Page images


“Give a dog a bad name and-hang him !”- Ancient Proverb.


The Discontented English- a population of Heaven knows man had served in many of how many,

and every

Jack one our Eastern stations. He had of them plays for his own always found the road, and d-d hand. No notion of had followed it satisfactorily, playing for the side — not a to the cricket-field. In Saigon notion of it. And the morals he had diligently sought a of the place !” similar track, and it led him Words failed him. at the long last to le Cercle It is an axiom among EngSportif. Here it was that his lishmen that those who have indignation culminated. no love for healthy and regular

Healthy Exercise-it is the exercise have no use for the fetich of the Englishman in Decalogue, except to use it as Asia, for with him, too, the pie-crust. instinct to reproduce home sur- " Read Les Civilisés'!" roundings makes itself felt; I followed his advice.

I cannor is it a bad idol before not recommend any reader of which to bow down and wor- "Maga' to make a like experiship. If you cannot, owing to ment. I believe the picture your limitations, be of the there drawn of life in and East when in it, I prefer the about Saigon to be vilely and Englishman's totem to the noo- maliciously exaggerated; yet turnal cafés of the Rue Catinat. at the back of it, as men on

Rummy beggars," grunted the spot reluctantly admit, the Discontented Englishman. there lurks some modicum of “Stop & game of tennis to odious truth. The book could shake hands with every new never have been written of arrival at the Club—not strang- Englishmen in any colony or ers, mind you, but ordinary dominion. So much at least playing members! Dripping is certain. There is a proverb wet their hands too. about smoke and fire ; but Ugh! I offered & prize for here, I convinced, the a lawn tennis tournament, — wreaths of stifling, filthy thought it would buck 'em vapour that smudge all the

Devil a bit! No sky rise from far worse bonfires entries. Afraid of being beaten. than have ever been lighted, What can you do with men even in Saigon. like that?”

“If Paris had contracted a His indignation found ex- mésalliance with Port Said, pression in abrupt, grunting and the devil had played the outbursts of very colloquial part of sage-femme for them, English,

the result might have been “ Football, too. Soccer. Saigon," said a Discontented Thirty men who play out of Frenchman.



[ocr errors]

up a bit.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

The imperative instinct which I wait? No? Well, some other earliest awakes in one on arrival time!” at Saigon is a desire to quit it It is thus, seemingly, that as soon as may be. I experi. business is conducted in enced some difficulty before I Saigon. was able to act upon this im- I stalked “co Monsieur" pulse.

one stalks shy game, and I ran To begin with, one had to him to earth in his bathinghit upon a propitious moment machine at last. At the when the office of the shipping moment it seemed to me to company chanced to be open, be a somewhat notable achieveand thereafter to contend with ment. the nebulous conversational He proved to be a cadavdiscursiveness of the function- erous - looking individual in ary who was by way of furnish- the last stages of consumption ing the inquirer with informa- or ataxia, feebly courteous, tion. The next step was to humbly yet cynically ineffitake ticket for Phnom cient, incredibly exhausted of Penh, but this was by no means mind and body. to be accomplished at the office I told him what I wanted in of the company. I was shown as few words as might be. The a small wooden booth on the shipping clerks of my acquaintquay-an erection like an anti- are hard - worked folk, quated bathing - machine from with little time to waste and which the wheels had been short tempers for muddled removed. It was there that customers. He smiled at me one took tickets, I was in- with far-away eyes, and asked formed. When ? Whenever me if I did not want everyone chose, was the cheerful thing except that for which I reply. I remarked that the had asked. I seemed in some bathing - machine appeared to miraculous fashion to have be hermetically closed. The changed places with the shipfact was at once admitted with. ping clerk. He was wasting out comment or emotion. Per. my time, not I his. At length haps these were not his office he consented with dreary rehours, I suggested. Ma si! luctance to recognise that I Only-well—he was not there, required the ticket for which ce Monsieur. Perhaps he would I had applied - & return to come back presently. Would Phnom Penh. I asked the


[ocr errors]

price-a mere matter of form, said. “It is not an affair of a for I had already ascertained moment. On this side,” init. He named twice the proper dicating the direction in which sum. I expostulated. He fell the shadow of the bathingto making calculations with machine was casting a dwarfed the scratohiest of pens upon patch of blackness upon the the thinnest and dingiest white-hot stones of the quay,

,– paper. Watching him, I ob- “On this side you will find a served that he multiplied by chair.

. Seat yourself, I pray the simple process of putting you.

To hold oneself on end the sum down over and over is so fatiguing.' again and then adding it up. I sat on that chair for a His addition was imperfect. I good ten minutes, and at the ventured to draw his fatigued end found him regarding his attention to the fact. Once still unfinished masterpiece more he smiled at me sweetly with his eternal weary smile. out of those tired eyes of his.

The ink in his pen was dry. " “It is always sufficiently I got my ticket in the end, difficult, le calcul,” he remarked but, like Thomas à Kempis of blandly, as though stating an old, I began to perceive that Axiom.

“ patience is highly necessary Finally, with a sort of inert to me." despair, though the emotion I do not for one moment working in him appeared to suppose that my friend in the be too feeble to deserve that bathing-machine was name, he accepted my figures, sort typical of the French clerk and opening a book of forms of Saigon, but I know of no in counterfoil began to pre- other country in Asia where a pare my ticket. . He had to white man would be entrusted fill in my name, the name of with such purely mechanical the ship, my destination, the duties, nor have I met in all number of the voyage, the the East any white man amount paid, and one or two feebly and amiably inefficient. similar details. His method What I have written reads, I of writing reminded me of am aware, like gross exaggerhis arithmetio. He did not ation, yet I am relating only write so much as draw-draw facts. How this man each letter with extraordinary obtained employment, and how, painstaking slowness, and by having been

been employed, he their aid build up very gradu- escaped immediate dismissal, ally each individual word. I are problems which baffle soluwatched my name creep into tion, unless, indeed, men speak being in this strange fashion; truly when they declare that then he looked up at me once

the French colonies are the more with that tired plaintive last resort of the proved insmile.

efficient, the incompetent, the “This will take time," he wastrel, and the "dead-head.”

in any







As already intimated, the take the duties required of Secret Service Department, me, telling me in confidence which was organised in London that he expected shortly to after the Clerkenwell explo- have in his gift & principal sion, was intended to be tem- Prosecutorship on the circuit, porary, and in fact it lasted and that I should be rememonly for three months. Though bered in connection with it. my sojourn in London had This decided my course, and proved an interesting and en- in April 1868 I moved from joyable episode in my life, I the Irish Office to Whitewas eagerly looking forward hall. to returning to the Irish Bar, But though Mr Warren was when I learned that the Gov. one of the most honourable of ernment wished still to retain men, his promise was not ful. my services at Whitehall. Mr filled. When the appointment Gathorne Hardy invited me in question became vacant, he to take charge of Irish business wrote to me that he could not at the Home Office, and Lord ignore pressure put upon him Mayo put pressure on me to against recalling me to Irecomply.

land. A typical Treasury I had an intelligent aversion letter had just been received, to the Civil Service—an aver. remonstrating against the cost sion which my experience of of retaining me in London; it has not quenched. And and on this letter Mr Hardy when asked to come to London had placed the laconic minute, I laid the matter before the “ Mr Anderson's services are Irish Attorney - General, and indispensable." I therefore re received his assurance that, 80 signed myself to the situation, far from injuring my pro- and decided to remain until I fessional prospects, my mission could get called to the English would give me further claims Bar. upon him for preferment. And Most people will be surshortly afterwards he proved prised to hear that, according the sincerity of his words by to the Act of Union and the appointing me to a Crown theory of the Constitution, Prosecutorship on my circuit. Ireland is under the Home I referred to him again, there- Office, and that the Home fore, at this juncture; and Secretary is the Minister reagain he urged me to under- sponsible to Parliament





Irish affairs. What, then, it not choose as companions for will be asked, is the position a wet day in a villa house. of the Chief Secretary for And I have known men even Ireland? The answer is that, in high positions to whom a strictly speaking, there is no like remark would apply. But such office. The Minister who with such chiefs as Mr Hardy, is thus popularly designated is Mr Liddell, and Sir James “Chief Secretary to the Lord- Ferguson at the Home Office, Lieutenant”; and all official and Lord Mayo and Sir communications are supposed Thomas Larcom at Dublin to pass between the Lord. Castle, my position was Lieutenant and the Secretary enviable one. And with the of State. In theory the “Irish Home Office staff my relations Office” is merely a branch of were friendly and pleasant. the Chief Secretary's Office in The Chief Clerk, indeed, reDublin Castle--a pied-à-terre sented my presence; but his for the Irish officials while influence

negligible in London. All this is now quantity. He was a man of practically changed; but the private fortune, who used the theory remains, and the change Home Office & pastime. has taken place within recent With exemplary regularity he years. Forty years ago all took his two months' annual important papers relating to leave every autumn, and he Ireland were transmitted to did comparatively little durthe Home Office the pre- ing the other ten. This in. scribed form of letter being, deed was quite characteristio “I am directed by the Lord- of the Home Office in those Lieutenant to transmit to you,” days. One of the senior &c., &c. The proposed scheme clerks, with whom I struck was that, instead of this cum- up a friendship, remonstrated bersome system, official papers with me for my activity and should be “minuted” to me, zeal. On his first joining the and that I should, as it were, department, as he told me,

, represent the Irish Office at the then Chief Clerk

Clerk imWhitehall, and Whitehall at the pressed him that the Irish Office. Mr Hardy sug- way to get on in the Civil gested that I should be called Service was to do as little “Assistant Secretary for Irish as possible, and to do it as business," but to this Lord quietly as possible. And he Mayo objected as trenching himself prospered by acting on on his preserves.

that excellent advice, for in Unless a man be so degraded due course

he rose

to the as to like office work for its top; and I may add that his own sake, the charm of life tenure of the Chief Clerkship in a Government department made it clear that the office largely depends on the per- was unnecessary, and it was sonnel. Practice at the Bar abolished when he retired on brings one into contact with a pension. many people whom one would

Forty years ago work in

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »