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perity, is able, and I believe willing, to pay the moderate price levied for the charges of good government, asking only to be delivered from the ruinous fines incurred by restless foreign policy in Downing Street, and the clash of party warfare at Westminster.
A BRITISH OUTPOST.
REGARDED as a harbour, Aden is one of the finest sites in the world. As a home for man it is among the most desolate. It yields neither fruit nor vegetables, nor grows flowers, nor scarcely any grass or green thing. Its hills yield no fresh streams, nor is water to be had by digging wells. Condensed water is the sole resource of the colonists, and beef alternating with mutton their daily fare, except when friendly ships bring rare presents of fowl or game. The harbour and the European settlement are built on a narrow strip of sandy, gravelly land, lying at the feet of bard bare brown rocks. Somebody must, from time to time, sojourn here, for there are two hotels whose high-sounding names contrast with the desolation of the scene. Nothing less than the “Hotel de l'Univers," unless it be the “Hotel de l'Europe,” will do for Aden. It is
a pathetic fancy this. All Europe, nay, all the universe, hurrying out to make a stay at Aden, and here are the hotels with green verandahs awaiting their reception, with a waiter standing in either doorway ready to take the universal orders, but in the meanwhile yawning, and lazily flapping at flies with a dirty napkin.
Aden itself, the native town peopled by Arabs, Africans, and a miscellaneous horde of nationalities much out of the elbows, lies four miles inland. We drove thither, passing out of the neighbourhood of the two hotels by stores of coal which tell the enormous business done at this half-way house to India. To-day there is stored in Aden 70,000 tons of coal, chiefly imported from Cardiff. The price just now runs as high as 358. a ton, which is moderately cheap. During the Abyssinian war the price of coals at Aden was run up £8 a ton, Government must have coal for their transports and men-of-war, and patriotic stockholders held on till they got their price. Just now a hundred steamers a month call at Aden, chiefly to coal, from which it will appear that somebody turns over a pretty penny in compensation for the absence of all other joys of life.
But there is a cloud rising over Aden
work its ruin. At present it is no bigger than a little island in the Red Sea called Perim. Perim also belongs to England, and has been leased to a private company, who hope that it will some day supplant Aden as a coaling station. It has many natural advantages, including a fine harbour, and offers the inducement of increased cheapness of coal. At Aden a big steamer cannot let go its anchor and haul it up again under a fine of £20. There are no port charges at Perim, which is, moreover, directly on the route, and a day's steaming nearer to Cardiff.
It is, however, as a naval station, an outpost of the British Empire, that Aden is chiefly prized, and as such it will always hold its own. At present the fort is not very heavily armed, its biggest guns being nine-inch muzzleloaders of twelve tons, practically obsolete in these days of ironclads. The guns mounted on the open barbette system, pretty to look at, but dangerous to serve. This is to be altered at something like an expenditure of £100,000. New guns of twenty-six tons are to be placed in armoured cupolas, and all points within the harbour at which a landing might be effected by an enemy will be protected by light guns. At Aden, as at Hongkong, a place practically defenceless against
first-class ironclads, trust has hitherto been placed in the watchfulness of the fleet. It is intended to place Aden in a position in which, like Gibraltar, it can answer for itself. This is a work quietly undertaken by a Government understood in some quarters to be careless of national defences, and particularly reckless of the safety of our empire in the East.
I hear at Aden of another little stroke of business affected without blare of trumpets, and uncelebrated in music-halls. Just facing Aden, and commanding the harbour, there just out a rocky promontory which, should it be seized by an enemy or acquired by a friendly Power, would immeasurably reduce the value of Aden as a naval and military post. In 1869, when Mr. Gladstone's Government was supposed to be absorbed with such humdrum things as reforming churches, freeing land, and creating a system of national education, this long-overlooked coign of vantage was quietly bought from the Arab chief who held its suzerainty. One day Lieutenant (now Major) Hogg, in command of a troop of Scinde Horse stationed on the narrow spit of sand where the cavalry lines lie, received instructions to go and take possession in the Queen's name of this potential Gibraltar. So little was known of the district that he was informed