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ceremony should be retained; nevertheless much the same kind of thing was not uncommon in the English Army in comparatively recent times. In 1859, for instance, the whole of the officers and men of the Royal Engineers assembled on the paradeground of Brompton Barracks for the purpose of witnessing the ceremony of degrading a corporal of the corps by order of sentence of court-martial. The offence of which the prisoner was tried and found guilty was that of having been absent from his work in the barracks and telling a lie to the sergeantmajor. The absence of the prisoner was caused by his going to see his sweetheart off by an omnibus. For this breach of military discipline the court sentenced him to twenty-eight days' imprisonment in Fort Clarence, and also to be degraded to the rank and pay of a private. On the sentence being submitted to Colonel Sandham, that officer ordered the twenty-eight days' imprisonment to be remitted, but the ceremony of degradation was performed before the whole corps, the prisoner's chevrons being stripped from his arms. The prisoner, it should be added, was a man of some education, and his punishment made such an impression upon him that he subsequently succeeded in absconding.
The Army as we see it to-day, with its ideals of strenuous work and efficiency, we Owe to Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, and Lord Wolseley. The latter it was who first of all perceived the necessity for breaking with the old easy-going ways. His
THE "WOLSELEY GANG"
energy and capacity for hard work may, without exaggeration, be said to have fairly appalled the officers of the old school, who were much given to fussing about trifles to which he attached no importance. This no doubt led to the mixed feeling of distrust and dislike with which in some quarters the so-called "Wolseley gang" was regarded. No one, however, could call in question the efficiency of this coterie. As a very competent critic once remarked, Wolseley was sure of the "machine" of his own construction, of which every cog and pinion had been selected by himself, always on the alert to discover capable men, and endowed with an intuitive discernment of character; when found, they were always kept well up to the mark by the unquestioned and unquestionable master mind which had perceived their aptitudes and attainments.
Country-house life-Then and now-The spirit of unrest-Simple pleasures-The old English Christmas-Old country towns-Beekeeping-Strange beliefs-Ancient abodes-The absentee landlordLocal gentry-Vandalism-All honour to Lord Curzon-The curse of "Restoration "-Quaint customs-Old-fashioned parsons--AnecdotesThe obsolete three-decker-Ritualism and Dissent-Rustics of the past -Anecdotes—“A way to get Wealth"
OUNTRY-HOUSE life has entirely changed since my early days. In former times, after the season was over the owner of a mansion in
the country would move his whole household out of London, and keep them away from it till the next season began. Now a couple of months or so is the usual limit of country life for the great majority, though of course flying visits for the purpose of sport are common enough. Week-end stays have also supplanted the lengthy sojourns which in former days were the rule rather than the exception. Love of change and variety causes people soon to become tired of remaining in one place, besides which, to some a succession of guests is more amusing than a few staid old friends whose habits and conversation never vary. After having successfully conquered the town, the spirit of excitement and unrest has directed its energies towards the enlivening of country-house life,
TOWN AND COUNTRY
with the result that in many cases life there differs very little from what goes on in town during the season. The old days, when, whilst the men were out shooting, the ladies sat peacefully working at home, are over, and only advanced age or unconquerable infirmities can now prevent most ladies from following the shooters into the field.
This was all different in my youth, when people in the country led far narrower lives and were mainly interested in local affairs and gossip, such as still, I suppose, goes on in small provincial towns. The difference between life in such places and life in London was, perhaps, most aptly summed up by the gentleman who said, "In the country, if you have a leg of mutton for dinner, everybody wishes to know if have caper sauce with it; whereas in London you may have an elephant for lunch and no one cares a pin." In the days when people passed the greater part of the year in their country houses they were satisfied with few distractions. At the proper season the
men, of course, shot and hunted, but, except for an occasional local ball-long looked forward to, and considered a great event-the ladies had hardly any of the amusements which abound to-day.
For the most part they were content to be occupied with matters connected with their household. Most of them spent a good deal of time at embroidery, fancy work, and other similar occupations. During the long winter evenings the younger ones would be quite satisfied to sit making "spills" from old
paper-"waste not, want not" was a maxim which then enjoyed great popularity.
Except for the annual visit to town there was very little to break the calm, and not unpleasant, monotony of their lives. A few relatives would come to stay at Christmas, but the huge parties such as now assemble at that season were practically unknown.
What is known as the "old-fashioned" Christmas is really a modern festival. It was invented by Washington Irving and afterwards rehashed by Dickens. There is very little mention of Christmas Day in old memoirs, and, going farther back, Pepys merely touches upon it.
Though the "old English Christmas" is in a great measure a new invention, a number of quaint and picturesque superstitions were cherished by the country people of various districts.
In the south-west of England, for instance, there at one time existed a notion that the oxen were to be found kneeling in their stalls, at midnight of this vigil, as if in adoration of the Nativity. Another pretty old legend declared that bees were wont to express their veneration for the Nativity by singing, as it is called, in their hives, at midnight, upon Christmas Eve; and in some places, especially in Derbyshire, it was asserted that a reverend watcher might hear the ringing of subterranean bells. In certain mining districts the workmen declared that high mass was solemnly performed by spirits in that cavern