« PreviousContinue »
a far cry in the alphabet, as are the references in literature. The President was equal to both. It must not be supposed from this rough manner of telling the story that either Pliny or Peel was obtrusively dragged into the conversation whether by head or by heels. Each reference served to illustrate a turn in the conversation, and was followed by others equally happy.
The President, in the presence of a foreign minister, spoke with possibly artless frankness of his Government's relations with Panama, at the time of my visit the main topic of discussion. Some of the newspapers, who expect no good thing to come out of the Nazareth of the White House during its present occupancy, boldly aver that the revolution was a put-up job, the strings being pulled, with the connivance of the President, by that arch-conspirator Colonel John Hay, Secretary of State-or, as he would rank in England, Foreign Minister.
I will not pretend (the President remarked in an aside of conversation that has its historical interest) that I was not prepared for contingencies. For some time it had become clear that the Bogotá Government were trifling with us, resolved that we should not, except on their undefined terms, make the canal at Panama. I confess we meant to make the canal with or without their consent, if not by the Panama route, then by Nicaragua. As a matter of fact, little more than a week ago I framed a rough draft of my message to Congress for the opening of the regular Session. In it I called upon Congress to decide which route should be taken. The Executive Government would have been prepared to carry out either decision. Then came the rebellion at Panama, and the setting up of a new Government, who recognise the obvious fact that no people in the world have their prosperity more intimately connected with the construction of a canal through Panama, than have the inhabitants of that country. This simplifies matters. It certainly relieves me from the necessity of polishing up the rough draft of my message to Congress, written at the time when my Government was as ignorant of the plans of the revolutionary party in Panama as was the Government of Bogotá. The question now is, not whether we shall cut the canal by the Panama or Nicaraguan route, but how soon can we get shovel and pick at work in Panama?
On the question of the ultimate annexation of Panama, the President was emphatic in deprecation of such intention. The
United States,' he said, 'have enough to care for without appropriating tropical territory.' In accordance with the same spirit the States did not want to have Cuba on its hands. It was unwillingly forced by circumstances to interfere. Mr. Roosevelt has a profound admiration for Diaz as President of Mexico. He would gladly have seen Mexico, under his rule, take Cuba in hand. As things shaped themselves, disinterested, unambitious America was obliged to step in, entering upon what proved an unexpectedly long and costly war of conquest.
Keenly observant, swift and accurate judge of character, the President has a way of summing up the qualities of a public man. Of the German Emperor he remarked: If he had been born an American citizen, on however low a social scale, he would have come to be boss of his ward.'
Reference to the chronically disturbed state of things in Cuba and Columbia drew from the travelled American, now holding important office in the Home Government of Mr. Roosevelt, a charming reminiscence. Thirty years ago, visiting San Domingo in official capacity, he was taken in hand by a newly appointed minister, who undertook to show him round. Coming to the courtway of a prominent building, the guide pointed to a doorway, and remarked, as complacently as if he were indicating the name of a street,That is where our last Emperor was shot.'
In the course of his sojourn he came upon an aged man, held in high esteem by the community, because he had been witness of a quite exceptional number of revolutions and lived to tell the tale. 'How many have you seen?' the visitor asked.
'Forty-two,' the patriarch modestly replied.
It appears that when a boy the old man had seen Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette carried to the guillotine. Emigrating to San Domingo, the tale of revolutions rapidly ran up till it exceeded forty.
One indispensable quality necessary to the making of a successful President of the United States is a strong physical constitution and tireless energy. There are perhaps few harder worked men in the world. Other rulers of great states are hedged about by carefully devised, peremptorily executed, ordinances of privacy. In the United States all men are equal, and have an inalienable right to intrude on the private life of the President. Three times a week the populace invade White House, pass in long line through its rooms to shake hands with the President, ask him how he's
getting on, and how his family fare. This is merely by the way. There are recurring epochs, such as the Fourth of July, when he suffers this discipline by the hour.
This quaint exuberance of national feeling is a sort of excrescence on a year's work. The daily round of toil, beginning early in the morning and continuing till nearly midnight, is of itself sufficient to break down the most buoyant spirit, the strongest physique. On the day of our visit the President, detained by urgent public business, kept luncheon waiting a quarter of an hour. When it was over, leading the way to the room upstairs, formerly the Cabinet Council Chamber of Presidents, he was intercepted by news that the ministers of two Continental States were awaiting audience. The ceremony did not last long, and Mr. Roosevelt was back again in inexhaustible spirits, bubbling with good humour, insistent, as if he had nothing else in the world to do, upon showing his guests the treasures of his private room.
Among the pictures on the wall is a large sketch by the German Emperor, in which with his own hand he had drawn to scale every ship in the American Navy. This example of patient industry bears the Emperor's sign manual, and was given to the President by Prince Henry on his recent visit to the United States.
BY ANDREW LANG.
IV. THE STRANGE CASE OF DANIEL DUNGLAS HOME.
THE case of Daniel Dunglas Home is said, in the 'Dictionary of National Biography,' to present a curious and unsolved problem. It really presents, I think, two problems equally unsolved, one scientific, and the other social. How did Mr. Home, the son of Scottish parents in the lower middle class at highest, educated (as far as he was educated at all) in a village of Connecticut, attain his social position? I do not ask why he was taken up' by members of noble English families: the caresses of the great' may be lavished on athletes, and actors, and musicians, and Home's remarkable performances were quite enough to make him welcome in country houses. Moreover, he played the piano, the accordion, and other musical instruments. For his mysterious 'gift' he might be invited to puzzle and amuse royal people (not in England), and continental emperors, and kings. But he did much more than what Houdin or Alexis could do. He successively married, with the permission and good will of the Czar, two Russian ladies of noble birth, a feat inexplicable when we think of the rules of the continental noblesse. A duc, or a prince, or a marquis may marry the daughter of an American citizen who has made a fortune in lard. But the daughters of the Russian noblesse do not marry poor American citizens with the good will of the Czar. By his marriages Home far outwent such famous charlatans as Cagliostro, Mesmer, and the mysterious Saint Germain the deathless. Cagliostro and Saint Germain both came on the world with an appearance of great wealth and display. The source of the opulence of Saint Germain is as obscure as was the source of the sudden enrichment of Beau Wilson, whom Law, the financier, killed in a duel. Cagliostro, like Law, may have acquired his diamonds by gambling or swindling. But neither these two men nor Mesmer, though much in the society of princes, could have hoped, openly and with the approval of Louis XV. or Louis XVI., to wed a noble lady. But Home did so twice, though he had no wealth at all.
Cagliostro was a low-born Neapolitan ruffian. But he had a
presence! In the Memoirs of Madame d'Oberkirch she tells us how much she disliked and distrusted Cagliostro, always avoiding him, and warning Cardinal Rohan against him-in vain. But she admits that the man dominated her, or would have dominated her, by something inexplicable in his eyes, his bearing, and his unaccountable knowledge, as when he publicly announced, on a certain day, the death of the great Empress, Maria Theresa, of which the news did not arrive till five days later. Now Home had none of this dominating personality. He has been described to me, by a lady who knew him in his later years, when he had ceased to work drawing-room miracles in society, as a gentle, kindly, quiet person, with no obvious fault, unless a harmless and childlike vanity be a fault. He liked to give readings and recitations, and he played the piano with a good deal of feeling. He was a fair linguist, he had been a Catholic, he was of the middle order of intelligence, he had no 'mission' except to prove that disembodied spirits exist, if that were a legitimate inference from the marvels which attended him. I presume that he spoke with the accent of Connecticut.
Mr. Robert Bell, in THE CORNHILL MAGAZINE, Vol. II., 1860, described Home's miracles in an article called 'Stranger than Fiction.' His account of the man's personality is exactly like what I have already given. Home was a very mild specimen of familiar humanity.' His health was bad. The expression of his face in repose' (he was only twenty-seven) is that of physical suffering. There is more kindliness and gentleness than vigour in the character of his features. . . . He is yet so young that the playfulness of boyhood has not passed away, and he never seems so thoroughly at ease with himself and others as when he is enjoying some light and temperate amusement.'
Thus there was nothing in Home to dominate or even to excite personal curiosity. He and his more intimate friends, not marchionesses but middle-class people, corresponded in a style of rather distasteful effusiveness. He was a tame cat about a house, not a Don Juan. I have never heard a whisper about light lovesunless Mr. Hamilton Aïdé, to be quoted later, reports such a whisper -not a word against his private character, except that he allowed a terribly vulgar rich woman to adopt him, and give him a very large sum of money. We shall see later that she probably had mixed motives both for giving and for withdrawing the gift, but there cannot, I think, be a doubt that the spirits' had rapped out a command to give Home some thirty thousand pounds.