Part 2 out of 10
opinions about religion, and politics, and business, and sweethearts, and
everything, and will undermine its principles, and rot them away, and
make the poor thing characterless, and its success in life impossible.
Every one in the ship says so. And this is not all--in fact, not the
worst. For there is an enormously rich brewer in the ship who said as
much as ten days ago, that if the child was born on his birthday he would
give it ten thousand dollars to start its little life with. His birthday
was Monday, the 9th of September.
If the ships all moved in the one direction--westward, I mean--the world
would suffer a prodigious loss--in the matter of valuable time, through
the dumping overboard on the Great Meridian of such multitudes of days by
ships crews and passengers. But fortunately the ships do not all sail
west, half of them sail east. So there is no real loss. These latter
pick up all the discarded days and add them to the world's stock again;
and about as good as new, too; for of course the salt water preserves
Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as
if she had laid an asteroid.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 11. In this world we often make mistakes of judgment.
We do not as a rule get out of them sound and whole, but sometimes we do.
At dinner yesterday evening-present, a mixture of Scotch, English,
American, Canadian, and Australasian folk--a discussion broke out about
the pronunciation of certain Scottish words. This was private ground,
and the non-Scotch nationalities, with one exception, discreetly kept
still. But I am not discreet, and I took a hand. I didn't know anything
about the subject, but I took a hand just to have something to do. At
that moment the word in dispute was the word three. One Scotchman was
claiming that the peasantry of Scotland pronounced it three, his
adversaries claimed that they didn't--that they pronounced it 'thraw'.
The solitary Scot was having a sultry time of it, so I thought I would
enrich him with my help. In my position I was necessarily quite
impartial, and was equally as well and as ill equipped to fight on the
one side as on the other. So I spoke up and said the peasantry
pronounced the word three, not thraw. It was an error of judgment.
There was a moment of astonished and ominous silence, then weather
ensued. The storm rose and spread in a surprising way, and I was snowed
under in a very few minutes. It was a bad defeat for me--a kind of
Waterloo. It promised to remain so, and I wished I had had better sense
than to enter upon such a forlorn enterprise. But just then I had a
saving thought--at least a thought that offered a chance. While the
storm was still raging, I made up a Scotch couplet, and then spoke up and
"Very well, don't say any more. I confess defeat. I thought I knew, but
I see my mistake. I was deceived by one of your Scotch poets."
"A Scotch poet! O come! Name him."
It is wonderful the power of that name. These men looked doubtful--but
paralyzed, all the same. They were quite silent for a moment; then one
of them said--with the reverence in his voice which is always present in
a Scotchman's tone when he utters the name.
"Does Robbie Burns say--what does he say?"
"This is what he says:
'There were nae bairns but only three
--Ane at the breast, twa at the knee.'"
It ended the discussion. There was no man there profane enough, disloyal
enough, to say any word against a thing which Robert Burns had settled.
I shall always honor that great name for the salvation it brought me in
this time of my sore need.
It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with
confidence, stands a good chance to deceive. There are people who think
that honesty is always the best policy. This is a superstition; there
are times when the appearance of it is worth six of it.
We are moving steadily southward-getting further and further down under
the projecting paunch of the globe. Yesterday evening we saw the Big
Dipper and the north star sink below the horizon and disappear from our
world. No, not "we," but they. They saw it--somebody saw it--and told
me about it. But it is no matter, I was not caring for those things, I
am tired of them, any way. I think they are well enough, but one doesn't
want them always hanging around. My interest was all in the Southern
Cross. I had never seen that. I had heard about it all my life, and it
was but natural that I should be burning to see it. No other
constellation makes so much talk. I had nothing against the Big Dipper
--and naturally couldn't have anything against it, since it is a citizen of
our own sky, and the property of the United States--but I did want it to
move out of the way and give this foreigner a chance. Judging by the
size of the talk which the Southern Cross had made, I supposed it would
need a sky all to itself.
But that was a mistake. We saw the Cross to-night, and it is not large.
Not large, and not strikingly bright. But it was low down toward the
horizon, and it may improve when it gets up higher in the sky. It is
ingeniously named, for it looks just as a cross would look if it looked
like something else. But that description does not describe; it is too
vague, too general, too indefinite. It does after a fashion suggest a
cross across that is out of repair--or out of drawing; not correctly
shaped. It is long, with a short cross-bar, and the cross-bar is canted
out of the straight line.
It consists of four large stars and one little one. The little one is
out of line and further damages the shape. It should have been placed at
the intersection of the stem and the cross-bar. If you do not draw an
imaginary line from star to star it does not suggest a cross--nor
anything in particular.
One must ignore the little star, and leave it out of the combination--it
confuses everything. If you leave it out, then you can make out of the
four stars a sort of cross--out of true; or a sort of kite--out of true;
or a sort of coffin-out of true.
Constellations have always been troublesome things to name. If you give
one of them a fanciful name, it will always refuse to live up to it; it
will always persist in not resembling the thing it has been named for.
Ultimately, to satisfy the public, the fanciful name has to be discarded
for a common-sense one, a manifestly descriptive one. The Great Bear
remained the Great Bear--and unrecognizable as such--for thousands of
years; and people complained about it all the time, and quite properly;
but as soon as it became the property of the United States, Congress
changed it to the Big Dipper, and now every body is satisfied, and there
is no more talk about riots. I would not change the Southern Cross to
the Southern Coffin, I would change it to the Southern Kite; for up there
in the general emptiness is the proper home of a kite, but not for
coffins and crosses and dippers. In a little while, now--I cannot
tell exactly how long it will be--the globe will belong to the
English-speaking race; and of course the skies also. Then the
constellations will be re-organized, and polished up, and re-named--the
most of them "Victoria," I reckon, but this one will sail thereafter as
the Southern Kite, or go out of business. Several towns and things, here
and there, have been named for Her Majesty already.
In these past few days we are plowing through a mighty Milky Way of
islands. They are so thick on the map that one would hardly expect to
find room between them for a canoe; yet we seldom glimpse one. Once we
saw the dim bulk of a couple of them, far away, spectral and dreamy
things; members of the Horne-Alofa and Fortuna. On the larger one are
two rival native kings--and they have a time together. They are
Catholics; so are their people. The missionaries there are French
From the multitudinous islands in these regions the "recruits" for the
Queensland plantations were formerly drawn; are still drawn from them, I
believe. Vessels fitted up like old-time slavers came here and carried
off the natives to serve as laborers in the great Australian province.
In the beginning it was plain, simple man-stealing, as per testimony of
the missionaries. This has been denied, but not disproven. Afterward it
was forbidden by law to "recruit" a native without his consent, and
governmental agents were sent in all recruiting vessels to see that the
law was obeyed--which they did, according to the recruiting people; and
which they sometimes didn't, according to the missionaries. A man could
be lawfully recruited for a three-years term of service; he could
volunteer for another term if he so chose; when his time was up he could
return to his island. And would also have the means to do it; for the
government required the employer to put money in its hands for this
purpose before the recruit was delivered to him.
Captain Wawn was a recruiting ship-master during many years. From his
pleasant book one gets the idea that the recruiting business was quite
popular with the islanders, as a rule. And yet that did not make the
business wholly dull and uninteresting; for one finds rather frequent
little breaks in the monotony of it--like this, for instance:
"The afternoon of our arrival at Leper Island the schooner was lying
almost becalmed under the lee of the lofty central portion of the
island, about three-quarters of a mile from the shore. The boats
were in sight at some distance. The recruiter-boat had run into a
small nook on the rocky coast, under a high bank, above which stood
a solitary hut backed by dense forest. The government agent and
mate in the second boat lay about 400 yards to the westward.
"Suddenly we heard the sound of firing, followed by yells from the
natives on shore, and then we saw the recruiter-boat push out with a
seemingly diminished crew. The mate's boat pulled quickly up, took
her in tow, and presently brought her alongside, all her own crew
being more or less hurt. It seems the natives had called them into
the place on pretence of friendship. A crowd gathered about the
stern of the boat, and several fellows even got into her. All of a
sudden our men were attacked with clubs and tomahawks. The
recruiter escaped the first blows aimed at him, making play with his
fists until he had an opportunity to draw his revolver. 'Tom
Sayers,' a Mare man, received a tomahawk blow on the head which laid
the scalp open but did not penetrate his skull, fortunately. 'Bobby
Towns,' another Mare boatman, had both his thumbs cut in warding off
blows, one of them being so nearly severed from the hand that the
doctors had to finish the operation. Lihu, a Lifu boy, the
recruiter's special attendant, was cut and pricked in various
places, but nowhere seriously. Jack, an unlucky Tanna recruit, who
had been engaged to act as boatman, received an arrow through his
forearm, the head of which--apiece of bone seven or eight inches
long--was still in the limb, protruding from both sides, when the
boats returned. The recruiter himself would have got off scot-free
had not an arrow pinned one of his fingers to the loom of the
steering-oar just as they were getting off. The fight had been
short but sharp. The enemy lost two men, both shot dead."
The truth is, Captain Wawn furnishes such a crowd of instances of fatal
encounters between natives and French and English recruiting-crews (for
the French are in the business for the plantations of New Caledonia),
that one is almost persuaded that recruiting is not thoroughly popular
among the islanders; else why this bristling string of attacks and
bloodcurdling slaughter? The captain lays it all to "Exeter Hall
influence." But for the meddling philanthropists, the native fathers and
mothers would be fond of seeing their children carted into exile and now
and then the grave, instead of weeping about it and trying to kill the
He was as shy as a newspaper is when referring to its own merits.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Captain Wawn is crystal-clear on one point: He does not approve of
missionaries. They obstruct his business. They make "Recruiting," as he
calls it ("Slave-Catching," as they call it in their frank way) a trouble
when it ought to be just a picnic and a pleasure excursion. The
missionaries have their opinion about the manner in which the Labor
Traffic is conducted, and about the recruiter's evasions of the law of
the Traffic, and about the traffic itself--and it is distinctly
uncomplimentary to the Traffic and to everything connected with it,
including the law for its regulation. Captain Wawn's book is of very
recent date; I have by me a pamphlet of still later date--hot from the
press, in fact--by Rev. Wm. Gray, a missionary; and the book and the
pamphlet taken together make exceedingly interesting reading, to my mind.
Interesting, and easy to understand--except in one detail, which I will
mention presently. It is easy to understand why the Queensland sugar
planter should want the Kanaka recruit: he is cheap. Very cheap, in
fact. These are the figures paid by the planter: L20 to the recruiter
for getting the Kanaka or "catching" him, as the missionary phrase goes;
L3 to the Queensland government for "superintending" the importation; L5
deposited with the Government for the Kanaka's passage home when his
three years are up, in case he shall live that long; about L25 to the
Kanaka himself for three years' wages and clothing; total payment for the
use of a man three years, L53; or, including diet, L60. Altogether, a
hundred dollars a year. One can understand why the recruiter is fond of
the business; the recruit costs him a few cheap presents (given to the
recruit's relatives, not himself), and the recruit is worth L20 to the
recruiter when delivered in Queensland. All this is clear enough; but
the thing that is not clear is, what there is about it all to persuade
the recruit. He is young and brisk; life at home in his beautiful island
is one lazy, long holiday to him; or if he wants to work he can turn out
a couple of bags of copra per week and sell it for four or five shillings
a bag. In Queensland he must get up at dawn and work from eight to
twelve hours a day in the canefields--in a much hotter climate than he is
used to--and get less than four shillings a week for it.
I cannot understand his willingness to go to Queensland. It is a deep
puzzle to me. Here is the explanation, from the planter's point of view;
at least I gather from the missionary's pamphlet that it is the
"When he comes from his home he is a savage, pure and simple. He
feels no shame at his nakedness and want of adornment. When he
returns home he does so well dressed, sporting a Waterbury watch,
collars, cuffs, boots, and jewelry. He takes with him one or more
boxes--["Box" is English for trunk.]--well filled with clothing, a
musical instrument or two, and perfumery and other articles of
luxury he has learned to appreciate."
For just one moment we have a seeming flash of comprehension of, the
Kanaka's reason for exiling himself: he goes away to acquire
civilization. Yes, he was naked and not ashamed, now he is clothed and
knows how to be ashamed; he was unenlightened; now he has a Waterbury
watch; he was unrefined, now he has jewelry, and something to make him
smell good; he was a nobody, a provincial, now he has been to far
countries and can show off.
It all looks plausible--for a moment. Then the missionary takes hold of
this explanation and pulls it to pieces, and dances on it, and damages it
"Admitting that the foregoing description is the average one, the
average sequel is this: The cuffs and collars, if used at all, are
carried off by youngsters, who fasten them round the leg, just below
the knee, as ornaments. The Waterbury, broken and dirty, finds its
way to the trader, who gives a trifle for it; or the inside is taken
out, the wheels strung on a thread and hung round the neck. Knives,
axes, calico, and handkerchiefs are divided among friends, and there
is hardly one of these apiece. The boxes, the keys often lost on
the road home, can be bought for 2s. 6d. They are to be seen
rotting outside in almost any shore village on Tanna. (I speak of
what I have seen.) A returned Kanaka has been furiously angry with
me because I would not buy his trousers, which he declared were just
my fit. He sold them afterwards to one of my Aniwan teachers for
9d. worth of tobacco--a pair of trousers that probably cost him 8s.
or 10s. in Queensland. A coat or shirt is handy for cold weather.
The white handkerchiefs, the 'senet' (perfumery), the umbrella, and
perhaps the hat, are kept. The boots have to take their chance, if
they do not happen to fit the copra trader. 'Senet' on the hair,
streaks of paint on the face, a dirty white handkerchief round the
neck, strips of turtle shell in the ears, a belt, a sheath and
knife, and an umbrella constitute the rig of returned Kanaka at home
the day after landing."
A hat, an umbrella, a belt, a neckerchief. Otherwise stark naked. All
in a day the hard-earned "civilization" has melted away to this. And
even these perishable things must presently go. Indeed, there is but a
single detail of his civilization that can be depended on to stay by him:
according to the missionary, he has learned to swear. This is art, and
art is long, as the poet says.
In all countries the laws throw light upon the past. The Queensland law
for the regulation of the Labor Traffic is a confession. It is a
confession that the evils charged by the missionaries upon the traffic
had existed in the past, and that they still existed when the law was
made. The missionaries make a further charge: that the law is evaded by
the recruiters, and that the Government Agent sometimes helps them to do
it. Regulation 31 reveals two things: that sometimes a young fool of a
recruit gets his senses back, after being persuaded to sign away his
liberty for three years, and dearly wants to get out of the engagement
and stay at home with his own people; and that threats, intimidation, and
force are used to keep him on board the recruiting-ship, and to hold him
to his contract. Regulation 31 forbids these coercions. The law
requires that he shall be allowed to go free; and another clause of it
requires the recruiter to set him ashore--per boat, because of the
prevalence of sharks. Testimony from Rev. Mr. Gray:
"There are 'wrinkles' for taking the penitent Kanaka. My first
experience of the Traffic was a case of this kind in 1884. A vessel
anchored just out of sight of our station, word was brought to me
that some boys were stolen, and the relatives wished me to go and
get them back. The facts were, as I found, that six boys had
recruited, had rushed into the boat, the Government Agent informed
me. They had all 'signed'; and, said the Government Agent, 'on
board they shall remain.' I was assured that the six boys were of
age and willing to go. Yet on getting ready to leave the ship I
found four of the lads ready to come ashore in the boat! This I
forbade. One of them jumped into the water and persisted in coming
ashore in my boat. When appealed to, the Government Agent suggested
that we go and leave him to be picked up by the ship's boat, a
quarter mile distant at the time!"
The law and the missionaries feel for the repentant recruit--and
properly, one may be permitted to think, for he is only a youth and
ignorant and persuadable to his hurt--but sympathy for him is not kept in
stock by the recruiter. Rev. Mr. Gray says:
"A captain many years in the traffic explained to me how a penitent
could betaken. 'When a boy jumps overboard we just take a boat and
pull ahead of him, then lie between him and the shore. If he has
not tired himself swimming, and passes the boat, keep on heading him
in this way. The dodge rarely fails. The boy generally tires of
swimming, gets into the boat of his own accord, and goes quietly on
Yes, exhaustion is likely to make a boy quiet. If the distressed boy had
been the speaker's son, and the captors savages, the speaker would have
been surprised to see how differently the thing looked from the new point
of view; however, it is not our custom to put ourselves in the other
person's place. Somehow there is something pathetic about that
disappointed young savage's resignation. I must explain, here, that in
the traffic dialect, "boy" does not always mean boy; it means a youth
above sixteen years of age. That is by Queensland law the age of
consent, though it is held that recruiters allow themselves some latitude
in guessing at ages.
Captain Wawn of the free spirit chafes under the annoyance of "cast-iron
regulations." They and the missionaries have poisoned his life. He
grieves for the good old days, vanished to come no more. See him weep;
hear him cuss between the lines!
"For a long time we were allowed to apprehend and detain all
deserters who had signed the agreement on board ship, but the
'cast-iron' regulations of the Act of 1884 put a stop to that,
allowing the Kanaka to sign the agreement for three years' service,
travel about in the ship in receipt of the regular rations, cadge
all he could, and leave when he thought fit, so long as he did not
extend his pleasure trip to Queensland."
Rev. Mr. Gray calls this same restrictive cast-iron law a "farce." "There
is as much cruelty and injustice done to natives by acts that are legal
as by deeds unlawful. The regulations that exist are unjust and
inadequate--unjust and inadequate they must ever be." He furnishes his
reasons for his position, but they are too long for reproduction here.
However, if the most a Kanaka advantages himself by a three-years course
in civilization in Queensland, is a necklace and an umbrella and a showy
imperfection in the art of swearing, it must be that all the profit of
the traffic goes to the white man. This could be twisted into a
plausible argument that the traffic ought to be squarely abolished.
However, there is reason for hope that that can be left alone to achieve
itself. It is claimed that the traffic will depopulate its sources of
supply within the next twenty or thirty years. Queensland is a very
healthy place for white people--death-rate 12 in 1,000 of the population
--but the Kanaka death-rate is away above that. The vital statistics for
1893 place it at 52; for 1894 (Mackay district), 68. The first six
months of the Kanaka's exile are peculiarly perilous for him because of
the rigors of the new climate. The death-rate among the new men has
reached as high as 180 in the 1,000. In the Kanaka's native home his
death-rate is 12 in time of peace, and 15 in time of war. Thus exile to
Queensland--with the opportunity to acquire civilization, an umbrella,
and a pretty poor quality of profanity--is twelve times as deadly for him
as war. Common Christian charity, common humanity, does seem to require,
not only that these people be returned to their homes, but that war,
pestilence, and famine be introduced among them for their preservation.
Concerning these Pacific isles and their peoples an eloquent prophet
spoke long years ago--five and fifty years ago. In fact, he spoke a
little too early. Prophecy is a good line of business, but it is full of
risks. This prophet was the Right Rev. M. Russell, LL.D., D.C.L., of
"Is the tide of civilization to roll only to the foot of the Rocky
Mountains, and is the sun of knowledge to set at last in the waves
of the Pacific? No; the mighty day of four thousand years is
drawing to its close; the sun of humanity has performed its destined
course; but long ere its setting rays are extinguished in the west,
its ascending beams have glittered on the isles of the eastern seas
. . . . And now we see the race of Japhet setting forth to
people the isles, and the seeds of another Europe and a second
England sown in the regions of the sun. But mark the words of the
prophecy: 'He shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be
his servant.' It is not said Canaan shall be his slave. To the
Anglo-Saxon race is given the scepter of the globe, but there is not
given either the lash of the slave-driver or the rack of the
executioner. The East will not be stained with the same atrocities
as the West; the frightful gangrene of an enthralled race is not to
mar the destinies of the family of Japhet in the Oriental world;
humanizing, not destroying, as they advance; uniting with, not
enslaving, the inhabitants with whom they dwell, the British race
may," etc., etc.
And he closes his vision with an invocation from Thomson:
"Come, bright Improvement! on the car of Time,
And rule the spacious world from clime to clime."
Very well, Bright Improvement has arrived, you see, with her
civilization, and her Waterbury, and her umbrella, and her third-quality
profanity, and her humanizing-not-destroying machinery, and her
hundred-and-eighty death-rate, and everything is going along just as
But the prophet that speaks last has an advantage over the pioneer in the
business. Rev. Mr. Gray says:
"What I am concerned about is that we as a Christian nation should
wipe out these races to enrich ourselves."
And he closes his pamphlet with a grim Indictment which is as eloquent in
its flowerless straightforward English as is the hand-painted rhapsody of
the early prophet:
"My indictment of the Queensland-Kanaka Labor Traffic is this
"1. It generally demoralizes and always impoverishes the Kanaka,
deprives him of his citizenship, and depopulates the islands fitted
to his home.
"2. It is felt to lower the dignity of the white agricultural
laborer in Queensland, and beyond a doubt it lowers his wages there.
"3. The whole system is fraught with danger to Australia and the
islands on the score of health.
"4. On social and political grounds the continuance of the
Queensland Kanaka Labor Traffic must be a barrier to the true
federation of the Australian colonies.
"5. The Regulations under which the Traffic exists in Queensland are
inadequate to prevent abuses, and in the nature of things they must
"6. The whole system is contrary to the spirit and doctrine of the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel requires us to help the weak,
but the Kanaka is fleeced and trodden down.
"7. The bed-rock of this Traffic is that the life and liberty of a
black man are of less value than those of a white man. And a
Traffic that has grown out of 'slave-hunting' will certainly remain
to the end not unlike its origin."
Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
From Diary:--For a day or two we have been plowing among an invisible
vast wilderness of islands, catching now and then a shadowy glimpse of a
member of it. There does seem to be a prodigious lot of islands this
year; the map of this region is freckled and fly-specked all over with
them. Their number would seem to be uncountable. We are moving among
the Fijis now--224 islands and islets in the group. In front of us, to
the west, the wilderness stretches toward Australia, then curves upward
to New Guinea, and still up and up to Japan; behind us, to the east, the
wilderness stretches sixty degrees across the wastes of the Pacific;
south of us is New Zealand. Somewhere or other among these myriads Samoa
is concealed, and not discoverable on the map. Still, if you wish to go
there, you will have no trouble about finding it if you follow the
directions given by Robert Louis Stevenson to Dr. Conan Doyle and to Mr.
J. M. Barrie. "You go to America, cross the continent to San Francisco,
and then it's the second turning to the left." To get the full flavor of
the joke one must take a glance at the map.
Wednesday, September 11.--Yesterday we passed close to an island or so,
and recognized the published Fiji characteristics: a broad belt of clean
white coral sand around the island; back of it a graceful fringe of
leaning palms, with native huts nestling cosily among the shrubbery at
their bases; back of these a stretch of level land clothed in tropic
vegetation; back of that, rugged and picturesque mountains. A detail
of the immediate foreground: a mouldering ship perched high up on a
reef-bench. This completes the composition, and makes the picture
In the afternoon we sighted Suva, the capital of the group, and threaded
our way into the secluded little harbor--a placid basin of brilliant blue
and green water tucked snugly in among the sheltering hills. A few ships
rode at anchor in it--one of them a sailing vessel flying the American
flag; and they said she came from Duluth! There's a journey! Duluth is
several thousand miles from the sea, and yet she is entitled to the proud
name of Mistress of the Commercial Marine of the United States of
America. There is only one free, independent, unsubsidized American ship
sailing the foreign seas, and Duluth owns it. All by itself that ship is
the American fleet. All by itself it causes the American name and power
to be respected in the far regions of the globe. All by itself it
certifies to the world that the most populous civilized nation, in the
earth has a just pride in her stupendous stretch of sea-front, and is
determined to assert and maintain her rightful place as one of the Great
Maritime Powers of the Planet. All by itself it is making foreign eyes
familiar with a Flag which they have not seen before for forty years,
outside of the museum. For what Duluth has done, in building, equipping,
and maintaining at her sole expense the American Foreign Commercial
Fleet, and in thus rescuing the American name from shame and lifting it
high for the homage of the nations, we owe her a debt of gratitude which
our hearts shall confess with quickened beats whenever her name is named
henceforth. Many national toasts will die in the lapse of time, but
while the flag flies and the Republic survives, they who live under their
shelter will still drink this one, standing and uncovered: Health and
prosperity to Thee, O Duluth, American Queen of the Alien Seas!
Row-boats began to flock from the shore; their crews were the first
natives we had seen. These men carried no overplus of clothing, and this
was wise, for the weather was hot. Handsome, great dusky men they were,
muscular, clean-limbed, and with faces full of character and
intelligence. It would be hard to find their superiors anywhere among
the dark races, I should think.
Everybody went ashore to look around, and spy out the land, and have that
luxury of luxuries to sea-voyagers--a land-dinner. And there we saw more
natives: Wrinkled old women, with their flat mammals flung over their
shoulders, or hanging down in front like the cold-weather drip from the
molasses-faucet; plump and smily young girls, blithe and content, easy
and graceful, a pleasure to look at; young matrons, tall, straight,
comely, nobly built, sweeping by with chin up, and a gait incomparable
for unconscious stateliness and dignity; majestic young men athletes for
build and muscle clothed in a loose arrangement of dazzling white, with
bronze breast and bronze legs naked, and the head a cannon-swab of solid
hair combed straight out from the skull and dyed a rich brick-red. Only
sixty years ago they were sunk in darkness; now they have the bicycle.
We strolled about the streets of the white folks' little town, and around
over the hills by paths and roads among European dwellings and gardens
and plantations, and past clumps of hibiscus that made a body blink, the
great blossoms were so intensely red; and by and by we stopped to ask an
elderly English colonist a question or two, and to sympathize with him
concerning the torrid weather; but he was surprised, and said:
"This? This is not hot. You ought to be here in the summer time once."
"We supposed that this was summer; it has the ear-marks of it. You could
take it to almost any country and deceive people with it. But if it
isn't summer, what does it lack?"
"It lacks half a year. This is mid-winter."
I had been suffering from colds for several months, and a sudden change
of season, like this, could hardly fail to do me hurt. It brought on
another cold. It is odd, these sudden jumps from season to season. A
fortnight ago we left America in mid-summer, now it is midwinter; about a
week hence we shall arrive in Australia in the spring.
After dinner I found in the billiard-room a resident whom I had known
somewhere else in the world, and presently made, some new friends and
drove with them out into the country to visit his Excellency the head of
the State, who was occupying his country residence, to escape the rigors
of the winter weather, I suppose, for it was on breezy high ground and
much more comfortable than the lower regions, where the town is, and
where the winter has full swing, and often sets a person's hair afire
when he takes off his hat to bow. There is a noble and beautiful view of
ocean and islands and castellated peaks from the governor's high-placed
house, and its immediate surroundings lie drowsing in that dreamy repose
and serenity which are the charm of life in the Pacific Islands.
One of the new friends who went out there with me was a large man, and I
had been admiring his size all the way. I was still admiring it as he
stood by the governor on the veranda, talking; then the Fijian butler
stepped out there to announce tea, and dwarfed him. Maybe he did not
quite dwarf him, but at any rate the contrast was quite striking.
Perhaps that dark giant was a king in a condition of political
suspension. I think that in the talk there on the veranda it was said
that in Fiji, as in the Sandwich Islands, native kings and chiefs are of
much grander size and build than the commoners. This man was clothed in
flowing white vestments, and they were just the thing for him; they
comported well with his great stature and his kingly port and dignity.
European clothes would have degraded him and made him commonplace. I
know that, because they do that with everybody that wears them.
It was said that the old-time devotion to chiefs and reverence for their
persons still survive in the native commoner, and in great force. The
educated young gentleman who is chief of the tribe that live in the
region about the capital dresses in the fashion of high-class European
gentlemen, but even his clothes cannot damn him in the reverence of his
people. Their pride in his lofty rank and ancient lineage lives on, in
spite of his lost authority and the evil magic of his tailor. He has no
need to defile himself with work, or trouble his heart with the sordid
cares of life; the tribe will see to it that he shall not want, and that
he shall hold up his head and live like a gentleman. I had a glimpse of
him down in the town. Perhaps he is a descendant of the last king--the
king with the difficult name whose memory is preserved by a notable
monument of cut-stone which one sees in the enclosure in the middle of
the town. Thakombau--I remember, now; that is the name. It is easier to
preserve it on a granite block than in your head.
Fiji was ceded to England by this king in 1858. One of the gentlemen
present at the governor's quoted a remark made by the king at the time of
the session--a neat retort, and with a touch of pathos in it, too. The
English Commissioner had offered a crumb of comfort to Thakombau by
saying that the transfer of the kingdom to Great Britain was merely "a
sort of hermit-crab formality, you know." "Yes," said poor Thakombau,
"but with this difference--the crab moves into an unoccupied shell, but
However, as far as I can make out from the books, the King was between
the devil and the deep sea at the time, and hadn't much choice. He owed
the United States a large debt--a debt which he could pay if allowed
time, but time was denied him. He must pay up right away or the warships
would be upon him. To protect his people from this disaster he ceded his
country to Britain, with a clause in the contract providing for the
ultimate payment of the American debt.
In old times the Fijians were fierce fighters; they were very religious,
and worshiped idols; the big chiefs were proud and haughty, and they were
men of great style in many ways; all chiefs had several wives, the
biggest chiefs sometimes had as many as fifty; when a chief was dead and
ready for burial, four or five of his wives were strangled and put into
the grave with him. In 1804 twenty-seven British convicts escaped from
Australia to Fiji, and brought guns and ammunition with them. Consider
what a power they were, armed like that, and what an opportunity they
had. If they had been energetic men and sober, and had had brains and
known how to use them, they could have achieved the sovereignty of the
archipelago twenty-seven kings and each with eight or nine islands under
his scepter. But nothing came of this chance. They lived worthless
lives of sin and luxury, and died without honor--in most cases by
violence. Only one of them had any ambition; he was an Irishman named
Connor. He tried to raise a family of fifty children, and scored
forty-eight. He died lamenting his failure. It was a foolish sort
of avarice. Many a father would have been rich enough with forty.
It is a fine race, the Fijians, with brains in their heads, and an
inquiring turn of mind. It appears that their savage ancestors had a
doctrine of immortality in their scheme of religion--with limitations.
That is to say, their dead friend would go to a happy hereafter if he
could be accumulated, but not otherwise. They drew the line; they
thought that the missionary's doctrine was too sweeping, too
comprehensive. They called his attention to certain facts. For
instance, many of their friends had been devoured by sharks; the sharks,
in their turn, were caught and eaten by other men; later, these men were
captured in war, and eaten by the enemy. The original persons had
entered into the composition of the sharks; next, they and the sharks had
become part of the flesh and blood and bone of the cannibals. How, then,
could the particles of the original men be searched out from the final
conglomerate and put together again? The inquirers were full of doubts,
and considered that the missionary had not examined the matter with--the
gravity and attention which so serious a thing deserved.
The missionary taught these exacting savages many valuable things, and
got from them one--a very dainty and poetical idea: Those wild and
ignorant poor children of Nature believed that the flowers, after they
perish, rise on the winds and float away to the fair fields of heaven,
and flourish there forever in immortal beauty!
It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no
distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
When one glances at the map the members of the stupendous island
wilderness of the Pacific seem to crowd upon each other; but no, there is
no crowding, even in the center of a group; and between groups there are
lonely wide deserts of sea. Not everything is known about the islands,
their peoples and their languages. A startling reminder of this is
furnished by the fact that in Fiji, twenty years ago, were living two
strange and solitary beings who came from an unknown country and spoke an
unknown language. "They were picked up by a passing vessel many hundreds
of miles from any known land, floating in the same tiny canoe in which
they had been blown out to sea. When found they were but skin and bone.
No one could understand what they said, and they have never named their
country; or, if they have, the name does not correspond with that of any
island on any chart. They are now fat and sleek, and as happy as the day
is long. In the ship's log there is an entry of the latitude and
longitude in which they were found, and this is probably all the clue
they will ever have to their lost homes."--[Forbes's "Two Years in
What a strange and romantic episode it is; and how one is tortured with
curiosity to know whence those mysterious creatures came, those Men
Without a Country, errant waifs who cannot name their lost home,
wandering Children of Nowhere.
Indeed, the Island Wilderness is the very home of romance and dreams and
mystery. The loneliness, the solemnity, the beauty, and the deep repose
of this wilderness have a charm which is all their own for the bruised
spirit of men who have fought and failed in the struggle for life in the
great world; and for men who have been hunted out of the great world for
crime; and for other men who love an easy and indolent existence; and for
others who love a roving free life, and stir and change and adventure;
and for yet others who love an easy and comfortable career of trading and
money-getting, mixed with plenty of loose matrimony by purchase, divorce
without trial or expense, and limitless spreeing thrown in to make life
We sailed again, refreshed.
The most cultivated person in the ship was a young English, man whose
home was in New Zealand. He was a naturalist. His learning in his
specialty was deep and thorough, his interest in his subject amounted to
a passion, he had an easy gift of speech; and so, when he talked about
animals it was a pleasure to listen to him. And profitable, too, though
he was sometimes difficult to understand because now and then he used
scientific technicalities which were above the reach of some of us. They
were pretty sure to be above my reach, but as he was quite willing to
explain them I always made it a point to get him to do it. I had a fair
knowledge of his subject--layman's knowledge--to begin with, but it was
his teachings which crystalized it into scientific form and clarity--in a
word, gave it value.
His special interest was the fauna of Australasia, and his knowledge of
the matter was as exhaustive as it was accurate. I already knew a good
deal about the rabbits in Australasia and their marvelous fecundity, but
in my talks with him I found that my estimate of the great hindrance and
obstruction inflicted by the rabbit pest upon traffic and travel was far
short of the facts. He told me that the first pair of rabbits imported
into Australasia bred so wonderfully that within six months rabbits were
so thick in the land that people had to dig trenches through them to get
from town to town.
He told me a great deal about worms, and the kangaroo, and other
coleoptera, and said he knew the history and ways of all such
pachydermata. He said the kangaroo had pockets, and carried its young in
them when it couldn't get apples. And he said that the emu was as big as
an ostrich, and looked like one, and had an amorphous appetite and would
eat bricks. Also, that the dingo was not a dingo at all, but just a wild
dog; and that the only difference between a dingo and a dodo was that
neither of them barked; otherwise they were just the same. He said that
the only game-bird in Australia was the wombat, and the only song-bird
the larrikin, and that both were protected by government. The most
beautiful of the native birds was the bird of Paradise. Next came the
two kinds of lyres; not spelt the same. He said the one kind was dying
out, the other thickening up. He explained that the "Sundowner" was not
a bird it was a man; sundowner was merely the Australian equivalent of
our word, tramp. He is a loafer, a hard drinker, and a sponge. He
tramps across the country in the sheep-shearing season, pretending to
look for work; but he always times himself to arrive at a sheep-run just
at sundown, when the day's labor ends; all he wants is whisky and supper
and bed and breakfast; he gets them and then disappears. The naturalist
spoke of the bell bird, the creature that at short intervals all day
rings out its mellow and exquisite peal from the deeps of the forest. It
is the favorite and best friend of the weary and thirsty sundowner; for
he knows that wherever the bell bird is, there is water; and he goes
somewhere else. The naturalist said that the oddest bird in Australasia
was the, Laughing Jackass, and the biggest the now extinct Great Moa.
The Moa stood thirteen feet high, and could step over an ordinary man's
head or kick his hat off; and his head, too, for that matter. He said it
was wingless, but a swift runner. The natives used to ride it. It could
make forty miles an hour, and keep it up for four hundred miles and come
out reasonably fresh. It was still in existence when the railway was
introduced into New Zealand; still in existence, and carrying the mails.
The railroad began with the same schedule it has now: two expresses a
week-time, twenty miles an hour. The company exterminated the moa to get
Speaking of the indigenous coneys and bactrian camels, the naturalist
said that the coniferous and bacteriological output of Australasia was
remarkable for its many and curious departures from the accepted laws
governing these species of tubercles, but that in his opinion Nature's
fondness for dabbling in the erratic was most notably exhibited in that
curious combination of bird, fish, amphibian, burrower, crawler,
quadruped, and Christian called the Ornithorhynchus--grotesquest of
animals, king of the animalculae of the world for versatility of
character and make-up. Said he:
"You can call it anything you want to, and be right. It is a fish,
for it lives in the river half the time; it is a land animal, for it
resides on the land half the time; it is an amphibian, since it
likes both and does not know which it prefers; it is a hybernian,
for when times are dull and nothing much going on it buries itself
under the mud at the bottom of a puddle and hybernates there a
couple of weeks at a time; it is a kind of duck, for it has a
duck-bill and four webbed paddles; it is a fish and quadruped
together, for in the water it swims with the paddles and on shore it
paws itself across country with them; it is a kind of seal, for it
has a seal's fur; it is carnivorous, herbivorous, insectivorous, and
vermifuginous, for it eats fish and grass and butterflies, and in
the season digs worms out of the mud and devours them; it is clearly
a bird, for it lays eggs, and hatches them; it is clearly a mammal,
for it nurses its young; and it is manifestly a kind of Christian,
for it keeps the Sabbath when there is anybody around, and when
there isn't, doesn't. It has all the tastes there are except
refined ones, it has all the habits there are except good ones.
"It is a survival--a survival of the fittest. Mr. Darwin invented
the theory that goes by that name, but the Ornithorhynchus was the
first to put it to actual experiment and prove that it could be
done. Hence it should have as much of the credit as Mr. Darwin.
It was never in the Ark; you will find no mention of it there; it
nobly stayed out and worked the theory. Of all creatures in the
world it was the only one properly equipped for the test. The Ark
was thirteen months afloat, and all the globe submerged; no land
visible above the flood, no vegetation, no food for a mammal to eat,
nor water for a mammal to drink; for all mammal food was destroyed,
and when the pure floods from heaven and the salt oceans of the
earth mingled their waters and rose above the mountain tops, the
result was a drink which no bird or beast of ordinary construction
could use and live. But this combination was nuts for the
Ornithorhynchus, if I may use a term like that without offense.
Its river home had always been salted by the flood-tides of the sea.
On the face of the Noachian deluge innumerable forest trees were
floating. Upon these the Ornithorhynchus voyaged in peace; voyaged
from clime to clime, from hemisphere to hemisphere, in contentment
and comfort, in virile interest in the constant change Of scene, in
humble thankfulness for its privileges, in ever-increasing
enthusiasm in the development of the great theory upon whose
validity it had staked its life, its fortunes, and its sacred honor,
if I may use such expressions without impropriety in connection with
an episode of this nature.
"It lived the tranquil and luxurious life of a creature of
independent means. Of things actually necessary to its existence
and its happiness not a detail was wanting. When it wished to walk,
it scrambled along the tree-trunk; it mused in the shade of the
leaves by day, it slept in their shelter by night; when it wanted
the refreshment of a swim, it had it; it ate leaves when it wanted a
vegetable diet, it dug under the bark for worms and grubs; when it
wanted fish it caught them, when it wanted eggs it laid them. If
the grubs gave out in one tree it swam to another; and as for fish,
the very opulence of the supply was an embarrassment. And finally,
when it was thirsty it smacked its chops in gratitude over a blend
that would have slain a crocodile.
"When at last, after thirteen months of travel and research in all
the Zones it went aground on a mountain-summit, it strode ashore,
saying in its heart, 'Let them that come after me invent theories
and dream dreams about the Survival of the Fittest if they like, but
I am the first that has done it!
"This wonderful creature dates back like the kangaroo and many other
Australian hydrocephalous invertebrates, to an age long anterior to
the advent of man upon the earth; they date back, indeed, to a time
when a causeway hundreds of miles wide, and thousands of miles long,
joined Australia to Africa, and the animals of the two countries
were alike, and all belonged to that remote geological epoch known
to science as the Old Red Grindstone Post-Pleosaurian. Later the
causeway sank under the sea; subterranean convulsions lifted the
African continent a thousand feet higher than it was before, but
Australia kept her old level. In Africa's new climate the animals
necessarily began to develop and shade off into new forms and
families and species, but the animals of Australia as necessarily
remained stationary, and have so remained until this day. In the
course of some millions of years the African Ornithorhynchus
developed and developed and developed, and sluffed off detail after
detail of its make-up until at last the creature became wholly
disintegrated and scattered. Whenever you see a bird or a beast or
a seal or an otter in Africa you know that he is merely a sorry
surviving fragment of that sublime original of whom I have been
speaking--that creature which was everything in general and nothing
in particular--the opulently endowed 'e pluribus unum' of the animal
"Such is the history of the most hoary, the most ancient, the most
venerable creature that exists in the earth today--Ornithorhynchus
Platypus Extraordinariensis--whom God preserve!"
When he was strongly moved he could rise and soar like that with ease.
And not only in the prose form, but in the poetical as well. He had
written many pieces of poetry in his time, and these manuscripts he lent
around among the passengers, and was willing to let them be copied. It
seemed to me that the least technical one in the series, and the one
which reached the loftiest note, perhaps, was his:
"Come forth from thy oozy couch,
O Ornithorhynchus dear!
And greet with a cordial claw
The stranger that longs to hear
"From thy own own lips the tale
Of thy origin all unknown:
Thy misplaced bone where flesh should be
And flesh where should be bone;
"And fishy fin where should be paw,
And beaver-trowel tail,
And snout of beast equip'd with teeth
Where gills ought to prevail.
"Come, Kangaroo, the good and true
Foreshortened as to legs,
And body tapered like a churn,
And sack marsupial, i' fegs,
"And tells us why you linger here,
Thou relic of a vanished time,
When all your friends as fossils sleep,
Immortalized in lime!"
Perhaps no poet is a conscious plagiarist; but there seems to be warrant
for suspecting that there is no poet who is not at one time or another an
unconscious one. The above verses are indeed beautiful, and, in a way,
touching; but there is a haunting something about them which unavoidably
suggests the Sweet Singer of Michigan. It can hardly be doubted that the
author had read the works of that poet and been impressed by them. It is
not apparent that he has borrowed from them any word or yet any phrase,
but the style and swing and mastery and melody of the Sweet Singer all
are there. Compare this Invocation with "Frank Dutton"--particularly
stanzas first and seventeenth--and I think the reader will feel convinced
that he who wrote the one had read the other:
"Frank Dutton was as fine a lad
As ever you wish to see,
And he was drowned in Pine Island Lake
On earth no more will he be,
His age was near fifteen years,
And he was a motherless boy,
He was living with his grandmother
When he was drowned, poor boy."
"He was drowned on Tuesday afternoon,
On Sunday he was found,
And the tidings of that drowned boy
Was heard for miles around.
His form was laid by his mother's side,
Beneath the cold, cold ground,
His friends for him will drop a tear
When they view his little mound."
The Sentimental Song Book. By Mrs. Julia Moore, p. 36.
It is your human environment that makes climate.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Sept. 15--Night. Close to Australia now. Sydney 50 miles distant.
That note recalls an experience. The passengers were sent for, to come
up in the bow and see a fine sight. It was very dark. One could not
follow with the eye the surface of the sea more than fifty yards in any
direction it dimmed away and became lost to sight at about that distance
from us. But if you patiently gazed into the darkness a little while,
there was a sure reward for you. Presently, a quarter of a mile away you
would see a blinding splash or explosion of light on the water--a flash
so sudden and so astonishingly brilliant that it would make you catch
your breath; then that blotch of light would instantly extend itself and
take the corkscrew shape and imposing length of the fabled sea-serpent,
with every curve of its body and the "break" spreading away from its
head, and the wake following behind its tail clothed in a fierce splendor
of living fire. And my, but it was coming at a lightning gait! Almost
before you could think, this monster of light, fifty feet long, would go
flaming and storming by, and suddenly disappear. And out in the distance
whence he came you would see another flash; and another and another and
another, and see them turn into sea-serpents on the instant; and once
sixteen flashed up at the same time and came tearing towards us, a swarm
of wiggling curves, a moving conflagration, a vision of bewildering
beauty, a spectacle of fire and energy whose equal the most of those
people will not see again until after they are dead.
It was porpoises--porpoises aglow with phosphorescent light. They
presently collected in a wild and magnificent jumble under the bows, and
there they played for an hour, leaping and frollicking and carrying on,
turning summersaults in front of the stem or across it and never getting
hit, never making a miscalculation, though the stem missed them only
about an inch, as a rule. They were porpoises of the ordinary length
--eight or ten feet--but every twist of their bodies sent a long
procession of united and glowing curves astern. That fiery jumble was
an enchanting thing to look at, and we stayed out the performance; one
cannot have such a show as that twice in a lifetime. The porpoise is the
kitten of the sea; he never has a serious thought, he cares for nothing
but fun and play. But I think I never saw him at his winsomest until
that night. It was near a center of civilization, and he could have been
By and by, when we had approached to somewhere within thirty miles of
Sydney Heads the great electric light that is posted on one of those
lofty ramparts began to show, and in time the little spark grew to a
great sun and pierced the firmament of darkness with a far-reaching sword
Sydney Harbor is shut in behind a precipice that extends some miles like
a wall, and exhibits no break to the ignorant stranger. It has a break
in the middle, but it makes so little show that even Captain Cook sailed
by it without seeing it. Near by that break is a false break which
resembles it, and which used to make trouble for the mariner at night, in
the early days before the place was lighted. It caused the memorable
disaster to the Duncan Dunbar, one of the most pathetic tragedies in the
history of that pitiless ruffian, the sea. The ship was a sailing
vessel; a fine and favorite passenger packet, commanded by a popular
captain of high reputation. She was due from England, and Sydney was
waiting, and counting the hours; counting the hours, and making ready to
give her a heart-stirring welcome; for she was bringing back a great
company of mothers and daughters, the long-missed light and bloom of life
of Sydney homes; daughters that had been years absent at school, and
mothers that had been with them all that time watching over them. Of all
the world only India and Australasia have by custom freighted ships and
fleets with their hearts, and know the tremendous meaning of that phrase;
only they know what the waiting is like when this freightage is entrusted
to the fickle winds, not steam, and what the joy is like when the ship
that is returning this treasure comes safe to port and the long dread is
On board the Duncan Dunbar, flying toward Sydney Heads in the waning
afternoon, the happy home-comers made busy preparation, for it was not
doubted that they would be in the arms of their friends before the day
was done; they put away their sea-going clothes and put on clothes meeter
for the meeting, their richest and their loveliest, these poor brides of
the grave. But the wind lost force, or there was a miscalculation, and
before the Heads were sighted the darkness came on. It was said that
ordinarily the captain would have made a safe offing and waited for the
morning; but this was no ordinary occasion; all about him were appealing
faces, faces pathetic with disappointment. So his sympathy moved him to
try the dangerous passage in the dark. He had entered the Heads
seventeen times, and believed he knew the ground. So he steered straight
for the false opening, mistaking it for the true one. He did not find
out that he was wrong until it was too late. There was no saving the
ship. The great seas swept her in and crushed her to splinters and
rubbish upon the rock tushes at the base of the precipice. Not one of
all that fair and gracious company was ever seen again alive. The tale
is told to every stranger that passes the spot, and it will continue to
be told to all that come, for generations; but it will never grow old,
custom cannot stale it, the heart-break that is in it can never perish
out of it.
There were two hundred persons in the ship, and but one survived the
disaster. He was a sailor. A huge sea flung him up the face of the
precipice and stretched him on a narrow shelf of rock midway between the
top and the bottom, and there he lay all night. At any other time he
would have lain there for the rest of his life, without chance of
discovery; but the next morning the ghastly news swept through Sydney
that the Duncan Dunbar had gone down in sight of home, and straightway
the walls of the Heads were black with mourners; and one of these,
stretching himself out over the precipice to spy out what might be seen
below, discovered this miraculously preserved relic of the wreck. Ropes
were brought and the nearly impossible feat of rescuing the man was
accomplished. He was a person with a practical turn of mind, and he
hired a hall in Sydney and exhibited himself at sixpence a head till he
exhausted the output of the gold fields for that year.
We entered and cast anchor, and in the morning went oh-ing and ah-ing in
admiration up through the crooks and turns of the spacious and beautiful
harbor--a harbor which is the darling of Sydney and the wonder of the
world. It is not surprising that the people are proud of it, nor that
they put their enthusiasm into eloquent words. A returning citizen asked
me what I thought of it, and I testified with a cordiality which I judged
would be up to the market rate. I said it was beautiful--superbly
beautiful. Then by a natural impulse I gave God the praise. The citizen
did not seem altogether satisfied. He said:
"It is beautiful, of course it's beautiful--the Harbor; but that isn't
all of it, it's only half of it; Sydney's the other half, and it takes
both of them together to ring the supremacy-bell. God made the Harbor,
and that's all right; but Satan made Sydney."
Of course I made an apology; and asked him to convey it to his friend.
He was right about Sydney being half of it. It would be beautiful
without Sydney, but not above half as beautiful as it is now, with Sydney
added. It is shaped somewhat like an oak-leaf-a roomy sheet of lovely
blue water, with narrow off-shoots of water running up into the country
on both sides between long fingers of land, high wooden ridges with sides
sloped like graves. Handsome villas are perched here and there on these
ridges, snuggling amongst the foliage, and one catches alluring glimpses
of them as the ship swims by toward the city. The city clothes a cluster
of hills and a ruffle of neighboring ridges with its undulating masses of
masonry, and out of these masses spring towers and spires and other
architectural dignities and grandeurs that break the flowing lines and
give picturesqueness to the general effect.
The narrow inlets which I have mentioned go wandering out into the land
everywhere and hiding themselves in it, and pleasure-launches are always
exploring them with picnic parties on board. It is said by trustworthy
people that if you explore them all you will find that you have covered
700 miles of water passage. But there are liars everywhere this year,
and they will double that when their works are in good going order.
October was close at hand, spring was come. It was really spring
--everybody said so; but you could have sold it for summer in Canada, and
nobody would have suspected. It was the very weather that makes our home
summers the perfection of climatic luxury; I mean, when you are out in
the wood or by the sea. But these people said it was cool, now--a person
ought to see Sydney in the summer time if he wanted to know what warm
weather is; and he ought to go north ten or fifteen hundred miles if he
wanted to know what hot weather is. They said that away up there toward
the equator the hens laid fried eggs. Sydney is the place to go to get
information about other people's climates. It seems to me that the
occupation of Unbiased Traveler Seeking Information is the pleasantest
and most irresponsible trade there is. The traveler can always find out
anything he wants to, merely by asking. He can get at all the facts, and
more. Everybody helps him, nobody hinders him. Anybody who has an old
fact in stock that is no longer negotiable in the domestic market will
let him have it at his own price. An accumulation of such goods is
easily and quickly made. They cost almost nothing and they bring par in
the foreign market. Travelers who come to America always freight up with
the same old nursery tales that their predecessors selected, and they
carry them back and always work them off without any trouble in the home
If the climates of the world were determined by parallels of latitude,
then we could know a place's climate by its position on the map; and so
we should know that the climate of Sydney was the counterpart of the
climate of Columbia, S. C., and of Little Rock, Arkansas, since Sydney is
about the same distance south of the equator that those other towns are
north of-it-thirty-four degrees. But no, climate disregards the
parallels of latitude. In Arkansas they have a winter; in Sydney they
have the name of it, but not the thing itself. I have seen the ice in
the Mississippi floating past the mouth of the Arkansas river; and at
Memphis, but a little way above, the Mississippi has been frozen over,
from bank to bank. But they have never had a cold spell in Sydney which
brought the mercury down to freezing point. Once in a mid-winter day
there, in the month of July, the mercury went down to 36 deg., and that
remains the memorable "cold day" in the history of the town. No doubt
Little Rock has seen it below zero. Once, in Sydney, in mid-summer,
about New Year's Day, the mercury went up to 106 deg. in the shade, and
that is Sydney's memorable hot day. That would about tally with Little
Rock's hottest day also, I imagine. My Sydney figures are taken from a
government report, and are trustworthy. In the matter of summer weather
Arkansas has no advantage over Sydney, perhaps, but when it comes to
winter weather, that is another affair. You could cut up an Arkansas
winter into a hundred Sydney winters and have enough left for Arkansas
and the poor.
The whole narrow, hilly belt of the Pacific side of New South Wales has
the climate of its capital--a mean winter temperature of 54 deg. and a
mean summer one of 71 deg. It is a climate which cannot be improved upon
for healthfulness. But the experts say that 90 deg. in New South Wales
is harder to bear than 112 deg. in the neighboring colony of Victoria,
because the atmosphere of the former is humid, and of the latter dry.
The mean temperature of the southernmost point of New South Wales is the
same as that of Nice--60 deg.--yet Nice is further from the equator by
460 miles than is the former.
But Nature is always stingy of perfect climates; stingier in the case of
Australia than usual. Apparently this vast continent has a really good
climate nowhere but around the edges.
If we look at a map of the world we are surprised to see how big
Australia is. It is about two-thirds as large as the United States was
before we added Alaska.
But where as one finds a sufficiently good climate and fertile land
almost everywhere in the United States, it seems settled that inside of
the Australian border-belt one finds many deserts and in spots a climate
which nothing can stand except a few of the hardier kinds of rocks. In
effect, Australia is as yet unoccupied. If you take a map of the United
States and leave the Atlantic sea-board States in their places; also the
fringe of Southern States from Florida west to the Mouth of the
Mississippi; also a narrow, inhabited streak up the Mississippi half-way
to its head waters; also a narrow, inhabited border along the Pacific
coast: then take a brushful of paint and obliterate the whole remaining
mighty stretch of country that lies between the Atlantic States and the
Pacific-coast strip, your map will look like the latest map of Australia.
This stupendous blank is hot, not to say torrid; a part of it is fertile,
the rest is desert; it is not liberally watered; it has no towns. One
has only to cross the mountains of New South Wales and descend into the
westward-lying regions to find that he has left the choice climate behind
him, and found a new one of a quite different character. In fact, he
would not know by the thermometer that he was not in the blistering
Plains of India. Captain Sturt, the great explorer, gives us a sample of
"The wind, which had been blowing all the morning from the N.E.,
increased to a heavy gale, and I shall never forget its withering
effect. I sought shelter behind a large gum-tree, but the blasts of
heat were so terrific that I wondered the very grass did not take
fire. This really was nothing ideal: everything both animate and
inanimate gave way before it; the horses stood with their backs to
the wind and their noses to the ground, without the muscular
strength to raise their heads; the birds were mute, and the leaves
of the trees under which we were sitting fell like a snow shower
around us. At noon I took a thermometer graded to 127 deg., out of
my box, and observed that the mercury was up to 125. Thinking that
it had been unduly influenced, I put it in the fork of a tree close
to me, sheltered alike from the wind and the sun. I went to examine
it about an hour afterwards, when I found the mercury had risen to
the-top of the instrument and had burst the bulb, a circumstance
that I believe no traveler has ever before had to record. I cannot
find language to convey to the reader's mind an idea of the intense
and oppressive nature of the heat that prevailed."
That hot wind sweeps over Sydney sometimes, and brings with it what is
called a "dust-storm." It is said that most Australian towns are
acquainted with the dust-storm. I think I know what it is like, for the
following description by Mr. Gape tallies very well with the alkali
duststorm of Nevada, if you leave out the "shovel" part. Still the
shovel part is a pretty important part, and seems to indicate that my
Nevada storm is but a poor thing, after all.
"As we proceeded the altitude became less, and the heat
proportionately greater until we reached Dubbo, which is only 600
feet above sea-level. It is a pretty town, built on an extensive
plain . . . . After the effects of a shower of rain have passed
away the surface of the ground crumbles into a thick layer of dust,
and occasionally, when the wind is in a particular quarter, it is
lifted bodily from the ground in one long opaque cloud. In the
midst of such a storm nothing can be seen a few yards ahead, and the
unlucky person who happens to be out at the time is compelled to
seek the nearest retreat at hand. When the thrifty housewife sees
in the distance the dark column advancing in a steady whirl towards
her house, she closes the doors and windows with all expedition. A
drawing-room, the window of which has been carelessly left open
during a dust-storm, is indeed an extraordinary sight. A lady who
has resided in Dubbo for some years says that the dust lies so thick
on the carpet that it is necessary to use a shovel to remove it."
And probably a wagon. I was mistaken; I have not seen a proper
duststorm. To my mind the exterior aspects and character of Australia
are fascinating things to look at and think about, they are so strange,
so weird, so new, so uncommonplace, such a startling and interesting
contrast to the other sections of the planet, the sections that are known
to us all, familiar to us all. In the matter of particulars--a detail
here, a detail there--we have had the choice climate of New South Wales'
seacoast; we have had the Australian heat as furnished by Captain Sturt;
we have had the wonderful dust-storm; and we have considered the
phenomenon of an almost empty hot wilderness half as big as the United
States, with a narrow belt of civilization, population, and good climate
Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not
joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Captain Cook found Australia in 1770, and eighteen years later the
British Government began to transport convicts to it. Altogether, New
South Wales received 83,000 in 53 years. The convicts wore heavy chains;
they were ill-fed and badly treated by the officers set over them; they
were heavily punished for even slight infractions of the rules; "the
cruelest discipline ever known" is one historian's description of their
life.--[The Story of Australasia. J. S. Laurie.]
English law was hard-hearted in those days. For trifling offenses which
in our day would be punished by a small fine or a few days' confinement,
men, women, and boys were sent to this other end of the earth to serve
terms of seven and fourteen years; and for serious crimes they were
transported for life. Children were sent to the penal colonies for seven
years for stealing a rabbit!
When I was in London twenty-three years ago there was a new penalty in
force for diminishing garroting and wife-beating--25 lashes on the bare
back with the cat-o'-nine-tails. It was said that this terrible
punishment was able to bring the stubbornest ruffians to terms; and that
no man had been found with grit enough to keep his emotions to himself
beyond the ninth blow; as a rule the man shrieked earlier. That penalty
had a great and wholesome effect upon the garroters and wife-beaters; but
humane modern London could not endure it; it got its law rescinded. Many
a bruised and battered English wife has since had occasion to deplore
that cruel achievement of sentimental "humanity."
Twenty-five lashes! In Australia and Tasmania they gave a convict fifty
for almost any little offense; and sometimes a brutal officer would add
fifty, and then another fifty, and so on, as long as the sufferer could
endure the torture and live. In Tasmania I read the entry, in an old
manuscript official record, of a case where a convict was given three
hundred lashes--for stealing some silver spoons. And men got more than
that, sometimes. Who handled the cat? Often it was another convict;
sometimes it was the culprit's dearest comrade; and he had to lay on with
all his might; otherwise he would get a flogging himself for his mercy
--for he was under watch--and yet not do his friend any good: the friend
would be attended to by another hand and suffer no lack in the matter of
The convict life in Tasmania was so unendurable, and suicide so difficult
to accomplish that once or twice despairing men got together and drew
straws to determine which of them should kill another of the group--this
murder to secure death to the perpetrator and to the witnesses of it by
the hand of the hangman!
The incidents quoted above are mere hints, mere suggestions of what
convict life was like--they are but a couple of details tossed into view
out of a shoreless sea of such; or, to change the figure, they are but a
pair of flaming steeples photographed from a point which hides from sight
the burning city which stretches away from their bases on every hand.
Some of the convicts--indeed, a good many of them--were very bad people,
even for that day; but the most of them were probably not noticeably
worse than the average of the people they left behind them at home. We
must believe this; we cannot avoid it. We are obliged to believe that a
nation that could look on, unmoved, and see starving or freezing women
hanged for stealing twenty-six cents' worth of bacon or rags, and boys
snatched from their mothers, and men from their families, and sent to the
other side of the world for long terms of years for similar trifling
offenses, was a nation to whom the term "civilized" could not in any
large way be applied. And we must also believe that a nation that knew,
during more than forty years, what was happening to those exiles and was
still content with it, was not advancing in any showy way toward a higher
grade of civilization.
If we look into the characters and conduct of the officers and gentlemen
who had charge of the convicts and attended to their backs and stomachs,
we must grant again that as between the convict and his masters, and
between both and the nation at home, there was a quite noticeable
monotony of sameness.
Four years had gone by, and many convicts had come. Respectable settlers
were beginning to arrive. These two classes of colonists had to be
protected, in case of trouble among themselves or with the natives. It
is proper to mention the natives, though they could hardly count they
were so scarce. At a time when they had not as yet begun to be much
disturbed--not as yet being in the way--it was estimated that in New
South Wales there was but one native to 45,000 acres of territory.
People had to be protected. Officers of the regular army did not want
this service--away off there where neither honor nor distinction was to
be gained. So England recruited and officered a kind of militia force of
1,000 uniformed civilians called the "New South Wales Corps" and shipped
This was the worst blow of all. The colony fairly staggered under it.
The Corps was an object-lesson of the moral condition of England outside
of the jails. The colonists trembled. It was feared that next there
would be an importation of the nobility.
In those early days the colony was non-supporting. All the necessaries
of life--food, clothing, and all--were sent out from England, and kept in
great government store-houses, and given to the convicts and sold to the
settlers--sold at a trifling advance upon cost. The Corps saw its
opportunity. Its officers went into commerce, and in a most lawless way.
They went to importing rum, and also to manufacturing it in private
stills, in defiance of the government's commands and protests. They
leagued themselves together and ruled the market; they boycotted the
government and the other dealers; they established a close monopoly and
kept it strictly in their own hands. When a vessel arrived with spirits,
they allowed nobody to buy but themselves, and they forced the owner to
sell to them at a price named by themselves--and it was always low
enough. They bought rum at an average of two dollars a gallon and sold
it at an average of ten. They made rum the currency of the country--for
there was little or no money--and they maintained their devastating hold
and kept the colony under their heel for eighteen or twenty years before
they were finally conquered and routed by the government.
Meantime, they had spread intemperance everywhere. And they had squeezed
farm after farm out of the settlers hands for rum, and thus had
bountifully enriched themselves. When a farmer was caught in the last
agonies of thirst they took advantage of him and sweated him for a drink.
In one instance they sold a man a gallon of rum worth two dollars for a
piece of property which was sold some years later for $100,000.
When the colony was about eighteen or twenty years old it was discovered
that the land was specially fitted for the wool-culture. Prosperity
followed, commerce with the world began, by and by rich mines of the
noble metals were opened, immigrants flowed in, capital likewise. The
result is the great and wealthy and enlightened commonwealth of New South
It is a country that is rich in mines, wool ranches, trams, railways,
steamship lines, schools, newspapers, botanical gardens, art galleries,
libraries, museums, hospitals, learned societies; it is the hospitable
home of every species of culture and of every species of material
enterprise, and there is a, church at every man's door, and a race-track
over the way.
We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is
in it--and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot
stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again--and that is
well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
All English-speaking colonies are made up of lavishly hospitable people,
and New South Wales and its capital are like the rest in this. The
English-speaking colony of the United States of America is always
called lavishly hospitable by the English traveler. As to the other
English-speaking colonies throughout the world from Canada all around, I
know by experience that the description fits them. I will not go more
particularly into this matter, for I find that when writers try to
distribute their gratitude here and there and yonder by detail they run
across difficulties and do some ungraceful stumbling.
Mr. Gane ("New South Wales and Victoria in 1885 "), tried to distribute
his gratitude, and was not lucky:
"The inhabitants of Sydney are renowned for their hospitality. The
treatment which we experienced at the hands of this generous-hearted
people will help more than anything else to make us recollect with
pleasure our stay amongst them. In the character of hosts and
hostesses they excel. The 'new chum' needs only the
acquaintanceship of one of their number, and he becomes at once the
happy recipient of numerous complimentary invitations and thoughtful
kindnesses. Of the towns it has been our good fortune to visit,
none have portrayed home so faithfully as Sydney."
Nobody could say it finer than that. If he had put in his cork then, and
stayed away from Dubbo----but no; heedless man, he pulled it again.
Pulled it when he was away along in his book, and his memory of what he
had said about Sydney had grown dim:
"We cannot quit the promising town of Dubbo without testifying, in
warm praise, to the kind-hearted and hospitable usages of its
inhabitants. Sydney, though well deserving the character it bears
of its kindly treatment of strangers, possesses a little formality
and reserve. In Dubbo, on the contrary, though the same congenial
manners prevail, there is a pleasing degree of respectful
familiarity which gives the town a homely comfort not often met with
elsewhere. In laying on one side our pen we feel contented in
having been able, though so late in this work, to bestow a
panegyric, however unpretentious, on a town which, though possessing
no picturesque natural surroundings, nor interesting architectural
productions, has yet a body of citizens whose hearts cannot but
obtain for their town a reputation for benevolence and
I wonder what soured him on Sydney. It seems strange that a pleasing
degree of three or four fingers of respectful familiarity should fill a
man up and give him the panegyrics so bad. For he has them, the worst
way--any one can see that. A man who is perfectly at himself does not
throw cold detraction at people's architectural productions and
picturesque surroundings, and let on that what he prefers is a Dubbonese
dust-storm and a pleasing degree of respectful familiarity, No, these are
old, old symptoms; and when they appear we know that the man has got the
Sydney has a population of 400,000. When a stranger from America steps
ashore there, the first thing that strikes him is that the place is eight
or nine times as large as he was expecting it to be; and the next thing
that strikes him is that it is an English city with American trimmings.
Later on, in Melbourne, he will find the American trimmings still more in
evidence; there, even the architecture will often suggest America; a
photograph of its stateliest business street might be passed upon him for
a picture of the finest street in a large American city. I was told that
the most of the fine residences were the city residences of squatters.
The name seemed out of focus somehow. When the explanation came, it
offered a new instance of the curious changes which words, as well as
animals, undergo through change of habitat and climate. With us, when
you speak of a squatter you are always supposed to be speaking of a poor
man, but in Australia when you speak of a squatter you are supposed to be
speaking of a millionaire; in America the word indicates the possessor of
a few acres and a doubtful title, in Australia it indicates a man whose
landfront is as long as a railroad, and whose title has been perfected in
one way or another; in America the word indicates a man who owns a dozen
head of live stock, in Australia a man who owns anywhere from fifty
thousand up to half a million head; in America the word indicates a man
who is obscure and not important, in Australia a man who is prominent and
of the first importance; in America you take off your hat to no squatter,
in Australia you do; in America if your uncle is a squatter you keep it
dark, in Australia you advertise it; in America if your friend is a
squatter nothing comes of it, but with a squatter for your friend in
Australia you may sup with kings if there are any around.
In Australia it takes about two acres and a half of pastureland (some
people say twice as many), to support a sheep; and when the squatter has
half a million sheep his private domain is about as large as Rhode
Island, to speak in general terms. His annual wool crop may be worth a
quarter or a half million dollars.
He will live in a palace in Melbourne or Sydney or some other of the
large cities, and make occasional trips to his sheep-kingdom several
hundred miles away in the great plains to look after his battalions of
riders and shepherds and other hands. He has a commodious dwelling out
there, and if he approve of you he will invite you to spend a week in it,
and will make you at home and comfortable, and let you see the great
industry in all its details, and feed you and slake you and smoke you
with the best that money can buy.
On at least one of these vast estates there is a considerable town, with
all the various businesses and occupations that go to make an important
town; and the town and the land it stands upon are the property of the
squatters. I have seen that town, and it is not unlikely that there are
other squatter-owned towns in Australia.
Australia supplies the world not only with fine wool, but with mutton
also. The modern invention of cold storage and its application in ships
has created this great trade. In Sydney I visited a huge establishment
where they kill and clean and solidly freeze a thousand sheep a day, for
shipment to England.
The Australians did not seem to me to differ noticeably from Americans,
either in dress, carriage, ways, pronunciation, inflections, or general
appearance. There were fleeting and subtle suggestions of their English
origin, but these were not pronounced enough, as a rule, to catch one's
attention. The people have easy and cordial manners from the beginning
--from the moment that the introduction is completed. This is American.
To put it in another way, it is English friendliness with the English
shyness and self-consciousness left out.
Now and then--but this is rare--one hears such words as piper for paper,
lydy for lady, and tyble for table fall from lips whence one would not
expect such pronunciations to come. There is a superstition prevalent in
Sydney that this pronunciation is an Australianism, but people who have
been "home"--as the native reverently and lovingly calls England--know
better. It is "costermonger." All over Australasia this pronunciation
is nearly as common among servants as it is in London among the
uneducated and the partially educated of all sorts and conditions of
people. That mislaid 'y' is rather striking when a person gets enough of
it into a short sentence to enable it to show up. In the hotel in Sydney
the chambermaid said, one morning:
"The tyble is set, and here is the piper; and if the lydy is ready I'll
tell the wyter to bring up the breakfast."
I have made passing mention, a moment ago, of the native Australasian's
custom of speaking of England as "home." It was always pretty to hear
it, and often it was said in an unconsciously caressing way that made it
touching; in a way which transmuted a sentiment into an embodiment, and
made one seem to see Australasia as a young girl stroking mother
England's old gray head.
In the Australasian home the table-talk is vivacious and unembarrassed;
it is without stiffness or restraint. This does not remind one of
England so much as it does of America. But Australasia is strictly
democratic, and reserves and restraints are things that are bred by
differences of rank.
English and colonial audiences are phenomenally alert and responsive.
Where masses of people are gathered together in England, caste is
submerged, and with it the English reserve; equality exists for the
moment, and every individual is free; so free from any consciousness of
fetters, indeed, that the Englishman's habit of watching himself and
guarding himself against any injudicious exposure of his feelings is
forgotten, and falls into abeyance--and to such a degree indeed, that he
will bravely applaud all by himself if he wants to--an exhibition of
daring which is unusual elsewhere in the world.
But it is hard to move a new English acquaintance when he is by himself,
or when the company present is small and new to him. He is on his guard
then, and his natural reserve is to the fore. This has given him the
false reputation of being without humor and without the appreciation of
Americans are not Englishmen, and American humor is not English humor;
but both the American and his humor had their origin in England, and have
merely undergone changes brought about by changed conditions and a new
environment. About the best humorous speeches I have yet heard were a
couple that were made in Australia at club suppers--one of them by an
Englishman, the other by an Australian.
There are those who scoff at the schoolboy, calling him frivolous and
shallow: Yet it was the schoolboy who said "Faith is believing what you
know ain't so."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
In Sydney I had a large dream, and in the course of talk I told it to a
missionary from India who was on his way to visit some relatives in New
Zealand. I dreamed that the visible universe is the physical person of
God; that the vast worlds that we see twinkling millions of miles apart
in the fields of space are the blood corpuscles in His veins; and that we
and the other creatures are the microbes that charge with multitudinous
life the corpuscles.
Mr. X., the missionary, considered the dream awhile, then said:
"It is not surpassable for magnitude, since its metes and bounds are
the metes and bounds of the universe itself; and it seems to me that
it almost accounts for a thing which is otherwise nearly
unaccountable--the origin of the sacred legends of the Hindoos.
Perhaps they dream them, and then honestly believe them to be divine
revelations of fact. It looks like that, for the legends are built
on so vast a scale that it does not seem reasonable that plodding
priests would happen upon such colossal fancies when awake."
He told some of the legends, and said that they were implicitly believed
by all classes of Hindoos, including those of high social position and
intelligence; and he said that this universal credulity was a great
hindrance to the missionary in his work. Then he said something like
"At home, people wonder why Christianity does not make faster
progress in India. They hear that the Indians believe easily, and
that they have a natural trust in miracles and give them a
hospitable reception. Then they argue like this: since the Indian
believes easily, place Christianity before them and they must
believe; confirm its truths by the biblical miracles, and they will
no longer doubt, The natural deduction is, that as Christianity
makes but indifferent progress in India, the fault is with us: we
are not fortunate in presenting the doctrines and the miracles.
"But the truth is, we are not by any means so well equipped as they
think. We have not the easy task that they imagine. To use a
military figure, we are sent against the enemy with good powder in
our guns, but only wads for bullets; that is to say, our miracles
are not effective; the Hindoos do not care for them; they have more
extraordinary ones of their own. All the details of their own
religion are proven and established by miracles; the details of ours
must be proven in the same way. When I first began my work in India
I greatly underestimated the difficulties thus put upon my task. A
correction was not long in coming. I thought as our friends think
at home--that to prepare my childlike wonder-lovers to listen with
favor to my grave message I only needed to charm the way to it with
wonders, marvels, miracles. With full confidence I told the wonders
performed by Samson, the strongest man that had ever lived--for so I
"At first I saw lively anticipation and strong interest in the faces
of my people, but as I moved along from incident to incident of the
great story, I was distressed to see that I was steadily losing the
sympathy of my audience. I could not understand it. It was a
surprise to me, and a disappointment. Before I was through, the
fading sympathy had paled to indifference. Thence to the end the
indifference remained; I was not able to make any impression upon
"A good old Hindoo gentleman told me where my trouble lay. He said
'We Hindoos recognize a god by the work of his hands--we accept no
other testimony. Apparently, this is also the rule with you
Christians. And we know when a man has his power from a god by the
fact that he does things which he could not do, as a man, with the
mere powers of a man. Plainly, this is the Christian's way also, of
knowing when a man is working by a god's power and not by his own.
You saw that there was a supernatural property in the hair of
Samson; for you perceived that when his hair was gone he was as
other men. It is our way, as I have said. There are many nations
in the world, and each group of nations has its own gods, and will
pay no worship to the gods of the others. Each group believes its
own gods to be strongest, and it will not exchange them except for
gods that shall be proven to be their superiors in power. Man is
but a weak creature, and needs the help of gods--he cannot do
without it. Shall he place his fate in the hands of weak gods when
there may be stronger ones to be found? That would be foolish. No,
if he hear of gods that are stronger than his own, he should not
turn a deaf ear, for it is not a light matter that is at stake. How
then shall he determine which gods are the stronger, his own or
those that preside over the concerns of other nations? By comparing
the known works of his own gods with the works of those others;
there is no other way. Now, when we make this comparison, we are
not drawn towards the gods of any other nation. Our gods are shown
by their works to be the strongest, the most powerful. The
Christians have but few gods, and they are new--new, and not strong;
as it seems to us. They will increase in number, it is true, for
this has happened with all gods, but that time is far away, many
ages and decades of ages away, for gods multiply slowly, as is meet
for beings to whom a thousand years is but a single moment. Our own
gods have been born millions of years apart. The process is slow,
the gathering of strength and power is similarly slow. In the slow
lapse of the ages the steadily accumulating power of our gods has at
last become prodigious. We have a thousand proofs of this in the
colossal character of their personal acts and the acts of ordinary
men to whom they have given supernatural qualities. To your Samson
was given supernatural power, and when he broke the withes, and slew
the thousands with the jawbone of an ass, and carried away the
gate's of the city upon his shoulders, you were amazed--and also
awed, for you recognized the divine source of his strength. But it
could not profit to place these things before your Hindoo
congregation and invite their wonder; for they would compare them
with the deed done by Hanuman, when our gods infused their divine
strength into his muscles; and they would be indifferent to them--as
you saw. In the old, old times, ages and ages gone by, when our god
Rama was warring with the demon god of Ceylon, Rama bethought him to
bridge the sea and connect Ceylon with India, so that his armies
might pass easily over; and he sent his general, Hanuman, inspired
like your own Samson with divine strength, to bring the materials
for the bridge. In two days Hanuman strode fifteen hundred miles,
to the Himalayas, and took upon his shoulder a range of those lofty
mountains two hundred miles long, and started with it toward Ceylon.
It was in the night; and, as he passed along the plain, the people
of Govardhun heard the thunder of his tread and felt the earth
rocking under it, and they ran out, and there, with their snowy
summits piled to heaven, they saw the Himalayas passing by. And as
this huge continent swept along overshadowing the earth, upon its
slopes they discerned the twinkling lights of a thousand sleeping
villages, and it was as if the constellations were filing in
procession through the sky. While they were looking, Hanuman
stumbled, and a small ridge of red sandstone twenty miles long was
jolted loose and fell. Half of its length has wasted away in the
course of the ages, but the other ten miles of it remain in the
plain by Govardhun to this day as proof of the might of the
inspiration of our gods. You must know, yourself, that Hanuman
could not have carried those mountains to Ceylon except by the
strength of the gods. You know that it was not done by his own
strength, therefore, you know that it was done by the strength of
the gods, just as you know that Samson carried the gates by the
divine strength and not by his own. I think you must concede two
things: First, That in carrying the gates of the city upon his
shoulders, Samson did not establish the superiority of his gods over
ours; secondly, That his feat is not supported by any but verbal
evidence, while Hanuman's is not only supported by verbal evidence,
but this evidence is confirmed, established, proven, by visible,
tangible evidence, which is the strongest of all testimony. We have
the sandstone ridge, and while it remains we cannot doubt, and shall
not. Have you the gates?'"
The timid man yearns for full value and asks a tenth. The bold man
strikes for double value and compromises on par.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
One is sure to be struck by the liberal way in which Australasia spends
money upon public works--such as legislative buildings, town halls,
hospitals, asylums, parks, and botanical gardens. I should say that
where minor towns in America spend a hundred dollars on the town hall and
on public parks and gardens, the like towns in Australasia spend a
thousand. And I think that this ratio will hold good in the matter of
hospitals, also. I have seen a costly and well-equipped, and
architecturally handsome hospital in an Australian village of fifteen
hundred inhabitants. It was built by private funds furnished by the
villagers and the neighboring planters, and its running expenses were
drawn from the same sources. I suppose it would be hard to match this in
any country. This village was about to close a contract for lighting its
streets with the electric light, when I was there. That is ahead of
London. London is still obscured by gas--gas pretty widely scattered,
too, in some of the districts; so widely indeed, that except on moonlight
nights it is difficult to find the gas lamps.
The botanical garden of Sydney covers thirty-eight acres, beautifully
laid out and rich with the spoil of all the lands and all the climes of
the world. The garden is on high ground in the middle of the town,
overlooking the great harbor, and it adjoins the spacious grounds of
Government House--fifty-six acres; and at hand also, is a recreation
ground containing eighty-two acres. In addition, there are the
zoological gardens, the race-course, and the great cricket-grounds where
the international matches are played. Therefore there is plenty of room
for reposeful lazying and lounging, and for exercise too, for such as
like that kind of work.
There are four specialties attainable in the way of social pleasure. If
you enter your name on the Visitor's Book at Government House you will
receive an invitation to the next ball that takes place there, if nothing
can be proven against you. And it will be very pleasant; for you will
see everybody except the Governor, and add a number of acquaintances and
several friends to your list. The Governor will be in England. He
always is. The continent has four or five governors, and I do not know
how many it takes to govern the outlying archipelago; but anyway you will
not see them. When they are appointed they come out from England and get
inaugurated, and give a ball, and help pray for rain, and get aboard ship
and go back home. And so the Lieutenant-Governor has to do all the work.
I was in Australasia three months and a half, and saw only one Governor.
The others were at home.
The Australasian Governor would not be so restless, perhaps, if he had a
war, or a veto, or something like that to call for his reserve-energies,
but he hasn't. There isn't any war, and there isn't any veto in his
hands. And so there is really little or nothing doing in his line. The
country governs itself, and prefers to do it; and is so strenuous about
it and so jealous of its independence that it grows restive if even the
Imperial Government at home proposes to help; and so the Imperial veto,
while a fact, is yet mainly a name.
Thus the Governor's functions are much more limited than are a Governor's
functions with us. And therefore more fatiguing. He is the apparent
head of the State, he is the real head of Society. He represents
culture, refinement, elevated sentiment, polite life, religion; and by
his example he propagates these, and they spread and flourish and bear
good fruit. He creates the fashion, and leads it. His ball is the ball
of balls, and his countenance makes the horse-race thrive.
He is usually a lord, and this is well; for his position compels him to
lead an expensive life, and an English lord is generally well equipped
Another of Sydney's social pleasures is the visit to the Admiralty House;
which is nobly situated on high ground overlooking the water. The trim
boats of the service convey the guests thither; and there, or on board
the flag-ship, they have the duplicate of the hospitalities of Government
House. The Admiral commanding a station in British waters is a magnate
of the first degree, and he is sumptuously housed, as becomes the dignity
of his office.
Third in the list of special pleasures is the tour of the harbor in a
fine steam pleasure-launch. Your richer friends own boats of this kind,
and they will invite you, and the joys of the trip will make a long day
And finally comes the shark-fishing. Sydney Harbor is populous with the
finest breeds of man-eating sharks in the world. Some people make their
living catching them; for the Government pays a cash bounty on them. The
larger the shark the larger the bounty, and some of the sharks are twenty
feet long. You not only get the bounty, but everything that is in the
shark belongs to you. Sometimes the contents are quite valuable.
The shark is the swiftest fish that swims. The speed of the fastest
steamer afloat is poor compared to his. And he is a great gad-about, and
roams far and wide in the oceans, and visits the shores of all of them,
ultimately, in the course of his restless excursions. I have a tale to
tell now, which has not as yet been in print. In 1870 a young stranger
arrived in Sydney, and set about finding something to do; but he knew no
one, and brought no recommendations, and the result was that he got no
employment. He had aimed high, at first, but as time and his money
wasted away he grew less and less exacting, until at last he was willing
to serve in the humblest capacities if so he might get bread and shelter.
But luck was still against him; he could find no opening of any sort.
Finally his money was all gone. He walked the streets all day, thinking;
he walked them all night, thinking, thinking, and growing hungrier and
hungrier. At dawn he found himself well away from the town and drifting
aimlessly along the harbor shore. As he was passing by a nodding
shark-fisher the man looked up and said----
"Say, young fellow, take my line a spell, and change my luck for me."
"How do you know I won't make it worse?"
"Because you can't. It has been at its worst all night. If you can't
change it, no harm's done; if you do change it, it's for the better,
of course. Come."
"All right, what will you give?"
"I'll give you the shark, if you catch one."
"And I will eat it, bones and all. Give me the line."
"Here you are. I will get away, now, for awhile, so that my luck won't
spoil yours; for many and many a time I've noticed that if----there, pull
in, pull in, man, you've got a bite! I knew how it would be. Why, I
knew you for a born son of luck the minute I saw you. All right--he's
It was an unusually large shark--"a full nineteen-footer," the fisherman
said, as he laid the creature open with his knife.
"Now you rob him, young man, while I step to my hamper for a fresh bait.
There's generally something in them worth going for. You've changed my
luck, you see. But my goodness, I hope you haven't changed your own."
"Oh, it wouldn't matter; don't worry about that. Get your bait. I'll
When the fisherman got back the young man had just finished washing his
hands in the bay, and was starting away.
"What, you are not going?"
"But what about your shark?"
"The shark? Why, what use is he to me?"
"What use is he? I like that. Don't you know that we can go and report
him to Government, and you'll get a clean solid eighty shillings bounty?
Hard cash, you know. What do you think about it now?"
"Oh, well, you can collect it."
"And keep it? Is that what you mean?"
"Well, this is odd. You're one of those sort they call eccentrics, I
judge. The saying is, you mustn't judge a man by his clothes, and I'm
believing it now. Why yours are looking just ratty, don't you know; and
yet you must be rich."
The young man walked slowly back to the town, deeply musing as he went.
He halted a moment in front of the best restaurant, then glanced at his
clothes and passed on, and got his breakfast at a "stand-up." There was
a good deal of it, and it cost five shillings. He tendered a sovereign,
got his change, glanced at his silver, muttered to himself, "There isn't
enough to buy clothes with," and went his way.
At half-past nine the richest wool-broker in Sydney was sitting in his
morning-room at home, settling his breakfast with the morning paper. A
servant put his head in and said:
"There's a sundowner at the door wants to see you, sir."
"What do you bring that kind of a message here for? Send him about his
"He won't go, sir. I've tried."
"He won't go? That's--why, that's unusual. He's one of two things,
then: he's a remarkable person, or he's crazy. Is he crazy?"
"No, sir. He don't look it."
"Then he's remarkable. What does he say he wants?"
"He won't tell, sir; only says it's very important."
"And won't go. Does he say he won't go?"
"Says he'll stand there till he sees you, sir, if it's all day."
"And yet isn't crazy. Show him up."
The sundowner was shown in. The broker said to himself, "No, he's not
crazy; that is easy to see; so he must be the other thing."
Then aloud, "Well, my good fellow, be quick about it; don't waste any
words; what is it you want?"
"I want to borrow a hundred thousand pounds."
"Scott! (It's a mistake; he is crazy . . . . No--he can't be--not
with that eye.) Why, you take my breath away. Come, who are you?"
"Nobody that you know."
"What is your name?"
"No, I don't remember hearing the name before. Now then--just for
curiosity's sake--what has sent you to me on this extraordinary errand?"
"The intention to make a hundred thousand pounds for you and as much for
myself within the next sixty days."
"Well, well, well. It is the most extraordinary idea that--sit down--you
interest me. And somehow you--well, you fascinate me; I think that that
is about the word. And it isn't your proposition--no, that doesn't
fascinate me; it's something else, I don't quite know what; something
that's born in you and oozes out of you, I suppose. Now then just for
curiosity's sake again, nothing more: as I understand it, it is your
desire to bor----"
"I said intention."
"Pardon, so you did. I thought it was an unheedful use of the word--an
unheedful valuing of its strength, you know."
"I knew its strength."
"Well, I must say--but look here, let me walk the floor a little, my mind
is getting into a sort of whirl, though you don't seem disturbed any.
(Plainly this young fellow isn't crazy; but as to his being remarkable
--well, really he amounts to that, and something over.) Now then, I
believe I am beyond the reach of further astonishment. Strike, and spare
not. What is your scheme?"
"To buy the wool crop--deliverable in sixty days."
"What, the whole of it?"
"The whole of it."
"No, I was not quite out of the reach of surprises, after all. Why, how
you talk! Do you know what our crop is going to foot up?"
"Two and a half million sterling--maybe a little more."
"Well, you've got your statistics right, any way. Now, then, do you know
what the margins would foot up, to buy it at sixty days?"
"The hundred thousand pounds I came here to get."
"Right, once more. Well, dear me, just to see what would happen, I wish
you had the money. And if you had it, what would you do with it?"
"I shall make two hundred thousand pounds out of it in sixty days."
"You mean, of course, that you might make it if----"
"I said 'shall'."
"Yes, by George, you did say 'shall'! You are the most definite devil I
ever saw, in the matter of language. Dear, dear, dear, look here!
Definite speech means clarity of mind. Upon my word I believe you've got
what you believe to be a rational reason, for venturing into this house,
an entire stranger, on this wild scheme of buying the wool crop of an
entire colony on speculation. Bring it out--I am prepared--acclimatized,
if I may use the word. Why would you buy the crop, and why would you
make that sum out of it? That is to say, what makes you think you----"
"I don't think--I know."
"Definite again. How do you know?"
"Because France has declared war against Germany, and wool has gone up