SEVEN YEARS AT ETON
Edited by James Brinsley?Richards
Publishers Richard Bentley and son London 1883
Excerpt begins page335 . . . . .
Among the extra masters who were at Eton I can say nothing of Mr. Samuel Evans,
the drawing?master (beyond bearing a passing testimony to his popularity, for I was
never brought into contact with him. Nor can I speak of Signor Volpe, who was for
years set down in the school list as Italian master and who, to most of us, was a Myth.
But I have recollection of worthy Mr. Angelo the fencing-master.
Mr. Angelo taught at Harrow, Westminster, and a good many other places. The
subscription lists at his rooms in St. James’s Street were covered with an array of
notable names: and it is no disparagement of him to say that he loved a lord. I saw
him painfully excited once because Lord Wallscourt, who had recently left the school,
omitted to return a bow of his, being short?sighted. Mr. Angelo was a rotund,
pompous, affable, dressy little man with a Jewish nose and a military swagger. He
had always a good deal of watch?chain, coral buttons to his waistcoats, which he wore
low, and shiny hats with curled brims. The time to see him in his glory was at Lord’s
on the Eaten and Harrow match days when he strutted about the ground renewing his
acquaintance with noblemen, his former pupils, and endeavouring to collect as many
of them as he could to come and have a champagne luncheon at his house in St John’s
Wood which he described as ‘my little place, close to here.’ Mr. Angelo could never
suppress the words, my lord, when addressing any one who bore that title. He rolled
them in his mouth and made them sound aloud like little boy’s who, sucking lollipops,
put out their tongues to exhibit these dainties to less lucky little boys who have none.
One day I saw him standing in front of the pavilion in the midst of a circle in which
were several peers who were all laughing heartily at one of the stories which he told
so well for a merrier tongue than his never wagged. I am sure that if Mr. Angelo
could have been photographed at that instant he would have sighed Nunc Dimiittis the
moment afterwards. However, his fondness for the aristocracy was only one amusing
little weakness in a character essentially kind pleasant and honourable. Mr Angelo
was a universal favourite. He came to Eton once a week on Thursdays and remained
till Friday at twelve. His large room next door to Marriott’s was always very attended
on winter evenings, and the lessons given by himself, and by his chief assistant, Mr.
McTurk (who afterwards succeeded him in his business) were careful and good.
Fencing, however, was never cultivated with anything like the ardour bestowed on
school games. I only recollect two or three fellows who showed such a marked talent
in swordsmanship as would have enabled them to fence against champions of a
foreign public school in an international foil contest. One of these was Montague
Lubbock, of whom I have spoken in a former chapter: the other was Alfred Dent son
of the chief partner in the well?known firm of tea merchants. Dent fenced with furia
and if ever in after life it fell to his lot to have encounters with riotous Chinamen at
Shanghai or Choo Chow, his dexterity with his stick must have astonished them for
he wielded the stick as brilliantly as the foil: and his boxing was equal to his sword?
play. Boxing. however was not taught at Eton. Those who wished to learn it repaired
to the rooms in St. James’s Street during the holidays, when a certain crooked?nosed
Adams retired from the P.R. would instruct them in the “noble art”.
A curious adventure occurred to me in connection with Mr. Angelo , which I will
mention here for the benefit of those who like ghost stories. In March 1869,
alighting from a train at Buckingham I saw Mr. Angelo get out of a compartment
next to mine and walk across the platform in company with a couple of young
fellows who were very gay and frolicsome. One of them gave the other a push,
upon which the latter said “Isn’t he behaving badly Mr. Angelo?”
I intended to accost Mr. Angelo, but thought I would wait until he had parted with
the two gentlemen who were strangers to me. Presently they both entered a private
carriage, which had come to the station for them and drove off, but when I looked
round for Mr. Angelo 1 saw he had disappeared. Imagining he bad entered one of
the waiting?rooms I lingered of an hour but he was not to be seen. I thought this
rather strange at the time, for the Buckingham Station on the arriving side had but
one approach and Mr. Angelo could not have walked away along it without being
noticed by me.
In the following week I was at Harrow and lunching at the King’s Head with a young
relative of mine, when the conversation fell upon fencing and the boy casually
alluded to his fencing master as being the successor of Angelo, who was dead.
“Dead?” I exclaimed. “How very sudden! Why I saw him not a week ago”
“You couldn’t have seen Angelo the fencing master,” answered the boy, “for he has
been dead some years.”
I really stared. If there had only been the evidence of my eyes as to Mr. Angelo’s
appearance on the platform of Buckingham Station I would have concluded at once
that my sight had deceived me, but I had distinctly heard Mr Angelo addressed by
name. I had the plainest recollection of having heard one of the two young men,
in whose company he was, say, “Isn’t he behaving badly, Mr Angelo?”
On my return to town from Harrow I went to St. James’s Street, and had the fact
of Mr. Angelo’s death some years previously amply confirmed by Mr. McTurk.
Here the story ends. Nothing ever came of the apparition I had witnessed. It brought
me no portent: it had not been preceded by any thoughts about Mr. Angelo and it
was followed by no circumstance which can throw the faintest light upon it so that
of course I am bound to submit to the inference that I was labouring under an optical
and acoustic illusion.
Still I am not convinced of this myself in my private mind and have always thought
of the incident as being one of those mysteries which are perhaps thrown into our
lives to make us wary of scoffing too readily at strange things reported by others.