Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

less when a sick headache of his wife's (the veracity of which We doubted) drove them home at an early hour. ...

On Monday night Kean was a different man. Our box plan was this :

Front row.-Miss Anna Maria Porter, Eliza Drury, the Misses Denman.

Second row.-Miss Jane Porter, Miss Utterson, Miss Vevers. Third row.-Mrs. Utterson, Captain Milligan, Mrs. Merivale. Fourth row.-Mr. Utterson, Mr. Denman, Mr. Merivale.

In the middle distance were to be seen the Montagus, Plumtres, Miss Chambers, and the perfect beauty, now Mrs. Phipps.

In one extreme distance (these are painters' terms) sat the Dean's family (Allott Dean of Raphoe) looking pleasure personified, in the other stood Skeffington adorned with shaggy black locks, in one private box was Anacreon Moore, and in the opposite, in a morning dress and large white satin bonnet, fidgetted about Lady Caroline Lamb. The house was crammed almost beyond precedent, and numbers were turned from the doors, but the quality of the Audience fell far short of the quantity, Whitsun Monday having poured forth all her holiday folks, who seemed to enjoy their own jokes so much beyond what was going on, on the Stage, that the two first Acts of Barbarossa were performed entirely in dumb show, every one blaming Kean for fixing on such a luckless night.

However when he appeared, after almost huzzaing the house down, he was honoured with some degree of silence, and except that when pathos was attempted a general laugh was invariably the effect, the tragedy (if so, such stuff can be called) for Whitsun Monday went off well enough. Kean's part of course was very well done, but the effect of the whole was anything but tragic.

When Kean appeared as Paul, the delight of the company really rose beyond all bounds; it was very long before he could obtain any hearing, and that was a boon he could not get for Virginia.

The first song he sung very sweetly and with much taste (every song was encored), but that he would attempt flourishes for which he has neither strength of voice or science. It is as if you wanted to work a fine embroidered spray but could never unite it to the branch and main stem of the pattern, so I trembled with apprehension when once he set off in a flourish, that he never would be able to find his way back to the Song. His vanity must needs make him attempt an additional Song ' (as expressed in the bills), and this of a most difficult complexion. Devoutly did I, with Dr. Johnson, wish that it had been difficult enough to have been impossible ! However he got thro' it with unbounded applause, and was encored louder than ever. He came forward, as I thought, in act to sing, but taking off his hat, he shook his head, and this candid apology enchanted his auditory more than ever. My opinion of his voice is thisIt is very fine and sweet, but scarcely strong enough for the Theatre, however at a Benefit such exertions are well enough.

When the farce was over, applause, shouting, throwing hats in the air, was louder than ever, the glee of the Audience was really catching, and I came away highly amused with the evening

6

Alas! the last reference to the brilliant erratic genius strikes a sadder note as showing the pitiful background to his story. Mrs. Merivale, who always kept in touch as far as she could with the poor devoted wife, writes thus :

London 1819. Mrs. Kean has been here to-day quite a different creature from what I saw her last summer; happy and smiling. She had actually taken leave of her husband at Liverpool when a change of Theatrical politics brought him home again.

Oh, Mrs. Merivale (says she) he is an altered man, he has never drank for these six months, he likes to mix in gentlemanly company, you cannot tell how good he is grown.'

Then,' replied I, no doubt he is looking very well.' * Well! my dear Ma'am, he is looking beautiful!'

In the idea of leaving England, he wished to present my Father with some token of his gratitude, and ordered a silver snuff box richly gilt to be made for that purpose.

The last scene of Brutus embossed on the top. This is now completed and she consulted me on the best means of sending it to Cockwood.

Poor Dr. Drury! No silver snuff-box richly embossed could make up for the deep sorrow and disappointment felt at the hopeless conduct of his protégé. A complete alienation followed as time went on, but it did not descend to his son, the little Charles' of the letters. The friendship rejected by the father was passed on to him, and was continued in the Merivale and Drury families for two generations.

[ocr errors]

EMILY H. BUCKINGHAM. * Charles Kean, the well-known actor.

THE RIDERS OF THE PLAIVS.

CANADA'S ROYAL NORTH-WEST MOUNTED POLICE,

For us no cheerful hostleries
Their welcome gates unfold ;
No generous board, no downy couch,
Await our troopers bold.
Beneath the starry canopy
Are we when daylight wanes ;
There lie the hardy wanderers,
The Riders of the Plains.

From an upper window of the Ritz, the day after the Coronation Procession, one watched the Royal Progress sweep down Piccadilly. As a spectacle, surely a gay and goodly sight is this. Was Solomon in all his glory ever arrayed like the Horse Guards or like one of these scintillating Indian Princes? We wot not. It is the full glory of war's pageantry. To-morrow must prove a fieldday to the recruiting officer who casts his net where the human tide flows strong in front of the National Portrait Gallery and at the foot of Irving's statue.

At seven o'clock this very morning, as the troops were trotting down for mobilisation, we saw a gorgeous Horse Guard spill off his mount on the slippery asphalt of Tottenham Court Road. It was exactly six and a half minutes (although picturesque advice was tendered him by the early-risen small boy) before he was able to mount his charger again. A Horse Guard in full panoply is not a flexible unit; and yet doomed the Government which should menace the bearskin and black boots or suggest the replacing of those tight-fitting white breeches of this idol of Whitehall. There be bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial !

Of the earth and unornamented utility the next squad, this body of 80 picked men riding with loose rein and wiry bodies, taking in each detail of the crowd that clings to the iron palings of Green Park. Clear-eyed and firm-lipped is each bronze face under its wide-brimmed hat. Each of the eighty of Canada's Royal NorthWest Mounted Police, the Riders of the Plains, has his place in this pageant as a recognition of years of stern work, work done squarely and unwasted days on the uttermost edge of Empire.

Good to look at are these lean riders, and yet we turn away with a catch of the breath, a half-choked sob. Up in Canada's Farthest North, on the continent-ridge which separates the great Mackenzie River from the Yukon, lie four brave fellows (Inspector Fitzgerald and Constables Taylor, Carter, and Kinney) who had been chosen to ride for Canada with these at this crowning of the King. In an attempt to carry his Majesty's mail from Fort Macpherson on the Peel to Dawson in the Yukon, overtaken by a blizzard last Christmas, they all four laid down their lives on the snow and ice of the Great Divide. The story is a short one and breathes of grim suffering, of devo

a tion and pluck and endurance to the end. With sleds and eighteen dogs the winter patrol started for a 400-mile journey westward along the 67th parallel of north latitude. Two months having passed and no word being heard from them, a search party set out from Dawson to look for them, and the waiting world learned that Fitzgerald and his men had crossed not the divide between the Mackenzie Basin and the Yukon, but that Last Great Divide which all men cross but once.

The diary of poor Fitzgerald, written on birch-bark with a burnt twig, tells the tale of the grim fight with Death. The blizzard struck them shortly after they left Fort Macpherson and obliterated all land-marks. Then for forty-six days they wandered in that pitiless wilderness of ice and snow, to lay down their tired bodies finally and die within a hundred miles of Macpherson's Christmas cheer and kindliness.

In the fierce fight with Fate the men had eaten their belts, the harness of the dog-team, and every one of the eighteen dogs. Fitzgerald's diary under date of January 30th records, ‘All hands feeling sick, supposed to be from eating dog-liver.' On February 3rd he scrawls, We have travelled 200 miles on dog-meat and have still a hundred miles to go, but I think we will make it all right.'

'he last entry is, ‘February 5th, 48° below. Fine, with strong wind. Can go only a few miles a day.'

Those who found them came across Carter's body first, Fitzgerald had prepared it for burial, the hands crossed pitifully over the emaciated chest, a blanket over the poor worn face. Fitzgerald loved Carter as one strong man learns to love another where souls are tried on the edge of the world. Eloquent and pitiful were the things which the relief-party brought into camp, the copper kettle half full of moose-hide cut into squares which had formed their last meal. Fitzgerald's will of twenty-two brief words in which

[ocr errors]

as

a

he left his effects to his mother and concluded with the Christmas message of Tiny Tim, 'God bless us every one.'

Three years ago one had journeyed to the lip of the Arctic Ocean and forgathered with these brave fellows at Fort Macpherson, had sat round the camp-fire with them, and heard them speak of work and dangers and starvation with the laugh of the man who every day pits his manhood against the forces of Nature on the sternest of frontiers.

Of melancholy interest are the words of Inspector Fitzgerald's official report, recorded in the last Canadian Blue-book. “When there are no ships wintering at Herschel Island I think this station of ours is one of the most lonesome places in the North. There is no place one can go except to visit a few hungry natives, and there is no white man to visit closer than 180 miles. One gets some idea of Canada's vastness in the fact that Fort Macpherson is 2500 miles away from Mounted Police headquarters at Regina in Saskatchewan.

It seems presumption to dare to attempt an obituary for such men as these. But one of the men may be allowed to here again report of the work of his fellows. This is poor Fitzgerald's last official tribute to his subordinate constables : 'I beg to call your attention to the good conduct of the two men stationed with me at this detachment, Reg. No. 2127 Constable Carter and Reg. No. 4582 Constable Kinney. Both have been very willing workers, doing everything they were told without dispute, and I have never seen either lose his temper, which is speaking a lot for men stationed in such a lonely spot, with reading matter lasting only a little over a month.' Think of this last, you people of London, with your penny papers, your bookstalls, and your circulating libraries! It may be interesting to note that Constable Carter had been married by the Bishop of Yukon to an Eskimo woman, the first and only known case of a white man's contracting a legal marriage with an Eskimo on the edge of the Canadian Arctic.

The Royal North-West Mounted Police, a handful of men less than a thousand in number, maintain order over an extent of country as large as Continental Europe and do their work so well that life and property are safer on the banks of the Athabasca and on Lesser Slave Lake than they are to-day in many crowded corners of London and Liverpool. How largely looms the individual in this vast land of Canada, this map that is half unrolled! Men, real men, count for more here than they do in Old World crowded centres.

This is the most wonderful body of mounted men in the world.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »