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The very pink of perfection.-GOLDSMITH, She Stoops to Conquer, Act I.
Quid domini faciant, audent quum talia fures?
No man, according to the popular saying, is a hero to his valet. But there may be occasions when the inverse proposition is true, that a valet may be a hero to his master. One such English body-servant did I possess in India, whose performances, spontaneous and unprovoked, were a source to me of incessant surprise, mingled with the most profound admiration. Possessed of a fine appearance, an engaging manner, and unlimited effrontery, beautifully clad and equipped for any emergency, there was no situation with which he was not prepared to cope, and few from which he did not emerge in triumph. He was a little uncertain about his aspirates. But this added to, rather than detracted from, the novelty of his remarks upon men and things in general.
When I went on a visit to the Native States of Cochin and Travancore in Southern India in 1900, arriving at the former by sea, our vessel dropped
anchor in the early morning at some distance from the shore. Along this the crested surf could be seen and heard booming in lines of foam, while enormous crowds lined the beach. When I went on deck I saw, dancing on the waves alongside, a boat of wonderful construction with a figurehead in imitation of a gigantic bird, somewhat like the swanboat in Lohengrin, and with two state chairs erected on a platform on its back, under a painted and gilded canopy. I was informed that Lady Curzon and I were expected to go ashore on this fairy barge, propelled by the state rowers who were awaiting our descent from the ship. On the other hand, the Resident, with an eye on the surf, strongly dissuaded this form of disembarkation, which he said might precipitate us at a critical moment into the sea. So we decided to wait a little and then land in one of the more ordinary craft that were hovering around.
A little later, happening to look shorewards, I saw the swan-boat, careering gaily towards the beach. On the two state chairs, smiling and selfpossessed, sat my valet and the lady's maid, whom he had inveigled into the conspiracy, both exquisitely turned out; and from the shore we heard the loud huzzas that greeted their landing-I am sorry to say without the ducking that ought to have been their lot.
A second and somewhat similar incident occurred when I paid an official visit, with the escort of the East India Squadron, to the Persian Gulf in November 1903. Among the ports at which we called
was the little town of Lingah on the Persian shore of the Gulf. Etiquette prescribed that my military secretary should go ashore to return the visit of the local Governor. Accordingly in the course of the afternoon he went off in the boat attended by several of the staff. Upon landing they were conducted through a street to the house in which the Governor resided, and where the official exchange of courtesies was to take place. This building had an open gallery or reception-room looking over a balcony on to the street. As the military secretary approached, hearing voices overhead, he looked up, and there, in the upper chamber, he saw the valet, comfortably seated in the place of honour, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee amicably with the Governor, who doubtless thought that the particular angel whom he was entertaining unawares was the military secretary, possibly even the Viceroy himself.
But the valet's greatest achievements were reserved for the field of sport, in which his easy manner and unabashed assurance enabled him to reap many spoils. Perhaps his most conspicuous performance was the following. I was visiting the Native State of R, famous for the excellence of its tigershooting, and the hospitality of its chief. The Viceregal train pulled up at the platform of the station at an early hour in the morning. On these occasions there is usually some little delay in getting everything into order, before the Viceroy is allowed to make his appearance. The prince and his nobles and courtiers have to take up their proper positions ; the Guard of Honour must be marshalled; the
band must be ready to play; the Viceroy's staff descend and exchange greetings with their host, while the Viceroy from the slats of his carriage window looks out and sees the preparations being made outside.
On this occasion the Maharaja, with his immense turban and dress of pure white, was to be seen moving up and down as the train steamed in. The first to descend from the railway carriage was the valet. His debonair mien and immaculate appearance at once attracted the attention of the prince, who, conceiving him to be some important official of the Viceregal household, probably the military secretary himself, entered into confidential conversation with him. Then it was that, from the innocent retreat of my compartment, I overheard the following colloquy :
M.R. And how is His Excellency?
V. I am glad to say that 'is Hexcellency is hexceedingly well.
M.R. I hope to give His Excellency a good shoot.
V. 'Ow many tigers, M'raja, have you got for 'is Hexcellency?
M.R. We have marked down no fewer than sixteen.
V. (with an accurate recollection of the previous failure of similar forecasts, was seen to poke the Maharaja in the ribs, and with a knowing wink replied) 'Alve it once, M'raja, and 'alve it again, and you'll be nearer the mark!
And the curious thing was that the valet, with his superior acumen, was absolutely right; for the result of the shoot was that we killed four tigers, and
THE PLAGUE HOSPITAL
Which I wish to remark,
And my language is plain-
And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee's not peculiar—
Which the same I would rise to explain.
In the Middle Ages and down to relatively modern times the Plague in one form or another was a familiar and almost a chronic feature in Europe as well as in the East, from which as a rule it came. In recent times it has reappeared with less frequency, and with less devastating consequences. But its most appalling recrudescence occurred during my time in India, when for years it lay like a blight upon the land and was responsible for a mortality that was said to have amounted to over seven and a half millions of people. Brought by rats in the holds of ships from Hongkong in 1896, and transmitted, as subsequent scientific investigation showed, by the rat-flea from rat to rat, and from rats to human beings, it laid hold of the population of great cities whom it swept off with fearful rapidity; it attacked the villages; it cut a swathe as of a mighty