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some ambitious pine or larch might tower beside a captive balloon.
-and now there is nothing to be seen but a few yards of tawny river, swollen to overflowing by recent rain, and sweeping down the Valdarno, to spread abroad into a long narrow lake, between willow-like olives or olive-like willows, for at this distance it is not easy to say exactly which or what they are.
Even after the heaviest spring rains--and how heavy and how continuous these can be let every Florentine say !--that landscape never seemed to me to lose one jot of its limpidity. The great clouds would come rolling down from above, swooping upon the town, and blotting out tower, duomo, campanile, everything for the moment. Then up they would go, up, up, up, higher and higher still, filling the craggy valleys and titanic dimples of Monte Morello, and rushing away to descend as snow upon the Carraras, leaving the magic town as chiselled, as clear as ever ; leaving its towers and its belfries to play at bo-peep with the ilexes and the olives, with the cypresses and the agaves of our garden. It was as if man's workmanship at its very finest had set itself in a fit of deliberate competition against the hardly more delicate, hardly more solid workmanship of fretted leaf or column-like tree-trunk; of overhanging cloud, or blue-tinted hillside. It was a garden, in short, to make a poet out of the plainest man or woman alive; a garden to make a real poet grow dumb from sheer inability to find words with which to fit his own conceptions.
A garden that was capable even of making an amateur gardener forget for the monient to think of gardening! A tribute so unprecedented that, having reached it, one may as well leave off.
NEGLECTING OUR CUSTOMERS
• If we are alive to the signs of the times I have not the smallest doubt that we shall be able to hold our own, not only in new markets, but in markets where we are now sorely pressed. With these grave though hopeful words the President of the Board of Trade concluded, the other day, his important address on British trade at the Croydon Chamber of Commerce. They come with special significance at a moment when we are receiving marked proofs of the resolute policy of the department over which Mr. Ritchie presides, that nothing shall be wanting on their part to make the nation "alive to the signs of the times,' on which so much depends.
Last January a commercial mission was sent out to South America by the Board of Trade to inquire into, and report upon, the conditions and prospects of British trade in certain countries there. And now, following close upon the important Opinions of H.M. Diplomatic and Consular Officer's on British Trade Methods, published by the department in October last, we have the reports on Chile and Argentina of Mr. Worthington, the Special Commissioner.
It would be difficult to add to the collective weight of the earlier Blue Book; but the two later volumes, though there is, perhaps, nothing absolutely new in the evidence they furnish, are so striking in their exhaustive details that any review of the former would be incomplete unless supplemented with at least some brief notice of them.
Indeed, nothing could be more calculated to make an energetic people, lulled into dangerous slumbers by a long period of unchallenged supremacy, alive to the signs of the times' than the bare facts, the terse, categorical narrative of Mr. Worthington's reports read in the flashlights of British Trade Methods. They are the parables of commercial wisdom and energy—they tell a foreign story of gain with an English meaning of loss.
Moreover, quite apart from all other considerations, the magnitude of British financial interests in Argentina makes anything and every
See the Nineteenth Century, December 1898, 'Neglecting our Customers.'
thing bearing on our trade relations with that and the adjoining Republic of special concern to this country.
But to come to the parables. In the supply of the woven and spun fabrics, the cotton goods and woollen, the iron and steel, the rails and railroad iron, the engines, the building materials, the hardware, the cutlery, the candles, the beer, and many another necessity of civilised life imported by Chile and Argentina--in all these Great Britain (when challenged at all) has held the lead well ahead of every other country.
Where does British trade now stand in these markets? With a growing demand in the world at large British supply is said to be falling off, or ‘is sorely pressed.' And in the Republics of Chile and Argentina 'the general trend is in the direction of our losing more and more ground’; there, too, are to be found a diminished demand for British goods, and foreign articles successfully established and winners of the market.
Chilian men, like their Argentine neighbours, clothe themselves in German and Italian and American goods and trouserings of every sort and kind-cotton drills and cords, wool and worsted cloths. They wear German, Spanish, and Italian shirts; and find their taste best suited with socks and stockings from the Continent. And though they wear English straw hats as much as Continental, their soft felt hats are mostly of Austrian and Italian make.
As for the women of Chile, they go clad in German serges and German nun's veilings and gowns of other Continental goods, cut out with German scissors, pinned with German pins, stitched with German needles threaded with German cotton, made with German sewing-machines, fastened with German hooks and eyes, and set off with Swiss and German laces. And when they betake themselves to embroidery, it is German wool with which they exercise their skill.
In German blankets the Chilians sleep; they wash in German basins with water poured out of German ewers; and barbers cut their hair with German barbers' scissors. Belgian candles, and electricity the produce of electric plant from the United States, supply them with artificial light. Like the Argentines, who curtain and upholster their rooms with stuffs from France and Germany, fastened and looped and finished with Italian bands and tassels, because English goods are too dear, they glaze their windows with Belgian and German window-panes, look at themselves in French and German mirrors, and hang their walls with German and French papers.
They cook their food in pots, moulds, stewpans and frying-pans from the United States and Germany, eat it off plates-china, earthenware and enamelled-- from the same countries; whilst the Argentines cut it as well with French and German knives and forks, and ladle it with German ladles. They also carry German pocketknives in their German trousers' pockets. Their beer is brewed by Germans, who use only German machinery for the purpose. They boil their water in German kettles over spirit lamps which are all of Continental make. And they drink their tea out of German cups and saucers.
They write on German paper with German pens, and despatch their letters in German envelopes. They print on American paper, and Italy as well as Germany supplies them with wrapping-papers.
Their treasures are secured in German iron chests, and they fasten their doors and cupboards with German locks and padlocks.
In the heavy rainfalls of Concepcion, or the still heavier downpours further south, Chilians now protect themselves with Italian umbrellas ; though in Valparaiso, where the trade in both parasols and umbrellas is small, England-strange irony !-has the largest share.
Then the Chilian scrubs his floors with German scrubbingbrushes; grooms his horses with German horse-brushes; blacks his shoes with German shoe-brushes ; cleans his window-sashes with German sash-brushes ; lays on his English colours, mixed with turpentine from the United States, with German paint-brushes; and, it may well be said as things are going now, will soon have swept out of the market the last remnant of English, American, and French brushware with German whisk dandies.
France takes the lead, far ahead of other countries, in the supply of watches to Argentina, with Germany as second. But with clocks Germany leads, the United States comes second, and since 1895, when she displaced England, France third.
Surely here are signs of the times, manifested in the daily social life of the two Republics, enough and more than enough to put us upon the alert! But there are graver, far graver, belonging for the most part essentially to the hard life of toil and business, amongst those that Mr. Worthington found and catalogued in Chile and Argentina
In Argentina, though all the railways, with only one exception of importance, are in English hands, rolling-stock to a considerable amount is now supplied by the United States. And in Chile of late years the United States have won the day with their locomotives, railway carriages, and wagons.
In Argentina, too, a very ugly change is being brought about in tramway rails.
The 9-inch deep rail (says our Special Commissioner), such as is commonly used in the United States, has been found to suit the pavement here best, and will un. doubtedly be adopted in place of the 6-inch deep rail hitherto in use. The management of a new electric street-car line tried hard some time since to have this 9-inch rail made in England, but in vain ; makers had not made it before, and did not want to incur the expense of the necessary new rollers. Now all the tramways will require this rail, and they will get it from the United States,
As regards the machinery for the great nitrate industry of Chile, it greatly depends on the management whether it is English or German ; but portable railways largely used in nitrate working practically all come from Germany, the German make being lighter and cheaper than the English.' Then the electric lighting of the nitrate works is leaving English makers, because there is a very capable resident representative of the United States Westinghouse Company in Iquique, who is always ready to negotiate for new installations, to supply small refits for American machinery, and, for a moderate monthly charge, to look after the electric plant continually, an arrangement which suits the companies well.
Equally unsatisfactory is the state of things with regard to electriclighting machinery in Argentina ; and the story of the fatally bad packing of English manufacturers recalls many a consular report in British Trade Methods.
With agricultural machinery the United States have gained the ascendency in both the Chilian and Argentine markets. In Argentina they are said to carry off 90 per cent. in such implements as ploughs, reapers, shellers, and sowers. “The British makers, as a rule, produce too heavy and expensive a machine.' And what does not this mean of English loss in a vast corn-producing country like Argentina ?
Chile still imports shovels and spades from England. But the United States competition in these is keenly felt, whilst Argentina already has the bulk of her picks, spades, shovels, and adzes from the United States; also machine mowers and weed cutters, which have largely superseded scythe blades, such scythe blades as are still used being mostly French. And so the foreign story of gain with an English meaning of loss runs on ad infinitum. In fact our Special Commissioner found generally that improved machinery and tools are not only more readily supplied, but are also more systematically pushed, by our competitors than by ourselves.
Travellers (he writes] or salesmen who are expert and up-to-date machinists, as well as otherwise qualified, are naturally necessary. The able manager of the sugar trfinery at Valparaiso gave me an exemplification of how business in this line may be lost, and doubtless is lost, for want of a personal canvass by an expert. When recently about to put in a new plant for revivifying animal charcoal, the order would have gone to Germany, where makers keep in touch with the requirements out bere, had it not been that a mechanical engineer, representative of an English house, at the time travelling in the Argentine, was heard of and sent for, with the rezult that he booked an 8,0001. order. The manager referred to had never before had a visit from a representative of English machinists.
Even in nails and hinges British trade has not held its own. The cut-iron nails of the United States, the wrought-iron deck 'nails of Germany, the bright Belgian horseshoe nails, American tacks, German wire nails, iron and brass hinges from America and Germany, respectively, are all superseding the English article. And though