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beautiful. In spite of her many years her mind was as alert, her
interest in affairs as keen, as if she were still thirty. She wrote to a friend in Edinburgh :
Mr. and Mrs. Lucy are here. Don't you remember how interested we were two years ago in reading of their having won the Dunmow Flitch of Bacon, and thinking it showed much moral courage in claiming it? But I can understand now how they claimed and won it.
They have between them a beautiful and interesting combination of mental conditions, such as go to make the wheels of daily life go smoothly round.
Mrs. L. has a most sweet unselfish nature—whilst her husband can relieve the seriousness of life by intelligent and intellectual humour. He is gifted intellectually as you know, and she exerts a refining spiritual influence over all. This latter quality has been very sweet and comforting to me in the conversations I have had with her. In short I have felt it a privilege to be here with them, though regretting much that the need of rest after some months of entertaining at home has necessitated my keeping my own room a good deal—a real self-denial for me, as you may suppose. Your friend, Sir Wilfrid Lawson, judged wrongly. There can be no dulness in such a life. There can be great and pleasing variety without the unpleasantness of opposition.
After this it is painful to be obliged to confess that the whole thing was a hoax. What really happened was that, in accordance with custom extending over many years, we were spending a week in the autumn with Sir John and Lady Aird. He had no country house, but early in the year made his selection out of mansions in the market for temporary occupation. As soon as arrangements were made, he hospitably engaged us for a week's stay. In this year he found his rest house in Essex, not far distant from Dunmow, famous chiefly for its ancient custom of bestowing a prize of a flitch of bacon upon a couple who can vow that their married life has been undisturbed by quarrelsome words. One afternoon we drove thither. John Aird pulled up the carriage at a grocer’s shop, entered and presently returned, accompanied by an aproned man carrying a flitch of bacon. This, Sir John, with bared head, and, as the paragraph lapsing into truth says, in a graceful speech presented to Mrs. Lucy.
How these things get into the papers, I know no more than did Mr. Crummles when he read in the local sheet a paragraph extolling the gifts of his theatrical company, and making light of Charles Kean, or Phelps, in comparison with its manager. There are thousands of people, in addition to my friend of the Press Gallery, who to this day firmly believe that Mrs. Lucy and I submitted ourselves and our case to the ancient tribunal at Dunmow, and won the flitch of bacon against all comers.
I MET Fred Burnaby up in a balloon, forming an acquaintance rapidly ripening into friendship that lasted to the day of his untimely death at Abu Klea. The date was the autumn of 1874. Some weeks earlier a couple of French aeronauts, M. and Madame Durouf, had arranged to make an ascent from Calais. The wind was high, blowing out across the Channel. If they mounted their fate was inevitable. They would be driven out to sea with little chance of escape from drowning. They wanted to postpone the ascent, but maddened by the jeers of the throng who had paid for admission to the grounds whence ascent was to be made, they entered the car, the ropes were loosened, and the balloon was soon over the sea and out of sight. Dropping into the water the passengers were happily rescued by a passing boat, and brought to an English port. Arrangements were subsequently made for an ascent from the grounds of the Crystal Palace, and all the world went down to see them off. Having lately joined the staff of the ‘Daily News,’ and anxious to distinguish myself, I resolved to accompany them. Unfortunately the idea had occurred to many others. When I approached Mr. Coxwell with a five-pound note in proffered payment of the fare, he, with many protestations of regret, informed me there was no room. Every available seat in the car had been taken and paid for in advance. This was disappointing, there being left for me nothing but the commonplace task of describing the ascent from the safety of terra firma. In quite a new reading of the saying, the wind was tempered to the shorn lamb. Just before the balloon was timed to start a storm sprang up. The great globe of silk swayed hither and thither in fearsome fashion. Mr. Glaisher, who was in charge of the expedition, looking at the darkening sky, sniffing the growing storm, put his veto upon Madame Durous joining the voyagers. “We are not in France,’ he said. “An English crowd will not insist upon a woman facing danger for their amusement. The voyage will be rough, the descent perilous, so Madame had better stay with us.” If Madame was not going, there would be room for me. I pointed this out to Mr. Coxwell, but he was inexorable. He held in his hand a list of at least thirty people who had booked seats. When everything was ready, the French aeronaut and Mr. Coxwell's assistant aboard, the list of names was called aloud. Only the wind howling among the trees made answer. “Il faut partir,’ said M. Durouf, looking anxiously at the angry sky. A middle-aged gentleman who had come to town from Cambridge, and early secured his seat, fearlessly took it. I followed, making myself as scarce as possible at the bottom of the car. Then tumbled in a handsome fellow, six feet four in height, broadchested to boot. I remember wondering when he would finish getting his full length in. This was Fred Burnaby, at the time ranking as Captain in the Horse Guards Blue, unknown to fame outside the barracks, with Khiva unapproached, the wilds of Asia Minor untrodden by his horse's hoofs. He told me later he had run down to see the ascent, and was strolling about the grounds in company with Musurus Pasha, the Turkish Minister. When the defection of the dauntless thirty was apparent, he instantly seized the situation. If they didn’t go there would be room for him. Shouldering his way through the crowd, he got aboard the car just as the ropes were let go, and the balloon with a mighty rush soared upwards. He had arranged a dinner party at his rooms in St. James's Street that night. How they fared I forgot to ask. Certainly Burnaby was not with them, being at the appointed dinner hour seated with me in a tumble-down market-cart, as we made our way after our aerial voyage through an Essex lane towards the nearest railway station. As things turned out, we had a delightful trip, rising to a height of 3000 feet clear of the storm. It was in the following year that Burnaby made his famous Ride to Khiva. I have before me as I write an early copy of the fascinating story. In his almost illegible handwriting it is inscribed ‘H. Lucy, Esqre., from his sincere friend the author. Oct. 27th, 1876.’ Under this pen-and-ink blotch is written, happily in pencil, “Two maps still to come.’ His next book, ‘On Horseback through Asia Minor,” for the publication of which I arranged with Sampson Low, is inscribed “To Mrs. Lucy, from her sincere friend the author. November 4, 1877. It is pretty to see how Burnaby, addressing a lady, with instinctive politeness, makes desperate effort to write legibly, and almost succeeds. On ordinary occasions his letters and MS. suggested that they were written with a skewer dipped in a blacking pot. On all his journeys save the last, which ended at Abu Klea, he brought Mrs. Lucy a present from the far-off land. We still have, to all appearances as good as new, a table-cloth, silk embroidered, he bought for her in a bazaar in Asia Minor. To me, on return from the same journey, he presented a cigarette-holder of rare silver filigree work, with mouthpiece of flawless amber. It was at his table I first sat at meat with Lord Randolph. On the eve of departure in 1883 on a journey round the world, Burnaby gave, at the Junior Carlton Club, a farewell dinner in my honour. He told me he had shown Lord Randolph the list of the company and asked him whom he would like to sit next to. “Between Lucy and Burnand,’ he replied. So it was arranged, and a jolly evening we spent, Randolph being at his very best. Burnaby presented me as a souvenir with a costly walking-stick picked up during a recent visit to Spain. Unfortunately I took it with me on the tour, but not further than St. Louis. Leaving it with my hat and coat on a chair in the dining-room whilst we lunched, on going to seek my belongings I found the precious stick had departed. The last glimpse I caught of Burnaby was as he stood at the gate of his ancestral home, Somerby Hall, in Leicestershire. We had been spending a week with him, and on the invitation of our mutual friend Doetsch, who brought the Rio Tinto Mine property to England and remained one of its directors, it was arranged that in the winter we three—Mrs. Lucy, Burnaby, and myself— should go out to Spain as his guests. Before the appointed time came the war trumpet sounded from the Soudan, and Burnaby was off at its call. It was September 1884 we were his guests at Somerby Hall. In November he started for the seat of war. At first he was engaged in superintending the movement of troops between Tanjour and Magrakeh, but he ever pined to get into the fighting line. In a letter, dated Christmas Eve, 1884, he writes: ‘I don’t expect the last boat will pass the Cataract before the middle of next month, and then I hope to be sent to the front. It is a responsible post Lord Wolseley has given me here, with forty miles of the most difficult part of the river, and I am very grateful to him for letting me have it. But I must say I shall be better pleased if he sends for me when the troops advance upon Khartoum.’ The order came in due course, and Burnaby was riding to the relief of Gordon when his journey was stopped at Abu Klea. He was attached to the Staff of General Stewart, whose little force of 1800 men was suddenly surrounded by a herd of Dervishes 9000 strong. The British troops formed in square, mounted officers directing the desperate defence that again and again beat back the angry torrent. A soldier in the excitement of the moment got outside the square and engaged in hand-to-hand conflict with a cluster of Arabs. Burnaby, seeing his peril, rode out to the rescue — with a smile on his face,’ as one who saw him tells me—and was making irresistible way against the odds, when a Dervish thrust a spear in his throat, and he fell off his horse dead. Among his comrades was Lord Charles Beresford, who writes to me : “With regard to the reminiscences you ask me for, of my old friend Fred Burnaby—I remember just getting up to where he was encamped before proceeding across Biouda Desert on Christmas Eve. Lord Wolseley had sent for me to take charge of the Naval Brigade, so as to man the Gordon steamer, which we supposed would meet us at Matemah. Burnaby managed to get a plumpudding from somewhere. We had our Christmas dinner, and a cheery night we had. I started at 4 o’clock the next morning. ‘The next time I saw Burnaby was when the forlorn hope formed up to go across Biouda Desert for the relief of Gordon. He was full of fun and banter. Before Abu Klea, he and I made a zareba, thinking the people would attack us at night. The enemy came very close with their tom-toms, but they never attacked. It was an exciting night. We could hear the tramp of the Mahdi's hosts close by, and listened to the beating of the tom-toms, often furiously hurried, sometimes reduced to a single beat similar to that of a heart. They drew off before daylight. ‘The next day we left the zareba, formed up and left for Abu Klea. In the morning the hills were full of riflemen, and we were losing men and camels. I had my men lying down under a little wall of stones which I ordered them to build, firing at the Dervishes on one of the hills nearest us. Burnaby and Stewart, attended by a soldier carrying the Union Jack, were on a little mole about eighty yards from the hollow where I and my men were standing up. I heard the thud of a bullet. I think it was the bugler or one of the soldiers who was killed. I was going towards Stewart and Burnaby to beg them to dismount and put down the flag when a bullet killed Burnaby's horse, and sent him rolling down the hillock. ‘He picked himself up, and I asked him if he was hit. All he said was: “My dear Charlie, I am not in luck to-day.” I persuaded Stewart to get off his horse and not to make a mark for the Mahdi's riflemen. We then formed up and marched downtowards Abu Klea.