Frank Frankfort Moore.

A garden of peace, a medley in quietude online

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the picture of our happy home of some hundreds of
thousands of years ago. We find beauty in an oval



A GARDEN OF PEACE 27

outline because our ancestors of the woodland spent
some happy hours bird-nesting. Hogarth's line of
beauty is beautiful because it is the line of human life
the line that Nature has ever before her eyes the
line of human love. The colours of countless fruits
are a delight to us because we have associated those
colours for tens of thousands of years with the delight
of eating those fruits, and taking pleasure in the tints
of the fruits ; we take pleasure in the tints of flowers
because they suggest the joys of the fruits. The
impression of awe and fear that one of Salvator
Rosa's " Rocky Landscapes " engenders is due to our
very distant ancestors' experience of the frequent
earthquakes that caused these mighty rocks to be
flung about when the surface of our old mother Earth
was not so cool as it is to-day, as well as to the
recollection of the very . fearsome moments of a much
less remote ancestor spent in evading his carnivorous
enemies who had their dens among these awful rocks.
From a comparatively recent pastoral parent we have
inherited our love for the lawn. There were the
sheep feeding in quiet on the grass of the oasis in the
days when man had made the discovery that he could
tame certain animals and keep them to eat at his
leisure instead of having to spend hours hunting them
down.

But so deep an impression have the thousands of
years of hunting made upon the race, that even among
the most highly civilised people hunting is the most
popular of all employments, and the hunter is a hero
while the shepherd is looked on as a poor sort.



28 A GARDEN OF PEACE

Yes, there are harmonies in Nature, though all
makers of gardens do not appreciate them; the dis-
cordant notes that occasionally assail a lover of Nature
in a garden that has been made by a nurseryman are
due to the untiring exertions of the hybridiser. It is
quite possible to produce " freaks " and " sports "
both as regards form and colour " Prodigious mix-
tures and confusion strange." I believe that some
professional men spend all their time over experiments
in this direction, and I have no doubt that some of
them, having perpetrated a " novelty," make money
out of it. Equally sure I am that the more conscien-
tious, when they hit upon a novelty that they feel to
be offensive, destroy the product without exhibiting
it. They have not all the hideous unscrupulousness
of Dr. Moreau the nearest approach to a devil try-
ing to copy the Creator who made man in His own
image. Dr. Moreau made things after his own like-
ness. He was a great hybridiser. (Mr. H. G. Wells,
after painting that Devil for us, has recently been
showing his skill in depicting the God.)

Now, every one knows that the garden of to-day
owes most of its glory to the judicious hybridiser,
but I implore of him to be merciful as he is strong. I
have seen some heartrending results of his experi-
ments which have not been suppressed, as they should
have been. I am told that a great deal in the way of
developing the natural colours of a certain group of
flowers can be done by the introduction of chemicals
into their drinking water. It is like poisoning a well!
By such means I believe an unscrupulous gardener



A GARDEN OF PEACE 29

could turn a whole border into something resembling
a gigantic advertisement card of aniline dyes.

But I must be careful in my condemnations of such
possibilities. There is a young woman named Rosa-
mund, who is Dorothy's first-born, and she is ready
at all seasonable times to give me the benefit of her
fourteen years' experiences of the world and its ways,
and she has her own views of Nature as the mother
of the Arts. After listening to my old-fashioned rail-
ings against such chromatic innovations as I have
abused, she maintained a thoughtful silence that sug-
gested an absence of conviction.

" Don't you see the awfulness of re-dying a flower
the unnaturalness of such an operation? " I cried.

' Why, you old thing, can't you see that if it's done
by aniline dyes it's all right true to Nature and all
that?"

" Good heavens ! that a child of mine Dorothy,
did you hear her? How can you sit there and smile
as if nothing had happened? Have you brought her
up as an atheist or what? "

" Every one who doesn't agree with all you say isn't
a confirmed atheist," replied Dorothy calmly. " As
for Rosamund, what I'm afraid of is that, so far from
being an atheist, she is rather too much in the other
direction like ' Lo, the poor Indian.' She'll explain
what's in her mind if you give her a chance. What
do you mean, my dear, by laying the emphasis on
aniline dyes? Don't you know that most of them
are awful? "

" Of course I do, darling," said Rosamund. " But



30 A GARDEN OF PEACE

I've been reading about them, and so well, you see,
they come from coal tar, and coal is a bit of a tree
that grew up and fell down thousands of years ago,
and its burning is nothing more than its giving back
the sunshine that it what is the word that the book
used? O h, I remember the sunshine that it hoarded
when it was part of the forest. Now, I think that if
it's natural for flowers to be coloured by the sunshine
it doesn't matter whether it's the sunshine of to-day
or the sunshine of fifty thousand years ago; it comes
from the sun all the same, and as aniline dyes are the
sunshine of long ago it's no harm to have them to
colour flowers now."

" Daddy was only complaining of the horrid ones,
my dear," said the Mother, without looking at me.
" Isn't that what you meant? " she added, and now she
looked at me, and though I was suspicious that she
was smiling under her skin, I could not detect the
slightest symptom of a smile in her voice.

" Of course I meant the hideous ones magenta
and that other sort of purple thing. I usually make
my meaning plain," said I, with a modified bluster.

" Oh," remarked Rosamund, in a tone that sug-
gested a polite negation of acquiescence.

There was another little silence before I said,

"Anyhow, it was those German brutes who de-
veloped those aniline things."

" Oh, yes; they could do anything they pleased with
coal tar," said Dorothy. " But the other sort could
do anything he pleased with the Germans and he
did!"



A GARDEN OF PEACE 31

" The other sort? " said I inquiringly.

" Yes, the other sort the true British product
the Jack Tar," said Dorothy; and Rosamund, who
has a friend who is a midshipman in the Royal Navy,
clapped her hands and laughed.

It is at such moments as this that I feel I am not
master in my own house. Time was when I believed
that my supremacy was as unassailable as that of the
Lord High Admiral; but since those girls have been
growing up I have come to realise that I have been
as completely abolished as the Lord High Admiral
once absolute, but now obsolete and that the duties
of office are discharged by a commission. The Board
of Admiralty is officially the Lords Commissioners
for discharging the office of Lord High Admiral.

I hope that this menage will be maintained. The
man who tries to impose his opinions upon a house-
hold because he is allowed to pay all the expenses, is
anyhow, he is not me.



CHAPTER THE THIRD

I BELIEVE I interrupted myself in the midst of a visit
to one of the gardens of the " better-class people "
who live in the purely residential end of the High
Street. These are the people whose fathers and
grandfathers lived in the same houses and took a
prominent part in preparing the beacons which were
to spread far and wide the news that Bonaparte had
succeeded in landing on their coast with that marvel-
lous flotilla of his. And from these very gardens
more than two hundred and fifty years earlier the
still greater grandfathers had seen the blazing
beacons that sent the news flying northward that the
Invincible Armada of Spain was plunging and roll-
ing up the Channel, which can be faintly seen by the
eye of faith from the tower of the Church of St. Mary
sub-Castro, at the highest part of the High Street.
The Invincible Armada! If I should ever organise
an aggressive enterprise, I certainly would not call it
" Invincible." It is a name of ill omen. I cannot for
the life of me remember where I read the story of
the monarch who was reviewing the troops that he
had equipped very splendidly to go against the Ro-
mans. When his thousand horsemen went glittering
by with polished steel cuirasses and plumed helmets

32



A GARDEN OF PEACE 33

they must have been the Household Cavalry of the
period his heart was lifted up in pride, and he called
out tauntingly to his Grand Vizier, who was a bit
of a cynic,

" Ha, my friend, don't you think that these will
be enough for the Romans?"

" Sure," was the reply. " Oh, yes, they will be
enough, avaricious though the Romans undoubtedly
are."

This was the first of the Invincible enterprises.
The next time I saw the word in history was in asso-
ciation with the Spanish Armada, and to-day, over
a door in my house, I have hung the carved ebony
ornament that belonged to a bedstead of one of the
ships that went ashore at Spanish Point on the Irish
coast. Later still, there was a gang of murderers
who called themselves " Invincibles," and I saw the
lot of them crowded into a police-court dock whence
they filed out to their doom. And what about the
last of these ruffians that challenged Fate with that
arrogant word? What of Hindenburg's Invincible
Line that we heard so much about a few months ago ?
"Invincible!" cried the massacre-monger, and the
word was repeated by the arch-liar of the mailed fist
in half a dozen speeches. Within a few months the
beaten mongrels were whimpering, not like hounds,
but like hyenas out of whose teeth their prey is
plucked. I dare say that Achilles, who made brag a
speciality, talked through his helmet about that opera-
tion on the banks of the Styx, and actually believed
himself to be invincible because invulnerable; but his



34 A GARDEN OF PEACE

mother, who had given him the bath that turned his
head, would not have recognised him when Paris had
done with him.

The funny part of the Hindenburg cult I sup-
pose it should be written " Kult " was that there
was no one to tell the Germans that they were doing
the work of necromancy in hammering those nails into
his wooden head. Everybody knows that the only
really effective way of finishing off an enemy is to
make a wooden effigy of him and hammer nails into
it (every sensible person knows that as the nails are
hammered home the original comes to grief). The
feminine equivalent of this robust operation is equally
effective, though the necromancers only recommended
it for the use of schools. The effigy is made of wax,
and you place it before a cheerful fire and stick pins
into it. It has the advantage of being handy and
economical, for there are few households that cannot
produce an old doll of wax which would otherwise
be thrown away and wasted.

But the Germans pride themselves on having got
rid of their superstition, and when people have got
rid of their superstition they have got rid of their
sense of humour. If they had not been so hasty in
naming their invincible lines after Wagner's operas
they would surely have remembered that with the
Siegfried, the Parsifal, and the rest there was bound
to be included Der Fliegende Hollander, the pet
name of the German Cavalry: they were the first to
fly when the operatic line was broken; and then
Gotterdammerwig Hellroter!



A GARDEN OF PEACE 35

And why were the Bolsheviks so foolish as to forget
that the Czar was " Nicky " to their paymaster,
William, and that that name is the Greek for " Vic-
ory "? Having destroyed Nicky, how could they look
for anything but disaster?

The connection of these jottings with our gardens
may not be apparent to every one who reads them.
But though the sense of liberty is so great in our Gar-
den of Peace that I do not hold myself bound down
to any of the convenances of composition, and though
I cultivate rather than uproot even the most flagrant
forms of digression in this garden, yet it so happens
that when I begin to write of the most distinguished
of the gardens of Yardley Parva, I cannot avoid
recalling that lovely Saturday when we were seated
among its glorious roses, eating peaches that had just
been plucked from the wall. We were a large and
chatty company, and among the party that were
playing clock golf on a part of a lovely lawn of the
purest emerald, there did not seem to be one who
had read the menace of the morning papers. Our
host was a soldier, and his charming wife was the
daughter of a distinguished Admiral. At the other
side of the table where the dish of peaches stood there
was another naval officer, and while we were swap-
ping stories of the Cape, the butler was pointing us
out to a telegraph messenger who had come through
the French window. The boy made his way to us,
taking the envelope from his belt. He looked from
one of us to the other, saying the name of my
vis-a-vis " Commander A ? "



36 A GARDEN OF PEACE

"I'm Commander A " said he, taking

the despatch envelope and tearing it open.
He gave a whistle, reading his message, and
r.ose.

" No reply," he told the messenger, and then
turned to me.

" Great King Jehoshaphat ! " he said in a low tone.
" There is to be no demobilisation of the Fleet, and
all leave is stopped. I'm ordered to report. And
you said just now that nothing was going to happen.
Good-bye, old chap! I've got to catch the 6.20 for
Devonport!"

We had been talking over the morning's news, and
I had said that the Emperor was a master of bluff,
not business.

" I'm off," he said. " You needn't say anything
that I've told you. After all, it may only be a pre-
cautionary measure."

He went off; and I never saw him again.

The precautionary measure that saved England
from the swoop that Germany hoped to bring off as
successfully as Japan did hers at Port Arthur in
1904, was taken not by the First Lord of the Ad-
miralty, but by Prince Louis of Battenberg, who was
hounded out of the Service by the clamorous gossip
of a few women who could find no other way of
proving their power.

And the First Lord of the Admiralty let him go;
while he himself returned to his " gambling " he so
designated the most important the most disastrous
incident of his Administration " a legitimate gam-



A GARDEN OF PEACE 37

ble." A legitimate gamble that cost his country over
fifty thousand lives!

Within a month of the holding of that garden party
our host had marched away with his men, and within
another month our dear hostess was a widow.

That garden, I think, has a note of distinction
about it that is not shared by any other within the
circle taken by the walls of the little town, several
interesting fragments of which still remain. The
house by which it was once surrounded before the de-
sire for " short cuts " caused a road to be made
through it, is by far the finest type of a minor Eliza-
bethan mansion to be found in our neighbourhood.
It is the sort of house that the house-agents might,
with more accuracy than is displayed in many of their
advertisements, describe as " a perfect gem." It has
been kept in good repair both as regards its stone
walls and its roof of stone slabs during the three hun-
dred or most likely four hundred years of its exist-
ence, and it has not suffered from that form of
destruction known as restoration. It had some nar-
row escapes in its time, however. An old builder
who had been concerned in some of the repairs shook
his head sadly when he assured me that a more pig-
headed gentleman than the owner of the house at
that time he had never known.

" He would have it done with the old material,"
he explained sadly. " That's how it comes to be like
what it is to-day." And he nodded in the direction
of the exquisitely-weathered old Caen blocks with the



38

great bosses of house-leek covering the coping. " It
was no use my telling him that I could run up a nine-
inch brick wall with proper coping tiles that would
have a new look for years if no creepers were allowed
on it, for far less money ; he would have the old stone,
and those squared flints that you see there."

" Some people are very obstinate, thank God ! "
said I.

" I could have made as good a job of it as I did
of St. Anthony's Church you know the new aisle in
St. Anthony's, sir," said he.

I certainly did know the new aisle in St. Anthony's ;
but I did not say that I did in the tone of voice in
which I write. It is the most notorious example of
what enormities could be perpetrated in the devastat-
ing fifties and sixties, when a parson and his church-
wardens could do anything they pleased to their
churches.

In a very different spirit was the Barbican of the
old Castle of Yardley repaired under the care of a
reverential, but not Reverend, director. Every stone
was numbered and put back into its place when the
walls were made secure.

The gardens and orchards and lawns behind the
walls which were reconstructed by the owner whose
obstinacy the builder was lamenting, must extend
over three or four acres. Such a space allows for a
deep enough fringe of noble trees, giving more than
a suggestion of a park-land which had once had sev-
eral vistas after the most approved eighteenth cen-
tury type, but which have not been maintained by



A GARDEN OF PEACE 39

some nineteenth century owners who were fearful of
being accused of tolerating anything so artificial as
design in their gardens. But the " shrubberies " have
been allowed to remain pretty much as they were
planted, with magnificent masses of pink may and
innumerable lilacs. The rose-gardens and the mixed
borders are chromatic records of the varying tastes of
generations.

What made the strongest appeal to me when I
was wandering through the grounds a year or two
before that fatal August afternoon was the beauty of
the anchusas. I thought that I had never seen finer
specimens or a more profuse variety of their blues.
One might have been looking down into the indigo
of the water under the cliffs of Capri in one place,
and into the delicate ultramarine spaces of the early
morning among the islands of the ^Egean in another.

I congratulated one of the gardeners upon his
anchusas, and he smiled in an eminently questionable
way.

" Maybe I'm wrong in talking to you about them,"
I said, looking for an explanation of his smile. " Per-
haps it is not you who are responsible for this bit."

" It's not that, sir," he said, still smiling. "I'm
ready to take all the responsibility. You see, sir, I
was brought up among anchusas: I was one of the
gardeners at Dropmore."

I laughed.

" If I want to know anything about growing
anchusas I'll know where to come for information,"
I said.



40 A GARDEN OF PEACE

The great charm about these gardens, as well as
those of the Crusaders' planting now enjoyed by
the people of the High Street, is that among the
mystery of their shady places one would not be
surprised or alarmed to come suddenly upon a nymph
or a satyr, or even old Pan himself. It does not
require one to be

" A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,"

to have such an impression conveyed to one, any
more than it is necessary for one to be given over
exclusively to a diet of nuts and eggs to enjoy, as I
hope we all do, a swing on a bough, or, as we grow
old, alas ! on one of those patent swings made in Paris,
U.S.A., where one gets all the exuberance of the
oscillation without the exertion. Good old Pan is not
dead yet, however insistently the poet may announce
his decease. He will be the last of all the gods to go.
We have no particular use for Jove, except as the
mildest form of a swear word, nor for Neptune, unless
we are designing a fountain or need to borrow an
emblem of the Freedom of the Seas we can even
carry on a placid existence though Mercury has fallen
so low as to be opposite " rain and stormy " on the
barometric scale, but we cannot do without our Pan
the jolly, wicked old fellow whom we were obliged
to incorporate in our new theological system under
the name of Diabolus. It was he, and not the much-
vaunted Terpsichore, who taught the infant world
to dance, to gambol, and to riot in the woodland.
He is the patron of the forest lovers still, as he was



A GARDEN OF PEACE 41

when he first appeared in the shape of an antelope
skipping from rock to rock while our arboreal an-
cestors applauded from their boughs and were
tempted to give over their ridiculous swinging by
their hands and tails and emulate him on our com-
mon mother Earth.

Is there any one of us to-day, I wonder, who has
not felt as Wordsworth did, that the world of men
and cities is too much with us, and that the shady
arbours hold something that we need and that we
cannot find otherwhere? The claims of the myster-
ious brotherhood assert themselves daily when we re-
turn to our haunts of a hundred thousand years ago:
we can still enjoy a dance on a woodland clearing, and
a plunge into the sparkling lake by which we dwelt
for many thousand years before some wretch found
that the earth could be built up into caves instead of
dug into for domestic shelter.

Let any one glance over the illustrated advertise-
ments in Country Life and see how frequently the
" old world gardens " are set forth as an irresistible
attraction of " a desirable residence." The artful ad-
vertisers know that the appeal of the old world is
still all-powerful, especially with those who have been
born in a city and have lived in a city for years.
Around Yardley there has sprung up quite recently
a colony of red-brick and, happily, red-roofed villas.
Nearly all have been admirably constructed, and with
an appreciation of the modern requirements in which
comfort and economy are combined. They have all
gardens, and no two are alike in every particular;



42 A GARDEN OF PEACE

but all are trim and easily looked after. They pro-
duce an abundance of flowers, and they are embow-
ered in flowering shrubs, every one of which seems
to me to be a specimen. More cheerful living-places
could not be imagined ; but it is not in these gardens
that you need look for the cloven vestiges of a faun
or the down brushed from the butterfly wings of a
fairy. Nobody wants them there, and there is no
chance of any of these wary folk coming where they
are not wanted. If old Pan were to climb over one of
these walls and his footprints were discovered in the
calceolaria bed, the master of the house would put
the matter in the hands of the local police, or write a
letter signed " Ratepayer " to the local Chronicle, in-
quiring how long were highly-taxed residents to be
subjected to such incursions, and blaming the " au-
thorities " for their laxity.

But there is, I repeat, no chance of the slumbers
of any of the ratepayers being disturbed by a blurred
vision of Proteus rising from the galvanised cistern,
or by the blast of Triton's wreathed horn. They will
not be made to feel less forlorn by a glimpse of the
former, and they would assuredly mistake the latter
for the hooter of Simpson's saw-mill.

" The authorities " look too well after the villas,
and the very suggestion of " authorities " would send
Proteus and Triton down to the deepest depths they
had ever sounded. They only come where they are
wanted and waited for. It takes at least four gen-
erations of a garden's growth to allow of the twisted
boughs of the oak or the chestnut turning into the



A GARDEN OF PEACE 43

horns of a satyr, or of the gnarled roots becoming
his dancing shanks.

It was one of the most intelligent of the ratepayers
of these bright and well-kept " residences " who took
me to task for a very foolish statement he had found
in a novel of mine (6d. edition) which he said he had
glanced at for a few minutes while he was waiting
for a train. I had been thoughtless enough to make
one of the personages, an enterprising stockbroker,
advocate the promotion of a company for the salvage
of the diamonds which he had been told Queen Guine-
vere flung into the river before the appearance of
the barge with the lily maid of Astolat drifting to the
landing-place below the terrace.

"But you know they were not real diamonds only
the diamonds of the poet's imagination," he said.

" I do believe you are right," said I, when I saw
that he was in earnest. And then the mongoose story
came to my mind. " They were not real diamonds,"
I said. " But then the man wasn't a real company


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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 2 of 18)