Jack Jebb's Strange Career.
A TRUE STORY OP WONDERFUL
lot his literary notes our liondon correspondent recently drew attention to a remarkable volume of adventure dealing with the strange career of the late John Giadwyn J«bb, a friend of Mr Eider Haggard, who furnishes his memoirs with a preface. We are now able to give some extracts from the book, which is published by Messrs Blackwood. A casual meeting between Mr Jebb and Mr Haggard in, London ripened into friendship, and it was on Jebb's invitation that the novelist visited Mexico, a visit which has given us 'Montezuma's Daughter,' and so cannot be considered to have failed, though it failed in the main object with which it was undertaken. That object was nothing else than the recovery of Montezuma's or rether Guatemoe's treasure. One can imagine the fascination which such a question would have for Mr Rider Haggard ; but a sad domestic calamity compelled the break-up of the party, and Guatemoe's treasure still lies in its mystic hiding place. Mexico is par excellence the land of hidden treasure, and Mrs Jebb has a most fascinating chapter telling of the stories which are current among the Indians on the subject. The story of the search after Montezuma's treasure and Jack Jebb's connection with it is too long to quote, but this was not the only treasure the secret of which Jebb came near to finding. Once an old Indian came to him seeking to raise money on loan. After repeated negotiations, during which Jebb ascertained that the money was required to buy a block of land in the suburbs of the town of Mexico, the matter fell through, and nothing more was heard of the old Aztec
1 For a long time no more was seen of him ; then a mess&ge came that he was dying, and had expressed a wish to bid farewell to El Inglese.' Jack, of course, obeyed the summons at once, to find that it had not come a moment too soon, for the old chief's last fight was almost over. His eyes were glassy, and his voice but a broken whisper, which could scarely be heard through the sound of the night wind eddying round the hut ; but he found strength, to motion away a group of women who stood around him, and then telling Jack to stand nearer the bed, he at last confessed his reason for bo urgently desiring that piece of ground. He said that beneath H was buried a rich treasure, and that he alone, the last descendant of a line of fcjfigft, knew the exact spot. The land had never before been for sale,, nor would he have disclosed its secret if it had ; but the Englishman had been kind to him, and he wanted him to know that there had been good cause for his apparently insane request. Jack urged the dying man to describe the hiding place even now, promising to do his best should any treasure be found to get it disposed of as the cacique might direct. The latter seemed to meditate for a few moments ; then he said : ' I think you are an honest man, senor : but you have none of our blood in your veins, and if I told you it might be that the Government—or the Spaniards ! No, I am the last of my race, and I, too, shall soon be with my fathers. Who knows that they will not ask the king's treasure at my hands ? It shall rest forever where it is !' And the grim old heathen died, and carried his secret with him to the grave. The suburb was soon biiilt over, none guessing that somewhere in those fifty acres half a* million lay hid.'
Mexico is, however, associated with the closing years of Jebb's life. He was born in England, and started life withinany advantages— health, wealth and a cheerful disposition. Somewhat against his will he was sent into the army, and for three years after the Mutiny was stationed in India. The conditions of servioe were far from pleasant, and Jebb's health broke down. Among the natives a good deal of discontent still smouldered, and as face fueling ran high the strictest regulations were enforced, forbidding an Englishman, no matter what the provocation might be, to take the law into his own hands. The stationmaster of tli© station from which Jebb was td Start home, when at length he did get leave, was notorious for hh hatred of Europeans, and the following incident trill illustrate the state of feeling then existing in India '. — 1 By clinging to hia post long after he was unfit to do his work, the invalid was so reduced that he had to be carried to the station in a litter, and doubtless he looked so ill that, his native bully thought him a perfectly safe victim. Accordingly he began to Snake unpleasant remarks about the sick officer to his subordinates, speaking in a voice intended to reach the ear of the sufferer as he lay in Ms litter waiting for the train to be signalled. Jack set his teeth hard, and besought his gods to lend him patience. As he made no sign, the stationmaster felt quite secure, and ventured a little further than he had ever gone before —just a shade too fpr for his own health ; for rage giving him back his lost strength Jack sprang from the litter and * went for ' the surprised native in a thoroughly practical scientific manner. Every blow was followed by a corresponding bulge on the stationmaster's fat body, as he doubled up on all fours and abjectly entreated the sahib not to kill him.'
She etatiomaaeter, however, had his
revenge,. for he promptly gave Jebb in charge for assaulting a native, after failing to extract 200 rupees as hush money. A Dight spent in an Indian prison cell did not improve the invalid's health or personal appearance. ' So it came about that when he was carried into court next, morning, the presiding magistrate smiled visibly on being told that it was the emaciated invalid in the litter who had overnight piroduced the awful wreck of humanity to be seen in the witnessbox. For in order tv produce a better effect the station-master had allowed the blood to dry on his cheeks, and with one eye closed, and dirty scraps of sticking-plaster artistically arranged over the other, he looked a very ill-used native indeed. He said, and had twenty witnesses to prove, that the sahib had flown at him like a tiger while he was simply doing his duty and trying to make his passengers comfortable and that, not content with nearly shaking the breath out of his body, he had deprived him of his eyesight, as my lord, the judge, could see. The judge 'listened to his moving tale, and hie also listened to the witnesses. Then he heard what Jack had to say for himself, and also some details added by some Europeans who knew. Then he said, ' You can pay this native Rs. 5s for a doctor's bill, also you tan pay costs, and then I should- recommend you to take the next train for the hills.'
On returning to England Jebb resigned his commission, and on bis father's death found himself in possession of a comfortable fortune. But he and money did not long keep company. An unfortunate business venture in Scotland robbed him of his fertune at one fell blow, and the Overend Gurney smash relieved him of the remainder. Meanwhile he had spent some time at Oxford, and had been on a little expedition to Nicaragua, the beginning of his long and intimate acquaintance with the New World. Sheep- farming in the Highlands, coffee-planting in the Brazils, mining in the Bookies, all were worked into the woof and the webb of Jebb's life, and wherever he was, the spirit of adventure being atron.gr upon him, adventures came to him, we have no space to tell of his strange experiences on the haunted plantation, on which he subsequently based a story contributed to a wellknown magazine, nor of the pursuit of the two Mexican murderers who had reduced Oolarado to a condition of almost speechless terror— -a story of revenge, exceeding in grimness the wildest imaginings of fiction.
Winter high' up on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains was, however, productive of considerable excitement at times. "It was Jebb's experience to be snowed up for weeks at a time, and to have to dig out bodies of some of his ill-fated comrades whom an avalanche had overwhelmed. Long journeys over the snow, mostly undertaken by night, were part of his duty as manager of the mines by which at that time he was seeking to retrieve his fortunes. One of hi* most exciting adventnres name to him on one of these journeys. He had started out with a couple of Norwegian snow-shoes, and had reached a point where his road lay down the mountain side. He started down.
' He had run about half a mile, and was travelling almost at top speed, when suedenly he found himself in the air, and got a fall which nearly stunned him. He had struck a sheet of ice, and, of coutse, the shoes lost their, bite, depositing their startled wearer on the broad of his back without a moment's warning. Naturally, they both came off, and although he clutched at them instinctively, he only succeeded in saving orie-^the other was already beyond reach, sliding rapidly out of stght down the mountain side. As he; watched it disappearing, Jack felt sick for a moment, which may have been the effect of. his fall, or the punch in the rib« from his revolver ; but it was probably the knowledge that if that "shoe were really gone he might -reckon on his fingers the number of hours he had to live. The snow around him was vary deep, and though it was harder some hundred yards above, he did not think he could get there; while even if he succeeded in doing so, there were still four or five miles of snow, from ten to thirty feet thick, between himself and his destination. To get through that was impossible, and even could he flounder as far as the timber-line, build a flre and camp there, it so happened that he was not expected home for four days, and it anyone tried to follow him later, his tracks would certainly be snowed up. Before him were 20 miles of mountain and valley to the nearest camp. And to stay where he was meant to be frozen to death in a few hours. There was plenty of choice, but of nothiug agreeable. Then he began to think of the possibility of following his shoe, which would, of course, slide down the steepest grade it could find, and would therefore pass into the lower valley by means of a rocky gorge, which Jack could see from where he stood, and which was a thoroughly break-neck place, with mountains of sbow in and around it, whence it would be impossible to climb up again should the quest be unsuccessful. .'.However, any chance was worth trying in such a desperate. ease, and Jack thought that as the shoe he had would naturally follow its mate if placed on the same grade his best plan would be to lie down upon it, start sliding, and trust to its being stopped by whatever had arrested its fellow. Of course, the odds were, that the first shoe had gone ovfcr a precipice, or splintered on a point of rock, nd that the same fate would overtake
the second together with its burden ; but if a man must die, then a quick death is better than freezing or starving, and Jack decided to risk his fate and start in pursuit. Accordingly, he carefully found the place where the accident had happened, put the remaining shoe on the track and then lay down along it, rounding Ms chest as much as possible, and steering with his elbows. Down they went, sometimes sliding along gaily, sometimes ploughing heavily through the soft drift ; on and on, it seemed to the anxious traveller, interminably. He watched keenly for any trace of the lost shoe, at the same time keeping a bright look-out for any ghastly header that might be in front of him. At last he came to a turn in the gully, and could scarcely believe in his good fortune when he caught sight of the lost shoe sticking out of some drift in front ! Slowly and anxiously he extricated it, fearing lest the toe might have struck a rock and splintered. But no, it was all right ; and in a moment more he was safe; and sweeping down into timber.' _
Of Jebb's hunting experiences we can make no mention, nor of many other interesting details of his wandering life winch are recounted in this volume. But one other extract we may give, since it illustrates a phase of life in Spanish America which the steady-going populations of Europe find it a little difficult te realise. The scene was Mexico, and not one of the South American Republics where revolutions, if they are not of annual are of bi-annual occurrence, but it will serve to illustrate how popular movements begin, and how sometimes they are suppressed. The "taking of the. Bastile was being celebrated by the large French colony in Mexico, and the Mexican * peons ' thought i£ looj good to be missed, so they joined m. I Inflammatory speeches were made, and there being a good deal of drink about things began to get livoly. Jebb, who saw there was going to be some ' fun,' got into a good position to see what wa 8 going on. ' He had not long to wait, for after a little more rousing rhetoric, the mob of about two hundred peons began to maroh on the gaol, not very far from where they (Jebb and his companion) stood. When, shouting and yelling, they approached the gates, expecting a desperate fight with the .guards before getting them down, to their; sur* prise they iound the massive portals left invitingly open. Of course, they Concluded that there was to be no resistance, and marched into the court, yard triumphantly singing a Mexican Marseillaise. No sooner was the last man safely inside than theheavy gates were clanged together by previously invisible guards, who seemed to start up in hundreds out of the very earth, and the unlucky patriots found themselves thoroughly trapped. They were promptly bestowed in separate cells, and after a night's reflection therein they w«re released next morning with a firm resolution in the breast of each man to let the prisoners alone in future. As to Jack, after seeing 1 denouement ' of the attack, he went home shaking with laughter, but with a conviction that the management of a mob is one of the things they do better abroad.'
Permanent link to this item
Jack Jebb's Strange Career., Bay of Plenty Times, Volume XXI, Issue 3283, 28 June 1895
Jack Jebb's Strange Career. Bay of Plenty Times, Volume XXI, Issue 3283, 28 June 1895
Using This Item
NZME is the copyright owner for the Bay of Plenty Times. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence . This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of NZME. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.