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By WALTER VAUGHAN
WILLIAM VAN HORNE'S accomplishments in the construction and development of the Canadian Pacific during the eighties is so notable that it might well have exhausted the mental and physical energies of the most robust. But there is truth in the paradox that no one has so much spare time as the busy man, and Van Horne could never be idle. His vitality and restlessness, and the versatility of his tastes, demanded a constant outlet, if not in work, then in the pursuit of his hobbies, in playing games, or in a hospitality which was eagerly sought by an ever-growing host of friends. Nor was he neglectful of the gentler pleasures of home and family, which lost one of its number in November, 1885, when his mother, "a noble woman, courageous and resourceful," died.
His daughter has preserved a series. of letters that he wrote to her when she was a school-girl in Berlin. These are charming by reason of their simplicity and of his effort to adapt his pen to matter which he supposed to be suitable for her immature years. In common with other busy fathers, he failed to realize that she was almost grown up, and embellished his letters with humorous sketches of the family and their hobbies, and with little bits of home gossip giving unconscious pictures of himself: "Little Grandma and I beat Mama and Aunt Mary this evening at whist. No. Almost, but so near that Grandma was quite happy."
they had found the Dutch patriot Count Van Hoorn (de Horne) on their family tree, but he professed nothing but laughing contempt for the American search for ancestors in Europe. Families of the New World, he declared, should look to no record, no past, but that which they made for themselves. It was better to be a respectable descendant than to have an illustrious ancestor.
He found time, too, to carry on an entertaining correspondence with some of the friends he had made during a first and hurried trip to Europe, especially with Lord Elphinstone, the queen's equery in waiting, whom he had previously met in Canada; and Aitken, the Glasgow artist, a man of much wit and humor.
Precluded from painting by daylight, he took up his brush and palette at night, and would often remain at his easel until two or three in the morning. The disadvantage of working with gas-light added to his zest, for it represented a difficulty to be overcome, and it cannot be questioned that he attained astonishing skill in overcoming it.
Sometimes his studio was shared by the artist, Percy Woodcock, and the two would paint industriously or gratify Van Horne's insatiable desire for new effects by experimenting in colors.
Van Horne's opportunities for painting did not satisfy his artistic instincts, growing more insistent year by year, and they found vent in other directions. He had hardly stopped collecting fossils before he began to collect Japanese pottery. His pieces were carefully chosen to illustrate historically the development of the art, and by 1886 his collection had attained such size and quality that his friend Meysenburg of St. Louis, another artistic mind tied to business, could write of "adding another trifle to your rich collection."
He expected her to rejoice with him in every new picture he had secured or in the good lines of a mantel he had just designed; but when she began looking up the Van Horne genealogy in Holland and wrote him of the family's coat of arms, he poked fun at her and her heraldry. His women-folk insisted that
1 A chapter from the biography of Sir William Van Horne.
More slowly, and with independence of judgment, he was forming the nucleus of a remarkable collection of paintings. In keeping with the vogue which it then enjoyed with American collectors, the Barbizon school made an early appeal to him, and his first important acquisition was an example of Rousseau's work. But while his purchases in the eighties were almost exclusively works of French artists, they were by no means confined to the realists. By 1890, Décamps, Michel, Monet, Daumier, Ribot, and Bonvin, as well as Corot, were well represented in his collection; his Delacroixs were sufficiently important to be sought for a loan exhibition in New York; and, among others, he had several examples of Montecelli's joyous, but perishable, orchestration of colors. Benjamin Constant and other artists entertained in his home, which was becoming internationally known for its hospitality, left with him souvenirs of their visits in the form of drawings or sketches in oil, exchanged for samples of his own work.
In 1890 Van Horne began to prepare a fitting home for the treasures he had and the treasures he hoped to acquire. He bought one of the substantial graystone houses, typical of Montreal, fronting on Sherbrooke Street, close to the slopes of Mount Royal. Enlarging and altering it, with the assistance of his friend Colonna, he secured a residence of distinction and character in its proportions, while within it was a repository for art that was itself a work of art. Velvet wall-hangings in soft mellow tones were made the background for pictures and porcelains, to which more rare and beautiful examples were added year by year.
In his own home, in his car, or in his clubs in Montreal, Ottawa, and New York, he was ever ready to join in a hand at poker or whist. He had mastered the angles of the English billiardtable and the mysteries of side and screw, and, despite his corpulency, he handled a cue well. He loved games, and attacked them with a boyish zest which was never quenched, summoning all his extraordinary power of concentration to his aid in the effort to conquer his opponents. He kept a set of chessmen on his private car, and would
leave a group of directors and business magnates to do battle over the board through an evening and the long hours of the night with an unimportant secretary.
Nor did he disdain the lighter accomplishments of the drawing-room. He could show innumerable card-tricks, and could "force a card" as well as a conjurer. When Stuart Cumberland was creating a world-wide furor with his feats of so-called mind-reading, Van Horne astonished his friends and guests by displaying a supposedly similar faculty. All through his life he took a curious delight in impressing the beholder by an exhibition of exceptional powers. This he was enabled to do by combining a prodigious memory with a remarkable gift for observation and deduction. He used to tell an amusing story of a test that was imposed on him in Sir Donald Smith's drawing-room after some successful fooling at the dinner-table. The party insisted that, seated at one end of the room, he should reproduce a drawing made by Sir George Stephen at the other end.
"I did n't know what the devil to do, and as I sat with pencil and paper before me, my mind was a perfect blank. Then I began to think and think hard. I suddenly remembered Lady Stephen telling me a few years before that her husband could draw only one thing, a salmon. I cast a sly glance over to the other end of the room, and saw his hand moving quickly in small circles. The scales! So I drew a salmon as quickly as I could. And, by jinks! it was right."
The cumulative effect of such impressions enabled him to create in the minds of men working on the railway the belief that he was endowed with superhuman attributes, that he was, indeed, omniscient.
"I believe Mr. Van Horne knows, or will know, that I am here now, lying on this grass, talking to you and watching you paint that picture," declared a young station-agent at Yale, who, having taken a few minutes off duty, was watching William Brymner, the wellknown artist, at work on the banks of the Fraser.
When Van Horne was asked for an explanation, he told the following,
among several stories, illustrative of his methods:
"One evening I was traveling in my private car along what was, in those days, a rough part of the road north of Lake Superior. When the train stopped at a small station to take water, I got off to take a turn on the platform and stretch my legs. Going into the waiting-room, my attention was attracted by a conversation the telegraphoperator in the office behind the wicket was having on the ticker with another operator away up the line. I listened, and heard that "the boys" on the train which had just left for the East were having a great time. They had taken cushions from the first-class carriage, had made themselves comfortable in the baggage-car, and were playing poker. I did not say anything then, but when I got further down the line I telegraphed back to a station where the train with "the boys" was due to arrive a peremptory message that the cushions were to be returned to the first-class carriage and that employees were not allowed to play poker in the company's time. From that day to this those men don't know how I found out what they were doing."
Travel was his unfailing restorative. In his private car, the Saskatchewan, he slept like a child and was always at his best. A special train was used for his inspection tours, and when there. was no need of close inspection, the train swept like a cyclone through small stations and drew up at water-tanks and divisional points in a cloud of steam and dust, from which the president instantly emerged. It happened in the twinkling of an eye-a Jovian descent that was as enjoyable to every railway man in sight as it was to himself. He continued to be as approachable to a yardman as to a director and as solicitous for his welfare. Compelled one day to wait some hours at Field, he took the trainmen up to the hotel to dinner, personally assuring himself that they should have as fine a dinner as the house could provide, tnough to do this he had to postpone that of his immediate party. Acts like these went, like the touch on a stringed instrument, clear along the line and made him the friend of every man in the service.
His guests on these trips were continually enlivened by his practical jokes, which were invariably conceived without malice and in a spirit of genuine fun. They were frequently worked out over considerable periods of time, and pressing telegraphy into his service he would sometimes keep the wires busy with messages that turned out to be bogus. In the dénouements the unsuspecting victims were not so much stunned with surprise as bewildered by the admirable ingenuity and careful elaboration of the plot.
In the perpetration of these jokes he had an apt confederate in Jimmy French, his porter. A quick-witted and unprepossessing negro, Jimmy was an excellent cook and devoted to his master's comfort. He was given, and exercised to the full, a liberty of speech which no one else would have dared, and which frequently led strangers to suppose that he must have saved Van Horne's life or rendered him some other unforgetable service; but there was a perfect understanding between the two. After an outbreak of picturesque vituperation from his master for some failure of service, Jimmy would seat himself a few minutes later on the arm of Van Horne's chair and punctuate the game of poker with droll remarks.
"Well, Jim," said Van Horne on one occasion, “it looks as if there was not much for the car in this game."
"I see dat, sah. Dat's always the You get dose gen'l'muns in an' teach 'em a new game, and dey takes from you all de money in yo' jeans."
Jimmy identified himself with the Canadian Pacific and its president. Returning from the inspection of a rockcutting, Van Horne found him sitting gloomily on the steps of the car.
"Jim, what 's the matter?" he asked. "Are you thinking of committing suicide?"
"Wa'al, Mistah Van Horne," replied Jimmy, mournfully, "I've been a-lookin' on at all dat work, a-tearin' down and a-pilin' up of so much rock, and I've just been thinkin' dats what takes the gilt edge off our dividends."
A mock argument with Jimmy, which provoked a stream of quick-witted and often droll replies, was a frequent means
of diversion for Van Horne and his guests. On one occasion when he was being bantered by Sir John Macdonald and Sir George Stephen, as well as by his master, he resorted to a lie, which Sir George promptly challenged. Jimmy was up a ladder, winding a clock.
"Wa'al you know, Mistah Van Horne," he said, glancing over his shoulder at the group below, "we railway men have to do a little of dat in our business."
The Saskatchewan was frequently put at the service of distinguished travelers, with Jimmy in charge of the party. When the Marquis of Lorne and Princess Louise were leaving Canada at the close of their viceregal term, they traveled to Quebec in his care and were amused by Jimmy's "Missa Louise" and "Your Succulency." They told Jimmy. to call at their hotel and see them before leaving. Jimmy arrayed himself in his best, made his call, and was refused admittance to their Excellencies by their attendants. Lord Lorne, on hearing of this, drove immediately down to the Saskatchewan to say good-by to Jimmy.
"And what did you do when the marquis came?" asked Van Horne, to whom Jimmy was relating his experiences.
"I done ma very best, sah, to make him feel at home. I brought out de whisky and soda, sah."
When friends of Sir George Stephen or Sir Donald Smith traveled through Canada on the Saskatchewan, Jimmy would write to the former in London and give his version of the travelers' impressions of the road, to which he sometimes added comments of his own on their personal characteristics. Apropos of the wife of a governor-general of Australia, he wrote:
"She was the hollerest lady I ever met. Fust thing in the morning it was tea; then a little breakfast, then lunch, then tea, then dinner, and a bite of supper before she went to bed."
Jimmy always had an eye to the main chance, and from his wages and handsome tips he amassed a considerable sum, which he invested in house property in Chicago, his old home. One day in the nineties he announced that he was going to leave the Canadian Pacific and return to Chicago.
"How will the boss get along without you?" he was asked.
"Dat's what I doan' know, sah," said Jimmy, in some distress. "Dat's what 's troublin' me most."
Jimmy went to Chicago, but soon found that he could not live without his boss and the Saskatchewan. There was no Van Horne in Chicago of whom he could speak as "we." He missed the delight of telling every one who would listen "how we built the C. P. R." He returned to Montreal, to find that the president was not going to hold out his arms to the prodigal. Van Horne wanted Jimmy back, and knew that Jimmy wanted to return to the car, but he was not going to ask him. Jimmy hung disconsolately about the company's headquarters. Finally a day came when the Saskatchewan was going out, and by some chance, in which a prominent official of the company was the deus ex machina, there was no porter available. Jimmy was hunted out of his near-by cache and stolidly took his place. The first hours of the trip were abnormally silent, and then, without any reference to what had happened, the old relations between master and man were resumed, to be broken only by death.
One extremely hot summer day in 1901, when he was getting the car ready for a journey to Boston, Jimmy was stricken with heat apoplexy and was found dead where he fell, on his master's bed. No railway porter ever had a more imposing funeral, and Van Horne, who was deeply affected by the loss of his devoted servant, walked at the head of the procession as chief mourner.