CHAPTER X

In Paris again for the "Vernissage" — Amusing incident on return journey — Keeping a carriage to oneself — I meet Captain Hargreaves — The Mount, Bishopstoke — Delightful hospitality — His yacht lanira — A particularly pleasing souvenir — I join the "Artists'" Volunteers — Sir Frederick Leighton, Colonel the South London Brigade — The grey-uniformed regiments — Distinguished men amongst the officers of the corps — My first march out — Easter Review at Brighton — Fun out with the girls — A practical joke — Easter Monday Field Day — Leighton, an ideal Colonel — An instance of his indefatigability

THAT year I exhibited two pictures at the Salon, the portrait I had painted at Mentone and the large canvas which I had painted at Gorleston.


I went over to Paris for the "Vernissage," and was delighted to find I had been very well treated, and was "on the line" with both pictures; whilst, judging from the press notices, I had been "spotted" also. On my way back to London I had a somewhat curious experience, which ended in a most pleasant way.

I was leaving by an early train, and as I had had somewhat of a wild time the previous night, and had not got to bed until an advanced hour in the morning, I determined to try and keep a compartment to myself on the train, so as to be able to have a good sleep as far as Boulogne. With this idea I got to the station in good time, and having found an empty carriage proceeded to occupy all the seats by placing articles of baggage everywhere. Whilst doing so I noticed an elderly gentleman, of very distinguished presence, with a grey beard, who had apparently already secured his seat, strolling up and down the platform.

Just as the train was about to start, and I was settling myself in my corner, congratulating myself on the success of my ruse, he appeared at the door followed by a valet carrying a valise and hat box, and in the coolest manner got up into the compartment in spite of its "full" appearance. His man having placed his baggage on the rack and left, the gentleman then turned to me, and in the most affable way enquired if I should require all the corners, because if not, he wouldn't mind having one himself. Of course I had no option but to remove my things, which I did, feeling rather small at being bowled out so neatly. As he sat down he remarked with a genial laugh that he was an old traveler, and had often tried on the same plan himself. The idea seemed to tickle him, and we soon got into conversation, when I found him so sympathetic and entertaining that by the time we reached Boulogne we were almost like old friends.

My newly-found acquaintance was a Captain Hargreaves, and when we separated at our arrival at Charing Cross, he had given me his card and a cordial invitation to go and spend a few days with him at his place at Bishopstoke near Southampton; he had also promised to come and see my studio.

It is often remarkable how chance meetings such as this lead to lasting friendships, and so it was in this case.

Captain Hargreaves was quite a character in his way, and his place, "The Mount," was a charming sort of Liberty Hall, as he called it, where one received a most hearty welcome. He had been a great whip in his time, and I believe was said to be the only man who had ever driven a four-in-hand at full trot down the High Street of Southampton and into the courtyard of the "Dolphin Hotel," without having to draw rein — somewhat a daring feat. When I met him, however, his heart had gone wrong, so he had had to give up such mad pranks. Fishing and yachting were then his sole amusements, and there were several miles of good trout fishing on a stream which ran through his estate. I remember that at intervals along the bank there were seats with lockers to them in which were to be found refreshments for his guests at all times — a very thoughtful and hospitable notion indeed.

His yacht, The Ianira, was a very fine schooner of about 375 tons, with auxiliary speed, and perhaps one of the best of its class in those days. As Hargreaves was a captain in the Naval Reserve, all the crew were in uniform. We would drive from the house in great style in the four-in-hand down to the jetty, and be taken off to where the yacht lay in Southampton water in a steam pinnace, in quite man-o'-war fashion.

There was a large billiard-room and picture gallery built on to the house, which was full of modern pictures and statuary. One evening we were seated there smoking, when Hargreaves remarked that my large picture from the Paris Salon would look very well on the end wall, and if I didn't want the earth for it he would buy it. Needless to say it ended by its being sent down, and I went and spent a weekend to superintend the hanging.

Now comes a particularly pleasing souvenir of what was otherwise an ordinary deal. He was delighted with the effect of the picture, and after dinner that evening wrote me out a check for half as much again as he had agreed to give for it, saying that he felt it was really worth it. I imagine there are not many artists who have had a similar experience.

It was about this time several of us developed tendencies of martial taste. I may possibly have had something to do with this, for, as I have said, I always had a decided leaning towards "soldiering." I fancy it must have been the band and the uniform that attracted me. However, I induced two cousins of mine, and a particular chum, an old fellow student from Paris, to join the "Artists" ' Volunteers, then the 20th Middlesex. And for the next two months we were all as keen as mustard on drilling, in order to be able to take part in the maneuvers at Brighton — in those days the great event of the year for the Volunteer Army.

Sir Frederick Leighton was the colonel of the regiment, which mustered about 750, and was considered then, as it is still, one of the "class" corps of London, that is, typical corps which attract a certain class. There were other regiments which shared with the "Artists" the honor of being thus distinguished. The London Scottish, The Queen's Westminster, The Inns of Court, and the Civil Service, and as all five wore grey uniforms and were always grouped together, they were known as The South London Brigade. There was a friendly form of rivalry in consequence, which helped considerably to keep a healthy esprit de corps.

Although known as the "Artists," it was not absolutely necessary to be an artist. When the corps was founded membership was confined to painters, sculptors, musicians, and so forth, and for many years the tradition was unbroken. Though, of course, there were many distinguished young artists in the ranks, there were several companies without any painters at all in them; while, on the other hand, there were one or two mainly composed of this fraternity. We joined one of these, H Company, commanded by D. W. Wynfield, a painter of some repute at the time.

The distinguishing character of all the five grey-uniformed regiments was, I believe, that they were not what was known as "Working Men's" corps. The "Artists" certainly was very much to the contrary, and the charm of it was that every recruit on joining knew that if he stuck to it, and lived long enough, he had the chance one day of commanding the regiment. For the "Artists" "grow" their officers, as it is quaintly expressed.

From the very day one was enrolled you realized that slackness was taboo. And it was strange to note how soon one got to like the work, hard and monotonous though it was at first, of learning the elements of drill and military discipline. I remember it was a positive eye-opener to me to see the way my brother recruits unfailingly turned up of an evening — wet or fine.

Of course, the enthusiasm of the "Artists" still exists, for the corps is undoubtedly a popular one on account of its old associations, chiefly. But it can never again be the same as it was in the days of which I am writing, for the whole character of the regiment is changed.

Although it is still known as the "Artists," there are scarcely any artists in it now, and I believe no one deplores this state of affairs more than Colonel May himself, who has gradually seen this transformation coming about. Whether it is that the young painters of nowadays have not that sense of patriotism that animated their predecessors, or that the new school of artists that has sprung up considers it infra dig. to go in for anything of so manly a character as soldiering, it is hard to tell. But the fact remains, the "Artists' " corps, smart and efficient though it be, is only "Artists" in name now.
 

This retrocession, for one can call it nothing else, is still more remarkable when one recalls only a few of the men who made big names for themselves, and who in their early days passed through the ranks. Sir Frederick Leighton, Sir Edward Poynter, Sir A. E. Waterlow, George Frederick Ross, Walter Severn, Edwin Long, Thomas Brock, Val Prinsep, Sir Victor Horsley, Sir J. Forbes-Robertson, Dr Jameson (the late Premier of the Cape), Sir Edward Busk, Sir Joseph Barnby, Colonel R. W. Edis Colonel Walter C. Horsley — the last two successively commanded the regiment after Sir Frederick Leighton. These names will be sufficient to convey some idea of the men who helped to make the "Artists" what it always has been — one of the crack regiments within the Metropolis.

When I joined, and it is of interest to mention that the present colonel of the regiment was a brother recruit, the headquarters were at Fitzroy Square, and we were drilled in the grounds of the University College in Gower Street. It was tedious and uninteresting work at the beginning, but it all had to be gone through, for until you were passed by the sergeant-major you could not go and get your uniform.

I shall always remember the first outing we had with the regiment. We only managed to get our uniforms just in time; in fact, we were down at the tailors' on the Thursday night before Good Friday. At the last moment my trousers were not ready, so they lent me a pair, which were miles too large for me, as the waistband came up under my arm-pits, so it may be imagined how nice and warm and comfortable I felt, what with my tight tunic, belt and pouch and haversack, and overcoat rolled up like a horse collar across my chest, and wearing a helmet for the first time.

But it was all so delightful and novel, and when I "fell in" with my company when the regiment mustered and the band struck up and we marched off, I had the feeling that if this were soldiering it was very pleasant indeed. I often remembered this first impression in after years when I saw soldiering in real earnest, and when there was no music to liven it up.

The regiment, when the Easter maneuvers took place near Brighton, would send the baggage on ahead two days before under a baggage-guard of half a company, and then entrain as far as, perhaps, Three Bridges, on the Good Friday, and march the rest of the way with other regiments, and there was generally a small sham fight en route. We would billet at a village that night, and it was a delightful experience when after the hard day's work we turned in, and slept in sweet-smelling hay and straw in barns and outbuildings.

On the Saturday the march would be resumed with more sham fighting, until Brighton was reached, when all the various regiments would march into the town with bands playing amidst great enthusiasm. That night we were quartered in some public building. After being dismissed to quarters and having tea and a wash and brush up, we would invade the front and the pier and give the girls a chance.

In those days one could have a lot of fun with the girls when you were in uniform, and we generally managed to find something to pair off with.

Talking of fun with the girls when in uniform reminds me of a laughable practical joke played on me at one of these Easter outings. It seems funny now, but it didn't amuse me a tiny bit at the time, I recollect. I picked up a jolly nice girl on the Saturday evening and fixed an appointment with her for the Sunday afternoon.

It was rather difficult to get away from one's pals, as there seemed to be some unwritten law that we should stick together when in uniform either on or off duty. I managed, however, to elude the crowd, and found my lady-love waiting at the trysting-place.

I had made discreet enquiries beforehand as to the best way to get to the most picturesque and retired walk in the neighborhood, and learned that there was one that was known locally as "Lovers' Lane" on account of its seclusion. I therefore suggested our wending our footsteps thither, and to my delight
she consented, so we thithered. She knew the way, it appeared — but she told me she had only been there once before just to have a look at the place.

Once outside the town and away from prying eyes, I let myself go unreservedly, and with forage cap cocked jauntily over my right ear, and with my manly arm encircling her wasp-like waist, I felt I was indeed acting the "Tommy" to the very life — and I believe the young lady really liked it — so we must have made a picturesque and loving couple as we strolled through the leafy lane, whilst stopping at intervals for mutual regalement in the shape of unrestrained caresses of the most amatory nature.

At length we reached "Lovers' Lane," and I found it quite came up to its reputation, for it would have been difficult to find anything more adapted to the requirements of young and ardent sylvan lovers. A high straggling hedge shut it in completely from vulgar gaze, whilst overhead the trees formed a natural and charming bower, which effectually tempered the hot rays of the afternoon sun.

A mossy bank of most alluring appearance seemed to invite us to tarry awhile. My lady fair was not unwilling, and we were soon lying clasped in each other's arms in rapturous bliss, lost to the world and all its sordid pursuits, whilst the little birds sang in their sweetness around us. The next few minutes passed by unheeded as though in a dream.

Suddenly my companion gave a little startled exclamation and whispered in my ear: "Did you hear that noise? What is it?" I sat up and listened intently, then my attention was drawn to something quite close by. I thought at first it must be a snake in the hedge — or a big rat.

I watched it carefully, fascinated, as it were, when it gradually dawned upon me that it was a pair of human eyes peering through the hedge at us, and not far away yet another pair, and yet another, and here and there on either side quite a number of glistening eyes and laughing mouths and gleaming white teeth. We were surrounded by lookers-on. At that moment I caught a glimpse of something of a familiar grey hue with a row of buttons on it, and in an instant I realized that I had been stalked by some of my own comrades, and that there had been an interested group of spectators of the whole of the tender episode!

I was of course furious, but thought it was best not to let them know I had seen them, as it would have upset my lady-love tremendously had she known of it, so I turned to her and said that I thought that there were snakes about, and that it would be advisable to go somewhere else.

She didn't want much telling, so up we scrambled and walked rapidly away. As we did so I heard a suppressed titter of merriment from the other side of the hedge, and what sounded like a discreetly suppressed cough. Some little distance on my companion said suddenly and anxiously: "I don't think that was really a snake we heard, do you?" "I don't think it really was," I replied truthfully.

However, to return to the serious side of our volunteer duties at the Easter Reviews. Sunday there was Church Parade, and then we were free for the day. Monday, Bank Holiday, we were out betimes, for it was a field day on the downs — with a big march past to finish up with.

All Brighton used to turn out to see this, and the most ludicrous incidents would often occur, for we always had a generous supply of blank cartridge and took the most daring risks, dashing right up and blazing away at the enemy at close quarters, the crowds of men, women, and children looking on, and when the "cease fire" sounded it would be like a fair all round, every one lying on the grass if it were a fine afternoon, with hawkers selling fruit, nuts, ginger beer, and what not.

It was indeed a brave scene. Wanting in seriousness though it may have been, there is no doubt that it appealed tremendously to the people, and it was that that made the Volunteer Movement, and these Reviews in particular, so popular at the time, whether they took place at Brighton, or Southsea, or Portsmouth.

It must not, however, be inferred that it was all pomp and circumstance, for we did a good deal of hard work when there was no audience, at Aldershot in the summer, on Wimbledon Common, and elsewhere. Leighton made an ideal colonel — in fact, he was probably more strenuous in his work than many a commander of regulars.

If, as it has been described, genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains, then Leighton was indeed one, for in everything he undertook efficiency was his object, as, for instance, in his volunteer work, and, moreover, he expected every one around him to be as fully in earnest.

I remember one occasion at Wimbledon towards the end of an extremely tiring afternoon, he had given the command for some particularly complicated battalion maneuver to be carried out. Somehow it was not done to his liking, and he ordered it to be repeated; this was done again and again without success, then Leighton, who had been gradually showing signs of considerable irritation at what he probably considered the want of intelligence of us all, called a halt, and seating himself firmly in his saddle, facing the regiment, he bawled out: "Well, gentlemen, I'm in no hurry, and I'm going to have this done properly if I stop out here all night."

I don't know whether this little speech had any effect, but anyhow we did not stop out all that night. This zeal on his part, so far from being resented, only served to make him liked still more by the regiment, and it is safe to assert there was no more popular colonel of volunteers at that time than Sir Frederick Leighton. By his personality and quite remarkable assiduity he gave a brilliant example of what thoroughness and zeal can effect, the result of which is seen in the corps until this day. He gave up the actual command of the regiment to become the Honorary Colonel soon after he had been elected President of the Royal Academy, and then only on account of the increasing number of other duties thrown upon him in consequence. He was succeeded by Colonel R. W. Edis, also an officer of exceptional aptitude and presence, for his commanding figure and fine physique drew attention everywhere. Walter Horsley, the artist, succeeded him and maintained the great success and the old traditions of the famous corps, but, as I have said, painters have gradually ceased to take interest in volunteering, for reasons difficult to explain, and the corps is only "Artists" in name now.




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