Margot Asquith, An Autobiography: Volumes I & II
Part 1 out of 7
Produced by Robert Rowe, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
TWO VOLUMES IN ONE
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO MY HUSBAND
What? Have you not received powers, to the limits of which you
will bear all that befalls? Have you not received magnanimity?
Have you not received courage? Have you not received endurance?--
When I began this book I feared that its merit would depend upon
how faithfully I could record my own impressions of people and
events: when I had finished it I was certain of it. Had it been
any other kind of book the judgment of those nearest me would have
been invaluable, but, being what it is, it had to be entirely my
own; since whoever writes as he speaks must take the whole
responsibility, and to ask "Do you think I may say this?" or
"write that?" is to shift a little of that responsibility on to
someone else. This I could not bear to do, above all in the case
of my husband, who sees these recollections for the first time
now. My only literary asset is natural directness, and that
faculty would have been paralysed if I thought anything that I
have written here would implicate him. I would rather have made a
hundred blunders of style or discretion than seem, even to myself,
let alone the world at large, to have done that.
Unlike many memoirists, the list of people I have to thank in this
preface is short: Lord Crewe and Mr. Texeira de Mattos--who alone
saw my MS. before its completion--for their careful criticisms
which in no way committed them to approving of all that I have
written; Mr. Desmond MacCarthy, for valuable suggestions; and my
typist, Miss Lea, for her silence and quickness.
There are not many then of whom I can truly say, "Without their
approval and encouragement this book would never have been
written"--but those who really love me will forgive me and know
that what I owe them is deeper than thanks.
CONTENTS OF BOOK ONE
THE TENNANT FAMILY--MARGOT, ONE OF TWELVE CHILDREN--HOME LIFE IN
GLEN, SCOTLAND--FATHER A SELF-CENTRED BUSINESS-MAN; HIS VANITIES;
HIS PRIDE IN HIS CHILDREN--NEWS OF HIS DEATH--HANDSOME LORD
RIBBLESDALE VISITS GLEN--MOTHER DELICATE; HER LOVE OF ECONOMY;
CONFIDENCES--TENNANT GIRLS' LOVE AFFAIRS
GLEN AMONG THE MOORS--MARGOT'S ADVENTURE WITH A TRAMP--THE
SHEPHERD BOY--MEMORIES AND ESCAPADES--LAURA AND MARGOT; PROPOSALS
OF MARRIAGE--NEW MEN FRIENDS--LAURA ENGAGED; PROPOSAL IN THE
DUSK--MARGOT'S ACCIDENT IN HUNTING FIELD--LAURA'S PREMONITION OF
DEATH IN CHILDBIRTH--LAURA'S WILL
SLUMMING IN LONDON; ADVENTURE IN WHITECHAPEL; BRAWL IN A SALOON;
OUTINGS WITH WORKING GIRLS--MARGOT MEETS PRINCESS OF WALES--GOSSIP
OVER FRIENDSHIP WITH PRINCE OF WALES--LADY RANDOLPH CHURCHILL'S
BALL--MARGOT'S FIRST HUNT; MEETS ECCENTRIC DUKE OF BEAUFORT; FALLS
IN LOVE AT SEVENTEEN; COMMANDEERS A HORSE
MARGOT AT A GIRLS' SCHOOL--WHO SPILT THE INK?--THE ENGINE DRIVER'S
MISTAKEN FLIRTATION--MARGOT LEAVES SCHOOL IN DISGUST--DECIDES TO
GO TO GERMANY TO STUDY CHAPTER V
A DRESDEN LODGING HOUSE--MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE WITH AN OFFICER AFTER
THE OPERA--AN ELDERLY AMERICAN ADMIRER--YELLOW ROSES, GRAF VON--
AND MOTIFS FROM WAGNER
MARGOT RIDES HORSE INTO LONDON HOME AND SMASHES FURNITURE--SUITOR
IS FORBIDDEN THE HOUSE--ADVISES GIRL FRIEND TO ELOPE; INTERVIEW
WITH GIRL'S FATHER--TETE-A-TETE DINNER IN PARIS WITH BARON HIRSCH
--WINNING TIP FROM FRED ARCHER THE JOCKEY
PHOENIX PARK MURDERS--REMEDIES FOR IRELAND--TELEPATHY AND
PLANCHETTE--VISIT TO BLAVATSKY--SIR CHARLES DILKE'S KISS--VISITS
TO GLADSTONE--THE LATE LORD SALISBURY'S POLITICAL PROPHECIES
THE BEAUTIFUL KATE VAUGHAN--COACHED BY COQUELIN IN MOLIERE--
ROSEBERY'S POPULARITY AND ELOQUENCE--CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN BON-VIVANT
AND BOULEVARDIER--BALFOUR'S MOT; HIS CHARM AND WIT; HIS TASTES AND
PREFERENCES; HIS RELIGIOUS SPECULATION
CONTENTS OF BOOK TWO
THE SOULS--LORD CURZON'S POEM AND DINNER PARTY AND WHO WERE THESE
--MARGOT'S INVENTORY OF THE GROUP--TILT WITH THE LATE LADY
LONDONDERRY--VISIT TO TENNYSON; HIS CONTEMPT FOR CRITICS; HIS
HABIT OF LIVING--J. K. S. NOT A SOUL--MARGOT'S FRIENDSHIP WITH
JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS; HIS PRAISE OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF
CHARACTER SKETCH OF MARGOT--PLANS TO START A MAGAZINE--MEETS
MASTER OF BALLIOL; JOWETT'S ORTHODOXY; HIS INTEREST IN AND
INFLUENCE OVER MARGOT--ROSE IN "ROBERT ELSMERE" IDENTIFIED AS
MARGOT--JOWETT'S OPINION OF NEWMAN--JOWETT ADVISES MARGOT TO
FAST AND FURIOUS HUNTING IN LEICESTERSHIRE--COUNTRY HOUSE PARTY
AND A NEW ADMIRER--FRIENDSHIP WITH LORD AND LADY MANNERS
MARGOT FALLS IN LOVE AGAIN--"HAVOC" IN THE HUNTING FIELD; A FALL
AND A DUCKING--THE FAMOUS MRS. BO; UNHEEDED ADVICE FROM A RIVAL--A
LOVERS' QUARREL--PETER JUMPS IN THE WINDOW--THE AMERICAN TROTTER--
ANOTHER LOVER INTERVENES--PETER RETURNS FROM INDIA; ILLUMINATION
FROM A DARK WOMAN
THE ASQUITH FAMILY TREE--HERBERT H. ASQUITH'S MOTHER--ASQUITH'S
FIRST MARRIAGE; MEETS MARGOT TENNANT FOR FIRST TIME--TALK TILL
DAWN ON HOUSE OF COMMONS' TERRACE; OTHER MEETINGS--ENGAGEMENT A
LONDON SENSATION--MARRIAGE AN EVENT
THE ASQUITH CHILDREN BY THE FIRST MARRIAGE--MARGOT'S STEPDAUGHTER
VIOLET--MEMORY OF THE FIRST MRS. ASQUITH--RAYMOND'S BRILLIANT
CAREER--ARTHUR'S HEROISM IN THE WAR
VISIT TO WOMAN'S PRISON--INTERVIEW THERE WITH MRS. MAYBRICK--
SCENE IN A LIFER'S CELL; THE HUSBAND WHO NEVER KNEW THOUGHT WIFE
MADE MONEY SEWING--MARGOT'S PLEA THAT FAILED
MARGOT'S FIRST BABY AND ITS LOSS--DANGEROUS ILLNESS--LETTER FROM
QUEEN VICTORIA--SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT'S PLEASANTRIES--ASQUITH
MINISTRY FALLS--VISIT FROM DUCHESS D'AOSTA
MARGOT IN 1906 SUMS UP HER LIFE; A LOT OF LOVE-MAKING, A LITTLE
FAME AND MORE ABUSE: A REAL MAN AND GREAT HAPPINESS
"Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid wooed by incapacity."--Blake.
THE TENNANT FAMILY--MARGOT, ONE OF TWELVE CHILDREN--HOME LIFE IN
GLEN, SCOTLAND--FATHER A SELF-CENTRED BUSINESS-MAN; HIS VANITIES;
HIS PRIDE IN HIS CHILDREN--NEWS OF HIS DEATH--HANDSOME LORD
RIBBLESDALE VISITS GLEN--MOTHER DELICATE; HER LOVE OF ECONOMY;
CONFIDENCES--TENNANT GIRLS' LOVE AFFAIRS
I was born in the country of Hogg and Scott between the Yarrow and
the Tweed, in the year 1864.
I am one of twelve children, but I only knew eight, as the others
died when I was young. My eldest sister Pauline--or Posie, as we
called her--was born in 1855 and married on my tenth birthday one
of the best of men, Thomas Gordon Duff. [Footnote: Thomas Gordon
Duff, of Drummuir Castle, Keith.] She died of tuberculosis, the
cruel disease by which my family have all been pursued. We were
too different in age and temperament to be really intimate, but
her goodness, patience and pluck made a deep impression on me.
My second sister, Charlotte, was born in 1858 and married, when I
was thirteen, the present Lord Ribblesdale, in 1877. She was the
only member of the family--except my brother Edward Glenconner--
who was tall. My mother attributed this--and her good looks--to
her wet-nurse, Janet Mercer, a mill-girl at Innerleithen, noted
for her height and beauty. Charty--as we called her--was in some
ways the most capable of us all, but she had not Laura's genius,
Lucy's talents, nor my understanding. She had wonderful grace and
less vanity than any one that ever lived; and her social courage
was a perpetual joy. I heard her say to the late Lord Rothschild,
one night at a dinner party:
"And do you still believe the Messiah is coming, Lord Natty?"
Once when her husband went to make a political speech in the
country, she telegraphed to him:
"Mind you hit below the belt!"
She was full of nature and impulse, free, enterprising and
unconcerned. She rode as well as I did, but was not so quick to
hounds nor so conscious of what was going on all round her.
One day when the Rifle Brigade was quartered at Winchester,
Ribblesdale--who was a captain--sent Charty out hunting with old
Tubb, the famous dealer, from whom he had hired her mount. As he
could not accompany her himself, he was anxious to know how her
ladyship had got on; the old rascal-wanting to sell his horse--
raised his eyes to heaven and gasped:
"Hornamental palings! My lord!!"
It was difficult to find a better-looking couple than Charty and
Ribblesdale; I have often observed people following them in
picture-galleries; and their photographs appeared in many of the
My next sister, Lucy, [Footnote: Mrs. Graham Smith, of Easton
Grey, Malmesbury.] was the most talented and the best educated of
the family. She fell between two stools in her youth, because
Charty and Posie were of an age to be companions and Laura and I;
consequently she did not enjoy the happy childhood that we did and
was mishandled by the authorities both in the nursery and the
schoolroom. When I was thirteen she made a foolish engagement, so
that our real intimacy only began after her marriage. She was my
mother's favourite child--which none of us resented--and, although
like my father in hospitality, courage and generous giving, she
had my mother's stubborn modesty and delicacy of mind. Her fear of
hurting the feelings of others was so great that she did not tell
people what she was thinking; she was truthful but not candid. Her
drawings--both in pastel and water-colour--her portraits,
landscapes and interiors were further removed from amateur work
than Laura's piano-playing or my dancing; and, had she put her
wares into the market, as we all wanted her to do years ago, she
would have been a rich woman, but like all saints she was
uninfluenceable. I owe her too much to write about her: tormented
by pain and crippled by arthritis, she has shown a heroism and
gaiety which command the love and respect of all who meet her.
Of my other sister, Laura, I will write later.
The boys of the family were different from the girls, though they
all had charm and an excellent sense of humour. My mother said the
difference between her boys and girls came from circulation, and
would add, "The Winsloes always had cold feet"; but I think it lay
in temper and temperament. They would have been less apprehensive
and more serene if they had been brought up to some settled
profession; and they were quite clever enough to do most things
My brother Jack [Footnote: The Right Hon. H. J. Tennant] was
petted and mismanaged in his youth. He had a good figure, but his
height was arrested by his being allowed, when he was a little
fellow, to walk twelve to fifteen miles a day with the shooters;
and, however tired he would be, he was taken out of bed to play
billiards after dinner. Leather footstools were placed one on the
top of the other by a proud papa and the company made to watch
this lovely little boy score big breaks; excited and exhausted, he
would go to bed long after midnight, with praises singing in his
"You are more like lions than sisters!" he said one day in the
nursery when we snubbed him.
In making him his Parliamentary Secretary, my husband gave him his
first chance; and in spite of his early training and teasing he
turned his life to good account.
In the terrible years 1914, 1915 and 1916, he was Under-Secretary
for War to the late Lord Kitchener and was finally made Secretary
for Scotland, with a seat in the Cabinet. Like every Tennant, he
had tenderness and powers of emotion and showed much affection and
generosity to his family. He was a fine sportsman with an
exceptionally good eye for games.
My brother Frank [Footnote: Francis Tennant, of Innes.] was the
artist among the boys. He had a perfect ear for music and eye for
colour and could distinguish what was beautiful in everything he
saw. He had the sweetest temper of any of us and the most
In his youth he had a horrible tutor who showed him a great deal
of cruelty; and this retarded his development. One day at Glen, I
saw this man knock Frank down. Furious and indignant, I said, "You
brute!" and hit him over the head with both my fists. After he had
boxed my ears, Laura protested, saying she would tell my father,
whereupon he toppled her over on the floor and left the room.
When I think of our violent teachers--both tutors and governesses
--and what the brothers learnt at Eton, I am surprised that we knew
as much as we did and my parents' helplessness bewilders me.
My eldest brother, Eddy, [Footnote: Lord Glenconner, of Glen,
Innerleithen.] though very different from me in temperament and
outlook, was the one with whom I got on best. We were both
devoured by impatience and punctuality and loved being alone in
the country. He hated visiting, I enjoyed it; he detested society
and I delighted in it. My mother was not strong enough to take me
to balls; and as she was sixty-three the year I came out, Eddy was
by way of chaperoning me, but I can never remember him bringing me
back from a single party. We each had our latch-keys and I went
home either by myself or with a partner.
We shared a secret and passionate love for our home, Glen, and
knew every clump of heather and every birch and burn in the place.
Herbert Gladstone told me that, one day in India, when he and Eddy
after a long day's shooting were resting in silence on the ground,
he said to him:
"What are you thinking about, Eddy?"
To which he answered:
"Oh, always the same ... Glen! ..."
In all the nine years during which he and I lived there together,
in spite of our mutual irascibility of temper and uneven spirits,
we never had a quarrel. Whether we joined each other on the moor
at the far shepherd's cottage or waited for grouse upon the hill;
whether we lunched on the Quair or fished on the Tweed, we have a
thousand common memories to keep our hearts together.
My father [Footnote: Sir Charles Tennant, 1823-1906.] was a man
whose vitality, irritability, energy and impressionability
amounted to genius.
When he died, June 2nd, 1906, I wrote this in my diary:
"I was sitting in Elizabeth's [Footnote: My daughter, Elizabeth
Bibesco.] schoolroom at Littlestone yesterday--Whit-Monday--after
hearing her recite Tartuffe at 7 p.m., when James gave me a
telegram; it was from my stepmother:
"'Your father passed away peacefully at five this afternoon.'
"I covered my face with my hands and went to find my husband. My
father had been ill for some time, but, having had a letter from
him that morning, the news gave me a shock.
"Poor little Elizabeth was terribly upset at my unhappiness; and I
was moved to the heart by her saying with tear-filled eyes and a
"'Darling mother, he had a VERY happy life and is very happy now
... he will ALWAYS be happy.'
"This was true. ... He had been and always will be happy, because
my father's nature turned out no waste product: he had none of
that useless stuff in him that lies in heaps near factories. He
took his own happiness with him, and was self-centred and self-
sufficing: for a sociable being, the most self-sufficing I have
ever known; I can think of no one of such vitality who was so
independent of other people; he could golf alone, play billiards
alone, walk alone, shoot alone, fish alone, do everything alone;
and yet he was dependent on both my mother and my stepmother and
on all occasions loved simple playfellows. ... Some one to carry
his clubs, or to wander round the garden with, would make him
perfectly happy. It was at these times, I think, that my father
was at his sweetest. Calm as a sky after showers, he would discuss
every topic with tenderness and interest and appeared to be
unupsettable; he had eternal youth, and was unaffected by a
financial world which had been spinning round him all day.
"The striking thing about him was his freedom from suspicion.
Thrown from his earliest days among common, shrewd men of
singularly unspiritual ideals--most of them not only on the make
but I might almost say on the pounce--he advanced on his own lines
rapidly and courageously, not at all secretively--almost
confidingly--yet he was rarely taken in.
"He knew his fellow-creatures better in the East-end than in the
West-end of London and had a talent for making men love him; he
swept them along on the impulse of his own decided intentions. He
was never too busy nor too prosperous to help the struggling and
was shocked by meanness or sharp practice, however successful.
"There were some people whom my father never understood, good,
generous and high-minded as he was: the fanatic with eyes turned
to no known order of things filled him with electric impatience;
he did not care for priests, poets or philosophers; anything like
indecision, change of plans, want of order, method or punctuality,
forgetfulness or carelessness--even hesitation of voice and
manner--drove him mad; his temperament was like a fuse which a
touch will explode, but the bomb did not kill, it hurt the
uninitiated but it consumed its own sparks. My papa had no self-
control, no possibility of learning it: it was an unknown science,
like geometry or algebra, to him; and he had very little
imagination. It was this combination--want of self-control and
want of imagination--which prevented him from being a thinker.
"He had great character, minute observation, a fine memory and all
his instincts were charged with almost superhuman vitality, but no
one could argue with him. Had the foundation of his character been
as unreasonable and unreliable as his temperament, he would have
made neither friends nor money; but he was fundamentally sound,
ultimately serene and high-minded in the truest sense of the word.
He was a man of intellect, but not an intellectual man; he did not
really know anything about the great writers or thinkers, although
he had read odds and ends. He was essentially a man of action and
a man of will; this is why I call him a man of intellect. He made
up his mind in a flash, partly from instinct and partly from will.
"He had the courage for life and the enterprise to spend his
fortune on it. He was kind and impulsively generous, but too hasty
for disease to accost or death to delay. For him they were
interruptions, not abiding sorrows.
"He knew nothing of rancour, remorse, regret; they conveyed much
the same to him as if he had been told to walk backwards and
received neither sympathy nor courtesy from him.
"He was an artist with the gift of admiration. He had a good eye
and could not buy an ugly or even moderately beautiful thing; but
he was no discoverer in art. Here I will add to make myself clear
that I am thinking of men like Frances Horner's father, old Mr.
Graham, [Footnote: Lady Horner, of Mells, Frome.] who discovered
and promoted Burne-Jones and Frederick Walker; or Lord Battersea,
who was the first to patronise Cecil Lawson; or my sister, Lucy
Graham Smith, who was a fine judge of every picture and recognised
and appreciated all schools of painting. My father's judgment was
warped by constantly comparing his own things with other people's.
"The pride of possession and proprietorship is a common and a
human one, but the real artist makes everything he admires his
own: no one can rob him of this; he sees value in unsigned
pictures and promise in unfinished ones; he not only discovers and
interprets, but almost creates beauty by the fire of his
criticisms and the inwardness of his preception. Papa was too
self-centred for this; a large side of art was hidden from him;
anything mysterious, suggestive, archaic, whether Italian, Spanish
or Dutch, frankly bored him. His feet were planted firmly on a
very healthy earth; he liked art to be a copy of nature, not of
art. The modern Burne-Jones and Morris school, with what he
considered its artificiality and affectations, he could not
endure. He did not realise that it originated in a reaction from
early-Victorianism and mid-Victorianism. He lost sight of much
that is beautiful in colour and fancy and all the drawing and
refinement of this school, by his violent prejudices. His opinions
were obsessions. Where he was original was not so much in his
pictures but in the mezzotints, silver, china and objets d'art
which he had collected for many years.
"Whatever he chose, whether it was a little owl, a dog, a nigger,
a bust, a Cupid in gold, bronze, china or enamel, it had to have
some human meaning, some recognisable expression which made it
lovable and familiar to him. He did not care for the fantastic,
the tortured or the ecclesiastical; saints, virgins, draperies and
crucifixes left him cold; but an old English chest, a stout little
chair or a healthy oriental bottle would appeal to him at once.
"No one enjoyed his own possessions more naively and
enthusiastically than my father; he would often take a candle and
walk round the pictures in his dressing-gown on his way to bed,
loitering over them with tenderness--I might almost say emotion.
"When I was alone with him, tucked up reading on a sofa, he would
send me upstairs to look at the Sir Joshuas: Lady Gertrude
Fitz-Patrick, Lady Crosbie or Miss Ridge.
"'She is quite beautiful to-night,' he would say. 'Just run up to
the drawing-room, Margot, and have a look at her.'
"It was not only his collections that he was proud of, but he was
proud of his children; we could all do things better than any one
else! Posie could sing, Lucy could draw, Laura could play, I could
ride, etc.; our praises were stuffed down newcomers' throats till
every one felt uncomfortable. I have no want of love to add to my
grief at his death, but I much regret my impatience and lack of
grace with him.
"He sometimes introduced me with emotional pride to the same man
or woman two or three times in one evening:
"'This is my little girl--very clever, etc., etc. Colonel
Kingscote says she goes harder across country than any one, etc.,
"This exasperated me. Turning to my mother in the thick of the
guests that had gathered in our house one evening to hear a
professional singer, he said at the top of his voice while the
lady was being conducted to the piano:
"'Don't bother, my dear, I think every one would prefer to hear
"I well remember Laura and myself being admonished by him on our
returning from a party at the Cyril Flowers' in the year 1883,
where we had been considerably run by dear Papa and twice
introduced to Lord Granville. We showed such irritability going
home in the brougham that my father said:
"'It's no pleasure taking you girls out.'
"This was the only time I ever heard him cross with me.
"He always told us not to frown and to speak clearly, just as my
mother scolded us for not holding ourselves up. I can never
remember seeing him indifferent, slack or idle in his life. He was
as violent when he was dying as when he was living and quite
"He hated presents, but he liked praise and was easily flattered;
he was too busy even for MUCH of that, but he could stand more
than most of us. If it is a little simple, it is also rather
generous to believe in the nicest things people can say to you;
and I think I would rather accept too much than repudiate and
refuse: it is warmer and more enriching.
"My father had not the smallest conceit or smugness, but he had a
little child-like vanity. You could not spoil him nor improve him;
he remained egotistical, sound, sunny and unreasonable; violently
impatient, not at all self-indulgent--despising the very idea of a
valet or a secretary--but absolutely self-willed; what he intended
to do, say or buy, he would do, say or buy AT ONCE.
"He was fond of a few people--Mark Napier, [Footnote: The Hon.
Mark Napier, of Ettrick.] Ribblesdale, Lord Haldane, Mr.
Heseltine, Lord Rosebery and Arthur Balfour--and felt friendly to
everybody, but he did not LOVE many people. When we were girls he
told us we ought to make worldly marriages, but in the end he let
us choose the men we loved and gave us the material help in money
which enabled us to marry them. I find exactly the opposite plan
adopted by most parents: they sacrifice their children to loveless
marriages as long as they know there is enough money for no demand
ever to be made upon themselves.
"I think I understood my father better than the others did. I
guessed his mood in a moment and in consequence could push further
and say more to him when he was in a good humour. I lived with
him, my mother and Eddy alone for nine years (after my sister
Laura married) and had a closer personal experience of him. He
liked my adventurous nature. Ribblesdale's [Footnote: Lord
Ribblesdale, of Gisburne.] courtesy and sweetness delighted him
and they were genuinely fond of each other. He said once to me of
"'Tommy is one of the few people in the world that have shown me
I cannot pass my brother-in-law's name here in my diary without
some reference to the effect which he produced on us when he first
came to Glen.
He was the finest-looking man that I ever saw, except old Lord
Wemyss, [Footnote: The Earl of Wemyss and March, father of the
present Earl.] the late Lord Pembroke, Mr. Wilfrid Blunt and Lord
D'Abernon. He had been introduced to my sister Charty at a ball in
London, when he was twenty-one and she eighteen. A brother-officer
of his in the Rifle Brigade, seeing them waltzing together, asked
him if she was his sister, to which he answered:
"No, thank God!"
I was twelve when he first came to Glen as Thomas Lister: his fine
manners, perfect sense of humour and picturesque appearance
captivated every one; and, whether you agreed with him or not, he
had a perfectly original point of view and was always interested
and suggestive. He never misunderstood but thoroughly appreciated
my father. ...
Continuing from my diary:
"My papa was a character-part; and some people never understood
"None of his children are really like him; yet there are
resemblances which are interesting and worth noting.
"Charty on the whole resembles him most. She has his transparent
simplicity, candour, courage laid want of self-control; but she is
the least selfish woman I know and the least self-centred. She is
also more intolerant and merciless in her criticisms of other
people, and has a finer sense of humour. Papa loved things of good
report and never believed evil of any one. He had a rooted
objection to talking lightly of other people's lives; he was not
exactly reverent, but a feeling of kindly decent citizenship
prevented him from thinking or speaking slightingly of other
"Lucy has Papa's artistic and generous side, but none of his self-
confidence or decisiveness; all his physical courage, but none of
"Eddy has his figure and deportment, his sense of justice and
emotional tenderness, but none of his vitality, impulse or hope.
Jack has his ambition and push, keenness and self-confidence; but
he is not so good-humoured in a losing game. Frank has more of his
straight tongue and appreciation of beautiful things, but none of
"I think I had more of Papa's moral indignation and daring than
the others; and physically there were great resemblances between
us: otherwise I do not think I am like him. I have his carriage,
balance and activity--being able to dance, skip and walk on a
rope--and I have inherited his hair and sleeplessness, nerves and
impatience; but intellectually we look at things from an entirely
different point of view. I am more passionate, more spiritually
perplexed and less self-satisfied. I have none of his powers of
throwing things off. I should like to think I have a little of his
generosity, humanity and kindly toleration, some of his
fundamental uprightness and integrity, but when everything has
been said he will remain a unique man in people's memory."
Writing now, fourteen years later, I do not think that I can add
much to this.
Although he was a business man, he had a wide understanding and
In connection with business men, the staggering figures published
in the official White Book of November last year showed that the
result of including them in the Government has been so remarkable
that my memoir would be incomplete if I did not allude to them. My
father and grandfather were brought up among City people and I am
proud of it; but it is folly to suppose that starting and
developing a great business is the same as initiating and
conducting a great policy, or running a big Government Department.
It has been and will remain a puzzle over which intellectual men
are perpetually if not permanently groping:
"How comes it that Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown made such a vast
The answer is not easy. Making money requires FLAIR, instinct,
insight or whatever you like to call it, but the qualities that go
to make a business man are grotesquely unlike those which make a
statesman; and, when you have pretensions to both, the result is
the present comedy and confusion.
I write as the daughter of a business man and the wife of a
politician and I know what I am talking about, but, in case Mr.
Bonar Law--a pathetic believer in the "business man"--should
honour me by reading these pages and still cling to his illusions
on the subject, I refer him to the figures published in the
Government White Book of 1919.
Intellectual men seldom make fortunes and business men are seldom
My father was educated in Liverpool and worked in a night school;
he was a good linguist, which he would never have been had he had
the misfortune to be educated in any of our great public schools.
I remember some one telling me how my grandfather had said that he
could not understand any man of sense bringing his son up as a
gentleman. In those days as in these, gentlemen were found and not
made, but the expression "bringing a man up as a gentleman" meant
bringing him up to be idle.
When my father gambled in the City, he took risks with his own
rather than other people's money. I heard him say to a South
"You did not make your money out of mines, but out of mugs like
me, my dear fellow!"
A whole chapter might be devoted to stories about his adventures
in speculation, but I will give only one. As a young man he was
put by my grandfather into a firm in Liverpool and made L30,000 on
the French Bourse before he was twenty-four. On hearing of this,
his father wrote and apologised to the head of the firm, saying he
was willing to withdraw his son Charles if he had in any way
shocked them by risking a loss which he could never have paid. The
answer was a request that the said "son Charles" should become a
partner in the firm.
Born a little quicker, more punctual and more alive than other
people, he suffered fools not at all. He could not modify himself
in any way; he was the same man in his nursery, his school and his
office, the same man in church, club, city or suburbs.
[Footnote: My mother, Emma Winsloe, came of quite a different
class from my father. His ancestor of earliest memory was factor
to Lord Bute, whose ploughman was Robert Burns, the poet. His
grandson was my grandfather Tennant of St. Rollox. My mother's
family were of gentle blood. Richard Winsloe (b. 1770, d. 1842)
was rector of Minster Forrabury in Cornwall and of Ruishton, near
Taunton. He married Catherine Walter, daughter of the founder of
the Times. Their son, Richard Winsloe, was sent to Oxford to study
for the Church. He ran away with Charlotte Monkton, aged 17. They
were caught at Evesham and brought back to be married next day at
Taunton, where Admiral Monkton was living. They had two children:
Emma, our mother, and Richard, my uncle.]
My mother was more unlike my father than can easily be imagined.
She was as timid, as he was bold, as controlled as he was
spontaneous and as refined, courteous and unassuming as he was
vibrant, sheer and adventurous.
Fond as we were of each other and intimate over all my love-
affairs, my mother never really understood me; my vitality,
independent happiness and physical energies filled her with
fatigue. She never enjoyed her prosperity and suffered from all
the apprehension, fussiness and love of economy that should by
rights belong to the poor, but by a curious perversion almost
always blight the rich.
Her preachings on economy were a constant source of amusement to
my father. I made up my mind at an early age, after listening to
his chaff, that money was the most overrated of all anxieties; and
not only has nothing occurred in my long experience to make me
alter this opinion but everything has tended to reinforce it.
In discussing matrimony my father would say:
"I'm sure I hope, girls, you'll not marry penniless men; men
should not marry at all unless they can keep their wives,' etc.
To this my mother would retort:
"Do not listen to your father, children! Marrying for money has
never yet made any one happy; it is not blessed."
Mamma had no illusions about her children nor about anything else;
her mild criticisms of the family balanced my father's obsessions.
When Charty's looks were praised, she would answer with a fine
"Tant soit peu mouton!"
She thought us all very plain, how plain I only discovered by
overhearing the following conversation.
I was seventeen and, a few days after my return from Dresden, I
was writing behind the drawing room screen in London, when an
elderly Scotch lady came to see my mother; she was shown into the
room by the footman and after shaking hands said:
"What a handsome house this is. ..."
MY MOTHER (IRRELEVANTLY): "I always think your place is so nice.
Did your garden do well this year?"
ELDERLY LADY: "Oh, I'm not a gardener and we spend very little
time at Auchnagarroch; I took Alison to the Hydro at Crieff for a
change. She's just a growing girl, you know, and not at all clever
MY MOTHER: "My girls never grow! I am sure I wish they would!"
ELDERLY LADY: "But they are so pretty! My Marion has a homely
MY MOTHER: "How old is she?"
ELDERLY LADY: "Sixteen."
MY MOTHER: "L'AGE INGRAT! I would not trouble myself, if I were
you, about her looks; with young people one never can tell;
Margot, for instance (with a resigned sigh), a few years ago
promised to be so pretty; and just look at her now!"
When some one suggested that we should be painted it was almost
more than my mother could bear. The poorness of the subject and
the richness of the price shocked her profoundly. Luckily my
father--who had begun to buy fine pictures--entirely agreed with
her, though not for the same reasons:
"I am sure I don't know where I could hang the girls, even if I
were fool enough to have them painted!" he would say.
I cannot ever remember kissing my mother without her tapping me on
the back and saying, "Hold yourself up!" or kissing my father
without his saying, "Don't frown!" And I shall never cease being
grateful for this, as a l'heure qu'il est I have not a line in my
forehead and my figure has not changed since my marriage.
My mother's indifference to--I might almost say suspicion of--
other people always amused me:
"I am sure I don't know why they should come here! unless it is to
see the garden!" Or, "I cannot help wondering what was at the back
of her mind."
When I suggested that perhaps the lady she referred to had no
mind, my mother would say, "I don't like people with ARRIERE--
PENSEES"; and ended most of her criticisms by saying, "It looks to
me as if she had a poor circulation."
My mother had an excellent sense of humour. Doll Liddell
[Footnote: The late A.G.C. Lidell.] said: "Lucy has a touch of
mild genius." And this is exactly what my mother had.
People thought her a calm, serene person, satisfied with pinching
green flies off plants and incapable of deep feeling, but my
mother's heart had been broken by the death of her first four
children, and she dreaded emotion. Any attempt on my part to
discuss old days or her own sensations was resolutely discouraged.
There was a lot of fun and affection but a tepid intimacy between
us, except about my flirtations; and over these we saw eye to eye.
My mother, who had been a great flirt herself, thoroughly enjoyed
all love-affairs and was absolutely unshockable. Little words of
wisdom would drop from her mouth:
MY MOTHER: "Men don't like being run after ..."
MARGOT: "Oh, don't you believe it, mamma!"
MY MOTHER: "You can do what you like in life if you can hold your
tongue, but the world is relentless to people who are found out."
She told my father that if he interfered with my love-affairs I
should very likely marry a groom.
She did me a good turn here, for, though I would not have married
a groom, I might have married the wrong man and, in any case,
interference would have been cramping to me.
I have copied out of my diary what I wrote about my mother when
"January 21st, 1895.
"Mamma is dead. She died this morning and Glen isn't my home any
more: I feel as if I should be 'received' here in future, instead
of finding my own darling, tender little mother, who wanted
arranging for and caring for and to whom my gossipy trivialities
were precious and all my love-stories a trust. How I WISH I could
say sincerely that I had understood her nature and sympathised
with her and never felt hurt by anything she could say and had
EAGERLY shown my love and sought hers. ... Lucky Lucy! She CAN say
this, but I do not think that I can.
"Mamma's life and death have taught me several things. Her
sincerity and absence of vanity and worldliness were her really
striking qualities. Her power of suffering passively, without
letting any one into her secret, was carried to a fault. We who
longed to share some part, however small, of the burden of her
emotion were not allowed to do so. This reserve to the last hour
of her life remained her inexorable rule and habit. It arose from
a wish to spare other people and fear of herself and her own
feelings. To spare others was her ideal. Another characteristic
was her pity for the obscure, the dull and the poor. The postman
in winter ought to have fur-lined gloves; and we must send our
Christmas letters and parcels before or after the busy days. Lord
Napier's [Footnote: Lord Napier and Ettrick, father of Mark
Napier.] coachman had never seen a comet; she would write and tell
him what day it was prophesied. The lame girl at the lodge must be
picked up in the brougham and taken for a drive, etc. ...
"She despised any one who was afraid of infection and was
singularly ignorant on questions of health; she knew little or
nothing of medicine and never believed in doctors; she made an
exception of Sir James Simpson, who was her friend. She told me
that he had said there was a great deal of nonsense talked about
health and diet:
"'If the fire is low, it does not matter whether you stir it with
the poker or the tongs.'
"She believed firmly in cold water and thought that most illnesses
came from 'checked perspiration.'
"She loved happy people--people with courage and go and what she
called 'nature'--and said many good things. Of Mark Napier: 'He
had so much nature, I am sure he had a Neapolitan wet-nurse' (here
she was right). Of Charty: 'She has so much social courage.' Of
Aunt Marion [Footnote: My father's sister, Mrs. Wallace.]: 'She is
unfortunately inferior.' Of Lucy's early friends: 'Lucy's trumpery
"Mamma was not at all spiritual, nor had she much intellectual
imagination, but she believed firmly in God and was profoundly
sorry for those who did not. She was full of admiration for
religious people. Laura's prayer against high spirits she thought
so wonderful that she kept it in a book near her bed.
"She told me she had never had enough circulation to have good
spirits herself and that her old nurse often said:
"'No one should ever be surprised at anything they feel.'
"My mamma came of an unintellectual family and belonged to a
generation in which it was not the fashion to read. She had lived
in a small milieu most of her life, without the opportunity of
meeting distinguished people. She had great powers of observation
and a certain delicate acuteness of expression which identified
all she said with herself. She was fine-mouche and full of tender
humour, a woman of the world, but entirely bereft of worldliness.
"Her twelve children, who took up all her time, accounted for some
of her a quoi bon attitude towards life, but she had little or no
concentration and a feminine mind both in its purity and
"My mother hardly had one intimate friend and never allowed any
one to feel necessary to her. Most people thought her gentle to
docility and full of quiet composure. So much is this the general
impression that, out of nearly a hundred letters which I received,
there is not one that does not allude to her restful nature. As a
matter of fact, Mamma was one of the most restless creatures that
ever lived. She moved from room to room, table to table, and topic
to topic, not, it is true, with haste or fretfulness, but with no
concentration of either thought or purpose; and I never saw her
put up her feet in my life.
"Her want of confidence in herself and of grip upon life prevented
her from having the influence which her experience of the world
and real insight might have given her; and her want of expansion
prevented her own generation and discouraged ours from approaching
"Few women have speculative minds nor can they deliberate: they
have instincts, quick apprehensions and powers of observation; but
they are seldom imaginative and neither their logic nor their
reason are their strong points. Mamma was in all these ways like
the rest of her sex.
"She had much affection for, but hardly any pride in her children.
Laura's genius was a phrase to her; and any praise of Charty's
looks or Lucy's successes she took as mere courtesy on the part of
the speaker. I can never remember her praising me, except to say
that I had social courage, nor did she ever encourage me to draw,
write or play the piano.
"She marked in a French translation of "The Imitation of Christ"
which Lucy gave her:
"'Certes au jour du jugement on ne nous demandera point ce que
nous avons lu, mais ce que nous avons fait; ni si nous avons bien
parle mais si nous avons bien vecu.'
"She was the least self-centred and self-scanned of human beings,
unworldly and uncomplaining. As Doll Liddell says in his admirable
letter to me, 'She was often wise and always gracious.'"
GLEN AMONG THE MOORS--MARGOT'S ADVENTURE WITH A TRAMP--THE
SHEPHERD BOY--MEMORIES AND ESCAPADES--LAURA AND MARGOT; PROPOSALS
OF MARRIAGE--NEW MEN FRIENDS--LAURA ENGAGED; PROPOSAL IN THE
DUSK--MARGOT'S ACCIDENT IN HUNTING FIELD--LAURA'S PREMONITION OF
DEATH IN CHILD-BIRTH--LAURA'S WILL
My home, Glen, is on the border of Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire,
sixteen miles from Abbotsford and thirty from Edinburgh. It was
designed on the lines of Glamis and Castle Fraser, in what is
called Scottish baronial style. I well remember the first shock I
had when some one said: "I hate turrets and tin men on the top of
them!" It unsettled me for days. I had never imagined that
anything could be more beautiful than Glen. The classical style of
Whittingehame--and other fine places of the sort--appeared to me
better suited for municipal buildings; the beams and flint in
Cheshire reminded me of Earl's Court; and such castles as I had
seen looked like the pictures of the Rhine on my blotting-book. I
was quite ignorant and "Scottish baronial" thrilled me.
What made Glen really unique was not its architecture but its
situation. The road by which you approached it was a cul-de-sac
and led to nothing but moors. This--and the fact of its being ten
miles from a railway station--gave it security in its wildness.
Great stretches of heather swept down to the garden walls; and,
however many heights you climbed, moor upon moor rose in front of
Evan Charteris [Footnote: The Hon. Evan Charteris] said that my
hair was biography: as it is my only claim to beauty, I would like
to think that this is true, but the hills at Glen are my real
Nature inoculates its lovers from its own culture; sea, downs and
moors produce a different type of person. Shepherds, fishermen and
poachers are a little like what they contemplate and, were it
possible to ask the towns to tell us whom they find most
untamable, I have not a doubt that they would say, those who are
born on the moors.
I married late--at the age of thirty--and spent all my early life
at Glen. I was a child of the heather and quite untamable. After
my sister Laura Lyttelton died, my brother Eddy and I lived alone
with my parents for nine years at Glen.
When he was abroad shooting big game, I spent long days out of
doors, seldom coming in for lunch. Both my pony and my hack were
saddled from 7 a.m., ready for me to ride, every day of my life. I
wore the shortest of tweed skirts, knickerbockers of the same
stuff, top-boots, a covert-coat and a coloured scarf round my
head. I was equipped with a book, pencils, cigarettes and food.
Every shepherd and poacher knew me; and I have often shared my
"piece" with them, sitting in the heather near the red burns, or
sheltered from rain in the cuts and quarries of the open road.
After my first great sorrow--the death of my sister Laura--I was
suffocated in the house and felt I had to be out of doors from
morning till night.
One day I saw an old shepherd called Gowanlock coming up to me,
holding my pony by the rein. I had never noticed that it had
strayed away and, after thanking him, I observed him looking at me
quietly--he knew something of the rage and anguish that Laura's
death had brought into my heart--and putting his hand on my
shoulder, he said:
"My child, there's no contending. ... Ay--ay"--shaking his
beautiful old head--"THAT IS SO, there's no contending. ..."
Another day, when it came on to rain, I saw a tramp crouching
under the dyke, holding an umbrella over his head and eating his
lunch. I went and sat down beside him and we fell into desultory
conversation. He had a grand, wild face and I felt some curiosity
about him; but he was taciturn and all he told me was that he was
walking to the Gordon Arms, on his way to St. Mary's Loch. I asked
him every sort of question--as to where he had come from, where he
was going to and what he wanted to do--but he refused to gratify
my curiosity, so I gave him one of my cigarettes and a light and
we sat peacefully smoking together in silence. When the rain
cleared, I turned to him and said:
"You seem to walk all day and go nowhere; when you wake up in the
morning, how do you shape your course?"
To which he answered:
"I always turn my back to the wind."
Border people are more intelligent than those born in the South;
and the people of my birthplace are a hundred years in advance of
the Southern English even now.
When I was fourteen, I met a shepherd-boy reading a French book.
It was called "Le Secret de Delphine." I asked him how he came to
know French and he told me it was the extra subject he had been
allowed to choose for studying in his holidays; he walked eighteen
miles a day to school--nine there and nine back--taking his
chance of a lift from any passing vehicle. I begged him to read
out loud to me, but he was shy of his accent and would not do it.
The Lowland Scotch were a wonderful people in my day.
I remember nothing unhappy in my glorious youth except the
violence of our family quarrels. Reckless waves of high and low
spirits, added to quick tempers, obliged my mother to separate us
for some time and forbid us to sleep in the same bedroom. We raged
and ragged till the small hours of the morning, which kept us thin
and the household awake.
My mother told me two stories of myself as a little child:
"When you were sent for to come downstairs, Margot, the nurse
opened the door and you walked in--generally alone--saying,
'Here's me! ...'"
This rather sanguine opening does not seem to have been
sufficiently checked. She went on to say:
"I was dreadfully afraid you would be upset and ill when I took
you one day to the Deaf and Dumb Asylum in Glasgow, as you felt
things with passionate intensity. Before starting I lifted you on
to my knee and said, 'You know, darling, I am going to take you to
see some poor people who cannot speak.' At which you put your arms
round my neck and said, with consoling emphasis, 'I will soon make
The earliest event I can remember was the arrival of the new baby,
my brother Jack, when I was two years old. Dr. Cox was spoiling my
mother's good-night visit while I was being dried after my bath.
My pink flannel dressing-gown, with white buttonhole stitching,
was hanging over the fender; and he was discussing some earnest
subject in a low tone. He got up and, pinching my chin said:
"She will be very angry, but we will give her a baby of her own,"
or words to that effect.
The next day a huge doll obliterated from my mind the new baby
which had arrived that morning.
We were left very much alone in our nursery, as my mother
travelled from pillar to post, hunting for health for her child
Pauline. Our nurse, Mrs. Hills--called "Missuls" for short--left
us on my tenth birthday to become my sister's lady's-maid, and
this removed our first and last restriction.
We were wild children and, left to ourselves, had the time of our
lives. I rode my pony up the front stairs and tried to teach my
father's high-stepping barouche-horses to jump--crashing their
knees into the hurdles in the field--and climbed our incredibly
dangerous roof, sitting on the sweep's ladder by moonlight in my
nightgown. I had scrambled up every tree, walked on every wall and
knew every turret at Glen. I ran along the narrow ledges of the
slates in rubber shoes at terrific heights. This alarmed other
people so much that my father sent for me one day to see him in
his "business room" and made me swear before God that I would give
up walking on the roof; and give it up I did, with many tears.
Laura and I were fond of acting and dressing up. We played at
being found in dangerous and adventurous circumstances in the
garden. One day the boys were rabbit-shooting and we were acting
with the doctor's daughter. I had spoilt the game by running round
the kitchen-garden wall instead of being discovered--as I was
meant to be--in a Turkish turban, smoking on the banks of the
Bosphorus. Seeing that things were going badly and that the others
had disappeared, I took a wild jump into the radishes. On landing
I observed a strange gentleman coming up the path. He looked at my
torn gingham frock, naked legs, tennis shoes and dishevelled curls
under an orange turban; and I stood still and gazed at him.
"This is a wonderful place," he said; to which I replied:
"You like it?"
HE: "I would like to see the house. I hear there are beautiful
things in it."
MARGOT: "I think the drawing-rooms are all shut up."
HE: "How do you know? Surely you could manage to get hold of a
servant or some one who would take me round. Do you know any of
I asked him if he meant the family or the servants.
"The family," he said.
MARGOT: "I know them very well, but I don't know you."
"I am an artist," said the stranger; "my name is Peter Graham. Who
"I am an artist too!" I said. "My name is Margot Tennant. I
suppose you thought I was the gardener's daughter, did you?"
He gave a circulating smile, finishing on my turban, and said:
"To tell you the honest truth, I had no idea what you were!"
My earliest sorrow was when I was stealing peaches in the
conservatory and my little dog was caught in a trap set for rats.
He was badly hurt before I could squeeze under the glass slides to
save him. I was betrayed by my screams for help and caught in the
peach-house by the gardener. I was punished and put to bed, as the
large peaches were to have been shown in Edinburgh and I had eaten
We had a dancing-class at the minister's and an arithmetic-class
in our schoolroom. I was as good at the Manse as I was bad at my
sums; and poor Mr. Menzies, the Traquair schoolmaster, had
eventually to beg my mother to withdraw me from the class, as I
kept them all back. To my delight I was withdrawn; and from that
day to this I have never added a single row of figures.
I showed a remarkable proficiency in dancing and could lift both
my feet to the level of my eyebrows with disconcerting ease. Mrs.
Wallace, the minister's wife, was shocked and said:
"Look at Margot with her Frenchified airs!"
I pondered often and long over this, the first remark about myself
that I can ever remember. Some one said to me:
"Does your hair curl naturally?"
To which I replied:
"I don't know, but I will ask."
I was unaware of myself and had not the slightest idea what
"curling naturally" meant.
We had two best dresses: one made in London, which we only wore on
great occasions; the other made by my nurse, in which we went down
to dessert. These dresses gave me my first impression of civilised
life. Just as the Speaker, before clearing the House, spies
strangers, so, when I saw my black velvet skirt and pink Garibaldi
put out on the bed, I knew that something was up! The nursery
confection was of white alpaca, piped with pink, and did not
inspire the same excitement and confidence.
We saw little of our mother in our youth and I asked Laura one day
if she thought she said her prayers; I would not have remembered
this had it not been that Laura was profoundly shocked. The
question was quite uncalled for and had no ulterior motive, but I
never remembered my mother or any one else talking to us about the
Bible or hearing us our prayers. Nevertheless we were all deeply
religious, by which no one need infer that we were good. There was
one service a week, held on Sundays, in Traquair Kirk, which every
one went to; and the shepherds' dogs kept close to their masters'
plaids, hung over the high box-pews, all the way down the aisle. I
have heard many fine sermons in Scotland, but our minister was not
a good preacher; and we were often dissolved in laughter, sitting
in the square family pew in the gallery. My father closed his eyes
tightly all through the sermon, leaning his head on his hand.
The Scottish Sabbath still held its own in my youth; and when I
heard that Ribblesdale and Charty played lawn tennis on Sunday
after they were married, I felt very unhappy. We had a few Sabbath
amusements, but they were not as entertaining as those described
in Miss Fowler's book, in which the men who were heathens went
into one corner of the room and the women who were Christians into
the other and, at the beating of a gong, conversion was
accomplished by a close embrace. Our Scottish Sabbaths were very
different, and I thought them more than dreary. Although I love
church music and architecture and can listen to almost any sermon
at any time and even read sermons to myself, going to church in
the country remains a sacrifice to me. The painful custom in the
Church of England of reading indistinctly and in an assumed voice
has alienated simple people in every parish; and the average
preaching is painful. In my country you can still hear a good
sermon. When staying with Lord Haldane's mother--the most
beautiful, humorous and saintly of old ladies--I heard an
excellent sermon at Auchterarder on this very subject, the
dullness of Sundays. The minister said that, however brightly the
sun shone on stained glass windows, no one could guess what they
were really like from the outside; it was from the inside only
that you should judge of them.
Another time I heard a man end his sermon by saying:
"And now, my friends, do your duty and don't look upon the world
with eyes jaundiced by religion."
My mother hardly ever mentioned religion to us and, when the
subject was brought up by other people, she confined her remarks
to saying in a weary voice and with a resigned sigh that God's
ways were mysterious. She had suffered many sorrows and, in
estimating her lack of temperament, I do not think I made enough
allowance for them. No true woman ever gets over the loss of a
child; and her three eldest had died before I was born.
I was the most vital of the family and what the nurses described
as a "venturesome child." Our coachman's wife called me "a little
Turk." Self-willed, excessively passionate, painfully truthful,
bold as well as fearless and always against convention, I was, no
doubt, extremely difficult to bring up.
My mother was not lucky with her governesses--we had two at a
time, and of every nationality, French, German, Swiss, Italian and
Greek--but, whether through my fault or our governesses', I never
succeeded in making one of them really love me. Mary Morison,
[Foot note: Miss Morison, a cousin of Mr. William Archer's.] who
kept a high school for young ladies in Innerleithen, was the first
person who influenced me and my sister Laura. She is alive now and
a woman of rare intellect and character. She was fonder of Laura
than of me, but so were most people.
Here I would like to say something about my sister and Alfred
Lyttelton, whom she married in 1885.
A great deal of nonsense has been written and talked about Laura.
There are two printed accounts of her that are true: one has been
written by the present Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton, in generous and
tender passages in the life of her husband, and the other by A. G.
C. Liddell; but even these do not quite give the brilliant, witty
Laura of my heart. I will quote what my dear friend, Doll Liddell,
wrote of her in his Notes from the Life of an Ordinary Mortal:
My acquaintance with Miss Tennant, which led to a close intimacy
with herself, and afterwards with her family, was an event of such
importance in my life that I feel I ought to attempt some
description of her. This is not an easy task, as a more
indescribable person never existed, for no one could form a
correct idea of what she was like who had not had opportunities of
feeling her personal charm. Her looks were certainly not striking
at first sight, though to most persons who had known her some
weeks she would often seem almost beautiful. To describe her
features would give no idea of the brightness and vivacity of her
expression, or of that mixture of innocence and mischief, as of a
half-child, half-Kelpie, which distinguished her. Her figure was
very small but well made, and she was always prettily and daintily
dressed. If the outward woman is difficult to describe, what can
be said of her character?
To begin with her lighter side, she had reduced fascination to a
fine art in a style entirely her own. I have never known her meet
any man, and hardly any woman, whom she could not subjugate in a
few days. It is as difficult to give any idea of her methods as to
describe a dance when the music is unheard. Perhaps one may say
that her special characteristic was the way in which she combined
the gaiety of a child with the tact and aplomb of a grown woman.
... Her victims, after their period of enchantment, generally
became her devoted friends.
This trifling was, however, only the ripple on the surface. In the
deeper parts of her nature was a fund of earnestness and a
sympathy which enabled her to throw herself into the lives of
other people in a quite unusual way, and was one of the great
secrets of the general affection she inspired. It was not,
however, as is sometimes the case with such feelings, merely
emotional, but impelled her to many kindnesses and to constant,
though perhaps somewhat impulsive, efforts to help her fellows of
all sorts and conditions.
On her mental side she certainly gave the impression, from the
originality of her letters and sayings, and her appreciation of
what was best in literature, that her gifts were of a high order.
In addition, she had a subtle humour and readiness, which made her
repartees often delightful and produced phrases and fancies of
characteristic daintiness. But there was something more than all
this, an extra dose of life, which caused a kind of electricity to
flash about her wherever she went, lighting up all with whom she
came in contact. I am aware that this description will seem
exaggerated, and will be put down to the writer having dwelt in
her "Aeaean isle" but I think that if it should meet the eyes of
any who knew her in her short life, they will understand what it
attempts to convey.
This is good, but his poem is even better; and there is a
prophetic touch in the line, "Shadowed with something of the
A face upturned towards the midnight sky,
Pale in the glimmer of the pale starlight,
And all around the black and boundless night,
And voices of the winds which bode and cry.
A childish face, but grave with curves that lie
Ready to breathe in laughter or in tears,
Shadowed with something of the future years
That makes one sorrowful, I know not why.
O still, small face, like a white petal torn
From a wild rose by autumn winds and flung
On some dark stream the hurrying waves among:
By what strange fates and whither art thou borne?
Laura had many poems written to her from many lovers. My daughter
Elizabeth Bibesco's godfather, Godfrey Webb--a conspicuous member
of the Souls, not long since dead--wrote this of her:
"HALF CHILD, HALF WOMAN."
Tennyson's description of Laura in 1883:
"Half child, half woman"--wholly to be loved
By either name she found an easy way
Into my heart, whose sentinels all proved
Unfaithful to their trust, the luckless day
She entered there. "Prudence and reason both!
Did you not question her? How was it pray
She so persuaded you?" "Nor sleep nor sloth,"
They cried, "o'ercame us then, a CHILD at play
Went smiling past us, and then turning round
Too late your heart to save, a woman's face we found."
Laura was not a plaster saint; she was a generous, clamative,
combative little creature of genius, full of humour, imagination,
temperament and impulse.
Some one reading this memoir will perhaps say:
"I wonder what Laura and Margot were really like, what the
differences and what the resemblances between them were."
The men who could answer this question best would be Lord
Gladstone, Arthur Balfour, Lord Midleton, Sir Rennell Rodd, or
Lord Curzon (of Kedleston). I can only say what I think the
differences and resemblances were.
Strictly speaking, I was better-looking than Laura, but she had
rarer and more beautiful eyes. Brains are such a small part of
people that I cannot judge of them as between her and me; and, at
the age of twenty-three, when she died, few of us are at the
height of our powers, but Laura made and left a deeper impression
on the world in her short life than any one that I have ever
known. What she really had to a greater degree than other people
was true spirituality, a feeling of intimacy with the other world
and a sense of the love and wisdom of God and His plan of life.
Her mind was informed by true religion; and her heart was fixed.
This did not prevent her from being a very great flirt. The first
time that a man came to Glen and liked me better than Laura, she
was immensely surprised--not more so than I was--and had it not
been for the passionate love which we cherished for each other,
there must inevitably have been much jealousy between us.
On several occasions the same man proposed to both of us, and we
had to find out from each other what our intentions were.
I only remember being hurt by Laura on one occasion and it came
about in this way. We were always dressed alike, and as we were
the same size; "M" and "L" had to be written in our clothes as we
One day, about the time of which I am writing, I was thirteen; I
took a letter out of the pocket of what I thought was my skirt and
read it; it was from Laura to my eldest sister Posie and, though I
do not remember it all, one sentence was burnt into me:
"Does it not seem extraordinary that Margot should be teaching a
I wondered why any one should think it extraordinary! I went
upstairs and cried in a small black cupboard, where I generally
disappeared when life seemed too much for me.
The Sunday class I taught need have disturbed no one, for I regret
to relate that, after a striking lesson on the birth of Christ,
when I asked my pupils who the Virgin was, one of the most
The idea had evidently gone abroad that I was a frivolous
character; this hurt and surprised me. Naughtiness and frivolity
are different, and I was always deeply in earnest.
Laura was more gentle than I was; and her goodness resolved itself
into greater activity.
She and I belonged to a reading-class. I read more than she did
and at greater speed, but we were all readers and profited by a
climate which kept us indoors and a fine library. The class
obliged us to read an hour a day, which could not be called
excessive, but the real test was doing the same thing at the same
time. I would have preferred three or four hours' reading on wet
days and none on fine, But not so our Edinburgh tutor.
Laura started the Girls' Friendly Society in the village, which
was at that time famous for its drunkenness and immorality. We
drove ourselves to the meetings in a high two-wheeled dog-cart
behind a fast trotter, coming back late in pitch darkness along
icy roads. These drives to Innerleithen and our moonlight talks
are among my most precious recollections.
At the meetings--after reading aloud to the girls while they sewed
and knitted--Laura would address them. She gave a sort of lesson,
moral, social and religious, and they all adored her. More
remarkable at her age than speaking to mill-girls were her Sunday
classes at Glen, in the housekeeper's room. I do not know one girl
now of any age--Laura was only sixteen--who could talk on
religious subjects with profit to the butler, housekeeper and
maids, or to any grown-up people, on a Sunday afternoon.
Compared with what the young men have written and published during
this war, Laura's literary promise was not great; both her prose
and her poetry were less remarkable than her conversation.
She was not so good a judge of character as I was and took many a
goose for a swan, but, in consequence of this, she made people of
both sexes--and even all ages--twice as good, clever and
delightful as they would otherwise have been.
I have never succeeded in making any one the least different from
what they are and, in my efforts to do so, have lost every female
friend that I have ever had (with the exception of four). This was
the true difference between us. I have never influenced anybody
but my own two children, Elizabeth and Anthony, but Laura had such
an amazing effect upon men and women that for years after she died
they told me that she had both changed and made their lives. This
is a tremendous saying. When I die, people may turn up and try to
make the world believe that I have influenced them and women may
come forward whom I adored and who have quarrelled with me and
pretend that they always loved me, but I wish to put it on record
that they did not, or, if they did, their love is not my kind of
love and I have no use for it.
The fact is that I am not touchy or impenitent myself and forget
that others may be and I tell people the truth about themselves,
while Laura made them feel it. I do not think I should mind
hearing from any one the naked truth about myself; and on the few
occasions when it has happened to me, I have not been in the least
offended. My chief complaint is that so few love one enough, as
one grows older, to say what they really think; nevertheless I
have often wished that I had been born with Laura's skill and tact
in dealing with men and women. In her short life she influenced
more people than I have done in over twice as many years. I have
never influenced people even enough to make them change their
stockings! And I have never succeeded in persuading any young
persons under my charge--except my own two children--to say that
they were wrong or sorry, nor at this time of life do I expect to
There was another difference between Laura and me: she felt sad
when she refused the men who proposed to her; I pitied no man who
loved me. I told Laura that both her lovers and mine had a very
good chance of getting over it, as they invariably declared
themselves too soon. We were neither of us au fond very
susceptible. It was the custom of the house that men should be in
love with us, but I can truly say that we gave quite as much as we
I said to Rowley Leigh [Footnote: The Hon. Rowland Leigh, of
Stoneleigh Abbey.]--a friend of my brother Eddy's and one of the
first gentlemen that ever came to Glen--when he begged me to go
for a walk with him:
"Certainly, if you won't ask me to marry you."
To which he replied:
"I never thought of it!"
"That's all right!" said I, putting my arm confidingly and
gratefully through his.
He told me afterwards that he had been making up his mind and
changing it for days as to how he should propose.
Sir David Tennant, a former Speaker at Cape Town and the most
distant of cousins, came to stay at Glen with his son, a young man
of twenty. After a few days, the young man took me into one of the
conservatories and asked me to marry him. I pointed out that I
hardly knew him by sight, and that "he was running hares." He took
it extremely well and, much elated, I returned to the house to
tell Laura. I found her in tears; she told me Sir David Tennant
had asked her to marry him and she had been obliged to refuse. I
cheered her up by pointing out that it would have been awkward had
we both accepted, for, while remaining my sister, she would have
become my mother-in-law and my husband's stepmother.
We were not popular in Peeblesshire, partly because we had no
county connection, but chiefly because we were Liberals. My father
had turned out the sitting Tory, Sir Graham Montgomery, of Stobo,
and was member for the two counties Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire.
As Sir Graham had represented the counties for thirty years, this
was resented by the Montgomery family, who proceeded to cut us.
Laura was much worried over this, but I was amused. I said the
love of the Maxwell Stuarts, Maxwell Scotts, Wolfe Murrays and Sir
Thomas--now Lord--Carmichael was quite enough for me and that if
she liked she could twist Sir Graham Montgomery round her little
finger; as a matter of fact, neither Sir Graham nor his sons
disliked us. I met Basil Montgomery at Traquair House many years
after my papa's election, where we were entertained by Herbert
Maxwell--the owner of one of the most romantic houses in Scotland,
and our most courteous and affectionate neighbour. Not knowing who
he was, I was indignant when he told me he thought Peeblesshire
was dull; I said where we lived it was far from dull and asked him
if he knew many people in the county. To which he answered:
"Chiefly the Stobo lot."
At this I showed him the most lively sympathy and invited him to
come to Glen. In consequence of this visit he told me years
afterwards his fortune had been made. My father took a fancy to
him and at my request employed him on the Stock Exchange.
Laura and I shared the night nursery together till she married;
and, in spite of mixed proposals, we were devoted friends. We read
late in bed, sometimes till three in the morning, and said our
prayers out loud to each other every night. We were discussing
imagination one night and were comparing Hawthorne, De Quincey,
Poe and others, in consequence of a dispute arising out of one of
our pencil-games; and we argued till the housemaid came in with
the hot water at eight in the morning.
I will digress here to explain our after-dinner games. There were
several, but the best were what Laura and I invented: one was
called "Styles," another "Clumps"--better known as "Animal,
Vegetable or Mineral"--a third, "Epigrams" and the most dangerous
of all "Character Sketches." We were given no time-limit, but sat
feverishly silent in different corners of the room, writing as
hard as we could. When it was agreed that we had all written
enough, the manuscripts were given to our umpire, who read them
out loud. Votes were then taken as to the authorship, which led to
first-rate general conversation on books, people and manner of
writing. We have many interesting umpires, beginning with Bret
Harte and Laurence Oliphant and going on to Arthur Balfour, George
Curzon, George Wyndham, Lionel Tennyson, [Footnote: Brother of
the present Lord Tennyson.] Harry Cust and Doll Liddell: all good
Some of our guests preferred making caricatures to competing in
the more ambitious line of literature. I made a drawing of the
Dowager Countess of Aylesbury, better known as "Lady A."; Colonel
Saunderson--a famous Orangeman--did a sketch of Gladstone for me;
while Alma Tadema gave me one of Queen Victoria, done in four
These games were good for our tempers and a fine training; any
loose vanity, jealousy, or over-competitiveness were certain to be
shown up; and those who took the buttons off the foils in the duel
of argument--of which I have seen a good deal in my life--were
instantly found out. We played all our games with much greater
precision and care than they are played now and from practice
became extremely good at them. I never saw a playing-card at Glen
till after I married, though--when we were obliged to dine
downstairs to prevent the company being thirteen at dinner--I
vaguely remember a back view of my grandpapa at the card-table
Laura was a year and a half older than I was and came out in 1881,
while I was in Dresden. The first party that she and I went to
together was a political crush given by Sir William and Lady
Harcourt. I was introduced to Spencer Lyttleton and shortly after
this Laura met his brother Alfred.
One day, as she and I were leaving St. Paul's Cathedral, she
pointed out a young man to me and said:
"Go and ask Alfred Lyttelton to come to Glen any time this
autumn," which I promptly did.
The advent of Alfred into our family coincided with that of
several new men, the Charterises, Balfours, George Curzon, George
Wyndham, Harry Cust, the Crawleys, Jack Pease, "Harry" Paulton,
Lord Houghton, Mark Napier, Doll Liddell and others. High hopes
had been entertained by my father that some of these young men
might marry us, but after the reception we gave to Lord Lymington
--who, to do him justice, never proposed to any of us except in the
paternal imagination--his nerve was shattered and we were left to
Some weeks before Alfred's arrival, Laura had been much disturbed
by hearing that we were considered "fast"; she told me that
receiving men at midnight in our bedroom shocked people and that
we ought, perhaps, to give it up. I listened closely to what she
had to say, and at the end remarked that it appeared to me to be
quite absurd. Godfrey Webb agreed with me and said that people who
were easily shocked were like women who sell stale pastry in
cathedral towns; and he advised us to take no notice whatever of
what any one said. We hardly knew the meaning of the word "fast"
and, as my mother went to bed punctually at eleven, it was
unthinkable that men and women friends should not be allowed to
join us. Our bedroom had been converted by me out of the night-
nursery into a sitting-room. The shutters were removed and book-
shelves put in their place, an idea afterwards copied by my
friends. The Morris carpet and chintzes I had discovered for
myself and chosen in London; and my walls were ornamented with
curious objects, varying from caricatures and crucifixes to prints
of prize-fights, fox-hunts, Virgins and Wagner. In one of the
turrets I hung my clothes; in the other I put an altar on which I
kept my books of prayer and a skull which was given to me by the
shepherd's son and which is on my bookshelf now; we wore charming
dressing-jackets and sat up in bed with coloured cushions behind
our backs, while the brothers and their friends sat on the floor
or in comfortable chairs round the room. On these occasions the
gas was turned low, a brilliant fire made up and either a guest or
one of us would read by the light of a single candle, tell ghost-
stories or discuss current affairs: politics, people and books.
Not only the young, but the old men came to our gatherings. I
remember Jowett reading out aloud to us Thomas Hill Green's lay
sermons; and when he had finished I asked him how much he had
loved Green, to which he replied:
"I did not love him at all."
That these midnight meetings should shock any one appeared
fantastic; and as most people in the house agreed with me, they
It was not this alone that disturbed Laura; she wanted to marry a
serious, manly fellow, but as she was a great flirt, other types
of a more brilliant kind obscured this vision and she had become
profoundly undecided over her own love-affairs; they had worked so
much upon her nerves that when Mr. Lyttelton came to Glen she was
in bed with acute neuralgia and unable to see him.
My father welcomed Alfred warmly, for, apart from his charming
personality, he was Gladstone's nephew and had been brought up in
the Liberal creed.
On the evening of his arrival, we all went out after dinner. There
had been a terrific gale which had destroyed half a wood on a hill
in front of the library windows and we wanted to see the roots of
the trees blown up by dynamite. It was a moonlight night, but the
moon is always brighter in novels than in life and it was pitch
dark. Alfred and I, walking arm in arm, talked gaily to each other
as we stumbled over the broken brushwood by the side of the Quair
burn. As we approached the wood a white birch lay across the water
at a slanting angle and I could not resist leaving Alfred's side
to walk across it. It was, however, too slippery for me and I
fell. Alfred plunged into the burn and scrambled me out. I landed
on my feet and, except for sopping stockings, no harm was done.
Our party had scattered in the dark and, as it was past midnight,
we walked back to the house alone. When we returned, we found
everybody had gone to their rooms and Alfred suggested carrying me
up to bed. As I weighed under eight stone, he lifted me up like a
toy and deposited me on my bed. Kneeling down, he kissed my hand
and said good night to me.
Two days after this my brother Eddy and I travelled North for the
Highland meeting. Laura, who had been gradually recovering, was
well enough to leave her room that day; and I need hardly say that
this had the immediate effect of prolonging Alfred's visit.
On my return to Glen ten days later she told me she had made up
her mind to marry Alfred Lyttleton.
After what Mrs. Lyttelton has written of her husband, there is
little to add, but I must say one word of my brother-in-law as he
appeared to me in those early days.
Alfred Lyttelton was a vital, splendid young man of fervent
nature, even more spoilt than we were. He was as cool and as
fundamentally unsusceptible as he was responsive and emotional.
Every one adored him; he combined the prowess at games of a Greek
athlete with moral right-mindedness of a high order. He was
neither a gambler nor an artist. He respected discipline, but
What interested me most in him was not his mind--which lacked
elasticity--but his religion, his unquestioning obedience to the
will of God and his perfect freedom from cant. His mentality was
brittle and he was as quick-tempered in argument as he was sunny
and serene in games. There are people who thought Alfred was a man
of strong physical passions, wrestling with temptation till he had
achieved complete self-mastery, but nothing was farther from the
truth. In him you found combined an ardent nature, a cool
temperament and a peppery intellectual temper. Alfred would have
been justified in taking out a patent in himself as an Englishman,
warranted like a dye never to lose colour. To him most foreigners
were frogs. In Edward Lyttelton's admirable monograph of his
brother, you will read that one day, when Alfred was in the train,
sucking an orange, "a small, grubby Italian, leaning on his
walking-stick, smoking a cheroot at the station," was looked
upon, not only by Alfred but by his biographer, as an
"irresistible challenge to fling the juicy, but substantial,
fragment full at the unsuspecting foreigner's cheek." At this we
are told that "Alfred collapsed into noble convulsions of
laughter." I quote this incident, as it illustrates the difference
between the Tennant and the Lyttelton sense of humour. Their
laughter was a tornado or convulsion to which they succumbed; and
even the Hagley ragging, though, according to Edward Lyttelton's
book, it was only done with napkins, sounds formidable enough.
Laura and Alfred enjoyed many things together--books, music and
going to church--but they did not laugh at the same things. I
remember her once saying to me in a dejected voice:
"Wouldn't you have thought that, laughing as loud as the
Lytteltons do, they would have loved Lear? Alfred says none of
them think him a bit funny and was quite testy when I said his was
the only family in the world that didn't."
It was his manliness, spirituality and freedom from pettiness that
attracted Alfred to Laura; he also had infinite charm. It might
have been said of him what the Dowager Lady Grey wrote of her
husband to Henry when thanking him for his sympathy:
"He lit so many fires in cold rooms."
After Alfred's death, my husband said this of him in the House of
It would not, I think, be doing justice to the feelings which are
uppermost in many of our hearts, if we passed to the business of
the day without taking notice of the fresh gap which has been made
in our ranks by the untimely death of Mr. Alfred Lyttelton. It is
a loss of which I hardly trust myself to speak; for, apart from
ties of relationship, there had subsisted between us for thirty-
three years, a close friendship and affection which no political
differences were ever allowed to loosen, or even to affect. Nor
could I better describe it than by saying that he, perhaps, of all
men of this generation, came nearest to the mould and ideal of
manhood, which every English father would like to see his son
aspire to, and, if possible, to attain. The bounty of nature,
enriched and developed not only by early training, but by constant
self-discipline through life, blended in him gifts and graces
which, taken alone, are rare, and in such attractive union are
rarer still. Body, mind and character, the schoolroom, the cricket
field, the Bar, the House of Commons--each made its separate
contribution to the faculty and the experience of a many-sided and
harmonious whole. But what he was he gave--gave with such ease
and exuberance that I think it may be said without exaggeration
that wherever he moved he seemed to radiate vitality and charm. He
was, as we here know, a strenuous fighter. He has left behind him
no resentments and no enmity; nothing but a gracious memory of a
manly and winning personality, the memory of one who served with
an unstinted measure of devotion his generation and country. He
has been snatched away in what we thought was the full tide of
buoyant life, still full of promise and of hope. What more can we
say? We can only bow once again before the decrees of the Supreme
Wisdom. Those who loved him--and they are many, in all schools of
opinion, in all ranks and walks of life--when they think of him,
will say to themselves:
This is the happy warrior, this is he
Who every man in arms should wish to be.
On the occasion of Alfred Lyttelton's second visit to Glen, I will
quote my diary:
"Laura came into my bedroom. She was in a peignoir and asked me
what she should wear for dinner. I said:
"'Your white muslin, and hurry up. Mr. Lyttelton is strumming in
the Doo'cot and you had better go and entertain him, poor fellow,
as he is leaving for London tonight.'
"She tied a blue ribbon in her hair, hastily thrust her diamond
brooch into her fichu and then, with her eyes very big and her
hair low and straight upon her forehead, she went into our
sitting-room (we called it the Doo'cot, because we all quarrelled
there). Feeling rather small, but, half-shy, half-bold, she shut
the door and, leaning against it, watched Alfred strumming. He
turned and gazed at the little figure so near him, so delicate in
her white dress.
"The silence was broken by Alfred asking her if any man ever left
Glen without telling her that he loved her; but suddenly all talk
stopped and she was in his arms, hiding her little face against
his hard coat. There was no one to record what followed; only the
night rising with passionate eyes:
'The hiding, receiving night that talks not.'
"They were married on the 10th of May, 1885. "In April of 1886,
Laura's baby was expected any day; and my mother was anxious that
I should not be near her when the event took place. The Lytteltons
lived in Upper Brook Street; and, Grosvenor Square being near, it
was thought that any suffering on her part might make a lasting
and painful impression on me, so I was sent down to Easton Grey to
stay with Lucy and hunt in the Badminton country. Before going
away, I went round to say good-bye to Laura and found her in a
"LAURA: 'I am sure I shall die with my baby.'
"MARGOT: 'How can you talk such nonsense? Every one thinks that.
Look at mamma! She had twelve children without a pang!'
"LAURA: 'I know she did; but I am sure I shall die.'
"MARGOT: 'I am just as likely to be killed out hunting as you are
to die, darling! It makes me miserable to hear you talk like
"LAURA: 'If I die, Margot, I want you to read my will to the
relations and people that will be in my bedroom. It is in that
drawer. Promise me you will not forget.'
"MARGOT: 'All right, darling, I will; but let us kneel down and
pray that, whether it is me or you who die first, if it is God's
will, one of us may come to the other down here and tell us the
truth about the next world and console us as much as possible in
We knelt and prayed and, though I was more removed from the world
and in the humour both to see and to hear what was not material,
in my grief over Laura's death, which took place ten days later, I
have never heard from her or of her from that day to this.
Mrs. Lyttelton has told the story of her husband's first marriage
with so much perfection that I hesitate to go over the same ground
again, but, as my sister Laura's death had more effect on me than
any event in my life, except my own marriage and the birth of my
children, I must copy a short account of it written at that time:
'On Saturday, 17th April, 1886, I was riding down a green slope in
Gloucestershire while the Beaufort hounds were scattered below
vainly trying to pick up the scent; they were on a stale line and
the result had been general confusion. It was a hot day and the
woods were full of children and primroses.
"The air was humming with birds and insects, nature wore an
expectant look and all the hedge-rows sparkled with the spangles
of the spring. There was a prickly gap under a tree which divided
me from my companions. I rode down to jump it, but, whether from
breeding, laziness or temper, my horse turned round and refused to
move. I took my foot out of the stirrup and gave him a slight
kick. I remember nothing after that till I woke up in a cottage
with a tremendous headache. They said that the branch was too low,
or the horse jumped too big and a withered bough had caught me in
the face. In consequence I had concussion of the brain; and my
nose and upper lip were badly torn. I was picked up by my early
fiance. He tied my lip to my hair--as it was reposing on my chin--
and took me home in a cart. The doctor was sent for, but there was
no time to give me chloroform. I sat very still from vanity while
three stitches were put through the most sensitive part of my
nose. When it was all over, I looked at myself in the looking-
glass and burst into tears. I had never been very pretty ("worse
than that," as the Marquis of Soveral [Footnote: The Late
Portuguese Minister.] said) but I had a straight nose and a look
of intelligence; and now my face would be marked for life like a
"The next day a telegram arrived saying: "'Laura confined--a boy--
both doing well.'
"We sent back a message saying: "'Hurrah and blessing!'
On Sunday we received a letter from Charty saying Laura was very
ill and another on Monday telling us to go to London. I was in a
state of acute anxiety and said to the doctor I must go and see
Laura immediately, but he would not hear of it:
"'Impossible! You'll get erysipelas and die. Most dangerous to
move with a face like that,' he said.
"On the occasion of his next visit, I was dressed and walking up
and down the room in a fume of nervous excitement, for go I WOULD.
Laura was dying (I did not really think she was, but I wanted to
be near her). I insisted upon his taking the stitches out of my
face and ultimately he had to give in. At 6 p.m. I was in the
train for London, watching the telegraph-posts flying past me.
"My mind was going over every possibility. I was sitting near her
bed with the baby on my arm, chattering over plans, arranging
peignoirs, laughing at the nurse's anecdotes, talking and
whispering over the thousand feminine things that I knew she would
be longing to hear. ... Or perhaps she was dying... asking for me
and wondering why I did not come... thinking I was hunting instead
of being with her. Oh, how often the train stopped! Did any one
really live at these stations? No one got out; they did not look
like real places; why should the train stop? Should I tell them
Laura was dying? ... We had prayed so often to die the same day.
... Surely she was not going to die... it could not be... her
vitality was too splendid, her youth too great... God would not
allow this thing. How stiff my face felt with its bandages; and if
I cried they would all come off!
"At Swindon I had to change. I got out and sat in the vast eating-
room, with its atmosphere of soup and gas. A crowd of people were
talking of a hunting accident: this was mine. Then a woman came in
and put her bag down. A clergyman shook hands with her; he said
some one had died. I moved away.
"'World! Trewth! The Globe! Paper, miss? Paper? ...'
"'No, thank you.'
"'London train!' was shouted and I got in. I knew by the loud
galloping sound that we were going between high houses and at each
gallop the wheels seemed to say, 'Too late--too late!' After a
succession of hoarse screams we dashed into Paddington.
"It was midnight. I saw a pale, grave face, and recognised Evan
Charteris, who had come in Lady Wemyss' brougham to meet me. I
'"Is she dead?' "To which he answered: "'No, but very, very ill.'
"We drove in silence to 4 Upper Brook Street.
Papa, Jack and Godfrey Webb stood in the hall. They stopped me as
I passed and said: 'She is no worse'; but I could not listen. I
saw Arthur Balfour and Spencer Lyttelton standing near the door of
Alfred's room. They said: "'You look ill. Have you had a fall?'
"I explained the plaster on my swollen face and asked if I might
go upstairs to see Laura; and they said they thought I might. When
I got to the top landing, I stood in the open doorway of the
boudoir. A man was sitting in an arm-chair by a table with a
candle on it. It was Alfred and I passed on. I saw the silhouette
of a woman through the open door of Laura's room; this was Charty.
We held each other close to our hearts... her face felt hot and
her eyes were heavy.
"'Don't look at her to-night, sweet. She is unconscious,' she
"I did not take this in and asked to be allowed to say one word to
her. ... I said:
"'I know she'd like to see me, darling, if only just to nod to,
and I promise I will go away quickly. Indeed, indeed I would not
tire her! I want to tell her the train was late and the doctor
would not let me come up yesterday. Only one second, PLEASE,
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