To one like myself, to whom it has fallen to visit almost every country on the face of the globe, there is always a tinge of melancholy in revisiting the familiar High Street of Harrow. It is like returning to the starting-point at the conclusion of a long race. The externals remain unchanged. Outwardly, the New Schools, the Chapel, the Vaughan Library, and the Head-Master’s House all wear exactly the same aspect that they bore half a century ago. They have not changed, and the ever-renewed stream of young life flows through the place as joyously as it did fifty years ago. But....
“Oh, the great days
in the distance enchanted,
Days of fresh air, in the rain and the sun.”
At times the imagination is apt to play tricks and to set back the hands of the clock, until one pictures oneself again in a short jacket and Eton collar, going up to school, with a pile of books hugged under the left arm, and the intervening half-century wiped out. But, as they would put it in Ireland, these lucky, fresh-faced youngsters of to-day have their futures in front of them, not behind them. Then it is that Howson’s words, wedded to John Farmer’s haunting refrain, come back to the mind—
“Yet the time may come
as the years go by,
When your heart will thrill
At the thought of ‘The Hill’
And the day that you came, so strange and shy.”
Mme. Ducros—A Southern French country town—“Tartarin de Tarascon”—His prototypes at Nyons—M. Sisteron the roysterer—The Southern French—An octogenarian pesteur—French industry—“Bone-shakers”—A wonderful “Cordon-bleu”—“Slop-basin”—French legal procedure—The bons-vivants—The merry French judges—La gaiete francaise—Delightful excursions—Some sleepy old towns—Orange and Avignon—M. Thiers’ ingenious cousin—Possibilities—French political situation in 1874—The Comte de Chambord—Some French characteristics—High intellectual level—Three days in a Trappist Monastery—Details of life there—The Arian heresy—Silkworm culture—Tendencies of French to complicate details—Some examples—Cicadas in London.
As it had already been settled that I was to enter the Diplomatic Service, my father very wisely determined that I should leave Harrow as soon as I was seventeen to go to France, in order to learn French thoroughly. As he pointed out, it would take three years at least to become proficient in French and German, and it would be as well to begin at once.
The French tutor selected for me enjoyed a great reputation at that time. Oddly enough, she was a woman, but it will be gathered that she was quite an exceptional woman, when I say that she had for years ruled four unruly British cubs, varying in age from seventeen to twenty, with an absolute rod of iron. Mme. Ducros was the wife of a French judge, she spoke English perfectly, and must have been in her youth a wonderfully good-looking woman. She was very tall, and still adhered to the dress and headdress of the “sixties,” wearing little bunches of curls over each ear—a becoming fashion, even if rather reminiscent of a spaniel.