Part 2 out of 2
I do not believe that it has anything to do with this country.
They told me to go to the Palmer House, which is overmuch gilded
and mirrored, and there I found a huge hall of tessellated marble
crammed with people talking about money, and spitting about
everywhere. Other barbarians charged in and out of this inferno
with letters and telegrams in their hands, and yet others shouted
at each other. A man who had drunk quite as much as was good for
him told me that this was "the finest hotel in the finest city on
God Almighty's earth." By the way, when an American wishes to
indicate the next country or state, he says, "God A'mighty's
earth." This prevents discussion and flatters his vanity.
Then I went out into the streets, which are long and flat and
without end. And verily it is not a good thing to live in the
East for any length of time. Your ideas grow to clash with those
held by every right-thinking man. I looked down interminable
vistas flanked with nine, ten, and fifteen-storied houses, and
crowded with men and women, and the show impressed me with a
Except in London--and I have forgotten what London was like--I
had never seen so many white people together, and never such a
collection of miserables. There was no color in the street and
no beauty--only a maze of wire ropes overhead and dirty stone
flagging under foot.
A cab-driver volunteered to show me the glory of the town for so
much an hour, and with him I wandered far. He conceived that all
this turmoil and squash was a thing to be reverently admired,
that it was good to huddle men together in fifteen layers, one
atop of the other, and to dig holes in the ground for offices.
He said that Chicago was a live town, and that all the creatures
hurrying by me were engaged in business. That is to say they
were trying to make some money that they might not die through
lack of food to put into their bellies. He took me to canals as
black as ink, and filled with un-told abominations, and bid me
watch the stream of traffic across the bridges.
He then took me into a saloon, and while I drank made me note
that the floor was covered with coins sunk in cement. A
Hottentot would not have been guilty of this sort of barbarism.
The coins made an effect pretty enough, but the man who put them
there had no thought of beauty, and, therefore, he was a savage.
"Then my cab-driver showed me business blocks gay with signs and
studded with fantastic and absurd advertisements of goods, and
looking down the long street so adorned, it was as though each
vender stood at his door howling:--"For the sake of my money,
employ or buy of me, and me only!"
Have you ever seen a crowd at a famine-relief distribution? You
know then how the men leap into the air, stretching out their
arms above the crowd in the hope of being seen, while the women
dolorously slap the stomachs of their children and whimper. I
had sooner watch famine relief than the white man engaged in what
he calls legitimate competition. The one I understand. The
other makes me ill.
And the cabman said that these things were the proof of progress,
and by that I knew he had been reading his newspaper, as every
intelligent American should. The papers tell their clientele in
language fitted to their comprehension that the snarling together
of telegraph-wires, the heaving up of houses, and the making of
money is progress.
I spent ten hours in that huge wilderness, wandering through
scores of miles of these terrible streets and jostling some few
hundred thousand of these terrible people who talked paisa bat
through their noses.
The cabman left me; but after awhile I picked up another man, who
was full of figures, and into my ears he poured them as occasion
required or the big blank factories suggested. Here they turned
out so many hundred thousand dollars' worth of such and such an
article; there so many million other things; this house was worth
so many million dollars; that one so many million, more or less.
It was like listening to a child babbling of its hoard of shells.
It was like watching a fool playing with buttons. But I was
expected to do more than listen or watch. He demanded that I
should admire; and the utmost that I could say was:--"Are these
things so? Then I am very sorry for you."
That made him angry, and he said that insular envy made me
unresponsive. So, you see, I could not make him understand.
About four and a half hours after Adam was turned out of the
Garden of Eden he felt hungry, and so, bidding Eve take care that
her head was not broken by the descending fruit, shinned up a
cocoanut-palm. That hurt his legs, cut his breast, and made him
breathe heavily, and Eve was tormented with fear lest her lord
should miss his footing, and so bring the tragedy of this world
to an end ere the curtain had fairly risen. Had I met Adam then,
I should have been sorry for him. To-day I find eleven hundred
thousand of his sons just as far advanced as their father in the
art of getting food, and immeasurably inferior to him in that
they think that their palm-trees lead straight to the skies.
Consequently, I am sorry in rather more than a million different
In the East bread comes naturally, even to the poorest, by a
little scratching or the gift of a friend not quite so poor. In
less favored countries one is apt to forget. Then I went to bed.
And that was on a Saturday night.
Sunday brought me the queerest experiences of all--a revelation
of barbarism complete. I found a place that was officially
described as a church. It was a circus really, but that the
worshippers did not know. There were flowers all about the
building, which was fitted up with plush and stained oak and much
luxury, including twisted brass candlesticks of severest Gothic
To these things and a congregation of savages entered suddenly a
wonderful man, completely in the confidence of their God, whom he
treated colloquially and exploited very much as a newspaper
reporter would exploit a foreign potentate. But, unlike the
newspaper reporter, he never allowed his listeners to forget that
he, and not He, was the centre of attraction. With a voice of
silver and with imagery borrowed from the auction-room, he built
up for his hearers a heaven on the lines of the Palmer House (but
with all the gilding real gold, and all the plate-glass diamond),
and set in the centre of it a loud-voiced, argumentative, very
shrewd creation that he called God. One sentence at this point
caught my delighted ear. It was apropos of some question of the
Judgment, and ran:--"No! I tell you God doesn't do business that
He was giving them a deity whom they could comprehend, and a gold
and jewelled heaven in which they could take a natural interest.
He interlarded his performance with the slang of the streets, the
counter, and the exchange, and he said that religion ought to
enter into daily life. Consequently, I presume he introduced it
as daily life--his own and the life of his friends.
Then I escaped before the blessing, desiring no benediction at
such hands. But the persons who listened seemed to enjoy
themselves, and I understood that I had met with a popular
Later on, when I had perused the sermons of a gentleman called
Talmage and some others, I perceived that I had been listening to
a very mild specimen. Yet that man, with his brutal gold and
silver idols, his hands-in-pocket, cigar-in-mouth, and
hat-on-the-back-of-the-head style of dealing with the sacred
vessels, would count himself, spiritually, quite competent to
send a mission to convert the Indians.
All that Sunday I listened to people who said that the mere fact
of spiking down strips of iron to wood, and getting a steam and
iron thing to run along them was progress, that the telephone was
progress, and the net-work of wires overhead was progress. They
repeated their statements again and again.
One of them took me to their City Hall and Board of Trade works,
and pointed it out with pride. It was very ugly, but very big,
and the streets in front of it were narrow and unclean. When I
saw the faces of the men who did business in that building, I
felt that there had been a mistake in their billeting.
By the way, 'tis a consolation to feel that I am not writing to
an English audience. Then I should have to fall into feigned
ecstasies over the marvellous progress of Chicago since the days
of the great fire, to allude casually to the raising of the
entire city so many feet above the level of the lake which it
faces, and generally to grovel before the golden calf. But you,
who are desperately poor, and therefore by these standards of no
ac-count, know things, will understand when I write that they
have managed to get a million of men together on flat land, and
that the bulk of these men together appear to be lower than
Mahajans and not so companionable as a Punjabi Jat after harvest.
But I don't think it was the blind hurry of the people, their
argot, and their grand ignorance of things beyond their immediate
interests that displeased me so much as a study of the daily
papers of Chicago.
Imprimis, there was some sort of a dispute between New York and
Chicago as to which town should give an exhibition of products to
be hereafter holden, and through the medium of their more
dignified journals the two cities were yahooing and hi-yi-ing at
each other like opposition newsboys. They called it humor, but
it sounded like something quite different.
That was only the first trouble. The second lay in the tone of
the productions. Leading articles which include gems such as
"Back of such and such a place," or, "We noticed, Tuesday, such
an event," or, "don't" for "does not," are things to be accepted
with thankfulness. All that made me want to cry was that in
these papers were faithfully reproduced all the war-cries and
"back-talk" of the Palmer House bar, the slang of the
barber-shops, the mental elevation and integrity of the Pullman
car porter, the dignity of the dime museum, and the accuracy of
the excited fish-wife. I am sternly forbidden to believe that
the paper educates the public. Then I am compelled to believe
that the public educate the paper; yet suicides on the press are
Just when the sense of unreality and oppression was strongest
upon me, and when I most wanted help, a man sat at my side and
began to talk what he called politics.
I had chanced to pay about six shillings for a travelling-cap
worth eighteen-pence, and he made of the fact a text for a
sermon. He said that this was a rich country, and that the
people liked to pay two hundred per cent, on the value of a
thing. They could afford it. He said that the government imposed
a protective duty of from ten to seventy per cent on foreign-made
articles, and that the American manufacturer consequently could
sell his goods for a healthy sum. Thus an imported hat would,
with duty, cost two guineas. The American manufacturer would make
a hat for seventeen shillings, and sell it for one pound fifteen.
In these things, he said, lay the greatness of America and the
effeteness of England. Competition between factory and factory
kept the prices down to decent limits, but I was never to forget
that this people were a rich people, not like the pauper
Continentals, and that they enjoyed paying duties.
To my weak intellect this seemed rather like juggling with
counters. Everything that I have yet purchased costs about twice
as much as it would in England, and when native made is of
Moreover, since these lines were first thought of, I have visited
a gentleman who owned a factory which used to produce things. He
owned the factory still. Not a man was in it, but he was drawing
a handsome income from a syndicate of firms for keeping it
closed, in order that it might not produce things. This man said
that if protection were abandoned, a tide of pauper labor would
flood the country, and as I looked at his factory I thought how
entirely better it was to have no labor of any kind whatever
rather than face so horrible a future.
Meantime, do you remember that this peculiar country enjoys
paying money for value not received? I am an alien, and for the
life of me I cannot see why six shillings should be paid for
eighteen-penny caps, or eight shillings for half-crown
cigar-cases. When the country fills up to a decently populated
level a few million people who are not aliens will be smitten
with the same sort of blindness.
But my friend's assertion somehow thoroughly suited the grotesque
ferocity of Chicago.
See now and judge! In the village of Isser Jang, on the road to
Montgomery, there be four Changar women who winnow corn--some
seventy bushels a year. Beyond their hut lives Purun Dass, the
money-lender, who on good security lends as much as five thousand
rupees in a year. Jowala Singh, the smith, mends the village
plows--some thirty, broken at the share, in three hundred and
sixty-five days; and Hukm Chund, who is letter-writer and head of
the little club under the travellers' tree, generally keeps the
village posted in such gossip as the barber and the mid-wife have
not yet made public property.
Chicago husks and winnows her wheat by the million bushels, a
hundred banks lend hundreds of millions of dollars in the year,
and scores of factories turn out plow-gear and machinery by
steam. Scores of daily papers do work which Hukm Chund and the
barber and the midwife perform, with due regard for public
opinion, in the village of Isser Jang. So far as manufactories
go, the difference between Chicago on the lake, and Isser Jang on
the Montgomery road, is one of degree only, and not of kind. As
far as the understanding of the uses of life goes, Isser Jang,
for all its seasonal cholers, has the advantage over Chicago.
Jowala Singh knows and takes care to avoid the three or four
ghoul-haunted fields on the outskirts of the village; but he is
not urged by millions of devils to run about all day in the sun
and swear that his plowshares are the best in the Punjab; nor
does Purun Dass fly forth in an ekka more than once or twice a
year, and he knows, on a pinch, how to use the railway and the
telegraph as well as any son of Israel in Chicago. But this is
The East is not the West, and these men must continue to deal
with the machinery of life, and to call it progress. Their very
preachers dare not rebuke them. They gloss over the hunting for
money and the thrice-sharpened bitterness of Adam's curse, by
saying that such things dower a man with a larger range of
thoughts and higher aspirations. They do not say, "Free
yourselves from your own slavery," but rather, "If you can
possibly manage it, do not set quite so much store on the things
of this world."
And they do not know what the things of this world are!
I went off to see cattle killed, by way of clearing my head,
which, as you will perceive, was getting muddled. They say every
Englishman goes to the Chicago stock-yards. You shall find them
about six miles from the city; and once having seen them, you
will never forget the sight.
As far as the eye can reach stretches a town-ship of cattle-pens,
cunningly divided into blocks, so that the animals of any pen can
be speedily driven out close to an inclined timber path which
leads to an elevated covered way straddling high above the pens.
These viaducts are two-storied. On the upper story tramp the
doomed cattle, stolidly for the most part. On the lower, with a
scuffling of sharp hoofs and multitudinous yells, run the pigs,
the same end being appointed for each. Thus you will see the
gangs of cattle waiting their turn--as they wait sometimes for
days; and they need not be distressed by the sight of their
fellows running about in the fear of death. All they know is that
a man on horseback causes their next-door neighbors to move by
means of a whip. Certain bars and fences are unshipped, and
behold! that crowd have gone up the mouth of a sloping tunnel and
return no more.
It is different with the pigs. They shriek back the news of the
exodus to their friends, and a hundred pens skirl responsive.
It was to the pigs I first addressed myself. Selecting a viaduct
which was full of them, as I could hear, though I could not see,
I marked a sombre building whereto it ran, and went there, not
unalarmed by stray cattle who had managed to escape from their
proper quarters. A pleasant smell of brine warned me of what was
coming. I entered the factory and found it full of pork in
barrels, and on another story more pork un-barrelled, and in a
huge room the halves of swine, for whose behoof great lumps of
ice were being pitched in at the window. That room was the
mortuary chamber where the pigs lay for a little while in state
ere they began their progress through such passages as kings may
Turning a corner, and not noting an overhead arrangement of
greased rail, wheel, and pulley, I ran into the arms of four
eviscerated carcasses, all pure white and of a human aspect,
pushed by a man clad in vehement red. When I leaped aside, the
floor was slippery under me. Also there was a flavor of
farm-yard in my nostrils and the shouting of a multitude in my
ears. But there was no joy in that shouting. Twelve men stood
in two lines six a side. Between them and overhead ran the
railway of death that had nearly shunted me through the window.
Each man carried a knife, the sleeves of his shirt were cut off
at the elbows, and from bosom to heel he was blood-red.
Beyond this perspective was a column of steam, and beyond that
was where I worked my awe-struck way, unwilling to touch beam or
wall. The atmosphere was stifling as a night in the rains by
reason of the steam and the crowd. I climbed to the beginning of
things and, perched upon a narrow beam, overlooked very nearly
all the pigs ever bred in Wisconsin. They had just been shot out
of the mouth of the viaduct and huddled together in a large pen.
Thence they were flicked persuasively, a few at a time, into a
smaller chamber, and there a man fixed tackle on their hinder
legs, so that they rose in the air, suspended from the railway of
Oh! it was then they shrieked and called on their mothers, and
made promises of amendment, till the tackle-man punted them in
their backs and they slid head down into a brick-floored passage,
very like a big kitchen sink, that was blood-red. There awaited
them a red man with a knife, which he passed jauntily through
their throats, and the full-voiced shriek became a splutter, and
then a fall as of heavy tropical rain, and the red man, who was
backed against the passage-wall, you will understand, stood clear
of the wildly kicking hoofs and passed his hand over his eyes,
not from any feeling of compassion, but because the spurted blood
was in his eyes, and he had barely time to stick the next
arrival. Then that first stuck swine dropped, still kicking,
into a great vat of boiling water, and spoke no more words, but
wallowed in obedience to some unseen machinery, and presently
came forth at the lower end of the vat, and was heaved on the
blades of a blunt paddle-wheel, things which said "Hough, hough,
hough!" and skelped all the hair off him, except what little a
couple of men with knives could remove.
Then he was again hitched by the heels to that said railway, and
passed down the line of the twelve men, each man with a
knife--losing with each man a certain amount of his
individuality, which was taken away in a wheel-barrow, and when
he reached the last man he was very beautiful to behold, but
excessively unstuffed and limp. Preponderance of individuality
was ever a bar to foreign travel. That pig could have been in
case to visit you in India had he not parted with some of his
most cherished notions.
The dissecting part impressed me not so much as the slaying.
They were so excessively alive, these pigs. And then, they were
so excessively dead, and the man in the dripping, clammy, not
passage did not seem to care, and ere the blood of such a one had
ceased to foam on the floor, such another and four friends with
him had shrieked and died. But a pig is only the unclean
animal--the forbidden of the prophet.
The American Army
I SHOULD very much like to deliver a dissertation on the American
army and the possibilities of its extension. You see, it is such
a beautiful little army, and the dear people don't quite
understand what to do with it. The theory is that it is an
instructional nucleus round which the militia of the country will
rally, and from which they will get a stiffening in time of
danger. Yet other people consider that the army should be built,
like a pair of lazy tongs--on the principle of elasticity and
extension--so that in time of need it may fill up its skeleton
battalions and empty saddle troops. This is real wisdom,
be-cause the American army, as at present constituted, is made up
of:--Twenty-five regiments infantry, ten companies each.
Ten regiments cavalry, twelve companies each.
Five regiments artillery, twelve companies each.
Now there is a notion in the air to reorganize the service on
these lines:--Eighteen regiments infantry at four battalions,
four companies each; third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.
Eight regiments cavalry at four battalions, four troops each;
third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.
Five regiments artillery at four battalions, four companies each;
third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.
Observe the beauty of this business. The third battalion will
have its officers, but no men; the fourth will probably have a
rendezvous and some equipment.
It is not contemplated to give it anything more definite at
present. Assuming the regiments to be made up to full
complement, we get an army of fifty thousand men, which after the
need passes away must be cut down fifty per cent, to the huge
delight of the officers.
The military needs of the States be three: (a) Frontier warfare,
an employment well within the grip of the present army of
twenty-five thousand, and in the nature of things growing less
arduous year by year; (b) internal riots and commotions which
rise up like a dust devil, whirl furiously, and die out long
before the authorities at Washington could begin to fill up even
the third skeleton battalions, much less hunt about for material
for the fourth; (c) civil war, in which, as the case in the
affair of the North and South, the regular army would be swamped
in the mass of militia and armed volunteers would turn the land
into a hell.
Yet the authorities persist in regarding an external war as a
thing to be seriously considered.
The Power that would disembark troops on American soil would be
capable of heaving a shovelful of mud into the Atlantic in the
hope of filling it up. Consequently, the authorities are
fascinated with the idea of the sliding scale or concertina army.
This is an hereditary instinct, for you know that when we English
have got together two companies, one machine gun, a sick bullock,
forty generals, and a mass of W. O. forms, we say we possess "an
army corps capable of indefinite extension."
The American army is a beautiful little army. Some day, when all
the Indians are happily dead or drunk, it ought to make the
finest scientific and survey corps that the world has ever seen;
it does excellent work now, but there is this defect in its
nature: It is officered, as you know, from West Point.
The mischief of it is that West Point seems to be created for the
purpose of spreading a general knowledge of military matters
among the people. A boy goes up to that institution, gets his
pass, and returns to civil life, so they tell me, with a
dangerous knowledge that he is a suckling Von Moltke, and may
apply his learning when occasion offers. Given trouble, that man
will be a nuisance, because he is a hideously versatile American,
to begin with, as cock-sure of himself as a man can be, and with
all the racial disregard for human life to back him, through any
In a country where, as the records of the daily papers show, men
engaged in a conflict with police or jails are all too ready to
adopt a military formation and get heavily shot in a sort of
cheap, half-constructed warfare, instead of being decently scared
by the appearance of the military, this sort of arrangement does
not seem wise.
The bond between the States is of an amazing tenuity. So long as
they do not absolutely march into the District of Columbia, sit
on the Washington statues, and invent a flag of their own, they
can legislate, lynch, hunt negroes through swamps, divorce,
railroad, and rampage as much as ever they choose. They do not
need knowledge of their own military strength to back their
That regular army, which is a dear little army, should be kept to
itself, blooded on detachment duty, turned into the paths of
science, and now and again assembled at feasts of Free Masons,
and so forth.
It is too tiny to be a political power. The immortal wreck of
the Grand Army of the Republic is a political power of the
largest and most unblushing description. It ought not to help to
lay the foundations of an amateur military power that is blind
By great good luck the evil-minded train, already delayed twelve
hours by a burned bridge, brought me to the city on a Saturday by
way of that valley which the Mormons, over their efforts, had
caused to blossom like the rose. Twelve hours previously I had
entered into a new world where, in conversation, every one was
either a Mormon or a Gentile. It is not seemly for a free and
independent citizen to dub himself a Gentile, but the Mayor of
Ogden--which is the Gentile city of the valley--told me that
there must be some distinction between the two flocks.
Long before the fruit orchards of Logan or the shining levels of
the Salt Lake had been reached, that mayor--himself a Gentile,
and one renowned for his dealings with the Mormons--told me that
the great question of the existence of the power within the power
was being gradually solved by the ballot and by education.
All the beauty of the valley could not make me forget it. And
the valley is very fair. Bench after bench of land, flat as a
table against the flanks of the ringing hills, marks where the
Salt Lake rested for awhile in its collapse from an inland sea to
a lake fifty miles long and thirty broad.
There are the makings of a very fine creed about Mormonism. To
begin with, the Church is rather more absolute than that of Rome.
Drop the polygamy plank in the platform, but on the other hand
deal lightly with certain forms of excess; keep the quality of
the recruit down to the low mental level, and see that the best
of all the agricultural science available is in the hands of the
elders, and there you have a first-class engine for pioneer work.
The tawdry mysticism and the borrowing from Freemasonry serve the
low caste Swede and Dane, the Welshman and the Cornish cotter,
just as well as a highly organized heaven.
Then I went about the streets and peeped into people's front
windows, and the decorations upon the tables were after the
manner of the year 1850. Main Street was full of country folk
from the desert, come in to trade with the Zion Mercantile
Co-operative Institute. The Church, I fancy, looks after the
finances of this thing, and it consequently pays good dividends.
The faces of the women were not lovely. In-deed, but for the
certainty that ugly persons are just as irrational in the matter
of undivided love as the beautiful, it seems that polygamy was a
blessed institution for the women, and that only the dread
threats of the spiritual power could drive the hulking,
board-faced men into it. The women wore hideous garments, and
the men appeared to be tied up with strings.
They would market all that afternoon, and on Sunday go to the
praying-place. I tried to talk to a few of them, but they spoke
strange tongues, and stared and behaved like cows. Yet one
woman, and not an altogether ugly one, confided to me that she
hated the idea of Salt Lake City being turned into a show-place
for the amusement of the Gentiles.
"If we 'have our own institutions, that ain't no reason why
people should come 'ere and stare at us, his it?"
The dropped "h" betrayed her.
"And when did you leave England?" I said.
"Summer of '84. I am Dorset," she said. "The Mormon agent was
very good to us, and we was very poor. Now we're better off--my
father, an' mother, an' me."
"Then you like the State?"
She misunderstood at first.
"Oh, I ain't livin' in the state of polygamy. Not me, yet. I
ain't married. I like where I am. I've got things o' my
own--and some land."
"But I suppose you will--"
"Not me. I ain't like them Swedes an' Danes. I ain't got
nothin' to say for or against polygamy. It's the elders'
business, an' between you an' me, I don't think it's going on
much longer. You'll 'ear them in the 'ouse to-morrer talkin' as
if it was spreadin' all over America. The Swedes, they think it
his. I know it hisn't."
"But you've got your land all right?"
"Oh, yes; we've got our land, an' we never say aught against
polygamy, o' course--father, an' mother, an' me."
On a table-land overlooking all the city stands the United States
garrison of infantry and artillery. The State of Utah can do
nearly anything it pleases until that much-to-be-desired hour
when the Gentile vote shall quietly swamp out Mormonism; but the
garrison is kept there in case of accidents. The big,
shark-mouthed, pig-eared, heavy-boned farmers sometimes take to
their creed with wildest fanaticism, and in past years have made
life excessively unpleasant for the Gentile when he was few in
the land. But to-day, so far from killing openly or secretly, or
burning Gentile farms, it is all the Mormon dare do to feebly try
to boycott the interloper. His journals preach defiance to the
United States Government, and in the Tabernacle on a Sunday the
preachers follow suit.
When I went there, the place was full of people who would have
been much better for a washing.
A man rose up and told them that they were the chosen of God, the
elect of Israel; that they were to obey their priests, and that
there was a good time coming. I fancy that they had heard all
this before so many times it produced no impression whatever,
even as the sublimest mysteries of another faith lose salt
through constant iteration. They breathed heavily through their
noses, and stared straight in front of them--impassive as flat
America's Defenceless Coasts
JUST suppose that America were twenty days distant from England.
Then a man could study its customs with undivided soul; but being
so very near next door, he goes about the land with one eye on
the smoke of the flesh-pots of the old country across the seas,
while with the other he squints biliously and prejudicially at
I can lay my hand upon my sacred heart and affirm that up to
to-day I have never taken three consecutive trips by rail without
being delayed by an accident. That it was an accident to another
train makes no difference. My own turn may come next.
A few miles from peaceful, pleasure-loving Lakewood they had
managed to upset an express goods train to the detriment of the
flimsy permanent way; and thus the train which should have left
at three departed at seven in the evening. I was not angry. I
was scarcely even interested. When an American train starts on
time I begin to anticipate disaster--a visitation for such good
luck, you understand.
Buffalo is a large village of a quarter of a million inhabitants,
situated on the seashore, which is falsely called Lake Erie. It
is a peaceful place, and more like an English county town than
most of its friends.
Once clear of the main business streets, you launch upon miles
and miles of asphalted roads running between cottages and
cut-stone residences of those who have money and peace. All the
Eastern cities own this fringe of elegance, but except in Chicago
nowhere is the fringe deeper or more heavily widened than in
The American will go to a bad place because he cannot speak
English, and is proud of it; but he knows how to make a home for
himself and his mate, knows how to keep the grass green in front
of his veranda, and how to fullest use the mechanism of life--hot
water, gas, good bell-ropes, telephones, etc. His shops sell him
delightful household fitments at very moderate rates, and he is
encompassed with all manner of labor-saving appliances. This
does not prevent his wife and his daughter working themselves to
death over household drudgery; but the intention is good.
When you have seen the outside of a few hundred thousand of these
homes and the insides of a few score, you begin to understand why
the American (the respectable one) does not take a deep interest
in what they call "politics," and why he is so vaguely and
generally proud of the country that enables him to be so
comfortable. How can the owner of a dainty chalet, with
smoked-oak furniture, imitation Venetian tapestry curtains, hot
and cold water laid on, a bed of geraniums and hollyhocks, a baby
crawling down the veranda, and a self-acting twirly-whirly hose
gently hissing over the grass in the balmy dusk of an August
evening--how can such a man despair of the Republic, or descend
into the streets on voting days and mix cheerfully with "the
No, it is the stranger--the homeless jackal of a stranger--whose
interest in the country is limited to his hotel-bill and a
railway-ticket, that can run from Dan to Beersheba, crying:--"All
Every good American wants a home--a pretty house and a little
piece of land of his very own; and every other good American
seems to get it.
It was when my gigantic intellect was grappling with this
question that I confirmed a discovery half made in the West. The
natives of most classes marry young--absurdly young. One of my
informants--not the twenty-two-year-old husband I met on Lake
Chautauqua--said that from twenty to twenty-four was about the
usual time for this folly. And when I asked whether the practice
was confined to the constitutionally improvident classes, he said
"No" very quickly. He said it was a general custom, and nobody
saw anything wrong with it.
"I guess, perhaps, very early marriage may account for a good
deal of the divorce," said he, reflectively.
Whereat I was silent. Their marriages and their divorces only
concern these people; and neither I travelling, nor you, who may
come after, have any right to make rude remarks about them.
Only--only coming from a land where a man begins to lightly turn
to thoughts of love not before he is thirty, I own that playing
at house-keeping before that age rather surprised me. Out in the
West, though, they marry, boys and girls, from sixteen upward,
and I have met more than one bride of fifteen--husband aged
"When man and woman are agreed, what can the Kazi do?"
From those peaceful homes, and the envy they inspire (two trunks
and a walking-stick and a bit of pine forest in British Columbia
are not satisfactory, any way you look at them), I turned me to
the lake front of Buffalo, where the steamers bellow to the grain
elevators, and the locomotives yell to the coal-shutes, and the
canal barges jostle the lumber-raft half a mile long as it snakes
across the water in tow of a launch, and earth, and sky, and sea
alike are thick with smoke.
In the old days, before the railway ran into the city, all the
business quarters fringed the lake-shore where the traffic was
largest. To-day the business quarters have gone up-town to meet
the railroad; the lake traffic still exists, but you shall find a
narrow belt of red-brick desolation, broken windows, gap-toothed
doors, and streets where the grass grows between the crowded
wharves and the bustling city. To the lake front comes wheat
from Chicago, lumber, coal, and ore, and a large trade in cheap
It was my felicity to catch a grain steamer and an elevator
emptying that same steamer. The steamer might have been two
thousand tons burden. She was laden with wheat in bulk; from
stem to stern, thirteen feet deep, lay the clean, red wheat.
There was no twenty-five per cent dirt admixture about it at all.
It was wheat, fit for the grindstones as it lay. They manoeuvred
the fore-hatch of that steamer directly under an elevator--a
house of red tin a hundred and fifty feet high. Then they let
down into that fore-hatch a trunk as if it had been the trunk of
an elephant, but stiff, because it was a pipe of iron-champed
wood. And the trunk had a steel-shod nose to it, and contained
an endless chain of steel buckets.
Then the captain swore, raising his eyes to heaven, and a gruff
voice answered him from the place he swore at, and certain
machinery, also in the firmament, began to clack, and the
glittering, steel-shod nose of that trunk burrowed into the
wheat, and the wheat quivered and sunk upon the instant as water
sinks when the siphon sucks, because the steel buckets within the
trunk were flying upon their endless round, carrying away each
its appointed morsel of wheat.
The elevator was a Persian well wheel--a wheel squashed out thin
and cased in a pipe, a wheel driven not by bullocks, but by much
horse-power, licking up the grain at the rate of thou-sands of
bushels the hour. And the wheat sunk into the fore-hatch while a
man looked--sunk till the brown timbers of the bulkheads showed
bare, and men leaped down through clouds of golden dust and
shovelled the wheat furiously round the nose of the trunk, and
got a steam-shovel of glittering steel and made that shovel also,
till there remained of the grain not more than a horse leaves in
the fold of his nose-bag.
In this manner do they handle wheat at Buffalo. On one side of
the elevator is the steamer, on the other the railway track; and
the wheat is loaded into the cars in bulk. Wah! wah! God is
great, and I do not think He ever intended Gar Sahai or Luckman
Narain to supply England with her wheat. India can cut in not
without profit to herself when her harvest is good and the
Ameri-can yield poor; but this very big country can, upon the
average, supply the earth with all the beef and bread that is
A man in the train said to me:--"We kin feed all the earth, jest
as easily as we kin whip all the earth."
Now the second statement is as false as the first is true. One
of these days the respectable Republic will find this out.
Unfortunately we, the English, will never be the people to teach
her; because she is a chartered libertine allowed to say and do
anything she likes, from demanding the head of the empress in an
editorial waste-basket, to chevying Canadian schooners up and
down the Alaska Seas. It is perfectly impossible to go to war
with these people, whatever they may do.
They are much too nice, in the first place, and in the second, it
would throw out all the passenger traffic of the Atlantic, and
upset the financial arrangements of the English syndicates who
have invested their money in breweries, railways, and the like,
and in the third, it's not to be done. Everybody knows that, and
no one better than the American.
Yet there are other powers who are not "ohai band" (of the
brotherhood)--China, for instance. Try to believe an
irresponsible writer when he assures you that China's fleet
to-day, if properly manned, could waft the entire American navy
out of the water and into the blue. The big, fat Republic that
is afraid of nothing, because nothing up to the present date has
happened to make her afraid, is as unprotected as a jelly-fish.
Not internally, of course--it would be madness for any Power to
throw men into America; they would die--but as far as regards
From five miles out at sea (I have seen a test of her "fortified"
ports) a ship of the power of H. M. S. "Collingwood" (they
haven't run her on a rock yet) would wipe out any or every town
from San Francisco to Long Branch; and three first-class
ironclads would account for New York, Bartholdi's Statue and all.
Reflect on this. 'Twould be "Pay up or go up" round the entire
coast of the United States. To this furiously answers the
patriotic American:--"We should not pay. We should invent a
Columbiad in Pittsburg or--or anywhere else, and blow any
outsider into h--l."
They might invent. They might lay waste their cities and retire
inland, for they can subsist entirely on their own produce.
Meantime, in a war waged the only way it could be waged by an
unscrupulous Power, their coast cities and their dock-yards would
be ashes. They could construct their navy inland if they liked,
but you could never bring a ship down to the water-ways, as they
They could not, with an ordinary water patrol, despatch one
regiment of men six miles across the seas. There would be about
five million excessively angry, armed men pent up within American
limits. These men would require ships to get themselves afloat.
The country has no such ships, and until the ships were built New
York need not be allowed a single-wheeled carriage within her
Behold now the glorious condition of this Republic which has no
fear. There is ransom and loot past the counting of man on her
seaboard alone--plunder that would enrich a nation--and she has
neither a navy nor half a dozen first-class ports to guard the
whole. No man catches a snake by the tail, because the creature
will sting; but you can build a fire around a snake that will
make it squirm.
The country is supposed to be building a navy now. When the
ships are completed her alliance will be worth having--if the
alliance of any republic can be relied upon. For the next three
years she can be hurt, and badly hurt. Pity it is that she is of
our own blood, looking at the matter from a Pindarris point of
view. Dog cannot eat dog.
These sinful reflections were prompted by the sight of the
beautifully unprotected condition of Buffalo--a city that could
be made to pay up five million dollars without feeling it. There
are her companies of infantry in a sort of port there. A gun-boat
brought over in pieces from Niagara could get the money and get
away before she could be caught, while an unarmored gun-boat
guarding Toronto could ravage the towns on the lakes. When one
hears so much of the nation that can whip the earth, it is, to
say the least of it, surprising to find her so temptingly
The average American citizen seems to have a notion that any
Power engaged in strife with the Star Spangled Banner will
disembark men from flat-bottomed boats on a convenient beach for
the purpose of being shot down by local militia. In his own
simple phraseology:--"Not by a darned sight. No, sir."
Ransom at long range will be about the size of it--cash or crash.
Let us revisit calmer scenes.
In the heart of Buffalo there stands a magnificent building which
the population do innocently style a music-hall. Everybody comes
here of evenings to sit around little tables and listen to a
first-class orchestra. The place is something like the Gaiety
Theatre at Simla, enlarged twenty times. The "Light Brigade" of
Buffalo occupy the boxes and the stage, "as it was at Simla in
the days of old," and the others sit in the parquet. Here I went
with a friend--poor or boor is the man who cannot pick up a
friend for a season in America--and here was shown the really
smart folk of the city. I grieve to say I laughed, because when
an American wishes to be correct he sets himself to imitate the
Englishman. This he does vilely, and earns not only the contempt
of his brethren, but the amused scorn of the Briton.
I saw one man who was pointed out to me as being the glass of
fashion hereabouts. He was aggressively English in his get-up.
From eye-glass to trouser-hem the illusion was perfect, but--he
wore with evening-dress buttoned boots with brown cloth tops!
Not till I wandered about this land did I understand why the
comic papers belabor the Anglomaniac.
Certain young men of the more idiotic sort launch into dog-carts
and raiment of English cut, and here in Buffalo they play polo at
four in the afternoon. I saw three youths come down to the
polo-ground faultlessly attired for the game and mounted on their
best ponies. Expecting a game, I lingered; but I was mistaken.
These three shining ones with the very new yellow hide boots and
the red silk sashes had assembled themselves for the purpose of
knocking the ball about. They smote with great solemnity up and
down the grounds, while the little boys looked on. When they
trotted, which was not seldom, they rose and sunk in their
stirrups with a conscientiousness that cried out "Riding-school!"
Other young men in the park were riding after the English manner,
in neatly cut riding-trousers and light saddles. Fate in
derision had made each youth bedizen his animal with a checkered
enam-elled leather brow-band visible half a mile away--a
black-and-white checkered brow-band! They can't do it, any more
than an Englishman, by taking cold, can add that indescribable
nasal twang to his orchestra.
The other sight of the evening was a horror. The little tragedy
played itself out at a neighboring table where two very young men
and two very young women were sitting. It did not strike me till
far into the evening that the pimply young reprobates were making
the girls drunk. They gave them red wine and then white, and the
voices rose slightly with the maidens' cheek flushes. I watched,
wishing to stay, and the youths drank till their speech thickened
and their eye-balls grew watery. It was sickening to see,
because I knew what was going to happen. My friend eyed the
group, and said:--"Maybe they're children of respectable people.
I hardly think, though, they'd be allowed out without any better
escort than these boys. And yet the place is a place where every
one comes, as you see. They may be Little Immoralities--in which
case they wouldn't be so hopelessly overcome with two glasses of
wine. They may be--"
Whatever they were they got indubitably drunk--there in that
lovely hall, surrounded by the best of Buffalo society. One
could do nothing except invoke the judgment of Heaven on the two
boys, themselves half sick with liquor. At the close of the
performance the quieter maiden laughed vacantly and protested she
couldn't keep her feet. The four linked arms, and staggering,
flickered out into the street--drunk, gentlemen and ladies, as
Davy's swine, drunk as lords! They disappeared down a side
avenue, but I could hear their laughter long after they were out
And they were all four children of sixteen and seventeen. Then,
recanting previous opinions, I became a prohibitionist. Better
it is that a man should go without his beer in public places, and
content himself with swearing at the narrow-mindedness of the
majority; better it is to poison the inside with very vile
temperance drinks, and to buy lager furtively at back-doors, than
to bring temptation to the lips of young fools such as the four I
had seen. I understand now why the preachers rage against drink.
I have said: "There is no harm in it, taken moderately;" and yet
my own demand for beer helped directly to send those two girls
reeling down the dark street to--God alone knows what end.
If liquor is worth drinking, it is worth taking a little trouble
to come at--such trouble as a man will undergo to compass his own
desires. It is not good that we should let it lie before the
eyes of children, and I have been a fool in writing to the
contrary. Very sorry for myself, I sought a hotel, and found in
the hall a reporter who wished to know what I thought of the
country. Him I lured into conversation about his own profession,
and from him gained much that confirmed me in my views of the
grinding tyranny of that thing which they call the Press here.
Thus:--I--But you talk about interviewing people whether they
like it or not. Have you no bounds beyond which even your
indecent curiosity must not go?
HE--I haven't struck 'em yet. What do you think of interviewing
a widow two hours after her husband's death, to get her version
of his life?
I--I think that is the work of a ghoul. Must the people have no
HE--There is no domestic privacy in America. If there was, what
the deuce would the papers do? See here. Some time ago I had an
assignment to write up the floral tributes when a prominent
citizen had died.
I--Translate, please; I do not understand your pagan rites and
HE--I was ordered by the office to describe the flowers, and
wreaths, and so on, that had been sent to a dead man's funeral.
Well, I went to the house. There was no one there to stop me, so
I yanked the tinkler--pulled the bell--and drifted into the room
where the corpse lay all among the roses and smilax. I whipped
out my note-book and pawed around among the floral tributes,
turn-ing up the tickets on the wreaths and seeing who had sent
them. In the middle of this I heard some one saying: "Please,
oh, please!" behind me, and there stood the daughter of the
house, just bathed in tears--I--You unmitigated brute!
HE--Pretty much what I felt myself. "I'm very sorry, miss," I
said, "to intrude on the privacy of your grief. Trust me, I
shall make it as little painful as possible."
I--But by what conceivable right did you outrage--HE--Hold your
horses. I'm telling you. Well, she didn't want me in the house
at all, and between her sobs fairly waved me away. I had half
the tributes described, though, and the balance I did partly on
the steps when the stiff 'un came out, and partly in the church.
The preacher gave the sermon. That wasn't my assignment. I
skipped about among the floral tributes while he was talking. I
could have made no excuse if I had gone back to the office and
said that a pretty girl's sobs had stopped me obeying orders. I
had to do it. What do you think of it all?
I (slowly)--Do you want to know?
HE (with his note-book ready)--Of course. How do you regard it?
I--It makes me regard your interesting nation with the same
shuddering curiosity that I should bestow on a Pappan cannibal
chewing the scalp off his mother's skull. Does that convey any
idea to your mind? It makes me regard the whole pack of you as
heathens--real heathens--not the sort you send missions
to--creatures of another flesh and blood. You ought to have been
shot, not dead, but through the stomach, for your share in the
scandalous business, and the thing you call your newspaper ought
to have been sacked by the mob, and the managing proprietor
HE--From which, I suppose you have nothing of that kind in your
Oh! "Pioneer," venerable "Pioneer," and you not less honest
press of India, who are occasionally dull but never blackguardly,
what could I say? A mere "No," shouted never so loudly,
would not have met the needs of the case. I said no word.
The reporter went away, and I took a train for Niagara Falls,
which are twenty-two miles distant from this bad town, where
girls get drunk of nights and reporters trample on corpses in the
drawing-rooms of the brave and the free!