in the autumn of 1898, Stanley decided to look for a house in the country.
We had lived, since our marriage, at 2, Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, close to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey; but though we were near the Thames and St. James Park, Stanley naturally felt the need of a more open-air life.
We therefore decided to have a country retreat, as well as the home in town.
In his Journal, November 1, 1898, he writes:--
To live at all, I must have open air, and to enjoy the open air, I must move briskly.
I but wait to have a little more strength, when I can begin the search for a suitable house, with some land attached.
It has long been my wish, and the mere thought of having come to a decision, that it is imperative to possess such a thing, before it is too late, tends towards the improvement of my health.
Whatever Stanley undertook was thoroughly done.
He collected lists of most of the House and Estate-agents, cut out the advertisements of places likely to suit, sorted them according to localities, and then went to work visiting them systematically.
In his Journal he writes:--
Between November 15th and 30th, I have seen twenty places, in Kent
, and Sussex
, but found nothing suitable.
In the photographs and descriptions furnished me by the House
-agents, several of them looked quite inviting; but often a mere glance was sufficient to turn me away disgusted.
There was not a house which might be said to possess one decent-sized room; those D. saw, she utterly condemned.
I have now visited fifty-seven places!
Some few I reserved for a second visit with D. At last, I took her to see Furze Hill, Pirbright
, and, at the first glance, she said it was delightful, and could be made ideal.
The more we examined it, the more we liked it; but there was much to improve and renovate.
Therefore, as the place pleased me
and my wife and her mother, I entered into serious negotiations for the purchase, and by Christmas
, I had secured the refusal of it; but as it was let, possession was deferred to the loth of June, 1899.
Furze Hill is not more than thirty miles from London, but it is in wild and lovely country, wild and lovely because kept so, by the War Department, for manoeuvring grounds.
The country around mostly consists of great stretches of furze and heather, which are golden and purple in summer, and rough pine woods.
No one can buy land here, or build; and Furze Hill is planted in this beautiful wilderness, just a house, gardens, a few fields, a wood, and a quiet lake, fed by a little stream.
Furze Hill now became a great pleasure and occupation.
The purchase of furniture occupied us all the spring and summer of 1899.
Stanley's system and order was shewn in the smallest details.
He kept lists and plans, with exact measurements of every room, passage, and cupboard.
On June 10th, he notes in his Journal:--
I have concluded the purchase and become the owner of Furze Hill; building operations have already begun for the purpose of adding a new wing to the house.
Stanley also commenced installing an electric lighting plant, and a very complete fire-engine.
From the lake, which I called “Stanley Pool,” 1 he pumped water to fill great tanks, the engine which drove the dynamo driving both pump and fire engine.
On September 4th, he notes, “went with D. to our House at Furze Hill.
Slept for the first time at our country home.”
He now took an ever-increasing delight in the place.
He planned walks, threw bridges across streams, planted trees, built a little farm from his own designs, after reading every recent book on farm-building, and in a very short time transformed the place.
Everything Stanley planned and executed was to last, to be strong, and permanent.
He replaced the wooden window-frames by stone; the fences were of the strongest and best description; even the ends of the gate and fence-posts, he had dipped in pitch, and not merely in tar, that the portion in the ground might resist decay.
It was his pride and his joy that all should be well done.
And so, at last, peace and enjoyment came to Stanley, and he was quietly happy, till the last great trial came.
Those who knew him there, will never forget the Stanley who revealed himself in that happy intimacy,
those strolls through the woods and fields, those talks on the lawn, when we sat round the tea-table and listened to Stanley, till the dusk fell softly; those wonderful evenings, by the library fire, when he told us stories of Africa with such vivid force, that I never heard him without a racing heart, and quickened breath!
No one who ever heard Stanley “tell a story” could possibly forget it!
Only the other day, Richard Harding Davis wrote to me, “Never shall I forget one late afternoon when Stanley, in the gathering darkness, told us the story of Gordon!”
Stanley, however, was not always to be drawn; sometimes, therefore, I resorted to subterfuge, that I might lure him on. I would begin his stories all wrong, make many mistakes on purpose, knowing his love of accuracy, till he could bear it no longer, and, brushing my halting words aside, he would plunge in, and swing along with the splendid narrative to the end.
We were very happy now!
Building, planting, sowing, reaping.
We called Furze Hill the “Bride,” and we competed in decking her, and making her gifts.
Stanley gave the Bride a fine Broadwood piano, and a billiard table.
I gave her a new orchard.
Stanley gave her a bathing-house and canoes.
I gave her roses.
One day Stanley told me that a case full of books had just arrived, which we could unpack together in the evening.
The case was opened, and I greatly rejoiced at the prospect of book-shelves crammed with thrilling novels, and stories of adventure.
Stanley carefully removed the layers of packing-paper, and then commenced handing out . . . translations of the Classics, Euripides, Xenophon again, Thucydides, Polybius, Herodotus, Caesar, Homer; piles of books on architecture, on landscape gardening, on house decoration; books on ancient ships, on modern ship-building.
“Not a book for me!”
I exclaimed dismally.
Next week, another case arrived, and this time all the standard fiction, and many new books, were ranged on shelves awaiting them.
Stanley's appetite for work in one shape or another was insatiable, and the trouble he took was always a surprise, even to me. Nothing he undertook was done in a half-and-half way. I have now the sheets upon sheets of plans he drew, of the little farm at Furze Hill, every measurement carefully made to scale, and the cost of each item, recorded, on the margin.
And so he was happy, for his joy lay in the doing.
In this year, 1899, Stanley was created G. C. B.
How little any, but his few intimate friends, knew of Stanley!
Others might guess, but they could not realise what of tenderness, gentleness, and emotion, lay behind that, seemingly, impenetrable reserve.
As an instance of the curious ignorance existing regarding the real Stanley, I will tell an anecdote, both laughable and pathetic.
A short time after my marriage, I went to tea with a dear old friend.
After talking of many things, my friend suddenly put her hand impressively on mine and said, “Would you mind my asking you a question, for, somehow, I cannot help feeling — well — just a little troubled?
It may, in some mysterious way, have been deemed expedient; but why — oh, why — did your husband order a little black baby to be flung into the Congo!”
The dear good lady had tears in her eyes, as she adjured me to explain!
Indignation at first made me draw away from her, but then the ridiculous absurdity of her story struck me so forcibly, I began to laugh, and the more I laughed, the more pained and bewildered was my friend.
“You believed that story?”
“ You could believe it?
” “Well,” she replied, “I was told it, as a fact.”
When I repeated it to Stanley, he smiled and threw out his hand.
“There, you see now why I am silent and reserved. . . . Would you have me reply to such a charge?”
And then he told me the story of the little black baby in Central Africa.
As the expedition advanced, we generally found villages abandoned, scouts having warned the natives of our approach.
The villagers, of course, were not very far off, and, as soon as the expedition had passed, they stole back to their huts and plantations.
On one occasion, so great had been their haste, a black baby of a few months old was left on the ground, forgotten.
They brought the little thing to me; it was just a gobbet of fat, with large, innocent eyes.
Holding the baby, I turned to my officers and said in chaff, “Well, boys, what shall we do with it?”
“Oh! Sir,” one wag cried, with a merry twinkle in his eye, “throw it into the Congo
Whereupon they all took up the chorus, “Throw it, throw it, throw it into the Congo
We were all in high boyish spirits that day!
I should rather have liked to take the baby on with me, and would have done so, had I thought it was abandoned; but I felt sure the mother was not far off, and might, even then, be watching us, with beating heart, from behind a tree.
So I ordered a fire to be kindled, as the infant was small and chilly, and I had a sort of cradle-nest scooped out of the earth, beside the fire, so that the little creature could be warm, sheltered, and in no danger of rolling in. I lined the concavity with cotton-cloth, as a gift to the mother; and when we left that encampment, the baby was sleeping as snugly as if with its mother beside it, and I left them a good notion for cradles!
Many children were born during the march of the Emin Relief Expedition; at one time there were over forty babies in camp!
The African mothers well knew that their little ones' safety lay with “Bwana Kuba,” the “Great Master.”
When the expedition emerged from the Great Forest, a report got about that the expedition was shortly to encounter a tribe of cannibals.
That night Stanley retired to rest early, and soon fell asleep, for he was very exhausted.
In the middle of the night, he was wakened by a vague plaint, the cry, as he thought, of some wild animal.
The wail was taken up by others, and soon the air was filled by cat-like miaouls.
Greatly puzzled, Stanley sat up, and then he heard slappings and howlings.
Thereupon, he arose and strode out, to find forty or so infants, carefully rolled up, and laid round his tent by the anxious mothers!
Bula Matari, they said to themselves, would never allow the dreadful cannibals to eat their little ones, so they agreed together that the night-nursery must be as close as possible to the Great Master's tent!
This, however, was forbidden in future, as it made rest impossible.
Here is another baby-story, Stanley told me. One of. his men was an Egyptian, rather a sullen fellow; I think his name was Selim.
His wife, a pleasant young woman, died during the march, leaving a little yellow-faced baby.
The father now had to carry the child, as well as his gun; Stanley afterwards heard that this caused the man great dissatisfaction.
One evening, going his usual round amongst the men, he saw Selim's little boy, the child with the sallow face, and large, mournful eyes, sitting rather apart, as though overlooked.
The next day, Stanley sent for Selim's baby, and there on a mat at his tent door, the child sat and gazed solemnly at the “Great Master.”
Every day, after the tents were put up, the child was brought to the tent door, and Stanley took pleasure in his company.
He told me, that as the baby gazed at him with its grave eyes, he would open his own very wide, and make grimaces; whereupon the little fellow would faintly smile and put his finger in his mouth, and Stanley did the same.
“I had no end of fun with him,” he told me.
Some weeks later, Stanley was informed that Selim was a “goeegoee,” a lazy fellow, and that he had thrown his gun away.
This was grave news, since the safety of the expedition depended on their being able to defend themselves.
Selim was severely punished, and the expedition continued its difficult progress through the Great Forest.
Then, Stanley, not seeing the yellow baby for a day or two, enquired what had become of him. “Alas!
Master,” was the report, “Selim got tired of carrying his boy, so he left him in the Forest, three marches back.”
Left him to inevitable death, for the hungry aborigines of the Forest must have got the child soon after the expedition had swept past!
Stanley was much grieved.
“I would willingly have had the boy carried, had I but known.”
The next week it was reported that Selim was attacked by the fatal indisposition of “sitting down.”
He did not appear ill, but he was, perhaps, more than usually sullen, and refused to march.
Hustled, urged, threatened, they got him on for a day or two, and then he disappeared: he had run into the depths of the Forest, to sit down and die. Stanley halted the expedition, search was made, but Selim had gone for ever!