The late Emperor of Brazil—An incredulous hotel manager—The surprised A.R.A.—The Emperor as an early riser—The habits of the English actor—A new reputation—Signor Ciro Pinsuti—The Prince of Bohemia—Treatment au prince—The bill—An Oriental prince—An ideal costume for a Scotch winter—Its subsequent modification—The royal sleeping-place—Trains and Irish humour—The courteous station-master—The sarcasm of the travellers—“Punctually seven minutes late”—Not originally an Irishman—The time of departure of the 7.45 train—Brahke, brake, brake—The card-players—Possibility of their deterioration—The dissatisfied passenger—Being in a hurry he threatens to walk—He didn’t—He wishes he had.

ONCE I was treated very uncivilly at an hotel in the North of Ireland, and as the occasion was one upon which I was, I believed, entitled to be dealt with on terms of exceptional courtesy, I felt the slight all the more deeply. The late Emperor of Brazil, in yielding to his desire to see everything in the world that was worth seeing, had appeared suddenly in Ireland. I had had the privilege of taking tiffin with His Majesty aboard a man-of-war at Rio Janeiro some years previously, and on calling upon him in London upon the occasion of his visit to England, I found to my surprise that he remembered the incident. He asked me to go with him to the Giant’s Causeway, and I promised to do so if he did not insist on starting before sunrise,—he was the earliest riser I ever met. His idea was that we could leave Belfast in the morning, travel by rail to Portrush (sixty-seven miles distant), drive along the coast to the Giant’s Causeway (eight miles), and return to Belfast in time to catch the train which left for Dublin at three o’clock.

This programme was actually carried out. On entering the hotel at Portrush—we arrived about eight in the morning—I hurried to the manager.

“I have brought the Emperor of Brazil to breakfast,” said I, “so that if you could let us have the dining-room to ourselves I should be much obliged to you.”

“Who is it that you say you’ve brought?” asked the manager sleepily.

“The Emperor of Brazil,” I replied promptly.

“Come now, clear off out of this, you and your jokes,” said the manager. “I’ve been taken in before to-day. You’ll need to get up earlier in the morning if you want to do it again. The Emperor of Brazil indeed! It’ll be the King of the Cannibal Islands next!”

I felt mortified, and so, I fancy, did the manager shortly afterwards.

Happily the hotel is now managed by the railway company, and is one of the best in all Ireland.

I fared better in this matter than the messenger who hurried to the residence of a painter, who is now a member of the Royal Academy, to announce his election as Associate in the days of Sir Francis Grant. It is said that the painter felt himself to be so unworthy of the honour which was being thrust upon him, that believing that he perceived an attempt on the part of some of his brother-artists to make him the victim of a practical joke, he promptly kicked the messenger downstairs.

The manager of the hotel did not quite kick me out when I explained to him that his house was to be honoured by the presence of an Emperor, but he looked as if he would have liked to do so.

Regarding the early rising of the Emperor Dom Pedro II., several amusing anecdotes were in circulation in London upon the occasion of his first visit. One morning he had risen, as usual, about four o’clock, and was taking a stroll through Covent Garden market, when he came face to face with three well-known actors, who were returning to their rooms after a quiet little supper at the Garrick Club. The Emperor inquired who the gentlemen were, and he was told. For years afterwards he was, it is said, accustomed to declare that the only men he met in England who seemed to believe with him that the early morning was the best part of the day, were the actors. The most distinguished members of the profession were, he said, in the habit of rising between the hours of three and four every morning during the summer.

A story which tends to show that in some directions, at any rate, in Ireland the hotel proprietors are by no means wanting in courtesy towards distinguished strangers, even when travelling in an unostentatious way, was told to me by the late Ciro Pinsuti, the well-known song writer, at his house in Mortimer Street. (When he required any changes in the verses of mine which he was setting, he invariably anticipated my objections by a story, told with admirable effect.) It seems that Pinsuti was induced some years before to take a tour to the Killarney Lakes. On arriving at the hotel where he had been advised to put up, he found that the house was so crowded he had to be content with a sort of china closet, into which a sofa-bed had been thrust. The landlord was almost brusque when he ventured to protest against the lack of accommodation, but subsequently a compromise was effected, and Pinsuti strolled away along the lakes.

On returning he found in the hall of the hotel the genial nobleman who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and an old London friend of Pinsuti’s. He was on a visit to the Herberts of Muckross, and attended only by his son and one aide-de-camp.

Now, at one time the same nobleman had been in the habit of contracting Pinsuti’s name, when addressing him, into “Pince”; in the course of time this became improved into “Prince”; and for years he was never addressed except in this way; so that when he entered the hall of the hotel, His Excellency lifted up his hands and cried,—

“Why, Prince, who on earth would have fancied meeting you here of all places in the world?”

Pinsuti explained that he had merely crossed the Channel for a day or two, and that he was staying at the hotel.

“Come along then, and we’ll have lunch together,” said the Lord Lieutenant; and Pinsuti forthwith joined the Viceregal party.

But when luncheon was over, and the Viceroy was strolling through the grounds for a smoke by the side of the musician, the landlord approached His Excellency’s son, saying,—

“I beg your lordship’s pardon, but may I ask who the Prince is that lunched with you and His Excellency?”

“What Prince?” said Lord Ernest, somewhat puzzled.

“Yes, my lord; I heard His Excellency address him as Prince more than once,” said the landlord.

Then Lord Ernest, perceiving the ground for a capital joke, said,—

“Oh, the Prince—yes, to be sure; I fancied you knew him. Prince! yes, that’s the Prince of Bohemia.”

“The Prince of Bohemia! and I’ve sent him to sleep on an iron chair-bed in a china closet!” cried the landlord.

Lord Ernest looked grave.

“I wouldn’t have done that if I had been you,” he said, shaking his head. “You must try and do better for him than that, my man.” Shortly afterwards the Viceregal party drove off, and then the landlord approached Pinsuti, and bowing to the ground, said,—

“I must humbly apologise to your Royal Highness for not having a suitable room for your Royal Highness in the morning; but now I’m proud to say that I have had prepared an apartment which will, I trust, give satisfaction.”

“What do you mean by Highnessing me, my good man?” asked Pinsuti.

“Ah,” said the landlord, smiling and bowing, “though it may please your Royal Highness to travel incognito, I trust I know what is due to your exalted station, sir.”

For the next two days Pinsuti was, he told me, treated with an amount of respect such as he had never before experienced. A waiter was specially told off to attend to him, and every time he passed the landlord the latter bowed in his best style.

It was, however, an American lady tourist who held an informal meeting in the drawingroom of the hotel, at which it was agreed that no one should be seated at the table d’hote until the Prince of Bohemia had entered and taken his place.

On the morning of his departure he found, waiting to take him to the railway station, a carriage drawn by four horses. Out to this he passed through lines of bowing tourists—especially Americans.

“It was all very nice, to be sure,” said Pinsuti, in concluding his narrative; “but the bill I had to pay was not so gratifying. However, one cannot be a Prince, even of Bohemia, without paying for it.”

This story more than neutralises, I think, the impression likely to be produced by the account of the insolence of the official at the northern hotel. Universal civility may be expected even at the largest and best-appointed hotels in Ireland.

As I have somehow drifted into these anecdotes about royal personages, at the risk of being considered digressive—an accusation which I spurn—I must add one curious experience which some relations of mine had of a genuine prince. My cousin, Major Wyllie, of the Madras Staff Corps, had been attached to the prince’s father, who was a certain rajah, and had been the instrument employed by the Government for giving him some excellent advice as to the course he should adopt if he were desirous of getting the Star which it was understood he was coveting. The rajah was anxious to have his heir, a boy of twelve, educated in England, and he wished to find for him a place in a family where his morals—the rajah was great on morals—would be properly looked after; so he sought the advice of Major Wyllie on this important subject. After some correspondence and much persuasion on the part of the potentate, my cousin consented to send the youth to his father’s house near Edinburgh. The rajah was delighted, and promised to have an outfit prepared for his son without delay. The result of the consultation which he had with some learned members of his entourage on the subject of the costume daily worn in Edinburgh by gentlemen, was peculiar. I am of the opinion that some of its distinctive features must have been exaggerated, while the full value of others cannot have been assigned to them; for the young prince submitted himself for the approval of Major Wyllie, and some other officers of the Staff, wearing a truly remarkable dress. His boots were of the old Hessian pattern, with coloured silk tassels all round the uppers. His knees were bare, but just above them the skirt of a kilt flowed, in true Scotch fashion, only that the material was not cloth but silk, and the colours were not those of any known tartan, but simply a brilliant yellow. The coat was of blue velvet, crusted with jewels, and instead of the flowing shoulder-pieces, there hung down a rich mantle of gold brocade. The crowning incident of this ideal costume of an unobtrusive Scotch gentleman whose aim is to pass through the streets without attracting attention, was a crimson velvet glengarry cap worn over a white turban, and containing three very fine ostrich feathers of different, colours, fastened by a diamond aigrette.

Yes, the consensus of opinion among the officers was that the rajah had succeeded wonderfully in giving prominence to the chief elements of the traditional Scottish national dress, without absolutely extinguishing every spark of that orientalism to which the prince had been accustomed. It was just the sort of costume that a simple body would like to wear daily, walking down Prince’s Street, during an inclement winter, they said. There was no attempt at ostentation about it; its beauty consisted in its almost Puritan simplicity; and there pervaded it a note of that sternness which marks the character of the rugged North Briton.

The rajah was delighted with this essay of his advisers at making a consistent blend of Calicut and Caledonia in modes; but somehow the prince arrived in Scotland in a tweed suit.

I afterwards heard that on the first morning after the arrival of the prince at his temporary home, he was missing. His bed showed no signs of having been slept in during the night; but the eiderdown quilt was not to be seen. It was only about the breakfast hour that the butler found His Highness, wrapped in the eiderdown quilt, under the bed.

He had occupied a lower bunk in a cabin aboard the P. & O. steamer on the voyage to England, and he had taken it for granted that the sleeping accommodation in the house where he was an honoured guest was of the same restricted type. He had thus naturally crept under the bed, so that some one else might enjoy repose in the upper and rather roomier compartment.

The transition from Irish inns to Irish railways is not a violent one. On the great trunk lines the management is sufficiently good to present no opportunities for humorous reminiscences. It is with railways as with hotels: the more perfectly appointed they are, the less humorous are the incidents associated with them in the recollection of a traveller. It is safe to assume that, as a general rule, native wit keeps clear of a line of rails. Mr. Baring Gould is good enough to explain, in his “Strange Survivals and Superstitions,” that the fairy legend is but a shadowy tradition of the inhabitants during the Stone Age; and he also explains how it came about that iron was accepted as a potent agent for driving away these humorous folk. The iron road has certainly driven the witty aborigines into the remote districts of Ireland. A railway guard has never been known to convulse the passengers with his dry wit as he snips their tickets, nor do the clerks at the pigeon-holes take any particular trouble to Hash out a bon mot as one counts one’s change. The man who, after pouring out the thanks of the West for the relief meal given to the people during the last failure of the potato and every other crop, said, “Troth, if it wasn’t for the famine we’d all be starving entirely,” lived far from the sound of the whistle of an engine.

Still, I have now and again come upon something on an Irish railway that was droll by reason of its incongruity. There was a station-master at a small town on an important line, who seemed a survival of the leisurely days of our grandfathers. He invariably strolled round the carriages to ask the passengers if they were quite comfortable, just as the conscientious head waiter at the “Trois Frères” used to do in respect of his patrons. He would suggest here and there that a window might be closed, as the morning air was sometimes very treacherous. He even pressed foot-warmers upon the occupants of the second-class carriages. He was the friend of all the matrons who were in the habit of travelling by the line, and he inquired after their numerous ailments (including babies), and listened with dignified attention while they told him all that should be told in public—sometimes a trifle more. A medical student would learn as much about a very interesting branch of the profession through paying attention to the exchange of confidences at that station, as he would by walking the hospitals for a year. The station-master was greatly looked up to by agriculturists, and it was commonly reported that there was no better judge of the weather to be found in the immediate neighbourhood of the station.

It was really quite absurd to hear English commercial travellers and other persons in the train, who had not become aware of the good qualities of this most estimable man, grumbling because the train usually remained at this platform for ten minutes instead of the two minutes allotted to it in the “A B C.” The engine-drivers, it was said, also growled at being forced to run the twenty miles on either side of this station at as fast a rate as forty miles an hour, instead of the thirty to which they had accustomed themselves, to save their time. The cutting remarks of the impatient passengers made no impression upon him.

“Look here, station-master,” cried a commercial gentleman one day when the official had come across quite an unusual number of acquaintances, “is there a breakdown on the line?”

“I don’t know indeed, sir, but I’ll try and find out for you,” said the station-master blandly. He went off hurriedly (for him), and did not return for five minutes.

“I’ve telegraphed up the line, sir,” said he to the gentleman, who only meant to be delicately sarcastic, “and I’m happy to assure you that no information regarding a breakdown has reached any of the principal stations. It has been raining at Ballynamuck, but I don’t think it will continue long. Can I do anything more for you, sir?”

“No, thank you,” said the commercial gentleman meekly.

“I can find out for you if the Holyhead steamer has had a good passage, if you don’t mind waiting for a few minutes,” suggested the official. “What! you are anxious to get on? Certainly, sir; I’ll tell the guard. Good morning, sir.”

When the train was at last in motion a wiry old man in a corner pulled out his watch, and then turned to the commercial traveller.

“Are you aware, sir,” he said tartly, “that your confounded inquiries kept us back just seven minutes? You should have some consideration for your fellow-passengers, let me tell you, sir.”

A murmur of assent went round the compartment.

Upon another occasion a passenger, on arriving at the station over whose destinies this courteous official presided, put his head out of the carriage window, and inquired if the train had arrived punctually.

“Yes, sir,” replied the station-master, “very punctually: seven minutes late to a second.”

Upon another occasion I heard him say to an inquirer,—

“Oh no, sir; I wasn’t originally an Irishman. I am one now, however.”

“By heavens!” said some one at the further end of the compartment, “that reply removes all doubt on the subject.”

Several years ago I was staying at Lord Avonmore’s picturesque lodge at the head of Lough Dearg. A fellow-guest received a telegram one Sunday afternoon which compelled his immediate departure, and seeing by the railway time-table that a train left the nearest station at 7.45, we drove in shortly before that hour. There was, however, no sign of life on the little platform up to 7.50. Thereupon my friend became anxious, and we hunted in every direction for even the humblest official. After some trouble we found a porter asleep on a pile of cushions in the lamp-room. We roused him and said,—

“There’s a train marked on the time-table to leave here at 7.45, but it’s now 7.50, and there’s no sign of a train. What time may we expect it?”

“I don’t know, sir, for myself.” said the porter, “but I’ll ask the station-master.”

We followed him down the platform, and then a man, in his shirt sleeves, came out of an office.

“Mr. O’Flaherty,” cried the porter, “here’s two gentlemen that wants to know, if you please, at what o’clock the 7.45 train leaves.”

“It leaves at eight on weekdays and a quarter past eight on Sundays,” was the thoughtful reply.

It is reported that on the same branch, an engine-driver, on reaching the station more than usually behind his time, declared that he had never known “herself”—meaning the engine—to be so sluggish before. She needed a deal of rousing before he could get any work whatever out of her, he said; and she had pulled up at the platform without a hand being put to the brake. When he tried to start the engine again he failed utterly in his attempt. She had “rusted,” he said, and when an engine rusted she was more stubborn than any horse.

It was a passenger who eventually suggested that perhaps if the brakes were turned off, the engine might have a better chance of doing its work.

This suggestion led to an examination of the brake wheels of the engine.

“By me sowl, that’s a joke!” said the engine-driver. “If I haven’t been driving her through the county Tipperary with the brakes on!”

And so he had.

On a branch line farther north the official staff were said to be so extremely fond of the Irish National game of cards—it is called “Spoil Five”—that the guard, engine-driver, and stoker invariably took a hand at it on the tool-box on the tender—a poor substitute for a table, the guard explained to an interested passenger who made inquiries on the subject, but it served well enough at a pinch, and it was not for him to complain. He was right: it was for the passengers to complain, and some of them did so; and a remonstrance was sent to the staff which practically amounted to a prohibition of any game of cards on the engine when the train was in motion. It was very reasonably pointed out by the manager that, unless the greatest watchfulness were observed by the guard, he might, when engaged at the game, allow the train to run past some station at which it was advertised to stop—as a matter of fact this had frequently occurred. Besides, the manager said, persistence in the practice under the conditions just described could not but tend to the deterioration of the staff as card-players; so he trusted that they would see that it was advisable to give their undivided attention to their official duties.

The staff cheerfully acquiesced, admitting that now and again it was a great strain upon them to recollect what cards were out, and at the same time what was the name of the station just passed. The fact that the guard had been remiss enough, on throwing down the hand that had just been dealt to him on the arrival of the train at Ballycruiskeen, to walk down the platform crying out “Hearts is thrumps!” instead of the name of the station, helped to make him at least see the wisdom of the manager’s remonstrance; and no more “Spoil Five” was played while the engine was in motion.

But every time the train made a stoppage, the cards were shuffled on the engine, and the station-master for the time being took a hand, as well as any passenger who had a mind to contribute to the pool. Now and again, however, a passenger turned up who was in a hurry to get to his journey’s end, and made something of a scene—greatly to the annoyance of the players, and the couple of policemen, and the porter or two, who had the entrée to the “table.” Upon one occasion such a passenger appeared, and, in considerable excitement, pointed out that the train had taken seventy-five minutes to do eight miles. He declared that this was insufferable, and that, sooner than stand it any longer, he would walk the remainder of the distance to his destination.

He was actually showing signs of carrying out his threat, when the guard threw down his hand, dismounted from the engine and came behind him.

“Ah, sir, you’ll get into the train again, won’t you?” said he.

“No, I’ll be hanged if I will,” shouted the passenger. “I’ve no time to waste, I’ll walk.”

“Ah, no, sir; you’ll get into the train. Do, sir; and you’ll be at the end of the journey every bit as soon as if you walked,” urged the official.

His assurance on this point prevailed, and the passenger returned to his carriage. But unless the speed upon that occasion was a good deal greater than it was when I travelled over the same line, it is questionable if he would not have been on the safe side in walking.

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