Title: Edgar Wallace -- Journalist Author: Edgar Wallace * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 2000631h.html Language: English Date first posted: Jul 2020 Most recent update: Oct 2020 This eBook was produced by Roy Glashan. Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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EDGAR WALLACE made his name as a journalist with a series of reports from the Second Boer War written for the London Daily Mail in 1900-1902.
In 1901 Hutchinson & Co., London, published 41 of these reports under the title Unofficial Dispatches of the Anglo-Boer War. In 2012 RGL published an expanded version of this collection containing 65 articles, some of which were written after the war. (See Reports from the Boer War).
After the Second Boer War, Wallace continued to write for the Daily Mail while he pursued his career as an author of sensational detective fiction. Throughout most of his subsequent life he contributed articles, essays and sketches to this and other periodicals.
With Edgar Wallace—Journalist RGL offers a collection of these articles from the sources indicated after each title. They are presented in chronological order. They do not include the articles from Reports from the Boer War, or from Red Pages from Tsardom and This England: Studies of To-day, which RGL has published separately.
This collection will be revised and expanded as further newspaper and magazine articles by Edgar Wallace become available.
—Roy Glashan, 4 October 2020.
NOTHING outside the equipages of Royalty created so much sensation and called for greater admiration than the wonderful state coaches in which, some of the members of the peerage drove to and from the Abbey. The Duke of Marlborough and his Duchess rode through admiring crowds in a deep-crimson coach with real silver fittings, which evoked, loud cheers. Consuelo, Duchess of Manchester, appeared in a coach simply dazzling, with a gorgeous hammer-cloth, which was only equalled by that of the Duke of Somerset's new coach, whose hammmer-cloth cost him over £800. The Northumberland state carriage was a magnificent affair in white and silver, carrying ten people altogether, five of the family inside, and an equal number of the most elaborately and gorgeously appointed servants clinging to the outside. One of the most moving moments on Constitution Hill was when a strange little company of white-haired men with medals on their coats came marching—slow and stiff, but very proud and erect—to one of the stand's. They were the survivors of the charge of Balaclava. The Green Park was alive with fluttering handkerchiefs, and cheers went up from the stands.
Never before in the history of England have grandchildren of the Sovereign in direct line of succession been present in the Abbey at the Coronation. The Coronation, it is estimated, cost £125,000. When Queen Victoria was crowned the cost was £69,401, at the crowning of William IV, £43,159, and the Coronation of George IV, £243,388.
Two ladies with a bag of provisions took up a position on the rising ground in Picadilly before midnight. They whiled away the night reading by the light of a bicycle lamp tied to the park railings. After waiting nearly fifteen hours they only saw the procession through the kindness of a policeman. When the route was cleared the crowd got in front of them, but the constable, knowing how long they had waited, considerately passed them through to the front.
Mr Edgar Wallace in the Daily Mail thus describes the return of the King:—
"AND now the Horse Guards, and in their rear a glimpse of a golden panoply. No need to consult your programme, the hurricane of cheers, the tossing hats, the shrill acclamations of the women proclaiming unmistakably—the King!
Nearer... the escort passes, and the finicking cream ponies pick their way daintily. Crane forward... The King is smiling—bowing and smiling. How well he looks. Left and right he bows, the great crown glittering on bis head. You only see him for a second. It is a glimpse of a very happy man—a proud, contented man. A man, who has gripped death by the throat and of his unconquerable will triumphed.
It is only a glimpse, for hardly does your eye rest on him than you attention, your cheers, your love, is claimed by the beautiful woman who sits by his side. Not smiling—but the face of a woman whol is silently praying. Silent, and lovely, we do her homage for the moment, and then she passes, and something like a sigh runs through the crowd, and they forget to watch for the Prince of Wales, but follow the great swaying coach with a happy man and the pale woman with wistful eyes. The Duke of Connaught and his soldier son you forget to notice. The Duke of Portland, the Duke of Buccleuch pass—the King's procession ends.
The interest dies momentarily, the passing gorgeous uniform might be so much drab for all the effect it has upon the spectator. Heads craned forward to see the last of the King's carriage. Then the band crashes "God! save the King" again—it is the Prince of Wales's coach passing. "Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful," says an old lady, touching an arm, and tears stand in her eyes. "What?—the procession?" "No, sir; the Queen. Wasn't she lovely."
There was no lack of comic relief in the various incidents in the vicinity of the Abbey. One of the peeresses, exhausted by long waiting for her carriage, sat down in despair on the ground in the courtyard with her velvet robes folded under her as a cushion, while her husband sought the erring coachman attired in his velvet and miniver. Another peer rushed, coronet in hand, down the streets calling for a hansom, receiving an impromptu ovation from the crowd, which disconcerted him a little.
One of the most beautiful moments was the crowning of the Queen, which was performed with her Majesty kneeling. As her Majesty passed to her footstool the four duchesses advanced to hold the canopy. Their crimson trains were spread fan-wise, and when her Majesty rose their trains were readjusted by four gentlemen. The Duchess of Buccleuch's page did the same to her Grace's train. The King and Queen were evidently quite au fait with the whole ceremony, and on more than one occasion, when hesitation occurred, guided the procedure. The Queen was assisted by the Bishop of Oxford, who took her hand whenever there was a step to mount.
The crowning of the Queen was a much shorter function, but it gave rise to one of the most extraordianry effects possible. At the moment that the crown was placed on her head each peeress put on her coronet, and, as seen from the peers' stand, the whole bank of fluttering down opposite was in a flash converted into one great white trellis work, in every opening of which a face was framed. This singular illusion was produced by the hundreds of pairs of white-gloved arms all simultaneously being raised to an angle over the head.
The Maharajah of Scindia's jewels were brought to the Abbey the evening before the Coronation. Previous to the ceremony his Keeper of the Jewel's attended, and in one of the robing rooms the jewels were put on. An eyewitness describes the Indian Prince as being "swathed in diamonds."
The value of the actual contents of Westminster Abbey during the ceremony is perhaps such as no human brain could estimate. Apart from the regalia, the worth of one single diadem, the Queen's crown, is computed at £100,000. The solid gold plate belonging to the Abbey and the Chapels Royal, if melted down, would buy several warships. An increased value is added by history, each piece having been the property of some English sovereign.
Everybody admired the Queen's crown. It was specially made for the, occasion, and was composed entirely of diamonds, each of which is mounted in a silver setting. This is the only precious metal which comlpletely shows the brilliance of fine stones. Gold is only used on the inner and hidden portions of the mounting, for the sake of lightness and strength. The circlet, unsurpassed in effect by that of any existing crown, is 1½ inches in width, and is entirely encrusted with brilliants of the finest water. These diamonds, varying in size from one specially fine in color weighing, nearly 17 carats, down for the smallest necessary to carry out the design, are of the most perfect cutting, and are placed as closely together as possible throughout. This method is adopted so that no metal is visible, and renders the entire circlet one blaze of light. This rich band supports four large cross-patées, and thee largest of these displays the Koh-i-Noor, the grand and unique feature of the orown. Three very large diamonds of extraordinary lustre occupy the centres of the other cross-patées. The total number of stones used is 3,688.
By her Majesty's special command the crown was constructed as lightly as possible—an immense advantage when in use. Every effort experience and skill could dictate resulted in keeping the entire weight down to only 22oz 15dwt, a result never before attained.
HE was seventy years old, was this Habitant, and his name was Du Bois. As a matter of fact, it is still.
His face is lined and seamed with the joys and sorrows of his years. A large, generous mouth, grey twinkling eyes, a chin white with the stubble of three unshaven days, and a hand heavy and big. He smokes—and smoked—a tobacco which smells like nothing so much as a conflagration in a soap factory. Often as not he grows it himself, and its aroma reminds you of the fact that tobacco is sometimes called a weed. His French is the French of Louis Quinze, his English is broken and charming. His piety and devotion to Holy Church are beautiful in their simplicity, and his sentiments are Canadian. If he is more than usually progressive they are Canadian-French.
He appeals to me, this Habitant, as a most unregenerate, lovable, treasonable rogue. A big-hearted, gentlemanly Anglophobe. I think I rather like him for his native antipathies. I do not know whether this speck of grit in the national bearings is not almost as healthy as over-much lubricant. Nor do I think I am doing him an injustice when I point out this—from a British point of view—weakness of his. He sees things out of proportion, does this Habitant. There is a story told which illustrates this.
THE French lumberman who came down from the backwoods, where news is scarce, found Quebec in mourning.
"De Queen ees dead," explained an acquaintance.
"Mon Dieu!" said our lumberman, and then, thoughtfully, "Who have got de job?"
"Edouard," was the reply.
"Ba gosh," and the lumberman grew more thoughtful, "'e mus' have good pull wit' Laurier!"
It is a little world of its own, French Canada. Outside its limits there is nought worthy of consideration. And it is a beautiful world. A world of forests, dark and sweet-scented; of broad-bosomed rivers and flashing mountain streams. A world of snug homes and kindly curés, of little fenced gardens and big fenced fields. A world that wakes with white dawns, and works from the moment the red sun gilds the village spire till the spire's cracked bell tinkles the Angelus. Horny-handed, bowed-backed, hard-faced, and simple-minded are the people of this world, earning their living by the sweat of their brow year in and year out without question or complaint. Content to till and harvest as their fathers did before them: happy to live the life, hopeful to die the death, of their class and kind, such is the way of les Habitants.
WHETHER they love England little or much; whether or not they look askance at an Imperialism unifying the aspirations of—to them—an alien race; wherever and however their ideals be grounded, or their conscious efforts directed, they are none the less excellent citizens of Canada, and helpful, however unwillingly or unconsciously, in the building up of Greater Britain. They are an atomic survival of mediaevalism; their laws, their customs, their very speech are relics of another age. The Grand Seigneur, with his High Rights, passed not more swiftly in France than did the Reds of the Midi—that hungry, heroic crowd—in their march northward. Untouched by the bloody shear that worked a frenzied people's will, intimidated by no loaded tumbril jolting a pallid aristocracy to destruction, the Grand Seigneur is to-day a person—in Quebec. Perhaps he profited by example, and perchance his right of pillory, pit and gallows, and others more unspeakable, are as so many shadows; perhaps he has grown bourgeois, and instead of exercising his lordly will to remove the popular grievance, he writes to the newspapers—but there is sufficient of the old sieur left to be remarkable. "Quaint old Quebec," they call the town of that name. Quaint is the term that describes all French Canada. And as to loyalty to Great Britain—bear with me while I sound the Habitant, and piece together from his broken English the sentiments of Habitant Canada.
"PLAINTEE Englishman come to Canada now: on Ste. Rose dey come also—et ees mos'ly politique-fiscalité, yas?"
Crudely enough I put the fiscal problem before him in a few words.
"I s'pose mese'f dat beeg beezness on Englan'—Yas? Milor' Chamb'lan—pardon, M'sleur Chamb'lan—mak' plenty troub' wit' de fisc. De Canayen-Français, you compren', not de Englishman-Canayen—hees not worry wit' fisc or w'at Englishman t'ink. You tink dat cur'is? Mais!"
It is just lovely to listen to him, this seared old man with the patient smile. He is so artless in the confession of his political faith, he is so confident in the honesty of his views. Sometimes, abandoning the rugged, home-made reasoning, bejewelled with metaphor of forest, field, and river, he drops into the stilted dogmatics of his favourite newspaper. You recognise as you listen, and welcome almost as a friend, the tricky phraseology of the partisan leader-writer. Then he breaks back to the lake and the rapid as texts for his little sermon.
"Englan' she lak man dat tak' canoe d'écorce on beeg rapide. One tam she float firs' rate, ev'ryt'ing smoot' lak glass. Dat w'en you mak' beeg beezness wit' all worl', eh? Bimeby n'odder contree cam' long, an' dey tak' leetle bit your beezness, an' den n'odder she tak' leetle bit, an' den n'odder. Som' lak you tak' canoe up rapide, she mak's dam' hard. So Chamb'lan 'e say, 'De curran she run too fas' as we can pull—we mus' mak' de grande portage—yas?'"
Briefly, I sketched to the Habitant the possibilities of preferential tariffs, and the closer union of the Empire. That portion of the scheme which deals with the question of a contribution to Imperial defence met with his emphlatlc disapproval.
"W'AT use mak' de foolishness lak dat?" he inquired—for him— impatiently. "S'pose you mak' trouble wit' La Russ; you 'ave beeg war wit' her—you holler out, 'Come, Jean Du Bois, I mak' beeg fight wit' La Russ, you com' right 'long an' bring wit' you all de frien's you can fin.' I say, 'La R:uss don' mak' troub' w't' me, w'y shall I mak' worry wit' de Englishman, her beezness?'"
All of which, as I sternly explain ed to the Habitant, is most dreadfully unpatriotic. And what is patriotism? asked my Habitant.
"Love for your country," answered I, unthinkingly, "and a readiness to sacrifice, if needs be, your life at her need."
The Habitant looked a little puzzled. This, said he in effect, is my country. Here was I horn as was my father before me. Here are my children and my grandchildren. I know these lakes, these woods, these fields, as I know my own garden. My grandfather fought for this land, driving out the Yankees in 1812, while I carried my rifle in the Fenian invasion. I speak French, but France is not my home. I live under the British flag, but England is nothing to me. I am a Canadian first and last, and if he who loves his country best is the finest patriot, then there is no greater patriot than I.
Briefly this is the attitude of French Canada. It is actively loyal to Canada; it is not actively disloyal to Great Britain. "Canada first," this is its motto. Only there is really no second—absolutely none. If you can understand a passion for Quebec, with an apathy for the rest of Canada, and an attitude of supreme indifference toward the remainder of the British Empire, not to say the civilised world, you can understand the French-Canadian and place him at his value. He is not an Imperialist, he is not a "Rule Britannia" loyalist: he represents Isolated Parochialism at its best and worst; he is an anachronism, a bit of the seventeenth century living on the fringe of the twentieth. And, withal, he is rather lovable: if his outlook is narrow, his humanity is broad: if his ideas are small, his heart is large. I like the Habitant—Toronto, forgive me—on first acquaintance he is pleasing, Perhaps if I had to live alongside him all my life— But then, I have not.
THE cable messages have given some slight indication of the deep feeling of resentment felt by Canada at the recent judgment of the Alaska Arbitration Tribunal, but though the newspapers raged and gave "scare-head" captions to their articles upon the subject it would appear that the elder colony of the Empire maintained a very dignified and sensible moderation over the judicial reverse which her people so keenly felt. The utterances of her leading statesmen have shown that the tie with the Motherland will survive the strain of many Alaskan awards. It is interesting, however, to learn how Canadian sentiment was affected by the decree of the Commission, and this is graphically told by Mr Edgar Wallace, the able war correspondent of the Daily Mail, who happened to be in the Dominion at the time. Mr Wallace writes:
"TO deny that Canada is at the present moment boiling over with honest wrath would be to deny that she possesses any sense of rectitude, and that the spirit which she has inherited from the Motherland, that abhorrence of injustice which made a teapot of Boston Harbor, is still existent. How it strikes you at Home I cannot gauge, but here in the heart of the Dominion, where every man's first thought is of his country and where patriotism swamps the personal equation, to one catching the spirit of the people, and in one's sympathy unconsciously expatriating oneself from Britain, there comes a momentary glimpse of that inbred distrust of Englishmen and English methods that is characteristic of the colonial attitude toward the Mother Country.
"Rightly or wrongly—I am too near Hades to take a dispassionate view of the Higher Criticism—the decision of the Commission has widened the cracks and fissures in the Imperial fabric to such an extent that one holds one's breath lest a little extra strain should rend the structure from crown to base, and split this great Empire as easily as lightning might cleave an oak. You have only to think how near we have been to losing South Africa when it was the toss of a penny whether or not the Vierkleur should float from Capetown to the Zambesi; you have only to remember how we lost the great country that lies to the south of Canada and to realise that the hundred years that have brought the steam engine and the electric telegraph have not changed emotional mankind—since emotions are not a matter of education, and the feelings of the man who slips on the sidewalk are identical with those of William of Normandy who tripped on the English foreshore—to know that British injustice—as we see it here—has again set a colony aflame with impotent rage, and the work of the last few years of sane Downing street administration has been undone, in as few minutes.
"You may talk to the Canadian until your breath fails, and you will never convince him that Great Britain is not prepared at all times to sacrifice Canadian interests to gain the goodwill of the United States. Despite your Anglo-American societies, your flag-wagging, musical-hall outbursts of foolish sentimentality, the eternal clap-trap of the destinies of the Anglo-Saxon races—meaning the Anglo-American races—the Canadian knows what you in England do not know: that commercially and naturally the Yankee is the worst enemy Great Britain has in the world; that nowhere is England more hated, that nowhere in the world was news of British disasters in the late war received with greater glee and more joyous celebration than in the Union.
"Here stories of unspeakable atrocities were given the freest circulation, cartoons depicting John Bull in humiliating circumstances were without exception the only kind published. Tariffs designed to strike at Britain and Canada were erected, and Canada being close at hand has felt the full lash of 'our cousin's' venom. And all this time, the English statesmen have been preaching the doctrine of closer relations with the United States, Canada has been standing with her back to the wall, fighting for "dear life against the attacks of this cousin of ours. Do not think I am extravagant or intemperate. It would be impossible for me to attempt to convey, except in the slightest degree, the strength of the feeling between these two countries, a feeling which is accentuated to bitterness by the finding of the Alaska Commission.
"Canada has an excellent memory. There is not a child from school who could not tell you the story of the Ashburton treaty, by which Canada lost her free seaport on the east and a great wedge of country which now constitutes the State of Maine. There is a legend, too, of that same treaty by which, in addition to the country on the east, Canada lost the States of Washington and Oregon on the west; that these two States were lost because the Commissioner, a great fisherman, could not catch salmon with fly in one of the rivers and consequently handed over a country containing so worthless a stream to the Union! It is only a legend, and there is probably nothing in it, but it is one that is half believed in Canada, and who shall say, with a knowledge of the eccentricities of English statesmanship before them, that Canadians do wrong to credit the seeming absurd?"
HAVING thus pictured Canadian sentiment as it is, the correspondent proceeds to outline the possible consequences. He does not believe for one moment that as a result the preference granted to the Mother Country will be withdrawn. Canada is too large-minded, too broad-visioned, to play the tit-for-tat game. But she may well reconsider the question of tariffs if. the unmistakeable voice, of England rejects Mr Chamberlain's proposals, calculated to encourage her agricultural industries. Canada, Mr Wallace declares, will never join the Union. Washington's dream of a united American from the Tropic to the Arctic can never be realised. American as they are in habit, in method, in literature, and—to the Britisher inexperienced in the niceties of accent—in tongue, yet they are as distinct from the Yankee in thought, sentiment, and morality as is New Orleans from Dawson. Canada's natural way is the way of independence. Unhampered and untrammelled by overmuch interference from Downing street she is steadily following the inevitable course of her great destiuy. If she is turned aside it will be towards England. If England does not invite her before she passes out of reach or earshot she will make for nationality. At present Great Britain's hold on the colonies is purely nominal—there may come a time when the assumption of "possessing" such a colony as Canada will be farcical. There may, too, come a time when if England's invitation is not too tardy, and Canada, harkening, inclines her steps toward the Mother Country when the Canadian and the British interests will so blend and be so indispensable one to the other that the question of separation will be as remote as the days when Anglia and Northumbria stood for distinct national ideals.
Montreal, Canada, November 7, 1903
I WAS asleep when I tumbled out of a Pullman on to an almost deserted platform. I dreamt still of the morning glories of the Hudson river, the sheer, green-dappled banks, and the broad, lordly stream; the blue Katskill Mountains rising fold on fold, the hidden heights of the Adironacks, the wondrous beauty of the autumnal foliage, and the grey lakes in the twilight of the forests. It was one long, confused dream.
I dozed as I handed my keys to the Custom-house officer, and what time he was laying bare the mysteries of my wardrobe I was mentally surveying the bleak baggage-room for something comfortable to sit on. In a haze I walked to my cab and sank blissfully into its snuggest corner. It was the driver who roused me to wakefulness "Où vous descendrai-je, m'sieu?" he asked.
Then it was that I knew my journey from New York was indeed completed, and I was in Canada. It is one of the annoyances that beset the path of the travelling Imperialistic Britisher that there is something in the language or custom of nearly every British dependency calculated to impress him with his own crass ignorance. It is so much simpler and easier to be a stay-at-home Little Englander, to ignore the Colonies as factors in our national life, to dismiss their importance with a wave of the hand, and settle their complex problems—conveniently translated into English by obliging partisans—with a stroke of the pen.
Because if you want to get down to bedrock principles, to investigate conditions and grievances at first hand, you must, before you start off on your quest, take a thorough course in languages, which will include French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Hindustani, Tamil, Chinese, Asiatic, Greek, and about three hundred separate and distinct native dialects. Thus will you be able to hold converse with your fellow-subjects the Empire over from Canada to Cyprus, and from Hong-Kong to Gibraltar.
Here in Montreal a somewhat fragmentary knowledge of the "taal" helps me not at all. For two-thirds of the citizens are French, the policemen, the postmen, the very elevator boys in your hotel speak but broken English, and the more influential portion of the city's Press is printed in the language that the unintelligent Englishman associates with menus. This is a fact forcibly brought home to the unlettered stranger, for whom the oft-repeated warning in park and square, "Ne passez pas sur le gazon," has no especial terrors, so that he will transgress with a blissful tranquility of mind until a kindly policeman brings hian back to what are literally the paths of righteousness.
And this is Montreal: Imagine a beautifully-dressed woman, in down-at-heel slippers, or a city of noble buildings—and primitive roadways; imagine a city with cathedrals built on the plan of St. Peter's at Rome and Nôtre Dame of Paris—with wooden side-walks. Electric cars whiz over corded roads, and broughams and motor-cars jolt unevenly along the tree-fringed avenues. Montreal is the worst-paved city in the world, considering its pretensions, considering, too, that here we have the New York of Canada, the London of the West.
Perhaps the former title better suits this mother of cities. French-American she is essentially. Forget, the fact that orchestras play "God Save The King" at the end of performances: that that population's loyalty to the Throne, is unquestionable—forget these, and there will be no single thing to remind you that you are on British soil. The stamp of America is on the town and on one-third of the people, and Holy Rome looks down from a dozen emulating spires and turrets with a benign eye upon the faithful majority.
American in commerce, American in habit—we drink ice-water for breakfast and in driving keep to the right—American in speech, in thought, and—except for the reverence it has for the Throne and Person—in sentiment, it promises, if it be the microcosm of a composite Dominion, to render the student's path by no means one of roses.
For here in Montreal you have every evidence of a dominant Roman Catholicism, a religious dictatorship, a power which, scornful of dissemblance and fearless of criticism, might well stand behind a Government or a people indicating its requirements and urging its demands, strong within the unassailable battlements of its sanctity.
For good or for ill the power of the priesthood stands as a very real and tangible factor in the future of this Colony. For good one cannot but think, since the traditions of Canada are made glorious by the memory of her brave priests' deeds, and since foremost among her pioneers went these pale-faced, dark-eyed priests, carrying with that fearlessness which is equally shared by fanatic and fatalist the elements of Christianity to the wigwams of the Iroquois. And since Montreal owes its very existence to the attempt made a century ago to form a veritable kingdom of God on American soil, the manifestation of this ideal cannot fail to be gratifying to those who believe—as some do—that the progress of a country is naturally coincident with the prosperity of the Roman Church.
I have spoken of Montreal as being the New York of Canada, and it does seem, from ite very position, that not only will it be to Canada what New York is to the States—as indeed it already is—but in course of time, remembering the enormous resources of Canada, it will be equal in wealth, population, and importance. Like New York, practically an island town, it has greater opportunities for expansion, and if it has the disadvantage of being closed to river traffic for certain months in the year owing to its frozen waters, it is far nearer to a free seaboard—free in a purely climatic sense—than is that other great lake town, Chicago.
The French-Canadian of Montreal cares little enough for the future; lives very much for to-day. See him, clean-shaven, sharpfeatured, somewhat sallow, and wearing his hair in a sleek, rigidly-trimmed bunch at the back of his head. Slightly below the medium height, yet a man of some brawn; lithe and alert in his movements, voluble and buoyant in his speech, remarkably expressive in his gesticulations—a Frenchman who can ride, shoot, swim, or row—that is the French-Canadian. He is much more of an athlete than his brother across the Channel. He is less emotional, cooler-headed, and has such a fund of common sense as to almost denationalise him. Essentially be is a Frenchman, and yet—
Perhaps it is that he has absorbed something of the qualities of his English neighbor; perhaps its is only that he is French and not Parisian—we sometimes confuse the types. At any rate, he is an excellent companion this Frenchman. When he gets over the natural suspicion with which all Continental races regard the Englishman he will become expansive.
QUEBEC is a bit of old France transplanted across the ocean; Montreal is twentieth-century American in the middle of the street tapering off to Louis Quinze sidewalks; Toronto is openly, unblushingly American in a hustling, unwearying fashion—this you will find if you do business in this queen of cities. Toronto is also aggressively British, and Orange at that.
Exactly whether the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne is observed I cannot say, but this I know—Toronto is Orange.
Ottawa is the cleanest of little towns. Here England and France hold equal sway, and here every man you meet who is not a Civil servant is a Yankee drummer.
Leave behind you Montreal and Quebec, Ottawa, and Toronto, and the lesser towns about. Go north from Toronto, straight up the map to where the Canadian Pacific Railway bustling westward forms the never-ending top line of a capital "T."
GO to bed on the couch that has, at a porter's magic touch, sprung into existence from nowhere in particular, and sleep. You will run so easily that you will doubt the man who tells you the number of miles per hour you are travelling.
In the morning you will awake and find yourself in Canada. Not the Canada, you have been visiting this past three weeks; not the Canada of tall smokestacks belching bellowing blackness; of broad, straight streets and ten-storied stores—but the Canada you have read about, dreamt about; the Canada that your youthful imaginings people with hooked-nosed red men in the wholesale scalp business. Straight young trees all crimson and gold trembling in their gaudiness; lush grasslands sloping to little white-frothed torrents. Great rugged kopjes with firs atop and a hundred varieties of vegetation softening the harsh outlines of their bases. Hollows and hills and thick, clustering copses. Here a rushing rapid and there a big placid stretch of lake with little wooded isles and tree-grown shores.
Your fancy will people the waste as the train flashes westward. Here, by the side of this dancing, darting, whirling, rock-fretted current might well have lived and loved the dusky Minnehaha. Stealing through this little wood,into which the train plunges for a minute and then throws backward might easily have come Hiawatha, himself. You get a momentary glimpse of a squirrel, a comical furry streak that flies at the train's approach.
"DO not shoot me, Hiawatha," you murmur unconsciously. All day long you will travel with your unopened book on your knees reading the great story of nature in the ever-changing pictures of Manitou Himself. 0 the joy of it! that first day's ride westward.
Stand on the observation platform and watch the track drawn from under you; watch trees and stones and hills and lakes fly backward and disappear at each fresh turn of the road. Watch the horizon of the greak lake, watch the purple-blue islands, and the daintily scalloped bays, and the rivers splashing over tiny Niagaras in their haste to join this fresh-water sea. Feel the keen autumn air and catch the glorious scent of the pines and you will not nave lived in vain.
Day will follow day. Portage, lake, river, road, hill, river, township, lake, portage, wood, lake—so they will follow end on end. No two rivers quite the same. Some choked with a thousand jumbled logs, some clear and still, and black with the shadows of overhanging trees. Some racing and roariag between rocks that show up like the blackened fangs of some submerged leviathan. No two towns; no two hills, or woods, or clearings; each characteristic of its peculiar self. Nature broke the mould of each wild thing she shaped. The eye does not weary nor the mental palate clog of this over-loveliness.
THE country is one great flat expanse, patchily wooded and decorously watered—how sedately the streams roll hereabouts! Then, before the flatness becomes monotonous or the wheat-bearing qualities of the black-turned earth can be fully explained by the Yankee drummer in the smoking room, the train runs through the outskirts of a township, which proves to be a town, which, as solid stone buildings spring across the line of vision, and electric tramway-cars pause in their wild flight to let us pass, proves to be the city of Winnipeg, the Chicago of Canada.
Canada is proud of Winnipeg—although not quite so proud as Winnipeg is of itself. There is a mild jealousy between towns in the East. When they wish to be very nasty they speak slightingly of the hustling qualities of each other.
"But," says Toronto—"But," says Quebec—"But," say Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, and Windsor—"if you want to see a Real Live Typical Canadian city, a city that will Open your Eyes and make you Marvel, go to Winnipeg!"
And that is just what Winnipeg is. It is very real. It is very much alive—except on Sundays, when it atones in tiptoeing silence for its youthful indiscretions—and it is very typical of this young nation of Canada. It is the new Canada, the Canada of to-morrow.
MONTCALM and Wolfe, Quebec and the Heights of Abraham, the historical richness of the East are things apart. Tbe East stood for civilisation; now it stands for settled orderliness. Not that the West is any the less law-abiding than the East. But it is so boundless, so vast, so illimitable, so wondrously potential that the older provinces of the Dominion, cramped by routine, narrowed by invariable system, and made small in Western eyes by the knowledge of their limitations, are regarded as but appendants to the West. And Winnipeg is the key of the West, the heart of it, the barometer of its prosperity.
In Winnipeg you get no chance of showering encomiums on the city. The baggage man who takes your traps from the depot gives you a précis of the history of Winnipeg, the elevator-boy contrives between the first and the fourth floors to inculcate a knowledge of the relative importance of Winnipeg and the rest of Canada, The chambermaid, depositing clean towels in your room, lingers at the door to deliver a disquisition on the Rise and Growth of Winnipeg, with some Remarks on Its Remarkable Future. The polite clerk who registers you, the imposing barber who removes the three-day stubble from your chin, the bell-boy who brings you distressing cablegrams from headquarters, all contribute their quota to your education, and the head waiter, as he arranges your serviette before you, leans over the back of your chair and asks in a respectful whisper. "What do you think of Winnipeg?"
Mr. Edgar Wallace, special correspondent of the London Daily Mail, wrote from Tangier on June 20th last:—
THAT excellent and amiable young man, Moulai el Aziz, is probably at this very moment opening packing-cases at his palace in Fez quite unconscious of the steel wedge of civilisation that has been thrust into the hitherto impenetrable casing of his Empire—a wedge that, so far, has not misplaced or strained in the slightest degree the fabric that it will one day splinter and tear and destroy.
I sometimes wonder whether Moulai cares overmuch; whether he would not welcome, even at the risk of his throne and life, the Europeanising of Morocco, and would not exchange his precarious magnificence for a guaranteed security and a more modest state.
Imagine, if you can, the Czar of All the Russias casting envious eyes on the Principality of Monaco, and you may gauge the state of mind of Sultan Moulai at the moment.
There are two views of the Sultan of Morocco, and both are correct. There is one which sees a prodigal, a vain spendthrift, an, irresponsible dilettante, and the wrecker of his country, There is another which shows a modest, good-hearted, sympathetic soul, with European tendencies. As I say, both views are about correct.
IT is difficult to hit upon an expression that exactly describes him. The brutal Anglo-Saxon phrase that conveys the best expression of his Majesty, is, to my mind rather disrespectful.
The Sultan is "a young fool."
Every father in the world who has to put his hand into his pocket to pay his son's bills; every man who has had a younger brother constantly getting into a row; every head of every school in the world will recognise the type, and will oblige me by passing on to people who are not so well-informed the exact shade of significance my description has.
The Sultan has no great vices: indeed, for an Oriental be is singularly healthy-minded. The stable has a greater attraction for him than the seraglio—that is one of the grievances Morocco has against him—and he is not bloodthirsty; indeed, I do not think that even in his folly he is a weak man.
The greatest of his sins from the European standpoint is his reckless extravagance. He is a sort of Jubilee Juggins. He has got the spending habit in its most acute and worst form. He throws away money on the most paltry excuses, and will cheerfully spend a thousand pounds, when to spend a shilling would be rank folly.
AN English catalogue came to his hand one day. Idly turning the leaves, he came upon the illustration of a gold watch. Beneath the cut was a detailed jewelled-in-seven-holes-and-lever-escapement description, which showed, as it was intended to show, that the man who had gone through life without possessing watch No. XZ 98, had lived in vain, and that without that watch life was a dreary, sorrowful vale of colorless days and breathless nights.
"I want this watch," said the Sultan, almost ashamed for the moment that he had been so long unpossessed of this masterpiece.
The Grand Vizier bowed. "How many shall I order for your Majesty?" he asked.
The Sultan thought for a moment.
"Seventy-six," he said. It was the first number that came Into his head.
Mouths afterwards a great packing-case arrived at the palace.
"Your Majesty's watches have arrived," explained an official.
"Watches? What watches?" asked Moulai in astonishment.
"Your Majesty ordered seventy six."
The Sultan yawned. "Did I?" he asked carelessly. "Well, I suppose you would like two?"
The obsequious official prostrated himself in ecstasies of delight.
"And you, and you," said the Sultan, indicating various members of his court.
Of course they would, and so the watches passed round the court, and never one of these marvellous time pieces did the Sultan retain for himself.
He has a garage, in which stand twenty automobiles. Except within tho limited area of his palace there exists no road in Morocco fit even for a cycle.
He possesses scores of aluminium cycles, which the slightest obstacle crumbles like paper. He has a gold- and diamond-studded camera which cost him £2000. He takes four snapshots a month, and has a store of photographic paper valued at £400.
HE has lumbered up his palace with tawdriness and drained his exchequer to buy a hundred specimens of the one thing in the world he does not require. He has outworn the patience of his European friends by a hundred childish whimseys, and has alienated the sympathy and loyalty of his subjects by aping those English qualities which Englishmen least admire. Think of him riding out in public in the pink coat and white stock of the hunt. Think of his looking-glass bedstead, his musical boxes, his mechanical toys, his cameras and gramophones, and the never-ceasing procession of packing.cases arriving from Europe brimming with trumpery gew-gaws, the contents of which may keep his interest aroused for ten minutes, but certainly no longer.
What of his army and what of his people?
His army is an untrained, undrilled, lawless rabble. And he is to a great extent responsible. He might, now, have had a force at his. back that would have kept him secure upon his throne. Regiments have been raised, equipped, and drilled by English-officers. Then, without warning, they have been disbanded, the horses sold, the equipment disposed of below cost. Why? The Government needed money. Moulai el Aziz needed money—money for air-guns, and ping-pong tables, and motor cars and mechanical toys.
His people despise him, as why should they not? He has outraged all conventions—and Mussulman convention is Mussulman law—by introducing into Morocco customs and modes of living utterly at variance with the Eastern idea. Had he been a stronger man, had he been better advised, he might have earned the hatred of the Moors of to-day and the gratitude of posterity. He might have outraged convention by initiating reforms that would have been of lasting benefit to his country.
HE might have made both Europe and Morocco his debtors, and held off for another hundred years the danger of foreign occupation. But as it is, he has no friends. His follies have isolated him. It way be politic to save him his throne. It may be necessary—it will be necessary—to protect him, not less against himself than against his people, but outside the help that policy dictates there is nothing for the young Sultan of Morocco and his unwise counsellors but that variety of mild contempt that one reserves for wilful children.
The change that is coming to his fortunes is coming quickly enough. The revolution that is to set Morocco ablaze from end to end is all but kindled. This time it will not be a case of an ambitious pretender seeking adherents to a personal cause. It will be the people against Moulai. The Sultan alone seems unconscious of the impending disaster. He does not know—he of all people — hat Morocco is unanimous in its intention to strip him of his authority.
That Morocco will succeed in its designs upon the Sultan is only possible should Moulai remain in Fez. It is urged that whatever happens he must remain in that city, for to surrender Fez is to surrender the throne.
Sentimentally this is, of course, true, but for the young monarch to remain in his present position is for him to court calamity. "Who holds Fez holds Morocco," the saying goes, but a live Sultan under the guns of the Powers in Tangier is better than a very dead Sultan in Fez.
Moulai has now one chance. He may come to Tangier and place himself under the protection of the French Minister, a course, that he will, I have not doubt, adopt. He will lose Fez; the whole of the interior of Morocco will take up arms against him, and the country will have to be systematically and vigorously subdued, one might even say reconquered—but all this is inevitable under any circumstances. He will save his throne, which is a consideration for Europe, and he will save his head, which is a greater consideration—for him.
On June 17th, Mr Edgar Wallace wrote to tho London Daily Mall from Tanglers as follows:—
IF you look out of your bedroom window to the left, you will see the hills of Andulusia, quite close at hand. And Andalusia is Spain, and Spain is quite European, and almost civilised.
If you turn your head ever so slightly to the right, you will see at your feet, Tangier, which is Darkest Africa and the Mysterious East all rolled into one. Also, it is the first or second century—or, rather. It is before the Christian era.
Mohammedanism is almost a modernity. Tho electric light flickering feebly at the corners of dark passages may pass for a miracle. The hotels are improved caravanseries, and need not count.
Perhaps it is the food, or the methods, or the rooms, but whatever it is, there is nothing in the average Tangier hotel that clashes with that prevailing spirit of antiquity which is Tangier's very own.
Low hills, all olive-green, circle the blue bay. A thin golden ribbon of beach separates the blue and olive of land and water, and, perched uncomfortably at an angle of 30 degrees, Tangier, all of a jumble, sits with her feet in the sea.
Tier on tier, flat roof of flaring orange overlooking flat roof of washed-out blue, a white, bright, yellowy Jerusalem of a town, it rises—Tangier ancient, unchangeable, insanitary.
IT is Eastern; the East one reads about in one's callow youth; the turbancd East; the East in jellab and fez; the East that carries spears and quaint, long-barrelled, queer-stocked guns; the East that says its prayers on Liberty carpets, and goes to the mosque at all sorts ot inconvenient hours.
Laden donkeys stagger through the cobble-paved passages that serve for streets. Coal-black negroes, all thews and perspiration jog past you with tinkling bell and bulging, dripping woter-bag Grave Jews in black, shavon-headed hillsmen all in rags, curious visitors from Fez—you know the curiosity that is expressed by a scowl—and slovenly soldiery in soiled tunics pass and repass you every second. Blanketted ghosts of women, their faces muffled, shuffle awkwardly from street to street.
A bored little boy leads a hideously blinded old man to a group of idlers in the thronged marketplace. The old man whines his formula, and the little boy, with his eyes fixed on a troupe of acrobats, repeats the appeal mechanically.
"In the name of God, who will buy me a little oil for my supper?"
"... for my supper?" pipes the boy abstractedly.
But the bogging bowl goes unfilled.
A lisping objurgation in Spanish from one. "Go away can#t you?" in English from anothe; only a Moor stops in his stiide to search a capacious leather bag at his side, and throws five centimes into the outstretched hands. "In the name of God"
A BABEL of voices around you, In this same marketplace. Arabic mostly, then Spanish, then French, and somotimes English.
An American "jacky," as bright as a baby's smile and as incongruous a vision in this out-of-the-world spot as an automobile in heaven.
"Say! Where'ss this English post-office?
He has a little group of Arab boys about him. Open-mouthed, abashed little boys filled with the wonder and awe of youth for mankind in uniform.
Little Raisuli riding fiery Arab sticks and armed with deadly accurate bamboo canes, slung at their backs with strings of cotton, cease their maraudings, and the blubbering infantle Perdicaris seizes the opportunity of making his escape.
Debonair and happy-go-lucky, with a a smile on his wind-bitten face, the man who has come to stop Raisuli's greater game passes, down the ill-paved streets, followed, by the awe-stricken youth of Tangier.
"Ingles?" asks, villager from Fahs of the seller of charcoal.
"Americo," answers that wise gossip, and spits reflectively.
I think that this is the only dark spot on—Raisuli's otherwise irreproachable reputation; the only point on which Tangier—the real Tangier that lives on fried fish in rancid oil—is not prepared to see eye to eye with the popular hero of the moment.
Tangier is beginning to think that perhaps Raisuli was a little indiscreet in his selection of a victim. It was, says Tangier, sitting cross-legged on a greasy divan, with its shoes left at the door, it was very foolish to take the Americans. Had it been only an Englishman....
IF the truth bo told, there was a time when Tangier did not hold this doubt of Raisuli's wisdom, when it chuckled mightily over the brigand's exploit, and voted that gentleman what is Arabic for 'the limit.' But the joke of the thing had scarcely taken definite shape before all the warships in the world came chasing into the bay.
And all the warships in the world flew a flag that has absolutely no right to be within 3000 miles of Tangier.
These lean white ships came to anchor and sent men ashore— ships postmen and chief petty officers mostly—who spoke the English language with a White Star accent. Then news filtered through to the bazaars and to the stuffy cafés. It came from various sources. From Moors that waited at table at the hotels; from outdoor servants at the Legations; from Moors who knew Spaniards who know everything; from donkoy-boys and boatmen, and even beggars.
And the news was to this effect Perdicarls, who was stolon from Tangier, was an American; the ships that were crowding up the bay were American also—except the one stove-polished vessel that had suddenly appeared from nowhere, and that was English—and it seemed that the taking away of Perdicaris had annoyed and agitated the United. States of America to a lamentable and quite unjustifiable degree. America has no sense of humor, said Tangier, only, of course, in more Oriental and stately language. Raisuli's joke was not appreciated, and the warships had come fully prepared to work all kinds of mischief to the archltectural glories of Tangier.
AT first Tangier was astonished; then she was pained; then the blind, unreasoning passions of the East—the true East— were aroused. The frantic fear of weak men at the mercy of the strong lay on the souls of Mahomet Ali ben Absolom el Hassen.
The fierce pride of this strange people that has resisted the advance of civilisation for a thousand years, was inflamed, and for a time it looked as though the presence of the American warships was likely to have an effect other than that anticipated.
Chrlstians were stoned—furtively, if you can imagine a furtive stoning. The infidel was insulted in the streets, and one unimportant holy man, a sort of Eastern Dowle, was all for preaching a holy war against. Christianity generally. He raged along the beach half-naked and called us horrible names, but his friends got him away and put him to bed, and in the morning he apologised like a little gentleman. One man—it was on a Mohammedan feast day, and therefore pardonable—discharged his ancient musket at the Baltimore and sat down on the sands waiting for the ship to sink. In fact, in the language of local journalism, "Excitement was running high in Tangier, and all the best people of the town regarded the situation as serious.
But serious situations in Morocco come and go like April rains. The Affaire Perdicaris is quite serious enough; how serious will not be realised until after his release. For then it will be that the Powers will talk with painful plainness to Morocco, and the ships that are lying idle in Tangier Bay will serve a most useful purpose.
Mr. Edgar Wallace's search for a wife for a British Columbian colonist has had a tragic sequel.
It will be remembered that some months ago, when Mr Wallace was engaged on a series of articles on "The Homeless Poor of London," a description of the life of poor, destitute girls inspired Mr. Cochrane, a young colonial farmer, to apply to Mr Wallace for his offices in choosing a wife from among these homeless ones.
Having secured satisfactory references from the young man, with a certificate as to his good character from the Rev. Mr Duncan, of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Mr Wallace set about choosing the girl.
The letters of the colonist were published and his needs made known through the columns of the "Daily Mail," and the result was that over six hundred girls expressed their willingness to go out.
"It will be a Robinson Crusoe sort of life," wrote the young colonist, "amid the silence of the tall firs and the everlasting snows of the mountains." Yet, in spite of the lonely life promised, the applicants were numerous; not even the prospect of a log hut for a house and the isolation of their new home deterred them.
From among many applicants one was chosen. Three hundred might have been chosen just as well, so excellent were the qualifications of the girls. A cablegram was sent to the Rev. Mr Duncan asking him whether he would offer a home for the girl until she was married, and to this he Immediately agreed.
A telegram was sent to the girl telling her that the choice had fallen upon her, and in response to Mr. Edgar Wallace's request she called upon him the same night, and was given the money necessary to purchase a few articles for the journey.
By arrangement with the Canadian Pacific Railway, the girl was to have left London to embark on the Lake Manitoba for Canada.
Early the next morning a cable arrived at this office.
COCHRANE DIED SUDDENLY. — DUNCAN.
In this laconic message from the kindly pastor of Salmon Arm is the shattering of the poor girl's hopes. With her scanty trousseau all ready for embarkation within a few days of her romantic wedding, the lover she had never seen, tbe husband she had never met; dies suddenly in all the loneliness of the Rockies, and the silence of the tall firs, as he himself described it.
— Dally Mail.
OF late the cables have had a good deal to say about Morocco and the trouble brewing there. Particular interest attaches to Tangier, since the German Emperor visited it, and in view of the future possibilities a description of the place'at the time of the Kaiser's visit will interest all our readers.
There, is a great stretch of bay, dotted by in numerable boats (writes Edgar Wallace in the "Daily Mail"), a jumble of gleaming white houses rising tier on tier, distant stretches of rugged blue hills, tall minarets of green-tiled mosques, and a long ribbon of yellow beach to mark where land and water meet.
Months ago, before ever the name of Germany was connected in any way with Morocco, the people who gathered in Moorish cafés, drinking mint tea and smoking vile hasheesh, speculated on the coming of someone who would "free" Morocco.
These people spoke the name of Moulal Aziz and spat, called him openly Moulal the foolish, Moulai the Christian, Moulal the unprintable; and they burnt fires on the hills about and gathered in their hundreds, by tribes, to hear the story of how Moulai had sold Morocco to France.
There is little wonder, therefore, in their enthusiasm at the Kaiser's advent, remembering always the sedulous efforts of the German agents to implant in the Oriental mind a picture of Wilhelm the Liberator.
It is not difficult to understand why the unofficial Spaniard has accorded such hearty welcome to the German War Lord. The Spaniard easily predominates in Tangier, outnumbering English and French combined by 12 to 1.
Spanish is the language of Tangier, next to Arabic, and there is scarcely a Moor who does not speak the dialect of Andalusia.
The Spaniards regard Tangier as theirs by right,of commercial conquest; a French occupation would necessarily be more distasteful than English.
The ex-War Minister lives in a little palace that stands high on the sea-front, looking towards the blue mountains of Spain.
I went to see him once (says Mr. Wallace). A pleasant, refined Moorish gentleman with laughing eyes and hands that were more expressive than speech. It was a pleasant experience to find a War Minister who treated me with considerable deferencnce. A very discreet man, Menhembi, and a brother Briton, being, in fact, Sir "Somebody" Meuhembi, 'K.C.M.Q. He is never tired of telling about that investiture.
"I am a British subject," he smiles quietly, as though enjoying the recollection. "I admire British methods of colonising; how can I do otherwise? I have seen Egypt. One day I hope to see India; they tell me that is more wonderful still."
The Sultan made Menhembi a British subject in reward for his services! Later the Sultan desired to confiscate his properly and arrest Menhembi, and found, to his cost, that while having a War Minister who is a British subject had many .advantages, it had its compensating drawbacks, for no sooner did the Sultan's Mahala surrouud the palace of Menhembi than a British cruiser came streaking across from Gibraltar, and wanted to know what all the trouble was about. That is why Menhembi smiles when he says he is a British subject.
He must have been a curious, sort ot War Minister, for he, is covered with battle scars.
Though Tangier threw itself open to receive the Kaiser, though cannons boomed and drums beat, and all Morocco bowed down to the great War Lord, yet one place was closed to him. Perhaps the Moors are the strictest of all Mahommedan sects; no Christian dog, be he king or peasant, can profane the sanctuaries of Islam in Morocco. The mosques of Tangier are closed to all but the faithful.
In the light of the opinions expressed in this article, it is not difficult to understand why the inhabitants of Morocco object to the proposal of the French Government to open a highway between Tangier and Fez. The landing of the French engineers to construct a harbor at Tangier may lead to serious trouble.
(By Edgar Wallace, in the London Evening News)
TAKE one dead man. One man done to death violently. One man whose soul has been wrenched from his body without a second of grace.
Outstretched on the frozen ground, with a bitter wind whirling the show-dust over the tense, still face, he lies, that once was a breathing, thinking man. Hands half-clenched, defy the flying clouds, and the eyes that stare, but do not see, look wonderingly upwards.
Take this one man, this fragment, this smallest and least considerable pawn in the great game, multiply him by fifty thousand, twist him, as the grotesqueness of your fancy dictates, into ten thousand horrid shapes; embellish your awful picture with the unprintable details of battles—remembering always that the bullet does not always kill cleanly, and that bursting shrapnel and one-pound automatic guns create a havoc that can only be imagined by people who have served on coroner's juries—and you have formed in your mind something like the battlefield of Mukden.
WHERE the victorious army has passed, where the retreating army has retired, panicky and demoralised, with ducking of heads and affrightened glances over shoulders, when men have whimpered arnd sobbed in their rage and rear, the dormant fears of childhood responding to the knowledge of the death behind; where men running for cover have suddenly squealed like frightened horses, and tumbled over and over like rabbits, on this deserted battlefield there lies the silence of the grave.
The Things that lie so still seem part of the white earth on which they lie, be closely cuddled to the earth they are.
There is fighting yet, for the horizon is ablaze, and the guhr-r-r-r-r of rifle fire comes borne on the cold north wind.
It will be hours yet before the will-o'-the-wisp lanterns of the search parties come flickering over the plain, separating the quick from the dead, composing these poor limbs, digging great, trenches, and clearing away in the darkness of the night the awful work of day.
BEFORE they come, the lantern men with their bamboo stretchers, the birds will have arrived. For the birds will drop out of the sky, and stand in a contemplative circle, waiting.
Great, beastly birds, with sleek, black coats and beady eyes. They will wait, for they are patient, till quivering limbs are still, till every sign of life has departed, before they do their work.
They will wait days, if needs be, but their wait will be almost fruitless, for long before carrion can take on courage the burying regiments will have cleared the ground, leaving only the horses and the dumb beasts who have fallen victims to the disputes of men.
I WAS at home to receive George. I was in the garden wandering somewhat abstractedly up and down when they came to me and told me that George had arrived.
Soon after, I was invited in to meet him. He was tremendously agitated, and was shouting his orders at the top of his voice.
It struck me that he was making himself very much at home—after all, it was my house; not that he cared: he scarcely noticed me; in fact, I don't think he even nodded.
There is something radically wrong with England; the fine old courteous manners, the stately bows, the artistic salute of other days are forgotten, and so, far from giving me any of his society, George seemed to sleep all the time during the first four days of his visit. This sounds very much like exaggeration, but I can produce witnesses.
All that I heard of him was his grumbling, indignant, what-the-dickens-next voice raised at meal-times—he took his food in his own room—a practice of which I most certainly do not usually approve.
George—his name is really Bryan something-or-other, but I call him George after a favourite cabman—is rather a reticent chap and his manners are not particularly good. But for certain expectations that we have, I do not know that I should tolerate his presence in my house.
For instance, when I met him a few ?days after he came I did my best to be polite and make him feel at home. "How do you do?" I asked, with grave courtesy. But George favoured me with a prolonged stare as though he had never met me before in his life, and yawned undisguisedly.
"Are you enjoying your stay?" I asked desperately; for however rude one's guests may be, there is really no reason why one should imitate their vices—even hospitality has its limits.
George turned his head abruptly away and pretended to be engrossed in the landscape.
HE has been under my roof now for over a month, and I have scarcely got a civil word out of him. It is very hard to be snubbed unmercifully in one's own house, and by one who is practically a perfect stranger. I find his visit all the more trying because we have so few tastes in common. George has a practice of turning night into day, and the noise of his Bacchanalian revels at 2 a.m. rouse me to something akin to fury.
For I am helpless. He neither cares for what I threaten nor pays the slightest attention to my entreaties. He treats me with marked coolness, and once—the indignity of it!—put out his hand and touched me as if to satisfy his mind upon the question whether I was really alive or if I went by machinery.
ANOTHER two months has passed: George is still here. I wonder whether he expects us to support him permanently? I have discovered one or two quite human traits in him. He is possessed, I find, of an inordinate vanity. He will, if he be encouraged, spend hours before his looking-glass, murmuring appreciatively the while.
It is, as I once pointed out to him, an extremely primitive form of amusement, and I offered to take him out on to the links to see Charles Hands play golf, which is, I should imagine, something particularly funny and entertaining. My advance met with so little response that it has not been repeated.
I am becoming almost reconciled to his stay, the more so since he is evincing of late a desire to be on good terms with myself, and has thrown out one or two tentative smiles in my direction, which have been remarkably gratifying.
After all, it is much more pleasant to be on good terms with one's relatives—and especially relatives from whom one has great expectations—than to hear them constantly grumbling and finding fault.
I SUPPOSE he will stay the year now. I must confess he improves on acquaintance, and for some remarkable reason he is tremendously popular with the womenfolk of the house. He has dropped a good many of his mannerisms: that affected you-have-the-advantage-of-me stare of his has given place to a more human and more kindly expression. Then, again, he is much more tractable, and will listen without interrupting.
"If I may be permitted to say so," I said to him the other day, "you're improving, George."
George accepted the familiarity with a suggestion of his old hauteur, but said nothing.
"Of course, I couldn't very well be rude to a chap who was practically my guest—even though he was a relation, and—"
I looked around to find George going through his daily gymnastic course. He had not asked me whether I objected—I do not know anybody more off-handed than George—but had started off on Exercise I.
Exercise I.—Lie flat on the back, raise both arms and twirl them in eccentric circles, at the same time shooting out the legs as though swimming.
GEORGE has decided to stay the year—in fact, the year is more than up, and he has arranged to have the room next to mine. This would have been, impossible a year ago owing to the late hours he kept and to his extraordinary leaning to rowdiness. Now, however, thanks to the country air, early hours, and the good clean moral atmosphere of my home, he has become almost a reformed character. We have long conversations, rather one-sided, since George is only just picking up the English language. In his own tongue he is remarkably fluent, and makes himself understood to everybody except me. He has got a remarkably sweet smile, and when I see that smile I look around to see what he has broken —for he is still very eccentric.
He is of a literary turn of mind, and simply devours the newspapers if he can get hold of them. He is shrewd, too, with just that touch of low cunning that marks the successful financier.
The other day he pulled my watch from my pocket, and bit it to see if it was good. Of course, it was quite an unconventional way of testing a timepiece, and several jewellers to whom I related the instance say that they have never heard of such a method being employed, but, after all, one bites sovereigns.
He is annoyed less frequently than he used to be; he does not raise his voice so often, and sometimes when he is detected going back to his former evil practices he gives an embarrassed laugh which indicates very clearly that he is by no means proud of his uproarious past.
I HAVE asked George to stay on and make his home with me. We have agreed to let bygones be bygones, and to say nothing of his somewhat cavalier treatment of the master of the house. After all, we all have our failings, and although George has not shod all his weaknesses—yet he is becoming more sociable, and is not above taking a word of advice from his well-wishers. I for one have got so used to meeting him, so used to his peculiar ways, that I should miss him if he left us—so I am content to go on sitting by his cot, whistling absurd music-hall tunes and watching with a certain pleasure his frantic attempts to stand "all alone."
BEFORE the door of a frowsy café that opens on to the Plaza—that plaza that has seen no change for a hundred years—I sit in the sunshine and drink coffee.
Partly because coffee is a more natural drink for a Britisher than Amontillado—at ten in the morning.
To-day is Conference day. If you did not know this, the shoeblack who haunts the café would tell you, and the polite porter of the Algeciras Club would give confirmation.
Cobble-paved streets rattle as the first carriage passes unevenly. A grave old man with a snowy flowing board and black-rimmed glasses is talking earnestly to his vis-à-vis. Probably they are discussing the weather or the latest accident to the Russian Minister's dog. At the street corner half-a-dozen French journalists raise their hats politely, and . the old gentleman as politely acknowledges:
HERE comes carriage number two. Filled with white-robed Moors, who do not talk to one another, but take stock of the houses, the people, and the -life of the street.
Then following on come carriages three and four. In the first of these sits a man by himself. A dapper, good-natured, keen-eyed gentleman with curly hair and that indescribable suggestion of tolerant surprise that distinguishes the Englishman whether he be diplomat or tourist. Sir Arthur Nicolson goes to the Conference unsupported by any technical adviser—he knows all that is to be known about Morocco. Then the Americans. White, grey-haired and soldierly; Gummere, a strong, simple man hiding his kindly nature behind a cynical smile.
And so they come, diplomat after diplomat, and the wheels of their hired carriages beat an endless tattoo.
For some we have a respectful bow—even the Englishman who never lifts his hat short of the National Anthem will give the most ornate of flourishes to the two Frenchmen as they pass. One is sad with the sadness of over-much learning—that is Reveil: the other looks like a happy father, and is ever ready to smile—that is Regnault.
Of some as they pass we exchange a flippant word. Such and such is a hopeless muddler, such and such does not care a snap of his fingers whether the Conference succeeds or fails, so long as he can get back to the capital he graces so well. This man is without finesse: that without discretion; and it is whispered that that one—no, not the man on the right, but the other—you will see him as the carriage turns the corner—is altogether too impossible for words.
So you perceive as I perceive sitting here in the sun and sipping coffee, that the Conference is a very human assembly, by no means to be regarded with awe. A number of people you could pat on the back and call "old chap" without inviting the thunderbolts of heaven.
Let them pass. In an hour they will be back with their portefeuilles tucked under their arms. They will go back to lunch at the Reina Cristina, and we shall see them sitting at little round tables—each nation at its own table, each table solemnly flying a tiny national ensign.
AND sitting here in the sun, with an importunate but unavailing beggar whining monotonously at my elbow, I wonder what Jean Prideaux, the tinsmith at Bayonne, is doing just now, and Pierre Riaut, who makes shoes in, Arreau, in the valley of the Pyrenees, and young René Imatz, of Bigorre, and that good Jules Pourtet. who is carpenter, tailor, and wheelwright in Argelès. René was to have been married in March; Pierre is doing rather well, and is contemplating a change to Bordeaux.
I think of these as the pleasant old gentlemen rumble past; I am still thinking of them as Tattenbach, hard-faced, Bismarckian of head, and, to my sentimental eyes, remorseless, goes on his way; and suddenly there comes an uneasiness to my mind that almost amounts to terror. Do our well-dressed, well-fed friends give a thought to Pierre and Jules and René?
It would be terrible to believe that they do not. For the first time I wish they were less human and possessed of omniscient qualities and preternatural reason.
For suppose the Conference fails?
Suppose those noble gentlemen decide that there is no possibility of reconciling those two nations—what then?
They will—our friends of the Conference—go back to their homes with something like a sigh of relief. They will scatter across Europe like schoolboys released from irksome tasks. Back they go to their little embassies, their little villas, to their clubs and departments and chancelleries—and Algeciras will go back to its sloth and its dirt and its dullness.
PERHAPS a war—only perhaps; but still, perhaps. Not a war, my military friends, in a country specially created by God for war.
Not a war in n waste, with league-long hills to hold and dongas to hide in, and fronts a mile apart.
But war in a civilised country. War in little village streets, war that means blue smoke curling over trim flower gardens, and dead men lying limply among crushed roses.
War that will call Pierre from his last, and Jean Prideaux from his shop, and young René from poor little Suzanne, and will hurry, them, and thousands such as them, to a quick death and a hastily-dug trench of a grave.
War in a country through which you have motored, dead men at the inn whereat you drank, and the wreckage of war strewn about those same white roads on which the car ran so smoothly.....
They are coming back now, those ambassadors, smiling and talking, and bowing to you and me....
The Conference is adjourned for four days.... The President must go to Madrid on Saturday to meet the King of Portugal.... An attaché has just told me that he will be glad when the rotten thing is over....
But I think—I must break off here, for a man has come down to tell me the latest funny story about the Russian minister's dog.
Madrid, March 29, 1906
THERE is in Spain a tall, slim, sallow youth with a perpetual smile. It is the frank smile of undisguised delight at the joy of living and finding things out. For him life is a birthday, with thousands of presents still unopened. His smile—were I less respectful I might call it a delighted grin, for such it is in very truth—is for the joy of discovery.
I SAW him standing up in his carriage once at Burgos, responding to the hoarse "vivas" of the country folk. He might have saluted gravely, taken his seat solemnly, and driven away in the pomp and circumstance of his rank—that would have been kingly. But he kept to his feet with that amused smile which is chuckle suppressed, and waved his hand cheerily. He waved it to the ladies crowding the balconies, to the children perilously perched on unsuitable elevations, to the swart-faced peasants wrapped in their shawls.
And the love of his people, the people who had watched the fatherless boy grow towards manhood, was his first discovery. Then he discovered other good things, riding and the joy of the hunt, and the delight of travel; and he went on smiling.
Then he discovered that, given the nerve, a man might drive a car over a straight road at 100 kilometres an hour and that was nearly the greatest discovery of all. Coincidentally with this, the Spanish people, who did not share his enthusiasm for rounding dangerous corners at full speed, remarked mildly, but with that mordant humour which is characteristic of the race, that there was no heir to the throne.
They say of Alfonso XIII. that he was the best-ruled child in the world, and if this be so, to-day he vindicates the Latin proverb, which may be found in the appendices of most oheap dictionaries, and which is to the effect that the best-ruled is the best ruler. So that when it came to choosing a wife, and when before him were arrayed the dozen or so of uninteresting but eligible princesses of royal blood, Alfonso, who, as an amateur photographer, realises the fallibility of re-touched photographs, started forth on a tour of inspection.
THE eligibles of Europe were mostly concentrated in Berlin, but the young man—we may suppose that he carried it off with that smile of his—was politely indefinite, and went outside the list, and chose a lady of England, who had certainly never been included.
Therefore the King has made yet another discovery, and that is the sweetest of all.
All Royal matches are love matches. It is part of our eternal hypocrisy to hail them as such, but here is a match which comes to the hardened cynic as rain following a drought. Here is a real love match, an infatuation that is eminently boyish in its intensity, an eager love-making that would satisfy the most exacting of sentimentalists—notice the King's smile in the photographs—and a match-making so much at first hand that, if the truth be told, it almost estranged the boy King from his mother.
Spain is the home of Catholic majestv. In these days of agnosticism the wave of free thought has passed over Spain and left it untouched; indeed, if anything, it has closed the ranks of Roman Catholicism against the heretical intruder.
The news of the match was received with genuine enthusiasm by the people of Spain. One hears of little else throughout the country; one sees their portraits exhibited in every other shop. Ena of Battenberg entered the hearts of the common people, of the bourgeois, and of the thinking classes—and I say this without gush and without cant.
If the truth be pursued, the match found no favour in the ultra-Catholic circle of the Court. Queen Maria Cristina had hoped that the choice would have fallen upon a princess of Austria of her faith; and the great officers of State, who have for years stood next to the throne and who through the King have ruled Spain, were at one in that opinion.
"A Catholic by birth, the urged, and though they were in the minority yet they formed the minority that rules and has governed Spain for years.
We may, without stretching our imagination, imagine the King smiling this opposition. For this King from the first has had his way in things that count.
THEY tell a story about him, a story of a small boy standing before the portrait of Philip IV., by Velasquez, in the gallery here. He looked long and earnestly at the picture. Then...
"I also will have a chin like that, he said, and set himself to work from dav to day, despite many smacking, to pinch and mould his face to the shape of his ancestor's.
That it was an ugly chin does not matter—it was the chin of Philip, and to-day when I saw the picture by Velasquez I was almost startled by the remarkable likeness between the two monarchs.
So that having altered the face to suit his pleasure—I can see him smiling as he did it—it was not to be expected that he should alter his life to please others. If this sounds inconsequential it is because I am dealing with a boy whose life is made up of inconsequences.
The weightiest opinions were gossamer before this smiling youth, who could not spare one eye for logic when both were for love. He wore down opposition gradually but surely, and todav finds Spain enthusiastic and the Spanish Court more than tolerant. A few days ago I went from Algeciras to Cadiz to see him leave for the Canaries. It was his last bachelor holidy, and all Cadiz was there to wish him "Godspeed." As the launch went throbbing from the shore he stood in the stern, waving his hand and smiling as though a trip to the Canaries were really the joke of all jokes.
MR. EDGAR WALLACE writes in the London Daily Mail of 3rd July:—
SENHOR Dom Finto de Silva Et Cetera (you will forgive me if I have forgotten the trailing skirt of ancestral nomenclature that adorns your rotund person), I salute you.
You will remember that we called you "Bill" in those far-off days, and, remembering, will the more readily absolve me of intentional rudeness in allowing your title to slip from my memory.
Does your mind go back six years to the day when you and I, clad in pyjamas, sat in a small boat on the Pungwe River, under a canvas awning, with the thermometer at par, and mosquitoes taking their mid-day meal? We had gone out to shoot hippo, lion, quagga, and giraffe, and our ambitious undertaking ended ignominiously with shooting at empty whisky-bottles. I call to your mind the fact that our total bag was sixty-three mosquitoes (killed) and one war correspondent (severely bitten), but more particularly do I direct your memory to the dinner at the Beira Club that followed. where under the genial influence of Manhattan cocktails, you grew poetical on the subject of Glorious Portugal.
WELL, here I am in Portugal—yea, in Lisbon, that Lisbon whereon the guide-book gentleman grows positively ecstatic—so justifying your perfervid periods. Here is the book, listen: "... Magnificent scene... glorious views burst upon the gaze... Bay of Naples... the most wonderful sight..." and so on.
I came upon Lisbon at the end of a long, long, smelly tunnel. I alighted at a station, descended four flights of stairs, and found myself on a level with the street. Being curious, I re-ascended the stairs—four flights, with the temperature at 80 degrees—found another exit—on a level with the street: There was a spiral staircase that led to the roof. "Where does that go to?" I asked an official. "To the street," he replied, and then our conversation came to my mind, and I remembered you had told me that Lisbon, like a beautiful something-or-other. was perched or enthroned, as the case may be, upon seven (say 7) hills.
And Lisbon is all that you claim. It is beautiful, but most beautiful of all when viewed from the sea, or from the broad bosom of the bronze Tagus. This same Tagus flows before my window, a giant of a river, with cockle-boat liners and toy destroyers, and make-believe shipyards, and an old, old hulk of a guardship fitted with fighting tops, and a scarlet torpedo-boat lying at a buoy.
But for me the joy of life in Lisbon has nothing to do with the natural beauty of its surroundings, of its poetry, of white villas that speckle the green hills. For me the ultimate point of pleasurable excitement is reached in moving from one part of Lisbon to another—the experience is unique, intoxicating incomparable.
MOTORING is fine sport; ballooning provides a sensation unlike any other; a tramway-car ride through Lisbon is an extraordinary experience which combines the joys of both. You quoted to me "Quem não tem visto Lisboa, não tem visto coisa boa," which I understand is the Portuguese variant for, "See Naples and die," but it shall be my proud boast that I have spent thousands of reis on car journeys in Lisbon, and that I still live to tell the tale. I have dived down, down, down declivities with a gradient of one in six; I have gone up precipitous streets where the car was a buzzing insect climbing a wall; I have swooped down goat-paths at forty miles an hour; I have tasted that sensation of joyous peril which has hitherto been reserved for Alpine climbers and bill-posters, and all for a penny a mile. Lisbon is one huge switchback (get to the door in case the blessed thing breaks down), and as such is the most delightful capital in the world.
And the pity is that you find this out by accident. Not one guide-book tells you of Lisbon's chief attraction. For myself, I was seeking the Pantheon, where you may see a king in his coffin, when I made the discovery. I boarded a car and gave the conductor s pennY. The nonchalant gentleman controlling the electricity on the front platform stopped a moment to light a cigarette, then gave his handle a shake. The car jumped twenty feet into a bottomless pit. While I was wondering what was Portuguese for "Save the women and children first" we pulled up in the bowels of the earth, and a priest with a bowler hat came on board. Then we climbed up the side of a house, went across some roofs, encircled a church spire, dropped seven stories into another hole, ran under a house, up a cliff, over more roofs, down into the basement again—then the conductor came and, assisted by the rest of the passengers, explained to me that I had had my pennyworth.
WHILE I was agreeing with him and making my way to the exit the car started for another hill-climbing competition, and I found myself deposited on a ledge—a broad ledge on which fountains played and green palms grew and unshaven attendants sold lemonade. It was one of Lisbon!s window-sills, and beneath was a panorama which has no equal in the world. Lisbon is believed to be built on seven hills. I say "believed" because I personally have counted sixty-three, and from the summit of each you may look upon the; others. Picture these hills in the full light of an afternoon sun. Great green mounds sprinkled with dolls' houses, houses red and yellow, and white and pink, and ochre; over all, on the crest of the highest hill a battered grey fort, gaunt, ugly, domineering.
But it is not for sensations, for the joy of the eye, or the refrigerating thrill of car rides that I have come to Lisbon, and you, my dear Pinto, would be the last person in the world to guess why I have come. It is to see at first hand a revolution—no less.
To witness the evolution of a limited monarchy into the newest kind of national system, a Republic based on English principles. You who lived so far away—if, indeed, you still be alive and have not died of sunstroke or from the fever that rises out of the great swamp land—you, I say, will not readily understand this sudden passion for British methods. In the days we knew, Lord Salisbury's ultimatum was a rankling memory, and the battle of Massikassi an event not to be referred to. But there have been alliances and things, "communities of interests," treaties and what-not, and we have discovered that King Carlos is a good sportsman, though, if the truth be told, rather given to exaggeration, and Portugal has behaved towards us very handsomely indeed.
BUT, despite the alliance, and the meeting of monarchs, and the banging of cymbals, despite the genuine friendship that exists between Portugal and Great Britain, and the popularity we are enjoying, Portugal has its little internal troubles just as we in England have. We call ours Chinese slavery; you and your countrymen refer to yours as the Republican movement. Ours is a hoax, and yours is a hoax, and if I had known as much about the genuineness of the Republican movement as I do about yellow slavery, I should not have come here.
But in the capitals of Europe they whisper of the coming trouble in Portugal, of an autocratic Sovereign and a bureaucratic Government, of disloyal sailors and regiments in revolt, of soldiers hurried in the dead of night to noisome dungeons, of a seething, suffering people waiting for a signal, of a condition of things very similar to that described by Mr Carlyle in the first volume of that interesting literary firework which described yet another revolution.
So I have come to Portugal, and here am I in tho thick of the fray, so to speak, and I want to tell you of my search for a revolution, of how I discovered it in a Cow Shed, of the great Smoke Question and the Pipe of Discord, and of the numerous and diverting incidents that befell me while in Portugal.
MR. EDGAR WALLACE, in the Daily Mail, gives a brilliant account of the Royal wedding at Madrid and of the tragedy that followed. In the course of the report he says:—
A DISTANT burst of cheering and the blare of bugles announced at half-past 9 that the Royal procession had started. Prince after prince with fitting escort passed, and then came princes and princesses of the blood royal of Spain, with all the attentions due to their rank and exact order of precedence. Recognised instantly by the people and cheered rapturously was the Infanta Isabel, a motherly lady with silver hair, who was weeping as she passed.
But the greatest reception, apart to that accorded to the principals, was reserved for the Prince and Princess of Wales. The difficulty of distinguishing personages in the Royal carriage was overcome by the fact that the Prince's photograph had been published in all the papers.
When the British National Anthem sounded in the distance the enthusiasm of the crowd was unbounded, and the approach of their Royal Highnesses' coach was the occasion for a singularly warm demonstration. Both the Prince and Princess bowed, smiled, and saluted the cheering people with that wave of the hand which is characteristically Spanish, and the use of which pleases the Spaniard more than the most stately bows.
A quaint feature of the Prince's retinue was the "coach of respect," an empty State coach following behind with exactly the same escort as that occupied by the Prince. The Princess was dressed in white.
The procession seemed unending, and there were frequent stops, but at last appeared the plume-crested heads of the eight white horses drawing the Royal carriage. King Alfonso's welcome was unique. They "vivaed," they called him by name, and they showed in a dozen ways their affection for him. With him were Don Carlos and a pretty little boy of four, the Infante Alfonso, the King's cousin and heir. The child was a feature of the procession—he was so obviously enjoying the ride and saluted so gravely.
BUT whatever had been the acclamations that greeted King Alfonso, the ovation of the day was reserved for Princess Ena. For her Madrid displayed its most beautiful decorations; for her they hung from countless windows tapestries of enormous value (an authority pointed out to me a house from the windows of which were hung fabrics of the value of £40,000); in her honor family ohests were ransacked and treasures which had not seen the light for 100 years, and which are practically priceless, were hung side by side with more modern specimens of the decorator's art.
All brides look beautiful, but Princess Ena looked divine, and it is no exaggeration to say that Madrid went mad with enthusiasm as she passed, half an hour after the King, through the streets.
For the last time she listened to "God Save the King" played in her honor. Her progress was a triumph over the Spain that loves beauty and courtships, and the youths paid her homage such as few women are fated to receive. The people pressed forward with outstretched hands, and only a strong force of military prevented them from reaching the carriage.
Here was a color feast such as Paul Veronese alone could have done justice to—a scene beside which the most magnificent efforts of pageant-makers were insignificant. The tiny Gothic church is perched on a slight eminence, its wonderful proportions alone preventing it from appearing mean. It stood, a splash of cinnamon, with delicate finials rising to the blue Spanish sky.
As Princess Ena's carriage turned into the broad drive that leads past the church, to the frenzied, shrill cries of the people, to the waving of thousands of handkerchiefs, to the soft tones of Spanish music, one was transported back to the day of barbaric gorgeousness when kings moved through a golden haze.
Everything helped the illusion. There had been passing up the sweep of grey granite steps that lead to the silvered portals a procession of grandees—not in their military uniforms, as would be the case in other countries, but in the garb of their religious orders—not as soldiers, but as "brothers of Christ." In their spotless white cloaks, emblazoned with the ensignia of their order, with their mediaeval plumed hats, they were part of the great and wonderful picture.
Now, as Princess Ena's golden coach stopped before the steps, the picture was complete. For at the head of the stairs under the great sweep of the canopy—a huge patch of crimson and gold—stood a glittering throng waiting to receive her. Left and right of the entrance, supported by slender silver halberds, were the canopies over the Ambassadors, and from the terrace of the church hung priceless tapestries.
AT the church door an official helped the bride to alight, and then, slightly ahead of the two mothers, she walked up with a light step, standing out from the colored splendor of her surroundings.
The King, who wore the plain uniform of a captain-general with the Orders of the Garter and Golden Fleece, awaited her arrival at the end of the dim aisle, which was almost dark after the glare of the sunshine, despite the subdued light of the chandeliers and the lights on the beautiful altar.
In almost every detail the service was identical with every Catholic marriage service, but it was sufficiently trying for the young pair, as the crowded church was suffocatingly hot. The Archbishop of Toledo, crozier in hand, advanced and performed the simple service:
"Señora Princesa Victoria Eugenia de Battenberg, I require Your Highness and Your Majesty Señor Don Alfonso XIII., King of Spain and Castile, to affirm if there be any impediment by which this marriage cannot be contracted."
The Princess made the responses in Spanish, speaking distinctly and making the three affirmutions required in a clear voice. Then in a voice rendered almost indistinct by emotion the Archbishop said, "And I, on behalf of God Almighty and the blessed Apostles, Peter, Paul, and of Holy Mother Church, marry you, illustrious Princess, and you, most exalted King. This sacrament of matrimony I confirm in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
It was a quarter to one when the booming of cannon announced the mass that followed the wedding ceremony was finished.
OUT from the dark church into the glaring sunshine the Royal couple passed. The young Queen looked pale, but smiled and waved her hand to the people. The King himself looked a little fatigued, but there was happiness in his smile, and he looked eagerly into his Queen's face and pressed her arm in frank delight. As they stood together under the noble canopy, a young couple side by side waving hands here and there, as they recognised friends among the privileged circle, there was something in the scene unlike anything one has witnessed. Without losing a particle of the dignity of a splendid function it took on a character of happiness so evident, so undisguised, as to be almost plebeian. Even Spanish dignity melted in joy at seeing the two whose lovemaking has been the talk of Spain brought together.
The scene that followed as they moved off was remarkable, and the return journey to the palace was marked by demonstrations of affection unequalled in the history of Spain. From the packed stands, windows, and balconies, and from the roof-tops, rose one long, continued roll of cheering. One cry shouted by a spectator, and caught up by the crowd, I shall always hear. It was, "Beautiful, beautiful!" Even the guarding soldiers lining the route caught the enthusiasm, and raised their swords in irregular salute with the same cry of "Bonito!"
A DASTARDLY attempt to assassinate King Alfonso and Queen Victoria was made in the Calle Mayor at twenty minutes past two, as the royal couple were returning from the church to the palace after the wedding.
I had just left the street, after seeing the royal carriage pass. Queen Victoria was leaning forward, radiantly happy, and waving her hand to the cheering people. King Alfonso was leaning back, lazily waving his hand, but not taking his eyes from his wife's face.
I was writing the last words of a despatch when from a distant street came what sounded like a solitary explosion.
Some ten minutes later a courier came galloping past and brought the terrible news, that a diabolical attempt had been made on the lives of the King and Queen.
The royal procession had passed through the Calle Alcala, where the crowd pressed densely, had crossed the Puerto del Sol, and had entered the Calle Mayor. This street runs almost to the threshold of the palace. It is one of the most beautifully decorated thoroughfares, its narrowness allowing it to be spanned with garlands and suspended arches. At the palace end the street slopes steeply, and opposite the Civil Governor's house grows yet narrower.
The assassin had posted himself on a balcony overlooking the road and facing the Governor's house. As the royal pair passed he hurled a bomb.
By God's providence he missed his mark. Had the weapon fallen a foot further nothing could have prevented the transformation of the most famous wedding of modern days into a dreadful tragedy.
As it was the bomb exploded, killing a number of spectators and wounding others. At the moment of telegraphing the excitement is so intense that it is impossible to obtain accurate particulars. But I am credibly informed that eight persons were killed and twenty-five injured.
The whole royal procession was panic-stricken, but King Alfonso, recovering himself immediately, spoke through the broken windows of the royal carriage and inquired what damage had been done. Immediately he sent an orderly to reassure Princess Henry of Battenberg and the Queen-Mother.
His Majesty, raising his voice, commanded the procession to resume its course. Queen Victoria was deathly pale, but smiled courageously.
At that moment all the King's thoughts were evidently for her. He patted her arm and spoke to her continuously all the way to the palace.
A rumor had already reached the palace that the King was killed, and utter consternation prevailed until the royal carriage came into view. Then arose an hysterical shout of joy.
A few minutes later King Alfonso and Queen Victoria appeared hand in hand on the palace balcony, smiling and bowing in answer to the frantic cheering of their subjects.
THE missile fell to the right of the royal carriage, between the hindmost pair of horses and the front pair of wheels. The explosion killed two horses and a groom.
The Marquis de Sotomayor, the equerry who was riding at the right side of the carriage, was slightly wounded. Four soldiers lining the route were killed on the spot, and a lieutenant who was standing at the salute was fatally injured.
A police-bugler had his head severed from his body, and two women among the spectators were also killed. The injured were very numerous, and included two or three persons on the second-storey balcony of the house from which the bomb was thrown. Immediately after the explosion the Duke of Cornachuelos rushed forward, opened the carriage door, and taking hold of the King dragged him out of the vehicle, and then the Queen, who showed signs of great emotion. On their arrival at the palace it was noticed that both the King and his bride were in tears.
THE assassin, whose name is Mateo Moral, escaped in the confusion, but left evidence of being wounded.
Immediately before the outrage the Queen had remarked to the King that she would be glad to reach home, the explosion following on her words. The bleeding and wounded officers threw themselves round the royal carriage, and the Queen, alighting, gazed with horror on the dead and dying men and officers.
One officer lay dead, with his hand raised to the salute. The Queen was composed, but on reaching the palace broke down completely.
As she alighted gentlemen pressed forward, but the King waved them back and tenderly supported his weeping wife.
The bomb was thrown concealed in a bunch of flowers. A panic ensued among the occupants of the stands, who threw themselves to the ground. The postillion of the Municipal Guard and a Moorish officer were killed instantly.
Bodies, horribly mutilated, lay along the street. Men removed their hats before the dead, and there followed a solemn scene. A priest from a neighboring church arrived to give the last sacraments to the wounded and his blessing to the dead. King Alfonso stood up when the explosion occurred, and cried to the people, "Don't be afraid; we are not hurt."
[It will be remembered that Moral some days afterwards was challenged in a village inn by a constable, that he afterwards shot the constable and fled, but was followed by the villagers and committed suicide when cornered by them.]
THERE came to meet me at the North Station at Madrid a cheerful boy—a boy who had obviously come straight from a tennis court, who was dressed "slack" as only the English can dress "slack" and remain respectable. In the carriage that drove us through the uneven streets of Madrid he told me about a "rotter" of our acquaintance, used twelve different school-slang phrases in as many minutes.
That night he came to the Fornos to dinner, and I asked him why his friends called him by a Spanish name.
"Because I am Spanish," was the reply, and the answer staggered me.
"But you are unique?"
"Not a bit of it. Dozens of fellows in Madrid like myself have been educated in England."
And this boy, I discovered, was the son of a noble house that goes back to the year 1, and that he was by no means alone in his Anglicisation I soon discovered.
The royal marriage and the enthusiasm it has aroused through Spain are only symptomatic of the extraordinary respect in which Great Britain is held throughout Spain. The word "Inglesi" has a meaning outside the narrow limits of appellation, and the young Spain that is growing up with the boy-King has possibilities which the boldest may speculate upon and fall short of the mark.
REMEMBER that old Spain does not quite understand Alfonso. It loves him; he is the darling of the people, and your ultra-Republicans, exceedingly voluble on all pertaining to kingship, have a pleasant word for the slim youth with the everlasting smile.
But none the less old Spain does not quite take him in. To be perfectly frank, old Spain, watching in wonderment as the young man sweeps away the cobwebs that hamper his administration, confesses sadly that the King is a little mad. This same old Spain, be it noted, has for generations regarded the "Inglesi" as a nation of amiable lunatics, and for very much the same reason as England has deserved the stigma, King Alfonso bears it.
People who know Spain from books will tell you with bated breath of the cast-iron etiquette that surrounds the royal personagee of Spain, of dreadful dinners eaten in solemn silence, of bows to the left and curtsies to the right, of mace-bearers and cup-bearere and sword-bearers, of orders of precedence; such as that between the Infanta who was born at 7.25 and the Infanta who entered this wicked world at 7.29.
There have been customs handed down from the days of the gloomy builder of the Escurial. They have been handed down from king to king—even Joseph Bonaparte "carried on"—and they were handed over, heirlooms of procedure, to the patient little boy whose unceasing education earned for him the sympathy of all the little boys in the world.
Where are those customs now?
If we are to believe the aged masters of ceremonies, who—so it is said—go moaning about the Corridors of the Palacio Real, weeping for glories gone, they have vanished. Pruned here and omitted there, remodelled, improved, renovated, the irreverent youth (he has just streaked past my window in a motor-car) has, in the language of the soap advertiser, "made home comfortable."
AND his influence is felt throughout Spain. Not because he has led the Spanish gentry to wearing English clothes, English collars, and English cravats (I saw a "smo-king jakket" ticketed in the window of a cheap tailor to-day), nor because he has infused into a languid people something of that restless energy which is peculiarly his, but because you see his hand in the great acts of administration.
There was a Minister in Spain who had a friend. The friend's past was not exactly blameless: there was a sort, of "war stores scandal" in the background, but the Minister was anxious to put his friend into the Cabinet. And the Minister, who was sufficiently powerful to he blind to his own weakness had not the slightest doubt that his nomination would be accepted. It is unfortunately true that corruption in the public service has been by no means rare in Spain, and is not regarded in a very serious light, and the Minister was perhaps justified in his belief that the unfortunate affair bad been conveniently forgotten.
But the King's memory, like the King's digestion, is remarkably good, and without a word he struck his pen through his name. The Minister was thunderstruck.
"I shall place my resignation in your Majesty's hands," he said stiffly; but the awful threat did not alarm the young man.
"That is my wish," he said gravely.
Again. The present marriage is by no means regarded with approval in Germany. You are aware that there are divers great German Princes whose "military duties" will prevent their attending the ceremony.
It is an unfortunate fact that one cannot show preference without offending the unpreferred. The attachment of the King has drawn him closer to Great Britain; but King Alfonso is a shrewd youth, and he has certainly no desire to antagonise a powerful State like Germany. The spirit of "manana," which is at once the joy and curse of Spain, extends to every class of Spaniard—even to the Spaniard ambassadorial—and there are to be celebrations this year in Germany at which the crowned heads of Europe are to be represented. Somehow the Spanish Ambassador at Berlin failed to notify the King of these celebrations, with the result that there was no time for the fitting representation of Spain. Alfonso's hand fell on the Ambassador. A prompt Gazette announced his recall and the reason.
THIS is how Alfonso XIII. is creating a new Spain. By substituting promptitude for procrastination; by replacing "manana" by "to-day"; by refusing to recognise the plea of custom; and lastly, and most important of all, by doing himself the things that he asks his people to do.
The story that best illustrates the sane, practical spirit that underlies most of his acts is the story of the reservoir disaster. In the course of constructing a reservoir near Madrid, part of the works collapsed, and hundreds of workmen were buried beneath tons of earth. The boy King was at the royal palace when the news was telephoned through, and he ordered his car and drove through to the scene of the catastrophe. Crowds had gathered in the vicinity, and the King was recognised as he drove up. Accident or royal procession, all's one to the Spaniard, so long as it be in the nature of sight-seeing, and "Viva el Rey!" was roared by a thousand throats. It was an indignant young monarch who stood up in his car and harangued the crowd. "If you were helping to dig these poor fellows out, instead of shouting 'Viva,' you would be doing a far better thing." he said—and the orowd took the hint.
It is customary at such a time as this for the writer to say the nicest things he can remember about his royal subject. Kings, with two notable exceptions, are very uninteresting people, who do a great deal of work and listen patiently to a great number of national anthems. But one requires very little stimulating to "enthuse" over the ruler of Spain. Partly because he is the sort of youth that an ordinary citizen—were he, too, an ordinary citizen—would be very friendly with, and would speak about behind his back as a very decent fellow indeed, and partly because he is a monarch, isolated from the contact of common men, surrounded by what seemed insurmountable walls of etiquette and tradition, and apparently at the mercy of wire-pullers and courtiers, and yet has broken through the steel girdle and proved himself a wise ruler and a very human being.
Madrid, Friday, May 25, 1906
Yesterday I watched Madrid at play. In the great Plaza del Torres I saw a huge circle of banked faces rising tier on tier, and heard the hum of fourteen thousand voices, and saw the sun glitter on thousands of fluttering fans.
There was a stir, and fourteen thousand heads turned toward the high-perched royal box. A young man in the scarlet coat of the dragoons entered, raised his hand stiffly to the buzzing crowd, and took his seat. There was no cheer, no "Viva"—the King's German brother-in-law has not gripped the popular fancy.
An unshaven photographer, operating a blundering camera and a big cigar at one and the same time, spoke through the unoccupied corner of his mouth. "Ah! it will be different when the Queen comes!" And the pathetic thing was that he spoke in tones of joyful anticipation, as though, in the new Queen Victoria, bull-fighting was to receive a fillip which would establish it for ever as the premier sport of Europe.
NEXT week the young Queen will preside at her first fight. She will sit high up in the flower-decked tribune, the focussing point of thousands of curious eyes, all knowing the Englishwoman's detestation of such sport, and watching for the pallor that oomes to the face of even the "nerviest" of untried spectators. She will see the Spanish bull—the bravest and most ferocious of God's creatures—in all his wild rage; she will see wretched hacks driven to their death, and lithe, catlike men with nerves of ice playing with destruction.
And not alone on the day she makes her bow to the clamouring ring, but day after day at intervals her figure will be seen in the royal box, her head, draped in a white mantilla, bent to the plaudits, of the Madrileno, till the play and the horror and the fascination of bull-fighting will become a matter of habit, and her heart will no longer beat furious tattoos wheen the trumpet wails, and a nimble official throws open a thick door of the bullpen, and there steps into the light, warily, inquiringly, an animal all aquiver with fierce wrath.
Best for her, since the bull-ring must become part of her life, if she shuts her eyes to the picador urging forward the ambling, scraggy brute of a horse he rides, and accepts philosophically the quick plunge of the bull and the toss of its head beneath the breast of the horse, and the tumbling picador sprawling within a yard of the needle-pointed horns. For she may reflect that this same bony horse, did he not meet swift death in the sanded arena, might die less comfortably and more lingeringly—even of starvation—in Spain, a country where horseflesh is lightly regarded, and where the "friend of man" is an idiom untranslatable.
Best for her, too, if she watches the sight of sights, concentrating her thoughts, her emotions, and her philosophies upon the supreme moment of the trial when the matador takes the sword from his attendant, raises his hand in salute to the occupants of the tribunal—quaint survival of the gladiator's farewell—throws his cap across the barrier with that peculiar swing of his that is inimitable, and walks slowly towards the beast that awaits him in the centre of the arena.
TRAVELLERS who visit Spain write lurid impressions of their first bull-fight. They denounce it as inhuman, barbaric, and beyond defence. Then they go again to the bull-ring to see if their first impression was justified—and finding that it was, go a third time to make sure. By the time they have seen their sixth fight they are more bloodthirsty than the Spaniards, and shout for more horses and "fire" for the cowardly bull.
I have always enjoyed bull-fighting, because it throws me back to the days when my ancestors lived in caves and beat one another's heads off in the settlement of all disputes. If you love a horse the sight is sickening; if your fondness embraces all animal life, it is hopelessly cruel; if you are a vegetarian, it is sacrilegious.
For me, and for thousands of Britishers who know the story of bull-fighting and have studied its art, and can tell instantly the blundering kill from the clean, straight stroke of the master bull-fighling has fascinations which all its horrors cannot destroy.
And it is the last scene of all that draws you back and back again to the Plaza.
The bandilleros have played the bull, and the blarct of the trumpet calls them off. The bull stands trembling with rage in the circle of the gaily-coloured fighters. Then from the barrier, from his salute, comes a slight figure of a man, hatless, in his left hand a blood-red flag, in his right a thin, red-hilted sword.
A roar of greeting comes to him from the packed barreras, but he scarcely acknowledges it.
His thin, aesthetic face, the thick black eyebrows, the firm, delicately-shaped mouth are known from one end of Spain to the other. Now, the face is tense and white. Not with fear, for Machiquito does not know it, and some day this daring little man will end his days in the bull-ring.
He nears the group, and the play of cloaks begins. Flick! The bull turns as swift as lightning, and springs at the cloak. He misses by a hand's-breadth, and the flutter of another cloak sends him spinning in another direction. Now comes the delicate part of the day's work. Machiquito raises his red flag, and the bull jumps with a curious sidelong thrust of his head. A warning yell goes up from ten thousand throats, for the trained observers have seen that the bull is aiming at the man and not at the flag. Again the flicking of cloaks and the sharp, mad rushes and the hand's-breadth escapes. This is not for the fighter's amusement; it has a purpose. You may not kill a bull by the laws of the ring except he stand with feet in such a position and head at such a poise. So back and forward goes Machiquito's flag, till suddenly the bull stands still, and fighter and victim face each other.
The silence of death comes on the banked crowds, for the feet of the bull are in the right position, and the head is at the angle. Slowly the right hand of the matador rises and the sword lies level with his eye. In a moment the bull jumps, and Machiquito springs towards him—straight forward to what looks like certain death, so that his breast is between the horns of the bull, and his glittering coat scrapes the bull's forehead. There is a flash of steel...
You cannot from a humanitarian point of view defend bull-fights any more than you can prize-fighting or kicking the soul out of two-year-old horses for the sake of a 6 to 4 starting-price coup. It is brutal, it is often disgusting—it is, if you wish, the indication of national decadence—but it is the greatest "thrill" in the world.
(By Edgar Wallace, in the London Daily Mail)
THERE came to my bedside this morning a gaunt-faced waiter. He brought me a cup of coffee and a Portuguese newspaper. I cannot read Portuguese very well, but the trumpeting headline that ran across the page was easily translatable:—
HURRAH FOR THE FENIANS!
TEN minutes later I was in the street, driving as fast as two self-conscious horses of uncertain age could draw me to the house of a friend. My breathless message brought him from his bath, and I placed the paper in his damp hands.
"What about the revolution now?" I demanded. He read the article aloud. He read it in Portuguese, and Portuguese sounds like Spanish spoken with a German accent. Then he explained—:
"My dear man, this all about a harmless club that is making an excursion from Oporto to Lisbon in order to participate in one of our festivals."
"Lord! You mustn't take notice of what these chaps call themselves!"
And you must know that what he said was true.
This delightful land is a land of make-believe. It is a land where people say a great deal more than they mean; where language is given to encourage thought.
And it is a country, too, of poetic exaggeration.
"My house and all that I have is at your disposition," says the acquaintance of an hour, and the stranger, unused to such generosity, gasps at the magnificence of Portuguese hospitality. But, bless you, all that the Portuguese gentleman meant was, "If you happen to be passing my house, I hope you will pass!"
And the secret of this extravagance of speech and the simple explanation of it all is this: The Portuguese are a nation of lovers. They spend their lives in what Froissart calls "the admiration and service of dames." They call themselves idealists—but that is only part of their extravagance. They lisp compliments from babyhood, they traffic in superlatives from their youth up; they live for love, and side by side with the impassioned sonnets that fill their newspapers are the indescribable advertisements of quack nostrums.
So remember always that between the dreadful threat and the creamy compliment there lies a balancing point; quieta non movere.
There was a Portugal once that neither threatened nor promised—but acted swiftly, remorselessly, unswervingly.
Do you remember the story of Inez Castro—the fair Spaniard who secretly married a Portuguese Prince?
The nobles put Inez to death when her husband was away, because they feared her influence. But Pedro returned and carried fire and sword through the land, ravaged and ravished and tortured and slew like a wild fury. And a dead Queen, hastily exhumed, sat propped on a throne, and a chastened nobility did homage to the Thing that sat an the robes of Majesty. Inez was the tobacco question of her day—and was summarily settled. So was the revolution that followed; but the elements that were present in the year of grace 1355, and made a revolution possible, are no longer existent in Portugal.
I tell this story because my search for a revolution took me outside of Lisbon a few days ago, and I was reminded at Coimbra of the tragedy of at least one revolution that failed. For the town having proved unprofitable, I sought symptoms of the upheaval of Portugal in the country.
The peasants of the Tyrol stand on one leg and yodel, the peasants of Italy sell ice-cream in Fleet-street, the peasants of Russia groan under an oppressive Autocracy—this much I gather from popular literature devoted to these subjects. Here in rural Portugal the lower classes, who work for their living by raising vegetables for the upper classes, affect ridiculous bushy side-whiskers and find relaxation in tame bull-fights—for the Portuguese bull-fight is sadly unsanguinary.
Did I tell you that I went to the ring—that same ring where a month ago the naughty Republicans hissed the Queen—and witnessed the practice of the national sport? When it was all over an attendant woks me up and asked me if I would not like to go home bow, and I thought I would.
Later in the day I met an American tourist lady who wore the badge of the Philadelphia League of Animal Worshippers, and she enlarged on the decadent tastes of the Portuguese.
"Say, now, don't you think that Portuguese bull-fighting is real wicked?"
"I think it is dreadful," I replied, but I did not mean what she meant. A bull-fight in Portugal Is almost as exciting as Patience, but not quite so thrilling as "Ping-pong." But the people enjoyed it. They rose to a man, and cheered when things nearly happened, and in the end, when the bull, alive and well, was led from the arena by tame cows, especially trained for the service, their enthusiasm was boundless.
If out of pure contrariness, and to prove that I am no prophet, a revolution is started in Portugal; if, by reason of insubordination in the army and acts of mutiny in the navy, the stability of the throne is threatened, I shall be comforted by the remembrance of that bull-fight and confidently wait to see, at the worst, the padded flanks of monarchy prodded by the ball-pointed horns of Republicanism.
"And yet," mused my patient friend the journalist, "the greatest revolutionaries of all are we Portuguese and Spanish Latins. Look at South America! A hundred revolutions a minute. What was possible in Mexico and is possible in every South American republic, must be possible here. We have the same material, the same——" He shook his head despairingly. It was the nearest he had ever got to admitting the decadence of Portuguese character.
With a rattle the rifles came down together to the salute, and Boy Smith blew a flourish on his bugle.
Not very good order was kept, for the ground was naturally uneven and slippery with new-dug clay.
The junior lieutenant pulled his moustache nervously with a white gloved hand and consulted the sergeant, for this was the first job of its kind that he had ever been engaged in.
"What do we do now, sergeant?"
"March off, sir."
The subaltern nodded.
"Let's get out of this beastly place, for Heaven's sake; I'm caked with clay from head to foot."
He adjusted his brass helmet chain and ran his fingers over his buttons. A whispered suggestion from the sergeant, a falsetto order from the officer, and the party straggled off, regaining some kind of formation on the gravellbd roadway that led to the gate of the cemetery. Clear of the gate, the band crashed into a lively march, and the firing-party and the company behind got its step.
"There—is—a—tavern—in—the —town," roared the band, and the men stepped briskly.
"Take me a week to get this mud off," grumbled the right-hand man of the leading four.
"Same here," agreed his supporter.
CURIOUS pedestrians stopped to view the military pageant, and people on the tops of tramway-cars leant over.
"Poor old Mick," said one of the firing party. "Picture of 'ealth, wasn't 'e?"
"He'd have bin all right if 'e 'adn't gone to the hospital," said the party addressed, and the remark was passed along and approved with a gloomy nodding of heads.
"I remember one night me an' him was down at the Phoenix, an' a feller said—"
Here the sergeant spoke.
"Stop that talking, Brown."
A long, long pause, with only the tramping of feet and the joyous song of the band.
Adieu, adieu, adieu, adieu,
I can. no longer stay with you,
Stay with you.
The sergeant dropped back a little, until he was level with the colour-sergeant of the mourning company.
"I told him there was another way—if we'd come along the main road and turned off by the Clarendon."
"Coach and Horses," corrected the colour-sergeant.
"My mistake; if we'd turned off by the Coach and Horses we'd have saved about a mile."
"Why didn't he?" asked the despairing colour-sergeant.
"He said we'd better keep to the main road, and then we couldn't go wrong."
The colour-sergeant shook his head helplessly.
"I wonder they let a young chap like that take charge of a thing like this."
The officer under discussion was plodding along with an anxious eye for stealthy electric cars that whizzed past momentarily.
"I took him in a bit of tobacco," said the anecdotal man of the firing party relieved from the attentions of the sergeant.
"'How are you, Mick?' I sez.
"'Pretty bad, George. I don't think I shall ever get over this.'
"'Dry up,' I sez. 'You'll be out in a day or two, as right as ninepence.'
"'Straordinary thing," confessed the speaker, "'ow you say the wrong thing at the right time. I sez to him, 'Don't be down-hearted,' an' then I remembered 'e had heart disease. But 'e didn't see the joke in a manner of speakin'. 'I don't think they're givin' me the proper kind of medicine,' 'e sez."
The firing party marched and listen, and the youngest of them all offered a suggestion.
"Somebody ought to write to the papers about it."
"I can't say," said Fatty Johnson, the adjutant's groom, "that I exactly remember 'im—was he a little feller with a big nose?"
A chorus of corrections.
"No—a tall chap with red 'air—you knew 'im, Fatty—the chap that ueed to sing 'The Young 'Ero.'"
Fatty shook his head doubtingly.
"There was a little feller with a big nose," he insisted; "used to 'ang around the canteen a lot. Wasn't that him?"
THE sergeant was back again, and the firing party looked ahead, each man taking on the look of innocence which best suited him.
"Not much use speakin' to some of you men," added the sergeant by way of comment. "If you're not very careful a few of you will find yourselves in the guard-room before you're many days older."
The music stopped with a final crash, in which every instrument did its best to outshine the others.
"Have you ever noticed," asked the euphonium of the French horn, "'ow, when there's a garden party on, and you're engaged to play away, somebody always goes an' dies?"
French horn gave an impatient and sympathetic jerk of his head.
"Always the way," he admitted, and hastened to ask, "Who was he? I only came off leave just before we marched out."
"A chap in 'B' Company. Nice feller by all accounts; just joined from the second battalion."
"What was it?"
"Aneurism of the something aorta." The alto drummer, with a hospital course behind him, took advantage of the pause.
The band agreed that it was a very dangerous complaint, and were reasonably sympathetic. The subaltern had called the sergeant to him, and the firing party were again in a conversational mood.
"I cannot understand, sergeant, why we play lively music coming back from—er—an occasion like this."
The sergeant was deferential, and said he had often thought it was rather funny himself.
"Do you think that the idea is to cheer up the men?" asked the subaltern.
The sergeant smiled respectfully, and thought that there might be something in that.
"About this man, sergeant," the subaltern, went on; "this man we've—er—buried, don't you know. I suppose he's got friends and—er—relations—and next of kin, and all that sort of thing, what?"
"No relations at all, sir," said the sergeant.
The subaltern breathed a sigh of relief, for he was very young, very sentimental, and very tender-hearted.
"Pretty good thing," he said, and the sergeant agreed.
They were nearing barracks now, and the band-sergeant, looking over his shoulder, caught the eye of his men.
"Lincolnshire Poacher," he commanded. "Now, are you ready? One, two, three——"
For it's my delight,
On a starry night,
At this season of the year.
Through the barrack gate with a guard presenting arms.
Silence in the rank now, for they are turning on to the barrack square.
Two minutes later, as the dismissed company was melting away, the sergeant remarked to the colour-sergeant:
"The worst of funerals is that it breaks into the afternoon. There isn't time for a sleep, and it isn't time for tea."
"Come and have a drink," said the colour-sergeant wisely.
"DO you do much motoring?"
I made a flippant reference to the Arrow and Vanguard services.
"But have you done much motoring—have you owned a car?"
Once upon a time, as I related, I bought a German car with French engines. I also acquired a serious chauffeur and two acetylene lamps.
The car suffered from many ailments, most of which the serious chauffeur—he is a policeman now, poor fellow—was able to diagnose with accuracy, but none of which he was able to cure.
It was a nice-looking car, with a beautiful leather hood, and ran easily with two persons, or, without the hood three.
When I drove down-hill I got up terrible speed, especially if the hood was on ; but when it came to climbing hills I used to get out and walk ahead, pretending that the labouring machine behind and the red-faced chauffeur—more serious than ever—had nothing to do with me.
It was a nice car for the winter, because the works were under the seat, and they kept one's feet warm. Also in the summer the scent of petrol banished the moths from one's clothes.
I used to drive about in motor-goggles, and as people always associate goggles with speed I deceived a man into making me an offer for the car.
The letter containing this offer came by the night post, and I took a cab and drove to his house to accept. I did not take the car, because I wanted to reach him before he changed his mind.
As to motoring....
"But," persisted the inquiring enthusiast, "have you any idea of speed—have you ever travelled in a racing car, in a car that doesn't stop to think...?"
I cited the cars I had known—the 24-h.p. Coliseum, the 12-h.p. Little Wanderer, the 6- or 8- (as the case may be) h.p. Runaway....
"Very good," said the enthusiast, "I will call for you at ten to-morrow morning."
So he came.
He brought a machine. None of your rough-finished, soap-box seated racing cars painted like a dirty war-ship, but a sleek green Mercedes "60" touring car, all varnish and polished brass and silver fittings, with a fur-coated chauffeur lolling back in the armchair seat, and taking no interest in the proceedings.
"Are we going to a wedding?" I asked, and regretted that I had not put on a tie to match the car.
Then we started.
THE car was purring, like a tame cat, as we played musical chairs with the traffic of Ealing; it made no protest when asked to spring between a brewers' dray and a tramway car in Brentford High Street; it stopped dead before a nervous lady pedestrian, who was standing in the middle of the street debating whether to scream or faint, and reached Hounslow before we—the enthusiast and I—had finished saying what we had to say about nervous pedestrians.
Outside Hounslow we met the Blue Car, and the young man who drove the Blue Car sat without cap or goggles, his hair streaming out behind and a black smut on his nose. His expression was the expression common to all hardened chauffeurs—a reflective, thinking-of-mother expression.
The Blue Car was just ahead of us when we saw it. We did not know it was blue because it trailed a skirt off dust behind it that obscured the landscape. Later we leapt up to it, and got ahead. I think our dust must have annoyed the Blue Car very much, for between Hounslow and Basingstoke it sneaked past us at a level crossing.
Then we came to a great stretch of country inhabited by furze bushes and telegraph poles, and the fur-coated young man who sat by my side pulled down his goggles and slowly shifted a small lever on the steering wheel. Then for the first time I was conscious that a high wind blew. A wind that hammered my face and filled my lungs, a wind that roared about my ears till I was deafened. The Blue Car was ahead. Surely it had stopped. As we passed it I got one fleeting glimpse of the smutty-faced young man—supremely indifferent and still thinking of his mother. At the same time I noticed to my amazement that the Blue Car really was in motion, and that the telegraph poles that lined the road were passing with remarkable rapidity. Tho enthusiast leant over. "Sixty-five miles an hour," said his lips....
THERE was a village ahead, and we slowed down. Three little boys standing on the sidewalk displayed an inclination to "run across," and the chauffeur lifted an admonitory finger. The little boys stopped abashed, and we passed. The little boys who were the pioneers of the "running across" game are no longer with us to encourage the present generation.
We passed the outskirts of Basingstoke before we realised that we had left London. On the side-path an innocent old gentleman lifted a stick.... We stopped in twenty yards, and the chauffeur descended and made an inspection of his oil-gauges—an earnest inspection that took him several minutes. Not so the chauffeur of the Blue Car, who streaked past triumphantly—and was stopped twenty yards further on by a policeman.
The innocent old gentleman with the stick was one end of a "trap"—the waiting policeman the other. Alas! for the vanity of Blue Cars; we passed the group at a funeral pace—a policeman, a note-book, and a chauffeur with a smut on his nose.
In the open country again. Long, long stretches of white road, a wild; deserted world, and a slender spire on the sky-line.
Again the high wind, and the buffeting and the breathlessness and the whizzing telegraph poles and the throb, throb of the engine as the car flew across Salisbury Plain. A solitary cyclist ahead waved a hand, and we slowed.
He came up to us in a tremendous pace, and the tiny engine of his cycle working pipity-pipity-pipity-pip.
He passed like flash, but the waving hand said "trap" quite plainly, so we crawled. This time it was an innocent-looking agricultural labourer—with a walking-stick—and his pal was lying on the grass a mile further on—a measured mile.
And so the day passed, a procession of long roads, of fresh green hedges, quaint cottages, gardens ablaze with blossoms, rivers and wet meadows, gloomy stretches of plain, crooked, narrow streets of country towns, till night came.
By then we were moving towards London, two white beams of light thrown ahead showing the road. Ghostly figures rose from the road and passed; invisible cyclists came into the circle of light and vanished. Lumbering waggons filling up the road—with no light to show their presence—appeared, and were circumvented.
The blasé chauffeur, touching a handle here and a lever there, working with both hands and both feet, sends us along through the darkness—accurately, unswervingly. Isn't it a little dangerous perhaps for the cyclist, for the pedestrian?
A nervous young man wheeling ahead lost his presence of mind, wobbled, slipped, and fell in our track... but the car stopped almost in its own length, and the young man, dazed but voluble, called himself all kinds of a fool, and explained that he was a nervous idiot—hoped he hadn't alarmed us. We expressed our thankfulness that we had been able to pull up in time.
The chauffeur yawned.
IT is a grey, raw morning, and above the high blank wall the masts of the docked shipping show like a straggling copse of tall pines dimly through the river fog.
There is a distant clank and roar and tinkle, as great cranes swing monotonously from to chute, or from deck to quay, and with the impatient toots of invisible tug boats, fussily busy in the yellow mist, mingles the deep-throated bellow of the slow-moving liner, making cautious progress to its moorings.
Outside the dock-gate, a swaying, shouting mass of men; a great, twisting, writhing mob, fighting for some incomprehensible goal. How they fight! Like savage beasts, pitiless in their eagerness to attain their desire. Old men, grey of beard and white of face, stagger out of the scrum and fall back to watch their more robust fellows. Old men, with knotted hands and lean, stringy necks, who shake hopeless heads wearily.
"I've known the time," says one, "when I could have held my own with the best of 'em."
There is no resentment in the tone, only a helplessness, an infinite regret.
Then the weaklings who have hovered round the fringe of the mass fall away. Young weaklings, some of them, coughing harshly, and drawing tattered neck-cloths across their throats with thin hands.
"They ain't used to the game," says the old man contemptuously; "clerks they are. out of work clerks. They'll never get a chance with that lot. Now, when I was younger I could have held my own...."
THERE is a sharp word from the dockward edge of the crowd and the fighting ceases instantly. The mob melts into little streams that slowly meander in every direction. One burly man passes, wiping his forehead with a red handkerchief. To him the old man addresses a question.
"Only seven," is the answer good-naturedly given. "I thought I'd 'a' got on to-day. Whew! It's 'ot: Got a penny about yer?"
The old man shakes his head.
"Only had one day's work this week, Jim," he says, and the burly man with a curt nod passes on.
"How much have you earned this week?" I ask.
"Six and six," he replies. "I might 'a' got a day yesterday if I could 'a' pushed my way to the front. I've known the time...." he adds wistfully.
"What do you do for food?"
He regards me with some suspicion.
"Haven't had any to-day," he says.
"How old are you?"
"Seventy-two," he answers simply.
A little man saunters by, pinched of face and heavy-eyed. He nods to the old man and stops, and they talk of docks and ships, and times gone by.
"Been up since four," says the little man: "I thought I was going to be strangled over there"—he jerks his thumb in the direction of the dock gates—"haven't done a stroke for six weeks."
Then he made a statement which is so peculiar to the cheaper form of melodrama that I hesitate to repeat it. The reader will understand my feelings, and the curate who warned me the other day against retailing lurid stories will accept my apologies, for what the man said with all simplicity was:
"My wife and children are starving, and I haven't eaten food for two days."
Frankly, I did not believe the latter part of his statement till I saw him eat. I did not credit the story of the wife and children till I had walked home with him. He is an "upstairs" lodger. He lives in the front room, and so does his wife, a pleasantly-spoken woman, who prior to her marriage was a domestic servant.
IN the same room live seven children, two of whom have measles, and one, a baby of seven months, is, unless I am at fault, sickening rapidly for croup. You might not think there was space in a small room for nine, but, by a fortunate dispensation of providence, very little of the available space is occupied by furniture.
From a purely hygienic point of view the conditions, if not perfect, are favorable, for the walls and the floors are bare. The cheap chromographs and engravings of the "Black Brunswicker" order are gone. They fetched as much as a shilling a piece. The little glass ornaments and the distorting mirror have been turned into bread and coal, so have the sound chairs, and the small table and the strip of carpet. There is still a bedstead left. I mentally valued that at threepence.
The children had had bread, collected from house to house: the sick children had had milk, a quart being allowed by the relieving-officer. The mother and the father had had nothing. And the man was a teetotaller. Drink, which the glib-tongued ; specialists of the West End adduce as the essence of all poverty—it is more often the effect—was in no way responsible for this misery.
It was a whimsical conceit of mine, but I could not resist the temptation. As I turned to go down the stairs I asked the man: "Are you a believer in the 'big loaf of free trade?'"
He was no politician, for he was somewhat mystified by the question.
"I don't know what you mean," he said awkwardly: "I believe in any loaf I've got the money to buy—if you haven't got work you can't buy bread, can you?"
He said this quite innocently, and I do not for one moment imagine that he knew the significance of .his simple conclusions.
—Edgar Wallace, in the Daily Mail.
THE man on the extreme right of the line fidgeted uneasily. He looked round with a frown to the corporal a little behind and saw me. I wore the red cross brassard over my civilian jacket. This he saw, and wriggled uncomfortably.
"There ought to be somebody on the right here," he grumbled. "Bit too conspicuous bein' on the extreme right...."
He had never been under fire before, so his perturbation was natural. It is much easier to fight shoulder to shoulder than in extended order; it is even easier to fight in extended order, if you have a man on either side of you.
I told him to sit down—the other men of the line were sprawling at ease, waiting for the word to advance.
"How does it feel?" he asked.
"Rotten," said I truthfully, "but only for a minute or so."
"When are they going to begin?" he demanded, and scowled at the blue line of hills ahead bathed in a white hot flood of sunshine.
Far away to the right the cavalry was moving forward. They went ahead very slowly, as though uncertain of their direction.
They moved to the right, and halted—then they went on again, still slowly, reluctantly, and finally disappeared in a fold of the yellow ground.
"Waiting for the guns," I said, and looked behind.
Yes, there they were, four batteries in four straight lines stretching backward. Now they were moving left and right, and presently, when they touched suitable ground, they would deploy.
Out of the blue hills ahead, as though from some rent of a crater, drifted a long wisp of white smoke.
"Ladies and gentlemen." The voice, strident and clear, was the voice of a soldier squatting on the ground, his elbows on his knees, his chin in his hands. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are just about to begin. Come-and-see-the-big-guns-of-the-enemy—"
"Fall in!" The line came to its feet.
Like a growl of thunder came the report of the gun on the hill. Over to the right, where the cavalry had disappeared, a big fountain of earth leapt straight into the air, another wisp of smoke from the hill, another and another, and even in the sunlight you saw the quick lick of flame.
"Duck, ye devils!"
A man on the left gives the warning, and as the new men obey him a roar of laughter sweeps along the line. A great joke to see the new men duck their heads as, with a roar like that of a train passing through a station, something flies overhead and buries itself in the soft earth to the rear of the line.
The man on the right wipes his forehead with the back of his hand, and looks back curiously at the place where the shell struck.
"Nice thing—ain't it?" he asks in a tone of complaint and despair, "bein' hit by a thing like that—phew."
Our guns are in action behind us—and there go the cavalry—far, far to the right—slow no longer, but sweeping swiftly forward to their invisible goal. All the sides of the blue hills are hazy with smoke now.
"Pang! Pang! Pang!"
Our guns are going furiously. Little puffs of white smoke hang over the hill ahead; you hear the echo—like the sound of exploding shrapnel.
"'S'awful, ain't it"
The man on the right is changing his attitude. His voice has lost the note of terror, and there has come a hint of admiring interest. Even in his "'S'awful," he would not have it less awful for worlds. The shock has passed, he has experienced his worst sensation, and is now blooded to war.
"How long are they going to keep us here?" he asks, and you know that if he wants to move it is forward.
The whine of shells overhead is incessant, but presently you detect a difference of sound.
The shrapnel now, high-pitched, perfectly timed, and scattering as well-behaved shrapnel should do. It patters on the ground like rain, and men edge to the left and right instinctively.
"Line will advance—keep your distance —plenty of time, my lads."
A red-faced lieutenant, obviously ablaze with excitement, nurses his platoon, walking ahead of them, now walking backward like a Salvation Army captain, now throwing his words across his shoulder. He is young and without experience, but he is obsessed with the sense of his responsibilities.
"Keep your lines—nothing to worry about—march on the centre—"
A piping voice from the ranks arrests him.
"Beg pardon, sir your bootlace is untied."
A ripple of quiet laughter, a broad grin on the face of the major commanding the company, and the red-faced officer stoops, fumbling at his lace, and the line passes him. He is back soon, running to overtake them.
The shrapnel is bursting behind them. Six—seven—eight shells; then the enemy get the range. A man slips forward and goes sprawling to the earth with outstretched hands. The man at his right hesitates, and looks down at the silent, bleeding figure.
"Leave that man!"
The major swings round and roars the order:
"Leave him, confound you—leave him!"
So they leave him on the ground for the Royal Army Medical Corps, which will be working up from the rear.
Onward, onward, slowly, slowly, but always onward. Over gentle rises of ground where men crouch low as they walk, down deep hollows, and up the slope on the other side.
The skirmishing line is under rifle fire now. It whistles and whiffles about them; it sends the dust spurting up at their feet.
"Take cover in that donga—double!"
Now they are running swiftly to the first line of cover. Men go down here and there, but the man on the right doesn't seem to care. He is full of eager excitement, swings ahead of the line, and is gruffly checked by his officer.
They make the cover and crouch, panting and chuckling.
"Six hundred yards—commence firing! "
Up till now they haven't fired a shot. But now the well-oiled bolts are clicking all along the line, and the yellow cartridges are tinkling to the chamber.
At first lazily, and then in a fury of rattling sound, the rifles are going off.
"Aim steadily! That streak of yellow ahead is the trench! Steady, now—don't waste ammunition! What the devil are you firing at, Jackson—the moon?"
The shrapnel has the range again, and is bursting accurately over the cover.
"Line will advance—double!"
Out of the donga they scramble, a thousand yellow coats, and fly as fast as legs can carry across the bare patch of ground which separates them from the enemy. A whistle shrills, and obediently the thousand sink to earth, taking what cover they can. More whistles—the extended line is closing stealthily on the centre. Another rush forward—again the whistle, then—
How they rattle, those bayonets, how they "snick" down to groove and catch!
You can see the trenches plainly, you can feel the men in them. The air is all shrill sound, and the bursting shrapnel overhead is a ceaseless clatter.
It is the wild, exultant cry of the colonel—the only man who may address the regiment by its title.
"Winchesters, follow me—charge!"
Up they leap, a savage, glittering line.
With one wild yell—a throaty and roaring yell like a harsh and sustained "Ahr-r-r!"—the line breaks into a jogtrot run. Men spin round and fall, men sink limply like tired children, men swear at their comrades who get in the way, but the line, as a coherent, terrible force, drives forward to the end of the trenches, and the bayonets rise and fall....
The colonel shakes his bleeding hand and blinks round for his man, and the corporal, with his swung tripod, fixes its three legs into the earth and adjusts his mirror.
"Heliograph to the general: 'Taken first line of the trenches. Enemy is now retiring on second line.'"
The man on the right, balancing his rifle, turns and smiles.
"I hope we're going to take the second line," he says. "How did I feel under fire? Fine! I forgot all about everything, but what I forgot first was—that I was under fire"
That is always the way.
"... visited the London district last night and dropped incendiary and explosive bombs." —Official Report.
It is curious, thought I, that the cinema film of the French trenches, showing the danger in which men stand in war, evoked so little applause from a crowded house. They took everything for granted, this audience—the danger, the wreckage of buildings, the everlasting vigilance of the men at the loop-holes.
I wondered what would happen if a prowling Zeppelin dropped a bomb slap through the gilded roof of this luxurious little hall. Would the audience sit as stolidly, and would the listless young man behind me turn to his bored companion and drawl, "Oh," I've seen that sort of thing before."
"But what would you do, Edgar Wallace?" demanded the inner part of me.
I should have a big spasm of funk, I confessed. I have been under fire many times. I should not like to say how many. I have been industriously sniped by the finest marksmen in the world, I have felt my horse quiver and cough beneath me before he went down on his Knees and rolled over, kicking away what was left of his life: I have been shelled by big gun and little in a score of small and big actions. And every new experience—and it was new if a day or two of immunity intervened—brought to me the same spasm of cold fear, the same bone-dryness of mouth, the same little tremble of hand. It doesn't last very long—the third or fourth shell restores you to your normal phlegm, but, whilst it lasts, it is humiliating.
So what right have I to sit in judgment of these callous folk who have heard nothing more shocking than the pop of a ginger-beer cork?
The streets in this particular portion of the London District were crowded, and I walked slowly in the direction of my home.
I stood for a moment at the corner of one of the principal streets, watching the people, and glanced, as has become a habit, at the sky. One star shone with remarkable brilliance in the south-western heavens. A fine, unblinking spot of light. Now if Zeppelins carried searchlights, that might be.... But Zeppelins, though popularly supposed to carry this picturesque equipment, do not show it. And as I watched, noting the fineness of the night, a momentary glance, as swift and vivid as summer lightning lit the sky, throwing into relief the nearby roofs and chimney pots....
That twinge of panic which I had not experienced for thirteen years came to me, for I knew all that that flicker of hot light portended.
There was no mistaking that.
The leisurely throng checked in its walk and half turned. A man and girl in front of me stood stock still, the man with a frown, the girl O-mouthed.
"Zep'lins!" said the man breathlessly.
It was the nearest approach to panic that I saw. Into the dark sky leapt two white beams of light. They wavered for what seemed an eternity as they searched not hurriedly, but systematically, for the offender.
Up leapt another beam and another, and yet another, and then, as if acting in unison, they concentrated on one spot.
There it was!
Something for all the world like a torpedo-shaped cigar. It moved serenely in a halo of light unperturbed by the sudden exposure. There was a certain majesty in the spectacle, a certain awfulness which was more than a little impressive.
There it sailed ten thousand feet above man's earth, its invisible gondola crowded with men, its unseen propellers whirling—an atom in space charged with the task of terrifying six millions of people.
Serene it might be, for just so long as it takes to open a breech-block and slip in a cartridge. Already in half-a-dozen gun positions keen-eyed men were glancing along the sights.
There was a crash, and another, and another.
Something whined through the darkness, three splashes of light burst about the cigar—three points of soft light, such as you may see from any headland when the incoming liner spells her number in fire.
Again came the muffled roar of a bomb, but now the guns were banging furiously. Above, below, to the right and left of the shape; the stars of light were flickering and fading. Moving through a mist of smoke the machine nose-dived a full thousand feet earthward.
But it recovered and sped upward, pointing its blue nose to the sky.
It turned first to the westward as though it contemplated returning, then to the northward, then to the westward again....
It seemed like a thing baffled and cornered and seeking a way of escape. For now every searchlight in the district was on it—whichever way it moved, the inexorable light followed.
I stood amidst a wholly-curious crowd—a crowd which showed no sign of panic, not even, when the ghost shape appeared as though he would return; a crowd which cheered the marksmanship of the unknown gunners, that cheered the clanging fire-engines as they raced through the street towards the glare from the sky, a glare which grew from copper to crimson as the moments passed.
One lady alone did I meet who showed any sign of terror. She was a flower-seller who watched the disappearing ambassador of Kultur with her nose wrinkled apprehensively.
"My Gawd!" she said, "I'm glad my boy's safe in the army!"
WOMAN the warrior has taken her place in the ranks of the great industrial army which, at the moment of writing, is helping to win the war for England and her Allies.
Her arrival on the scene is a cause for misgiving. Men she has replaced are speculating upon the possibilities of the future, not realising that Britain is in the position of a great factory which has always been understaffed, and that there are not sufficient men in the country for the adequate development of her industries.
THE after-the-war difficulty will not be, how shall we find work for men, but, how shall we get the men we require?
Woman has already supplied half the answer to that question. She has made it abundantly clear that she can take certain jobs and release men not only for fighting with rifle and bayonet, but with lathe and machine in the war which is to follow the war.
If modern man is puzzled as to woman's future place in industry, how much more would be the ancient philosophers, if you could transport them from the spaces of immortality and engage their minds in the problem which is presented by the war woman and her future. Euripides saw his ideal in one who "remained quiet within the home." Socrates would have set his face most resolutelv against the modern war-worker, believing that her introduction into man's spheres would react to his disadvantage.
"Woman, once equal to man, becomes his superior," he said, and in the terms of equality he must have included her equality of opportunity.
ENGLAND asks, and asks in all seriousness, what is to be the position of woman when the war is ended? Will she retire gracefully into the oblivion from whence she came? Will the neat 'bus-conductresses, the messenger-girls, the women ticket-collectors and inspectors, the lift-girls, and the like—will these go back to whatever was their task before the exigencies of war brought them to fill man's place?
The answer is "No."
The returned men will come against Woman the Warrior—woman, who, obeying the unerring instinct which every mother-heart holds, the instinct, not of self-preservation, but race-preservation, will oppose the return of men to jobs which women can fill. Not necessarily the women who are at present employed in work which the majority regard as temporary, but the army of women who will march along the path which these pioneers have cut.
Let this be remembered: that nothing so rouses the scorn of womankind as the spectacle of men filling women's jobs. There never was a woman who respected a shop-walker or counter-clerk. There never was a woman who did not regard a male domestic with contempt. The only domestic servants of a household that the educated woman ever met on anything like human terms were the groom or the chauffeur—because they were doing men's work, and work which was too heavy for a woman to perform.
WOMEN require manliness in men. They demand the exhibition of strength or exceptional ingenuity. They have implanted in them the consciousness that life is a mental progression, and that mentality is, or should be, one of the most important weapons in man's equipment.
The woman comes to replace men who are either physically unfitted for manual labour, or were occupying positions which rendered it unnecessary for the job holders to employ their superior physical gifts. Those men, replaced by women, went into the Army or, in other words, went into physical training.
There is no reason why, at the end of the war, such men should revert to boy-jobs. There is no reason in the world why they should not be absorbed by the factories, which should be increased in number, and should be fully occupied in meeting the heavy demands consequent upon trade recovery after the war.
WE need more than an army to fight—we shall need a great manufacturing army.
Germany exported to England alone enormous quantities of manufactured goods which will have to be made at home. She also exported these to Russia and to France —and we shall secure a portion of that trade.
A million pounds worth of motor chassis came from Germany—that million (or a greater part) will be spent in England. £300,000 extra will be paid in wages— 2000 or 3000 men must be found additional to those who were being employed before the war in motor-car manufacture. Women will largely replace the men who go into the factories. £3,000,000 worth of chemicals ; £700,000 worth of earthenware (the raw material came from Cornwall and Devon!); nearly £7,000,000 worth of soft goods, gloves, hosiery, lace, etc., came from Germany (here is employment for 20,000 or 30,000, mostly women); boots and shoes to the amount of £1,500,000; iron, steel, electrical goods, machinery, etc., £10,000,000 (20,000 to 30,000 extra workmen required).
How are we to obtain the skilled man labour to cope with the demand upon our industries which must inevitably follow the end of the war?
It must be drawn from those departments of industry which have hitherto attracted the unskilled labour.
New armies of mechanics mean new armies of clerks, messengers, and carriers. Our greatest problem will not be to oust woman, since woman, the warrior, is not to be ousted, but to persuade her to continue in the work which she is now performing.
I HAVE been at some pains to discover the feelings of the women themselves upon this very important subject, and I append a few typical cases, showing the considerable difficulties which employers of labour will experience when the war is over.
Let it be remembered that there are few skilled machinists or engineers at the Front. They are included in the two million now engaged, in munition work. Let it be remembered, too, that their numbers must be considerably augmented, and that thousands of men who left boy-jobs will come back to men's work.
That is a point which I would very strongly emphasise. The lift-men, the messengers, the ticket-inspectors—who are amongst the poorest paid of workers—will find more lucrative employment elsewhere. The employer may be faced with the alternative of women or nothing. The present great army of women employed are merely the pioneers of woman labour in unusual occupations. From what I have been able to gather, they themselves regard their work as purely temporary and for the duration of the war only, and the majority do not seriously consider the possibility of continuing in their present occupations.
H.B., before the war was a waitress in a tea shop. She is now a conductress. After the war she will marry her "boy," who is now serving in France with a heavy gun detachment. She is not greatly enamoured of her present job, save that it gives her a certain authority which is pleasing.
H.M., before the war was a "bookkeeper"—a vague description which when worked out proved to be a cash-girl at a stationery shop. She is now working a Tube lift, and prefers the work. She likes the authority she possesses, which is in contrast to her previous position. After the war she hopes to marry and "settle down." She has no young man in France, but harbours the faith that "Mr. Right" will one day float into her orbit.
K.V., before the war was a shorthand typist (not a particularly good one, and probably only in the novice stage). She is now engaged in a munition shop, and "likes the life"—and the wages. She is married, and (during the war) her husband is in France. When he returns, she will not go out to business as her husband objects.
K.C., before the war a domestic servant (there are very few domestic servants to be met with, but this is probably due to the fact that the girls will not admit that occupation), now employed as conductress. Likes the work, but "too hard for a woman." Regards her profession as essentially a war-time product. After or during the war will marry a man now engaged in munition work.
S.J., before the war of no occupation, lived with her parents, now a conductress. Educated at Cheltenham. Advanced views on woman's place in the world. Young, and has no desire to continue working after the war. Gives her wages to a benevolent fund (for 'busmen).
M.A.O., before the war of no occupation. Soldier's widow. Has two children. Now employed as messenger. Likes the work, and especially cycling. Says she wishes to continue, "as it is only boys' work." Very intelligent girl, and holds the view that all boys should be compelled to serve an apprenticeship at some trade or other, but only for three years. After that, apprenticeship should be voluntary. This would give women such work as messengers, lift-boys, bell-boys, and booking-clerks do.
R.C., before the war a shorthand-typist and secretary, now in a railway ticket-office. She likes the work, but finds it very exacting. After the war she will marry.
I HAVE conducted inquiries into some 150 cases, and these are the facts that stand out:
IT will be seen that few of these women regard their positions in the light of a permanency, and that is as it should be. The type of mind that looks upon a job which requires little skill and practically no strength as enjoying any permanence, is a singularly weak one, and is a source of weakness to the nation. The unskilled labour market should be stirred up at frequent intervals, and if women supplied the majority of workers in that market the stirring up would be more or less automatic.
THE minds of the majority of women are fixed upon marriage, settlement, and domestic duties. Not two per cent, of the young women who go to work regard their career as permanent. It is rather the interregnum between school and marriage, an awkward interregnum, where their boundless energy, their youth, and their natural desire for a certain financial independence urge them to energetic action.
Roughly speaking, the average working life of a woman—and by working life I mean that period in which she is employed outside of her home—is about eight years. The average working life of a man is about thirty. For this reason alone there will always be a considerable shortage of woman labour, if employers decide, as they must decide, in retaining women in those posts for which the war has proved they are best fitted.
The decision, as it happens, does not rest entirely with employers. Woman herself has marked down the billets she can hold as creditably and as adequately as her male competitor. It is all to the good that she has arrived at such a decision, for without her we might find ourselves faced with the alternative of importing labour or restricting our output of manufactures.
IT is given to very few men to bear in history the proud title of "Saviour of his Country." We might perhaps say this of Sir Francis Drake, who, in the critical hour of his country's fortune, aided by extraordinary climatic conditions, destroyed the Armada and freed England from the ; greatest menace which had ever confronted her. We might perhaps say the same of Nelson in different circumstances, and by a degree of Wellington. Yet we know behind the deeds of those great commanders, and overlain with the story of the complete accomplishment, were valorous acts of men unknown to history whose initiative and genius made these national victories possible.
We sometimes ask wonderingly why the German did not win the first year of the war, when he had all advantages of numbers and equipment, when he had superior masses of artillery, and his army was organised more perfectly than any army had been that ever took the field. And even if we can find some explanation as to why he failed on the Marne, it is yet difficult to understand why he did not, with the powerful forces under his control, sweep through Ypres and establish himself on the coast.
The explanation of his failure is to be found in the genius of one man and the valour and splendid discipline of one battalion. Many regiments of extraordinary bravery contributed to his defeat. The old Army, and particularly the 1st and the 7th Divisions, accomplished miracles; but there was one battalion of Midlanders who struck at the crucial moment and whose success turned what might have been a rout, and would have certainly been a disaster, into a German defeat.
Who, then, was the man who saved England?
Some readers will remember an incident in the Boer War, which, because it occurred at the outbreak of hostilities, will be recalled when other and more significant actions have faded from the memory. I was on my way to the Front in South Africa, when I was handed at De Aar a newspaper telegraphic despatch describing this singularly gallant little act. An armoured train operating from Mafeking had gone out against the Boers and had got into difficulties. I believe there was a derailment and things were going badly for the devoted crew of the train, when a gallant little party made a sortie from Mafeking under the leadership of an officer named FitzClarence.
FitzClarence and his party of fifty men extricated the train from its position, fought off the attacks of the enemy, and brought the train in triumph to the beleaguered town.
It was this same FitzClarence who on October 31st, 1914, commanded a battalion which was not in his brigade, not even in his division, and employed it to such purpose that the German's irresistible advance was checked and held.
On that date we were falling back under the superior pressure of the enemy toward Ypres. On the very ground where Sir Douglas Haig's gallant soldiers are now repaying the German with terrible interest for all they suffered in 1914 the battered 1st and 7th Divisions were holding up the attack of 80,000 picked troops of the German army. They were astride of the Menin road.
The juncture of the 1st Division and the 7th was to the north of that road and a little to the north of the village of Gheluvelt, whilst on the right of the 7th Division was the 3rd Cavalry Brigade. Against the latter, whose centre was the ridge of Zandvoorde. the enemy directed the fiercest of his attacks, and under a hail of fire which decimated the splendid Cavalry regiments of the British Army our men were pressed back.
This retirement left the right of the 7th Division "in the air." That is to say, there was a big gap of more than a mile between the left of the broken cavalry and the right of the 7th, and in consequence the 7th Division was compelled to bring back and seek a junction with the cavalry. This left a very sharp salient about Gheluvelt, and the enemy lost no time in taking advantage of the situation which was created. Naturally he pushed his heaviest attacks against the unsupported right of the 7th Division, which was pressed back to the Klein Zillebeke ridge, the 2nd Scots Fusiliers, which formed the left of the line, being annihilated.
At the same time he sent a furious attack against Gheluvelt. Reckless of death, the Germans units came wave after wave, supported by an unprecedented artillery bombardment, and the line before Gheluvelt was crushed. It was a case of "Save who can," and the remnants of the 1st Division began to straggle back, leaving only the South Wales Borderers to hold the enemy in check. It was a moment for a supreme decision, and the man who could have made that decision was naturally the general officer commanding the 1st Division, General Lomax.
By one of those terrible coincidences which occur in all battles, and come even to human beings when luck is against them, the disaster of the broken line was followed by yet another. Lomax and his staff, standing at their headquarters and viewing the distant battle, were destroyed by the bursting of a German shell. Not only the general and his six staff officers were killed, but General Munro, who commanded the 2nd Division, was struck down, and remained unconscious for an hour.
So here we had this remarkably situation. We had been driven out of Gheluvelt, our line was broken, a victorious enemy was advancing with perilous rapidity in such a direction that he could not fail to smash in between the armies of the north and the armies of the south, and of the two men who could have directed the operations one was dead and the other was unconscious.
Let there be no mistaking this fact, that the loss of Gheluvelt meant the loss of the French coast. The German would have been established at Calais, and the raids which we are now experiencing would have been of daily occurrence throughout 1915 and 1916. The whole of the Belgian army would have been cut off and captured. The 1st Corps and the 2nd Corps could not possibly have extricated themselves and if the German had gone another mile the British Expeditionary Force would have been practically wiped out of existence.
And then a miracle happened. Marshal French and Sir Douglas Haig, hurrying to the scene of the battle, knowing no more than that the worst that could possibly happen was a fact and that Gheluvelt, "an extremely important strategic point, had been taken by the enemy," prepared, as I say, for the most momentous, the most terrible disaster that had ever overtaken a British Army, were thunderstruck by the receipt of the news that the German rush had been stopped, and that Gheluvelt had been retaken by the British. One does not doubt that Field Marshal Viscount French could not believe the good news; and yet it was true,
FitzClarence was the Brigadier-General commanding the lst Guards' Brigade. He had watched the disaster near at hand, and had seen his splendid forces ovewhelmed, and then he had sent in his last reserves, though he must have thought that it was humanly impossible to save the day. And when his last reserves had gone he mounted his horse and rode calmly up toward Gheluvelt to share the fate of his brigade.
He was a man who knew no fear. He wore the Victoria Cross, which he had earned three times over in South Africa; but with his fearlessness he had the intuition of a great commander.
He discovered before he had gone far that there was another battalion waiting in reserve to the south of Polygon Wood. This was the 2nd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment. It was not in his brigade, and technically he had no right to issue any orders without consulting the Brigadier.
He sent for the commanding officer, Colonel Hankey, and told him what he intended doing. Colonel Hankey was naturally reluctant. He was at the disposal of his own Brigadier, and it might be that the division to which he was attached would require the reserves which his battalion represented.
But he saluted and turned back to his battalion, and in a few minutes the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment was marching forward under a terrific cannonade and deploying so close to the enemy's position that they left over a hundred men between their deployment and their occupation of the first trench.
With a dash which had never been surpassed, with a steadfastness beyond all praise, the Worcestershires went forward in the face of death, and carried with their bayonets the defences of the village, fighting from house to house in one of the most bloody engagements of the war, and established themselves on the ground whence the British Army had been driven.
It was the most fateful counter-attack in the war, and it was carried out by about 6OO men; but mark the consequence! The gap was filled. The left of the 7th division came back to its original position, and the breach which had existed between the 7th and the 1st was made good.
By ten o'clock that night we had recovered all the ground we had lost in the morning, and the Kaiser, who himself was on the battlefield and had come down in the firm belief that a road would be made for him to Calais itself, went back to headquarters a sick and disappointed man.
It is perhaps difficult to make the non-military reader appreciate the significance of individual actions. There is apparently no difference between the taking of one village and the taking of another, and the consequence of our failure to hold one seems fraught with no greater danger than our failure to hold a village at some other part of the line. But because the British are more of a military people than the German, I do not think that you at home can fail to recognise what you owe to this man and this battalion.
FitzClarence is dead. He fell like the hero he was and as he would have himself desired, at the head of the 1st Irish Guards days after he had saved the line and long days before a confused public opinion could apportion him the praise which was his due.
His name should be enshrined in every heart and in every home. He should take his place with the greatest figures of the war: with Smith-Dorrien, whose wonderful action at Le Cateau preserved the British Expeditionary Force; with Haig, who saved us from disaster at Festubert; with the great men of all ranks who have cheerfully made the supreme sacrifice for Britain and her people.
By Edgar Wallace in Tit Bits.
DO not think that because the German failed to understand British psychology that he is a bad psychologist. Nobody has ever understood the British, or ever will. The truth is that the German is a greater psychologist than any other race in Europe, and he was certainly the first man to discover the antidote to Bolshevism.
He knows better than any that the Spartacist derived his strength, not from the millions which Lenin supplied, but from the falling off in the supply of music, especially brass music. To-day Berlin is infinitely more peaceful than Luton. Its beaten people are calmer than the folks on the Clyde or the workers of Coventry. The Berliner goes about his business, takes a shrewd, clear view of the situation, and is working rapidly to rebuild the shattered finances of the country, and he has come to sanity because some genius suggested that Bolshevism was a disease which was as effectively destroyed by music as most other diseases are destroyed by sunshine.
THE bug of Bolshevism withers and dies under the beneficent action of Tannhäuser, even if Tannhäuser be played in ragtime. To-day Berlin simply blares. Every beer-garden, every café has its band. There are bands at the street corners, and bands in the park. The German trombone is blowing Bolshevism across the Dwina, and if she can only keep pace with the demand, and can train her bandsmen as quickly as we trained our soldiers, she should have Europe at her feet before the end of the year.
A month ago one of those precious Bolshie commissioners of Moscow, who spend their time alternately in signing death warrants and remitting their perquisites to relatives in Sweden, announced with great pride that bourgeoisie bands were forbidden, and that music was not the least hateful attribute of the aristocracy.
Russia is well nigh bandless. Only the Cossacks retain their jingling bells—and only the Cossacks have any kind of good government. In Britain we are suffering from a brass band famine. Yorkshire, which is one of the most truculent of the labour centres, was once a model of industrial virtue, but those were the days when Besses o' th' Barn was Yorkshire's pride, and when brass band contests brought hundreds of thousands of rapt visitors to the centres where these contests were held.
WALES before the war was one of the most musical countries in the world, and although an Eisteddfod of sorts is still held, and bards are crowned, Wales is practically musicless, with the result that it is even more discontented than Yorkshire. All this may read fantastic, but there are the facts beyond question or doubt. Where the band flourishes Bolshevism dies; in the citadels of Bolshevism the B-flat cornet is not heard.
It is, therefore, the imperative duty of the Government to summon not the Labour leaders, but the band conductors to conference. All our resources must be pressed into use and the Salvation Army must play a real part in national reconstruction.
A start might be made by engaging Sir Henry Wood's orchestra to play in the House of Commons Gallery—their very harmony would qualify them for a place in the Distinguished Strangers' Gallery—and it should be the penalty of dullness that the addresses of any honourable member lacking in the power of oratory should coincide with a selection from one of the light operas.
And what a triumphant finish to a premier's speech if it could end on a chord or be followed by "Land Of Our Fathers"!.
THERE should be a band kept in readiness in Whitehall, ready to dash away in motor-lorries to the scene of any local agitation. If before the stone-throwing and the window-smashing began a syncopated orchestra could be rushed to the spot, if only on the pretext of playing the mayor out of ihe back door, what expense might be saved!
I am not mad when I suggest that every police station should be equipped with a cornet or that no inspector should be appointed to his rank until he had taken a course at Kneller Hall.
The Germans have always known the political value of music; Luther himself has described it as "the art of the prophets" and "the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul." And did not Shakespeare, that amazing seer, foresee exactly the present condition of the British mind when he said:
The man that hath no music in himself...
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.
Congreve, yet another prophet, advocated the anti-Bolshevik treatment when he told us that music had charms to soothe the savage breast.
LET us have bands of music at every corner if necessary. Let us even have a Ministry of Music with under-secretaries and armies of typists—but let us have music.
In Hungary, where the fiddlers come from, there is such a scarcity of violins that the instruments are practically unprocurable. Do you wonder that Bela Kun usurped authority and remained in control until a few weeks ago? That his hurried departures coincided with the arrival of large consignments of fiddles from Austria is more than likely.
The plausible and sinister adventurer who, for the love of gain and of an easy life, preys upon women, is a familiar figure in the history of crime. Camille Holland was fifty-six when Dougal captured her affections, and the unhappy romance of a rich old maid led to her murder at this infamous scoundrel's hands. The crime might have gone unpunished but for one damning clue. It was a pair of shoes which brought Dougal to the scaffold after the lapse of years.
AT the age of fifty-six a spinster may well be resigned to an old maid's life. Into the life of Camille Cecille Holland romance had not come, though it was inevitable that she should possess her dreams. For she was a woman of imagination. She scribbled sentimental little stories, and painted in water-colours sentimental little landscapes—mills and ponds and green woodlands—pleasant, pretty scenes.
Camille Holland did not look her years: most people thought she was forty. A certain refinement of face and trimness of figure, an exquisite smallness of foot (her chief pride) lent to her an attractiveness which is unusual in women who have passed through many loveless years, "living in boxes," having no home but the boarding-house and cheap hotels which she frequented, and no human recreation but the vicarious acquaintanceships she formed in her uneventful journeyings.
She could afford an occasional trip to the Continent; she could afford, too, other occasional luxuries, for her aunt, with whom she had lived many years at Highbury, had left her the substantial fortune of £7,000, invested in stocks and shares, which brought her from £300 to £400 a year. Amongst her investments was £400 invested in George Newnes, Limited, which shares were to play an important part in the detection of one of the cruellest crimes of the century.
Living as she did, it was natural that she had few friends. There was a nephew in Dulwich, who saw his aunt occasionally; there was a broker to whom she was known, and a banker on whom she sometimes called. Very few tradesmen knew her, because she ran no accounts, buying in whatever town she happened to be, and paying cash.
IT was in the early days of the Boer War, when military men had acquired the importance which war invariably gives to them, that a smart-looking, bearded man called at the boarding-house in Elgin Crescent, Bayswatcr, where Miss Holland was in residence. He had evidently met Miss Holland, for he sent up a card inscribed "Captain Dougal," and was immediately received by the lady in her hostess's drawing-room. He appeared a great friend; he came again and again, took the lady out for long strolls in Hyde Park, and once they went to dinner and to a theatre together.
The devotion of Captain Dougal must have brought to realisation one of the romantic dreams of this spinster whom love had passed by, and she warmed to his subtle flattery, his courtesy and his obvious admiration. When, in his manly way, he confessed to her that he was unhappily married and there could be no legal culmination to their love, she was shocked, but did not dismiss him. Life was passing swiftly for her, and she was confronted with the alternatives of going down to oblivion starved of love, or accepting from him the ugly substitute for marriage.
There was undoubtedly a great struggle, sleepless nights of heart-searching, before she surrendered the principles to which she had held, and let go her most cherished faiths. But in the end the surrender was complete. One afternoon she met him at Victoria Station, and together they went to a little house at Hassocks, near Brighton, the house having been rented for two months by her imperious lover.
Dougal's earlier marriage, he said, had been a very unhappy one.
"I need not have told you I was married at all," he said. "You would never have discovered the fact. But I cannot and will not deceive you, or treat you so badly as to marry you bigamously."
His scruples, his fairness, his very misfortune, were sufficient to endear him further to this infatuated woman of fifty-six, who for the first time in her life was experiencing the passion about which she had read and heard, and about which, in her mild and ineffective way, she had written. And those first months at Hassocks brought her a joy that fully compensated her for the illegality of the union.
The adventure was at least no novelty to Samuel Herbert Dougal, sometime quartermaster-sergeant of the Royal Engineers. Nor was it the first time that he had described, in his soft Irish tongue and in the most glowing colours, the happiness in store for his victim. His very brogue, so attractive to the ears of women, was an acquisition, for he had been born in the East End of London, a neighbourhood which had grown a little too hot for him at a very early age, and had made him accept the Army as an alternative to prison.
In a very short time he had gained promotion, for he was a remarkable draughtsman, and so clever with his pen that he earned for himself amongst his comrades the name of Jim the Penman. From his earliest days he had preyed on women, for he had been one of those parasitical creatures to whom a sweetheart meant a source of income.
At twenty-four he married, taking his wife with him when his regiment was moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. She died there, with suspicious suddenness. Pleading that her death had upset him, he was allowed a short furlough in England, and returned with a second wife, a tall, young and good-looking woman, who tended his children and seemed to be possessed of some means of her own, for she had a quantity of jewellery. Nine weeks after arrival, she also was seized with a sudden illness, and, like his first wife, died and was buried within twenty-four hours, the death being due, according to Dougal, to her having eaten poisonous oysters. Under military regulations it was not necessary to register the death in the town of Halifax, and beyond the fact that Dougal seemed to be very unfortunate in the matter of his wives, no notice was taken.
There was in Halifax at the time a girl who had been a friend of both the Mrs. Dougals. Though no marriage ceremony occurred, Dougal, by his very audacity, succeeded in imposing upon his comrades to the extent of their accepting her as his wife, going to the length of forging a marriage certificate, which, however, did not deceive the officer commanding, whose signature was necessary to secure her a free passage to England. This union was a short one, and the man's brutality and callousness were such that she decided to return to Canada.
"What excuse shall I offer my friends?" she asked tearfully. To which he replied, with that cynicism which was part of the man:
"Buy yourself a set of widows' weeds, and tell them that your husband is dead."
Dougal left the Army with twenty-one years' service, the possessor of that good conduct medal which is the scorn of most military men, and some three shillings a day pension—an amazing end to his military career, remembering that during his period of service he served twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour for forging a cheque in the name of Lord Wolseley, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland.
Scarcely had the Canadian woman left than another girl was installed in his home, only to flee in the middle of the night from his violence.
He was successively steward of a Conservative club at Stroud Green, manager of a smaller club at the seaside, and held numberless other positions for a short length of time; invariably his terms of employment ended abruptly, and as invariably the cause had to do with his treatment of the women with whom he was brought into contact.
First and foremost Dougal was a forger. He could imitate handwriting with such remarkable fidelity that even those he victimised hesitated to swear to the forgery.
When he met Miss Holland he had lost his youthful slimness; the fair, curling moustache was touched with grey, and he had added the pointed beard which lent him a certain sobriety of appearance that so ill accorded with his character. He was a man versed in the arts and wiles of wooing. The life at Hassocks was a dream of happiness to his dupe, and her own nature and predilections assisted him to the fulfilment of his plans.
There can be little doubt that Dougal was a poisoner; the circumstances attending the deaths of his first and second wife, the callous conduct he displayed in those events, almost prove his responsibility. But many years had elapsed since those tragedies; at least two great poisoning cases had been tried in the courts; and he must have learnt how dangerous it was, in so law-abiding a country as England, to repeat the crimes of Halifax.
Moreover, the death of Miss Holland could not in any way benefit him, since he had no legal claim upon her. There is some slight evidence that he tried to induce her to make a will in his favour, but Miss Holland, despite her infatuation, displayed an unusual acumen when the question of placing her signature to a document arose.
THE life at Hassocks, delightful as it was, was not exactly the kind of life that the woman desired. She did not want to rent a house; she wanted to settle down, to have a permanent home of her own; and Dougal, to whom she expressed her wishes, agreed with her. When she told him that she would like to buy a farm, he instantly became an authority on farming. Nothing would please him better than to live the simple, rustic life; and accordingly they began a search for a suitable habitation, and the columns of the newspapers were carefully perused.
Eventually a suitable property was found. This was Coldham Farm, in the parish of Clavering in Essex, and negotiations were begun with Messrs. Rutter, of Norfolk Street, Strand, for the acquisition of the house and acreage. If the property had a disadvantage, it was that it was remote and lonely, the nearest village being Saffron Walden, and the equivalent to "town" the town of Newport, a quaint and ancient place which all people who motor from London to Newmarket pass through without giving it a further thought.
The price of Coldham Farm was £1,550, and Dougal, who had charge of all the arrangements, settled with Messrs. Rutter that a conveyance should be made in his name. Miss Holland selling off some of her stock in order to secure the money for the purchase. One day she called with Dougal at Norfolk Street, and the necessary documents were placed before her for her signature. Instead of being perfectly satisfied with the arrangements as he had made them, she read through the conveyance with a frown, and shook her head.
"The property is conveyed to you," she said. "I don't like that. It must be conveyed to me."
"It doesn't make any difference; it is only a matter of form," pleaded Dougal, who seemed to have made no secret of their relationship, even to Rutter's clerk.
"If we are to be known as Mr. and Mrs. Dougal, how can you have the conveyance in your maiden name? Everybody will know our secret."
Apparently Miss Holland was superior to the malignant tongues of gossip.
"It must be conveyed in my name," she said stubbornly, and, despite all Dougal's protests, despite his private interview with her, when he must have urged more intimate considerations, she had her way. The conveyance was torn up, a fresh document was prepared, and Coldham Farm was transferred to her.
The pair left Hassocks at the end of January, 1899, and took lodgings at the house of a Mrs. Wiskens in Saffron Walden, where they remained until April 22nd. Mrs. Wiskens, in addition to letting lodgings, was a dressmaker, who had a small clientele, and she added to the income she derived from "lets" by doing odd dressmaking jobs, repairs, etc., incidentally serving Miss Holland in this capacity.
Their life at Saffron Walden seems to have been a pleasant time for Miss Holland. Dougal was still the attentive and devoted "husband," and nobody in that respectable little town dreamt that the formality of a marriage ceremony had been overlooked.
From time to time they drove over to their new home, the purchase of which had not yet been completed, and Dougal simulated a knowledge of farming which must have been very comforting to the woman, who undoubtedly had her suspicions of his ability to conduct even this small establishment.
It was a smallish house, surrounded by a moat, and, to the romantic eye of the aged spinster, possessed many attractions. It was she who decided to rename Coldham Farm, which became the "Moat House Farm," the Post Office being notified of this change.
They moved into Moat House Farm in April, soon after the purchase was completed. The former owner of the farm left behind him a small staff of labourers, cowmen, etc., which Dougal re-engaged for the work of the farm.
Dougal purchased a horse and trap, threw himself with vigour into his new work, devised changes, including the filling in of certain parts of the moat; whilst Miss Holland, who did not disguise her pride in her new possession, set about the furnishing of the house, and brought from London a grand piano to beguile the tedium of the long evenings. She was something of a musician, just as she was something of an artist, and she may well have looked forward to a life of serene happiness with the man who had come so strangely into her life, and whose love had changed every aspect of existence. It would have been remarkable if Dougal, after his adventurous career, could be satisfied with the humdrum of farming.
He might be amused and interested for a month or two, but after that the restrictions, which the woman imposed, the necessity for keeping up the pretence of devotion, and the various petty annoyances which her shrewdness produced, must have its effect. Change was vital to him—not necessarily change of scene, but change of interest. No one woman could satisfy him, and he took an unusual interest in the choice of the girl servant that Miss Holland engaged.
This proved to be Florence Havies, who look up her situation three weeks after the Dougals had gone into their new home. On the very morning of her arrival Dougal came into the kitchen, looked at the girl, and, finding her attractive, put his arm around her waist and kissed her. The girl, to whom such attentions were only alarming, complained immediately to her mistress.
It was the first hint that Miss Holland had received of the man's character, and when, trembling with hurt vanity, she demanded an explanation, Dougal tried to laugh the matter away.
"She is only a kid," he smiled; "you surely don't think I was serious?"
Whether he succeeded in allaying the woman's suspicions is not known, but he did not give her time to forget the incident. That night, when Miss Holland was in bed and Dougal was supposed to be in the kitchen downstairs, a terrified scream broke the silence, and Miss Holland, jumping out of bed, made her way to the servant's room, to find her in a condition bordering upon hysteria. After a while the girl was calmed, and told her story. She had been awakened by hearing Dougal at the door demanding admission in an undertone. The door was bolted, but the man had flung his weight against it and was on the point of bursting in when the girl had screamed.
Bewildered, horrified by her discovery, Miss Holland went back to her room, to find Dougal in bed and apparently asleep. She was not deceived however. She charged him with his offence and ordered him from the room, the girl sleeping with her that night.
The scene that followed in the morning, when the man and the outraged woman met, was one of intense bitterness. Throughout breakfast she reproached him—reproaches which he bore with extraordinary meekness. Either he had intended making a breach by his act, or else he had utterly misjudged her complacence. At any rate, he seemed startled by her vehemence and impressed by her sincerity.
It is possible he had never met a woman of her type before, and certainly he was a terrible experience to her. The discovery shocked her, threw her for the moment off her balance and left no definite view but one that the man must go. There was no question of her taking her departure and leaving her property in his hands; she had made it very clear to him, when the conveyance was signed, that she was entirely devoid of that form of quixoticism.
Dougal himself did nothing during that morning except wander disconsolately about the farm. He was seen, with his hands in his pockets, looking thoughtfully at the moat, at one of the half-filled trenches which served to drain the farmyard proper. His attempt to make up the quarrel was the signal for a fresh outburst, until she was so exhausted by the violence of her anger that she sat down on the stairs and, covering her face with her hands, gave herself up to a fit of passionate weeping. Thus Florrie Havies saw Miss Holland and tried to comfort her.
The girl had not been idle. Realising that she could no longer stay in the house with Dougal, she had written to her mother, asking her to come and fetch her the next day; and, as she told her mistress, she was looking forward anxiously to her parent's arrival.
To the girl Miss Holland confided her sorrows and her contrition for the folly which she had been led into committing. At the moment she had no definite plan, except that Dougal must leave the farm and that their relationship must be broken.
Dougal had no illusions on the subject, and throughout the day was facing the prospect of returning to his precarious method of living. All his plans had come undone; the prospect of an easy life had vanished; his scheme for getting the farm into his own hands had failed. He had no hold whatever on the woman except her goodwill, which he had exhausted by his folly.
To a man of his avaricious nature the prospect of losing all hope of handling his "wife's" money was maddening. It is certain that he had already tried to induce her to make a will in his favour, but his failure in this respect would not greatly have troubled him, for an opportunity would arise, if he were given sufficient time, either to forge such a will, or by some trick to induce her to sign a document which would give him control of her wealth after her death. His precipitate action and her resentment destroyed his chance in this respect.
Camille Holland was not a young and inexperienced girl, to be cajoled. She might be ignorant of lovers and their ways, but she had a remarkably good idea of her rights, as she had already shown him, and a reconciliation seemed beyond hope.
What passed between them in secret will never be known, but from subsequent happenings it is certain that she agreed to allow a period of grace, possibly a day or so, to find other quarters. That she gave, or intended to give him, any monetary assistance is doubtful; she neither communicated with her bankers, nor was any cheque drawn in his favour.
Possibly his retention on the farm was a matter of expediency so far as she was concerned. She had to go into Newport that night to do some shopping, and she may have needed him to drive her there. The fact that they subsequently left the farm together does not prove that there was any reconciliation, but rather that she was making use of him, as she herself was not able to drive.
People living in the country did most of their shopping on Fridays, and undoubtedly it was to visit Newport for that purpose that Miss Holland dressed herself about half-past six on the night of Friday, May 19th, and, going into the kitchen, asked her servant if there was anything she required.
One of the theories offered was that she was taking Dougal to the railway station and intended returning alone, but as she made no statement to the girl, who would be mostly affected by this action, the probability is that the more simple explanation is the true one.
The girl went out and saw that Dougal had harnessed the horse and was awaiting the arrival of his wife. She saw Miss Holland get up by the man's side, and as he flicked his whip and the trap drove over the moat bridge, she heard Miss Holland say:
"Good-bye, Florrie. I shall not be long."
NOBODY else saw them depart. It was quite light, and very unlikely that Dougal offered the woman any violence at that moment. It is certain that the trap did not go into Newport, and that Miss Holland did no shopping whatever. What is more likely is that Dougal employed the drive, following unfrequented roads, to secure from his mistress her forgiveness for his act, and that his efforts were unsuccessful. It is probable that the time occupied by his vain attempt to bring about a reconciliation was such that it was too late to go into Newport, and that, at her request, he drove her back to the farm.
At half-past eight Florrie Havies heard the sound of cart-wheels crossing the bridge, and a few minutes later Dougal came into the kitchen. At half-past eight in the middle of May, before the introduction of summertime, it would be almost dark. The girl looked up apprehensively and, seeing him arrive alone, asked:
"Has Mrs. Dougal gone upstairs?"
"No," replied Dougal; "she has gone up to London by train. She will be back to-night. I am going to fetch her."
On the face of it the story was palpably false, for there was no train from Newport to London until one that left at eleven o'clock in the evening, the previous one having departed a few minutes after the pair left the farm together. This, however, Florence Havies did not know, and she accepted the story, which in all probability confirmed some statement Miss Holland had made in the course of the day to the effect that she would consult her solicitors or her nephew, or somebody whom she could trust, about the terrible position in which she found herself.
What happened was that Dougal had returned to the farm half an hour before he came into the kitchen, and, having induced Miss Holland to descend, had shot her dead by means of a revolver which he had placed just below the right ear, and had dropped the body into one of the half-filled trenches he had made in his work on the moat. It is certain that he did not bury her at once, and that when he made his excuse for going out to meet her by a later train, in reality he carried a spade to the spot and occupied the time in filling in the ditch so that the remains of the unfortunate woman were hidden from view.
Again he came back, to say that Mrs. Dougal had not arrived, and probably would not be back until the midnight train, going out again and continuing his dreadful work, before he returned, at a quarter to one, with the news that she would not come that night.
"You had better go to bed," he said, and the frightened girl went up to her room, locked, bolted and barricaded the door as well as she could with a few articles of furniture in the room, and spent the night standing at the window, fully dressed, starting at every sound.
She did not hear Dougal come upstairs, and, so far as she could tell, he did not go to bed that night. As soon as the dull dawn light appeared in the sky, Dougal had returned to the scene of his crime, and by the light of day had searched for and removed all suspicious traces of his deed, throwing more earth into the trench and levelling it down so that the notice of the farm labourers should not be attracted. "When the girl came down early in the morning she was surprised to find that Dougal was in the kitchen, and had already prepared his breakfast. He greeted her with a cheerful smile.
"I have just had a letter from Mrs. Dougal," he said (a surprising statement to make, considering the earliness of the hour and the known fact that the post was not delivered until eight o'clock). "She says she is going away for a short holiday, and she will send another lady down."
The curious fact was that Dougal had indeed arranged for a lady to come to the farm, for, some days previous to the occurrence, he had written to his third wife, telling her to come to Stanstead, a village in the neighbourhood, and had rented a small cottage for her, where she took up her residence on the day before the murder. This, however, is no proof that the murder was long premeditated.
Dougal was now a landed proprietor, and thought he could afford the luxury of another establishment, especially since the rent of that establishment was no more than six shillings and sixpence a week.
The knowledge that his wife was there added to the fact that he knew the girl was leaving that same day, was seized upon by him as a heaven-sent coincidence, for he guessed the girl would talk, and the appearance of another woman at the farm would thus be accounted for.
That same day Florence Havies' mother arrived and took her daughter away, not without expressions of regret on the part of Dougal that the girl should have so misrepresented his action, his contention being that he had knocked at the door intending to wind up a clock that was in the room!
The mentality of Dougal is not impressive. The crude lies he told about the letter having arrived before it could possibly have been delivered, the lie he told the girl's mother, no less than the stupidity of making advances to a girl who was a perfect stranger to him and who had previously repulsed him, speak very little for his intelligence, though they point to the queer egotism which is the peculiar possession of the professional murderer.
Scarcely had the servant disappeared than a new Mrs. Dougal, and this time the real Mrs. Dougal, arrived. He must have written on the morning following the murder, telling her to come. In the next four years the Moat Farm saw many mistresses. The real Mrs. Dougal came and went; new and attractive servants arrived, and became victims to the man's unscrupulous desire for novelty. Amongst these were two sisters, one of whom became the mother of his child.
His financial position was now assured; he had gained from Miss Holland a very complete knowledge of her possessions; he knew the name of her broker, and copies of their letters and of all previous stock and share transactions were available.
Ten days after the murder the Piccadilly branch of the National and Provincial Bank received a letter, written in the third person, asking for a cheque-book. One was sent, addressed to Miss Camille Holland, The Moat House, and on June 6th a letter was received by the bank, enclosing a £25 cheque and asking for payment in £5 notes. The bank sent the money on in the usual way, but the manager, noticing some slight discrepancy in the signature, asked that this demand should be confirmed. In reply came a letter:
"The cheque for £25 to Dougal is quite correct. Owing to a sprained hand there may have been some discrepancies in some of my cheques lately signed."
DOUGAL now set himself the task of converting Miss Holland's securities into cash, and her brokers, Messrs. William Hart, received instructions to sell. It is probable that she had sufficient money on her person or in the house at time of her death to carry him on for a month or two, for it was not until September that he instructed the brokers to sell stock to the value of £940, which was duly paid into Miss Holland's account. This was followed a month later by a smaller cash payment, and a year later by a payment of £546. In addition to these, on September 18th a letter purporting to be signed by Camille C. Holland instructed the bank to forward certificates of £500-worth of United Alkali shares and £400 of George Newnes' Preference.
Dougal went about his work with extraordinary care. All the monies that were paid on account of Miss Holland went into her bank and remained in the current account until he withdrew it by cheque in her name.
A year later, at the same time as he was instructing Hart, he forwarded a request that the bank should send to Hart a number of other shares for sale.
The skill with which the forgeries were executed may be illustrated by the fact that when, three years later. Miss Holland's nephew denounced a certain cheque as a forgery, he was equally emphatic that other documents bearing her signature were forgeries, though they were proved by the bank to have been signed by Miss Holland herself on the bank premises.
Nor did Dougal stop short at forging cheques; whole letters in her handwriting were sent to the brokers and bankers, the writing so cleverly imitated that both the banker and the broker concerned were satisfied that they were genuine. In all, Dougal secured in this way nearly £6,000.
During the three years that followed the death of Camille Holland nobody seemed to have had the slightest suspicion that she had come to a violent end. Nor is this remarkable, for the only person who knew of their relationship, the servant, Florence Havies, had long since left the neighbourhood and had married, whilst Miss Holland's only living relative, the nephew, was not in the habit of receiving letters or any kind of communication from his aunt. The house agent who had heard the little breeze which followed Dougal's attempt to get the property transferred to himself, had ceased to take any interest in Moat Farm after it had been removed from his books as a saleable proposition.
Dougal's path was by no means a smooth one. He had to face police-court proceedings brought by Kate Cranwell, the servant, in regard to her child. In the early part of 1902 one of Dougal's victims, who had been admitted into closer confidence than her predecessors, was spurred by jealousy, and a desire to get even with the man who had wronged her, to make a statement to the police regarding Miss Holland's disappearance. She could not have known the facts, and it is probable that Dougal, in an unguarded moment, had boasted that he was enjoying the income of the dead woman, and imagination had supplied the informer with a garbled version of what had really happened.
It was at first believed that Miss Holland was alive, locked up somewhere by Dougal, and forced from time to time to sign cheques on his behalf. This at least was the theory of Superintendent Pryke, in charge of the district, who called at the farm and had a talk with Dougal. The latter, as usual, was frankness itself.
"I know nothing about her, and have not seen or heard from her since I took her and left her at Stanstead Station three years ago. I drove her there with her luggage, consisting of two boxes."
"But don't you know her relations or friends?" asked the superintendent.
Dougal shook his head.
"She left nothing behind her in the house. We had a tiff, in consequence of the servant telling her that I wanted to go into the girl's room."
"Have you seen any papers bearing the name of Miss Holland, or any letters addressed to her?" asked the superintendent.
"None," replied Dougal—a somewhat rash statement to make, in view of the fact that letters had been continuously delivered at the house addressed to Miss Camille Holland.
"It is said she is shut up in the house," said the superintendent. "Will you let me have a look round?"
Dougal laughed and said:
"Certainly; go where you like."
THE superintendent made a very careful inspection of the house, but found nothing, and returned to ask if it was true that Dougal had given away some of Miss Holland's clothes to his own wife and servant, and that they had had them altered. He replied:
"I couldn't do that, because she left nothing behind her."
Dougal had an account at the Birkbeck Bank, and the day that Superintendent Pryke saw him he drew out practically the whole of his balance, £305. This fact was known through a shrewd inspector (Marsden), who did not share the superintendent's complete faith in Dougal's bona fides. Undoubtedly Superintendent Pryke was gulled by the seeming frankness of the master of Moat Farm, and his report was creditable to the man whom he had cross-examined.
Marsden began searching round for a relative, and presently found the nephew, who was taken to see certain The cheques which had been drawn and had been apparently signed by Miss Holland. He declared them, without too close an inspection, to be forgeries. This was all that Marsden required. He was satisfied that Camille Holland had been done to death, but it was absolutely necessary that he should have Dougal in safe keeping whilst he made a leisurely examination of the property; and though the grounds for the warrant were very slight, and, indeed, the evidence of the nephew would have been absolutely worthless to secure a conviction for forgery, the warrant was granted.
A cheque had been drawn by Dougal in Miss Holland's name, and the bank had paid him the sum in £10 notes. These notes were immediately stopped, and, as though he were knowingly playing into the hands of the police, Dougal went to the Bank of England to change the £10 notes into £5 notes, signed a false name on the back of one, and was immediately arrested on a charge of forgery.
Had no further charge followed, it is certain that Dougal would not have been convicted, for the evidence against him was of the flimsiest kind, and the fact that both the broker and the banker were satisfied that the signatures were genuine would have disposed of the prosecution's case.
But the arrest served its purpose: no sooner was Dougal in the hands of the police than Scotland Yard descended upon the Moat Farm and took possession.
Thereafter followed days and weeks of search which will not readily be forgotten, either by the police or by those journalists, like myself, whose duty held them to this bleak and ugly spot. Week after week, Dougal, handcuffed and between warders, was marched from the railway station to the little courthouse at Saffron Walden to hear the scraps of evidence and the invariable request for a remand. Week after week the police probed and pried, dug up floors and examined outhouses, in the vain hope of finding something which would solve the mystery of Miss Holland's disappearance.
What complicated the search was the discovery in the first day or two of a skull in one of the sheds. It had the appearance of having been burnt, and at first it was thought that this was a portion of the remains of the woman. But it afterwards transpired that the skull had been at the farm when Miss Holland was still alive.
It is a curious fact that, though the general opinion amongst the reporters present was that the body of the woman was in the moat, and although it was also known that in the early days of Dougal's occupation there were open trenches leading to the moat, no attempt was made to investigate these "leaders" until every other channel had been explored and every possible hiding-place examined. The police were giving up the search in despair when one of the journalists present said to the detective in charge:
"Why don't you open one of these trenches that Dougal filled up?"
The idea occurred simultaneously to Detective Inspector Marsden, and a labourer was sent for with instructions to dig steadily. His work had not proceeded far when his spade turned up a boot. Very soon afterwards the body of Miss Holland was exposed, and Dougal's secret was a secret no more.
With some difficulty the body was brought to ground level and taken to a summerhouse. A jury was hastily summoned, and the first sitting of the inquest was held in a great, stark barn on the property.
Hither, heavily guarded, Dougal was brought, and the scene was one which will long linger in the memory of the witnesses. The old barn with its thatched roof was crumbling away with age and neglect. The only light was that admitted by the door, which had been swung back. Here, under the twisted beams and crooked rafters, the court arranged itself as best it could, and Dougal, led past the open grave of his victim, came into the gloom of this queer coroner's court.
The work of the police, however, was not finished with their terrible discovery. Was the body that of Camille Holland? The face was unrecognisable; there were no peculiar marks by which she could be identified. The rotten remnants of a dress might be sworn to by Mrs. Wiskens of Saffron Walden, who had stitched some braid upon it, but it was not sufficient evidence to convict Dougal.
The dress was like thousands of other dresses; the hair shape, the bustle, the various other wisps of clothing which were found might have been worn by any other woman. All that was known was that she had been a woman and that she was murdered, for there was a bullet-hole in the skull, and the bullet itself was discovered at the post-mortem examination.
Still, there was sufficient evidence to commit Dougal for trial on the capital charge, and there was one witness, and one witness alone, who could hang him. This was Mold, a bootmaker of Edgware Road.
Miss Holland had patronised Mold regularly. Her feet were so small (and they had been her great pride) that her boots had to be specially made for her, and Mr. Mold had built a last and made a number of pairs of boots of one pattern. They were half a size smaller than she required, and were lined with lamb's-wool. Mold invariably made these himself, working his initials with brass tacks in the heels of each pair.
There might be in the world thousands of women with small feet, thousands who wore tiny boots; there might be many who wore tiny boots lined with lamb's-wool, as these were lined; but the "M" in brass tacks found in the dead woman's heel was undoubtedly Mold's work, and he only had one customer who wore shoes of this kind, and that customer was Camille Holland.
Dougal's trial ran an extraordinary course. He stood up in the quaint assize court at Chelmsford and received sentence of death from the lips of Mr. Justice Wright, and on a bright July morning he stood up again, this time to meet the executioner. For a second he flinched, until somebody handed him a glass of brandy and water, and he drank it down. Then, without a word, he submitted to the strapping and paced the short distance to the scaffold. There was a tense and deathly silence, broken by the agitated voice of the chaplain.
"Dougal, are you guilty?"
There was no reply.
Billington fingered the lever nervously and looked almost imploringly at the pastor as though he were asking him not to prolong the agony of the man on the drop.
"Dougal, are you guilty or not guilty?" asked the clergyman again, and in a low but clear voice came the muffied reply:
As he spoke the word Billington pulled the lever.
Towards the end of the Boer War the bcdy of a woman was discovered on Yarmouth Sands. She had been strangled by a mohair bootlace. A laundry mark, a silver chain, and a tintype photograph provided the clues which eventually brought Herbert Bennett, the woman's husband, to justice for a mean and cruel murder.
THE murders committed by criminals who have been classified by criminologists as "Class D. Larcenists" make up a very large percentage. It is possible, if one sits in a magistrate's court throughout the year, to collect a list of names which will be almost certain to produce at least one murderer in the course of a generation.
A criminal of this type, however, now and then escapes conviction. He may be wanted by the police, but the chastening experience of prison life, which might possibly bring about a reformation, has been denied to him. He has behind him an embezzlement or two of a petty kind; he has probably been associated with two or three shady methods of obtaining money by false pretences; and to these offences may often be added affairs of gallantry, and, if not a bigamous marriage, at least one marriage and wife desertion.
There is no more dangerous criminal than a small larcenist who has escaped the consequence of his offences, through, as he believes, his own dexterity and skill. Having this good opinion of himself, he progresses from crime to crime, until there comes a moment when he finds no other escape from the consequences of his meanness and folly than the destruction of a human life which, as he believes, stands between himself and freedom. And so confident is he in his own genius for evasion that he will plan the most diabolical of crimes, perfectly satisfied in his mind that the success which has attended the commission of minor offences will not desert his efforts to evade the penalty of his supreme villainy.
And the meaner the larcenist, the meaner the criminal, the meaner the murder. The greater criminals, the Deemings and the Chapmans, killed on the grand scale. The crimes of such small men as Herbert John Bennett, some time a labourer at Woolwich Arsenal, are attended by those evidences of low cunning which enabled them to twist a way of escape out of their minor crimes, but which were utterly inadequate to protect them when the more complicated machinery of the law was set in movement, and the brightest brains of Scotland Yard were concentrated against them.
BENNETT was a man possessed of a smattering of education he received at one of the elementary schools, and he had, moreover, even as a boy, an ambition to shine in a higher stratum of society than that in which circumstances had placed him. Such an ambition is commendable enough, and has brought many a man from the gutter to the highest positions in the land—always providing that the climber has less regard for appearance than for the solid substance of his advancement.
Bennett, by no means intellectual, wished to appear rather than to be; and at the age of sixteen he set himself the task of supplying the deficiencies of his education. He had a mind for dancing, and considered the possibility of being able to play the piano with such skill that he might gain for himself an entry to doors that were now closed to him.
His gropings toward gentility brought him into contact with a young girl, whom he must have regarded as his social superior, since she had many of the attainments which he lacked, and was not only something of a musician, but sufficiently proficient to give lessons on the piano. He was seventeen, she was two years older, and he displayed toward her a devotion which was as passionate as it was ephemeral. Young as he was, he could talk impressively. He left her head reeling with magnificent prospects; the scope of his ambition left her breathless; and when he proposed, as eventually he did, she accepted him. Bennett, despite his youth, was a tempestuous lover.
"He had very big ideas for one of his station. Sometimes he would talk so grandly that even the people who knew him best believed that he was on the point of receiving some exceptionally good appointment, or was about to inherit enormous sums of money." He had had his smaller adventures, and fate and an excursion ticket had once carried him to his first view of the sea—at Yarmouth.
At his then impressionable age, Yarmouth became the first and only seaside place where happiness was to be found. The Cockney's devotion to his first love in this respect is proverbial, and there is little doubt that Yarmouth was, for Bennett, an enchanted beach ever after, just as Hastings is to the writer, and Brighton to so many hundreds.
The marriage to the music teacher was a hurried affair. They appeared one morning before a London registrar, and were made man and wife.
With marriage came dispointed illusionment for the girl. The great schemes began to dissipate into thin air. The fine appointment, which would have secured them "a detached house and garden, and possibly some poultry at the back," did not happen. Bennett made his living by a succession of little jobs, none of which he retained for any time. He was a grocer's assistant, a sort of shop-walker; odds and ends of jobs came his way; his leaving was more or less hurried, and where there was money to be handled, was accompanied by a suspicion, amounting in one or two cases to a certainty, that, in his yearnings for gentility, Bennett had cast overboard the principle that holds a man to honesty.
He became a canvasser, selling sewing-machines, and his plausibility and qualities of salesmanship earned him good commission. There was some suggestion that not all the orders were genuine, and a possibility that he sold some machines outright and collected the money for them without accounting to his employers.
Mrs. Bennett had an aged grandmother, with whom the couple were living. She had a small allowance, sufficient to keep her, if not in comfort, at least beyond the fear of want. Her possessions were few, but amongst them was a long silver chain and a very old-fashioned watch, in which she took great pride, and to which she attached such importance, though it was in truth a very clumsy piece of jewellery, that she made one of those informal, word-of-mouth wills, so common to people of her class, by saying, "When I am gone, this is yours, my dear."
Eventually she died, and the chain passed to the girl. By that time she was not greatly interested in chains or watches, and even the death of her grandmother brought no very great increase to a burden which was already more than she could bear.
The passionate youth she had married had developed into a bullying, hectoring young man, who never ceased to find fault, who cursed her openly and privately for ruining his life, and who did not hesitate to beat her. A child had been born of the marriage, and while it was coming she had been subjected to every kind of indignity and ill-treatment.
So Bennett moved from job to job. His limited education restricted his opportunities, and there was the additional handicap that he had often to rely upon characters and references which were obviously forged.
Of much that would be interesting about this period to the criminologist, there is no trace. It is certain that Bennett was engaged in some nefarious business, for he was changing cheques for large sums, and had suddenly changed his name and became Mr. Hood. In this name, he and his wife and baby left, somewhat hurriedly, for South Africa; and it is certain that at the time Bennett had sufficient money, not only to pay the fare out and maintain himself in Cape Town, but also to pay the return fare when, after a very short stay in Cape Town, he decided that South Africa offered no opportunities to a man of his ability, and returned.
Relationships between the Bennetts were now strained. The man had grown tired of his early love, told her she was a millstone about his neck, and attributed the passing of his dreams, the non-fulfilment of the bright promises of his youth, to the handicap of having to provide for her.
Their stay in Cape Town was a matter of days. The newness of the life, or, as he described it, the exclusiveness of Colonial society, irritated and frightened him, and they had scarcely settled down in their lodgings before he was back in the Adderley Street shipping office, arranging his passage back to England.
Their return to London was followed by a separation. He had managed to secure work in Woolwich, and, on the plea that the lodgings they had taken at Bexley Heath were too far from his work, he left his wife and came to live at Woolwich, where he posed as a single man, visiting his wife very occasionally, and doling out to her sufficient money to make both ends meet.
They had taken the lodgings at Bexley Heath in his own name, but it was as Hood that he was best known in Woolwich; and here, free from the encumbrance of his wife, he began to pay attentions to an attractive young girl, Alice Meadows.
ONCE more he assumed the role of ambitious young man, with immense prospects, and behind him a fascinating experience, for he could now talk of his foreign travels, could speak almost with authority upon South Africa (at that moment a centre of interest, for the Boer War was in progress), and from his imagination could evolve stories of adventure, very fascinating to a young girl who had spent most of her life within the confines of London.
It is clear that Bennett was not depending entirely upon the wages he earned at the Arsenal. He had some other source of revenue, and the probability is that he ran one of his get-rich-quick schemes as a side-line.
In the summer of 1900, soon after Miss Meadows and he had become acquainted, and he had met the Meadows family (impressing them as a young man of singular attainments), the question of a summer holiday was mooted, and what was more natural than that the first place which occurred to him as a likely spot was Yarmouth? At any rate, he wrote to a landlady in the place, asking her if she could reserve rooms for himself and his fiancée. The landlady, if she remembered him at all, was not aware that he was married.
In any case, she had no accommodation at the moment, and accordingly he reserved rooms at a little hotel, and went down with his fiancée, travelling first class, and spent a week in that delightful pleasure resort. They occupied separate rooms; he was a model of decorum; and those who noticed the rather undistinguished couple observed him as an attentive, considerate young man, who could not do enough for his companion.
The holiday seems to have been of a fairly innocent character. It gave them, however, an opportunity of discussing their future and of fixing the date of their wedding. Bennett, as usual, had great schemes which were on the verge of fruition, and the prospect must indeed have been a very brilliant one to Alice Meadows, who listened, open-mouthed, to the many inventions of her lover, learnt that he was well connected and expected in a very short time to inherit a fine property. Dazzled by his convincing lies, she made preparations to leave the place where she was employed as a domestic servant, and, with the assistance of her family, began to get together the clothes and dainty fripperies which are the especial possessions of a bride.
"A nicely behaved couple—I often saw them strolling along the South Beach," said an observer. "They were a model of what engaged people should be."
But alas for poor Alice Meadows! Her dreams were soon to dissipate into thin air; the growing treasures of clothing she was collecting were never to be worn for his pleasure; and the grand future, so far as he was concerned, was to end dismally on a gallows in Norwich Jail.
IT is the failing of all men who worship their own reputations, that they must be thought well of at any costs by the person who, for the moment, fills their eye. You may turn the leaves of criminal history and find this queer, perverted vanity showing in every other line. It of was the same with Deeming, with Chapman, with Dougal, with Crippen; it is difficult to find a case of murder where this distorted ego does not stand out in the criminal's psychology.
I can recall only three cases, a notable example of which was Smith, the brides-in-the-bath murderer, where this bloated sense of self-importance did not permeate the story of his supreme offence. There is no reason in the world why Bennett should not have married the girl, committing bigamy and risking the consequence of his misdemeanour. There was no reason why Crippen should not have run away with Miss Le Neve, or why Deeming should not have left his wife and children to the charity of his relations. But this passion for making a new start, for wiping out, as they believe, all that is past in one terrible act of savagery, as expressed in sixty percent of murder cases, was too strong for Herbert Bennett. In his muddled brain there was only one way of establishing himself as a single man and justifying all the lies he had told, and that was by removing the woman who stood between him and a new life.
Probably he also found, at this stage, that the drag upon his financial resources which this double life of his involved was reaching the breaking point. He had spent money on holidays, he had given Alice Meadows an engagement ring, and there came from his wife at Bexley Heath a request for a seaside holiday, which gave him the idea which was subsequently carried into effect.
He very seldom met his wife nowadays. His visits to Bexley Heath were few and far between. Nevertheless, his allowance to her enabled her to live without working too hard. She could afford, for example, to send out a small quantity of her linen to a neighbouring laundry.
Bennett does not seem to have been in any dire straits, or to have called upon his wife for assistance to meet his bills. In the course of their married life he had given her four or five rings, and at no time had she been asked to part with these, so the supposition that he had another source of income than his wages at the Arsenal is strengthened; for obviously it would have been impossible for him to have maintained two homes, and carried on an expensive courtship, on his salary as a labourer.
But the end was in sight, and he determined to rid himself of at least one expense; and when his wife mentioned in her letter a wish for a holiday, he replied promptly, suggesting Yarmouth, and giving her the address of the house where, only a month before, he had applied for lodgings for his fiancée.
On this occasion Mrs. Rudrum (this was the landlady's name) had a vacancy, and in the beginning of September Mrs. Bennett went down to Yarmouth with her child and took up her residence in Mrs. Rudrum's house. At her husband's request, however, she changed her name, and it was as Mrs. Hood that she was known to her landlady and the very few people who knew her by sight.
A reserved woman, who did not readily make friends, she seemed to be completely satisfied with the companionship of her child. The landlady observed: "The only thing that I noticed about her was that she wore a long silver chain around her neck, and had an old-fashioned watch. She was not the kind of woman that you would notice very much. She was very fond of her little girl and had no other thought than to keep her amused and happy."
One day, when she was strolling along the beach, a beach photographer came to her, and by his professional blandishments induced her to pose for a little tintype picture of herself and the child, and she was all the more ready to agree to his proposition because she had no picture of the little one. And so the photograph was taken, and thereafter occupied a place of honour in her tiny bedroom.
Who she was, and where she came from, nobody knew. Apparently no preliminary letter had been written to the landlady, and until she appeared at Mrs. Rudrum's, that lady had no idea she was coming. She was uncommunicative, not inclined to gossip, was typical perhaps of a large number of weekly trippers who visit seaside places, in that she had no identity except as a summer boarder.
Mrs. Rudrum was incurious. She did notice, however, that there arrived one morning a letter contained in a bluish-grey envelope and bearing the postmark of Woolwich. The contents of that letter are unknown: the instructions it contained she carried to her grave. But reconstructing the crime in the light of subsequent knowledge, it may be supposed that Bennett wrote to his wife, telling her that he would meet her on the Saturday night, giving her a rendezvous, and in all probability telling her that there was particular reason why he should not be seen in Yarmouth, and also why she should not divulge the fact that he was arriving at all. It is probable, too, that he told her to burn the letter, or else to bring it with her and give it to him when they met; for it is hardly likely that he would take the risk of so incriminating a document being left about for the landlady to see.
She was used to these furtive methods of his. A decent woman, with a respectable life behind her, would not acquiesce in these constant changes of name unless she knew, or believed, that her man's safety depended upon the deception. It is certain, moreover, that she must have been acquainted with his many curious methods of making money, and that she might therefore be dangerous to him if he deserted her.
Something of her complacence and her confidence is traceable to this knowledge. The landlady did not see the letter again, nor did she notice that it had been destroyed, so it is more likely that Bennett insisted upon his wife bringing the letter with her, in order that he could be sure it would fall into no other hands.
ON the Saturday night she put the child to bed, dressed herself with unusual care, putting on the silver chain and watch, and went out toward the front. She was seen by her landlady walking up and down outside the Town Hall, a building which is very near to the railway station, and it is certain that this was the rendezvous and that she was waiting for the arrival of the train which would bring Bennett from London.
Coming down, as he did, with murder in his heart, and the means of encompassing his wife's death in his pocket, and having taken such extraordinary precautions against being associated with the woman, it is almost staggering, yet typical of the careless workings of the criminal mind, that he should not only have met her before the Town Hall, in one of the busiest parts of Yarmouth, but that he should have taken her to a small inn near the quay, where they drank together, afterwards disappearing in the direction of South Beach.
South Beach at that time was a wild, untended stretch of sand and marram grass, to which courting couples instinctively bent their way. There were innumerable hollows where the swains could be sure of freedom from observation. One such hollow was occupied that night by a man and a girl, who saw two figures come out of the darkness and go into another depression near by. That they were lovers the two observers, very much more interested in themselves than their surroundings, accepted without question.
Bennett, unaware that he had been seen, settled himself down, with his wife at his side, his arm about her, words of love on his lips, and in his hand a mohair boot-lace about nine inches long, with which he intended to commit his hideous crime.
That the deed was done at the very moment when the woman, who still loved him, might expect from him nothing but tenderness, was proved when her body was found. The lovers near by heard a woman's voice pleading for mercy, but thought that they were skylarking and took no further notice. While he kissed his wife, Bennett had twisted the lace about her neck, drawn it tight and fastened it with a reef knot. She must have died within a few minutes, whilst he pressed the struggling figure deeper into the sand.
At midnight he appeared at the hotel, where he had stayed only a week or so before with Alice Meadows.
His manner was nervous and excited. He told the hotel porter that he had come down by the last train, and that he must leave by the first train out of Yarmouth in the morning. There was no appearance of a struggle; beyond a little agitation and his trembling hands when he took a drink, there was little remarkable in his appearance, and the porter very promptly forgot the incident of the unexpected visitor, called him in the morning in time to catch the seven o'clock train, and thereafter the matter went out of his mind, the more so, as he thought of Bennett as a young man newly-engaged and who was, as Bennett had told him on his visit, about to be married to a very charming girl.
SO far, we know the story of the murder. We are acquainted not only with the identity but the character of the murderer. We know the circumstances which led Mrs. Bennett to adopt the name of Hood, and why she came to Yarmouth. We have to consider now the problem which confronted the police force when, on the Sunday morning, it was reported by an early morning bather that the dead body of a woman was lying in the sands of South Beach, a mohair lace tied tightly about her neck. Yarmouth was still full of visitors, strangers to the town. It had its quota of undesirables, male and female. The police knew that the South Beach was infested, at certain hours of the night, with queer people, also strangers to the town. When the body was removed to the mortuary, and a brief examination had been made by local and county detectives, there was nothing to reveal who she was, where she had come from, what were the circumstances attending her death.
Their first view was that she was some unfortunate creature who had been maltreated by a chance acquaintance, one of those half-mad murderers who skulk all the time, unsuspected, in our midst. That was the view persisted in for a long time after the jury had returned a verdict.
The first rift in the cloud of anonymity came when Mrs. Rudrum, who had learnt of the murder from a neighbour, and who knew that her lodger had not returned all night, came down to the police station and made her report. She was shown the body, and instantly identified her as Mrs. Hood. Could the landlady tell the police whether any of her jewellery was missing? The rings were still upon the woman's hands, but the silver chain and the watch had gone.
"What silver chain was that?" asked the chief detective.
Mrs. Rudrum tried inadequately to describe the trinket, and then remembered that in the dead woman's room was the little photograph that had been taken on the beach. Accompanied by police officers, she went back to the house, and a very thorough search was made of the room. The photograph was taken away, and every drawer ransacked, for by now the police had learnt of the bluish-grey letter with the Woolwich postmark. But of this there was no trace. Nor was there any other document or writing which could throw the least light upon Mrs. Hood's identity, her friends or her place of origin. The landlady knew nothing; her lodger had "kept herself to herself, and told me none of her business."
On some of the linen was a laundry mark—just a number, 599. And with these two most slender clues, a small tintype picture showing, in microscopic proportions, a blurred chain, and the 599 laundry mark, the police began their search. But at every turn they were baffled. That Mrs. Hood had met a man outside the Town Hall, and that she had been seen in a public-house with him, only established the suspicion that the murderer was not a chance-found acquaintance, that the woman had met him by appointment, and that he came from somewhere outside of Yarmouth.
The Woolwich postmark narrowed down the search only in so far that every laundry in Woolwich was visited, the marks books inspected, still without bringing the authorities any nearer to their quarry. From time to time the inquest was adjourned, until, after six weeks, it seemed that the case was at an end, and the jury returned a verdict of "murder against some person or persons unknown."
The photographs were circulated far and wide, but without result for some time. Then, when the search seemed at an end (though such searches are never at an end where the Metropolitan police are concerned), a laundry manageress at Bexley Heath recognised, from the photograph of the laundry mark, the handiwork of her own establishment and, turning up the books, it was discovered that Number 599 had been given to a Mrs. Bennett.
The police were at that time systematically exploring every channel that would identify the laundry mark with the murdered woman, and detectives were instantly on the spot. The house in which Mrs. Bennett had lived was visited and, without hesitation, a woman who knew her identified, not only the photograph, but the chain which she had been wearing.
At Yarmouth she had told Mrs. Rudrum that she was a widow. At Bexley Heath she was known as a married woman, living apart from her husband, and people who lived in the same house remembered that she had frequently received letters which were enclosed in the bluish-grey envelopes that had been described at Yarmouth.
This was only the beginning of the new search. The police might find the sender of the letter, might even discover, as they suspected, that it was the husband of Mrs. Hood, and yet unearth no more than a bereaved man, ignorant of his wife's whereabouts and her fate. The investigations in Woolwich began all over again, and finally Herbert Bennett was discovered at the Arsenal.
Bennett had returned to town, and his first act was to meet Alice Meadows in Hyde Park, and subsequently he gave her a number of things belonging to his wife. These, however, did not include the chain and the watch, which he took from his wife's dead body, or, as is more probable, which she handed to him as they were walking along the beach, or when they sat down in the hollow, being afraid of losing something for which she had a personal affection.
Long before any arrest was made, the detectives conducted an inquiry into Bennett's movements. Having established beyond doubt the fact that he was a married man, the further discovery that he was courting another girl and that she was on the threshold of marriage, strengthened the suspicion that Bennett was responsible for the death of his wife.
The extraordinary rapidity with which the police work on such occasions as these was facilitated by the fact that Bennett had no idea he was under suspicion, although interrogations had been made of Alice Meadows, his friends had been visited and questioned, and Mrs. Bennett's relations had been seen by the police.
During this period Bennett displayed a mild interest in the Yarmouth murder. He had discussed the crime with his wife-to-be and her sister, and had expressed his surprise that the police had not been able to run the murderer to earth. He had even advanced theories as to how the crime was committed and the murderer escaped!
THEN, one day, when he might have thought that the crime had blown over, and that the police were now interested in something more promising, two detectives appeared and asked him to accompany them to the police station, and here, to his amazement and horror, he was charged with the murder of his wife.
Bennett then did what so many men have done to tighten the noose about their necks.
"Yarmouth?" he said indignantly. "Why, I have never been to Yarmouth in my life!"
There are so many parallel instances of similar acts of reckless stupidity that we can pass over his extraordinary folly without comment. Not only had he been at Yarmouth, but the police knew that he had been there with Alice Meadows. She herself made no secret of her innocent holiday; and there was the staff at the hotel at which he had stayed to prove the fact beyond any question of doubt.
How slender are the clues on which a murderer's detection hangs! A chance-taken picture made by a beach photographer; the accidental decision of Mrs. Bennett to wear her chain on that day—she did not wear it every day—was a link so strong that the cleverest advocate of the day, Mr. Marshall Hall, was not able to break it.
Even complete frankness could not have saved Bennett from the scaffold. Had he admitted that he came secretly to see his wife on the night of the murder, and that he left her the next day; if he had admitted his duplicity and the projected act of bigamy; if he had taken the police partly into his confidence; even then that chain which was found in his portmanteau was the most damning proof of his guilt. Without that silver trinket, Bennett could not have been convicted, much less hanged. If, when he found it in his pocket, he had thrown it into the fire, or dropped it into the river, not even his suspicious conduct, his denial of ever having been at Yarmouth, could have brought him to the condemned cell.
But there were the two unchallengeable facts: the silver chain, photographed on the woman two or three days before the murder; the evidence of her landlady that, on the night she went out to meet her husband, she was wearing that chain, and when she was seen outside the Town Hall later in the evening she was still wearing that chain; the absence of the chain from the body when it was discovered; and its finding in his possession—these were the unbreakable chains of proof which he could never shake off. There is an old Spanish saying that every murderer carries in his right hand the proof of his guilt, and never was this proverb so exemplified as in the case of the Yarmouth murder. What malignant imp induced him to take the chain at all, what perversity allowed him to keep it in his possession after the murder was discovered, and long after the description of this trinket had been circulated throughout the kingdom, we cannot tell.
"If the chain had not been found in Bennett's possession," said the greatest criminal authority of the day, "not only would the most striking piece of evidence have been removed from the prosecutor's brief, but there would have actually appeared a point in favour of the prisoner! The disappearance of the chain would have been adduced as a reasonable supposition that Mrs. Bennett had been killed by an unknown lover for the sake of its value."
So strong was popular feeling that, instead of being tried at the Norwich Assizes, Bennett was removed to the Old Bailey, and here, before the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Alverstone, he made his acquaintance with a London jury. Thirty witnesses were called—witnesses who spoke of Bennett's early married life, of his visit to South Africa, of his ill-treatment of his young wife, and his trip to Yarmouth. There was, of course, no evidence as to any act of felony or misdemeanour which procured him large sums of money from time to time, for the English law does not allow such evidence to be taken when a man is on trial for his life.
There were the hotel porter and the manager, who knew him and had looked after him when he was at Yarmouth with his fiancée. There were the people who saw him in the bar of the little inn near the quay. There was the landlady, and, most distressing of all, the girl to whom he was engaged.
To a man of Bennett's temperament, this was the most uncomfortable witness of all. "It was not the murder he had committed but the lies he had told which upset him," said an observer.
Time and time again we have seen a murderer display the most poignant emotion, not at the recital of his crime, but at the appearance in the witness-box of some person whose opinion he valued, and before whom he must now appear in the light of a boaster and liar.
If it is possible for such a man to possess affection which could be truthfully described as genuine, Bennett had found, in this newest of friends, the love of his life. He had been introduced to her family and had impressed them with his genius and his extraordinary knowledge of affairs. A man of perfect manners, he had impressed that least impressionable of persons, his future wife's sister.
When Alice Meadows stepped into the box, Bennett's eyes dropped; it was the only period during the trial that he gave evidence of his discomfort. Lower and lower sank his head as she related, in that unimpassioned atmosphere, the foolish stories he had told of his career, his prospects, his travels.
Bennett's imagination ran riot when his audience was a woman: his gifts of invention were never so marked as in those circumstances. He could listen without flinching to the record of his horrible deed—more horrible than can be related in cold print; he could watch with a detached interest the display of the trinket which he had taken from his wife a few minutes before her death, and could give his complete attention to the doctor's evidence. To Bennett, that was the least of his embarrassment. The real ordeal for him came when Alice Meadows exposed him as a braggart and a liar.
In this Bennett was not exceptional: all who have attended the trials of great criminals have witnessed a similar phenomenon. Armstrong's averted gaze and discomfort when the evidence of Madame X. was being taken, Crippen's agitation when reference was made to his relationship with Miss Le Neve, Seddon's flushed face when the purity of his freemasonry was called into question—one could multiply such instances by a hundred.
Throughout the trial Bennett's behaviour was exemplary.
The trial lasted six days, and at the end the jury required only thirty-five minutes to make up their minds, and, returning to the court, declared Bennett to be guilty of wilful murder. To the very last the man protested his innocence. Even when the judge assumed the black cap he showed neither fear nor any departure from his attitude of a misjudged man.
The sentence of the court was that he should be taken hence, and from thence to Norwich Jail, and that there he should be hanged; and under a strong guard he returned over the familiar route to Norwich—the route he had travelled with Alice Meadow's on the way to their holiday; the route he had followed when he was bound for Yarmouth with a cruel murder plan; now to expiate his crime within a few miles of the cemetery where his murdered wife was lying.
Here, on a chill day in March, he met his fate at the hands of the common hangman. But the memory of Bennett will be perpetuated for many years. His conviction will stand as a model of the efficacy of circumstantial evidence. Here was a case where a man committed a murder, and no weapon of any kind was traceable to him—for the mohair lace with which this unfortunate woman was strangled was not identified with one that had been in his possession at any time. There was undoubtedly a motive, though it might be urged that there was no immediate necessity for doing away with his wife, and that he gained very little by his crime. Even the laundry mark was only useful to the police in locating the woman's ordinary place of residence. It was on the flimsy links of an old-fashioned silver chain that the Crown depended to prove that Bennett was the murderer. And most effectively did they succeed.
THE crime of Herbert Armstrong, M.A., the Welsh solicitor, who murdered his wife by administering arsenic, was especially mean and contemptible. Love affairs entangled his life and flattered his vanity, and it is probable that a hatred of his dull and respectable existence in a tiny village was one of the motives for his terrible deed. This story of Armstrong is told by Mr. Edgar Wallace, who attended the trial, and on behalf of a newspaper syndicate offered the convicted man £5,000 for his confession—an offer which was refused.
THE little village of Cusop, on the borders of Herefordshire and Wales, is not graced by any very distinguished or beautiful buildings, nor hereabouts is the stately lodge entrance of any great country house. Indeed, one of the best of the houses in the village (and this would have been pointed out to you in the year 1920) is a somewhat plain dwelling known as "Mayfield." It is such a residence as you might expect a country gentleman of very limited income would occupy. It had its garden, its pleasant approaches, and, within the somewhat cramped space of "Mayfield," the apartments were more or less ordinary. There was a drawing-room and a boudoir for the lady of the house, a small room designated "the study," where the master might bring his work home in the evening and pursue his investigations into the troubles of his neighbours, without too great an interference by the noise of the piano which his wife loved to strum.
Herbert Rowse Armstrong was a solicitor, and the war, which had drawn this quiet, inoffensive-looking Little man into the service of the Army, at the Armistice delivered him back to the admiring village, and to his colleagues of Hay, a fully-fledged Major, a rank he was loth to renounce. There are photographs extant, and they were at the moment highly prized by their grateful recipients, showing the Major mounted on a horse, a fine figure of a soldier, and finer since his equestrian exercises did not betray his lack of inches.
Major Armstrong had come to the village of Hay from Devonshire, where, at Newton Abbot, he had practised his profession, without securing for himself that success for which his many qualifications seemed to fit him; for he was a Master of Arts of the University of Cambridge, something of an authority upon land tenure. And when, having married a wife, he transferred himself to a new sphere of operations, it did not appear likely that the little village of Hay, off the main track, away from railway and arterial roads, would give him greater opportunities of achieving success than he had enjoyed in the more populous district of Newton Abbot.
There was in Hay at the time an elderly solicitor, whose partner Armstrong became. The elderly solicitor had an elderly wife, and it is a curious fact that, as soon as Armstrong had settled himself down and learnt the ropes of the business, and had become acquainted with the country gentry, his elderly partner should have died with strange suddenness, to be followed in a few days by his wife. The prosecution did not, at the trial which followed, attempt to establish Armstrong's responsibility for the death of his partner. There were very many reasons why the Crown should concentrate upon the charges which were eventually made against him, without risking the negative result which might follow an attempt to prove further crimes against this remarkable man.
Armstrong became a personage of some local importance when he was appointed Clerk to the Justices of Hay, and in this capacity he sat beneath the bench, advising them on points of law, a kindly yet efficient man, somewhat severe on poachers and on those who broke the law in a minor degree. As a solicitor, he appeared from time to time at the various assize courts. The queer little court-house at Hereford knew him; he had sat at the horseshoe-shaped table before judges and had instructed counsel, and, generally speaking, performed the duties peculiar to his profession with judgment and skill.
In appearance he was a short but perfectly proportioned man. He had a small, round head, covered with close-cropped, mouse-coloured hair, was small of hand and foot, and had a countenance which was at once benignant and shrewd. His eyes were blue, set deeply in his head and rather close together. The overhanging brows were shaggy, and his prognathic jaw was hidden by a heavy moustache.
HERBERT ARMSTRONG was well-liked and trusted by everybody with whom he was brought into contact. Cambridge University had given him a finish which made him an acceptable guest at the country houses in the neighbourhood, and although, by reason of his being a stranger, he had the administration of no great family fortune, he nevertheless built up with some rapidity a practice which put him in a position of trust. On behalf of his clients he bought, sold and negotiated for land, had a finger in many sales and local flotations, and was looked upon, not only as a safe man, but as a lawyer with a certain social distinction.
His wife, Kathleen Mary, seems to have been of a somewhat finicking disposition. She had rigid views on social behaviour, exacted from her husband's friends the attention and courtesy which were her right, and exercised, if the truth be told, a mild form of domestic despotism which prohibited her husband smoking in the house except in his own room.
She had her "afternoons," her select dinner parties, and the etiquette which governs a small village was rigorously enforced. A somewhat difficult woman, all the more so because she had a little money of her own, some £2,500, and in all probability refused to her husband those loans which, to men of his character, come so easy to negotiate.
Nevertheless, they were a happy family from the outsiders' point of view. There were three children of the marriage, and neighbours regarded the Armstrongs as united and good-living people. They were regular attendants at the village church; Mr. Armstrong, as he was in the early days, was seldom away from home until the call of war took him to a South Coast town and subsequently to France.
Mrs. Armstrong was a little inclined to melancholia. She was a musician of exceptional ability, and would spend hours at her piano, but there was no suggestion that her despondency was caused by any act of her husband or by her knowledge of his misconduct.
To Armstrong the war may have come in the nature of a pleasant relief. It took him from his restricted activities to a larger and wider world, pregnant with opportunity, to new faces, new interests, and, incidentally, to new ambitions.
It was whilst he was quartered on the South Coast that he met a lady who was subsequently to play a sensational part in his life. Her name, well-known to the Press, has never been divulged publicly, and I do not purpose deviating from the very charitable attitude which the Press of the day adopted. It is no secret, however, that Madame X was a middle-aged lady possessed of much property, and with whom Armstrong became acquainted some time in 1918. He was an attentive friend, and there grew up between these two people a friendship, which seems to have been wholly innocent as far as the lady was concerned. She knew he had a wife "in delicate health," and she formed the impression that his marriage was an unhappy one.
Armstrong's behaviour seems to have been perfectly proper, and the friendship, stimulated by exchanges of letters, developed into a tacit understanding that, if the "delicate health" of Armstrong's wife took a serious turn, the Major, after a decent interval, would appear to claim the fulfilment of a promise which was never actually asked and never given.
Doubtless this little, middle-aged man, with his iron-grey moustache, was a dapper figure in uniform, well likely to raise a flutter in the heart of a lady who had passed her fortieth year. In course of time Armstrong was demobilised, came back to Hay, and plunged into arrears of work, taking up the threads from his assistant, and being welcomed on his first appearance as clerk to the Hay Justices, with many encomiums on his public spirit and courage.
Whatever appearance he might make to those who did not probe too deeply beneath the surface, there is little doubt that Armstrong was something of a profligate in a mean and sordid way. It is not permissible to tell, at this early stage, the evidence which the police unearthed of his amours; but undoubtedly, in the argot of the village, he "carried on," though of this Mrs. Armstrong was ignorant, as also was an elderly lady who lived with the family, a Miss Emily Pearce, who was devoted equally to the husband and the wife, and kept a maternal eye upon the children.
Miss Pearce seems to have been everything from housekeeper to nursery governess. She was the kind of family friend which is almost indistinguishable from an upper servant.
Outside of his work, Armstrong had only one hobby, and that was gardening. Though he employed an odd gardener, he himself supervised the work, and helped mow the lawn, trim the rose bushes, and generally assisted in beautifying his limited estate. He made several purchases of weed-killer, and on two occasions had bought a quantity of arsenic, both in its commercial and its chemical form, for the purpose, as was claimed and as undoubtedly was the fact, of destroying the weeds which flourished exceedingly and had taken a new lease of life since his personal supervision had been removed by the war. There is no suggestion that the weed-killer was employed for any other purpose than that for which it was purchased. Armstrong attacked the enemies of his lawn with great vigour, and gradually brought his garden back to the state in which he had left it.
He found something else on his return from the war. A new solicitor had established himself in Hay, and was taking a fair share of the work which country disputes and land conveyance provide. This Mr. Martin was married to a lady who was the daughter of the local chemist, and Armstrong must have known of his existence before he put his uniform on, but at any rate, when he did know, there was nothing unfriendly in his attitude. Indeed, he seemed anxious to do all that lay in his power to make the path of the new man as smooth as possible, and even went to the trouble of securing for him a commissionership of oaths. In this he was probably not altogether unselfish, for there was no commissioner of oaths nearer than Hereford, and it frequently happened that the remoteness of this official was an embarrassment to Armstrong himself.
Whatever may have been his object (and it is not inconceivable, even in an innocent man, that he should have combined courtesy with profit), the Major was on the most friendly terms with his younger rival, and assisted him to the best of his ability whenever such assistance was needed. In course of time, as was natural, they represented opposing interests, one of which demanded from Armstrong the return of certain monies which had been paid to him on account of property in the sale of which he was interested.
Long before this happened, Armstrong was faced with a domestic crisis. His wife had grown steadily more and more morose. Her interests had become more self-centred. She was infinitely harder to please than she had been, and exaggerated the most petty irritations into events of tremendous importance. Amongst other victims of her rigid code had been the unfortunate Mr. Martin, who had been guilty of the unpardonable solecism of appearing at one of her afternoon parties—in flannels! To call on Mrs. Armstrong in flannels was an offence beyond forgiveness. Martin was blacklisted, and became, from the poipt of view of this woman, whose mind was obviously a little deranged, a social outcast.
SO acute was the form her malady took that Armstrong consulted the family doctor, Dr. Hinks, and it was decided, after taking a second opinion, that this unfortunate lady should be transferred to a lunatic asylum in the neighbourhood "for observation." She was admitted and examined by the medical superintendent, who found her suffering from a mild form of peripheral neuritis. Since it was not a case of mania, and the symptoms were of a more or less elusive kind, she was given a certain measure of freedom, though the doctor at Barnwood Asylum, on the strength of certain delusions and incoherence of speech, had accepted her as insane.
It was on September 22nd, 1920, that Mrs. Armstrong was admitted to this institution, where she remained for four months. During the period of her detention she wrote a number of very sane and clearly expressed letters to her husband, in which she begged him to bring her home for the sake of her children. There is little question that to Mrs. Armstrong the children were a first consideration.
Armstrong paid several visits to Barnwood, and, finding her health had improved visibly, after Christmas he took steps to have her removed to his house. She returned on January 25th, 1921, so much improved in health that both Armstrong and the family doctor were delighted—at least, Armstrong "displayed a great deal of satisfaction."
Evidently this development was not at all in accordance with Armstrong's expectations. Whether the sharp attack of illness which had left her with these delusions, that had subsequently brought her to Barnwood, was the result of poison, is a matter which can never be known with any certitude. In all probability the man had already begun his "experimenting." He had in his study a quarter of a pound of white arsenic, and one may assume that the first illness of Mrs. Armstrong was due to the administration of this deadly poison.
With her return to "Mayfield," his plans underwent a change. She had made a will, leaving practically everything to himself, and revoking an earlier will which made such a distribution of her property that he would benefit to a very small extent. He was in some financial difficulty, but the determining factor in his action was Mrs. Armstrong's "difficulty." He was weary of her, her primness, her rigid sense of propriety, her faculty for making enemies.
Herbert Armstrong, in short, had grown sick and tired of excessive respectability—and in his hatred of his cramped and too well-ordered life you may well find the primary motive for his terrible crime. It is extremely doubtful that the small sum of money, some £2,000, which would pass into his keeping on his wife's death, had anything to do with his determination to get rid of her. This is a view which may be contested; but, as one who followed the case very carefully from its beginning to its tragic finish, that is the conclusion I formed, and that, I believe, is also the view of eminent counsel engaged in the case on either side. His wife had become an incubus, a daily trial to him. He decided upon taking the step which was to lead him to the gallows.
A week or so after her return from Barnwood, Mrs. Armstrong was taken violently ill following a meal. The family doctor was called in, and prescribed certain medicine. Mrs. Armstrong was put to bed, a nurse was engaged, and she made a fairly good recovery. There was no suspicion in the mind of the doctor that his patient was suffering from arsenical poisoning. He thought that it was a return of her old trouble, and treated her for peripheral neuritis, being strengthened in his diagnosis by the recovery which she made.
She was hardly well before a second attack followed. Armstrong received from his magisterial colleagues the sympathy to which he was entitled, and one of his friends sent him up some bottles of champagne. This fact did not emerge at the trial, but it is possible that the agent through which Mrs. Armstrong received the dose of arsenic which ended fatally was champagne. Probably Armstrong himself opened the bottle and gave his wife a glass. Unfortunately, at the trial this point was never cleared up, by reason of the fact that there was not one of the principal witnesses for the Crown who could clearly remember who opened the bottle and who gave its contents to this wretched woman. And so there was no reference to champagne at all in the evidence which was taken at the Hereford Assize Court.
This is a curious fact: that Armstrong was convicted without any proof being put in that he administered with his own hands, food or drink of any description whatsoever; and there were many, cognisant of all the facts, who believed that this would be a fatal bar to a conviction, and the foundation of the optimism which was shown by the defence is also to be found in this curious circumstance. Armstrong was eventually convicted, not because he was proved to have given his wife poison, but because he had accessibility and the opportunity for so administering it. But for the haziness of witness's memories, on this point, the conviction of the Major would have been a foregone conclusion.
On the night before her death, when she was weak and exhausted as the result of arsenic administered to her a day or two days previously, Armstrong gave to his wife a glass of champagne in which he had dropped five or six grains of this tasteless and colourless alkaloid. She drank the wine, being refreshed by the draught, and although she was weak, talked sanely and rationally of her illness and of the house and its management. In the middle of the night Dr. Hinks was sent for, and arrived to find her in extremis. She died on the morning of February 22nd, 1921, and the doctor certified that she had succumbed to natural causes.
The sympathy of the village and the countryside went out to this lonely man, left with three small children; the funeral was attended by every local notability, and the distress of the bereaved widower at the graveside was commented upon.
Armstrong, in his quiet, self-repressive way, bore himself manfully.
"In many ways I am glad that her sufferings are over," he told a friend. "The best and truest wife has gone to the Great Beyond, and I am left without a partner and without a friend."
HE caused a large tomb-stone to be erected over the grave, properly and tenderly inscribed, and it was placed in such a position that every Sunday morning, when he and his motherless children went up to the church, they passed the white stone. Through the summer and the autumn that followed, a tribute of flowers lay upon the sepulchre of the murdered woman. He himself took the choicest roses to adorn the grave.
He was, he said, so run down by the tragedy that he sought leave of absence and went abroad, having communicatcd with Madame X that the trials of his sick wife were at a merciful end.
Armstrong's itinerary was a curious one, for he not only visited Italy, but took a trip to Malta, for no especial reason except that he had always been interested in that romantic island.
On his return to "Mayfield," Madame X was invited to stay with him, and there is a possibility that the advent of the lady who was a potential Mrs. Armstrong caused a little heartburning in certain quarters. Others may have considered that they had a prior right to the fascinating Herbert Armstrong.
Armstrong docs not appear to have wasted very much of the money which came to him from his wife's estate. That money was practically intact at the moment of his arrest. But he does seem to have drawn very heavily upon funds which were entrusted to him to complete certain purchases of land. There arose a triangular correspondence between himself, Martin the solicitor, and a land agent living in Hereford. Perhaps "triangular" is hardly the word, in so far as it implies that Martin was concerned with the Hereford land agent. But certainly the negotiations which should have been completed hung fire, and there came from Martin a peremptory demand, on behalf of his client, that the money deposited should be returned. What was the cause of dispute between Martin and the land agent at Hereford has not transpired. After a visit to Hay and on his return to Hereford, the land agent died very suddenly.
One day Martin met Major Armstrong in the village, and reminded him that he had not received a satisfactory reply to a letter he had sent concerning the money and the property which was the cause of the dispute concerning them. Armstrong smiled; he had a quick, inscrutable smile that lit his face for a second and died as instantly, leaving him expressionless.
"I think," he said, "there is a great deal too much letter-writing between us, and the best thing you can do is to come up to tea with me and we will talk the matter over."
Mr. Martin, probably remembering the coldness of his reception when first he put his foot across the threshold of "Mayfield," demurred to this suggestion, but eventually agreed. That afternoon he went up to "Mayfield," was most graciously received by Armstrong, who led him to the drawing-room, where a tea-table had been laid. There was a cake-basket, one of those wicker affairs which carry three tiers of cakes and bread and butter, and, in this particular case, a plate of buttered scones. The tea was poured out, Armstrong handed a cup to his visitor, and chatted pleasantly, and a little ruefully, of his failure to meet the demands of his legal friend, and then:
"Excuse fingers," said Armstrong, and handed a wedge of hot buttered scone to his guest.
That scone had been sprinkled with the tasteless white powder which had removed Mrs. Armstrong from the world.
Martin ate it to the last crumb, drank his tea, and, after a more or less satisfactory talk, walked back to Hay, where he lived with his wife.
It was not until he was taking his dinner that night that he began to feel ill, and then so alarming were the symptoms that he was put immediately to bed and Dr. Hinks was summoned.
Whatever Dr. Hinks's views were about this sickness, so strangely resembling that which had preceded Mrs. Armstrong's death, Martin's father-in-law, Davis the chemist, held a very decided opinion. It was part of his duty as a pharmaceutical chemist to understand, not only the properties, but the actions of various poisons, and to know also something about their antidotes. His son-in-law's sickness was obviously caused by arsenic. He immediately conveyed his suspicions to Dr. Hinks, and that practitioner accepted that possibility, an attitude which undoubtedly saved Martin's life.
It is impossible for a leading man in a tiny village like Hay to be taken seriously ill without the news becoming public property; and when, a few days after Martin, very white and shaky, had made a public appearance, he met Armstrong, the Major was intensely sympathetic.
"You must have eaten something which disagreed with you," he said (very truly), "and I have a feeling that you will have another illness very similar."
Martin probably registered a silent vow that if he could help it that second illness should not occur. He, with Dr. Hinks, had sent a certain fluid to London for analysis, and when the analyst's report came, showing a considerable trace of arsenic, Scotland Yard was notified.
In the meantime there was another curious happening. Mr. and Mrs. Martin received one day a box of chocolates, and, upon eating one, Mrs. Martin was taken ill. The fact that these chocolates, which contained arsenic, could not be traced to Armstrong, resulted in that aspect of the man's villainous activities being dropped at the trial.
ARMSTRONG was growing desperate. He made another futile attempt to induce Martin to pay a further visit, and, when that failed, asked him up to his office for tea, an invitation which was declined.
The mentality of such people as Major Armstrong is puzzling, even to the expert psychologist. One supposes that they are mad, that they are paranoiac in the sense that they have to an excessive degree the delusion of their own infallibility. Certainly Armstrong must have realised, from the repeated refusals of Martin to deal with him, that he was under suspicion; and a normally minded man, even though he were not a Master of Arts and a clever lawyer, even if he had not the assistance of a large experience in criminal cases, would have taken immediate steps to remove every trace of his guilt and to cover himself against the contingency of exposure. Armstrong went about his work in the usual way; he was to be found in his place when the local court assembled, exchanging smiles with the presiding justices, who knew nothing whatever of the suspicion under which their clerk lay, and assisting them to deal with the peccadilloes of local wrongdoers. He was corresponding with Madame X, and at the same time was conducting an illicit love affair, of which evidence was plentiful in the village of Cusop.
Scotland Yard, having all the facts in its possession, including the statement made by Dr. Hinks as to the symptoms of Mrs. Armstrong, was necessarily compelled to act with the greatest circumspection and caution. The man under suspicion was not only a lawyer, who would be conversant with every move in the criminal game, but he held a high position. It was impossible, in this tiny village, to conduct such an inquiry as would have been set on foot supposing the suspected man were living in London. Even the advent of two strange men in the village would have set tongues wagging, and Armstrong would have been warned that all was not well; whilst, if those strangers were reported to be inquiring about his movements, then the task of bringing him to justice was rendered all the more difficult.
The officer in charge of the case was favoured by the fact that the nights were long and dark. He and his assistant were in the habit of arriving at Hay by motor-car long after the shops had closed and the people had dispersed to their several homes, pursuing their inquiries in secrecy and returning towards midnight to their headquarters at Hereford. Martin was seen and cross-examined, a statement taken of his visit to "Mayfield" and the subsequent attempts of Armstrong to induce him to make a further call: the chemist who supplied the arsenic displayed his books; Dr. Hinks showed his case-book and gave particulars of Mrs. Armstrong's illness; whilst one of the nurses who had looked after that unfortunate lady up to her death was also interviewed, under a pledge of secrecy.
On New Year's Eve, 1921, the police were in possession of sufficient evidence to justify an arrest, not on a charge of murder, but for the attempted murder of Martin. The Home Office had been consulted, and permission to exhume the body of Mrs. Armstrong had been tentatively given, to be followed later by the actual order which only the Home Office authorities can issue, and which was, in fact, issued once Armstrong was under lock and key.
When he reached his office, that morning, he was followed into the room by the two detectives in charge of the case. He must have realised, as the cross-examination grew closer and closer to Martin's illness, that he was more than under suspicion, but he did not by any sign betray either his guilt or his apprehension. He did, however, volunteer to make a written statement, and was left alone to prepare this, an opportunity which he could have put to good use if he had remembered that in his pocket, amongst a number of old papers, was a small package containing three grains of arsenic—a fatal dose!
But he was so confident in his own ability to hoodwink the police, so satisfied that, occupying the position he did, no charge could be brought against him without his receiving sufficient warning, that he never dreamt that the open arrest would be followed by a closer one. The normal course that would have been taken, had he been under suspicion, was for an application to be made to the local justices for his arrest, and it is certain that he banked upon receiving this warning, never dreaming that Scotland Yard would move independently of the justices, and that the first intimation he would receive would be the arrival of the detectives with a warrant granted by superior authority.
He was dumbfounded to learn from the inspector in charge (Crutchley) that he must consider himself in custody on a charge of attempting to murder Martin by the administration of arsenic.
"But you cannot do that," he protested. "The charge is preposterous. Where is your warrant?"
The warrant was shown to him, and the discovery that it had been issued some days previously must have come to him like the knell of doom.
He was conducted to the local lock-up, which he had so often visited and to which he had been instrumental in consigning so many petty breakers of the law, and there he was searched, and the tell-tale packet of arsenic found in his pocket. This act of indiscretion on his part had been little short of madness. He must have carried the arsenic in the hope of Martin accepting one of those invitations which he had so frequently issued, never dreaming that this damning proof of his villainy would go far to hang him.
"What is this. Major Armstrong?" asked the inspector sternly.
"That is arsenic." Armstrong's voice was cool, his nerve unshaken.
"Why do you carry this arsenic in your pocket?"
"I use it to kill the dandelions on my lawn," he said, and elaborated this story later.
From the little cell he heard the church bells of Hay ring in the dawn of a New Year through which it was fated that he should not live. In the morning he again appeared in the court he knew so well, but this time a stranger sat at the clerk's place, and the bewildered justices, in sorrow and consternation, gazed upon their friend standing in the dock, wearing his British-warm overcoat and smiling affably at the friends whom he recognised in the court.
The position was an incredible one. The first few moments in that tiny court-house were poignant in their tragedy. Armstrong was committed on remand to Gloucester Prison. Again he was brought up, formal evidence given, and again he was remanded. In the meantime the police and the Home Office authorities had exhumed the body of Mrs. Armstrong, and in a near-by cottage Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the Home Office authority, performed his gruesome task, removing the portions of the body which were to be sent to the Government analyst.
Armstrong came up before the court one morning to learn that there was a second charge against him, namely, that he did feloniously murder Kathleen Mary Armstrong by administering arsenic on or about the 21st day of February, 1921.
THE court proceedings, and those at the coroner's inquest which followed, will always be remembered by the journalists who were present. The court was so tiny, and the incursion of reporters so great, that the most extraordinary methods were employed to cope with the situation. Tables were extemporised from coffin-boards, and upon these the representatives of the great London dailies wrote their accounts of the proceedings.
It so happened that at the time of the preliminary inquiry, the Assize Court was in session, and it seemed that the man would be compelled to wait for six months before he was brought to the bar of justice. But Mr. Justice Darling announced that he would hold a special assize for the trial of Armstrong, and this was formally opened on April 3rd, after the man had been committed on both charges: that of the attempted murder of Martin, and of killing his wife.
Armstrong's attitude throughout the preliminary inquiries had been taciturn and confident. He had followed every scrap of the evidence with the keenest interest, but had said little or nothing, and I think was the most confident man in the court when he was finally committed for trial, and knew that he was leaving the neighbourhood in which he had lorded it so long, and where he had lived for so many years in the odour of sanctity and the approval of his fellows.
His vanity supported him, as it has done with so many poisoners—for men who destroy life in this dreadful manner are so satisfied that no evidence other than that which they might offer themselves can be of value in securing a conviction, that they are certain up to the very last that they can escape the consequences of their ill-doing. There has never been, in the history of poisoners, a single instance of a man confessing his guilt.
Such was the public interest in the trial, and so serious a view did the law authorities take of this case, that the Attorney-General, Sir Ernest Pollock, now Master of the Rolls, was sent down to conduct the prosecution, the defence being in the hands of Sir Edward Curtis Bennett, a brilliant advocate who had conducted the prosecution of all the spies caught in England during the war.
On a cold day, with snow blowing through the open windows of the court, Herbert Rowse Armstrong stepped lightly into the dock and bowed to the thin-faced man in the judge's box. He was as neatly dressed as ever—brown shoes, with fawn-coloured spats, brown suit and brown tie perfectly harmonised. He had been brought over by motor-car from Gloucester Gaol that morning, had interviewed his counsel, and now, with an assurance which allowed him to glance round the crowded court-house and nod to his friends, he listened to the cold, dispassionate statement of his crimes.
He was in a familiar setting: he knew most of the court attendants by sight or name; in happier circumstances he had exchanged views and words with the Clerk of the Assizes; the Under-Sheriff was known to him personally; he had even appeared to instruct counsel before the judge who was now to conduct the trial. He sat back in his chair, his arms folded, a motionless and intent figure, following the evidence of every witness, the blue eyes seldom leaving their faces. Even at that hour he was satisfied that the evidence which could be produced would be insufficient to secure a conviction, either for murder or attempted murder, and he expressed to the warders, who had to bring him every day the long journey from Gloucester, his faith that the case for the Crown was so ill-constructed that the trial could not but end in his acquittal.
"If this case were tried in Scotland," he told them, "there could be no question that 'Not proven' would be the verdict." Sir Ernest Pollock put the case fairly and humanely against him, and it was not until Armstrong himself went into the box that the full weight of the law's remorseless effort began to tell against him. In the witness-box Armstrong was a suave, easily smiling and courteous gentleman. His soft, drawling voice, his easy manner, his very frankness, told in his favour; nor did the cross-examination of the Attorney-General greatly shake the good impression he made. But there was a man on the bench wise in the ways of murderers, who saw the flaws in Armstrong's defence. When Mr. Justice Darling folded his arms, and, leaning forward over his desk, asked questions in that soft voice of his, the doom of Herbert Rowse Armstrong was sealed. They were merciless questions, not to be evaded nor to be answered obliquely.
Firm to the very last, Armstrong met the dread sentence of the. court without any evidence of the emotion which must have possessed him, and when the clerk of the court asked, in halting tones:
"What have you to say that the court should not now give you judgment to die according to law?"
Armstrong almost rapped out the word:
Though his guilt had been established on evidence which was good and sufficient for the twelve men who tried him, he was not without hope that, on certain misdirections, he would secure a reversal of the verdict at the Court of Appeal. But this court, which exercises its powers of revision very jealously, saw no reason to interfere with the course of the law, and on May 31st, on Derby Day, Armstrong met his fate.
During his period of incarceration in Gloucester Gaol he had occupied the condemned cell, adjoining the execution shed, which is, in fact, a converted cell opening into the apartment where condemned men spend their last weeks of life. The disadvantage of this arrangement is that almost every sound in the death chamber can be heard in the condemned cell, and Armstrong, who knew Gloucester Gaol—knew too the proximity of his cell to the place of his dread end—must have been keyed up to the slightest sound. It was necessary that the executioner should try the trap, whilst Armstrong was at exercise. He arrived, however, too late for this to be done overnight, and it was not till the following morning that the drop was tested.
At seven o'clock Armstrong, who had been up an hour, was invited by the warders to take a final walk in the exercise yard, an experience unique for a man under sentence of death. The sky was blue and cloudless, the morning warm and balmy, and he strolled about in the limited space allotted to him, showing no evidence of the terrible agony which must have been in his soul. After nearly an hour's walk he was conducted back to the condemned cell, where the minister of religion was already waiting, and within a very short time he had paid the penalty for his crime.
The Armstrong murder may become historic from the point of view of the lawyer, since he was condemned on evidence which was entirely and completely circumstantial. But, as Sir Ernest Pollock pointed out at the trial, in a poison trial direct evidence is practically impossible.
"In this case," said Sir Ernest, "we know that Mrs. Armstrong died from arsenical poisoning. This body of evidence which will be called before you will be directed piece by piece, circumstance by circumstance, pointing to a conclusion that it was the prisoner at the bar who killed his wife.
"She died from arsenical poisoning. Who had the means, who had the opportunity in August and in February, who had the motive to administer the poison?
"You find the means with the prisoner. You find the opportunity—the one man who was at 'Mayfield' both in August and in February. You find the motive in the will referred to."
Though there was no proof of the administration of poison, and the evidence of motive, as far as Mrs. Armstrong's fortune was concerned, was perhaps the weakest that has ever been put against any man on the capital charge, nevertheless, nobody who knew him, and who was brought into close touch with his life, will doubt that Armstrong was guilty.
Before Ellis pulled the bolt, the slight figure standing on the drop said something that was indistinguishable. One present thought that it was a confession of guilt—more likely it was a last protest of innocence.
Armstrong had refused an offer of £5,000 which I had made to him a few days before for a complete confession of his crime.
IN the long record of sinister and evil men who make up the world's murderers, there are many duplications. In a dozen cases one sees the same motive, the same dominant ego, the same half-crazy reasoning, which induces otherwise sane people to commit the acts which bring them to the gallows. The unique criminal, unique in his method or in his circumstances, occurs at long intervals. Murders induced by jealousy are many; crimes based on vanity occur in considerable numbers. But seldom do we find a case resembling, and never a case parallel with, that of Frederick Henry Seddon, who, together with his wife, was tried in March, 1912, for the murder of Eliza Mary Barrow.
SEDDON was essentially a business-man, shrewd, near, a little unimaginative. He was the type sometimes met with in the train on the way to the City: a man of dogmatic opinions, a little over-bearing, wholly intolerant of other people's opinions. You could imagine Seddon holding rigid political views, and regarding all who did not share them as being outside the pale.
Generally he was accounted, by those who knew him best, as a very excellent manager; a man who gave nothing away, and who was credited with considerable possessions, which his thrift and his gift for driving a hard bargain had accumulated for him.
Seddon lived in a good-sized house at Tollington Park, North London, with his wife and five children. It was a fairly large house and his own property (as he often boasted), and here he carried on his profession of insurance agent, being superintendent of that district and having under his charge a number of collectors, who were kept very busy by their energetic taskmaster. Seddon was certainly a man bound to get on. In the interests of his business he worked day and night; he was indefatigable in his search for new "lives," yet found time to indulge in certain social amenities, and was an officer of a very honourable society, where he was considerably respected.
That Seddon was a true Freemason in the real sense of the word can be doubted. Men of his intelligence too often adopt Masonry as a means to an end, believing that fellowship with so many of the best intellects in a district gives them advantages in business. Nevertheless, it was his ambition to rise to the supreme heights of Masonry, and all his spare time was given to the assiduous study of the craft and to fitting himself for higher office than that which he at present held.
A mean, hectoring man, bombastic of speech, loud of voice, that crushed all opposition, his business grew rapidly, but not so fast as he could wish. The dominant passion of Seddon's life was money. Not every miser is a recluse, who hides his bags of gold in inaccessible places and shrinks from the society of his fellow-men. There are some, who are to be met with in every sphere of commercial activity, well-groomed misers who are not to be suspected of their vice, and Seddon was one of these. He worshipped money for money's sake. He never spent a farthing that he could avoid. His household accounts were most minutely examined day by day, and the money he doled out for household expenses was the smallest sum he could in decency offer to his unfortunate wife.
Seddon's dreams had a golden hue. The rich were very wonderful in his eyes, and he would find his recreation in relating to his friends his surprising knowledge of the wealth which was possessed by the great figures of the financial world.
He had saved penny by penny, pound by pound, gradually piling up his assets painfully and slowly. Never once had a large amount come to him in one sum, and one of his bitterest complaints was that he had no rich relations who were likely to die and leave him a fortune. Not the least interesting item of the newspapers was the paragraph which appears every day under the heading "Latest Wills," and he would pore over this in the evenings. Sometimes he would learn of a rich man or woman who had died intestate, the money going to the Crown, and this would throw him into a fury.
"All that money wasted! Thrown into the gutter! It is criminal!"
THERE was in London, though of her existence Seddon was ignorant for some time, a middle-aged woman who shared Seddon's peculiar passion for money. She, however, had never had to scrape and strive. She had been left a small fortune in the shape of house property—at least it was a small fortune to her—which brought her in £5 or £6 a week. She was as mean as Seddon, parting with every penny with the greatest reluctance, and worshipping money, even as he did, for money's sake.
It follows that she was a difficult tenant to any landlady who gave her accommodation, and she shifted her lodgings very frequently, taking with her the small boy whom she had adopted, Ernie Grant.
In his restless search for people whom he could persuade to take out insurance policies, Seddon came into contact with this middle-aged spinster, Miss Eliza Barrow, and these two sharp-minded beings recognised in one another kindred souls. Seddon's immediate interest in the woman was a purely business one, but he had ever an eye to the main chance, and it had been his practice to leave no avenue to fortune unexplored.
"Friends should pay dividends," was one of his mottoes; and there is little doubt, after he had discovered that Miss Barrow was not a likely subject for insurance, that he turned over in his mind a way by which this new acquaintance should "pay dividends." Miss Barrow's complaint against landladies was perennial. Her interest in life was confined by the walls of the lodgings she had, and it may be imagined that they had not long met before she was telling him of her various landladies' enormities, the high cost of living, the peculations of lodging-house servants, and the difficulty of finding a home where these causes for distress would be more or less non-existent.
Seddon was a quick thinker. He had a big house in Tollington Park, and several of the upper rooms were unoccupied. This woman could pay dividends in the shape of rent, and in many other ways was a desirable tenant, for he had learnt of her house property and her steady income, and there was no fear that she would come to him on a Monday morning and bring excuses instead of money. So Seddon patted the little boy on the head with easy benevolence, and remembered his empty rooms.
"I think my rooms would suit you very well," he said. "We live very quietly; you will be in the house of a successful business man who may be able to help you from time to time in the matter of advice, and I'll arrange it so that you live more cheaply with me than you have been living heretofore."
The arrangement was most welcome to the woman, who was in the throes of one of her periodical fits of resentment against her landlady.
She had lived in many homes. Once she had stayed with her cousin, Mr. Frank Ernest Vonderahe, but that arrangement had not been satisfactory, and she had wandered off with her boy to yet another lodging.
Life at Tollington Park was entirely to Miss Barrow's satisfaction. She had the opportunity of talking business with Seddon; he admitted her to his confidence, allowed her to be present when he was handling the large sums of money which came in from the collectors—a sight very precious to Miss Barrow, who, in spite of her possessions, had probably not seen so much gold before. And the knowledge that he was trusted with such huge sums increased her confidence in him; so that she brought her own financial difficulties to him (the cost of repairs, tenants' demands and the like), and accepted his advice on all matters concerning her estate.
The friendship grew to a stage probably beyond her anticipations. Her confidence came to be a blind trust in his integrity and prescience. It developed, as was subsequently discovered, in her taking the rash step of purchasing an annuity upon his advice.
It is certain that Frederick Henry Seddon saw in Eliza Barrow a greater profit than the meagre sums he obtained by giving her lodging. There was about him the additional flavour of deep religious principles. Seddon had a reputation as a lay preacher and public orator. He was fluent of speech, better educated than most men of his class, and he could be, in his lighter moments, a most entertaining and charming man. He charmed Eliza Barrow to this end, that one day he induced her to sell her Indian stock for £1,600, to get rid of her house property and to trust him with the money. She was obviously confident, from his manner to her adopted child, that the boy would lose nothing from being left in Seddon's charge, for she made no provision whatever for his future until a few days before her death.
Seddon had gone to work deliberately, with a set plan, and the first part of his scheme having been brought to a successful issue, nothing remained but to perpetrate the dreadful deed which he may have contemplated from the very moment he had obtained Miss Barrow's confidence.
Since no poisoner has ever confessed his method, it is only possible to reconstruct the story of such a murder by an understanding of the murderer's mentality, and by piecing together such scraps of evidence as are available.
Seddon probably purchased a small quantity of arsenic in some part of London in which he was unknown. But he was shrewd enough to prepare, at the same time, a defence for himself. He purchased a number of fly-papers—paper impregnated with arsenic, which, when placed in a wet saucer, destroys any fly which lights upon it—and several of these he placed in Miss Barrow's bedroom.
He knew, for he had made a study of poison trials, that one of the questions which decides the guilt or innocence of any person accused of poisoning, is the accessibility of the poison: in other words, whether it is possible, through accident or design, for poison to be self-administered.
The only way that arsenic could be self-administered by a demented or careless woman was to have strong solutions of arsenic in her bedroom. He did not apparently realise that, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred where a person is found poisoned, the police look for a motive, and find one in a case where a person who had the opportunity of administering the poison directly benefits by the death.
"Seddon always thinks of everything," said an admiring colleague. "That is why he has been so successful."
Undoubtedly Seddon thought of most of the possibilities, but never dreamt that his cunning plan would be exposed.
In many ways Miss Barrow was most favourably placed from his point of view. She had quarrelled with her relations, and those very distant relations. She had no personal friends, and beyond the Vonderahes, who came occasionally to see her, and were received with marked coldness, no interfering individual who would inquire too closely into her sudden demise.
THE Seddon's family were on very good terms with their lodger. Maggie Seddon and her mother did the cooking for her. Seddon himself was seldom in her room. When she became ill, only on one occasion did Seddon give Miss Barrow her medicine. A doctor was called in, saw nothing suspicious, identified Miss Barrow's symptoms with a natural derangement; and if he was surprised when one day he was summoned to find the unfortunate lady in extremis, it was one of those surprises which are the normal experience of every medical practitioner, and he did not hesitate to give a certificate stating that her death was due to natural causes.
Three days before her death, Seddon persuaded Miss Barrow to make a will leaving all that she possessed to Ernest and Hilda Grant, appointing Seddon the sole executor. Again we see the cleverness oi the move; for now Seddon had so arranged matters that suspicion would be even more remote from himself. He had no possible interest in her death (unless the secretly-arranged sale of the annuity came to light), and such sums of money and property which had been Miss Barrow's as would be left he might use until the children came of age.
Miss Barrow died on the Thursday, and no sooner was the breath out of her body than Seddon bustled off to interview an undertaker, and arranged for the cheapest possible funeral. Not only did he do this, but he made a gruesome bargain with the man which gives us an interesting insight into his mastering desire to save money at every opportunity. Seddon told the undertaker that an old lady had died in his house, and it would have to be an inexpensive funeral. He had found four pounds ten in the room, he said, and that would not only have to defray the funeral expenses, but find the fees due to the doctor. Thereupon the undertaker bargained to carry out the funeral at an inclusive price of three pounds seven and sixpence and allowed Seddon a small commission on the transaction. Seddon had memorial cards printed, with an appropriate verse of sorrow; he bought a quantity of black-edged envelopes and paper, and wrote a number of letters, which, however, were never delivered or posted.
No man could have taken greater precautions than did Seddon to clear himself of any suspicion that he was implicated in the death of this wretched lady. Miss Barrow died on the Thursday, and on the Saturday was buried in a common grave, although there was a family vault, about which Seddon could not have been ignorant. He was, however, anxious to get the body underground with the least possible delay, for, once buried, he knew that there would be considerable difficulty in getting an exhumation.
Although not on specially good terms, Miss Barrow had been in the habit of calling on the Vonderahes, and the fact that she had not appeared, and that they had seen nothing either of her or the boy, was remarked upon by Mrs. Vonderahe.
"I can't understand why we have not seen Miss Barrow for so long," she said to her husband. "Why don't you walk round to Tollington Park and see how she is getting on?"
Ernest Vonderahe, who was not particularly interested in his cousin, was nevertheless a dutiful relative, and on the Wednesday evening strolled over to Tollington Park. The door was opened by Seddon's general servant, Mary Chater, who stared at him blankly.
"I've come to see how Miss Barrow is getting on. Is she well?"
The girl gasped.
"Haven't you heard?" she demanded in amazement. "Miss Barrow is dead and buried—didn't you know?"
Vonderahe could only stare at her.
"Dead and buried?" he said incredulously. "When did she die?"
"But this is only Wednesday!"
"She was buried on Saturday," said the maid.
"Can I see Mr. Seddon?"
The girl shook her head.
"He's out, and won't be back for an hour," she said.
Staggered by this startling news, Vonderahe went back and saw his wife. At his suggestion, she dressed, and they went back again to Tollington Park, arriving about nine o'clock in the evening. This time they saw Maggie Seddon, the daughter, but Seddon was not visible.
"Father has gone to the Finsbury Park Empire and won't be back till very late," she said, and could give them little or no information about Miss Barrow's illness, nor did they think it worth while to question the child.
The Vonderahes went home and a family council was summoned, consisting of Vonderahe and his brother, with their wives, and they discussed the mysterious suddenness of Miss Barrow's illness until far into the night, arriving at the decision that the two women should interview Seddon the next morning and discover more about the circumstances of the woman's death.
Accordingly, the next morning the two wives went to Tollington Park, and the door was again opened by Maggie Seddon. Apparently they were expected, for they were shown immediately into the dining-room. The visitors were kept for some time before the insurance superintendent and his wife made their appearance. He was his usual self, calm, confident, neatly dressed and in every respect self-possessed. But his wife displayed the greatest nervousness, and, throughout the interview which followed, was on the point of breaking down.
Seddon strode into the apartment, pulled out a watch (which proved to be the property of the late Miss Barrow), looked at it significantly, and remarked in a loud tone that he hadn't much time to spare and he hoped that they would be brief. And then, when his wife began to speak, he silenced her firmly but kindly.
"Now, my dear, you're too much upset to be able to tell anything," he said, and explained that his wife had been greatly shocked by the death of the lodger and had not yet recovered. "You sit there and don't upset yourself. I can tell these ladies all they wish to know."
Mrs. Seddon may have had a suspicion that all was not well. The manner of Miss Barrow's death, the haste of the funeral, may have seemed to her suspicious things.
"Now," said Seddon briskly, "just tell me who you are, and what relation you are to the deceased Miss Barrow" And, when he was told, he handed them a copy of a letter written to Vonderahe, which the latter had not received.
The letter was brief and to the effect that Miss Barrow was dead. It invited them to the funeral which had taken place on the previous Saturday. It added that, a few days before her death. Miss Barrow had left a will in which she gave "what she died possessed of" to Hilda and Ernest Grant, and appointed Seddon as sole executor.
Apparently Seddon had everything prepared: the copy of the letter, a funeral card, a copy of the will, and a large blank envelope into which he put these documents and handed them to one of the ladies present.
So far, in spite of the brusqueness of the man—his callous indifference to the feelings of Miss Barrow's relatives and the scarcely veiled antagonism he showed to these inquirers—there was nothing suspicious beyond his manner; and it is probable that, had Seddon been more conciliatory, expressed a little more sorrow, and stage-managed that interview a little more deftly, he might have escaped the consequence of his villainy.
As it was, he again looked at his watch pointedly, and when one of the ladies asked if he would see Mr. Ernest Vonderahe he shrugged his shoulders.
"I am a business man, and I think I've wasted quite enough time on this matter," he said. "I really can't be bothered answering questions put by inquisitive people."
These two ladies had gone to Tollington Park with the misguided idea that, because of their relationship, they would be asked to take possession of Miss Barrow's effects. If the will were genuine, and her death had occurred under normal circumstances, they could not, of course, touch a single article without permission from the executor; and legally, Seddon's position was unassailable.
But in their ignorance of the law, they expected to be given certain of Miss Barrow's goods. Their real suspicions began when they found that, justifiably, Seddon meant to retain in his possession all the property the administration of which had been specifically left to him. It was only when they found that they were being sent empty-handed away from Tollington Park that they began to regard Seddon's behaviour as suspicious; and his ignorance of their psychology was responsible for his undoing.
It was not till some weeks later, on October 0th, after many family councils, that Mr. Ernest Vonderahe saw Seddon. The insurance agent had gone to Southend for a holiday, feeling, he said "a little under the weather." And that period gave Ernest Vonderahe an opportunity of making closer inquiries into the possessions of Miss Barrow when she died. He discovered something about her investments; she was the landlady of a public-house called the "Buck's Head," and the proprietress of a barber's shop adjoining the public-house; had a considerable sum of money in the bank, and at the time of her death had quite a large sum in ready cash.
Whether the relatives of Miss Barrow were chiefly concerned with the manner of her death, or whether they suffered under an indignant sense of being robbed of that which was rightfully theirs, we need not inquire. All the investigations which went on were in the direction of ascertaining the exact amount of benefit Seddon might have received from the woman's disappearance. It was a very proper and natural line of investigation, to which no exception could be taken. It is perfectly certain that, supposing the will to be genuine—and this was not disputed—whatever might be the result of their inquiries, they themselves could not be benefited by a single penny through the exposure of Seddon as a murderer.
The Vonderahes saw something of one of the "beneficiaries" under the will. Little Ernie Grant came to see them, but was invariably accompanied by one of Seddon's children, either the girl or the boy, and the suspicions of the Vonderahes were deepened, because they saw, in this chaperonage, an attempt to prevent them questioning the child as to the manner of Miss Barrow's death.
On Seddon's return from Southend, Vonderahe decided to call upon him, and sent him a message to that effect. And the visitor was accompanied by a friend "as witness." Seddon had no illusions as to the antagonism of the deceased woman's cousin. He had heard something more than the subterranean rumbling which was to precede the cataclysm, and his line of preparation—to meet the unspoken charges which he knew Vonderahe would have in mind—took the shape of adopting towards his inquisitor a lofty and high-handed manner, which had served him so successfully in dealing with other disagreeable people in his business.
Like all poisoners, Seddon was completely satisfied of his own invincibility. He was as confident as Armstrong had been up to the day of his death. He could even challenge still greater antagonism by attempting to cow his inquisitive visitors into submission to his point of view. Vonderahe and his friend were in the parlour, cooling their heels, for twenty minutes before Seddon and his wife came into the room.
"MR. Frank Ernest Vonderahe?" asked Seddon, and, when the relative had answered in the affirmative, Seddon spoke to the second of the men, under the impression that Vonderahe's companion was his brother.
Seddon was smoking a large cigar, and motioned his visitors to chairs with a lordly air.
"Now what is all this about?" he asked. "You are under the impression that some money is due to you from the estate of Miss Barrow? The will is perfectly clear, and I don't see why I should give you any further information. If your solicitor cares to see my solicitor, all very well and good."
In spite of this high-handed proceeding, Ernest Vonderahe began to question the man.
"Who is now the owner of the 'Buck's Head'?" he asked, referring to one of the properties which had been Miss Barrow's.
"I am," said Seddon quickly, "and the barber's shop next door is also mine. I've bought the property—in fact, I am always open to buy property if it shows any chance of a reasonable return. This house is mine, and I have a number of other properties. That is my private business: I buy and sell whenever a bargain is offered."
The propriety of Seddon's purchasing properties of which he was the executor for his own benefit, did not seem to have occurred to either of the two men, and Ernest Vonderahe shifted his inquiries to a complaint that his relative had been buried in a common grave, when there was a handsome family vault at Highgate available.
Seddon replied that he thought the vault was full up, though this excuse might have been invented on the spur of the moment. The "Buck's Head" and the barber's shop had, he declared, been bought in the open market. It was his business to dispose of the property, and as his bids were higher than any others, there was nothing remarkable about it being knocked down to him. When they pressed their inquiries, Seddon said (I am quoting the statement of Ernest Vonderahe):
"That is for the proper authorities to find out. I am perfectly willing to meet any solicitor. I am prepared to spend a thousand pounds to prove that all I have done in regard to Miss Barrow is perfectly in order."
Until this interview, according to the evidence which was subsequently offered at the trial of Seddon, the inquiries and the suspicions had been confined to the narrow circle of the Vonderahes and their intimate friends. But after this point-blank refusal of Seddon to discuss the affairs of the dead woman, and when it seemed that no useful purpose would be served by further interviews, the Vonderahes did what they should have done in the first place—communicated their suspicions to the police.
Such communications are not rare at Scotland Yard, and the police authorities act with the greatest circumspection before they take any drastic action to confirm the suspicions of relatives. There are probably twenty complaints to every exhumation; possibly the number is much larger. But the police, in this case, had something else to work upon than the bald suspicions of the Vonderahes. There was, in the first place, the hasty burial, and, in the second, the fact that, as executor or direct beneficiary, Seddon had obtained a number of effects which were the property of the deceased woman and which were now under his control. The doctor was interviewed by the police and, strengthened by his evidence, the Home Office made an order for the exhumation of the body.
These forces were at work all unknown to Seddon, who went about his daily business, satisfied in his mind that, if he had not allayed the doubts in the mind of Ernest Vonderahe, he had at least so baffled him, by his bold challenge to put the matter into his solicitor's hands, that no further trouble need be anticipated.
Removed to the cemetery mortuary, the body was examined by Drs. Wilcox and Spilsbury, now Sir William Wilcox and Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the Home Office pathologists. Certain organs were removed and forwarded for analysis, and the body was reinterred.
It was a grim coincidence that Seddon's business took him to St. Mary's Hospital at the time when Miss Barrow's remains were undergoing chemical examination, and that he was shown over a portion of the laboratory whilst that examination was in progress!
The chemist's report to the Home Office was emphatic: a very large quantity of arsenic had been found in the remains, and on this report the Home Office ordered an inquest.
Seddon was working at his accounts one night, when his daughter came to tell him that a policeman wanted to see him.
"A policeman?" said Seddon. "What does he want? Ask him to come in."
The officer walked into the room, helmet in hand, and handed him a paper.
"I am the coroner's officer," he said, "and this is a summons for you to attend an inquest on the body of Eliza Barrow, which will be held to-morrow."
Not a muscle of Seddon's face moved. Eliza Barrow! Until that moment he had not known that an exhumation order had been made. This was his first intimation that the net was closing round him.
When the officer had departed, Seddon swept aside the work on which he had been engaged, and sat down, coolly and calmly, to work throughout the night, packing his wife and children off to bed, whilst he prepared answers to such questions as might be put to him.
The grey dawn of a November day found him haggard and drawn, his table littered with papers covered with his clerkly writing. He had prepared for every possible contingency; had an answer for every question which might possibly be put to him; had checked and compared answer with answer, so that his story should be logical and convincing.
The inquest lasted for the greater part of a fortnight. And now suspicion became certainty. Seddon's conduct, tested and probed, did not react, as he had hoped, to his advantage. On December 4th he was arrested on the charge of murdering Eliza Barrow.
For more than a month, while he was nder arrest, his wife was allowed her freedom. But as the law officers examined more closely the evidence available, it was obvious that Scddon's wife was also under suspicion; and, to the amazement and idignation of the murderer, she was arrested on January 15th, 1912.
Seddon plied the detectives with questions as to the nature of the poison, and as to whether it might not have been self-dministered. "It was not carbolic acid, was it?" he asked. "There was some in her room. Have you found arsenic in the body?"
All Seddon's transactions with the deceased woman now came into the light of day, and, incidentally, the motive for the murder. Miss Barrow had converted a considerable amount of her shares, of which she possessed some £1,600 worth, into cash, and purchased from Seddon an annuity of some £155 per annum. Whilst she lived, he had to pay her £3 5s. a week, and it was to save this paltry sum, in the belief that she would live many years, that Seddon had murdered her. The transaction in itself was not unusual. Seddon, as an insurance superintendent, dealt in annuities, but this time the transaction was carried out for his own benefit. The will, therefore, leaving everything she possessed to Ernie and Hilda Grant, was a hollow document which meant nothing, since her only possessions at the time of her death were the cash she had at her bank and her own personal possessions.
The trial, which began at the Old Bailey in March, 1912, before Mr. Justice Bucknill, excited general interest. The Attorney-General, Sir Rufus Isaacs, now Viceroy of India, appeared for the prosecution; Sir Marshall Hall, then Mr. Marshall Hall, defended the man; whilst Mr. Rentoul, now Judge Rentoul, defended Mrs. Seddon.
Throughout the trial, Seddon kept up that unemotional detached attitude which he had shown from the very moment of his arrest. Mrs. Seddon, on the other hand, was a sad and dejected figure. She could indulge in none of the breezy exchanges which Seddon had with his counsel, nor could she regard with equanimity a visit to the witness-box, which Seddon welcomed rather than otherwise.
Seddon depended upon the fact that no person had seen him administer poison to the deceased woman. And this, as has already been pointed out, is the basis of confidence in the case of every man or woman charged with murder by poison. It was as though he put into words the attitude of such men:
"I am willing to admit that the woman died of poison. I admit that I benefited considerably by her death, but you cannot prove that I gave her the poison. I may have brought food to her, and unless the prosecution can, beyond all possible doubt, prove that poison was in that food, and placed there by me, you must return a verdict of Not Guilty."
Never in the history of criminal jurisprudence has there been a case where a convicted poisoner has been detected in the act of administering poison, either in food or otherwise. The poisoner banks upon suspicion being equally attached to other persons than himself, and thus securing the benefit of the doubt. Seddon's confidence was fated to receive a terrible shock. After an hour's deliberation the jury returned with a verdict of "Guilty" against Seddon, and "Not Guilty" against Mrs. Seddon. Seddon bent over and kissed his wife; in another minute they were separated, never to see one another again except through the intervening bars.
The Clerk of Arraigns put the usual question: "What have you to say that the Court should not give you judgment to die according to law?" And then occurred the most dramatic and, to many people in the court, the most painful incident of the trial. Seddon stood stifily erect and began a long speech which declared his innocence. He ended by making a Masonic sign which was unmistakable to Mr. Justice Bucknill, himself a Freemason: "I declare before the Great Architect of the Universe that I am not guilty, my lord." The judge was visibly distressed, but, recovering himself instantly, passed sentence of death, and Seddon paid the penalty for his crime at Pentonville Gaol on April 18th, 1912.
MAN'S fear of looking ridiculous in the eyes of women is the most potent motive for murder, says the writer, advancing one of the most original theories of crime that has yet been printed.
THE public is alarmed, and justly alarmed, by the growth in recent years of what are popularly but erroneously known as sex murders. They point to case after case where men have murdered women, and women have been parties to murdering men, in order to cover up some illicit love affair which, if it were divulged in public, would cover the murderer with shame.
There has been a succession of these crimes, all having "sex features," and the public may be pardoned if it confuses such rare types of murder as that of poor little Vera Hoad, where the motive was probably the lust of some demented man, or such brutal crimes as the murder of the little typist, Irene Munro, on the Crumbles, with that type of offence which is being so constantly investigated in our criminal courts.
ONLY one of these two instances was a sex crime in the truest sense of the word; the typist was in all probability murdered because she refused to hand over the money in her possession, and the criminals in this case were brutal, animal men, without one vestige of humanity in their spiritual and moral make-up.
The crimes which we have to consider, and which at the moment are exciting public concern, are the crimes which are not incited by an overwhelming sex emotion, but, curiously enough, by an intense desire on the part of the murderers to appear before their fellow-citizens in a good light!
"What will people say?" In these four words is discoverable the secret of the hideous sex murders which have been an almost regular feature of our lives during the past twenty years. In that question is to be found the motive of almost every beastly crime that has figured on the calendar.
It may even be discovered that the obloquy which might attach to the murderer for being seen with some disreputable woman, was the cause of that most awful of crimes, the murder of little Vera Hoad.
PUBLICISTS and preachers are telling us that the cause of these sex murders is traceable to the Great War, and to the deadening of the moral sense.
They can trace such crimes to the growth of paganism, to the breaking down of family ties, to a thousand and one fantastic causes; but the truth is that the sex murder is immediately connected with the wave of Puritanism, the blatant hypocrisy and the stupid gentility of the mid-Victorian period.
Until seventy years ago, the crimes which are constantly appearing nowadays in the newspapers were practically unknown. The motive of 70 per cent, of murders was robbery or revenge.
I am excluding such cases as the Vera Hoad murder, which have occurred persistently throughout the ages.
IT is not permissible to discuss the Byfleet tragedy, or deal with the crime of the Crumbles, at this stage. But one need not be guilty of an act of contempt to find scores of cases where the desire of man for woman, or woman for man, was accompanied by such an overwhelming terror of public opinion as resulted in the committal of the most hideous murders.
THE Armstrong case will be fresh in the reader's mind. Here was a man, holding an eminent position in the county of Hereford, or just beyond its borders, who was married to a woman for whom he no longer cared, and who in truth had made his life a little bleak and narrowed his outlook to an intolerable extent.
He meets and falls in love with another woman, and his affection is returned. She would not dream of running away with him, and he is too respectable to suggest such a course. He must maintain his dignity at all costs; and so that everything shall be in order, and that convention shall not be outraged, he administers arsenic to his wife, and is free to marry again.
CRIPPEN is a mild and inoffensive little man, who is married to a woman with whom he has very little in common. He falls in love with his secretary and assistant—what is easier than for them to run away together and start life in a new and a strange land?
But Crippen has a horror of scandal. He shrinks from incurring the sneers and censure of people who know and respect him. "What will they say?" is for ever present in his mind; and, sooner than incur the criticism which must necessarily follow his flight, he poisons his wife, cuts up her body into small pieces and buries it beneath the cellar floor.
THE Southend murderer carries on with two sisters, the liaison being unknown to each other; and, as the result of this association, one of the girls gets into trouble. He himself is married, and the possibility of the scandal becoming public property weighs on him day and night. In order to hide his infamy, he kills the girl and leaves her in a ditch.
DEEMING, one of the most brutal of murderers, was also one of the most vain. A married man with five children, he appears in a little Cheshire village as a single man, describes himself as an inspector of armies, and immediately becomes the centre of a throng of admirers, including a girl, to whom he proposes marriage.
And then his wife and five children appear upon the scene, and the exposure of his swank is imminent. The fear of what they would say, and the terror of ridicule, are so strong within him that he murders his wife and five children, and buries them beneath a cement flooring.
MAN'S fear of looking ridiculous in the eyes of women is the most potent motive for murder. Bennett, the Yarmouth murderer, cuts a dash with a girl whom he has promised to marry. He impresses her family, and is regarded by all his associates as a travelled gentleman with a great future. He puts off his marriage from time to time, and at last, in desperation lest his new-found friends should look down upon him, he strangles his wife in the most brutal circumstances, and the way is now clear for him to be respectable and respected.
DOUGAL hesitates to commit bigamy with the middle-aged Miss Holland, "acts honourably" towards her, and experiences a glow of pride attendant upon his virtue. Yet, when he is threatened with exposure over a sordid and commonplace intrigue, murders his wife and buries her in a moat.
BUT perhaps the most striking of these sex crimes was that which sent Mrs. Thompson and Bywaters to the scaffold. Here is an extraordinary instance of the horror which a certain type of mind holds for publicity.
This wretched young woman forms an attachment for a ship's steward, who is admitted to her house on terms of friendship with her husband. She is practically independent; she owns a little property, is a clever milliner and earns a good wage. Apparently she holds her husband in abhorrence, and looks forward to the day when she can be free of him.
And yet the gate is wide open for her. Unlike other women, who are dependent upon their husbands' allowance for their sustenance, she is free to come and go when she likes, in the assurance that the worst that can happen is an undefended divorce suit, which would not deserve one line in the local newspapers.
But the fear of "what they will say" lay heavily upon Mrs. Thompson. She could break her marriage vows, she could carry on a remarkable correspondence with this ship's steward, she could take every risk that a woman can take; and yet the possibility of being "shown up" filled her with dread. Mrs. Grundy must be propitiated—and the scaffold must receive its victims!
YOU will find this perverted vanity behind every sex murder, indeed, behind the larger proportion of such crimes as have been committed in the past decade. The instances can be multiplied indefinitely; they will occur and recur, just so long as young people are taught that the supreme social penalty is the stricture of their fellows.
ONE of the most alarming features of murderous crime—and I do not remember that attention has before been drawn to the fact—is that some five women are murdered to every man.
Nowadays we have almost taken it for granted that it is inevitable that, if a person is murdered, that person is a woman. The old crude chivalry which protected the women from murderous hands seems to be a thing of the past.
I take up a reference book at random—it covers the year 1923, a typical year. We had the murder of Irene Wilkins by Allaway, the murder of Mrs. Black by her husband, the murder of Mrs. Armstrong, the murder by Ronald True, the murder of Lady White by Jacoby, the murder of a woman in a lonely inn by Jack Hewitt, a farm boy, the murder of Mrs. Halliday by her husband, the murder of Ada Field by her lover, the murder of his wife by the blind ex-soldier, the destruction of his wife and child by the city metal-merchant, Harry Kaye, the murder of the bride at Market Deeping by a former admirer.
And against these we have the killing of a moneylender, the Thompson murder, and the killing of a man by another.
"WHAT will people say" is the last thought in the crazy mind of almost every suicide. It is to escape the consequences of minor offences that most of the supreme crimes are committed. The desire to be thought well of can be more immoral than the most flagrant departure from the straight course.
In this article Mr. Edgar Wallace, the brilliant writer on criminology, points to what he regards as a grave flaw in our criminal procedure. The State attaches the highest importance to fair play in murder trials. It should take the argument presented here with skill into careful consideration.
IT is impossible that any murderer, or man or woman charged with murder in this country can enjoy a fair trial. That statement is one that I feel sure will receive the endorsement of every judge and every eminent counsel engaged in the defence of people charged with the capital offence.
Our judges are the fairest and the most humane in the world, and although from time to time there are appeals based on "misdirection" this ground is more or less technical, and men like Sir Henry Curtis Bennett and Sir Edward Marshall Hall, who raise such points in the Court of Criminal Appeal, which is the place to which most murderers go to learn the date of their execution, do not believe for one moment that their clients have been maliciously or unfairly treated by the judge.
These great lawyers are usually handling last straws which they can scarcely hope will float their clients to safety or rescue them from the hangman's rope.
THE unfairness of the murder trial is neither determined by the judges nor approved by them. They are as much victims of a system as are the unfortunate wretches who stand in the dock.
The theory of trial by jury is one about which much could be written both favourably and unfavourably. I can sum up my own view by saying that if I were a guilty man, I should prefer a jury, and if I were innocent I should wish to be tried by a judge without a jury. The law is, however, that guilty or innocent, a man charged with an indictable offence must face a jury. If his offence is a comparatively minor one, the jury come into the case ignorant of the charge, and the evidence which will be brought against him.
The case of an insignificant burglar or swindler does not excite very much attention in the police court. His commital for trial is dismissed in a line, even if it is mentioned at all in the newspapers and the jury go into the box with a perfectly open mind on the subject, and in a percentage of cases the man so charged is found "not guilty" and acquitted. The state of mind in which the jury present themselves for such a trial is a ideal psychological condition of mentality.
WHEN murder is the charge, this condition is assumed by the law, and every precaution is taken to prevent the minds of jurymen being influenced, or their views prejudiced. They are kept under the care of an officer of the court; they are not allowed to mingle with their fellows; they may not even receive private letters save by permission of the judge, lest the poison of "influence" be conveyed wittingly or unwittingly. They may not read newspapers for the same reason. They sleep under the jealous eye of the law, and when they take their recreation, it must be in some lonely spot beyond all danger of meeting the informed public.
What a farce and pretence! The judge knows, the counsel on both sides know, the very prisoner knows, that all these elaborate precautions that keep the mind of the jury untainted by prejudice is so much humbug. Under our present system the jury goes into the court so completely acquainted with every fact in the case that they can learn nothing new!
THE jury that tried Armstrong had discussed the case before they were even called for jury service. In the extraordinary interview which was published with a juryman after the verdict, that fact was very clearly established.
The fate of Bywaters and Mrs. Thompson was decided before the jury was empanelled—the woman was condemned at every tea-table, and, to say that the jury did not go into court already convinced of the woman's guilt, is to say that they had no knowledge of all the circumstances.
I quote the Thompson and Armstrong murders because they illustrate my contention in the most illuminating fashion. The jury went into court in both cases with a very complete knowledge of all the details of the crime, and with their minds biased against the prisoner at the bar by reason of their knowledge.
How came they to know? The answer is that in all cases that come before the supreme criminal tribunals the evidence of witnesses in the lower court is public property.
IN the case of a murder, and particularly a sensational murder, there has been a full report of the inquest, and full reports of the police court proceedings. Every particular of the crime has been discussed. Newspapers that enjoy circulations that reach every home have devoted their columns to the crime, and by the time the last act of the sordid drama is staged, public opinion is "set."
And the damnable thing is that in the lower courts evidence is admitted, which, if it is barred in the higher court, does its part in laying up against the accused a mass of suspicion and hate which cannot fail to produce its reactions on the minds of the jury. The Hay bench allowed evidence that so far from being a respectable member of society, Armstrong suffered from syphilis!
I think Sir Henry Curtis Bennett will agree with me when I say that that phase of the Armstrong enquiry was a disgrace to the bench. More than this, we know that there are certain coroners —I have one London coroner particularly in my mind—who ply witnesses with questions which have nothing whatever to do with the cause of death, and are either designed to show what a smart fellow this coroner is, or else are due to his own morbid curiosity. The more sensational the evidence thus elicited, the more publicity the case secures the more surely bias runs against the accused man.
IN the interest of justice, when a man is In custody on a murder charge, all the proceedings in the lower courts (coroners and magistrates) should be held in camera. That is the only possible way by which the present method of trial for murder can be obviated.
Our present system of legal procedure was intended, or at any rate, took its present shape before the coming of popular education, and before modern newspaper organisations and news services ensured that every man and woman in this island were able to read at breakfast the fullest accounts of yesterday's happenings the night before.
And I believe that these same newspapers which benefit through increased circulation by the reports of preliminary hearings, would offer no objection, and, indeed, would support an amendment to the law which had the effect of suppressing published accounts of preliminary proceedings where a man's or a woman's life was at stake.
MRS. THOMPSON was condemned before she went into the dock at the Old Bailey—condemned by the letters she wrote, and which were used against her in the magistrate's court, and broadcast throughout the country, long before she ever came to trial.
I repeat that unless the evidence given in the coroner's and the magistrate's courts is given in camera, and that they are enquiries from which the public and the Press are excluded, no murderer can possibly expect to be fairly tried. He goes before twelve men who, with the best intentions in the world, have subconsciously decided his guilt or innocence.
THE thoroughbred racer represents the highest development in the process of the horse's evolution. He stands for something superior to his humble fellows in point of speed and quality, and it is popularly believed that, having achieved this physical superiority, he has acquired also an intelligence which places him in a sphere apart from his species.
Racing is at once the greatest national sport, and, in point of turnover, the second greatest industry in England. It has produced both a press and a literature, and yet, for some unaccountable reason, though thousands of books have been written on the race-horse, no writer, scientific or biographical, has devoted more than a chapter to the psychology of this fascinating animal, and in consequence there has grown up about the race-horse a whole series of legends which are now accepted as proved facts.
And not the least important of these is that the horse is an intelligent animal with the power of reasoning.
That a dog thinks, we know. The proof that he turns events over in his mind has been tested by every dog-lover. A dog dreams. In his sleep he lives over his fights, his joys, and his miseries. We have all at some time or other been compelled to stir some gruffly barking little slumberer to wakefulness, or have listened to his whimperings as he lay dead to the world before the fire.
But the sleep of the horse is practically dreamless. Does he think?
Mr. Alfred Day,
the Arundel trainer, says "No." Mr. Day, an old Sherborne boy, was brought up amongst horses, and is something of a physiologist, for he was trained for a doctor. His father, William Day, was the author of several books on the horse, and was one of the most famous trainers of his time.
"The horse does not think—he is one of the most stupid of the domestic animals, and the more perfectly bred they are, the less evidence is there of intelligence. Possibly the cart-horse is the cleverer of the two varieties. Horses get credit for intelligence because they can associate consequences with causes. If a horse finds a gap in a fence that leads him to more desirable pasture, he goes to that gap the next day, though there may be half-a-dozen other openings. If he has been stopped at an inn for his master to take refreshments, he will always stop at that inn, even though it has been converted into a temperance hotel. A horse will recognize the boy who looks after him because he associates the boy with certain attentions he receives. A dog may show suspicion towards a stranger who tries to feed it, but a horse will take oats from Tom as well as from Jim—only the next time he sees Jim he will expect to be fed."
People talk glibly about "rogues"—that is to say, horses that, having reasoned out the why and wherefore of racing, decide in their minds that they will not do their best. The term "rogue" presupposes that the animals have the gift of thinking, and that their erratic behaviour on a racecourse is the outcome of reason. In effect, that a horse says to himself:—
"I don't like racing—it is a very distressing occupation. One runs until one is exhausted and then there is every chance of getting a good licking in the last furlong. I won't try to run fast—I'll take it comfortably, and although I shall probably get the licking I sha'n't run myself to a standstill."
The rogue and the cunning horse, according to Mr. Day, are more or less of a myth.
"There is usually something constitutionally wrong when a horse will not give you his best." said Mr. Day. "I have only seen two so-called rogues, and there was probably some obscure physical cause for their failure."
My own experience bears this out. Last year I leased a good young horse, that had won a thousand-pound race as a two-year old. I ran him at Lewes, and it seemed to me that he ran like one that could an' be would. For half the journey he was galloping like a lion, and then suddenly seemed to decide that racing was a fool's game. He finished last but one. The jockey told me that he wouldn't have it—several knowledgeable people commiserated with me upon my keeping a rogue in training.
My trainer called in a great veterinary surgeon, who discovered that the horse had heart disease and divers other complaints. He was destroyed a week later.
Horses have natural antipathies. Pharos, one of Lord Derby's good horses and second in last year's Derby, has a rooted objection to rain. So much so that when he paraded for this year's City and Suburban Handicap his quarters were covered with a rug to keep him dry.
Sansovino, on the other hand, treats rain as a joke, and a muddy course is an ideal condition. There are scores of horses who seemingly refuse to do their best on a left-handed course (that is, where the turn into the straight is round a left-handed bend, as at Epsom, Newbury, Lingfield, etc.), and scores of others who show an appreciable improvement on a right-handed course.
Here again there is no question of "thinking." I traced the history of four horses that go best on a right-handed course, and found that their first efforts on a round course were at Kempton, Gatwick, and Hurst Park, which are right-handed. Their gallops at home were also right-handed. When they found themselves bearing to the left in subsequent races they became unbalanced and muddled.
It is a question of use and temperament. There is a certain type of horse that dislikes to be alone, and when this sense of loneliness comes to a horse he makes some queer friends. Town Guard needed the companionship of a goat.. Papyrus was so attached to a plater in Basil Jarvis's stable that the commoner accompanied him to America when the Derby winner made his remarkable journey. I had a horse who would kick his box to pieces unless he had a favourite hen roosting on the edge of his manger. Do these instances prove reasoning power on the part of the horse?
One would hesitate to deny him such a faculty. If you reject the possibility of a mental equipment, then you may find some difficulty in defining that illusive and much-abused word "class." For it is the fact that this imponderable quantity is something distinct from breeding and conformation. It is the something in a racehorse which cannot be handicapped to a few pounds. In a tight finish it is represented by "the will to win," which brings a horse's nose in front at the winning-post. If he cannot be a rogue, he cannot be honest without conscious thought. He cannot be generous or cowardly.
I am perfectly sure that Tishy thought. This very good filly ran stoutly in all her races except those she ran on the Cesarewitch course. The big autumn handicap starts out of sight of the stands, and there is a gallop of a mile along a course which is chiefly remarkable by reason of the fact that there is an entire absence of spectators. In both her races Tishy refused to gallop after going half a mile, and the generally accepted theory is that at some time or other she had been badly treated or flogged at the particular point where she dropped out. Nothing is further from the truth. Being a filly, and one likely to be valuable for breeding purposes, she was never asked to do too much, and Reginald Day, her then trainer, is a particularly humane man. Besides which, horses at Newmarket are not trained on the courses—there are so many, good gallops that it is not necessary, even if it were permissible, to train on the actual course over which they will run.
My theory is that Tishy had the temperamental failing of the public performer. She wanted an audience. The only time she won at Newmarket was when she ran on the Summer course, and a description of that race published at the time says that "there were an unusually large number of spectators down the course to watch the Summer Handicap Plate." She did well at Leicester and Sandown, and probably her best race was at Ascot, where the rails are lined with people almost from start to finish. Tishy, one may suppose, had a passion for the approval of humanity. Alas! poor Tishy. It was unnecessary to take the opinion of Lord Derby. To the man from whose name the greatest of all races takes its name, a horse is almost human in its intelligence.
Another case of a too hasty classification was that of Black Arrow, who was expected to win the Derby and refused to start, though he was flogged by his trainer—since dead—unmercifully. Poor Black Arrow dropped dead soon after, and was found to be suffering from an enlarged liver.
Mr. John Watson,
the well-known racehorse trainer, is equally emphatic on the question of roguery in horses.
"There are very few rogues," he told me, "though there are times when I suspect that horses think a lot. Horses get to know people and places, and of course they remember, though I doubt whether they think consecutively. It is certain that some horses love racing and some hate it. But, then. I think it is natural for a horse bred for racing to love it, just as it is natural for a kitten to play with a ball of wool. My own experience of the race-horse leads me to believe that he is a most intelligent animal."
It seems almost sacrilege to fly in the face of popular faith and hold up the legendary genius of the horse as a myth; the more so when we recall some extraordinary instances of what, if it is not conclusive proof of thought, is clear evidence of "intelligent association."
There is no more painstaking student of the horse than
Mr. William Allison,
the Special Commissioner of the Sportsman, and incidentally a great breeder. He manages the Cobham Stud, and was instrumental in getting that great sire Tracery brought back to this country.
"There is no doubt that horses think—but the less they think the better, so far as winning races goes Diamond jubilee thought a lot, and disliked Morny Cannon and Jack Watts. On the other hand, he liked Herbert Jones. The worst genuine rogue I ever saw was Pan, a very good 'chaser, who simply would not go first past the post. I once saw him land over the last fence at Handown about fifty lengths in front, and it seemed impossible that he could avoid winning, but he switched his tail and swerved all over the course until something else caught him up. He then cantered in second.
"Horses certainly know people who have to do with them, and they also know places—there are many who will pull up at pubs where their former owners used to stop for a drink. Horses certainly object to monotony in their gallops, and this is relieved by such changes as they find at Epsom and Brighton."
It is a fact, as Mr. Allison says, that Diamond Jubilee, the late King Edward's horse, had a rooted objection to Morny Cannon, and as violent an antipathy to Watts. With either of these humane jockeys on his back he alternated mulishness with savagery. But there was a little stable boy who could do anything with him.
"Let the boy ride," said King Edward (who was then Prince of Wales).
"But he has had no experience, your Royal Highness."
"He understands Jones, and Jones understands him," said the King. So Herbert Jones, an unknown boy, was put up on Diamond Jubilee—and won the Derby.
"He went like a lamb for me," said Jones, when I was talking to him two years ago at Goodwood, "but that was because he knew me."
And in this respect Diamond Jubilee resembled another horse that ran at Ascot before the war. There was a jockey he did not like, and he was so suspicious of some trick being played on him that he never left the paddock without screwing his head round and taking a good look at the lad on his back!
is one of the finest judges of horses in this country. A fearless rider, an exceptionally strong finisher, he has also trained and owned race-horses since his childhood.
There is, by the way, a stupid legend that "Brownie" is nervous of riding on downhill courses such as Epsom, probably due to the fact that he did not win the Derby on Tetratema—a horse that only stayed about seven furlongs in a true run race. Tetratema ran his races in one breath—that is to say, he did not draw a second breath from start to finish. Carslake in point of fact is the most unnervous jockey riding.
He does not agree with Mr. Day's view.
"You have only to watch a steeplechase and note how careful horses are not to step upon a fallen rider to realize that they think. A horse will throw himself over to prevent himself touching a man on the ground. Moreover, a horse recognizes and remembers. When I was in Austria-Hungary before the war, I used to ride an animal which for some extraordinary reason took a violent dislike to me. I never punish any horse I ride, and this fellow in particular was always treated well by me. But he loathed me. Whenever I appeared in the saddling ring he went mad. Any other jockey he would tolerate, but for some mysterious cause he would play Old Harry just as soon as he saw my face or heard my voice. It is impossible that he did not think. There are other horses I call to mind who are calm and collected just so long as their riders are in their ordinary clothes. But the moment they see them in racing colours they are in a blue funk. Other horses can stand the colours but break into a perspiration as soon as they see the crowd."
Carslake's view is, however, not inconsistent with Mr. Day's theory. The memory of the great jockey's face and voice might conceivably be associated with a day when the animal was not feeling his best, and when the last thing in the world he wanted to do was to race. It is not so easy to explain the extraordinary care which, as he rightly says, horses display when meeting a fallen rider. One has seen this happen a hundred times, but in all probability this reluctance to step on a man is traceable to the instinctive caution found in all animals. The horse is reacting to the first law of nature. He "knows" that to touch an obstacle may bring him down, and it is certain that he would as assiduously avoid a small bump on the ground or a fallen horse. In the case of a jumper the association of ideas connects touching an obstacle with a fall, and we know that where this lesson has not been learnt horses have stepped upon fallen riders. A brilliant young jockey was killed at Chester in May from this cause.
I have seen a horse being brought out of his box to be destroyed stop dead and, planting his two feet squarely on the ground, refuse to move, his trembling frame telling clearly that he knew the fate that was in store for him. In this particular case the old fellow was given a reprieve, and, from being an incorrigibly slow animal, improved so well that he won a five-hundred-pound hurdle race.
One could multiply instances of horses that were sent to run their last race with a sentence of death hanging over them, who have either won or so improved in their running that a respite has been granted.
Mr. Stanley Wootton,
a famous rider in his time and now the most successful of the younger school of trainers, is equally emphatic that horses reason.
"Although his thinking is not confined to feeding time," he said, "the one fact which convinces me that he gives certain matters a weighty consideration is his fastidiousness in the matter of feed and water.
"Horses undoubtedly have marked likes and dislikes for individuals, and their antipathies are more or less mysterious. I have known horses that could not bear certain stable boys near them."
A year ago there was a horse in Wootton's stable who hated the inoffensive boy and made several attempts to kill him. One morning he dragged the boy from a horse he was riding and knelt on him. When the boy was rescued and sent home on a hack, the horse broke loose and, chasing the injured youth, dragged him off again!
Stanley Wootton is one of those thorough trainers who keep their eyes on every horse in their stable, and it is impossible that the boy could have hurt the horse in any way without his knowing. One thing is certain, that horses never get over their dislike of those humans who incur their displeasure, and not even the elephant, whose memory is proverbially long, can retain an animosity for a greater length of time.
In racing circles they call Alec Taylor of Manton "the Wizard," and in so far as he can get to the very inside of a horse's mind this nickname is justified.
"Bought one of Taylor's horses, have you?" said a well-known sportsman to another. "I wish you luck. Personally, I never want to buy horses that Taylor is finished with—he speaks their language, and they tell him when they're no good!"
Mr. Alec Taylor,
like his father before him, has an extraordinary knowledge of the thoroughbred and studies his peculiarities with the patience of a scientist. His view is that the horse has a mind. No man pays less attention to the popular view, and he has kept horses in training which, according to every authority on racing, have been incorrigible rogues. A recent case in point was Stratford, a wilful, unreliable animal, whom, after costly failures, he coaxed into winning.
If at any race meeting you see a well-dressed young man with an umbrella hooked to his arm, leading a horse out of the paddock, you have seen a man to whom every horse is a thinking wonder.
Mr. Jack Jarvis
trained the One Thousand Guineas winner and the second in the Oaks.
"Of course horses think! Put a nervous rider up on a horse and see how quickly the animal knows! If he didn't think, it would make no difference to him whether he was nervous or as bold as a lion. The straight-thinking horse is a joy to deal with. He is equable in temper, honest in running, and he likes his bit of fun just the same as a human."
Mr. P.P. Gilpin,
who trained Pretty Polly, and who had Town Guard in his stable and many other fine horses, writes sardonically, hinting what he thinks of the horses in his stable, for this is one of the lean years that come to every trainer.
Yet Mr. Gilpin has had quite a number of "thinkers"—from the placid Pretty Polly to the mud-larking St. Louis.
There is a story that there was a horse in his stable which on one occasion was narrowly beaten by a very good horse in a race, and thereafter, when he found himself in a race with the same animal, took one look at him at the "gate" and refused to start!
I once owned a race-horse that on the morning of a race was found to be lame and was sent home again. The trouble was a minor one—it yielded to treatment in a few days, and a fortnight later he was sent over to a neighbouring racecourse to run in a small plate. That morning he was galloped on the course and went like a lion, but when the trainer brought him out before the race he was dead lame. An examination was made, but no injury could be discovered. Again he was sent home, and this time, without any treatment at all, the trouble disappeared. For a third time he was sent to a course, and for a third time, just before the race, the lameness came on. His number was in the frame, and the stewards were approached to allow him to be withdrawn. But one of them said that he had seen the horse walking about without trouble and permission was refused. I thought the steward had been mistaken, but on interviewing the boy in charge of the equine scoundrel I learnt that the moment the trainer and I had left him he had frisked about like a two-year-old. On the appearance of the trainer, however, the lameness came on. He literally limped to the post—and won the race by three lengths!
This might have been due to stiffness, but a few weeks later he fell shin-sore. You test a horse for this complaint by running your hand down the cannon-bone. If the horse flinches he is shin-sore. He flinched. What is more, for months after, whenever a hand touched his leg, he flinched. On the second occasion I'll swear that he was no more shin-sore than I was, but he knew that by flinching he avoided a hard race.
Shin-sore or not, we ran him and he was beaten two heads; the next time out lie tried both the lame stunt and the shin-sore flinch. Subsequently we took no notice cf his malingering unless he went short in his gallop. Happily he never learnt this dodge.
There is at the moment a horse in training who can leap like a deer; no fence is too high for him. But for some extraordinary reason he refuses most resolutely to jump the last fence—preferring to take the short cut to the winning-post, which disqualifies him—for every fence must be jumped. I have seen him ten lengths in front with the winning-post in sight. He is not distressed, he is galloping comfortably; he has cleared water jump and rail fence without an effort, and then—
"Watch this horse run out," says the man on the Press stand.
It is the last fence. He is coming straight for it full of running—a violent swerve and he has come triumphantly through the gap, despite the agonized efforts of his jockey.
He knows, of course, that if this performance were not varied with a very occasional win he would most surely find himself in the hands of a veterinary surgeon, and that a humane killer would be fixed to his head, there would be a "plop!" and he would kick himself through the gap that leads to the horses' heaven. And when he is given his last chance, and his trainer tells him solemnly that this is his final appearance on a steeplechase course, he wins!
Is this instinct or thought? Is there some thing in the trainer's tone which reaches his brain and causes him to readjust his plans? If you believe this, you must believe that he reasons, and I think you would be right in so believing.
The deeper one probes into the mystery of a horse's mentality, the more convinced one grows that the horse is a thinking animal. There are many physical reasons why a horse cannot demonstrate his intelligence as readily as a dog—it is impossible to imagine, for instance, a horse leaping up and pawing a human friend or licking his face; but that he has his moments of rumination and that he can give physical expression to mental conditions is, I think, proved beyond doubt.
IT is a natural thing for the humanitarian to say, of any man convicted of wilful murder, that he could not have been sane when he performed the act; and when murder is done in such circumstances and in such an atmosphere as that which marked the destruction of Emily Beilby Kaye, more profoundly does the mind of a balanced man grow bewildered.
Yet all things were possible with Patrick Herbert Mahon, whose form of insanity took the shape of a colossal vanity. Mahon was a man of pleasing address, popular with women and with his fellow men. For all his anti-social acts, he was in the way of being a social success in certain circumstances in those circles to which he had the entrée.
He was born in Liverpool; one of a large family of struggling middle-class folk—a boy of some small talent and an assiduous attendant at Sunday school. So he became an office boy, ultimately a junior clerk. He continued to go regularly to church and took a vivid interest in its social affairs. He displayed some prowess in athletics and was particularly fond of football, becoming indeed a prominent member of one of the local church teams. His early mode of life is described as having been a model for all young men.
At school he first met the pretty, dark-haired girl to whom his life was to become so tragically linked. She was two years younger than he, and their school friendship developed into something warmer at a later stage. Indeed, they were both in their teens when he first proposed marriage. There was strong opposition by both families and it was two years after this—in 1910—that they were married. He was then twenty and the girl eighteen.
Perhaps it was a reckless marriage. But this at least should be said. If any woman could have deflected Mahon from the path that was to lead to the scaffold, it was Mrs. Mahon. With singular devotion she held to him through the black and anxious years to the end. Hers is the real tragedy of this story.
Within a year of their marriage he had forged and uttered cheques for £123 on the firm which employed him. With this money he took a girl to the Isle of Man. He was traced, brought back, and bound over. Mrs. Mahon forgave him and they left Liverpool to start life anew.
Ultimately he obtained a position with a dairy firm in Wiltshire. There is no doubt that he had a fund of business ability, and this, with an apparent genial vivacity of manner, served him well for a time. He was still a "sportsman", and played football for a local team.
About this time a little girl was born. Hard upon this Mahon was arrested for embezzling £60 from his employers and was sentenced at Dorchester Assizes to twelve months' imprisonment.
Upon his release he is known to have lived for a while in the neighbourhood of Caine, Wiltshire. There was a mysterious epidemic of burglaries in this neighbourhood, and it may or may not have been a coincidence that Mahon suddenly decided to seek other quarters.
He is next heard of at Sunningdale, where he was employed by a dairy. This time there were some love affairs which provoked a little scandal. Again Mahon was thrown out of work. There is a gap here which the imagination may easily fill in. Mahon had become interested in racing, and, when opportunity offered, attended race meetings in many capacities—preferably as a bookmaker's clerk.
However that may be, it fell on a day in the early part of 1916 that a branch of the National Provincial Bank at Sunningdale was entered at night. A maid-servant who interrupted the intruder was ferociously attacked with a hammer. When she regained consciousness she found herself in the arms of Mahon, who was kissing her. Later Mahon, who had dodged to Wallasey, was arrested and tried at Guildford Assizes for the offence. It was brought plainly home, and after he had been found guilty he made a whining appeal to the judge to be allowed to join the Army. Lord Darling sternly retorted that he was a thorough-paced hypocrite whom the Army could do without, and sentenced him to five years' penal servitude.
That term he served. A boy was born in 1916, but died a year or two later without having seen his father. Mrs. Mahon, left to her own resources, with indomitable courage sought a living for her little girl and herself. She obtained a post with Consols Automatic Aerators Ltd., which had a factory at Sunbury. Her efficiency and energy soon attracted the attention of the heads of the firm, and she was promoted to a responsible position.
MAHON came back from prison—full of promises of reform, anxious to be again with his wife. Observe that he always came back—that Mrs. Mahon always took him back. Superintendent Carlin of Scotland Yard made a shrewd observation on this trait: "He was keenly disposed to 'philandering' or having 'affairs' with this or that woman casually as they attracted him. But he never, I am convinced, wished to sever his connection with his domestic hearth. He felt in his his own mind that the woman he had married was his sheet anchor; that, if he cast off from her, he would be adrift."
They settled down in a flat in Pagoda Avenue, Richmond, and Mrs. Mahon used her influence to procure him a berth as a soda-fountain salesman with her firm. Mahon did well—so well that when in May, 1922, the business was put in the hands of a Receiver he was appointed sales manager.
Now it chanced that the Receiver of the Company, a member of a firm of chartered accountants, in the beginning of 1923 engaged as a typist a woman— she can scarcely be described as a girl, since she was then thirty-seven years old, Miss Emily Beilby Kaye.
Miss Kaye had maintained herself by her own efforts for many years. She was a competent, experienced woman, not uncomely, who lived at a bachelor girls' club, and had managed to put by a sum of money, considerable for one in her position. She was not in the least averse from a flirtation with the handsome sales manager, this suburban Lothario, with whom business circumstances now brought her in contact.
The affair developed rapidly. She at least fell violently in love. Mahon may have thought that it would end as other episodes of this kind had before ended for him. But Emily Kaye was not easily discarded, I think we may accept Mahon's own words on this point:
"Just before Christmas, Miss Kaye was dismissed from the office where she was employed, and, as a result, had a lot of time on her hands, and she wished me to see her more frequently which I was unwilling to do for several reasons. She reproached me on several occasions as being cold, and told me quite plainly that she wished my affection and was determined to win it if possible. I felt sorry for the fact that she had been dismissed and did, as a result, meet her a bit more frequently. I temporized in the hope of gaining time, but from that moment I felt more or less at the mercy of a strong-minded woman, whom, though I liked her in many ways, I did not tremendously care for."
Mahon was embarrassed—perhaps a little scared. But he went on, and there were certain dabblings with francs in which he was proved to have had some concern, with Miss Kaye's money. He asserted that some of his own money had been used in these transactions, but there can be no question that the funds were provided by the woman. Miss Kaye was for a short while in employment, but again fell out of work and some time in February, 1924, she probably became aware that she was pregnant. Said Mahon:
"She became thoroughly unsettled and begged me to give up everything and go abroad with her. I plainly told her that I could not agree to such a course. I agreed to consider the matter, however, in the hope of gaining some time, but she suggested I should take a holiday and go away with her for a week or two, and take a bungalow, where we would be alone together, and where she would convince me with her love that I should be perfectly happy with her."
This was the immediate prologue to the tragedy. Miss Kaye was not as some of the other women Mahon had made his playthings. She could not be easily thrown aside.
Apart from this episode, Mahon felt the ground solid beneath his feet. His income was more considerable than it had ever been and, added to that of his wife, allowed a very comfortable existence. He was happy in his work; he was popular among his social acquaintances in Richmond and the neighbourhood. He had become secretary of a local bowling club. Save to his wife, his past was utterly unknown. The future looked full of promise. All this would have to be jettisoned, his career, his friends, his home—and he had a sort of attachment to his wife and little girl—if he yielded to Miss Kaye and took to flight with her.
He fought weakly to save himself. Even so, he might have succeeded, had not fate put into the hands of Emily Kaye somewhere about this time a weapon against which he felt impotent. It was the first of a number of strange coincidences with which the case was marked. No reference was made to it at the trial, nor did it leak out in the newspapers.
EMILY KAYE was clearing a drawer of some of her belongings. At the bottom of the drawer someone had placed a sheet of newspaper. And as she took it out her eye lighted casually on the name of Patrick Mahon. Thus she read of his trial at Guildford Assizes.
It may be assumed that she used this knowledge in her interviews with Mahon. She pressed the idea of "a love experiment," and he gave way. He engaged a bungalow on the stretch of lonely beach between Eastbourne and Pevensey Bay for two months, using the assumed name of Waller. This bungalow, known indifferently as "Officer's House" and "Langney Bungalow," had formerly been the official residence of the officer in command of a coastguard station.
This was at the beginning of April, 1924. Miss Kaye received the news with some coldness. She had not intended the "experiment" to last longer than a few days. However, she sold out her remaining shares, and went down to stay at Eastbourne by herself while she looked over the place. Mahon was to join her later.
He was very worried: "I felt in myself very depressed and miserable, and did not wish to spend the three or four days together as she desired, but as I had given my word, and as I felt that I could definitely prove how foolish the hope was on her part to expect to keep my affection, even could she gain it, I thought I had better go through with it."
Yet the ruling passion was still strong in him. Two days before he was to take possession of the bungalow with Miss Kaye he met Miss Duncan—a stranger— in the street at Richmond, and although it was a wet night walked with her most of the way to her home at Richmond. He remarked that his married life was a tragedy, and invited her to dine with him on the following Wednesday. The episode gives a clue to the psychology of the man. Murder must have been very close to his mind at that time, and yet he could philander with still another woman.
On April 12 he purchased a saw and knife at a shop in Victoria Street, and travelling down to Eastbourne met Miss Kaye at the station. They took a cab to the bungalow, and so the "love experiment" started. So far as his home and his firm was concerned Mahon was supposed to be travelling "on business.".
Miss Kaye had set her heart on eloping to South Africa. She had informed her friends that she was engaged—she had shown some of them a ring-and that her fiancé had a good post at the Cape. In a letter written to a friend on April 14 she said that she and "Pat" intended to spend a little time in Paris before going out. This was the last communication that any of her friends or relatives had from her.
On Tuesday, April 15, the two travelled to London together. Mahon had agreed to apply for a passport, but when they met in the evening to return to Eastbourne he told her that he had not done so, and did not intend to do so. A quarrel broke out in the train.
If Mahon's story is to be credited the woman presented him with an ultimatum when they reached the bungalow. She insisted that he should write to friends that he intended going to Paris and thence to South Africa. Mahon refused, and Miss Kaye, in an access of ungovernable fury first threw a coal axe at him, and then attacked him with her bare hands. In the struggle—this is Mahon's version—they fell, and she struck her head on a coal cauldron. A little later he realized that she was dead.
I mention Mahon's explanation, but few people will be found to believe that it was other than a cold-blooded and premeditated murder. Clearly he knew that he would be free the following evening, for he had during the day wired to Miss Duncan making an appointment.
His story of consternation and horror has a genuine ring. Mahon was a man of temperament and he felt the reaction. He was face to face with the problem that has confronted many murderers—the disposal of the body. And although he seems to have formed his plans beforehand—witness the purchase of the saw and the knife—he had not the nerve to put them into immediate execution. He carried the body to a spare bedroom and covered it with a fur coat.
That night he spent in Eastbourne, and on the next evening he dined in London with Miss Duncan. He remarked that he was staying at a charming bungalow and induced her to agree to pay him a visit two days later—on Good Friday. He confirmed this the following day by a wire from Eastbourne, "Meet train as arranged, Waller," and sent a telegraphic money order for four pounds.
This was on the face of it the act of a lunatic. The body was still at the bungalow. The man was taking a grotesque chance—for what? He himself gave the answer: "The damned place was haunted; I wanted human companionship."
Unquestionably Mahon's nerve was badly shaken and yet to all outward appearance he gave no sign. Miss Duncan does not appear to have had any suspicion and she went down to Eastbourne on Good Friday afternoon and was met by Mahon and taken to the bungalow. That day before her arrival he had commenced a sinister work, and there was one room that was barred to his visitor. He told her that it contained valuable books.
The next day he left her at Eastbourne and went by himself to Plumpton Races. Here he was noticed by an acquaintance who attached no special significance to the meeting, although it proved to be of vital importance in the chain of circumstance that was to betray the murderer.
Mahon realized by now that the presence of Miss Duncan was going to embarrass him. So he concocted a telegram in a fictitious name and despatched it to himself as Waller at the bungalow, making an appointment in London for an early hour on Tuesday morning. Thus he was afforded an excuse for cutting short Miss Duncan's stay. They returned to town on Easter Monday, and somewhere about midnight Mahon arrived back at his home at Kew.
He was back at the bungalow on Tuesday. Here I may tell a curious story which did not come out in evidence. He had already partly dismembered the body, and he now set to work with the intention of disposing of the remains piecemeal. The day was dark and heavy. He built a huge fire in the room and upon this placed the head. At that moment the storm broke with an appalling crash of thunder and a violent flash of lightning. As the head lay upon the coals the dead eyes opened, and Mahon, in his shirtsleeves as he was, fled blindly out to the rain-swept shingle of the deserted shore. When he nerved himself to return the fire had done its work.
It was an extraordinary coincidence that whilst he was giving evidence at his trial a thunderstorm was also raging. He gave calm denial when he was asked if he had desired the death of Miss Kaye. Almost on his words the court was illumined by lightning and re-echoed with the crash of thunder. Those who saw his face and knew the truth will never forget that moment when the sound of the storm brought back to his mind that fearful midnight scene. He was a broken man when he faced the deadly crossexamination of Sir Henry Curtis Bennett.
MAHON discovered that with every method his ingenuity could suggest the disposal of the body was likely to be a long job. Meanwhile he had to show himself at his office and his home. He returned to his home on the Tuesday night, and during the rest of the week he had to be at his work. On Saturday and Sunday he renewed his labours. On Sunday he conceived the idea of distributing some pieces of the dismembered body from a railway carriage window.
He spent some time over the gruesome business of packing a Gladstone bag. No chance seems to have offered itself on the journey to London that evening but he did succeed in getting rid of some portions between Waterloo Station and Richmond. But he was unable completely to empty the bag, and he decided to go on to Reading. The night he spent at an hotel in that town.
The next day—Monday—he returned to London. The bag was now empty save for the wrappings he had used and a cook's knife. These he probably intended to destroy later. He was acute enough to realize that if he had thrown them away they might have been identified.
The bag he left at one of the cloakrooms at Waterloo Station and went home. Now, although Mrs. Mahon had forgiven more than most women would have done, she was a person of intelligence. Mahon's strange comings and goings of late, his messages by telegram, his stories of business out of town, did not altogether impose on her. She knew him too well. Still, although she could not fail to be suspicious, no glimmer of the real truth was present in her mind. Someone had mentioned casually that he had met Mahon at Plumpton Races and she feared that this was an explanation. Her husband had been previously mixed up with bookmaking and, in spite of his promise to her, it was possible that he had gone back.
She found the cloakroom ticket in one of his suits. She took a friend into her confidence—he had been formerly connected with the railway police—and asked him to discover what it referred to. She had a belief that it might be some of the paraphernalia used by bookmakers. Thus it came about that the bag was closely examined. It was locked, but by pulling at the one end some indication of its grim secret was revealed.
Scotland Yard was immediately informed, and Chief Detective-Inspector Savage had men posted to watch the cloakroom. Mrs. Mahon was informed that there was nothing to suggest that her husband was bookmaking.
Mahon returned for the bag on the Friday evening (May 2). As it was handed to him a detective stopped him.
"Rubbish," he exclaimed when told that he would be taken to a police station. This little touch of bravado did not help him. He was taken to the station and later to Scotland Yard. The bag was opened and was found to contain a cook's knife which had been recently used, two pieces of silk, a towel, a silk scarf, a pair of torn knickers, and a brown canvas racquet case marked EBK. Most of these things were blood-stained, and the whole contents of the bag had been heavily sprinkled with a disinfectant.
Savage confronted his prisoner with these things and asked for an explanation. Mahon explained, lamely, that he had carried meat for the dogs in the bag.
"That will not do," said the Inspector. "These stains are of human blood."
"You seem to know all about it," retorted Mahon.
For a quarter of an hour or more there was silence. Then Mahon spoke. "I wonder," he said, "if you can realize how terrible a thing it is for one's body to be active and one's mind to fail to act."
Apart from one other muttered remark there was again silence for three-quarters of an hour. Mahon came to a resolve. "I suppose you know everything," he said. "I will tell you the truth."
He was cautioned, and then he told for the first time his version of the tragedy. I have drawn upon this and his subsequent statements in this account of the affair.
The Scotland Yard experts and the East Sussex Constabulary at once got to work. A search of the bungalow revealed many traces of the crime. There were portions of the body, and evidence of the attempt to get rid of it. But two very important parts of the body were missing. No trace of the head could be found. This, in all probability would have shown exactly how the murder was committed. There was no trace of the uterus.
THE trial opened at Lewes Assizes during July, 1924, before Mr. Justice Avory, an experienced and strong criminal judge. Sir Henry Curtis Bennett led for the Crown, and Mr. J. D. Cassels, K.C., for the defence.
The point taken by the defence was that the death of Miss Kaye was an accident, that either during a struggle between Mahon and Miss Kaye she had died from striking her head against a coal-scuttle, or that in fighting her off he had unintentionally strangled her. Mr. Cassels handled the case with notable skill, but he had to fight some deadly and almost irresistible inferences.
Although Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the pathologist, refused to commit himself to an opinion on the precise manner of death he was definite in his assertion that it could not have been caused by the woman striking her head against the coal-scuttle, which was of fragile construction. He was able to say that Miss Kaye, had she lived, would have become a mother.
All the shifts and deceits of Mahon during his intrigue with Miss Kaye were exposed to the jury. It was shown that over £500 of Miss Kaye's savings had disappeared. Three one-hundred pound notes, which had been in her possession, were shown to have been changed by Mahon in false names at various places. Overwhelming motives were shown by which he might have been actuated to murder.
The judge's charge to the jury was a lucid, perfectly fair, but damning summary of the case. Within half an hour the jury had found Mahon guilty.
You may say, as has been said, that none but a lunatic could have acted as he did; but apart from the deed, Mahon acted like a sane, calculating man.
I have referred to Mahon's vanity: it is a peculiar trait in all the "great" murderers that they desire to be thought well of. He cannot bear the thought of leaving a stunned servant maid with a bad opinion (not unnatural) of the man who assaulted her. He is at all times anxious to be considered by his respectable companions as a man of substance and a prince of good fellows, a self-described "Broth of a bhoy."
There was never a more cold-blooded murderer except perhaps George Joseph Smith, than this unspeakable villain. Even at the end, when he confessed his guilt to the prison officials, he begged that they would not make public his confession for fear of the "bad impression it might make."
THERE are scores of problems facing the writer of a true story which do not confront the author of an imaginary romance.
The greatest difficulty of all is to disguise the identity of the characters if the story is not especially flattering to them, or if by too faithful a description of the dead one reveals the living, to avoid libel, and, above all, to so word your story that innocent people are not hurt thereby.
Mainly, from the professional story-writer's point of view, the real difficulty is to have a story to tell which has not necessarily a happy but any kind of finish.
Real life stories have a trick of dispersing. As a river that runs into the desert, so does the most concentrated narrative of life spread itself thinly at the end and vanish.
To the story I have to tell there was an end—definite, dramatic, poetically just.
* * * * *
I HAD an acquaintance who lived on the verge of friendship. We wrote to each other on various matters; occasionally, when he was in town, we lunched together—very occasionally, because I ration my mid-day outings: I find that they interfere more with my work than any other form of social recreation,
I always believed him to be a prosperous man. He was connected with an established business, and though he had no partnership, he gave me to understand that he had a generous percentage of the profits.
I never thought of him in any other way than as one very comfortably circumstanced. Moreover, I happened to know his wife was very well off.
I had met her on two occasions—a rather pretty, commonplace woman, a trifle artificial and hiding, I suspected, behind the geniality, which belonged to her "party manners," a somewhat acid temper.
This was not an exactly baseless analysis for once, or twice in my presence she had flamed out at her husband and she had even been guilty of the unpardonable offence of reminding him that he owed her money.
This was the first intimation I had that he was not as wealthy as I thought.
He was something of a scientist, dabbling a little in the occult. He may have been a spiritualist for all I know, though I rather fancy that his mysticism was of a more esoteric nature.
He apologised for her exhibition afterwards. "She is a little difficult at times," he told me, "and has an ungovernable temper. Life is not as pleasant at home as it might be, though you are the only person in the world who knows this."
Whether I was the only person, or whether this was one of these broadcast confidences which men and women make, which are so flattering to the person who believes be is the sole recipient, I don't know.
They bought a house In one of the home counties where they lived for a few months in the year. In the winter the wife went to Monte Carlo alone.
By a coincidence, and coincidences of this kind are not rare, I met some people who had been staying at the same hotel as the lady.
She was not very popular with the family, for the had been "carrying on" with a man much younger than herself and made no secret of her infatuation.
They said he was her dancing partner, but from what I subsequently heard, this was not exactly the truth. He was not a professional dancer—one of those young wasters who seem to have nothing better to do than spend somebody else's money.
EITHER some rumour of the lady's behaviour abroad had reached my friend, or else this conduct of hers was not unusual, but every time I met him he seemed more and more depressed. Then he told me that his wife was talking of divorcing him. She had, of course, good grounds, for he was not better than the generality of men.
In those days, if I remember rightly, divorce could not be obtained by a wife from her husband for infidelity, so there must have been another reason into which I have not enquired. At any rate nothing came of the divorce proceedings, and things went on normally.
I heard from him very rarely. Although I have called him a friend, he was not more than an interesting acquaintance. We had very little in common, except his passion for horse-racing, which, I suspect, cost him a lot of money, and this was probably the cause of his occasional embarrassments.
One day I had a letter from him on black-edged paper, telling me that his wife had died suddenly whilst she was staying with some friends.
It was the sort of incoherent letter one would have expected, and I wrote a letter of condolence, and thought that he now had an opportunity of making a new start and of finding some happiness in life, which I am perfectly sure he had never got before.
As I expected, he married again. I never met his second wife. I was told by somebody who knew her that she was very pretty and that he was a new man.
THE next time I saw him was in Hereford during the Armstrong trial.
I was in the market-place during the lunch interval talking to Sir Henry Curtis Bennett, who was on his way to his hotel for lunch, and we were discussing the possible result of the trial and the effect of certain evidence upon the Jury.
A car passed. The man waved his hand to me and pulled up the machine a few yards farther along. I thought it was an acquaintance of Sir Henry's and did not realise that it was I who had been signalled. He stepped out of the car and I saw it was the man whom I knew.
He was on his way to Swansea, to motor back his wife who bad been staying with some friends.
He expressed no surprise at finding me in this, what was for me, out-of-the-way spot, and after a few minutes' conversation he got into his car and drove off.
He was a very voluble man, the sort or person who would say: "What dickens are you doing here?" and would not wait for my reply, and would go on with something he had to tell me.
Before he went I asked him to come over on the Sunday to dinner. The Press were giving a dinner to the members of the Bar. Though he half promised he was staying at Swansea for a day or two, he did not turn up, and. In fact, I had forgotten I had invited him till half way through the meal.
THE Armstrong case, as will be remembered, dragged on an interminable time—to my annoyance, for I had accepted a fee to "cover" the trial for a news agency on the assumption that It would be all over in two or three days.
The only good I got out of my stay was that I was persuaded to back Captain Cuttle for the Derby, and that is my only pleasant recollection of the trial.
Two or three months after I returned to London I was commissioned to write a series of articles on famous or infamous murders, and I took amongst these the Neill Cream and Seddon cases. They were both very interesting from the point of view of the psychologist.
I went to a lot of trouble to collect data and became so enthusiastic a student of these two grisly "mysteries" that I thoroughly depressed my household, for I talked of nothing but murderers through every meal.
ONE evening in the late summer, when I was working in my study, a caller was announced. I do not welcome callers at any time, but when I am engrossed in work, they are not only unwelcome, but a positive bore.
"Who is it?" I asked.
"Mr. Z.," was the reply.
You know what on itch a writer has to communicate any new fact to a third person and what stimulus he receives from a fresh, unwearied audience.
I had exhausted the patience of my family so that when I mentioned Neill Cream a groan of anguish rose from the table.
"Show him in," I said.
My writing-desk was covered with books and documents, cuttings and photographs dealing with the Seddon murder, and after we had exchanged the conventional greetings and the usual insincere enquiries had been made about our mutual health, he asked what work I was doing. I thus had an opportunity of enlarging on the subject of Seddon, his cunning and rapacity, and brought in some reference to Armstrong.
"Oh, that is why you were at Hereford!" he said, suddenly interested. "You were at the trial?"
I told him I was not only at the trial, but should have been at Armstrong's execution, but for the fact that he was hanged on the day Captain Cuttle won the Derby, and I had chosen the more pleasant function.
And then I began to hold forth on the peculiar qualities and especially the stupidity of poisoners, how they, of all criminals, denied any confession, hoping to the last that the lack of direct evidence that they administered the poison would save them from the scaffold.
"But surely such evidence is necessary?" he asked.
I cited him case after case to prove that the administration of poison was very rarely witnessed.
In the Neill Cream case there was a girl who had been given strychnine by the man, but in the majority of these crimes the act of administration of poison had not been witnessed. All the evidence was circumstantial.
"There are two kinds of murders I cannot understand," I said. "One is the trunk murder, that is to say cutting up the murdered man or woman, and the disposal of the remains in a trunk, which is one of the easiest things in the world to identify, and the other is arsenical poisoning, or the administration of any poison which has a metallic basis."
He asked me why, and I told him what is the obvious fact: that poisons like arsenic are indestructible. They can be found in the body years after the death of the person and the evidence of guilt is buried with them, and is there awaiting a scientific investigation.
The doctor may give a certificate that a man or a woman had died of pernicious anaemia, but that does not mean that the body will not be disinterred at an inconvenient moment and the cause of death diagnosed as arsenical poisoning.
HE was sitting with his back to the light as I spoke, but going over to a bookcase to get an authority on the subject, I saw his face and nearly dropped the book: the face of this ruddy-complexioned man was as white as chalk.
There were black shadows under his eyes, and the hand that come up to his mouth was shaking like a leaf.
He went out rather hurriedly, mumbling something about having remembered an appointment, and he left me in a condition of mind which can only be described as chaotic.
I did nothing that night, and in the morning I called up a man whom I knew, and who was much more friendly with the family than I.
"What had Z.'s wire died of?" I asked.
The reply that came was a very shocking one.
What was I to do? All the evidence I had was that he was terribly upset when I had spoken of the indestructibility of arsenic. But the very horror of the subject may have been sufficient to sicken him.
He may not have been of the strongest kind, and I have known people to feel physically ill when they have heard a story which revolted them.
I salved my conscience in the meantime by pursuing a very leisurely enquiry. It was true that she had died when she was staying with friends, but she been very ill for a month before.
It sounds a very simple plan have gone to the place of her death and made enquiries of her doctor. That is not so simple if you arc not a detective.
YOU cannot barge into a medical man's consulting-room and say: "Please give me all the symptoms attending the illness of Mrs. Z." He would probably throw you out or, at least, return a very cold reply, the more so as he was the man who certified her death from natural causes.
I didn't know any of the people who lived in the house where she died. We had very few mutual acquaintances. I thought once of consulting my solicitor, but that in itself was attended with a certain amount of danger.
A solicitor may-be a very good friend, but he is also an officer of the Court, and, strictly speaking, it would be his duty to pass on to the police my suspicions if he thought they were in any way justified. I did at last obtain scraps of information concerning the woman's last illness. To my mind there was no doubt upon the subject.
As a reporter I have been concerned with several poisoning cases, and the peculiar incidence of the illness which preceded death was very familiar to me.
By every psychological test that I could apply, this woman had died of arsenical poisoning, and the assumption was that it had been administered by her husband, who had inherited a portion of his wife's fortune, though not a very large portion, and a certain number of her jewels, which his present wife was wearing.
I had even thought of making an appointment with Sir Henry Curtis Bennett, one of the shrewdest and most knowledgeable of men. I was uncertain as to the propriety of approaching him direct.
The tantalising thing was that just about that time I was constantly dining with eminent lawyers, and it was on the tip of my tongue on every such occasion to narrate my experience.
I suppose I had the natural feat making a fool of myself—a fear which dominates humanity to an extent not generally realised.
AND then came relief: looking through the newspaper one morning, I saw a short paragraph:
"The body of an unknown man who had been decapitated on the rail line between X and Y bus been identified as Mr. Z. How he came to be on this section of the line is not known. There is no evidence of financial worry, etc., etc., etc."
For two days I lived in dread of receiving a letter from him posted before his death, but happily for my peace of mind that letter has never been received to this day.
I am not certain whether it was suicide or accident. He had either fallen or jumped from an express train and, since his affairs were in order and be had sufficient worldly goods, the suicide theory was not accepted.
Nobody has ever questioned whether he died through his own act or through a mischance. If he died by his own hand, then the conversation in my little study in Clarence Gate Gardens undoubtedly drove him to the act.
THE talkies are the landlady's cat to the theatrical profession; heaven knows what they are going to be to the company promoters. You know the old joke so popular in the Victorian age about the lodger who, when he complained to his landlady that his food was missing, was told that the cat had eaten it.
To-day the cat has come to life again.
Any producer who takes an extravagant view of the merits of a play and discovers that the public does not agree with him, any actor who cannot draw an audience (because of a bad play), any theatrical speculator who loses his money in trying to foist upon the West End an entertainment that would be hooted In Wigan, come to a unanimous conclusion that talkies are killing the theatre.
A couple of years ago sporting writers were screaming at the top of their voices that dog-racing was killing the Turf. In three years' time, say the present-day prophets, racecourses in England will be sold for building-land.
In three years' time, say the present-day prophets there will be only half-a-dozen theatres in London. the rest will be talkie palaces.
And so everybody is preparing feverishly for a talkie boom, and the dud producing companies will be banding themselves together in a new talkie concern, and we shall read sensational announcements of new British talkie companies which are going to lick the world.
It is not an easy business running a British producing company, as I can testify.
If you allowed yourself to be stampeded by the sensational happenings of the past six months, it would be a disastrous business.
BRITISH production companies in any case cannot possibly make a profit on their first year of trading, because a film takes a long time to make, a long time to book, and it is a long time before money can come in, and the difficulties that face the production companies are greater than most people imagine.
This has been a bad year for exhibitors. The King's illness and the cold weather of the winter have played havoc with the exhibitors' profit. An enquiry at the old-established cinema houses in the West End will confirm this fact.
Happy are those production companies which have not sunk the whole of their capital in enormous super-productions, but have felt their way forward cautiously and have fluid capital to apply themselves to the new craze.
I call it a craze without suggesting that the talkie is a thing of the moment, or that in a year of so's time the desire to see English peers talking with an American accent will be sated.
The talkie has come to stay, and the producer who is banking upon the silent film of the future should see a Harley Street specialist.
Exactly what form the talkie will take, whether it will be noisy from start to finish, or whether it will consist in bringing out the high spots of the story, remains to be seen.
If the talking film is a permanent form of entertainment, as I believe it to be. then certainly the English producing companies should have nothing to fear, because talkies are cheaper to make, English voices are pre-eminently the beat for reproduction, and we have other advantages in England which neither America nor any other country possesses.
I DON'T know how many excuses have been offered for the failure of the British-made film.
We are told that we have not the types of beauty, we are told that Great Britain to unsuitable for film-making because of the horrible climate and especially of its light (I personally shot an outdoor scene last February which is as good, from the point of view of photography and light, as anything you would get in Hollywood), and we have very good reasons advanced for scrapping our studios and surrendering the British film Industry into American hands
One of the reasons most persistently advanced is that our films are barred in America and our own personal market to so small that it is hardly worth while attempting to compete with Hollywood.
There to a Quota Act which compels exhibitors to show a certain number of British films a year.
That Quota Act may not have done us a tremendous amount of good; it may have tempted us to spend a tremendous lot of money subscribed by British shareholders, but it has certainly cost America considerably over a million pounds.
I don't know the exact figure, but let us put it at a million. Does anybody in his senses imagine that the shrewd men associated with the American film Industry are going to take the loss of even a million without a battle?
It is an open secret that great American companies are prepared to spend enormous sums in propaganda to destroy the Quota Act. They are being assisted very considerably by the British producing companies themselves.
There is, as it happens, no need for the foreigner to spend a penny, for the talkies themselves look like nullifying the Quota Act.
British studios are empty, and only in two or three is any attempt being made to produce sound films, or indeed any kind of films. This will mean that there will not be sufficient pictures produced to make up the quota.
WHY the British film industry is in this position heaven only knows. The talkies did not come out of the blue.
Old-established production companies, as distinct from the new concerns which were getting their studios into working order, had opportunities to meet the competition when it arrived.
One bad film succeeds another.
There are times when I feel that the poverty of our own productions is a justification for the Quota Act being thrown on to the scrap-heap.
From an inside knowledge one tries to reduce to first causes the comparative failure of British films, and in order to get a practical understanding of the reasons, I undertook, to the consternation of my directors, the task of making a film myself.
I can well understand their agitation, because I had never spent more than half an hour in a film studio, but the technique was no mystery to me.
In twenty-eight working days I made a picture, the artistic value of which will be decided by the long-suffering exhibitor—the man whom the Quota Act has really hurt.
I made the picture because I had reached the conclusion that what is wrong with the British film is the director.
There are only about three competent film directors in England; the greater proportion of the others are fakes. Any property man who comes from Hollywood with an American accent and a big cigar can persuade a production company to give him a picture to make.
If he talks long enough and puts a big enough price upon his services, his offer is accepted. He may have been an electrician, or a third cameraman, or a fourth assistant producer, but if he whispers that blessed word "Hollywood" all the English producing companies open their doors to him
He proceeds to impress the child-like directors of a film company by demanding that the equipment of the studio should be changed.
If the lighting is incandescent, he will have arcs; if there are arcs and Incandescent lights, he will have mercuries.
He will bring with him half-a-dozen needy compatriots who, under certain grand titles, constitute his staff.
To show that he is a real producer, he will be dissatisfied with every set that is put up. every "property" that is made.
FOR months he will dawdle through his picture, spending money like water, keeping artistes hanging about the studio from morning till night, and in the end he will produce a picture on which he will stick the label "Super"—and the producing company will find itself face to face with another deficit.
I am not so sure that he is any worse than his English confrère—the type of Britisher who works a similar gigantic confidence-trick and who hasn't even the technical knowledge which will enable him to hide up his ignorance.
None of these gigantic hoaxes could be worked if the administration of the film industry was in capable hands. Promoters are, as a rule, more interested in names than in brains.
The average director of a producing company is entirely in the hands of his managing director, and he is more concerned with the finances of the company than with its artistic creations.
I do not speak feelingly, because I have had an experience which is an exception to the rule.
The trouble is that the best brains have not been attracted to this industry. We not only haven't the best, but we havent even the next best. The industry has been treated as a joke, and the immediate consequence of directorial incompetence has been profitable to the bad producer, and has resulted in a flood of unshowable pictures.
We have been badly left in the race, and only the most revolutionary and drastic changes in our methods can bring us the benefit which our great advantages in human material deserve.
HORSE-RACING is one of the greatest of our industries. It has a bEtter cash turnover than the steel and iron trade and the coal trade combined.
The popularity of racing becomes an enthusiasm on Derby Day and a comfortable ecstacy during Ascot Week.
Consider this: in the whole year of racing only four consecutive days are devoted to the Ascot meeting. To serve the public on those four days an immense area of buildings is maintained, decorated, embellished and beautified, vast lawns keep the attention of gardeners for 361 days, hothouses are filled and emptied, hundreds of painters and cleaners are kept busy the whole year round, builders and glaziers are kept in constant work—for four days' racing!
And towards the prizes on those four days of racing £40,000 is contributed, so that the best horses in the world shall be attracted to Berkshire; and because the best horses are attracted to Berkshire and all the world and his wife flock to this little Berkshire village, every kind of luxury trade is kept busy for months, and some £2,000,000 worth of dresses, hats and shoes are planned and made for this special occasion.
Even motor-coaches that bring the humbler pleasure-seeker to this venue are designed primarily for the Ascot traffic.
AMERICA will send shiploads of tourists to see Reigh Count make his bold bid for the Gold Cup.
Special trains will be run from France full of sportsmen and sportswomen.
By the way, Reigh Count, the American champion, is a long-distance performer before anything else, and the Yankees' chance of grabbing the Cup has not been so bright since the day four American crooks took it by the simple expedient of opening the glass case that contained it and smuggling it away.
What is the attraction of Ascot? Why is it supreme among the race-meetings of the world?
First and foremost, it owes its popularity to British efficiency. The Mussolini of Ascot is a slim, straight-backed lieutenant-colonel of the Household Cavalry, Gordon Carter, whose genius has been rewarded by a knighthood in the King's birthday honours.
Sir Oordon Carter is the genial autocrat who has made Ascot what it is. It has always been something more than a race-meeting—it is a social function.
Here society from all the world gathers, not to see the racing, but to inspect one another's dresses. The Royal Enclosure is the most exclusive enclosure of the season.
One of the stewards of Ascot is the Viscount Churchill. He is, I believe, steward of no othet meeting. He is intimately associated with the Court and every application for a place in this holy of holies must go through his hands.
It is his business to separate the sheep from the goats—and many are the goats!
He lives Ascot and thinks Ascot, and no sooner is one meeting over than his department at St. James's Palace is organising for the nest.
He and Sir Gordon Carter are always planning for Ascot, and, strangely enough, it is not the lordly and ladily "privilegees," the holders of Royal Enclosure vouchers, for whom they are planning.
The secret of the Ascot success is that Sir Gordon Carter and his illustrious stewards think democratically. It is for the cheap public they plan, for those in charabancs rather than those who come in Rolls-Royces, and for those who can afford to pay 6s. for a place on the lawn rather than for those who pay £40 for a box over Tattersalls.
This year the 6s. ring is a marvel of comfort and service.
Brand-new buildings have gone up, great lawns have been opened, new stands have been established, tea-rooms and dining-rooms have been erected.
A band of the Life Guards has a stand in this ring, and hard-working gardeners have been busy since Christmas getting ready to delight thé eyes of the charabanc parties.
That is the secret of Ascot, that all the time somebody is planning and thinking for the general public, and it is amazing that Ascot— which is the aristocrat of all race-meetings—should depend, and does depend, for its financial success upon catering to the proletariat.
There is no magic formula here which cannot be applied by other racecourse executives. Some of our racecourses have three times as many days' racing as Ascot, three times as many opportunities to cater for the public. They are content to let Ascot "get away with it."
"How absurd," they tell you when you suggest that they should copy Ascot; "we haven't the revenue. Why. the money that is paid for the Royal Enclosure vouchers is as much as we take on any three days' racing!"
BUT the money taken at Ascot for the Royal Enclosure is very nearly the least important item. What keeps Ascot going is the revenue from the public stands, and because the accommodation at Ascot is well-nigh perfect (you can get a shave and a hair-cut if you need either) the meeting attracts its thousands of "paying guests."
And because it attracts its thousands of racegoers the executive is able to offer these enormous prizes, and because these prizes are offered, the best horses in the world are entered and the public comes in increasing numbers to see the racing.
It is a benevolent circle.
Three out of every five racecourses in England possess accommodation which is no less than disgraceful.
The refreshment-rooms are hovels, the stands are so inadequate that on a big-race day only a quarter of the people can see the racing. The number-boards are invisible from a short distance, the sanitary arrangements are so primitive that they would not pass a London County Council inspector.
And yet the public have to pay three times as much as they are called upon to pay for the spacious and efficient services in the 6s. ring at the royal meeting.
Certain racecourses are living from hand to mouth. The prizes are ludicrous. It is humanly impossible for an owner to keep horses in training unless he gambles on them, which means that the only people who can benefit are the bookmakers.
Some of the courses are almost inaccessible. Most of them depend entirely upon local patronage, and yet in most cases their shares stand at a big premium. And if you suggest that the company should be reconstructed, that new shares should be offered to the public and money brought in for the improvement of the buildings and the enhancement of the prizes you are met either by a stony silence or by a good-humoured contempt.
And yet it has been proved beyond any question that where the public have been considered, where racecourse executives have gone out of their way to do something for the "silver people." success has followed automatically.
THIS has been discovered at York, at Doncaster, at Ayr, at Hamilton Park, a Scotch meeting, which really deserves the title of the Ascot of the North, and which is one of the most go-ahead racecourses in the United Kingdom.
We want more Ascots.
Racing thrives on efficient and businesslike management. Until a few years ago, when the Jockey Club interfered, some of our courses were terrible.
Do you remember Epsom in the old days, with the uneven track littered with papers and broken glass, with stands that were literally death-traps if a fire had occurred?
See what an energetic management has done with that popular course, which is now one of the best in England. The old building was scrapped and a new and imposing stand was constructed, and within a few years Epsom will offer prizes which will rival the mammoth stakes at Ascot.
If I had my way. I should create, under the direction of the Jockey Club, a new office—Director of Racing Accommodation—and would put Sir Oordon Carter in complete control.
If he did not give us more Ascots I should be very much surprised. We need them badly.
OLD soldiers may die, but their traditions are eternal. I doubt very much, if any soldier of the Crimea walked into a modern barrack-room, that he would feel in the slightest degree embarrassed by the spirit of modernity; and, beyond the change of arms and equipment, he would discover nothing novel in the language of the 1920 soldier.
Still would he find the desperate expedients that kit inspections bring into operation; still would he hear bitter complaints about the quality of the canteen beer; and to his ears would come the familiar groan of the old sweat with twenty years' service telling the youngsters how soldiering was soldiering in the good old days.
The barrack-room is insular. The great events of the world pass on and leave no trace of their interest. New words come into the barrack-room vocabulary—strange foreign words with queer English sounds; for it is a fact that every war in which the British Army is engaged brings a few odd words and expressions into the everyday language of the barrack-room. I wonder how many people realize that 'bosh', as indicating rubbish, is an Army word which the soldiers brought back from Turkey. They acquired one or two from South Africa; another couple remain from the Great War.
In one respect there must have been a drastic change. In my day—I first made my acquaintance with barrack-room life at the age of seventeen—the Army was packed stiff with singers. They weren't good singers, but they sang. You heard them every night in the canteen; you heard them every day in the barrack-rooms and passages, warbling sentimentally. But the character of the songs has probably changed, for in the early 'nineties, and for twenty or thirty years before, the supreme favourites were Irish revolutionary songs!
Songs about Ireland have had an irresistible fascination for Tommy, and it is an historical fact that it was to the strains of 'Tipperary' that the Old Contemptibles performed their most heroic deeds. But 'Tipperary' was a lively tune compared with the more favoured ditties which held the attention of a soldier audience. It was a vital ingredient of most of the songs that we sang in the early days that they should be sentimental, and should deal with poor Irish heroes who had been done to death by the brutal English soldiery. A typical example was 'The Young Hero', the refrain of which ran, if my memory serves me:
To the old British square they marched our young hero.
'Aim straight at my heart' were the last words he said.
Exposing his breast to the points of their rifles,
When the smoke cleared away our young hero lay dead.
So they laid him away on the hillside,
Along with the brave and the bold.
Inscribed his name on the scroll of fame
In letters of purest gold.
'My conscience will never convict me',
He said with his last dying breath.
'May Gawd plead the cause of freedom
For which I am sentenced to death!'
I have heard this same song sung by request four times in one evening! And it was not amongst Irish troops that these songs were popular. Their most enthusiastic singers were the men of the county regiments, and especially the 'London' regiments (the West Kent, Middlesex, 7th Fusiliers, East Surrey, etc.).
I haven't been in a barrack-room for twenty years, but I am almost tempted to go forth on a visit of discovery to learn what has supplanted the sentimentalism of Erin.
The woes and wrongs of Ireland in lyrical form have charmed and thrilled generations of soldiers, and I do not remember one native song that has ever been brought back from any other part of the world.
India has contributed in a very great measure to the vocabulary of the British soldier. Certain Indian words like 'rutee'* are traditional, and will persist long after our association with India has terminated—as some clever people tell us it will terminate.
[* rutee: Hindi word for bread.]
I was privileged the other day to read a letter written by an officer to his wife. He was serving under Marlborough, and one passage in the letter rather amused me:
The soldiers complain, and continue to complain. They complain about the food, about the length of the marches—which, as you may well imagine, are long and tedious—about their billets and their duties, and this was spoken of to my lord (the Colonel) whilst we were at dinner this afternoon. My lord said: 'When you have had my experience with English soldiers, Captain Wright, you will know that they will grumble on all occasions, and fight all the better for it.'
A grouseless British Army would be a monstrosity. Tommy grouses, not because he is a soldier, but because he is British and because it is part and parcel of the national character to grumble when things are going well and to be uncannily cheerful when things are going badly. There is a song, 'Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag'. This did not inspire the soldier—the soldier inspired the song. For in adversity there is no more buoyant creature than he. I remember during the South African War that if one were under a roof for the night it was always possible to tell when rain was falling upon the roofless bivouac. From out of the darkness came the melancholy strains of the latest music-hall song—invariably when it started raining on the men who had no shelter but their blankets the troops sat up and sang.
I am curious to know whether certain little practices in the Army have persisted through the years. Is the square-pushing uniform as popular as ever? I rather doubt it, because the square-pusher depended very much upon the smartness of the pre-war uniform. Khaki is not an incentive to smartness and clothes-pride; and, moreover, the privilege recently granted to soldiers of appearing in public wearing the mufti of civilians must have done away with the master-tailor's perks.
In the days when soldiers wore red coats and blue trousers, the dandy had many opportunities of beautifying himself and enhancing his personal attractions. Square-pushing boots, square-pushing caps, silver cap-badges, and a few etceteras which were distinctly non-regimental, lent him some of the fascination of the male peacock.
When Kipling wrote 'Tommy This and Tommy That' he was putting into concrete form the one conviction which never dies in the Army, and it is that the soldier is despised by the civilian population and that his honourable trade is regarded by respectable people as something to be ashamed of.
It is a curious fact that the Army is very unpopular among the lower middle classes as a profession for their sons and brothers. Why that should be so has been a mystery, but here again the tradition continues. If only the lower middle classes realized the fact, the Army is the real poor man's university. It is to the Army that every young man without a definite profession should be sent to complete his education, to engraft in him a wider knowledge of men and things, and to supply him with a much-needed stimulus to a profession. It would be all to the good of the country if every young man who attained the age of from eighteen to twenty-four, and had not settled down to productive work, should by law be compelled to take the Army 'course'. This modified form of conscription would bring about a radical change, not only in the attitude of certain sections of the population towards soldiering, but in the physique of the nation.
My own impression is that the attitude of the civilian has undergone a very considerable change since the war. That a soldier should not be served in certain bars and public-houses is unheard of in this year of grace, but, strangely enough, the barrack-room view remains that this is still a practice. When, the other day, I invited a man of twenty-one years' service to come to lunch with me at a restaurant (I think he was passing through London on duty), he was aghast at the idea.
'You will get chucked out if you take me there,' he said. 'Everybody knows that they won't have soldiers in West End restaurants.'
While I confess I expected all the old ideas and notions, in fact the very character of the soldier, to have been burned up in the war, and a new type to have emerged, a visit to a military centre finds the Army just as I left it, and I can pick up the same old soldier that I knew and loved in the days of my service. He has the same dodges for evading work, the same bubbling humour, not less funny because of its dourness, the same simplicity of nature and generosity of soul. The words you might not use in a barrack-room are still tabooed; the man who whistles the 'Dead March' is 'for it'; still persists the idea, which dies very hard indeed, that the quartermaster-sergeants buy rows of houses on their illicit gains.
One aspect of the modern Army life I find very curious. In the old days one was not allowed, and certainly nobody seemed to have a desire, to discuss politics in the barrack-room. Giving the soldier the vote was one of the most revolutionary steps ever taken in the history of the Army, and for my own part I believed that it would have a most demoralizing effect. There were neither Liberals, Conservatives, nor Socialists in the barrack-room, and politics came into the same category as religion. It was one of the forbidden subjects of controversy. The curious thing is that, even though the soldier is given the vote, politics are still more or less tabooed. Very wisely the Army authorities do not allow canvassing of military voters, nor encourage candidates to address meetings for soldiers only; and the consequence is that, although the vote has come, it has had practically no effect upon the amenities of barrack-room life.
There is a mystery about the British soldier, a mystery which no man has solved. It is the mystery of the mould in which he was cast, and in which every new recruit is hammered. Why is there no variation? Why is this type eternal? What is there in the Army which broadens and quickens a man's sense of humour and creates the corps spirit which is nine-tenths of efficiency?
For the solution, I suppose, one must go back to the national character, and compare the phenomenon of the soldier's spiritual and mental development with the same process which is going on in the public schools, and which licks the biggest lout into the semblance of a gentleman. Certainly, the soldier does not change for the worse. He could not change for the better.
NOTE: Mr. Wallace's more than 140 detective novels, plays and other works are well-known the world over and are very popular. More than five million copies of them are sold every year. Being in this country on a flying visit he consented to tell America, through this magazine, what he thinks of our crime problem, and his opinion follows below. —Ed.
A NEW form of punishment must be devised if the world is to defeat crime. I am convinced the present penal systems are all wrong. Prisons have become so luxurious today that they are no longer corrective institutions. They have become a form of social club. Here the criminal is allowed to associate with others of his kind. He is served with much better food than he usually gets on the outside. He is allowed to attend concert parties, wireless parties, sees the latest cinema and in many places is allowed to smoke. The punitive value of the sentence is unfelt. Though the time passes none too quickly, the prisoner emerges from jail morally unchanged.
Reformers who really desire to better corrective conditions should study the psychology of the criminal. To understand criminals and their motives, one must affect to have a certain sympathy with criminal classes. Otherwise criminals will either lie, or boast of their ill-doings, and surveys will have no informative value.
Prisons should be made so as to put the fear of God into the hearts of those who view them from the inside behind barred doors. A long sentence holds no real fear for the criminal while conditions are as they are. There is only one way to cut down our ever-growing jail population—institute such drastic reforms that a prison will be made into a place of punishment. Make it so hard that even continuous criminals will hesitate before they commit any crime that is likely to send them back to a place with a reputation worse than hell.
I do not advocate cruelty but I do advocate discipline and I think such measures could be taken during a short, sharp sentence that would make life almost unbearable within sane, humane limits.
A prisoner should never be allowed to get used to jail.
Except for the few years spent in the army, my life has brought me more or less in touch with criminals and has gained for me an intimate knowledge of the underworld. In some way, a legend has grown up that I am in sympathy with professional criminals and am very generous with them. That is not so. I have no use for a criminal; the more I see of them, the less I like them. There is no romance to a crook and I have never yet met one who could be called clever. Most of them are too lazy to earn an honest living. Those of them who have sufficient intelligence to know the difference between right and wrong have other vices which usually render them most unpleasant members of society.
I admit I am interested in helping the man or woman who is not an habitual offender, I, too, have had to struggle and I, too, have known how cold and harsh the world can be upon occasion, but for criminals in general, I have no sympathy and no respect.
The most formidable weapon that the forces of law and order can use against the criminal world is the weapon of terrorization and it should be used without mercy. Strange as it should seem to Americans, there are few crimes of violence in England.
That is because Scotland Yard has well learned how to terrorize the underworld.
THE Chief Constables are holding their annual conference in Cardiff, and They are discussing the question of a better co-ordination between the various police forces with the object of preventing and detecting crime.
Let boll this bald statement down to the fact that there is in London one super-efficient Investigation Department, that department is at Scotland Yard.
The Chief Constables of England have the and the right and the privilege of calling upon the London C.I.D. to assist them in dealing with homicide investigation, and to their credit it may be said that they generally avail themselves of the opportunity.
The snag, however, is that the C.I.D. of Scotland Yard is sometimes called upon when the scent is so cold that it is impossible to run the quarry to earth.
Local police forces arc properly proud of their own efficiency. They are naturally a little jealous about calling in outsiders.
Generally the crime seems to be susceptible to a fairly easy solution. All that is necessary is that a few enquiries should be made, a few suspected persons questioned, and a search or two conducted, and apparently the motive for and the perpetrator of the deed will be brought to light.
UNFORTUNATELY, by the time the local police forces discover that their earlier theories are wrong two or three days may have passed, and they are usually two or three valuable days.
Then Scotland Yard is called in and expected to perform miracles.
What is needed very badly is that there should be one central Criminal Investigation Department for the whole of England, and that it should be separate and distinct from uniformed branch, and should have its posts in every great town throughout the length and breadth of the country.
It should be staffed with men trained at Scotland Yard. If this were done there would overlapping of authority. The Chief Constables of various counties would have just as much authority over the C.I.D. operating in their area as would make for efficiency and discipline.
If fact, more or less the same system should prevail in the country as exists in London, where the C.I.D. is attached to various police-stations which have their own divisional inspector who works with, but not under, the superintendent in control of the division, except in so far as they are under him for disciplinary purposes.
It would be only natural if the Chief Constables should discuss what has the appearance of being a crime wave, or rather a homicide wave, which has swept though the country during the past few weeks.
What is the cause of this wave?
There are many reasons assigned. One of them—the most fantastical—is the possibility that capital punishment will be abolished.
I think one can dismiss that "cause" even without consideration. Murderers never imagine they will be caught and punished. They are firm in the faith that they will escape the consequences of their villainy.
OTHERWISE it is impossible to imagine a man standing over a woman with a knife in his hand and saying: "If I cut her throat I shall not be hanged I shall only go to prison for life."
The idea that potential murderers should weigh the possibilities of light punishment in a period when three men have gone to the gallows is grotesque.
Another view Is that the summer brings certain mysterious influences which make for murder. One often sees it stated that the period of the South-Easter in the Cape Province and the Sirocco in Spain and South Europe coincides with the wave of murder.
Very likely it is true, because both the South-Easter and the Sirocco only come in the hot months, and it is in the hot months that murder is most prevalent.
When you think of crimes you visualise them in the surroundings which are proper to every form of anti-social activity. You picture dark streets and thick alleys, cold and sunless cities.
But the fact is that in the dark days of winter crimes of violence, offences against the person and homicides are much rarer than in the hot, blistering sunlight of the summer.
We have seen in the last month a succession of horrible crimes. Mainly they have been committed in the open, and in that sentence is explained why murder crimes are more prevalent—especially murder crimes in which women are concerned—in the warm days than in the cold.
Men and women are creatures of convention. They are tied and bound by certain rules and regulations which they obey without knowing why or even that they are obeying them.
We are tied to houses: we live and sleep in them, or have our work and recreation in them.
If something happens in a room, if we are tempted to commit an assault or behave unusually in a room, the consciousness that we identify ourselves with the room, and that we are, so to speak, exposed to public gaze is quite sufficient to act as a deterrent.
The places where we live and with which we are identified impose upon us certain rules of conduct and certain responsibilities.
The instinct to murder is a common and natural instinct.
There is hardly one of us who has not at some period of his life experienced a desire to sweep some enemy out of existence, but normal men and women exercise the necessary control to check that impulse at its birth
In the open spaces of the country we lose this sense of responsibility. We may not commit murder, but it is much easier to break the law in the open than it is within tho enclosure of walls.
WE are not overlooked; the nearest human being may be miles away and certainly is invisible: there is nobody sleeping upstairs or living downstairs, no neighbour behind the wall.
We are alone under the sky and the sense of our solitude and the sense of our separation from authority is so intense that I have known even the most law-abiding citizens commit acts of wanton damage without any reason whatever.
It is a very delicate matter to discuss relationships of men and women.
Lovers—good, bad and indifferent— have been since the world began, and the warm evenings and the natural desire for solitude take them away from the observation of their fellows and generally produce nothing more criminal than what one might expect in the circumstances.
To the brute the dark, warm night offers opportunities and temptations which, if he is a man without scruples and without remorse he will take.
He may not go to the length of murder, but there are scores of cases where he has not stopped far short. Most of the Düsseldorf murders were committed on warm nights.
It is not the beneficent rays of the sun that have an evil effect upon human nature or that men's nerves are jagged and their reason unbalanced which turns men into beasts and women into gibbering fools.
IF you have any doubt on this subject, go the rounds of the assizes and hear the amazing crimes that are brought against men who live apart from their fellows in the loneliness of moor and heath and cottage.
There Is nothing evilly dynamic in the warmth and crystal-clear sunlight, in the flowering gardens and the spreading trees.
The murder season is the summer season because it is the out-of-doors season, because it lures people away from the habitations of men and the moral forces which are exercised by congregations of humanity.
The lure of murder is the lure of the great out-of-doors.
A PORTLY dragoman watched the little group of helmeted Europeans who were directing the excavations of Tutankhamen's tomb. He turned to his employer, the special correspondent of a London newspaper, and said: "They will find gold and death."
The startled newspaper man asked why, writes Edgar Wallace, the novelist, in McCall's.
"Because," said the dragoman, the old gods live. This man"—he waved his hand contemptuously toward the tomb—"was an unbeliever. He found the old gods too late; and he offended the god of all gods, Amen-Ra."
Somebody told Lord Carnarvon this story. He did not laugh at it. He was a very sane, unemotional man. In all seriousness, he immediately said: "I recognize that possibility."
And this is the fact that is curious, that every mummy which is supposed by popular tradition to be "unlucky" is the mummy of one who has defied the great gods.
Tutankhamen was buried with elaborate ceremonial, but they made no image of Ra in yellow and set it at the bow of the boat which carried his swathed body; nor did they paint on suitable plaques the figures of the gods Tern, Shu, Tefnut, Seb, Mut, Osiris, Isis, Suti, and Nephthys and anoint them with cedar oil. And the Spell of Peace did not go into the closed cavern where they laid the body of the young king. Only a great unrest. For although Tutankhamen was hastily recalling the exiled divinities, and had changed his very name to propitiate them, the Old Ones who sit on the Parapets of Hell were not with him, and their wrath dwelt in the pitch-dark chamber where they laid the embalmed shell of the unbeliever.
Some day we shall discover that thought has substance and that love and hate are as material as the rays of the sun; then we shall know that the stories we dismiss as myths and the frantic imaginings of half-demented priests are terribly well-founded in sober fact. Hate may not lie like a cloud over the Valley of the Kings, nor stand, an invisible and vengeful shape, to bar intrusion into the mysteries of the dead; but hate is there, a tangible and everlasting factor.
Very clear-headed scientists viewed the excavations with uneasiness. Such men do not believe in ghosts; but they do not preclude the possibilities of psychic phenomena.
There are hoodoo men and women who doubts this? There are ordinary people who carry with them into house and office an aura of disaster or fortune. The X which produces such phenomena is a mystery as yet unsolved.
In Tutankhamen's tomb was the supreme x, which was death.
With Lord Carnarvon were Howard Carter and his secretary, Dick Bethell, M. Benedite, the French archaeologist, who was in charge of the Department of Antiquities at Cairo, and M. Pasanova. Of those men only one remains alive.
When the tomb was opened two other notables entered. One was Colonel Aubrey Herbert, Carnarvon's half brother; the other was Evelyn-White. When Aubrey Herbert entered the cavern he shivered and stopped, reluctant to go on. "I wish to God Carnarvon hadn't found this tomb. Something dreadful is going to happen to our family."
Before the year was out he was dead.
When the door was forced Carnarvon walked into the tomb with a smile and a jest. "I wish he hadn't laughed—he will be dead in six weeks," said Arthur Weigall, the writer. Something stung Lord Carnarvon on the cheek. He was a dead man before the wonders of the tomb were fully revealed.
Evelyn-White, Egyptologist and scholar, became a changed man after the tomb was opened. It was as though he were haunted by some unseen and dreadful presence. Within a year he had committed suicide. "There was a curse upon me," he wrote in the letter he left behind him.
The Egyptian authorities brought Sir Archibald Douglas Reed, a great radiologist, to X-ray the mummy. Within a year he was a dead man.
Professor Laffleur, of McGill University, was the first American scientist to examine the chamber of death. He did not leave Luxor alive.
Young men, old men, men in the prime of life, men for whose lives any insurance office would have exacted the minimum premium, died, mysteriously, tragically. Only Howard Carter remains of the principals. Almost every workman who entered the tomb has passed into the shadows.
Seven French authors and journalists visited the tomb; six were dead within two years. When they unveiled Tutankhamen they found a mark upon his face—the mark left on Lord Carnarvon's face was in exactly the same position.
On the day the tomb was opened a cobra, which was the sacred snake of Egypt, went into Howard Carter's house and destroyed his favorite pet, a canary that the explorer took with him wherever he went; the cobra is the rarest snake in Egypt.
Woolf Joel visited the tomb, and was dead within a year. Jay Gould was taken ill in the tomb and died. To every man without exception who has visited the tomb, misfortune has come.
The most sceptical admit that there is something more than coincidence in the fatalities which have followed association even with minor articles that have been taken from the tomb. Pieces which have been placed in the Cairo Museum have been "working." Attendants whose duty it is to look after these exhibits have sickened and died for no known reason.
The famous Dr. Mardus was convinced that the opening of Tutankhamen's tomb would bring death. "The Egyptians for 7,000 years possessed the secret of surrounding their mummies with some dynamic force of which we have only the faintest idea," he said.