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When William Reigned. -

Reportorial Reminiscences.


Reportorial Reminiscences. Pages from a Journalist's Diary. IV.-ESSAY IN DIPLOMACY(Continued). On the ensuing Wednesday, at noon, Hir- Excellency ordered the immediate cessation of work and the rendition of our joint account. These requirements complied with, we depart- ed, and made arrangements for a modest Con- tinental tour commencing on the ensuing morn- ing. Returning to the Legation, we were met, on the part of His Excellency with a demand for the completion of the work previously countermanded, coupled with the astonishing intimation that no money would be forthcom- ing until this was done. Since this meant the postponement of our plans for at least 10 days, and the consequent cancelling of numerous appointments, we refused, and waited develop- ments. We waited in vain; there were no developments. So we made them! It is sadly to be feared that our methods were scarcely \hose best calculated to achieve the desired object, but young men, just past their majority, who are smarting under the sense of grievous injustice protracted over a period of several weeks, are scarcely adapted .tor the manipulation of a "game of bluff" with a diplomat so skilled in his art that his Gov- ernment had entrusted him with the well-nigh hopeless task of convincing a Court of Inter- national Arbitration that black was white. After threatening vainly that we would not leave the legation precints until we had re- ceived our legal dues; after threatening vainly to expose His impecunious Excellency before the remainder of the hotel guests, we some- what ignominiously retired to our humble lodgings in the Zwartweg! The following morning we sallied forth and armed with such judicial plaints as might be useful under normal circumstances, but were naturally futile when dealing with an individ- ual endowed with Extra-Territorial Rights, wen- ded our way to the British Embassy in the Westeinde. H. '"E. Sir Henry Howard-with whom we were already acquainted—received us with his accustomed old-world courtesy, but was con strained* to point out to us that, having ac- cepted employment under a foreign Govern. ment, had temporarily forfeited our rights as British subjects, and that, even were that not the case, he could not interfere with the domestic economy of a brother diplomat. Under the circumstances he advised com- promise, and we, realising the force of his ar- gument, unwillingly aequised-unwillingly be- cause we had expended well nigh our last guilder in purchase of souvenirs, having still our hotel-bill to meet, and His Excellency our employer had threatened that no more money would be forthcoming until the transcripts were completed, which would inevitably be sev- eral weeks' hence. We wrote out and forwarded our capitulation, and spent a wearisome day, pending the moment when we could resume our duties. The following morning we attended at tke hotel, anticipating no further trouble, only to learn that the suite of chambers which had hithero been at our disposal had been closed; that the whole of the entourage of the Embassy had departed for Brussels; and that His Ex- cellency and his Chief Secretary would leave by the afternoon train for the same destina- tion. Small wonder^if we~4ittle more than boys (although we would not have admitted that at the time) and faced bf starvation in a foreign town fifty miles from the coast, with but scarce knowledge of the language—became des- nerai.p.! We waited! His Excellency descended to paj a courtesy farewell call upon his whilom ad- versary, the Special commissioner of the U.S.A. The spaeious square of the Voorhout is fairly safe at ten In the morning; nevertheless we did not deem it desirable to permit our dis- tinguished employer shown unnecessary risks by crossing it unprotected. Hence, we ac- companied him both to and fro, demonstrating with our walking-sticks the meanwhile. The estimable Don did not, however, appear to appreciate our disinterested attention, and lost no time in seeking refuge in his private apartments. We did not, nevertheless, relax our vigilance, my colleague mounting guard over the rear and I over the main entrance of the hotel. Time wore on and I spent it in wondering what would be the Dutch penalty for pulling an ambassador by the scruff of the neck omt of a carriage anil utilising him for road-sweep- ing purposes. Ultimately however, I was accosted in ex- cellent English by an urbane individual who requested my comparer, enforcing his demand by the production of a pewter medal bearing the legend "Agent van politie'' (agent of .police) I protested that all that I sought was the salary legally due to me, but the Assistant Manager of the Hotel put in an appearance, and chimed in with some remarks which could only have been acquired in Billingsgate, so I deemed durance vile better than Anglo-Satcon vile. Of the incidents immediately following it is necessary to say but little. Under normal circumstances I shorAd kave been released with either a caution or an apology as soon as His Excellency was safe across the frontier. It, however, transpired that I was practically penniless, and the police found me a decidedly unwelcome acquisition. My colleague put in an appearance and laid a complaint against the Ambassador, which the police readily seized unonas a possible solution of the difficulty. They, however, counted without their host. His Excellency demanded proofs of indebtedness, and the only one forth- coming was an agreement between, his fin an- cial agent in London and) my colleague for an exceedingly small sum. This, under pre- ssure, he paid, but refused to recognise any further claim, thereby pocketting the highly satisfactory amount of 84 guilden ( £ 7) plus our first-class fares to London! We were, in consequence, just able to meet our various indebtednesses and to pay our fare to England. Since my colleague was at liberty, whilst I was in custody, 1 suggested that he should take advantage of the circum- stances whilst I trusted myself to Kismet. This he did. and I never saw him alive again. Imagine my plight! Destitute in the Hague! Clothes made not the man; ostensibly prosper- ous, burdened with valuable luggage, my ex- chequer had fallen to 8 cents (Is. 7d). The manifold beauties of the quaint old Dutch capital possessed no charms for me; I was a. pauper alien. A twirl of "Miss Fortune's" capricious wheel had landed me in the custody of the "Politie," and I was on the eve of de- portation as an "undesirable. Meanwhile, so the courteous Chief of police informed me, I was to be "taken care of." I —they lodged me in the town gaol! Passports had I none. Nevertheless, a trio of Institute of Journalists' receipts bearing wafers embossed with the British Royal Arms proved duly impressive. Their contents were laboriously copied into a voluminous ledger, to- gether with a more or less—mainiy less—accu- rate account of my pedigree and facial beauties. Searched and ueprived of my possessions, 1 was locKed up lor tiie night. The cell proved to be doujjde, an iron gate dividing the dormi- tory from the living apartment. Acconnnoda-- tion was, in eacii instance, provided lor four tenants. A table with a stool chained to each leg, a .shell bearing four tin pannikins, and a couple of stone pitcners comprised tne furniture of the day quarters, whilst tiie dormi- tory consisted oi a quartette oj green cages oi iron lattice, each containing a bunk and a shelf-like seat. Sheet-iron divided each cu- bicle from its immediate neighbours. Loquacity appeared to be the predominant characteristic 01 my invisible companions in misfortune, and, judging by the constant recurrence oi the word "Engelshman," my advent appeared to have afforded a very welcome turn to the con- versation. The anxieties of the past few days, coupled with the exertions consequent upon my recent "personally conducted tour" between the var- ious police bureaux, had left ,me in no mind to cavii at the nature of the accommodation, nor did the hoarse gutturals of my estrange 9 bedfellows long preclude slumber. Aext morning, I was promoted to the dignity of a private apartment, where i was sump- tuously regaled upon black bread and tepid HulK. and water, being subsequently graciously permitted for a brief space, to patrol an exer- cise yard. Relegated once more to the seclusion of my simple, yet spacious apartments, 1 found that Fatner 'lime persistently declined to submit to an honoured martyrdom, and I tasted of the horrors of solitary confinement. Deprived of eve,y recreative facility and maddened by the constant jangle of bells and the eternal tramp of warders, i was reduced to the necessity ot counting in order to keep my mmd-occupied. I counted my steps, the bricks in the wall, the rivets in the door, the bars on the windows; I counted in English,, in French, in Dutch; I assiduously studied the prison rules con- spicuously displayed for my edification. The only provision* for ablutions consisted of a tin pannikin and a couple of stone pitchers. The absence of soap and towel would have proved inconvenient had there been any water, out there was none. Having reached the stage when I could con- template the possibility of insanity with cam- parative equanimity, my dinner arrived. It consisted oi a pink paste served in a battered tin basin, and accompanied by a wooden spoon. Ere I had mustered up sufficient courage to seriously attack the unsavoury "multum in paxvo," I was compelled —still unwashed— to make a hasty departure. By this time I was becoming innured to the drawbacks of travelling under surveillance, aid the curious glances of the public passed prac- tically unneticed. in gratification at being once again without the massive gates of the Huis te Bewarren; in contemplation of the beauties of The Hague., Delft, and of Rotterdam—our destination. At the latter city, a receipt having been given for my valued person, I was ushered into the presence of a number of other "undesirables." A motley and cosmopolitan crew they were; Germans from Hamburg, Negroes from the States, and a Mexican half-breed. Mainly sailors, they took their position in good part, and made short work of the white bread and laager beer which formed our joint repast. I hence, a hasty dash through the quaint, narrow streets of the old port to the picturesque quayside, where I was booked as a "third-ciass passenger aboard one of the vessels of the Nederland Stoomboot Maatschappij my gen- darme companion generously making me a magnificent present of 30 cents. k6,cl). For fellow-passengers I had a small party- apparently a couple of families-of Roumanian Jews, bound for the Eldorado of W hitechapel, and a young man whose intellectual bearing was in strange contrast to his disreputable appearance. Stern visaged men and women, with lives pre- maturely withered by privation and persecu- tion, speaking neither English nor French, were the former. The latter, seated dejectedly on a cargo of onions, answered "Spreke u Engelsh?" with a questioning stare. "Do you speak English!" I next essayed. "Wal, I guess so," was the somewhat start- ling rejoinder. Further enquiries elicited the fact that my "misfortune's bedfellow"—for such he was des- tined to be- was an ex-hotel cashier hailing from Philadelphia. Having volunteered for the U.S.A. Navy during the Spanish war, he had subsequently drifted into the mercantile maT ine, and been eventually left stranded in Rot- terdam by a rascally captain. His last cent, had gone to pay his passage to London. The accommodation on board proved to be scarcely palatial, and between the stench o the cargo-lumbered "cabin" and the bitter Oc- tober night air encountered on deck there was but little to choose. The latter, however, oossessed the compensating factors of the ever- changing panorama of the Maas, the quamt waterside villages, and the eccentric river-craft, and not till the fall of night did we seek shel- ter in our malodorous quarters below. Reaching "The Hook," six hours were spent in the embarkation of cargo. The monotony of the interval was bridged by a Bohemian supper consisting of black and white bread, sausage and Spanish onions, of which latter there was a plentiful cargo aboard. Water, or salt., we had none, and, the other courses on the menu having been exhausted, we conclud- ed our repast with onions pure and simple. For tobacco we smoked crushed cigars, reminis- cent relics of more prosperous days. Politioal discussion whiled away the re- mainder of the time, and eventually, at 11 P-™ as we steamed out into the North Sea we asleep, each between a couple of filthy mat- trsses, to awake again on the placid, if muddy bosom of Father Thames. Our Jewish companions, who had been up with the dawn, had been fed by the steward. We laggards had perforce to go breakfastless, for onions no longer appealed to our taste. A bucket of hot water from the engine-room 3ufficed for our toilet and we went on deck. The Jews were hanging over the side surveying and volubly discussing the desolate panorama. One could not but help feeling that this waste of commercially-desecrated Nature constituted the first of the many disappointments awaiting the plucky band of emigrants who had tra- velled so far in search of those illusory will-o the' wisps, Liberty and Wealth. Whether or no they as yet realised the wreckage of many a long-cherished ideal 'twas hard to say. Thei impassive faces betrayed nothing; emotion seemed a thing unknown to them. Gravesend and Woolwich aroused a passing interest, being momentarily mistaken for a first view of the great Metropolis, but it was not until Green- wioh, with i-ts unrivalled architectural tableau, was passed that they perceptibly shook off their lethargy and manifested any trace of appreciation or enthusiasm. The' long chain of docks,, with its gaunt, warehouses and general characteristic of ffrimfness, led them to relapse into their accustomed apathy, but the advent to the Tower Bridge once more awoke their enthusiasm, which was accentuated when the ancient fort- ress itself hove into sight. But a few moments more, and the vessel, with its strange admixture of cargoes, was alongside a quay, where a dozen or so Jews were waving a frantic welcome to their com- patriots from across the seas. For the first time our fellow passengers trod the soil of absolute freedom. Bureaucracy was conspicuously absent; the great Eldorado lay before them. They were free to land, free to go wheresoe'er they chose. ° And there we left them. For the moment they were happy in their new-found liberty, happy in the embrace of loved ones; disillu- sionment would come all too soon. Together we walked through Thames Street, whose odours were sweet compared with those behind us. Outwardly as ill-assorted a couple as could well be imagined, yet had we one bond of sympathetic union-both were penni- less, both' starving. Under the shadow of the Monument v-e parted; he to the Eastward in march of a Sailor's Refuge and a passage to the States; I to the Westward to enact the role of the Prodi- gal Son. (This series to be Continued).


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