« 上一頁繼續 »
I shall not tell you
bottles I imbibed on my first night at the Hirsch--the best hotel in Baden for the quiet observer, but I will merely note the fact that I thirsted for absynth, and had strange visions of bitter beer floating across my brain, as I lounged up the Promenade the morning after my arrival. After a quiet renewal of my acquaintance with those charming young ladies at Weber's, and sundry petits verres in honour of the undiminished brightness of their sparkling eyes, I sauntered through that little side-door, so suggestive of evil, which leads from the smoking-room into the rooms. Suddenly, I planted my old friend, Sir Norton Folgate, busily engaged in covering the numbers at roulette with a heap of florins. He was in high spirits, and evidently gaining, for the croupiers were looking glum, though intensely polite, as they handed over the winnings. It was useless to disturb him, so I waited patiently till he grew thirsty, or wanted to smoke a weed, while I amused myself by an inspection of the various persons collected round the table. They were, as usual, the very
lowest of humanity; the outcasts from decent society; men whom I or you, reader, would inexorably cut, if they accosted us in the Quadrant, and yet at Baden we sit down at the same green table with them, and squabble furiously about a stray florin. If misery make us acquainted with strange bed-fellows, how much more is this true of the gamblingtable and its play-fellows. The only exception from the general rule of vauriens was an English lady, who played recklessly.
Ere long, I strolled out disgusted, and, after reading the papers, came back to meet Sir Norton on the steps, slightly overcast, and evidently a loser. He, however, met me most cordially, and expressed his pleasure at seeing me. This was honest enough, considering he had just lost two hundred pounds by his own folly. I ventured an inquiry about my lady, and then the old gentleman brightened up-money and all was forgotten at the thought of his dear little wife. Heaven bless her! she had gone with Charley to the top of the Mercurius Tower. She had chartered a donkey after ten, and, by Jove! she must have got there by this time. And by some impulse of Satan, Sir Norton's eyes
upon that confounded telescope, which is placed for public use—a very serpent in Paradise between two orange-trees-on the Promenade.
66 I'll have a look, and see whether they are on the Tower," quoth the knight. Said and done. The telescope was adjusted to the proper focus, and he gazed steadily in the direction of the Tower.
6 Yes, there she is, bless her little heart, just a-coming up on the Tower; and there's Charley behind her--he takes care of her, he does, while her husband is a-losing his money down here. Yes, that's her bonnet, and now she turns round I can see her face”—a pause, during which the husband may be supposed to be revelling in the sight of his wife's features), and then-a very naughty word—“he's a-kissing her!!! -and, by Jove!" the knight added, unconsciously parodying the Fat Boy, of whom he had probably never heard, “She's a-kissing him again.
And the old man shook like an aspen-leaf ; he seemed prematurely old in that brief moment; at last, with a sudden energy, he dashed his strawhat firmly down on his brow, and rushed along the Promenade, I fol. lowing discreetly in the rear, fearful of mischief, and yet not liking to
intrude. And he led me a pretty chase up that steep old Gernsbach road, the sun pouring down with the full fury of an August day, as it can only do at Baden. But still the old man held on vigorously, swinging his huge stick, and smashing imaginary foes. At that moment I would not have given much for Charley's head. At a turn of the road we came in sight of the happy party, my lady mounted on the donkey, Charley walking discreetly by its side. I expected to see murder done at least; but, strange to say, on the mere sight of his wife, so serenely beautiful, Sir Norton quite forgot his fury. He quietly went up, con
. gratulated her on her good looks, and said that, as they were late, he had come to meet them. And down the hill we went again, the happiest party apparently that ever scaled it.
What explanations took place afterwards I cannot say; the fact of its only being a cousin, however, did not avail. Charley was suddenly recalled, so he said, as his regiment was ordered to the Cape, though I never saw the announcement in the paper; while Lady Folgate is now living in Paris on a thousand a year allowed by her husband, and the interest of the thirty thousand pounds settled on her—whenever she can draw it from her father. Of course, she is sincerely pitied in London circles ; her husband was always a brute, and folk only wondered how she could have lived with him so long, &c. In the mean while, Sir Norton has resumed his bachelor existence, and gives capital dinner-parties. He drinks rather more than he used to do, and appears to be suffering from a settled gloom of melancholy. At any rate, he never mentions my lady's name; and I, knowing what I do, and having a due regard for the old claret, never approach so dangerous a subject.
ALDERSHOT AND ITS ENVIRONS.*
The bleak moor and barren heath near Farnham, traversed by the Portsmouth road, on which coach travellers in winter shivered as they passed, has become the scene of an encampment more populous than many a cathedral city, for some 15,000 or 20,000 men have now been collected there, with all the heterogeneous followers of a camp; and fielddays, mimic engagements, and even royal reviews, have brought her Majesty's lieges from far and near to the once solitary plain of Aldershot. Upon an area, seven square miles in extent—having Cæsar's camp, and the field where Alfred defeated the Danes, to give it some martial associations with British history—England has marked out a great training ground for her soldiers, and assembled a greater number of men than, in the days of the emperors, garrisoned the famous Roman wall.
camp at Aldershot is a vast assemblage of alphabetically grouped huts, covering the large area we have mentioned, and separated by the
Aldershot, and All About It: with Gossip, Military, Literary, and Pictorial. By Mrs. Young, Author of Our Camp in Turkey, &c. 'London : 1857.
Basingstoke canal into a northern and a southern division. At first sight this great encampment seems a wilderness of huts upon a plain, contrasting strikingly enough with the beauty of the country around it. Upon a nearer approach, the huts of (for example) the south camp are found to be dispersed in twenty-three rectangular groups, or “ blocks,” each block distinguished by a letter of the alphabet, and containing twenty-three huts for the men, besides officers' quarters and other buildings, and designed to receive a regiment not exceeding four hundred and eighty-four in strength. In the formation of these buildings, all that is not wood is iron, and all that is permanent is described to be of a type beyond which ugliness can no further go. But a rude exterior seems to be united with some appliances of civilisation in the interior of the camp buildings, without, however, the achievement of any comfort; and the evil genius of official blundering seems to have directed even their construction, for Aldershot, it is said, would have long since become a heap of ashes if hearths of brickwork had not been substituted in the huts, after the significant warning of a few “Christmas fires." The roads about the encampment are described to be on a loose soil, that gives forth clouds of dust in dry weather, and becomes an adhesive bog after rain; but there appear to be plenty of wells
, and there are breezy heaths, and a plain on which taverns spring up abundantly, if flowers do not.
What future advantages the British army may derive from this great experiment is a question upon which we are not now going to enter. But in those very particulars, in which the encampment at Aldershot affords such unexampled opportunities for adopting measures calculated to raise the moral character of the soldier, and fit him to cope with the emergencies of actual service, it does not appear that the government arrangements are what the public might reasonably expect. The demoralising influence of the camp has spread to every little town around it; and within, the system does not seem to be any improvement on that of barracks in any garrison town:
The English soldier (says the intelligent and observant author of the book which has occasioned these remarks) requires social training as well as exercise in the field. . . . . It is a duty we owe as well to ourselves as to our soldiers, to render them an intelligent, moral, useful class; and every commanding officer can bear witness to the fact, that the more respectable the men of his corps the easier is its discipline. Educate the soldier; and let him have not only the school and the reading-room, but his theatre, his ball-room, and his singing club, with such advice, example, and restriction as shall enable him to enjoy all these recreations and abuse none of them.
It is very deplorable that so small a proportion of the men in the British army know even the alphabet of their own language ; but the schoolmaster and the chaplain are not the only educators whose services need to be brought home to the soldier—a less dignified functionary is also wanted. The contrast is much to our disadvantage when British soldiers are compared with those of France in aptness at useful industrial occupations, and in knowledge of “common things” necessary to be known. Remembering how helpless our men have proved in the simple yet essential particular of preparing food, we hoped to find the cook, as well as the schoolmaster, employing a part of the soldier's leisure time in the great military playground” of Aldershot; but Mrs. Young writes : April-VOL. CIX. NO. CCCCXXXVI.
Unhappily, there are large cookhouses where every man's dinner is provided, so that the soldier, when encamped on a hill-side with his rations before him, looks helplessly on at the stones and the wood, and the water and the mutton, quite unconscious of what the combinations of these materials would produce in skilful hands.. Every observer of the miseries the English soldier endures abroad, from his ignorance of things necessary to be known, must regret that his leisure is not employed in affording to him the knowledge of " how to live," how to be independent on emergency, and to make the best use of the material which the chances of the times afford. The soldiers of the French army understand these details perfectly; and we see no reason why the Englishman should not be equally instructed.
Then, even in the simple domestic matter of providing houses for the washing and drying of linen for the camp, we find the same want of due provision, if not the same apathetic disregard that has been, in more momentous matters, and in time of war, so fatal to our gallant troops. It was to be expected from Mrs. Young's indefatigable exertions in British India, as well as at home, to ameliorate the condition of the soldier's wife, that she should humanely turn, as she does, from the imposing glitter of the parade and the field-day, to view the repulsive interiors in which the washing and cooking are carried on, and where the soldier often sees “ wife and children spectres in a hot fog." And our lively author describes the difficulties under which the washerwomen of the camp attempt to get up fine linen, for want of so simple a matter as a wooden grating over the mud floor of the women's wash-houses :
The poor creatures complained of the wet, dirty places they were compelled to wash in. In one of these wash-houses the mud was more than ankle deep; and most of them were in the same Balaklava-like condition, productive of much cramp, rheumatism, and dangerous suffering to the women, which a trellis flooring of wood might at once have remedied.
It is pleasant to turn from the mud of Aldershot to the localities “about it,” of which Mrs. Young has given us her impressions. The camp is the more remarkable from being in the vicinity, not only of so much picturesque beauty, but of places whose historical monuments and associations carry us back to the days when kings of England reigned at old royal Winchester, and bring before us many worthies of a bygone age. There is Farnham, with its nobly situated old castle, which had for its first builder Henry de Blois, the bishop-brother of king Stephen, but which lost its Norman grandeur in the tasteless additions and alterations of a later age, especially those which were made by prelates of the Stuart days, so that the castle presents now a strange combination of incongruities, of features that may be said to harmonise as little as the indi. vidual opinions of the bishops. And the quaint, fancifully-coloured old timber houses of the town of Farnham contrast strikingly enough with the uniformity of the new regulation-pattern black huts of the adjacent camp. Then, there are the secluded and picturesque remains of Waverley Abbey-a place that seems dedicated to the tranquil past, and whose green shades afford a refreshing contrast to the garish scenes, the glare and bustle of a military camp. Mrs. Young indulges in some sly satire on the archæologists, but shows that she can acknowledge how pleasant it is to turn sometimes from the present, with all its “wheels and steam,"
its noise, its fashions, its pretence, and its impertinences, to tread some green monastic shades, or repeople a neighbouring old-world town with the beings of a life that is gone. And then we have Moor Park, with all its associations, its memories of Temple, the philosophic statesman, and Swift, the witty dean-Moor Park, where Swift cultivated the expanding intellect of Stella, and learned from William of Orange the Dutch way to cut asparagus. Again, who could forget Selborne, or, being there, fail to recal, as Mrs. Young has with reverent diligence recalled, those memories of the amiable and eloquent author of " The Natural History of Selborne,” that linger on the spot where he lived and died? A very pleasant chapter of this little book is her “ Day at Selborne';” and, visiting the church, she takes occasion to remark on the evil of keeping our parish churches closed on all but one day of the week:
At Selborne (writes Mrs. Young) we strolled into the church, leaving the door open that the sunbeams might follow us in, which they did, making quite a glory on the old pavement. I wish that on all days as well as Sundays our church doors were open, and that with the sunbeams young and old could enter. The habit of foreign travel makes one like to see churches ventilated by the air of heaven; nor is less reverence felt upon the Sabbath (Sunday) because on the other days men might enter the sanctuary to meditate and pray. But in England, damp and mildew are held as of the very odour of sanctity. Then, passing from grave to gay, we may look upon
the animated scene of gathering the English vintage on the hop-grounds near Farnham, and be introduced to the (so-called) gipsies, the itinerant hoppickers, who congregate there in August, and of whose love for gaudy dresses some idea is given by the anecdote of the “handsome gipsy bride elect, who, Mrs. Young tells us," was waiting for the end of the harvest to get married, and had provided a flounced dress for the occasion, with a yellow bonnet supporting blue feathers !" And at Farnham (where our author makes a digression to the birthplace of Cobbett, and brings us face to face with the honest old Radical), she introduces us to a less celebrated character—an old poodle at the Farnham post-office
Who has a comical habit when work is slack of putting his head out of the “inquiry window," hanging his fore paws over the ledge, and looking wisely about him with a knowing air, as if seeking refreshment after sorting hours. So that, guided by the lively author, the reader, though he may not be attracted to visit Aldershot, will find in “ all about it” many objects of interest and entertainment.