be gathered 
from passage after passage in his many works. 

For details of the many stories for the young- 
written by Henty, one is disposed to refer the reader 
lO the publisher's list; but to follow upon what has 
been said respecting the correspondence that reaches 
a writer from his young readers, a letter that has come 
to hand, written by a Canadian boy some years ago, 
is very amusing in its admiration of his favourite 
author. It indicates such an amount of steady reading, 
it evinces so much ingenuity, and (if it should ever 
reach the young writer's eyes and he will take the 
criticism in the good part in which it is meant) dis- 
plays so much need for improvement, that one gives 
it in full as an amusing list of the author's works from 
the boy's point of view. 

The little lad calls it "a story". Well, it is an 
original story of stories, and, as intimated, emanates 
from Canada. It is here given in a confidence which 
suppresses names, and thus cloaks the literary mis- 
takes of the past: — 

G. A. Henty, Esq. 

Dear Sir, 

Hoping 3-ou will excuse me for troubling you, but I 
would like you to read the little story^ I have made (while staving- 
home from school with the measles). I have read and enjoyed a 
great many of your books. Following is the story made out of 
the names of some of the books you have written : — 

"Jack Archer", while travelling "Through Russian Snows", 
met "Captain Bayley's Heir", who had been "Through the Sikh 
War" as " One of the 28th" and was "True to the Old Flag", 
was swimming "In Greek Waters", being pursued by "The 

330 Henty and his Books 

Tiger of Mysore", which iiad come "Through the Fray" "By 
Sheer Pluck ". All of a sudden along- came a man who was 
"The Bravest of the Brave" while " With Wolfe in Canada" and 
"With Clive in India"; he also showed valour "At Agincourt ", 
which was "Won by the Sword" " By England's Aid", headed 
by "A Knight of the While Cross", who was with " Wulf the 
Saxon" and "Bericthe Briton" in fighting "The Dragon and the 
Raven", which were " For the Temple", met "The Cat of Bu- 
bastes ", followed by "The Young Carthaginian", who was 
"Condemned as a Nihilist" for killing "The Lion of the North" 
and "The Lion of St. Mark", which were owned by "The 
Young Colonist" and " Maori and Settler", who said they were 
"With Buller in Natal", and had come to arrest him as "A 
Jacobite Exile", with their colours " Orange and Green", in the 
name of " Bonnie Prince Charlie ". It happened when on " St. 
Bartholomew's Eve" along came "St. George for England" "By 
Right of Conquest". "In Freedom's Cause" he was "Held 
Fast for England" " In the Reign of Terror ". " Under Drake's 
Flag" he made "The Dash for Khartoum", which "With Lee 
in Virginia" " For Name and Fame" he fought and won " By 
Pike and Dyke", assisted by " Redskin and Cowboy". All this 
happened "When London Burned". 

Trusting you will let me know if you receive this, and how you 
like the story, Yours very truly, 

Doubtless, as was often his custom, George Henty, 
who was proud of, as well as amused by, the above 
letter, replied to the young writer. One would be 
glad to know. 

In addition to the three-volume story, A Search for 
a Secret, mentioned earlier, Henty produced several 
more, so that he may claim to be one of those who 
saw out the old days which preceded the six-shilling 
novel. He concluded his series of novels with another 
secret — Colonel Thorndykes\ — but this, like those 
which had preceded it, only achieved what the super- 

A Regular Output 331 

fine litterateur terms a succes d'estime, which is not 
the success beloved of the publisher, who has a bad 
habit of judging an author's merits by reference to 
his ledger and counting the number of copies sold. 

Henty's novels were well contrived and thought 
out, and full of interesting matter, but not one of 
them seemed to contain that unknown quality which 
nobody appears as yet to have been able to analyse, 
but which causes the British public to go reading 
mad over something which hits the fancy of the time. 

As a novelist he was unsuccessful ; not that it 
mattered, for he soon laid the foundation of what 
was to prove an enduring fame, one which set an 
enormous clientele of young readers looking forward 
year by year for his next book or books— one, two, 
three, or even four per annum — until he had erected 
a literary column familiar in the bright young 
memories of thousands upon thousands of readers to 
whom the names of his works are well known. 

In the long list of his other writings, A Story of 
the Carlist Troubles^ another volume more modern 
and up-to-date, relating to the Sudan when Kitchener 
was in command, and a romance telling of a search 
for the treasure of the Peruvian kings, were among 
his last productions, while editions after editions of 
his earlier works kept on appearing, and were eagerly 
read. These new issues of his earlier books of course 
appealed to a much wider public than before, since 
the writer's popularity had gone on increasing with 
every fresh story from his pen. 

As is often the case with a young and enthusiastic 
writer, Henty in his early days made more than one 
attempt to publish his productions at his own cost, 

^ n 

2 Henty and his Books 

only to learn the severe lesson that these business 
transactions are matters of trade, and do not often 
prosper in the hands of an author. 

One of his hardest fights was over the Union Jack, 
which he edited for some years. It was a boys' 
journal, which ought to have succeeded, and over 
which he worked very hard both as author and editor; 
but somehow, in spite of the names of the able men 
whom he enlisted as his literary lieutenants, the sun 
of prosperity did not shine upon it brightly, and after 
a last effort, in which he took in new blood, he gave 
it up in disgust. He must have thought, after the 
fashion of others before him, that the success of 
periodicals is a matter of accident. It would be diffi- 
cult indeed to come to any other conclusion when 
one sees the way in which clever and scholarly pro- 
ductions, fostered by the best literary ability, struggle 
into life and hold on to a precarious existence for a 
few brief weeks or months, and then die from lack 
of appreciation, while others that are perfect marvels 
of all that a magazine should not be, rush up into 
popularity and become, as it were, gold-mines to 
their proprietors. 

So far as Henty was concerned, however, there is 
the consolation that whatever disappointments he 
may have had over his early productions, they 
formed a portion of the literary concrete upon which 
he raised a structure that made his name familiar to 
every young reader of his time. 


^ An Appreciation ' 

Much has been said about the writing of a boys' 
book and the changes that have taken place during 
the present generation or two. It may be taken into 
consideration that to go back to, say, 1830, there were 
hardly any books for a boy to read. We had Even- 
ings at Home and Robinson Crusoe, of course, and 
there were some cheaply-issued stories by Pierce Egan 
the younger. A very attractive volume, too, was a 
tremendously thumbed and dog's-eared Boy's Country 
Book, by William Howitt. Marryat's and Cooper's 
works, with a few of Scott's, however, found plenty 
of favour with boys, who soon afterwards began to 
read Dickens, a writer who caught on with them at 
once. Soon after this Kingston and Ballantyne had 
the field almost to themselves, while the publishers 
were shy about publishing exclusively for boys; even 
to this day the trade, as it is termed, class books 
written especially for boys as juvenile literature. The 
term is correct, of course, for our recollections of Latin 
teach us that juvenile relates to youth; but to a boy 
the very term seems to suggest a toy-book, untearable, 
perhaps, with gaudy coloured pictures, and this be- 
gets in him a feeling of scorn. He does not want 
juvenile literature. His aim is to become a man and 
read what men do and have done. Hence the great 
success of George Henty's works. They are essen- 


534 An Appreciation 

tially manly, and he used to say that he wanted his 
boys to be bold, straightforward, and ready to play 
a young man's part, not to be milksops. He had a 
horror of a lad who displayed any weak emotion and 
shrank from shedding blood, or winced at any en- 
counter. The result is shown again and again in 
his pages, and though some of his readers may object 
to the deeds of his heroes, no one could look down 
upon their vigour and determination. The fact is, he 
painted his own boyhood in all — the boy — the young 
man as he wished him to be, and the man. 

There was a reality and power about Henty's work 
which caused many of his characters to be remem- 
bered long after the book had been laid aside, though, 
of course, it was not really characterization which was 
his forte, but rather the depicting of historical incidents 
and brave deeds on the frontiers of the empire. He 
did a great work for the boy reader in throwing open 
for him the big doorway of history. There was 
scarcely a book from his pen, and especially is this 
the case with the later ones, which did not serve to 
impress some important period of fighting or diplo- 
matic action upon the mind of the reader. Know- 
ledge thus gained is generally the most useful, for it 
is imbibed with avidity. Henty came out of long 
years of exciting work as a chronicler of things seen 
on the battle-fields of the world, and he had the gift of 
ready portrayal, allied to a retentive and observant 
mind. Amidst the purple slopes and white walls of 
Italy he seemed as much at home as on the Venetian 
lagoons or in the forests of Germany. The entire 
panorama of the world was his sphere of action, and 
old-world romance suggestive of forgotten stairways 

The Key to Romance 335 

and ancient palaces was, so to speak, a department in 
which he excelled. He could write as few men could 
of that mediaeval tramp of crusading hosts, of glinting- 
armour, of all that stirring pageantry of the old, old 
days which sometimes in the heat of interest makes our 
own time seem trivial and of poor account; and yet, 
although he possessed this key to romance, maybe 
he was really at his best in dealing with the thin red 
line of modern times. Still, among his older books. 
The Cornet of Horse stands out as pre-eminently 
strong and dramatic, and the account of a remarkable 
adventure during the campaign in the Netherlands, 
when the commander, who was afterwards cited as 
" Marlbrouck " to naughty French children, defeated 
the French at Oudenarde and Malplaquet, is outlined 
clearly in the memory; so does the miller near Lille 
who befriended the young Englishman. The writing 
was strong, the colour vivid, and the reader had a 
bird's-eye view of what was passing at that time when 
Good Queen Anne was on the throne, and, as a bard 
put it, sometimes counsel took and sometimes tea, 
while in France the Grand Monarque ruled as few 
kings have ever ruled before or since. It was a book 
that made boys think, giving them a wonderful im- 
pression of the time, making John Churchill a real 
live general, and showing why we went to war with 
France in defence of the stolid Dutch. Then a story 
of quite another type is probably still a first favourite, 
namely, The Young Franc Ttreiirs, which deals with 
the Franco-German War in a style to be expected 
from one who was there. How real is the talk be- 
tween some German soldiers after the capture of 
Napoleon the Third! 

1 ^ 

6 An Appreciation 

The merit of these stories is their directness. No 
nervous under-view, no irnao;ining of things which 
are not there, but the easy, straightforward writing of 
a manly Englishman who took things as they w^ere, 
who disdained the building of structures on flimsy 
might-have-beens, but liked a solid foundation of fact. 
His campaigning stories brought the stress of war 
right home. He imparted a real touch to these with 
maps and charts. He had been close into so many 
firing lines that these tales had the ring of absolute 
truth, while he knew the soldier by heart and could 
depict him to life without any sham heroics or ex- 
aggeration. War's grim traffic had indeed few 
mysteries for the pleasant, frank Englishman who 
could talk of the graver issues of life with distinction 
and advantage to the listener. 

Far less known than his boys' books are his novels. 
Yet there is ingenuity and interest in such stories as 
T/ie Curse of Carnes Hold, while through one and all 
of his works there is to be found a spirit of bold 
endeavour and a deep insight into the apparent 
puzzles of life. It was inevitable that a war corre- 
spondent who had had a front seat for years in the 
great arena of the world's happenings should know 
better than most men how events would shape them- 
selves, and what occurrences might be looked for in 
the largest sphere of politics. Perhaps this acquaint- 
ance with the greater issues of life gave him more 
sympathy. He knew men, knew their failings, their 
ambitions. You met him in some spring-time in the 
Strand with its unceasing rumble of traffic and its 
colour, and the glimpse of green at the end of a street 
leading to the Embankment Gardens, and you heard 

The Mediaeval Touch 337 

that he was just back from "over there", a long- 
way beyond town and the Silver Streak, maybe from 
Ashanti or Abyssinia. He had the warrior's look — 
the look of one who knows too much ever to be trivial 
— and the stirring days of European war were all 
familiar to him. Perhaps this is what gives even his 
books which deal with the long ago a vital interest. 
Fashions change; humanity scarcely at all. On the 
battle-field men are much the same as when Alex- 
ander swept southward with his legions to India, or 
when the great wars of the Middle Ages threatened to 
obliterate the arts. So it is that his historical books 
have a deep significance. Pick up one of these, and 
you are taken back into the dim old past, and realize 
why men fought, though the reasons for the warfare 
are now as cold as the watch-fires of then. Here we 
have the grandeur of the chronicler's task. His to 
revive any latent ardour in a nation or an individual 
by drawing aside the curtain on what men did, and 
how they acted nobly for God and the king, for truth 
and the right, in the bygone days. Not in vain these 
wars, though the map of Europe has changed; and 
the historical writer who re-creates the best out of the 
stirring times that have lapsed, who shows in dra- 
matic style why this gage of battle was thrown down, 
why that edict went out from Versailles, and what 
really was the inwardness of the long campaigns, 
which at a casual glance seem only to bewilder the 
mind, has a task which in importance is second to 
none. The young generation which has read his 
books and had its imagination fired will contain, of 
course, only a small percentage of soldiers, but the 
sense of grit and the dogged indomitable spirit to be 

( B 837 ) 23 

338 An Appreciation 

derived from such works will stand in erood stead to 
all, whether the battle be faced in the humdrum of 
daily life or actually with the forces of the king. 
Henty's was a grand influence for good in times of 
easy belittlement and cheap disparaging criticism of 
many of those elemental virtues which are nevertheless 
supreme in the making of a nation. He showed in 
rugged, graphic style what had been done — on tented 
field, in grim old medieval castle. He recalled deeds 
which are a lesson for all time, and in his brilliant 
martial scenes there is the echo of the clash of arms. 
It does not require a poet to give value and signifi- 
cance to such a retrospect, though in this re-creation 
of past scenes, of the going and coming, the tramp of 
armies, the riding in of couriers to unfamiliar cities, 
there necessarily is much poetry as well as brave and 
heart-stirring effect, for in the panorama conjured up 
there is the whole sum of life, its doubt, its passion, 
and its tears. 

As for his soldiers, they are excellent. The soldier is 
the soldier all the ages through — full of strange oaths, 
and with a particular view of things. In this con- 
nection it may be permissible to refer to the cosmo- 
politan side of Henty, to his intimate acquaintance 
with the byways of Europe, and to the undeniable 
grip he possessed of the European way of looking at 
matters — a way which is far more excitable than 
ours. He could talk of the days before the '70 War 
which brought the Teuton into Alsace and made of 
fragmentary Germany a consolidated state; of the 
times when Bismarck was, comparatively speaking, 
a young man, and when men were more given to 
sonorous phrase-making than is the case at present. 

A Cosmopolitan 339 

He had the "behind the scenes " attitude, and with 
reason, for a war correspondent, like a diplomatist, is 
the one who is there. He had met the leading men, 
the statesmen, the Herzog of the Fatherland, the 
Gospodar of Holy Russia, and the hysterical agitator 
of Paris who seized the moment of his country's 
downfall venomously to compass further ruin, and 
in a lighter vein he had, too, all that rare anecdotal 
interest of the man who has met the bold Bulgar 
in Sofia and knows him an fond, and who has fra- 
ternized with the Serb in the questionable security of 

Small wonder, indeed, that Henty, who knew of 
what the world was capable and what men could 
accomplish, held in light esteem the narrow but loud- 
talking cult which condemns patriotism, scoffs at 
civic merit, and would reduce society to an unsatis- 
factory incoherent brew. He was one of those whose 
influence makes for the greatness of England, an 
England which will fight, if duty really calls, at one 
of those crises in a nation's life which show which is 
the true worth and which the base. 

His stories reflect the man, and their great and 
enduring success among boys, who are perhaps the 
most difficult of all to satisfy, must be looked for in 
part in the great seriousness with which he went to 
work. There was no difficulty about his style, which 
was as smooth-running as the Thames, and no 
parade, while he pleased his readers especially by 
a simple, unaffected touch of confidence and certainly 
attractive suggestion of doing his utmost to satisfy 
the legion who looked to him for literary fare. With 
such a character, typical of many, as Signor Polani 

340 An Appreciation 

in The Lion of St. Mark, he showed his really great 
skill in portraiture; and though season by season 
his books were reviewed as boys' books, there was 
much that necessarily escaped the notice of the critic, 
much that was as deeply imaginative and inwardly 
significant as passages in genre stories which received 
a larger measure of the critic's attention. It could not 
have come as any particular disappointment to Henty 
when he found that his metier \\a.s writing boys' books 
rather than novels. We are told that there are many 
people who can write novels, and maybe with certain 
qualifications this is true, but there are comparatively 
few who can write for, and please, the exacting boy. 
The latter severe, if not absolutely erudite, critic may 
not be able to define precisely what he wants, but 
he knows enough to be certain that Henty could and 
did supply the requisite article. He knew, like a 
great artist, what to leave out, which knowledge is 
the prime factor in the making of the greatest works. 
It was the intuitive perception of where the youthful 
imagination required to come into play. It was 
grateful, gracious work this, of supplying boys with 
literature which held them engrossed and helped them 
to think, and think well. Youth has its troubles, its 
little ennuis, its griefs, the same as the rest of the 
world, and despite disparity in years these phases 
are not to be considered in miniature, for the imagina- 
tion is larger and more elastic in early days, and 
trouble assumes a very extended front. The boy who 
is plagued by a dead tongue, or the perversity of cir- 
cumstance, or any other worriment of the flying day, as 
likely as not picks up his favourite author to help him 
to forget the suggestion of the presence of black care. 

Studying the Past 341 

The name of Henty became one to refer lo in 
another sort of literature — the smart afternoon paper 
with its flippant dialogues referred to him jocularly 
as the panacea for boys. It was all correct enough. 
The boys worshipped him ; and for years he went on 
working, pushing as it were into untouched galleries 
in his mining after fresh subjects — and the simile may 
be allowed, as even Carlyle speaks of the pursuit of 
literature as subterranean labour. He never lost a 
point. No work was too arduous, no preparation 
too exacting; and as regards many of his books, a 
vast amount of "prep", as students dub their pre- 
liminary labours, was entailed. He would have 
accuracy if history had to be dealt with, and through 
all the years during which he was delving for new 
treasures in the lumber rooms or cellars of the past, 
he kept up his custom of carefully studying each 
phase or epoch before he commenced his romance 
or made ready his mould. He imbibed many tomes 
to make one. 

It is a great mistake to place any reliance on the 
glib statements concerning the length of time that 
a book takes to write. Henty gave an interviewer 
certain facts, but it must have been with an inward 
smile, since all such figures are misleading, though 
not intentionally so. One man will take five months 
to write a book, another two, and so on, for there 
is practically no limit one way or the other; but 
the lav observer who hears such statements as these 
generally makes a gross misuse of them, and in his 
calculations as to how many books a man may write 
a year, absolutely forgets that in writing time is not a 
very accurate vehicle for arriving at an estimate. 

342 An Appreciation 

The author lays down his pen and goes to his ckib 
to dine, but he takes his work with him; it is keeping 
him close company in the train, and a new situation, 
or the germ of an additional complication, is woven 
into the scenery as he is being borne townwards. He 
cannot escape. Nothing is more pertinacious than 
an unfinished character; while in the cab as likely 
as not one of his creations is sitting by him, insisting 
on his being allowed a little more elbow-room, or 
a minor satellite peers at him through the judas in 
the roof. That is to say, there are no early hours, 
so-called, for writers, no getting away from work and 
comfortably shutting up the shop. It is not in the 
nature of things that this should be so. The writer 
has never done, and practically every thousand words 
composed by Henty was the result of long and careful 
prior work and thought. 

As regards many of his stories, he admitted start- 
ing them on the "go-as-you-please" system; that is 
to say, events and characters were allowed to shape 
themselves in their own way; but then it must be 
remembered that Henty had a good store to work 
upon, and that he had, moreover, accustomed himself, 
through many years of press work, to quickness of 
thought and the swift maturing of the line of reason- 
ing, since in writing for newspapers the man who 
hesitates is lost, for the master printer takes no denial. 

In popularity he may be reckoned to have passed 
W. H. G. Kingston and R. M. Ballantyne, while he 
was, as it were, quite level with Captain Mayne Reid 
and Jules Verne; the last-named writer's skeleton 
frameworks rather than romances had deservedly an 
enormous vogue, partly because of their tremendous 

The Ancient Days 343 

scope, and also on account of the fillip they gave to the 
imagination of the young reader. With such a man 
as Henty it seems like begging the question to speak 
of "atmosphere"; but by whatever name that intan- 
gible quality is designated, certain it is that Henty 
possessed himself of it before he started work. Fran- 
cis Hammond in his gondola in old-world Venice, or 
Mademoiselle de Pignerol in the days of the Grand 
Monarque, are all part and parcel of their respec- 
tive times, and it is this ring of truth which makes 
his stories prevail. The neurotic was as far from 
Henty as are the poles asunder; but in giving to 
boyhood something more substantial to dream about 
than "the gay castles of the clouds that pass", in the 
story of the azure main, of England's greatness, 
and the whole stirring, many-coloured panorama 
of ancient days and battles fought on the other side 
of uncounted sunsets, it is reasonable to imagine that 
at times he lived and perhaps almost lost himself in 
the old world which he re-created. The man who 
knew the byways of history as he did would be 
graceless and inconsistent if he did not feel the gran- 
deur of all those things, seen for a flying moment 
down the winding turret stairway as the curtain is 
drawn aside. It is as good to regard his masterly 
treatment of historic themes as it is painful to witness 
the wretched spectacle of feeble handling of subjects 
vast as these. Life, as Macbeth said, is but a walk- 
ing shadow; but there is a good deal of reality in it 
too, and there was nothing visionary about the people 
Henty created : they were genial, good-humoured, 
time-serving, sluggish, magnificent, or Boeotian, as 
circumstance and occasion warranted, while in de- 

344 An Appreciation 

lineating- a soldier of our time his hand was unerring-. 
His sketch of the linesman or the trooper was as true 
as that of the mediaeval Spaniard in his shabby cloak, 
the plump landlady of the inn, the bragging mounte- 
bank in questionable buskins, the adventurer ready to 
sell his sword to the highest bidder, or any other of 
the sometimes brilliant, sometimes lack-lustre com- 
pany with whom he had to deal on that broad white 
route of historical romance which it was given to him 
to traverse that others might appreciate these things. 
It is not only a question of boys, for many an old 
stager whose life now is his club, likes these breezy, 
healthy stories, and enjoys meeting once more the 
grave signors who managed the political world in 
the bygone, and saluting yet once again the kings 
whose weaknesses and whose grandeur filled a world 
that has vanished. And his treatment of these 
legends, or facts, as the case may be, is full of 
charm, just as his writing is simple and sincere and 
instinct with the insight of a mind which had that 
greatest of all gifts — the gift of keeping young. 


Personal Notes 

Henty's study was an ideal room for a writer, with 
all kinds of suggestive objects around, such as would 
be useful to a man who wrote about war's alarms; for 
he did not go upon any of his adventurous journeys 
without keeping in mind the walls of the study, which 
was practically a museum. It must be quite five-and- 
twenty years since, after dining with him one even- 
ing, Henty took the writer into his den to show and 
describe (from out of the cloud emitted by a favourite 
brier-root pipe which he used steadily) the various 
weapons hanging from the walls, some of which were 
very beautiful, in spite of the purpose for which they 
had been formed. One memorable, clumsy-looking, 
straight, two-edged sword seemed to be about as un- 
suitable for causing destruction and death as it could 
have been made. It was Indian, of considerable 
length, and peculiar in this way. The armourer who 
made it had so contrived that the hilt was fused, as it 
were, into a gauntlet for the protection of the knuckles 
of the man who wielded it, and the handle was ex- 
actly the reverse of that joined to an ordinary sword, 
for the warrior who grasped it would have to take 
hold at right angles to the course of the blade, in 
fact, precisely as a gardener would take hold of a 
spade. To us this seems a curious clumsy fashion, 
but it is one which we find repeated in many of the 

346 Personal Notes 

Indian knives or daggers, and to some extent in 
the Malay creese, which, roughly speaking, bears 
round towards right angles like the butt of a horse 

On commenting upon the peculiarity of the great 
Indian sword, and the impossibility of a man using 
it to thrust, or make an adequate cut, Henty rose from 
his seat and gave the writer an exemplification of how 
such a weapon would be used by a native foot-soldier 
in a melee. Single-handed, he would rush into a 
crowd with outstretched arm stiffened by the steel 
gauntlet-like hilt, and would clear a space all round 
him by the murderous sweep of the blade which he 
wielded, turning himself into a sort of human wind- 
mill. In fact, in the hands of a strong man it was 
about the most horrible, butcher -like weapon ever 
invented for the destruction of human life. By com- 
parison, as the great blade was replaced with its 
fellows, a far preferable death would have been in- 
flicted by a gracefully-curved, razor-edged, exquisitely 
forged and grained Damascus blade. This had pro- 
bably been the pride of some Mahratta chief, some 
keen, dark, aquiline-nosed soldier whose hands must 
have been as delicate as a woman's, for the hilt of 
this, as well as those of its fellows upon the wall, 
seemed toy-like in the grip of such a man as Henty. 

He possessed quite a museum of such objects as 
these, and his armoury of trophies went on growing 
till his death, when he was the possessor of an endless 
number of choice little treasures. These were con- 
siderably added to by his son, Captain C. J. Henty, 
in the shape of weapons collected during the late Boer 
War (where he distinguished himself in command of 

old Time Relics 347 

the detachment of volunteers of the London Irish 
Rifles), and by another son during the latter's ad- 
venturous life in the Wild West, 

A treasure of Henty's own collecting was a beau- 
tiful suit of Northern Indian armour, exquisitely 
damascened and inlaid with gold, the skullcap-like 
spiked helmet being provided with sliding face-guard 
and hood of chain mail, while the almost gauze-like 
steel shirt, with sleeves, breast, and arm-plates of 
beautiful workmanship, were all perfect. From 
Abyssinia came a silver shield, massive and bril- 
liantly polished, and trophy after trophy had been 
garnered in other countries, including weapons from 
China and Japan. About one and all of these treasures, 
from the most costly weapons to the spears, arrows, 
and shields of savage warfare, the owner could dis- 
course eloquently and well, for concerning each he 
had some history or anecdote to tell. 

He was much liked in the little social company he 
affected, and here his discourse and ways seemed to 
show how warmly he felt towards his companions; 
while of his thorough sincerity he unobtrusively 
gave them most ample proof. 

In such coteries of literary and artistic men, workers 
for the ordinary income as well as for the praise of 
the world, there are, of course, some who prosper far 
beyond their highest hopes, and, sad to say, more 
who, in spite of every effort, only gain disappoint- 
ment, with its concomitants — poverty and despair. It 
was in such cases as these that, with evident care that 
his action should not hurt the feelings of a friend, 
Henty's hand, so to speak, glided unseen towards his 
pocket, to plunge in pretty deeply, and return far 

348 Personal Notes 

better filled than those of his fellows who had taken 
similar action. And this was not from the possession 
of wealth, but from true fellow-feeling and generosity 
of heart. 

He numbered fewer friends, perhaps, than others 
who were his colleagues and fellow-workers, but those 
whom he classed as intimates were of the more ster- 
ling metal, stamped with the brand of solidity, and the 
most lasting in their wear; while they on their side, 
possibly from their being the choice of one who, after 
the long gatherings of experience, was no mean judge 
of human nature, were no doubt as staunch as he. 
Certainly they enjoyed the satisfaction of being num- 
bered among his friends. 

Washington Irving, in his Knickerbocker Papers^ 
when describing the sages among the old Dutch 
settlers in the Hudson region, refers to the way in 
which they were looked up to for their wisdom and 
for the character they obtained and kept by much 
smoking and preserving silence, in addition to never 
being found out. This comes to mind when think- 
ing over Henty's quiet, stolid way in after-dinner 
communion at his clubs. He always looked calm, 
grave, and thoughtful, but, unlike the old Dutch 
settlers recorded by that charming American writer, 
he did think; he thought deeply, but spoke little. 
When he did open his lips though, he was out- 
spoken, plain, straightforward, and to the point. 

As a rule he left speaking to those who were gifted, 
or cursed, with fluency. Debating was a horror to be 
avoided and denounced ; but all the same it was no 
unusual thing for him to be chosen to preside at a 
social dinner, or to take the chair at a committee meet- 

A Stern Censor 349 

ing, and when this happened he always distinguished 

A fellow-member of one of his clubs supplies the 
writer with a characteristic anecdote, which carries 
with it an impression of the downright, straightfor- 
ward character and outspoken nature of Henty in his 
utter detestation of sharp practice in every form. The 
incident occurred during the after-dinner conversa- 
tion, throughout which the subject of this memoir 
sat like a modern literary Jupiter in the midst of the 
clouds of smoke which he had largely helped to 
evolve. Out of this smoke he could be seen glower- 
ing at one of the speakers. This man was a stranger 
to him, and he had listened to him in silence, quite 
unaware that he was a city journalist connected with 
one of the financial papers. The speaker had been 
making a great and verbose use of his knowledge of 
his own particular subject, and for a long time Henty 
had sat and frowned at him. No better term could 
possibly be found for describing my old friend's aspect 
at the time. It suggested a revival of Samuel Johnson 
visiting his old haunts, and those who knew Henty 
became silent listeners too, in the full expectation that 
he would be moved to show his displeasure, and would 
make some remark upon the revelations about the 
peculiar ways of transacting business occasionally car- 
ried out in the neighbourhood of Throgmorton Street. 

But Jupiter was still silent, and the fluent speaker 
prattled on about bulls and bears, about the great 
coups that were made, and about the immense profits 
of some and the heavy losses and ruin of the weak and 
foolish who, in the fierce race for wealth, were tempted 
in their folly into city gambling. 

350 Personal Notes 

Matters went on, and Henty grew more heated. 
The smoke of his brier pipe rolled out in increased 
volume; his eyes grew more fierce; but no interrup- 
tion came, and as he still remained silent, a feeling 
of disappointment began to grow among those who 
knew him best. He was only waiting, however, until 
the financial discourse died out, not for want of 
material, since, unfortunately, that is always too 
plentiful, but more probably on account of weariness 
on the speaker's part. Then, to the great satisfaction 
of Henty's listeners, he growled out: *'Well, have 
you done? Now I will tell you what I think about 
financial newspapers and their conductors. — They are 
a set of confounded thieves." 

It is recorded of him that he was upon one occasion 
called upon to preside at a meeting in which someone 
was suspected of having been a defaulter in a case in 
which full confidence had been placed. It was a 
serious matter, one which had been fully discussed, 
and at last it fell to Henty's lot to give something like 
the casting vote. He had been seated very silently, 
full of severe earnestness, till with stern, solemn 
dignity he stood up to speak, his words shaping 
themselves for some time like those of a prosecuting 
counsel, till at last he finished by being almost denun- 
ciatory in tone, as with grim irony he exclaimed: 
"And then he told us that lie! Now, why should he 
have told us such a lie as that, when he knew very 
well that he must be found out? If he wanted to tell 
a lie," he continued, his voice growing more cutting 
in his bitter sarcasm, "why did he not choose one 
that we had not a chance of finding out?" 


Club Life 

Henty was a man who always enjoyed mixing with 
his fellows, and being constantly associated with 
members of the fourth estate, it was quite natural 
that he should join certain clubs. It followed there- 
fore that, as years rolled by in a long life, he had a 
pretty good list in the way of membership to his 

He was, of course, a member of various yachting 
clubs; but coming to literary gatherings, he early 
became a member of the world-known Savage, which 
he joined in its old days, and his was a familiar, quiet, 
thoughtful face at the weekly dinners, while he was a 
welcome and trusted chairman at the gatherings of the 
committee. Later, without giving up his member- 
ship, he joined, consequent upon some little tiff, the 
select band of the oldest members, who formed what, 
if they had been members of St. Stephen's, would 
have been called the Cave of Adullam. Here, how- 
ever, the little branch or lodge was dubbed the Wig- 
wam, whose cognizance, still printed on the circulars 
which announce the chairman and the date of the next 
dinner, is a clever sketch of a Red Indian's wigwam. 
This was drawn by a clever artist member, who has 
passed away almost as these lines are being written 
— namely, Wallis Mackay. The skin lodge is looped 
back to display a group of occupants in full war- 


352 Club Life 

paint, feathers, and blanket, seated smoking. These 
represent in admirable likeness a few familiar mem- 
bers, numbering, among others, Tegetmeier the 
naturalist, Henry Lee of Brighton Aquarium and of 
octopus celebrity, and Ravenstein the geographer, 
while, glass in eye, raising himself like a look-out 
from the smoke aperture at the top, there are the 
unmistakable features of the late J. L. Toole, To 
name one more, there is the subject of this memoir. 
It is a playful little skit, with a grim caricature in 
the distance shaped like a skeleton, suspended from 
a blasted tree, as if suggestive of the fate of an 
intruder, while plainly written upon one of the 
folds of the skin tent is " No admission except on 
business ". 

For many years also Henty's was a face heartily 
welcomed as a friend and fellow clubman at the quiet 
little social tavern club known as the Whitefriars, a 
club at which in its early days politics was tabooed. 
But as years passed on times altered, and political 
and social debate became the rule, much to Henty's 
annoyance. His idea of a club was that it should be 
a gathering-place where a few old friends, freed for 
the time being from quill-driving and thinking out 
books, leading articles, and other brain-worrying 
tasks, should meet for a social chat, and where there 
should be no delivering of speeches, no debates. So 
soon, therefore, as this debating and speech-delivering 
became the custom, Henty began to talk to those with 
whom he was most intimate of withdrawing his name 
from the club. Such a proceeding, it was pointed out 
to him, would be depriving his oldest friends of his 
company. He seemed to see the force of this, and 

The Savage Club 353 

matters went on, and a proposal he had made to a 
few friends that they should follow the example of 
the dwellers in the Wigwam and meet together in 
peace, seemed to have died out. Nevertheless Henty 
was a man of very strong political feeling, and pos- 
sessed all the firm attributes of a thoroughly stanch 
Conservative gentleman, one might say Tory, of the 
past. If he had taken a motto, his would have been 
that of the old John Bull newspaper: "God, the 
Sovereign, and the People ". Throughout his life, 
though gentle and kindly by nature, he was, when 
roused by what he looked upon as injustice or 
cowardice, a fierce and truculent Briton, ready to 
defy the whole world. 

On the whole, though, perhaps from its propinquity 
to the newspaper world, Henty was most frequently 
seen at that centre of which the late Andrew Halliday 
wrote that the qualification for admission was to be 
"a working-man in literature or art, and a good 
fellow". Of course the rendezvous meant is the 
Savage Club — that place "apart from the chilling 
splendour of the modern club " — the club over which 
so many disputes have taken place amongst its mem- 
bers as to its title, as to whether it borrows it from 
poor, improvident Richard Savage, or from its sup- 
posed Bohemian savagery. Be that as it may, it is 
certainly the spot where the bow of everyday warfare 
is unstrung and set aside. 

It has long been the custom here to invite to dine 
at the social Saturday evening gathering pretty well 
everyone who has become famous, and whose name 
is upon the public lips, and these invitations have 
been accepted by warrior and statesman, by our 

( u 837 ) 24 

354 Club Life 

greatest artists and travellers, whether they have 
sought to discover the Boreal mysteries or to cross 
the Torrid Zone. Even those who have become 
great rulers have not disdained to accept "Savage" 
hospitality, and upon such nights some popular or 
distinguished member of the club is called upon to 
take the chair. Now it so happens that there is 
extant a copy of the menu of a dinner, drawn by 
one of the cleverest members, which depicts in quaint, 
characteristic, and light-hearted fashion the imaginary 
proceedings and post-prandial entertainment connected 
with the aforesaid unstrung bow. In the case in 
question Lord Kitchener was the guest, fresh from 
his victories in the Sudan, and no better chairman 
could have been chosen than the popular war corre- 
spondent, George Henty, whose portrait and that of 
the famous general occupy the centre of the dinner 
card represented here. 

It would be difficult to over-estimate the interest of 
such a typical meeting at the club, one which had 
naturally drawn together a crowded gathering of men 
who had more or less deeply cut their names upon the 
column of popularity, if not of fame. 

The names of the general and war correspondent 
attracted to that dinner a distinguished company; the 
singer possessed of sweet tenor voice or deepest bass; 
the musician who excelled as pianist or who could 
bring forth the sweetest tones from the strings; the 
flautist; the skilful prestidigitator who puzzled the 
gathering with the latest Egyptian card trick, but who 
will amuse no more; the clever actor ready to give 
expression to some recitation, serious or laughable; 
the delineator of quaint phases of life ; the artist whose 

A Pleasant Evening 355 

works have provoked thought and admiration in the 
picture galleries; the scientist with the secrets of his 
laboratory gradually developing into life-saving and 
labour-economizing reforms; to say nothing of the 
keen-visaged diplomatist whose range covers the 
mysteries of the chancelleries of Europe and cabinets 
where whispers are sacred and policies are shaped; 
and the writer to whom the wide world is but the 
sunning ground of cogitation. 

At the club's improvised concerts and entertain- 
ments all are ready to amuse or be amused; even 
the learned judge and the argumentative counsel 
who takes his brief from some clever lawyer, now 
his companion for the evening, meet the eye of 
physician or surgeon upon common ground. 

Later, the deeply-engaged actor, when his part is 
at an end, comes in straight from the boards, bring- 
ing with him the buoyancy and imaginativeness of 
the strange fantastic realm where he is so popular — 
a realm so different from all others, although merely 
divided from the commonplace world by a row of 

Here all are friends, gathered by the attractions of 
music, song, and repartee. Men who have striven 
greatly all their lives and have gained much, and 
maybe lost something too, are here in good fellow- 
ship. Irksome trammels for the time are cast aside, 
permitting one and all to partake of what seems to be 
like a whiff of ozone or a breath from the pine-scented 
Surrey hills, after the contracted arena of the struggle 
for life. 

On the particular occasion referred to above, sup- 
ported as he was by those who had shared his past 

356 Club Life 

and been his companions and the witnesses of many 
a deadly battle, Henty was thoroughly at home; and 
it was a happy choice of a chairman which brought 
him to preside on that November evening when 
Kitchener was the special guest. 

It was only a few short months after Kitchener's 
crowning victory at Omdurman, which had finally 
crushed the Dervish power and set Slatin and his 
fellow captives free, and established law and order 
at Khartoum and through the immense territories 
which separate that city from Cairo. It was, there- 
fore, a bright idea that inspired Oliver Paque, to 
give him his novi de plume, in his merry caricature 
to depict the gallant general as a beau sabreur lead- 
ing a charge at full gallop and riding in to the 
feast. He is seen, as the illustration shows, leaping 
triumphantly through a circus paper hoop supported 
by a swarthy Sudanese, and the tatters of the paper 
ingeniously form the map of Africa. Right through 
Africa he leaps, as it were, into the fire of cheers 
and applause that greet him — into the smoke of the 
"Savage" pipe of peace, started by the chairman. 

But that memorable night is not so far back in 
the Hinterland that one has any need to strain the 
memory assiduously for the leading details of his- 
toric incidents sketched in upon the menu card. The 
tattered indication of a map recalls Major Marchand 
and his march across desert and through forest and 
swamp to Fashoda. There are pleasant suggestions, 
too, in the tribute paid to the chairman by the artist's 
pencil, which playfully deals with the fame the chair- 
man had reaped by his books. Boys are shown 
eagerly reading his thrilling tales of history and 

An Amusing Sketch 357 

adventure, a young mother is depicted admonishing 
a lad who is engrossed in some stirring work, while 
the list of titles — A Dash for Khartoum^ True to the 
Old Flag, Through the Fray, By Right of Conquest, 
Held Fast for England— \s alone a tribute to the 
sturdy chairman, for though titles only they illustrate 
the feelings of a patriotic man. 

The pen-painter of the merry scene, indeed, not- 
withstanding the grotesqueness of the work, has 
contrived to suggest by many a happy touch little 
peculiarities in the individualities of his subjects. 
Thus he gives a wonderful likeness of such a familiar 
member as Dan Godfrey, the well-known band-master 
of the Guards, who is shown leading the concert 
in heroic bearskin what time Handel's march of 
"The Conquering Hero" is blown by one of the 
most popular humorists of the club. The name 
of another member — Slaughter — seems by the irony 
of fate to be singularly apposite at a war corre- 
spondent's banquet, while the drum and cymbals 
and the tom-tom tell their own tale as beaten by 
members whose faces are familiar to those behind 
the scenes. Everything, in short, tended to make 
this dinner a great success. 

Sometimes when taking the chair, however, at 
one of these club dinners, Henty would fancy that 
the attendance was not so good as it might have 
been, and attributing it to a want of popularity, he 
would turn to the writer and whisper with almost 
a sigh, "Another frost!" This quaint bit of dra- 
matic slang is, of course, popularly used in the 
theatrical world when the British public displays a 
tendency not to throng the seats, and there is a 

358 Club Life 

grim array of empty benches to crush all the spirit 
out of the actors in some clever piece. It was quite 
a mistake, though, to use it in connection with 
Henty's dinners, for he was always surrounded by 
plenty of warm-hearted friends whose presence and 
sunshiny aspect were sufficient to set the wintry chill 
of unsociability at defiance. 


His Great Hobby 

Probably Henty never so much enjoyed release 
from his workshop study as when he could get on 
board his yacht, the Egret. He was especially fond 
of this boat, which was really a most comfortable 
vessel, not built upon racing lines, but somewhat 
reminding one of the small cruising schooners which 
were fashionable at Cowes in the sixties and early 

He had an honest, plain-spoken skipper and crew, 
who knew their business thoroughly, and they evi- 
dently looked upon the owner as more of a friend 
than a captain. One of his favourite cruising- 
grounds was the estuary of the Thames. The 
yacht would sometimes lie off Leigh, and some- 
times up the Medway. The locality is not one 
which many other yachtsmen would choose, for 
there are shoals and tidal eccentricities that require 
a watchful eye. Owner and skipper, however, knew 
every inch of that broad water-way. 

Henty's cabin lay aft, and was well lighted from 
the deck. It was thoroughly roomy, and by an 
ingenious contrivance the luxury of a bath could at 
any time be indulged in, through merely lifting a 
panel from the floor. 

To see Henty at his most peaceful stage was to 
watch him lying back high upon the pillows on the 


36o His Great Hobby 

deck of his yacht reading some favourite author. 
This would generally be an old friend, for like many 
another, he was fond of renewing his acquaintance with 
writers who had attracted him in the years gone by. 

The galley was in charge of a good substantial 
sea cook, who could turn out a plain meal that was 
sufficient for any reasonable man's wants, though it 
need not be explained in detail that in the appointments 
of the state rooms and main cabin table there was 
no affectation of luxury. The yacht would be always 
well provisioned with joints that not only admitted, 
but invited a cut-and-come-again principle. 

Of course, everybody who knew Henty could, all 
his life through, testify to his perfect abstemiousness. 
In fact, one has known many instances in which the 
serious warning spoken by Henty to young col- 
leagues, who were with him on journalistic expedi- 
tions, saved them from much mischief. He would 
deliver his little lecture on a weakness which he had 
noticed, and invariably finish with, " Pardon me for 
being so free, old chap, but if you take my advice you 
will watch it". 

Except when he went across the North Sea, the 
yachting cruises were of fairly long week-end dura- 
tion, but sooner or later the yacht would be passing 
in review whatever naval operations were on the way 
at Sheerness, while a favourite mooring for the night 
was up towards Chatham at a spot where there was 
a wood on the northern bank. 

Henty always seemed to the manner born when on 
board his yacht, and an early cup of coffee, in pyjamas 
on deck, sometimes not a great while after sunrise, 
was invariably indulged in. This was followed, of 

On the Ocean Wav^e 361 

course, by the faithful pipe, which, indeed, was in 
constant action from morning to night. 

He was a man who used to attribute his good health 
and spirits as much to his yacht as to anything in the 
world, and more than once his friends, in commenting- 
upon his love for the sea, have declared that no better 
representative of the old sea kings of England could 
have been seen afloat than George Alfred Henty. No 
one really saw him at his best who did not see him in 
rough weather, bare-headed, with the wind whistling 
through his grey hair, and the foam torn from the 
waves bedewing his big beard and making his sun- 
tanned, bronzed visage glisten, as he stood at the 
wheel, firm of aspect, gazing defiantly before him in 
a kind of rapture, and thoroughly enjoying life the 
while he ploughed the waves. If any endorsement 
of this were needed by the reader who never met the 
subject face to face, let him turn to the photograph 
showing Henty reading the proofs of his last book 
aboard his yacht. The portrait was taken not long 
before his death, and gives a far better idea to the 
reader of the big, bluff, sturdy war correspondent 
than would pages of writing. 

For he was born to be a sailor, and the wonder 
is that he did not develop into being the captain of 
some great liner, instead of a w^ielder of the pen. 
One striking phase in his character that was de- 
veloped in his yachting pursuits was that, though 
he thoroughly enjoyed inviting and having the com- 
pany of some old friend on board, to whom he was 
the most genial and hospitable of hosts, he was yet 
perfectly happy when alone with his crew. At such 
times he would carry out various manoeuvres, and 

362 His Great Hobby 

quite contentedly occupy himself with his own 

One man will make friend and companion of a 
faithful dog; another is never more content than when 
he is with his horse. To Henty, from quite early in 
life, his yacht took the place of some living sentient 
being— his yacht and its movement, whether driven 
forward under the pressure of a light breeze, or 
throbbing beneath his feet as it bounded and leaped 
from wave to wave in a gale. For he was no smooth- 
water sailor, but had grown into a hardened and 
masterly mariner, who thoroughly understood the 
varied caprices of the deep. 

He would generally manage to be afloat somewhere 
about Easter, for a few days each week, cruising, as 
has been said, about the mouth of the Thames, and 
once in a way he would shoot across to Heligoland 
for the Emperor's Cup race. He seldom studied 
much about the weather so long as he could be well 
afloat; though at times he would encounter a furious 
gale out in the open sea, and get what he himself 
termed a thorough good knocking about. 

He related to a friend that upon one occasion he 
passed through a fearful gale, with the force of the 
wind so great that he and his crew ran two hundred 
and sixty knots in twenty-seven hours, putting in at 
Harwich without shipping a bucket of water in the 
run home. 

One of Henty's greatest regrets when the weather 
was fairly fine was that his literary avocations pre- 
vented him from being oftener afloat. This was 
especially the case at times when there was war or 
rumour of war, for then he would be on duty at the 

Excursion Trips 3^3 

Standard waiting for the brief telegrams that came 
in at all hours from Reuter's and elsewhere. These 
were brought to him, as before mentioned, to be ex- 
panded from their key-like brevity into plain straight- 
forward reading for the printers to set up. 

As already stated, in this favourite pursuit of 
yachting Henty heartily enjoyed the companionship 
of friends who liked the sea, but at the same time 
if men of similar tastes did not present themselves, 
he was well content to be alone. A thoroughly 
social man, he had his own strong ideas upon 
companionship. He set limits to such a means of 
enjoyment, and he could speak out very strongly 
against excursion trips in which he was asked to 
take part. "I like to see things," he said. "I like 
to go into the country on a little trip to see some 
object of interest, or to pay a visit to some historic 
town, but I don't like these excursion trips, and I 
won't go!" Alluding to the parties of "trippers" so 
numerous in summer weather, who make our railway 
stations unpleasant for those who wish to travel, he 
denounced them in the most forcible way. " I like 
to go", he said, "with a few fellows in a friendly 
way. What I object to is going in a mob." In 
plain English, it touched Henty's pride to visit some 
excursionist haunt where he felt that his party would 
be classed as bean-feasters, or what is known as the 
members of a wayzgoose, and he resented the whole 
position as unworthy of the dignity of a literary man. 

Henty's love of yachting began early in life, when 
he was holding a commission in the army and 
stationed at Kingstown, where he owned a ten-tonner 
called The Pet. It was his first craft, and very nearly 

564 His Great Hobby 

proved to be his last, for upon one occasion he had 
been out sailing with his little crew for some distance, 
and had the misfortune to be caught in a heavy gale, 
which gave him and his men a very severe lesson in 
seamanship. There was a tremendous sea, and before 
they were able to make the harbour, and anchor, their 
position was so perilous that a huge crowd collected, 
in momentary expectation of seeing the yacht go 
down, for it was impossible for her crew to land. 

To make matters worse, and to add to the excite- 
ment, the officer's young wife was one of those who 
joined the crowd, and she kept appealing in her agony 
of mind to the sea -going men around to save her 
husband's life. Finally a boat was manned by a 
sturdy party, and with great difficulty the little crew 
were brought ashore in safety. This was early in the 
sixties, and after that, enthusiastic yachtsman though 
he was, his avocations and absence from England put 
a stop to his sea-going till about 1887, when, oppor- 
tunity serving, he bought an old life-boat and con- 
verted her into a yacht. The buoyancy of her build 
attracted him, and for some years this little thirteen- 
ton vessel, the Kittiwake as he called her (and well 
did she deserve her name), afforded him a long series 
of pleasant runs. 

But previous to owning the Kittiwake Henty be- 
came possessed of a small half-decked canoe, which 
afforded him an opportunity of bringing to bear that 
inventive genius which at different periods of his 
career had induced him to try his hand at various con- 
trivances, any one of which might have brought him 
fame and fortune such as came to a fellow-member of 
his club in connection with a torpedo that was taken 

Clever Inventions 365 

over by the British government. At one time he con- 
structed a spar torpedo. This was during the American 
Civil War, and upon its completion he offered it to 
the United States authorities. Another of his ideas, 
also of a warlike character, was an invention the 
necessity of which he had probably seen practically 
demonstrated. This was a contrivance for the practice 
of long-range firing where opportunity did not serve, 
that is to say, in a limited space of ground. By means 
of Henty's arrangement, practice up to a thousand or 
twelve hundred yards range could be indulged in, 
though only eighty to a hundred yards were available. 
When finished, he offered the result to our own War 
Office, but, strange to relate, this outcome of long and 
careful thought was allowed to join the limbo of thou- 
sands of other inventions, good, bad, and indifferent, 
for it was not accepted. He laid no more of his ideas 
before boards for consideration, but after this devoted 
himself to his half-decked canoe, which was tinkered 
and altered about in a pursuit which always afforded 
him intense gratification. It filled a gap while he 
was waiting, and toiling hard, to place himself in 
a position in which he could, without pinching, 
purchase for himself an Egret — a yacht which he 
could enter for an emperor's cup. Journalists who 
marry, and have sons to push forward in the world, 
and who also have to meet ordinary expenses, have 
not much money to waste, even if they are successful 
war correspondents. Henty's yachting desires, there- 
fore, for a long time were not wholly gratified, and 
he had to occupy himself with the pen, which indus- 
triously built up the long series of books that made 
his name so well known to the rising generation. 

366 His Great Hobby 

Nevertheless his yachting moved by degrees, and 
he gave full vent to his inventive powers with this 
little half-decked canoe. First, after much study, he 
lengthened her, to find most probably that she was 
now what a sailor would call "crank". To meet 
this difficulty, he took a lesson from the naive and 
clever notions of the canoe-sailers of the South Seas, 
and fitted on outriggers with gratings on the out- 
rigger spars. His boat was then a great success 
when used for sailing about the mouth of the Thames, 
for the scheme answered admirably, and he was very 
proud of offering a sail therein to a friend or brother 
journalist or editor. Still not content with his con- 
version, and doubtless incited thereto by the leeway 
his little craft made, he added to it what is known 
amongst boating men as a centre-board — a very 
unusual addition this to a canoe — namely, a deep 
keel, which acted after the fashion of the lee-boards 
of a Thames barge. 

His ambition growing, he next bought the Dreatn^ 
a thirty-two ton yawl. But Henty was no dreamer, 
and he changed her name to the Meerschaum^ not 
after his pipe, but because of his love of sending her 
careening over and through the sea foam. 

The Aleerschauni only satisfied his desires, though, 
for about three years, when he purchased a vessel 
better worthy of his attention as an enthusiastic 
yachtsman, in the shape of the before - mentioned 
Egret, an eighty-three ton schooner. This boat he 
sailed with a skilful crew for years, indulging now 
and then in a handicap in the Corinthian or the 
Thames Yacht Club, of both of which, as well as of 
the Medway Club, he was a member. 

Cup Racing 367 

He had various cups to show as the reward of his 
prowess. One of these, a handsome trophy, of which 
he was very proud, he would display to his friends 
with sparkling eyes, though the modest nature of the 
man stepped in at once as he hastened to say, "That 
was won by my men of the Egret at Cowes. They 
had the money prize, and out of it purchased this 
cup for me" — a little fact this which clearly showed 
the friendly feeling existing between skipper and 
crew. The ambition to win what would be looked 
upon as a greater prize was shown more than once in 
his crossing the North Sea to enter the lists for the 
German Emperor's Cup. On one occasion so brave 
a fight was made that the Egret would have proved 
the winner had not fate been against her; she was 
ready to battle with the sea no matter how rough, 
but was helpless when the wind failed, and this was 
what happened, to her owner's intense disappoint- 

A propos of prize cups, the sideboard in Henty's 
museum-like study had a pretty good display of silver 
trophies, many of which were the prizes won during 
the time when he was a member of the London Row- 
ing Club, where his broad, deep chest, heavy muscles, 
long reach, and powers of endurance made him a 
formidable competitor. And it was in this club, 
oddly enough, that he first made the acquaintance of 
Mr. J. P. Griffith, who, being a very rapid scribe, 
became the amanuensis and writer to whom he dic- 
tated every one of the books which, calf bound, all 
en suite, made such an imposing show on the shelves 
of one large book-case. 

In the summer of 1897, the Diamond Jubilee year, 

368 His Great Hobby 

it fell to Henty's lot to describe for the Standard the 
passing of the procession along the Piccadilly portion 
of the route, while a fellow correspondent for the 
Standard^ Mr. Bloundelle Burton, described the 
Queen's journey along the Strand. This gentleman 
in the same year was acting as correspondent on board 
one of our battle-ships at the Naval Review off Ports- 
mouth, and Henty, taking advantage of his position 
as a yacht owner, stationed the Egret off the Isle of 
Wight, and there in hospitable fashion kept "open 
house " for his friends. 

He took a very keen and wholly natural pride in 
this graceful yacht, the Egret, perhaps because in 
acquiring her he pretty well reached the height of his 
ambition. He liked to talk about her prowess in sail- 
ing, which he modestly veiled by setting it down to 
the skill of his men. But his pride in the Egret when 
she walked the waters like a thing of life, shone out 
of his eyes, and he did what he could to make her 
fame lasting by having her photographed. The 
accompanying admirable representation, which was 
taken for him by Messrs. Kirk & Son, of Cowes, 
shows the little yacht running free before a brisk 
breeze off the coast of the Isle of Wight. 


A Final Word 

In all probability the portrait of George Alfred Henty, 
which shows him on his yacht, was the last that was 
taken prior to his death. It is certainly Henty as 
we know him, and it shows him in his most natural 
aspect, for it was taken when he was not merely in 
the full enjoyment of his favourite pastime, but com- 
bining it with his work. It represents him unex- 
pectant, grave, and intent, reading over and making 
corrections in the proof-sheets of one of his last books. 
Being a genuine snap-shot, nothing possibly could 
have been more happy, and it certainly deserves to 
be termed a perfectly natural untouched likeness. 
The taking of this photograph came about almost by 
accident. Just before his last cruise, Henty wished 
to have some alterations made in the sails of the 
Egret. A local sail-maker — a Mr. Ainger — came on 
board to carry out the task, and he chanced to have 
brought his camera. Seizing an opportune moment, 
he took the portrait, with the accompanying excellent 
result, and in sending it to the writer Captain C. G. 
Henty adds these words, " It seems to me singularly 
characteristic" — a comment that everyone who is 
well acquainted with the subject must feel bound to 

Captain Henty goes on to state: ''For some years 
before his death my father suffered from gouty dia- 

( B 837 ) 369 25 

370 A Final Word 

betes. In the autumn of 1902 he complained of feeling 
very unwell, and, although he had laid up the Egret^ 
he got her into commission again. After a short 
cruise, however, he returned, and finally brought the 
schooner to an anchor in Weymouth Harbour, and 
from there he never moved again. 

**On Saturday morning, the first of November, he 
was stricken with paralysis, but after a few days he 
showed signs of recovering the vigorous health which 
he had enjoyed almost throughout his life. His great 
powers of recuperation stood him in good stead, and 
he steadily improved to such an extent that hopes 
were entertained of his being brought up to town. 
Exactly a fortnight, though, after the first seizure he 
was attacked by bronchitis, and on Sunday morning, 
the sixteenth of the month, he passed quietly away." 

He was laid to rest in Brompton Cemetery, in the 
same grave as his first wife and his two daughters. 
~^ Heading a long article descriptive of his career, the 
Standard, the journal with which he had been inti- 
mately connected since the year 1865, says in refer- 
ence to his passing: "We regret to announce the 
death of Mr. G. A. Henty, which occurred yesterday 
on his yacht at Weymouth. He had been in weak 
health for some time, but almost to the last he re- 
tained his capacity for work." 


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