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Letters of Travel (1892-1913) by Rudyard Kipling

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The Letters entitled 'FROM TIDEWAY TO TIDEWAY' were published
originally in _The Times_; those entitled 'LETTERS TO THE FAMILY' in
_The Morning Post_; and those entitled 'EGYPT OF THE MAGICIANS' in
_Nash's Magazine_.


_This Edition is intended for circulation only in India
and the British Dominions over the Seas_



In Sight of Monadnock
Across a Continent
The Edge of the East
Our Overseas Men
Some Earthquakes
Half-a-Dozen Pictures
'Captains Courageous'
On One Side Only
Leaves from a Winter Note-Book


The Road to Quebec
A People at Home
Cities and Spaces
Newspapers and Democracy
The Fortunate Towns
Mountains and the Pacific
A Conclusion


Sea Travel
A Return to the East
A Serpent of Old Nile
Up the River
Dead Kings
The Face of the Desert
The Riddle of Empire

* * * * *




* * * * *


After the gloom of gray Atlantic weather, our ship came to America in a
flood of winter sunshine that made unaccustomed eyelids blink, and the
New Yorker, who is nothing if not modest, said, 'This isn't a sample of
our really fine days. Wait until such and such times come, or go to such
and a such a quarter of the city.' We were content, and more than
content, to drift aimlessly up and down the brilliant streets, wondering
a little why the finest light should be wasted on the worst pavements in
the world; to walk round and round Madison Square, because that was full
of beautifully dressed babies playing counting-out games, or to gaze
reverently at the broad-shouldered, pug-nosed Irish New York policemen.
Wherever we went there was the sun, lavish and unstinted, working nine
hours a day, with the colour and the clean-cut lines of perspective that
he makes. That any one should dare to call this climate muggy, yea, even
'subtropical,' was a shock. There came such a man, and he said, 'Go
north if you want weather--weather that _is_ weather. Go to New
England.' So New York passed away upon a sunny afternoon, with her roar
and rattle, her complex smells, her triply over-heated rooms, and much
too energetic inhabitants, while the train went north to the lands where
the snow lay. It came in one sweep--almost, it seemed, in one turn of
the wheels--covering the winter-killed grass and turning the frozen
ponds that looked so white under the shadow of lean trees into pools of

As the light closed in, a little wooden town, white, cloaked, and dumb,
slid past the windows, and the strong light of the car lamps fell upon a
sleigh (the driver furred and muffled to his nose) turning the corner of
a street. Now the sleigh of a picture-book, however well one knows it,
is altogether different from the thing in real life, a means of
conveyance at a journey's end; but it is well not to be over-curious in
the matter, for the same American who has been telling you at length how
he once followed a kilted Scots soldier from Chelsea to the Tower, out
of pure wonder and curiosity at his bare knees and sporran, will laugh
at your interest in 'just a cutter.'

The staff of the train--surely the great American nation would be lost
if deprived of the ennobling society of brakeman, conductor, Pullman-car
conductor, negro porter, and newsboy--told pleasant tales, as they
spread themselves at ease in the smoking compartments, of snowings up
the line to Montreal, of desperate attacks--four engines together and a
snow-plough in front--on drifts thirty feet high, and the pleasures of
walking along the tops of goods wagons to brake a train, with the
thermometer thirty below freezing. 'It comes cheaper to kill men that
way than to put air-brakes on freight-cars,' said the brakeman.

Thirty below freezing! It was inconceivable till one stepped out into it
at midnight, and the first shock of that clear, still air took away the
breath as does a plunge into sea-water. A walrus sitting on a woolpack
was our host in his sleigh, and he wrapped us in hairy goatskin coats,
caps that came down over the ears, buffalo robes and blankets, and yet
more buffalo-robes till we, too, looked like walruses and moved almost
as gracefully. The night was as keen as the edge of a newly-ground
sword; breath froze on the coat-lapels in snow; the nose became without
sensation, and the eyes wept bitterly because the horses were in a hurry
to get home; and whirling through air at zero brings tears. But for the
jingle of the sleigh-bells the ride might have taken place in a dream,
for there was no sound of hoofs upon the snow, the runners sighed a
little now and again as they glided over an inequality, and all the
sheeted hills round about were as dumb as death. Only the Connecticut
River kept up its heart and a lane of black water through the packed
ice; we could hear the stream worrying round the heels of its small
bergs. Elsewhere there was nothing but snow under the moon--snow drifted
to the level of the stone fences or curling over their tops in a lip of
frosted silver; snow banked high on either side of the road, or lying
heavy on the pines and the hemlocks in the woods, where the air seemed,
by comparison, as warm as a conservatory. It was beautiful beyond
expression, Nature's boldest sketch in black and white, done with a
Japanese disregard of perspective, and daringly altered from time to
time by the restless pencils of the moon.

In the morning the other side of the picture was revealed in the colours
of the sunlight. There was never a cloud in the sky that rested on the
snow-line of the horizon as a sapphire on white velvet. Hills of pure
white, or speckled and furred with woods, rose up above the solid white
levels of the fields, and the sun rioted over their embroideries till
the eyes ached. Here and there on the exposed slopes the day's
warmth--the thermometer was nearly forty degrees--and the night's cold
had made a bald and shining crust upon the snow; but the most part was
soft powdered stuff, ready to catch the light on a thousand crystals and
multiply it sevenfold. Through this magnificence, and thinking nothing
of it, a wood-sledge drawn by two shaggy red steers, the unbarked logs
diamond-dusted with snow, shouldered down the road in a cloud of frosty
breath. It is the mark of inexperience in this section of the country to
confound a sleigh which you use for riding with the sledge that is
devoted to heavy work; and it is, I believe, a still greater sign of
worthlessness to think that oxen are driven, as they are in most places,
by scientific twisting of the tail. The driver with red mittens on his
hands, felt overstockings that come up to his knees, and, perhaps, a
silvery-gray coon-skin coat on his back, walks beside, crying, 'Gee,
haw!' even as is written in American stories. And the speech of the
driver explains many things in regard to the dialect story, which at its
best is an infliction to many. Now that I have heard the long, unhurried
drawl of Vermont, my wonder is, not that the New England tales should be
printed in what, for the sake of argument, we will call English and its
type, but rather that they should not have appeared in Swedish or
Russian. Our alphabet is too limited. This part of the country belongs
by laws unknown to the United States, but which obtain all the world
over, to the New England story and the ladies who write it. You feel
this in the air as soon as you see the white-painted wooden houses left
out in the snow, the austere schoolhouse, and the people--the men of the
farms, the women who work as hard as they with, it may be, less
enjoyment of life--the other houses, well painted and quaintly roofed,
that belong to Judge This, Lawyer That, and Banker Such an one; all
powers in the metropolis of six thousand folk over by the railway
station. More acutely still, do you realise the atmosphere when you read
in the local paper announcements of 'chicken suppers' and 'church
sociables' to be given by such and such a denomination, sandwiched
between paragraphs of genial and friendly interest, showing that the
countryside live (and without slaying each other) on terms of terrifying

The folk of the old rock, the dwellers in the older houses, born and
raised hereabouts, would not live out of the town for any consideration,
and there are insane people from the South--men and women from Boston
and the like--who actually build houses out in the open country, two,
and even three miles from Main Street which is nearly 400 yards long,
and the centre of life and population. With the strangers, more
particularly if they do not buy their groceries 'in the street,' which
means, and is, the town, the town has little to do; but it knows
everything, and much more also, that goes on among them. Their dresses,
their cattle, their views, the manners of their children, their manner
towards their servants, and every other conceivable thing, is reported,
digested, discussed, and rediscussed up and down Main Street. Now, the
wisdom of Vermont, not being at all times equal to grasping all the
problems of everybody else's life with delicacy, sometimes makes
pathetic mistakes, and the town is set by the ears. You will see,
therefore, that towns of a certain size do not differ materially all the
world over. The talk of the men of the farms is of their
farms--purchase, mortgage, and sale, recorded rights, boundary lines,
and road tax. It was in the middle of New Zealand, on the edge of the
Wild horse plains, that I heard this talk last, when a man and his wife,
twenty miles from the nearest neighbour, sat up half the night
discussing just the same things that the men talked of in Main Street,
Vermont, U.S.A.

There is one man in the State who is much exercised over this place. He
is a farm-hand, raised in a hamlet fifteen or twenty miles from the
nearest railway, and, greatly daring, he has wandered here. The bustle
and turmoil of Main Street, the new glare of the electric lights and the
five-storeyed brick business block, frighten and distress him much. He
has taken service on a farm well away from these delirious delights,
and, says he, 'I've been offered $25 a month to work in a bakery at New
York. But you don't get me to no New York, I've seen this place an' it
just scares me,' His strength is in the drawing of hay and the feeding
of cattle. Winter life on a farm does not mean the comparative idleness
that is so much written of. Each hour seems to have its sixty minutes of
work; for the cattle are housed and eat eternally; the colts must be
turned out for their drink, and the ice broken for them if necessary;
then ice must be stored for the summer use, and then the real work of
hauling logs for firewood begins. New England depends for its fuel on
the woods. The trees are 'blazed' in the autumn just before the fall of
the leaf, felled later, cut into four-foot lengths, and, as soon as the
friendly snow makes sledging possible, drawn down to the woodhouse.
Afterwards the needs of the farm can be attended to, and a farm, like an
arch, is never at rest. A little later will come maple-sugar time, when
the stately maples are tapped as the sap begins to stir, and be-ringed
with absurd little buckets (a cow being milked into a thimble gives some
idea of the disproportion), which are emptied into cauldrons.
Afterwards (this is the time of the 'sugaring-off parties') you pour the
boiled syrup into tins full of fresh snow, where it hardens, and you
pretend to help and become very sticky and make love, boys and girls
together. Even the introduction of patent sugar evaporators has not
spoiled the love-making.

There is a certain scarcity of men to make love with; not so much in
towns which have their own manufactories and lie within a lover's
Sabbath-day journey of New York, but in the farms and villages. The men
have gone away--the young men are fighting fortune further West, and the
women remain--remain for ever as women must. On the farms, when the
children depart, the old man and the old woman strive to hold things
together without help, and the woman's portion is work and monotony.
Sometimes she goes mad to an extent which appreciably affects statistics
and is put down in census reports. More often, let us hope, she dies. In
the villages where the necessity for heavy work is not so urgent the
women find consolation in the formation of literary clubs and circles,
and so gather to themselves a great deal of wisdom in their own way.
That way is not altogether lovely. They desire facts and the knowledge
that they are at a certain page in a German or an Italian book before a
certain time, or that they have read the proper books in a proper way.
At any rate, they have something to do that seems as if they were doing
something. It has been said that the New England stories are cramped
and narrow. Even a far-off view of the iron-bound life whence they are
drawn justifies the author. You can carve a nut in a thousand different
ways by reason of the hardness of the shell.

Twenty or thirty miles across the hills, on the way to the Green
Mountains, lie some finished chapters of pitiful stories--a few score
abandoned farms, started in a lean land, held fiercely so long as there
was any one to work them, and then left on the hill-sides. Beyond this
desolation are woods where the bear and the deer still find peace, and
sometimes even the beaver forgets that he is persecuted and dares to
build his lodge. These things were told me by a man who loved the woods
for their own sake and not for the sake of slaughter--a quiet,
slow-spoken man of the West, who came across the drifts on show-shoes
and refrained from laughing when I borrowed his foot-gear and tried to
walk. The gigantic lawn-tennis bats strung with hide are not easy to
manoeuvre. If you forget to keep the long heels down and trailing in the
snow you turn over and become as a man who fails into deep water with a
life-belt tied to his ankles. If you lose your balance, do not attempt
to recover it, but drop, half-sitting and half-kneeling, over as large
an area as possible. When you have mastered the wolf-step, can slide one
shoe above the other deftly, that is to say, the sensation of paddling
over a ten-foot-deep drift and taking short cuts by buried fences is
worth the ankle-ache. The man from the West interpreted to me the signs
on the snow, showed how a fox (this section of the country is full of
foxes, and men shoot them because riding is impossible) leaves one kind
of spoor, walking with circumspection as becomes a thief, and a dog, who
has nothing to be ashamed of, but widens his four legs and plunges,
another; how coons go to sleep for the winter and squirrels too, and how
the deer on the Canada border trample down deep paths that are called
yards and are caught there by inquisitive men with cameras, who hold
them by their tails when the deer have blundered into deep snow, and so
photograph their frightened dignity. He told me of people also--the
manners and customs of New Englanders here, and how they blossom and
develop in the Far West on the newer railway lines, when matters come
very nearly to civil war between rival companies racing for the same
canon; how there is a country not very far away called Caledonia,
populated by the Scotch, who can give points to a New Englander in a
bargain, and how these same Scotch-Americans by birth, name their
townships still after the cities of their thrifty race. It was all as
new and delightful as the steady 'scrunch' of the snow-shoes and the
dazzling silence of the hills.

Beyond the very furthest range, where the pines turn to a faint blue
haze against the one solitary peak--a real mountain and not a
hill--showed like a gigantic thumbnail pointing heavenward.

'And that's Monadnock,' said the man from the West; 'all the hills have
Indian names. You left Wantastiquet on your right coming out of town,'

You know how it often happens that a word shuttles in and out of many
years, waking all sorts of incongruous associations. I had met Monadnock
on paper in a shameless parody of Emerson's style, before ever style or
verse had interest for me. But the word stuck because of a rhyme, in
which one was

... crowned coeval
With Monadnock's crest,
And my wings extended
Touch the East and West.

Later the same word, pursued on the same principle as that blessed one
Mesopotamia, led me to and through Emerson, up to his poem on the peak
itself--the wise old giant 'busy with his sky affairs,' who makes us
sane and sober and free from little things if we trust him. So Monadnock
came to mean everything that was helpful, healing, and full of quiet,
and when I saw him half across New Hampshire he did not fail. In that
utter stillness a hemlock bough, overweighted with snow, came down a
foot or two with a tired little sigh; the snow slid off and the little
branch flew nodding back to its fellows.

For the honour of Monadnock there was made that afternoon an image of
snow of Gautama Buddha, something too squat and not altogether equal on
both sides, but with an imperial and reposeful waist. He faced towards
the mountain, and presently some men in a wood-sledge came up the road
and faced him. Now, the amazed comments of two Vermont farmers on the
nature and properties of a swag-bellied god are worth hearing. They were
not troubled about his race, for he was aggressively white; but rounded
waists seem to be out of fashion in Vermont. At least, they said so,
with rare and curious oaths.

Next day all the idleness and trifling were drowned in a snowstorm that
filled the hollows of the hills with whirling blue mist, bowed the
branches of the woods till you ducked, but were powdered all the same
when you drove through, and wiped out the sleighing tracks. Mother
Nature is beautifully tidy if you leave her alone. She rounded off every
angle, broke down every scarp, and tucked the white bedclothes, till not
a wrinkle remained, up to the chine of the spruces and the hemlocks that
would not go to sleep.

'Now,' said the man of the West, as we were driving to the station, and
alas! to New York, 'all my snow-tracks are gone; but when that snow
melts, a week hence or a month hence, they'll all come up again and show
where I've been.'

Curious idea, is it not? Imagine a murder committed in the lonely woods,
a snowstorm that covers the tracks of the flying man before the avenger
of blood has buried the body, and then, a week later, the withdrawal of
the traitorous snow, revealing step by step the path Cain took--the
six-inch dee-trail of his snow-shoes--each step a dark disk on the
white till the very end.

There is so much, so very much to write, if it were worth while, about
that queer little town by the railway station, with its life running, to
all outward seeming, as smoothly as the hack-coupes on their sleigh
mounting, and within disturbed by the hatreds and troubles and
jealousies that vex the minds of all but the gods. For instance--no, it
is better to remember the lesson Monadnock, and Emerson has said, 'Zeus
hates busy-bodies and people who do too much.'

That there are such folk, a long nasal drawl across Main Street attests.
A farmer is unhitching his horses from a post opposite a store. He
stands with the tie-rope in his hand and gives his opinion to his
neighbour and the world generally--'But them there Andersons, they ain't
got no notion of etikwette!'


It is not easy to escape from a big city. An entire continent was
waiting to be traversed, and, for that reason, we lingered in New York
till the city felt so homelike that it seemed wrong to leave it. And
further, the more one studied it, the more grotesquely bad it grew--bad
in its paving, bad in its streets, bad in its street-police, and but for
the kindness of the tides would be worse than bad in its sanitary
arrangements. No one as yet has approached the management of New York in
a proper spirit; that is to say, regarding it as the shiftless outcome
of squalid barbarism and reckless extravagance. No one is likely to do
so, because reflections on the long, narrow pig-trough are construed as
malevolent attacks against the spirit and majesty of the great American
people, and lead to angry comparisons. Yet, if all the streets of London
were permanently up and all the lamps permanently down, this would not
prevent the New York streets taken in a lump from being first cousins to
a Zanzibar foreshore, or kin to the approaches of a Zulu kraal. Gullies,
holes, ruts, cobbles-stones awry, kerbstones rising from two to six
inches above the level of the slatternly pavement; tram-lines from two
to three inches above street level; building materials scattered half
across the street; lime, boards, cut stone, and ash-barrels generally
and generously everywhere; wheeled traffic taking its chances, dray
_versus_ brougham, at cross roads; sway-backed poles whittled and
unpainted; drunken lamp-posts with twisted irons; and, lastly, a
generous scatter of filth and more mixed stinks than the winter wind can
carry away, are matters which can be considered quite apart from the
'Spirit of Democracy' or 'the future of this great and growing country.'
In any other land, they would be held to represent slovenliness,
sordidness, and want of capacity. Here it is explained, not once but
many times, that they show the speed at which the city has grown and the
enviable indifference of her citizens to matters of detail. One of these
days, you are told, everything will be taken in hand and put straight.
The unvirtuous rulers of the city will be swept away by a cyclone, or a
tornado, or something big and booming, of popular indignation; everybody
will unanimously elect the right men, who will justly earn the enormous
salaries that are at present being paid to inadequate aliens for road
sweepings, and all will be well. At the same time the lawlessness
ingrained by governors among the governed during the last thirty, forty,
or it may be fifty years; the brutal levity of the public conscience in
regard to public duty; the toughening and suppling of public morals, and
the reckless disregard for human life, bred by impotent laws and
fostered by familiarity with needless accidents and criminal neglect,
will miraculously disappear. If the laws of cause and effect that
control even the freest people in the world say otherwise, so much the
worse for the laws. America makes her own. Behind her stands the ghost
of the most bloody war of the century caused in a peaceful land by long
temporising with lawlessness, by letting things slide, by shiftlessness
and blind disregard for all save the material need of the hour, till the
hour long conceived and let alone stood up full-armed, and men said,
'Here is an unforeseen crisis,' and killed each other in the name of God
for four years.

In a heathen land the three things that are supposed to be the pillars
of moderately decent government are regard for human life, justice,
criminal and civil, as far as it lies in man to do justice, and good
roads. In this Christian city they think lightly of the first--their own
papers, their own speech, and their own actions prove it; buy and sell
the second at a price openly and without shame; and are, apparently,
content to do without the third. One would almost expect racial sense of
humour would stay them from expecting only praise--slab, lavish, and
slavish--from the stranger within their gates. But they do not. If he
holds his peace, they forge tributes to their own excellence which they
put into his mouth, thereby treating their own land which they profess
to honour as a quack treats his pills. If he speaks--but you shall see
for yourselves what happens then. And they cannot see that by untruth
and invective it is themselves alone that they injure.

The blame of their city evils is not altogether with the gentlemen,
chiefly of foreign extraction, who control the city. These find a people
made to their hand--a lawless breed ready to wink at one evasion of the
law if they themselves may profit by another, and in their rare leisure
hours content to smile over the details of a clever fraud. Then, says
the cultured American, 'Give us time. Give us time, and we shall
arrive.' The otherwise American, who is aggressive, straightway proceeds
to thrust a piece of half-hanged municipal botch-work under the nose of
the alien as a sample of perfected effort. There is nothing more
delightful than to sit for a strictly limited time with a child who
tells you what he means to do when he is a man; but when that same
child, loud-voiced, insistent, unblushingly eager for praise, but
thin-skinned as the most morbid of hobbledehoys, stands about all your
ways telling you the same story in the same voice, you begin to yearn
for something made and finished--say Egypt and a completely dead mummy.
It is neither seemly nor safe to hint that the government of the largest
city in the States is a despotism of the alien by the alien for the
alien, tempered with occasional insurrections of the decent folk. Only
the Chinaman washes the dirty linen of other lands.

St. Paul, Minnesota.

Yes, it is very good to get away once more and pick up the old and ever
fresh business of the vagrant, loafing through new towns, learned in
the manners of dogs, babies, and perambulators half the world over, and
tracking the seasons by the up-growth of flowers in stranger-people's
gardens. St. Paul, standing at the barn-door of the Dakota and Minnesota
granaries, is all things to all men except to Minneapolis, eleven miles
away, whom she hates and by whom she is patronised. She calls herself
the capital of the North-West, the new North-West, and her citizens
wear, not only the tall silk hat of trade, but the soft slouch of the
West. She talks in another tongue than the New Yorker, and--sure sign
that we are far across the continent--her papers argue with the San
Francisco ones over rate wars and the competition of railway companies.
St. Paul has been established many years, and if one were reckless
enough to go down to the business quarters one would hear all about her
and more also. But the residential parts of the town are the crown of
it. In common with scores of other cities, broad-crowned suburbs--using
the word in the English sense--that make the stranger jealous. You get
here what you do not get in the city--well-paved or asphalted roads,
planted with trees, and trim side-walks, studded with houses of
individuality, not boorishly fenced off from each other, but standing
each on its plot of well-kept turf running down to the pavement. It is
always Sunday in these streets of a morning. The cable-car has taken the
men down town to business, the children are at school, and the big dogs,
three and a third to each absent child, lie nosing the winter-killed
grass and wondering when the shoots will make it possible for a
gentleman to take his spring medicine. In the afternoon, the children on
tricycles stagger up and down the asphalt with due proportion of big
dogs at each wheel; the cable-cars coming up hill begin to drop the men
each at his own door--the door of the house that he builded for himself
(though the architect incited him to that vile little attic tower and
useless loggia), and, naturally enough, twilight brings the lovers
walking two by two along the very quiet ways. You can tell from the
houses almost the exact period at which they were built, whether in the
jig-saw days, when if behoved respectability to use unlovely turned
rails and pierced gable-ends, or during the Colonial craze, which means
white paint and fluted pillars, or in the latest domestic era, a most
pleasant mixture, that is, of stained shingles, hooded dormer-windows,
cunning verandas, and recessed doors. Seeing these things, one begins to
understand why the Americans visiting England are impressed with the old
and not with the new. He is not much more than a hundred years ahead of
the English in design, comfort, and economy, and (this is most
important) labour-saving appliances in his house. From Newport to San
Diego you will find the same thing to-day.

Last tribute of respect and admiration. One little brown house at the
end of an avenue is shuttered down, and a doctor's buggy stands before
it. On the door a large blue and white label says--' Scarlet Fever.' Oh,
most excellent municipality of St. Paul. It is because of these little
things, and not by rowdying and racketing in public places, that a
nation becomes great and free and honoured. In the cars to-night they
will be talking wheat, girding at Minneapolis, and sneering at Duluth's
demand for twenty feet of water from Duluth to the Atlantic--matters of
no great moment compared with those streets and that label.

_A day later_.

'Five days ago there wasn't a foot of earth to see. It was just
naturally covered with snow,' says the conductor standing in the rear
car of the Great Northern train. He speaks as though the snow had hidden
something priceless. Here is the view: One railway track and a line of
staggering telegraph poles ending in a dot and a blur on the horizon. To
the left and right, a sweep as it were of the sea, one huge plain of
corn land waiting for the spring, dotted at rare intervals with wooden
farmhouses, patent self-reapers and binders almost as big as the houses,
ricks left over from last year's abundant harvest, and mottled here and
there with black patches to show that the early ploughing had begun. The
snow lies in a last few streaks and whirls by the track; from sky-line
to sky-line is black loam and prairie grass so dead that it seems as
though no one year's sun would waken it. This is the granary of the land
where the farmer who bears the burdens of the State--and who, therefore,
ascribes last year's bumper crop to the direct action of the McKinley
Bill--has, also, to bear the ghastly monotony of earth and sky. He keeps
his head, having many things to attend to, but his wife sometimes goes
mad as the women do in Vermont. There is little variety in Nature's big
wheat-field. They say that when the corn is in the ear, the wind,
chasing shadows across it for miles on miles, breeds as it were a
vertigo in those who must look and cannot turn their eyes away. And they
tell a nightmare story of a woman who lived with her husband for
fourteen years at an Army post in just such a land as this. Then they
were transferred to West Point, among the hills over the Hudson, and she
came to New York, but the terror of the tall houses grew upon her and
grew till she went down with brain fever, and the dread of her delirium
was that the terrible things would topple down and crush her. That is a
true story.

They work for harvest with steam-ploughs here. How could mere horses
face the endless furrows? And they attack the earth with toothed,
cogged, and spiked engines that would be monstrous in the shops, but
here are only speckles on the yellow grass. Even the locomotive is
cowed. A train of freight cars is passing along a line that comes out of
the blue and goes on till it meets the blue again. Elsewhere the train
would move off with a joyous, vibrant roar. Here it steals away down the
vista of the telegraph poles with an awed whisper--steals away and sinks
into the soil.

Then comes a town deep in black mud--a straggly, inch-thick plank town,
with dull red grain elevators. The open country refuses to be subdued
even for a few score rods. Each street ends in the illimitable open, and
it is as though the whole houseless, outside earth were racing through
it. Towards evening, under a gray sky, flies by an unframed picture of
desolation. In the foreground a farm wagon almost axle deep in mud, the
mire dripping from the slow-turning wheels as the man flogs the horses.
Behind him on a knoll of sodden soggy grass, fenced off by raw rails
from the landscape at large, are a knot of utterly uninterested citizens
who have flogged horses and raised wheat in their time, but to-day lie
under chipped and weather-worn wooden headstones. Surely burial here
must be more awful to the newly-made ghost than burial at sea.

There is more snow as we go north, and Nature is hard at work breaking
up the ground for the spring. The thaw has filled every depression with
a sullen gray-black spate, and out on the levels the water lies six
inches deep, in stretch upon stretch, as far as the eye can reach. Every
culvert is full, and the broken ice clicks against the wooden
pier-guards of the bridges. Somewhere in this flatness there is a
refreshing jingle of spurs along the cars, and a man of the Canadian
Mounted Police swaggers through with his black fur cap and the yellow
tab aside, his well-fitting overalls and his better set-up back. One
wants to shake hands with him because he is clean and does not slouch
nor spit, trims his hair, and walks as a man should. Then a
custom-house officer wants to know too much about cigars, whisky, and
Florida water. Her Majesty the Queen of England and Empress of India has
us in her keeping. Nothing has happened to the landscape, and Winnipeg,
which is, as it were, a centre of distribution for emigrants, stands up
to her knees in the water of the thaw. The year has turned in earnest,
and somebody is talking about the 'first ice-shove' at Montreal, 1300 or
1400 miles east.

They will not run trains on Sunday at Montreal, and this is Wednesday.
Therefore, the Canadian Pacific makes up a train for Vancouver at
Winnipeg. This is worth remembering, because few people travel in that
train, and you escape any rush of tourists running westward to catch the
Yokohama boat. The car is your own, and with it the service of the
porter. Our porter, seeing things were slack, beguiled himself with a
guitar, which gave a triumphal and festive touch to the journey,
ridiculously out of keeping with the view. For eight-and-twenty long
hours did the bored locomotive trail us through a flat and hairy land,
powdered, ribbed, and speckled with snow, small snow that drives like
dust-shot in the wind--the land of Assiniboia. Now and again, for no
obvious reason to the outside mind, there was a town. Then the towns
gave place to 'section so and so'; then there were trails of the
buffalo, where he once walked in his pride; then there was a mound of
white bones, supposed to belong to the said buffalo, and then the
wilderness took up the tale. Some of it was good ground, but most of it
seemed to have fallen by the wayside, and the tedium of it was eternal.

At twilight--an unearthly sort of twilight--there came another curious
picture. Thus--a wooden town shut in among low, treeless, rolling
ground, a calling river that ran unseen between scarped banks; barracks
of a detachment of mounted police, a little cemetery where ex-troopers
rested, a painfully formal public garden with pebble paths and foot-high
fir trees, a few lines of railway buildings, white women walking up and
down in the bitter cold with their bonnets off, some Indians in red
blanketing with buffalo horns for sale trailing along the platform, and,
not ten yards from the track, a cinnamon bear and a young grizzly
standing up with extended arms in their pens and begging for food. It
was strange beyond anything that this bald telling can suggest--opening
a door into a new world. The only commonplace thing about the spot was
its name--Medicine Hat, which struck me instantly as the only possible
name such a town could carry. This is that place which later became a
town; but I had seen it three years before when it was even smaller and
was reached by me in a freight-car, ticket unpaid for.

That next morning brought us the Canadian Pacific Railway as one reads
about it. No pen of man could do justice to the scenery there. The
guide-books struggle desperately with descriptions, adapted for summer
reading, of rushing cascades, lichened rocks, waving pines, and
snow-capped mountains; but in April these things are not there. The
place is locked up--dead as a frozen corpse. The mountain torrent is a
boss of palest emerald ice against the dazzle of the snow; the
pine-stumps are capped and hooded with gigantic mushrooms of snow; the
rocks are overlaid five feet deep; the rocks, the fallen trees, and the
lichens together, and the dumb white lips curl up to the track cut in
the side of the mountain, and grin there fanged with gigantic icicles.
You may listen in vain when the train stops for the least sign of breath
or power among the hills. The snow has smothered the rivers, and the
great looping trestles run over what might be a lather of suds in a huge
wash-tub. The old snow near by is blackened and smirched with the smoke
of locomotives, and its dulness is grateful to aching eyes. But the men
who live upon the line have no consideration for these things. At a
halting-place in a gigantic gorge walled in by the snows, one of them
reels from a tiny saloon into the middle of the track where half-a-dozen
dogs are chasing a pig off the metals. He is beautifully and eloquently
drunk. He sings, waves his hands, and collapses behind a shunting
engine, while four of the loveliest peaks that the Almighty ever moulded
look down upon him. The landslide that should have wiped that saloon
into kindlings has missed its mark and has struck a few miles down the
line. One of the hillsides moved a little in dreaming of the spring and
caught a passing freight train. Our cars grind cautiously by, for the
wrecking engine has only just come through. The deceased engine is
standing on its head in soft earth thirty or forty feet down the slide,
and two long cars loaded with shingles are dropped carelessly atop of
it. It looks so marvellously like a toy train flung aside by a child,
that one cannot realise what it means till a voice cries, 'Any one
killed?' The answer comes back, 'No; all jumped'; and you perceive with
a sense of personal insult that this slovenliness of the mountain is an
affair which may touch your own sacred self. In which case.... But the
train is out on a trestle, into a tunnel, and out on a trestle again. It
was here that every one began to despair of the line when it was under
construction, because there seemed to be no outlet. But a man came, as a
man always will, and put a descent thus and a curve in this manner, and
a trestle so; and behold, the line went on. It is in this place that we
heard the story of the Canadian Pacific Railway told as men tell a
many-times-repeated tale, with exaggerations and omissions, but an
imposing tale, none the less. In the beginning, when they would federate
the Dominion of Canada, it was British Columbia who saw objections to
coming in, and the Prime Minister of those days promised it for a bribe,
an iron band between tidewater and tidewater that should not break. Then
everybody laughed, which seems necessary to the health of most big
enterprises, and while they were laughing, things were being done. The
Canadian Pacific Railway was given a bit of a line here and a bit of a
line there and almost as much land as it wanted, and the laughter was
still going on when the last spike was driven between east and west, at
the very place where the drunken man sprawled behind the engine, and the
iron band ran from tideway to tideway as the Premier said, and people in
England said 'How interesting,' and proceeded to talk about the 'bloated
Army estimates.' Incidentally, the man who told us--he had nothing to do
with the Canadian Pacific Railway--explained how it paid the line to
encourage immigration, and told of the arrival at Winnipeg of a
train-load of Scotch crofters on a Sunday. They wanted to stop then and
there for the Sabbath--they and all the little stock they had brought
with them. It was the Winnipeg agent who had to go among them arguing
(he was Scotch too, and they could not quite understand it) on the
impropriety of dislocating the company's traffic. So their own minister
held a service in the station, and the agent gave them a good dinner,
cheering them in Gaelic, at which they wept, and they went on to settle
at Moosomin, where they lived happily ever afterwards. Of the manager,
the head of the line from Montreal to Vancouver, our companion spoke
with reverence that was almost awe. That manager lived in a palace at
Montreal, but from time to time he would sally forth in his special car
and whirl over his 3000 miles at 50 miles an hour. The regulation pace
is twenty-two, but he sells his neck with his head. Few drivers cared
for the honour of taking him over the road. A mysterious man he was, who
'carried the profile of the line in his head,' and, more than that, knew
intimately the possibilities of back country which he had never seen nor
travelled over. There is always one such man on every line. You can hear
similar tales from drivers on the Great Western in England or Eurasian
stationmasters on the big North-Western in India. Then a
fellow-traveller spoke, as many others had done, on the possibilities of
Canadian union with the United States; and his language was not the
language of Mr. Goldwin Smith. It was brutal in places. Summarised it
came to a pronounced objection to having anything to do with a land
rotten before it was ripe, a land with seven million negroes as yet
unwelded into the population, their race-type unevolved, and rather more
than crude notions on murder, marriage, and honesty. 'We've picked up
their ways of politics,' he said mournfully. 'That comes of living next
door to them; but I don't think we're anxious to mix up with their other
messes. They say they don't want us. They keep on saying it. There's a
nigger on the fence somewhere, or they wouldn't lie about it.'

'But does it follow that they are lying?'

'Sure. I've lived among 'em. They can't go straight. There's some dam'
fraud at the back of it.'

From this belief he would not be shaken. He had lived among
them--perhaps had been bested in trade. Let them keep themselves and
their manners and customs to their own side of the line, he said.

This is very sad and chilling. It seemed quite otherwise in New York,
where Canada was represented as a ripe plum ready to fell into Uncle
Sam's mouth when he should open it. The Canadian has no special love for
England--the Mother of Colonies has a wonderful gift for alienating the
affections of her own household by neglect--but, perhaps, he loves his
own country. We ran out of the snow through mile upon mile of
snow-sheds, braced with twelve-inch beams, and planked with two-inch
planking. In one place a snow slide had caught just the edge of a shed
and scooped it away as a knife scoops cheese. High up the hills men had
built diverting barriers to turn the drifts, but the drifts had swept
over everything, and lay five deep on the top of the sheds. When we woke
it was on the banks of the muddy Fraser River and the spring was
hurrying to meet us. The snow had gone; the pink blossoms of the wild
currant were open, the budding alders stood misty green against the blue
black of the pines, the brambles on the burnt stumps were in tenderest
leaf, and every moss on every stone was this year's work, fresh from the
hand of the Maker. The land opened into clearings of soft black earth.
At one station a hen had laid an egg and was telling the world about it.
The world answered with a breath of real spring--spring that flooded the
stuffy car and drove us out on the platform to snuff and sing and
rejoice and pluck squashy green marsh-flags and throw them at the
colts, and shout at the wild duck that rose from a jewel-green lakelet.
God be thanked that in travel one can follow the year! This, my spring,
I lost last November in New Zealand. Now I shall hold her fast through
Japan and the summer into New Zealand again.

Here are the waters of the Pacific, and Vancouver (completely destitute
of any decent defences) grown out of all knowledge in the last three
years. At the railway wharf, with never a gun to protect her, lies the
_Empress of India_--the Japan boat--and what more auspicious name could
you wish to find at the end of one of the strong chains of empire?


The mist was clearing off Yokohama harbour and a hundred junks had their
sails hoisted for the morning breeze, and the veiled horizon was
stippled with square blurs of silver. An English man-of-war showed
blue-white on then haze, so new was the daylight, and all the water lay
out as smooth as the inside of an oyster shell. Two children in blue and
white, their tanned limbs pink in the fresh air, sculled a marvellous
boat of lemon-hued wood, and that was our fairy craft to the shore
across the stillness and the mother o' pearl levels.

There are ways and ways of entering Japan. The best is to descend upon
it from America and the Pacific--from the barbarians and the deep sea.
Coming from the East, the blaze of India and the insolent tropical
vegetation of Singapore dull the eye to half-colours and little tones.
It is at Bombay that the smell of All Asia boards the ship miles off
shore, and holds the passenger's nose till he is clear of Asia again.
That is a violent, and aggressive smell, apt to prejudice the stranger,
but kin none the less to the gentle and insinuating flavour that stole
across the light airs of the daybreak when the fairy boat went to
shore--a smell of very clean new wood; split bamboo, wood-smoke, damp
earth, and the things that people who are not white people eat--a
homelike and comforting smell. Then followed on shore the sound of an
Eastern tongue, that is beautiful or not as you happen to know it. The
Western races have many languages, but a crowd of Europeans heard
through closed doors talk with the Western pitch and cadence. So it is
with the East. A line of jinrickshaw coolies sat in the sun discoursing
to each other, and it was as though they were welcoming a return in
speech that the listener must know as well as English. They talked and
they talked, but the ghosts of familiar words would not grow any clearer
till presently the Smell came down the open streets again, saying that
this was the East where nothing matters, and trifles old as the Tower of
Babel mattered less than nothing, and that there were old acquaintances
waiting at every corner beyond the township. Great is the Smell of the
East! Railways, telegraphs, docks, and gunboats cannot banish it, and it
will endure till the railways are dead. He who has not smelt that smell
has never lived.

Three years ago Yokohama was sufficiently Europeanised in its shops to
suit the worst and wickedest taste. To-day it is still worse if you keep
to the town limits. Ten steps beyond into the fields all the
civilisation stops exactly as it does in another land a few thousand
miles further West. The globe-trotting, millionaires anxious to spend
money, with a hose on whatever caught their libertine fancies, had
explained to us aboard-ship that they came to Japan in haste, advised by
their guide-books to do so, lest the land should be suddenly civilised
between steamer-sailing and steamer-sailing. When they touched land they
ran away to the curio shops to buy things which are prepared for
them--mauve and magenta and blue-vitriol things. By this time they have
a 'Murray' under one arm and an electric-blue eagle with a copperas beak
and a yellow '_E pluribus unum_' embroidered on apple-green silk, under
the other.

We, being wise, sit in a garden that is not ours, but belongs to a
gentleman in slate-coloured silk, who, solely for the sake of the
picture, condescends to work as a gardener, in which employ he is
sweeping delicately a welt of fallen cherry blossoms from under an
azalea aching to burst into bloom. Steep stone steps, of the colour that
nature ripens through long winters, lead up to this garden by way of
clumps of bamboo grass. You see the Smell was right when it talked of
meeting old friends. Half-a-dozen blue-black pines are standing akimbo
against a real sky--not a fog-blur nor a cloud-bank, nor a gray
dish-clout wrapped round the sun--but a blue sky. A cherry tree on a
slope below them throws up a wave of blossom that breaks all creamy
white against their feet, and a clump of willows trail their palest
green shoots in front of all. The sun sends for an ambassador through
the azalea bushes a lordly swallow-tailed butterfly, and his squire
very like the flitting 'chalk-blue' of the English downs. The warmth of
the East, that goes through, not over, the lazy body, is added to the
light of the East--the splendid lavish light that clears but does not
bewilder the eye. Then the new leaves of the spring wink like fat
emeralds and the loaded branches of cherry-bloom grow transparent and
glow as a hand glows held up against flame. Little, warm sighs come up
from the moist, warm earth, and the fallen petals stir on the ground,
turn over, and go to sleep again. Outside, beyond the foliage, where the
sunlight lies on the slate-coloured roofs, the ridged rice-fields beyond
the roofs, and the hills beyond the rice-fields, is all Japan--only all
Japan; and this that they call the old French Legation is the Garden of
Eden that most naturally dropped down here after the Fall. For some
small hint of the beauties to be shown later there is the roof of a
temple, ridged and fluted with dark tiles, flung out casually beyond the
corner of the bluff on which the garden stands. Any other curve of the
eaves would not have consorted with the sweep of the pine branches;
therefore, this curve was made, and being made, was perfect. The
congregation of the globe-trotters are in the hotel, scuffling for
guides, in order that they may be shown the sights of Japan, which is
all one sight. They must go to Tokio, they must go to Nikko; they must
surely see all that is to be seen and then write home to their barbarian
families that they are getting used to the sight of bare, brown legs.
Before this day is ended, they will all, thank goodness, have splitting
headaches and burnt-out eyes. It is better to lie still and hear the
grass grow--to soak in the heat and the smell and the sounds and the
sights that come unasked.

Our garden overhangs the harbour, and by pushing aside one branch we
look down upon a heavy-sterned fishing-boat, the straw-gold mats of the
deck-house pushed back to show the perfect order and propriety of the
housekeeping that is going forward. The father-fisher, sitting
frog-fashion, is poking at a tiny box full of charcoal, and the light,
white ash is blown back into the face of a largish Japanese doll, price
two shillings and threepence in Bayswater. The doll wakes, turns into a
Japanese baby something more valuable than money could buy--a baby with
a shaven head and aimless legs. It crawls to the thing in the polished
brown box, is picked up just as it is ready to eat live coals, and is
set down behind a thwart, where it drums upon a bucket, addressing the
firebox from afar. Half-a-dozen cherry blossoms slide off a bough, and
waver down to the water close to the Japanese doll, who in another
minute will be overside in pursuit of these miracles. The father-fisher
has it by the pink hind leg, and this time it is tucked away, all but
the top-knot, out of sight among umber nets and sepia cordage. Being an
Oriental it makes no protest, and the boat scuds out to join the little
fleet in the offing.

Then two sailors of a man-of-war come along the sea face, lean over the
canal below the garden, spit, and roll away. The sailor in port is the
only superior man. To him all matters rare and curious are either 'them
things' or 'them other things.' He does not hurry himself, he does not
seek Adjectives other than those which custom puts into his mouth for
all occasions; but the beauty of life penetrates his being insensibly
till he gets drunk, falls foul of the local policeman, smites him into
the nearest canal, and disposes of the question of treaty revision with
a hiccup. All the same, Jack says that he has a grievance against the
policeman, who is paid a dollar for every strayed seaman he brings up to
the Consular Courts for overstaying his leave, and so forth. Jack says
that the little fellows deliberately hinder him from getting back to his
ship, and then with devilish art and craft of wrestling tricks--'there
are about a hundred of 'em, and they can throw you with every qualified
one'--carry him to justice. Now when Jack is softened with drink he does
not tell lies. This is his grievance, and he says that them blanketed
consuls ought to know. 'They plays into each other's hands, and stops
you at the Hatoba'--the policemen do. The visitor who is neither a
seaman nor drunk, cannot swear to the truth of this, or indeed anything
else. He moves not only among fascinating scenes and a lovely people
but, as he is sure to find out before he has been a day ashore, between
stormy questions. Three years ago there were no questions that were not
going to be settled off-hand in a blaze of paper lanterns. The
Constitution was new. It has a gray, pale cover with a chrysanthemum at
the back, and a Japanese told me then, 'Now we have Constitution same as
other countries, and _so_ it is all right. Now we are quite civilised
because of Constitution.'

[A perfectly irrelevant story comes to mind here. Do you know that in
Madeira once they had a revolution which lasted just long enough for the
national poet to compose a national anthem, and then was put down? All
that is left of the revolt now is the song that you hear on the
twangling _nachettes_, the baby-banjoes, of a moonlight night under the
banana fronds at the back of Funchal. And the high-pitched nasal refrain
of it is 'Consti-tuci-_oun_!']

Since that auspicious date it seems that the questions have
impertinently come up, and the first and the last of them is that of
Treaty Revision. Says the Japanese Government, 'Only obey our laws, our
new laws that we have carefully compiled from all the wisdom of the
West, and you shall go up country as you please and trade where you
will, instead of living cooped up in concessions and being judged by
consuls. Treat us as you would treat France or Germany, and we will
treat you as our own subjects.'

Here, as you know, the matter rests between the two thousand foreigners
and the forty million Japanese--a God-send to all editors of Tokio and
Yokohama, and the despair of the newly arrived in whose nose, remember,
is the smell of the East, One and Indivisible, Immemorial, Eternal, and,
above all, Instructive.

Indeed, it is only by walking out at least half a mile that you escape
from the aggressive evidences of civilisation, and come out into the
rice-fields at the back of the town. Here men with twists of blue and
white cloth round their heads are working knee deep in the thick black
mud. The largest field may be something less than two tablecloths, while
the smallest is, say, a speck of undercliff, on to which it were hard to
back a 'rickshaw, wrested from the beach and growing its clump of barley
within spray-shot of the waves. The field paths are the trodden tops of
the irrigating cuts, and the main roads as wide as two perambulators
abreast. From the uplands--the beautiful uplands planted in exactly the
proper places with pine and maple--the ground comes down in terraced
pocket on pocket of rich earth to the levels again, and it would seem
that every heavily-thatched farmhouse was chosen with special regard to
the view. If you look closely when the people go to work you will see
that a household spreads itself over plots, maybe, a quarter of a mile
apart. A revenue map of a village shows that this scatteration is
apparently designed, but the reason is not given. One thing at least is
certain. The assessment of these patches can be no light piece of
work--just the thing, in fact, that would give employment to a large
number of small and variegated Government officials, any one of whom,
assuming that he was of an Oriental cast of mind, might make the
cultivator's life interesting. I remember now--a second-time-seen place
brings back things that were altogether buried--seeing three years ago
the pile of Government papers required in the case of one farm. They
were many and systematic, but the interesting thing about them was the
amount of work that they must have furnished to those who were neither
cultivators nor Treasury officials.

If one knew Japanese, one could collogue with that gentleman in the
straw-hat and the blue loincloth who is chopping within a sixteenth of
an inch of his naked toes with the father and mother of all weed-spuds.
His version of local taxation might be inaccurate, but it would sure to
be picturesque. Failing his evidence, be pleased to accept two or three
things that may or may not be facts of general application. They differ
in a measure from statements in the books. The present land-tax is
nominally 2-1/2 per cent, payable in cash on a three, or as some say a
five, yearly settlement. But, according to certain officials, there has
been no settlement since 1875. Land lying fallow for a season pays the
same tax as land in cultivation, unless it is unproductive through flood
or calamity (read earthquake here). The Government tax is calculated on
the capital value of the land, taking a measure of about 11,000 square
feet or a quarter of an acre as the unit.

Now, one of the ways of getting at the capital value of the land is to
see what the railways have paid for it. The very best rice land, taking
the Japanese dollar at three shillings, is about L65:10s per acre.
Unirrigated land for vegetable growing is something over L9:12s., and
forest L2:11s. As these are railway rates, they may be fairly held to
cover large areas. In private sales the prices may reasonably be higher.

It is to be remembered that some of the very best rice land will bear
two crops of rice in the year. Most soil will bear two crops, the first
being millet, rape, vegetables, and so on, sown on dry soil and ripening
at the end of May. Then the ground is at once prepared for the wet crop,
to be harvested in October or thereabouts. Land-tax is payable in two
instalments. Rice land pays between the 1st November and the middle of
December and the 1st January and the last of February. Other land pays
between July and August and September and December. Let us see what the
average yield is. The gentleman in the sun-hat and the loin-cloth would
shriek at the figures, but they are approximately accurate. Rice
naturally fluctuates a good deal, but it may be taken in the rough at
five Japanese dollars (fifteen shillings) per _koku_ of 330 lbs. Wheat
and maize of the first spring crop is worth about eleven shillings per
_koku_. The first crop gives nearly 1-3/4 _koku_ per _tau_ (the quarter
acre unit of measurement aforesaid), or eighteen shillings per quarter
acre, or L3:12s. per acre. The rice crop at two _koku_ or L1:10s. the
quarter acre gives L6 an acre. Total L9:12s. This is not altogether bad
if you reflect that the land in question is not the very best rice land,
but ordinary No. 1, at L25:16s. per acre, capital value.

A son has the right to inherit his father's land on the father's
assessment, so long as its term runs, or, when the term has expired, has
a prior claim as against any one else. Part of the taxes, it is said,
lies by in the local prefecture's office as a reserve fund against
inundations. Yet, and this seems a little confusing, there are between
five and seven other local, provincial, and municipal taxes which can
reasonably be applied to the same ends. No one of these taxes exceeds a
half of the land-tax, unless it be the local prefecture tax of 2-1/2 per

In the old days the people were taxed, or perhaps squeezed would be the
better word, to about one-half of the produce of the land. There are
those who may say that the present system is not so advantageous as it
looks. Beforetime, the farmers, it is true, paid heavily, but only, on
their nominal holdings. They could, and often did, hold more land than
they were assessed on. Today a rigid bureaucracy surveys every foot of
their farms, and upon every foot they have to pay. Somewhat similar
complaints are made still by the simple peasantry of India, for if there
is one thing that the Oriental detests more than another, it is the
damnable Western vice of accuracy. That leads to doing things by rule.
Still, by the look of those terraced fields, where the water is led so
cunningly from level to level, the Japanese cultivator must enjoy at
least one excitement. If the villages up the valley tamper with the
water supply, there must surely be excitement down the valley--argument,
protest, and the breaking of heads.

The days of romance, therefore, are not all dead.

* * * * *

This that follows happened on the coast twenty miles through the fields
from Yokohama, at Kamakura, that is to say, where the great bronze
Buddha sits facing the sea to hear the centuries go by. He has been
described again and again--his majesty, his aloofness, and every one of
his dimensions, the smoky little shrine within him, and the plumed hill
that makes the background to his throne. For that reason he remains, as
he remained from the beginning, beyond all hope of description--as it
might be, a visible god sitting in the garden of a world made new. They
sell photographs of him with tourists standing on his thumb nail, and,
apparently, any brute of any gender can scrawl his or its ignoble name
over the inside of the massive bronze plates that build him up. Think
for a moment of the indignity and the insult! Imagine the ancient,
orderly gardens with their clipped trees, shorn turf, and silent ponds
smoking in the mist that the hot sun soaks up after rain, and the
green-bronze image of the Teacher of the Law wavering there as it half
seems through incense clouds. The earth is all one censer, and myriads
of frogs are making the haze ring. It is too warm to do more than to sit
on a stone and watch the eyes that, having seen all things, see no
more--the down-dropped eyes, the forward droop of the head, and the
colossal simplicity of the folds of the robe over arm and knee. Thus,
and in no other fashion, did Buddha sit in the-old days when Ananda
asked questions and the dreamer began to dream of the lives that lay
behind him ere the lips moved, and as the Chronicles say: 'He told a
tale.' This would be the way he began, for dreamers in the East tell
something the same sort of tales to-day: 'Long ago when Devadatta was
King of Benares, there lived a virtuous elephant, a reprobate ox, and a
King without understanding.' And the tale would end, after the moral had
been drawn for Ananda's benefit: 'Now, the reprobate ox was such an one,
and the King was such another, but the virtuous elephant was I, myself,
Ananda.' Thus, then, he told the tales in the bamboo grove, and the
bamboo grove is there to-day. Little blue and gray and slate robed
figures pass under its shadow, buy two or three joss-sticks, disappear
into the shrine, that is, the body of the god, come out smiling, and
drift away through the shrubberies. A fat carp in a pond sucks at a
fallen leaf with just the sound of a wicked little worldly kiss. Then
the earth steams, and steams in silence, and a gorgeous butterfly, full
six inches from wing to wing, cuts through the steam in a zigzag of
colour and flickers up to the forehead of the god. And Buddha said that
a man must look on everything as illusion--even light and colour--the
time-worn bronze of metal against blue-green of pine and pale emerald of
bamboo--the lemon sash of the girl in the cinnamon dress, with coral
pins in her hair, leaning against a block of weather-bleached
stone--and, last, the spray of blood-red azalea that stands on the pale
gold mats of the tea-house beneath the honey-coloured thatch. To overcome
desire and covetousness of mere gold, which is often very vilely designed,
that is conceivable; but why must a man give up the delight of the eye,
colour that rejoices, light that cheers, and line that satisfies the
innermost deeps of the heart? Ah, if the Bodhisat had only seen his own


All things considered, there are only two kinds of men in the
world--those that stay at home and those that do not. The second are the
most interesting. Some day a man will bethink himself and write a book
about the breed in a book called 'The Book of the Overseas Club,' for it
is at the clubhouses all the way from Aden to Yokohama that the life of
the Outside Men is best seen and their talk is best heard. A strong
family likeness runs through both buildings and members, and a large and
careless hospitality is the note. There is always the same open-doored,
high-ceiled house, with matting on the floors; the same come and go of
dark-skinned servants, and the same assembly of men talking horse or
business, in raiment that would fatally scandalise a London committee,
among files of newspapers from a fortnight to five weeks old. The life
of the Outside Men includes plenty of sunshine, and as much air as may
be stirring. At the Cape, where the Dutch housewives distil and sell the
very potent Vanderhum, and the absurd home-made hansom cabs waddle up
and down the yellow dust of Adderley Street, are the members of the big
import and export firms, the shipping and insurance offices, inventors
of mines, and exploiters of new territories with now and then an officer
strayed from India to buy mules for the Government, a Government House
aide-de-camp, a sprinkling of the officers of the garrison, tanned
skippers of the Union and Castle Lines, and naval men from the squadron
at Simon's Town. Here they talk of the sins of Cecil Rhodes, the
insolence of Natal, the beauties or otherwise of the solid Boer vote,
and the dates of the steamers. The _argot_ is Dutch and Kaffir, and
every one can hum the national anthem that begins 'Pack your kit and
trek, Johnny Bowlegs.' In the stately Hongkong Clubhouse, which is to
the further what the Bengal Club is to the nearer East, you meet much
the same gathering, _minus_ the mining speculators and _plus_ men whose
talk is of tea, silk, shortings, and Shanghai ponies. The speech of the
Outside Men at this point becomes fearfully mixed with pidgin-English
and local Chinese terms, rounded with corrupt Portuguese. At Melbourne,
in a long verandah giving on a grass plot, where laughing-jackasses
laugh very horribly, sit wool-kings, premiers, and breeders of horses
after their kind. The older men talk of the days of the Eureka Stockade
and the younger of 'shearing wars' in North Queensland, while the
traveller moves timidly among them wondering what under the world every
third word means. At Wellington, overlooking the harbour (all
right-minded clubs should command the sea), another, and yet a like,
sort of men speak of sheep, the rabbits, the land-courts, and the
ancient heresies of Sir Julius Vogel; and their more expressive
sentences borrow from the Maori. And elsewhere, and elsewhere, and
elsewhere among the Outside Men it is the same--the same mixture of
every trade, calling, and profession under the sun; the same clash of
conflicting interests touching the uttermost parts of the earth; the
same intimate, and sometimes appalling knowledge of your neighbour's
business and shortcomings; the same large-palmed hospitality, and the
same interest on the part of the, younger men in the legs of a horse.
Decidedly, it is at the Overseas Club all the world over that you get to
know some little of the life of the community. London is egoistical, and
the world for her ends with the four-mile cab radius. There is no
provincialism like the provincialism of London. That big slack-water
coated with the drift and rubbish of a thousand men's thoughts esteems
itself the open sea because the waves of all the oceans break on her
borders. To those in her midst she is terribly imposing, but they forget
that there is more than one kind of imposition. Look back upon her from
ten thousand miles, when the mail is just in at the Overseas Club, and
she is wondrous tiny. Nine-tenths of her news--so vital, so epoch-making
over there--loses its significance, and the rest is as the scuffling of
ghosts in a back-attic.

Here in Yokohama the Overseas Club has two mails and four sets of
papers--English, French, German, and American, as suits the variety of
its constitution--and the verandah by the sea, where the big telescope
stands, is a perpetual feast of the Pentecost. The population of the
club changes with each steamer in harbour, for the sea-captains swing
in, are met with 'Hello! where did you come from?' and mix at the bar
and billiard-tables for their appointed time and go to sea again. The
white-painted warships supply their contingent of members also, and
there are wonderful men, mines of most fascinating adventure, who have
an interest in sealing-brigs that go to the Kurile Islands, and somehow
get into trouble with the Russian authorities. Consuls and judges of the
Consular Courts meet men over on leave from the China ports, or it may
be Manila, and they all talk tea, silk, banking, and exchange with its
fixed residents. Everything is always as bad as it can possibly be, and
everybody is on the verge of ruin. That is why, when they have decided
that life is no longer worth living, they go down to the
skittle-alley--to commit suicide. From the outside, when a cool wind
blows among the papers and there is a sound of smashing ice in an inner
apartment, and every third man is talking about the approaching races,
the life seems to be a desirable one. 'What more could a man need to
make him happy?' says the passer-by. A perfect climate, a lovely
country, plenty of pleasant society, and the politest people on earth to
deal with. The resident smiles and invites the passer-by to stay through
July and August. Further, he presses him to do business with the
politest people on earth, and to continue so doing for a term of years.
Thus the traveller perceives beyond doubt that the resident is
prejudiced by the very fact of his residence, and gives it as his
matured opinion that Japan is a faultless land, marred only by the
presence of the foreign community. And yet, let us consider. It is the
foreign community that has made it possible for the traveller to come
and go from hotel to hotel, to get his passport for inland travel, to
telegraph his safe arrival to anxious friends, and generally enjoy
himself much more than he would have been able to do in his own country.
Government and gunboats may open a land, but it is the men of the
Overseas Club that keep it open. Their reward (not alone in Japan) is
the bland patronage or the scarcely-veiled contempt of those who profit
by their labours. It is hopeless to explain to a traveller who has been
'ohayoed' into half-a-dozen shops and 'sayonaraed' out of half-a-dozen
more and politely cheated in each one, that the Japanese is an Oriental,
and, therefore, embarrassingly economical of the truth. 'That's his
politeness,' says the traveller. 'He does not wish to hurt your
feelings. Love him and treat him like a brother, and he'll change.' To
treat one of the most secretive of races on a brotherly basis is not
very easy, and the natural politeness that enters into a signed and
sealed contract and undulates out of it so soon as it does not
sufficiently pay is more than embarrassing. It is almost annoying. The
want of fixity or commercial honour may be due to some natural infirmity
of the artistic temperament, or to the manner in which the climate has
affected, and his ruler has ruled, the man himself for untold centuries.

Those who know the East know, where the system of 'squeeze,' which is
commission, runs through every transaction of life, from the sale of a
groom's place upward, where the woman walks behind the man in the
streets, and where the peasant gives you for the distance to the next
town as many or as few miles as he thinks you will like, that these
things must be so. Those who do not know will not be persuaded till they
have lived there. The Overseas Club puts up its collective nose
scornfully when it hears of the New and Regenerate Japan sprung to life
since the 'seventies. It grins, with shame be it written, at an Imperial
Diet modelled on the German plan and a Code Napoleon a la Japonaise. It
is so far behind the New Era as to doubt that an Oriental country,
ridden by etiquette of the sternest, and social distinctions almost as
hard as those of caste, can be turned out to Western gauge in the
compass of a very young man's fife. And it _must_ be prejudiced, because
it is daily and hourly in contact with the Japanese, except when it can
do business with the Chinaman whom it prefers. Was there ever so
disgraceful a club!

Just at present, a crisis, full blown as a chrysanthemum, has developed
in the Imperial Diet. Both Houses accuse the Government of improper
interference--this Japanese for 'plenty stick and some bank-note'--at
the recent elections. They then did what was equivalent to passing a
vote of censure on the Ministry and refusing to vote government
measures. So far the wildest advocate of representative government could
have desired nothing better. Afterwards, things took a distinctly
Oriental turn. The Ministry refused to resign, and the Mikado prorogued
the Diet for a week to think things over. The Japanese papers are now at
issue over the event. Some say that representative government implies
party government, and others swear at large. The Overseas Club says for
the most part--'Skittles!'

It is a picturesque situation--one that suggests romances and
extravaganzas. Thus, imagine a dreaming Court intrenched behind a triple
line of moats where the lotus blooms in summer--a Court whose outer
fringe is aggressively European, but whose heart is Japan of long ago,
where a dreaming King sits among some wives or other things, amused from
time to time with magic-lantern shows and performing fleas--a holy King
whose sanctity is used to conjure with, and who twice a year gives
garden-parties where every one must come in top-hat and frock coat.
Round this Court, wavering between the splendours of the sleeping and
the variety shows of the Crystal Palace, place in furious but
carefully-veiled antagonism the fragments of newly shattered castes,
their natural Oriental eccentricities overlaid with borrowed Western
notions. Imagine now, a large and hungry bureaucracy, French in its
fretful insistence on detail where detail is of no earthly moment,
Oriental in its stress on etiquette and punctillo, recruited from a
military caste accustomed for ages past to despise alike farmer and
trader. This caste, we will suppose, is more or less imperfectly
controlled by a syndicate of three clans, which supply their own
nominees to the Ministry. These are adroit, versatile, and unscrupulous
men, hampered by no western prejudice in favour of carrying any plan to
completion. Through and at the bidding of these men, the holy Monarch
acts; and the acts are wonderful. To criticise these acts exists a
wild-cat Press, liable to suppression at any moment, as morbidly
sensitive to outside criticism as the American, and almost as childishly
untruthful, fungoid in the swiftness of its growth, and pitiable in its
unseasoned rashness. Backers of this press in its wilder moments,
lawless, ignorant, sensitive and vain, are the student class, educated
in the main at Government expense, and a thorn in the side of the State.
Judges without training handle laws without precedents, and new measures
are passed and abandoned with almost inconceivable levity. Out of the
welter of classes and interests that are not those of the common folk is
evolved the thing called Japanese policy that has the proportion and the
perspective of a Japanese picture.

Finality and stability are absent from its councils. To-day, for reasons
none can explain, it is pro-foreign to the verge of servility.
To-morrow, for reasons equally obscure, the pendulum swings back,
and--the students are heaving mud at the foreigners in the streets.
Vexatious, irresponsible, incoherent, and, above all, cheaply
mysterious, is the rule of the land--stultified by intrigue and
counter-intrigue, chequered with futile reforms begun on European lines
and light-heartedly thrown aside; studded, as a bower-bird's run is
studded with shells and shining pebbles, with plagiarisms from half the
world--an operetta of administration, wherein the shadow of the King
among his wives, Samurai policemen, doctors who have studied under
Pasteur, kid-gloved cavalry officers from St. Cyr, judges with
University degrees, harlots with fiddles, newspaper correspondents,
masters of the ancient ceremonies of the land, paid members of the Diet,
secret societies that borrow the knife and the dynamite of the Irish,
sons of dispossessed Daimios returned from Europe and waiting for what
may turn up, with ministers of the syndicate who have wrenched Japan
from her repose of twenty years ago, circle, flicker, shift, and reform,
in bewildering rings, round the foreign resident. Is the extravaganza

Somewhere in the background of the stage are the people of the land--of
whom a very limited proportion enjoy the privileges of representative
government. Whether in the past few years they have learned what the
thing means, or, learning, have the least intention of making any use of
it, is not clear. Meantime, the game of government goes forward as
merrily as a game of puss-in-the-corner, with the additional joy that
not more than half-a-dozen men know who is controlling it or what in
the wide world it intends to do. In Tokio live the steadily-diminishing
staff of Europeans employed by the Emperor as engineers, railway
experts, professors in the colleges and so forth. Before many years they
will all be dispensed with, and the country will set forth among the
nations alone and on its own responsibility.

In fifty years then, from the time that the intrusive American first
broke her peace, Japan will experience her new birth and, reorganised
from sandal to top-knot, play the _samisen_ in the march of modern
progress. This is the great advantage of being born into the New Era,
when individual and community alike can get something for nothing--pay
without work, education without effort, religion' without thought, and
free government without slow and bitter toil.

The Overseas Club, as has been said, is behind the spirit of the age. It
has to work for what it gets, and it does not always get what it works
for. Nor can its members take ship and go home when they please. Imagine
for a little, the contented frame of mind that is bred in a man by the
perpetual contemplation of a harbour full of steamers as a Piccadilly
cab-rank of hansoms. The weather is hot, we will suppose; something has
gone wrong with his work that day, or his children are not looking so
well as might be. Pretty tiled bungalows, bowered in roses and wistaria,
do not console him, and the voices of the politest people on earth jar
sorely. He knows every soul in the club, has thoroughly talked out
every subject of interest, and would give half a year's--oh, five
years'--pay for one lung-filling breath of air that has life in it, one
sniff of the haying grass, or half a mile of muddy London street where
the muffin bell tinkles in the four o'clock fog. Then the big liner
moves out across the staring blue of the bay. So-and-so and such-an-one,
both friends, are going home in her, and some one else goes next week by
the French mail. He, and he alone, it seems to him, must stay on; and it
is so maddeningly easy to go--for every one save himself. The boat's
smoke dies out along the horizon, and he is left alone with the warm
wind and the white dust of the Bund. Now Japan is a good place, a place
that men swear by and live in for thirty years at a stretch. There are
China ports a week's sail to the westward where life is really hard, and
where the sight of the restless shipping hurts very much indeed.
Tourists and you who travel the world over, be very gentle to the men of
the Overseas Clubs. Remember that, unlike yourselves, they have not come
here for the good of their health, and that the return ticket in your
wallet may possibly colour your views of their land. Perhaps it would
not be altogether wise on the strength of much kindness from Japanese
officials to recommend that these your countrymen be handed over lock,
stock, and barrel to a people that are beginning to experiment with
fresh-drafted half-grafted codes which do not include juries, to a
system that does not contemplate a free Press, to a suspicious
absolutism from which there is no appeal. Truly, it might be
interesting, but as surely it would begin in farce and end in tragedy,
that would leave the politest people on earth in no case to play at
civilised government for a long time to come. In his concession, where
he is an apologetic and much sat-upon importation, the foreign resident
does no harm. He does not always sue for money due to him on the part of
a Japanese. Once outside those limits, free to move into the heart of
the country, it would only be a question of time as to where and when
the trouble would begin. And in the long run it would not be the foreign
resident that would suffer. The imaginative eye can see the most
unpleasant possibilities, from a general overrunning of Japan by the
Chinaman, who is far the most important foreign resident, to the
shelling of Tokio by a joyous and bounding Democracy, anxious to
vindicate her national honour and to learn how her newly-made navy

But there are scores of arguments that would confute and overwhelm this
somewhat gloomy view. The statistics of Japan, for instance, are as
beautiful and fit as neatly as the woodwork of her houses. By these it
would be possible to prove anything.


A Radical Member of Parliament at Tokio has just got into trouble with
his constituents, and they have sent him a priceless letter of reproof.
Among other things they point out that a politician should not be 'a
waterweed which wobbles hither and thither according to the motion of
the stream.' Nor should he 'like a ghost without legs drift along before
the wind.' 'Your conduct,' they say, 'has been both of a waterweed and a
ghost, and we purpose in a little time to give you proof of our true
Japanese spirit.' That member will very likely be mobbed in his
'rickshaw and prodded to inconvenience with sword-sticks; for the
constituencies are most enlightened. But how in the world can a man
under these sides behave except as a waterweed and a ghost? It is in the
air--the wobble and the legless drift An energetic tourist would have
gone to Hakodate, seen Ainos at Sapporo, ridden across the northern
island under the gigantic thistles, caught salmon, looked in at
Vladivostock, and done half a hundred things in the time that one lazy
loafer has wasted watching the barley turn from green to gold, the
azaleas blossom and burn out, and the spring give way to the warm rains
of summer. Now the iris has taken up the blazonry of the year, and the
tide of the tourists ebbs westward.

The permanent residents are beginning to talk of hill places to go to
for the hot weather, and all the available houses in the resort are let.
In a little while the men from China will be coming over for their
holidays, but just at present we are in the thick of the tea season, and
there is no time to waste on frivolities. 'Packing' is a valid excuse
for anything, from forgetting a dinner to declining a tennis party, and
the tempers of husbands are judged leniently. All along the sea face is
an inspiring smell of the finest new-mown hay, and canals are full of
boats loaded up with the boxes jostling down to the harbour. At the club
men say rude things about the arrivals of the mail. There never was a
post-office yet that did not rejoice in knocking a man's Sabbath into
flinders. A fair office day's work may begin at eight and end at six,
or, if the mail comes in, at midnight. There is no overtime or
eight-hours' baby-talk in tea. Yonder are the ships; here is the stuff,
and behind all is the American market. The rest is your own affair.

The narrow streets are blocked with the wains bringing down, in boxes of
every shape and size, the up-country rough leaf. Some one must take
delivery of these things, find room for them in the packed warehouse,
and sample them before they are blended and go to the firing.

More than half the elaborate processes are 'lost work' so far as the
quality of the stuff goes; but the markets insist on a good-looking
leaf, with polish, face and curl to it, and in this, as in other
businesses, the call of the markets is the law. The factory floors are
made slippery with the tread of bare-footed coolies, who shout as the
tea whirls through its transformations. The over-note to the clamour--an
uncanny thing too--is the soft rustle-down of the tea itself--stacked in
heaps, carried in baskets, dumped through chutes, rising and falling in
the long troughs where it is polished, and disappearing at last into the
heart of the firing-machine--always this insistent whisper of moving
dead leaves. Steam-sieves sift it into grades, with jarrings and
thumpings that make the floor quiver, and the thunder of steam-gear is
always at its heels; but it continues to mutter unabashed till it is
riddled down into the big, foil-lined boxes and lies at peace.

A few days ago the industry suffered a check which, lasting not more
than two minutes, lost several hundred pounds of hand-fired tea. It was
something after this way. Into the stillness of a hot, stuffy morning
came an unpleasant noise as of batteries of artillery charging up all
the roads together, and at least one bewildered sleeper waking saw his
empty boots where they 'sat and played toccatas stately at the
clavicord.' It was the washstand really but the effect was awful. Then a
clock fell and a wall cracked, and heavy hands caught the house by the
roof-pole and shook it furiously. To preserve an equal mind when things
are hard is good, but he who has not fumbled desperately at bolted
jalousies that will not open while a whole room is being tossed in a
blanket does not know how hard it is to find any sort of mind at all.
The end of the terror was inadequate--a rush into the still, heavy
outside air, only to find the' servants in the garden giggling (the
Japanese would giggle through the Day of Judgment) and to learn that the
earthquake was over. Then came the news, swift borne from the business
quarters below the hill, that the coolies of certain factories had fled
shrieking at the first shock, and that all the tea in the pans was
burned to a crisp. That, certainly, was some consolation for undignified
panic; and there remained the hope that a few tall chimneys up the line
at Tokio would have collapsed. They stood firm, however, and the local
papers, used to this kind of thing, merely spoke of the shock as
'severe.' Earthquakes are demoralising; but they bring out all the
weaknesses of human nature. First is downright dread; the stage
of--'only let me get into the open and I'll reform,' then the impulse to
send news of the most terrible shock of modern times flying east and
west among the cables. (Did not your own hair stand straight on end,
and, therefore, must not everybody else's have done likewise?) Last, as
fallen humanity picks itself together, comes the cry of the mean little
soul: 'What! Was _that_ all? I wasn't frightened from the beginning.'

It is wholesome and tonic to realise the powerlessness of man in the
face of these little accidents. The heir of all the ages, the
annihilator of time and space, who politely doubts the existence of his
Maker, hears the roof-beams crack and strain above him, and scuttles
about like a rabbit in a stoppered warren. If the shock endures for
twenty minutes, the annihilator of time and space must camp out under
the blue and hunt for his dead among the rubbish. Given a violent
convulsion (only just such a slipping of strata as carelessly piled
volumes will accomplish in a book-case) and behold, the heir of all the
ages is stark, raving mad--a brute among the dishevelled hills. Set a
hundred of the world's greatest spirits, men of fixed principles, high
aims, resolute endeavour, enormous experience, and the modesty that
these attributes bring--set them to live through such a catastrophe as
that which wiped out Nagoya last October, and at the end of three days
there would remain few whose souls might be called their own.

So much for yesterday's shock. To-day there has come another; and a most
comprehensive affair it is. It has broken nothing, unless maybe an old
heart or two cracks later on; and the wise people in the settlement are
saying that they predicted it from the first. None the less as an
earthquake it deserves recording.

It was a very rainy afternoon; all the streets were full of gruelly mud,
and all the business men were at work in their offices when it began. A
knot of Chinamen were studying a closed door from whose further side
came a most unpleasant sound of bolting and locking up. The notice on
the door was interesting. With deep regret did the manager of the New
Oriental Banking Corporation, Limited (most decidedly limited), announce
that on telegraphic orders from home he had suspended payment. Said one
Chinaman to another in pidgin-Japanese: 'It is shut,' and went away. The
noise of barring up continued, the rain fell, and the notice stared down
the wet street. That was all. There must have been two or three men
passing by to whom the announcement meant the loss of every penny of
their savings--comforting knowledge to digest after tiffin. In London,
of course, the failure would not mean so much; there are many banks in
the City, and people would have had warning. Here banks are few, people
are dependent on them, and this news came out of the sea unheralded, an
evil born with all its teeth.

After the crash of a bursting shell every one who can picks himself up,
brushes the dirt off his uniform, and tries to make a joke of it. Then
some one whips a handkerchief round his hand--a splinter has torn
it--and another finds warm streaks running down his forehead. Then a
man, overlooked till now and past help, groans to the death. Everybody
perceives with a start that this is no time for laughter, and the dead
and wounded are attended to.

Even so at the Overseas Club when the men got out of office. The brokers
had told them the news. In filed the English, and Americans, and
Germans, and French, and 'Here's a pretty mess!' they said one and all.
Many of them were hit, but, like good men, they did not say how

'Ah!' said a little P. and O. official, wagging his head sagaciously (he
had lost a thousand dollars since noon), 'it's all right _now_. They're
trying to make the best of it. In three or four days we shall hear more
about it. I meant to draw my money just before I went down coast,
but----' Curiously enough, it was the same story throughout the Club.
Everybody had intended to withdraw, and nearly everybody had--not done
so. The manager of a bank which had _not_ failed was explaining how, in
his opinion, the crash had come about. This was also very human. It
helped none. Entered a lean American, throwing back his waterproof all
dripping with the rain; his face was calm and peaceful. 'Boy, whisky and
soda,' he said.

'How much haf you losd?' said a Teuton bluntly. 'Eight-fifty,' replied
the son of George Washington sweetly. 'Don't see how that prevents me
having a drink. My glass, sirr.' He continued an interrupted whistling
of 'I owe ten dollars to O'Grady' (which he very probably did), and his
countenance departed not from its serenity. If there is anything that
one loves an American for it is the way he stands certain kinds of
punishment. An Englishman and a heavy loser was being chaffed by a
Scotchman whose account at the Japan end of the line had been a trifle
overdrawn. True, he would lose in England, but the thought of the few
dollars saved here cheered him.

More men entered, sat down by tables, stood in groups, or remained
apart by themselves, thinking with knit brows. One must think quickly
when one's bills are falling due. The murmur of voices thickened, and
there was no rumbling in the skittle alley to interrupt it. Everybody
knows everybody else at the Overseas Club, and everybody sympathises. A
man passed stiffly and some one of a group turned to ask lightly, 'Hit,
old man?' 'Like hell,' he said, and went on biting his unlit cigar.
Another man was telling, slowly and somewhat bitterly, how he had
expected one of his children to join him out here, and how the passage
had been paid with a draft on the O.B.C. But now ... _There_, ladies and
gentlemen, is where it hurts, this little suspension out here. It
destroys plans, pretty ones hoped for and prayed over, maybe for years;
it knocks pleasant domestic arrangements galleywest over and above all
the mere ruin that it causes. The curious thing in the talk was that
there was no abuse of the bank. The men were in the Eastern trade
themselves and they knew. It was the Yokohama manager and the clerks
thrown out of employment (connection with a broken bank, by the way,
goes far to ruin a young man's prospects) for whom they were sorry.
'We're doing ourselves well this year,' said a wit grimly. 'One
free-shooting case, one thundering libel case, and a bank smash. Showing
off pretty before the globe-trotters, aren't we?'

'Gad, think of the chaps at sea with letters of credit. Eh? They'll land
and get the best rooms at the hotels and find they're penniless,' said

'Never mind the globe-trotters,' said a third. 'Look nearer home. This
does for so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so, all old men; and every
penny of theirs goes.' Poor devils!'

'That reminds me of some one else,' said yet another voice, '_His_
wife's at home, too. Whew!' and he whistled drearily. So did the tide of
voices run on till men got to talking over the chances of a dividend,
'They went to the Bank of England,' drawled an American, 'and the Bank
of England let them down; said their securities weren't good enough.'

'Great Scott!'--a hand came down on a table to emphasise the remark--'I
sailed half way up the Mediterranean once with a Bank of England
director; wish I'd tipped him over the rail and lowered him a boat on
his own security--if it was good enough.'

'Baring's goes. The O.B.C. don't,' replied the American, blowing smoke
through his nose. 'This business looks de-ci-ded-ly prob-le-mat-i-cal.

'Oh, they'll pay the depositors in full. Don't you fret,' said a man who
had lost nothing and was anxious to console.

'I'm a shareholder,' said the American, and smoked on.

The rain continued to fall, and the umbrellas dripped in the racks, and
the wet men came and went, circling round the central fact that it was a
bad business, till the day, as was most fit, shut down in drizzling
darkness. There was a refreshing sense of brotherhood in misfortunes in
the little community that had just been electrocuted and did not want
any more shocks. All the pain that in England would be taken home to be
borne in silence and alone was here bulked, as it were, and faced in
line of company. Surely the Christians of old must have fought much
better when they met the lions by fifties at a time.

At last the men departed; the bachelors to cast up accounts by
themselves (there should be some good ponies for sale shortly) and the
married men to take counsel. May heaven help him whose wife does not
stand by him now! But the women of the Overseas settlements are as
thorough as the men. There will be tears for plans forgone, the changing
of the little ones' schools and elder children's careers, unpleasant
letters to be written home, and more unpleasant ones to be received from
relatives who 'told you so from the first.' There will be pinchings too,
and straits of which the outside world will know nothing, but the women
will pull it through smiling.

Beautiful indeed are the operations of modern finance--especially when
anything goes wrong with the machine. To-night there will be trouble in
India among the Ceylon planters, the Calcutta jute and the Bombay
cotton-brokers, besides the little households of small banked savings.
In Hongkong, Singapore, and Shanghai there will be trouble too, and
goodness only knows what wreck at Cheltenham, Bath, St. Leonards,
Torquay, and the other camps of the retired Army officers. They are
lucky in England who know what happens when it happens, but here the
people are at the wrong end of the cables, and the situation is not
good. Only one thing seems certain. There is a notice on a shut door, in
the wet, and by virtue of that notice all the money that was theirs
yesterday is gone away, and it may never come back again. So all the
work that won the money must be done over again; but some of the people
are old, and more are tired, and all are disheartened. It is a very
sorrowful little community that goes to bed to-night, and there must be
as sad ones the world over. Let it be written, however, that of the
sections under fire here (and some are cruelly hit) no man whined, or
whimpered, or broke down. There was no chance of fighting. It was bitter
defeat, but they took it standing.


'Some men when they grow rich, store pictures in a gallery,' Living,
their friends envy them, and after death the genuineness of the
collection is disputed under the dispersing hammer.

A better way is to spread your picture over all earth; visiting them as
Fate allows. Then none can steal or deface, nor any reverse of fortune
force a sale; sunshine and tempest warm and ventilate the gallery for
nothing, and--in spite of all that has been said of her
crudeness--Nature is not altogether a bad frame-maker. The knowledge
that you may never live to see an especial treasure twice teaches the
eyes to see quickly while the light lasts; and the possession of such a
gallery breeds a very fine contempt for painted shows and the smeary
things that are called pictures.

In the North Pacific, to the right hand as you go westward, hangs a
small study of no particular value as compared with some others. The
mist is down on an oily stretch of washed-out sea; through the mist the
bats-wings of a sealing schooner are just indicated. In the foreground,
all but leaping out of the frame, an open rowboat, painted the rawest
blue and white, rides up over the shoulder of a swell. A man in
blood-red jersey and long boots, all shining with moisture, stands at
the bows holding up the carcase of a silver-bellied sea-otter from whose
pelt the wet drips in moonstones. Now the artist who could paint the
silver wash of the mist, the wriggling treacly reflection of the boat,
and the raw red wrists of the man would be something of a workman.

But my gallery is in no danger of being copied at present. Three years
since, I met an artist in the stony bed of a brook, between a line of
300 graven, lichened godlings and a flaming bank of azaleas, swearing
horribly. He had been trying to paint one of my pictures--nothing more
than a big water-worn rock tufted with flowers and a snow-capped hill
for background. Most naturally he failed, because there happened to be
absolutely no perspective in the thing, and he was pulling the lines
about to make some for home consumption. No man can put the contents of
a gallon jar into a pint mug. The protests of all uncomfortably-crowded
mugs since the world began have settled that long ago, and have given us
the working theories, devised by imperfect instruments for imperfect
instruments, which are called Rules of Art.

Luckily, those who painted my gallery were born before man. Therefore,
my pictures, instead of being boxed up by lumbering bars of gold, are
disposed generously between latitudes, equinoxes, monsoons, and the
like, and, making all allowance for an owner's partiality, they are
really not so bad.

'Down in the South where the ships never go'--between the heel of New
Zealand and the South Pole, there is a sea-piece showing a steamer
trying to come round in the trough of a big beam sea. The wet light of
the day's end comes more from the water than the sky, and the waves are
colourless through the haze of the rain, all but two or three blind
sea-horses swinging out of the mist on the ship's dripping weather side.
A lamp is lighted in the wheel-house; so one patch of yellow light falls
on the green-painted pistons of the steering gear as they snatch up the
rudder-chains. A big sea has got home. Her stern flies up in the lather
of a freed screw, and her deck from poop to the break of the foc's'le
goes under in gray-green water level as a mill-race except where it
spouts up above the donkey-engine and the stored derrick-booms. Forward
there is nothing but this glare; aft, the interrupted wake drives far to
leeward, a cut kite-string dropped across the seas. The sole thing that
has any rest in the turmoil is the jewelled, unwinking eye of an
albatross, who is beating across wind leisurely and unconcerned, almost
within hand's touch. It is the monstrous egotism of that eye that makes
the picture. By all the rules of art there should be a lighthouse or a
harbour pier in the background to show that everything will end happily.
But there is not, and the red eye does not care whether the thing
beneath its still wings stays or staves.

The sister-panel hangs in the Indian Ocean and tells a story, but is
none the worse for that. Here you have hot tropical sunlight and a
foreshore clothed in stately palms running out into a still and steamy
sea burnished steel blue. Along the foreshore, questing as a wounded
beast quests for lair, hurries a loaded steamer never built for speed.
Consequently, she tears and threshes the water to pieces, and piles it
under her nose and cannot put it under her cleanly. Coir-coloured cargo
bales are stacked round both masts, and her decks are crammed and
double-crammed with dark-skinned passengers--from the foc's'le where
they interfere with the crew to the stern where they hamper the wheel.

The funnel is painted blue on yellow, giving her a holiday air, a little
out of keeping with the yellow and black cholera flag at her main. She
dare not stop; she must not communicate with any one. There are leprous
streaks of lime-wash trickling down her plates for a sign of this. So
she threshes on down the glorious coast, she and her swarming
passengers, with the sickness that destroyeth in the noonday eating out
her heart.

Yet another, the pick of all the East rooms, before we have done with
blue water. Most of the nations of the earth are at issue under a
stretch of white awning above a crowded deck. The cause of the dispute,
a deep copper bowl foil of rice and fried onions, is upset in the
foreground. Malays, Lascars, Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, Burmans--the
whole gamut of racetints, from saffron to tar-black--are twisting and
writhing round it, while their vermilion, cobalt, amber, and emerald
turbans and head-cloths are lying underfoot. Pressed against the yellow
ochre of the iron bulwarks to left and right are frightened women and
children in turquoise and isabella-coloured clothes. They are half
protected by mounds of upset bedding, straw mats, red lacquer boxes, and
plaited bamboo trunks, mixed up with tin plates, brass and copper
_hukas_, silver opium pipes, Chinese playing cards, and properties
enough to drive half-a-dozen artists wild. In the centre of the crowd of
furious half-naked men, the fat bare back of a Burman, tattooed from
collar-bone to waist-cloth with writhing patterns of red and blue
devils, holds the eye first. It is a wicked back. Beyond it is the
flicker of a Malay _kris_. A blue, red, and yellow macaw chained to a
stanchion spreads his wings against the sun in an ecstasy of terror.
Half-a-dozen red-gold pines and bananas have been knocked down from
their ripening-places, and are lying between the feet of the fighters.
One pine has rolled against the long brown fur of a muzzled bear. His
owner, a bushy-bearded Hindu, kneels over the animal, his body-cloth
thrown clear of a hard brown arm, his fingers ready to loose the
muzzle-strap. The ship's cook, in blood-stained white, watches from the
butcher's shop, and a black Zanzibari stoker grins through the bars of
the engine-room-hatch, one ray of sun shining straight into his pink
mouth. The officer of the watch, a red-whiskered man, is kneeling down
on the bridge to peer through the railings, and is shifting a long, thin
black revolver from his left hand to his right. The faithful sunlight
that puts everything into place, gives his whiskers and the hair on the
back of his tanned wrist just the colour of the copper pot, the bear's
fur and the trampled pines. For the rest, there is the blue sea beyond
the awnings.

Three years' hard work, beside the special knowledge of a lifetime,
would be needed to copy--even to copy--this picture. Mr. So-and-so,
R.A., could undoubtedly draw the bird; Mr. Such-another (equally R.A.)
the bear; and scores of gentlemen the still life; but who would be the
man to pull the whole thing together and make it the riotous, tossing
cataract of colour and life that it is? And when it was done, some
middle-aged person from the provinces, who had never seen a pineapple
out of a plate, or a _kris_ out of the South Kensington, would say that
it did not remind him of something that it ought to remind him of, and
therefore that it was bad. If the gallery could be bequeathed to the
nation, something might, perhaps, be gained, but the nation would
complain of the draughts and the absence of chairs. But no matter. In
another world we shall see certain gentlemen set to tickle the backs of
Circe's swine through all eternity. Also, they will have to tickle with
their bare hands.

The Japanese rooms, visited and set in order for the second time, hold
more pictures than could be described in a month; but most of them are
small and, excepting always the light, within human compass. One,
however, might be difficult. It was an unexpected gift, picked up in a
Tokio bye-street after dark. Half the town was out for a walk, and all
the people's clothes were indigo, and so were the shadows, and most of
the paper-lanterns were drops of blood red. By the light of smoking
oil-lamps people were selling flowers and shrubs--wicked little dwarf
pines, stunted peach and plum trees, wisteria bushes clipped and twisted
out of all likeness to wholesome plants, leaning and leering out of
green-glaze pots. In the flickering of the yellow flames, these forced
cripples and the yellow faces above them reeled to and fro fantastically
all together. As the light steadied they would return to the pretence of
being green things till a puff of the warm night wind among the flares
set the whole line off again in a crazy dance of dwergs, their shadows
capering on the house fronts behind them.

At a corner of a street, some rich men had got together and left
unguarded all the gold, diamonds, and rubies of the East; but when you
came near you saw that this treasure was only a gathering of goldfish in
glass globes--yellow, white, and red fish, with from three to five
forked tails apiece and eyes that bulged far beyond their heads. There
were wooden pans full of tiny ruby fish, and little children with nets
dabbled and shrieked in chase of some special beauty, and the frightened
fish kicked up showers of little pearls with their tails. The children
carried lanterns in the shape of small red paper fish bobbing at the end
of slivers of bamboo, and these drifted through the crowd like a strayed
constellation of baby stars. When the children stood at the edge of a
canal and called down to unseen friends in boats the pink lights were
all reflected orderly below. The light of the thousand small lights in
the street went straight up into the darkness among the interlacing
telegraph wires, and just at the edge of the shining haze, on a sort of
pigeon-trap, forty feet above ground, sat a Japanese fireman, wrapped up
in his cloak, keeping watch against fires. He looked unpleasantly like a
Bulgarian atrocity or a Burmese 'deviation from the laws of humanity,'
being very still and all huddled up in his roost. That was a superb
picture and it arranged itself to admiration. Now, disregarding these
things and others--wonders and miracles all--men are content to sit in
studios and, by light that is not light, to fake subjects from pots and
pans and rags and bricks that are called 'pieces of colour.' Their
collection of rubbish costs in the end quite as much as a ticket, a
first-class one, to new worlds where the 'props' are given away with the
sunshine. To do anything because it is, or may not be, new on the market
is wickedness that carries its own punishment; but surely there must be
things in this world paintable other and beyond those that lie between
the North Cape, say, and Algiers. For the sake of the pictures, putting
aside the dear delight of the gamble, it might be worth while to
venture out a little beyond the regular circle of subjects and--see what
happens. If a man can draw one thing, it has been said, he can draw
anything. At the most he can but fail, and there are several matters in
the world worse than failure. Betting on a certainty, for instance, or
playing with nicked cards is immoral, and secures expulsion from clubs.
Keeping deliberately to one set line of work because you know you can do
it and are certain to get money by so doing is, on the other hand,
counted a virtue, and secures admission to clubs. There must be a middle
way somewhere, as there must be somewhere an unmarried man with no
position, reputation, or other vanity to lose, who most keenly wants to
find out what his palette is set for in this life. He will pack his
steamer-trunk and get into the open to wrestle with effects that he can
never reproduce. All the same his will be a superb failure.


From Yokohama to Montreal is a long day's journey, and the forepart is
uninviting. In three voyages out of five, the North Pacific, too big to
lie altogether idle, too idle to get hands about the business of a
storm, sulks and smokes like a chimney; the passengers fresh from Japan
heat wither in the chill, and a clammy dew distils from the rigging.
That gray monotony of sea is not at all homelike, being as yet new and
not used to the procession of keels. It holds a very few pictures and
the best of its stories--those relating to seal-poaching among the
Kuriles and the Russian rookeries--are not exactly fit for publication.
There is a man in Yokohama who in a previous life burned galleons with
Drake. He is a gentleman adventurer of the largest and most
resourceful--by instinct a carver of kingdoms, a ruler of men on the
high seas, and an inveterate gambler against Death. Because he supplies
nothing more than sealskins to the wholesale dealers at home, the fame
of his deeds, his brilliant fights, his more brilliant escapes, and his
most brilliant strategy will be lost among sixty-ton schooners, or told
only in the mouths of drunken seamen whom none believe. Now there sits
a great spirit under the palm trees of the Navigator Group, a thousand
leagues to the south, and he, crowned with roses and laurels, strings
together the pearls of those parts. When he has done with this down
there perhaps he will turn to the Smoky Seas and the Wonderful
Adventures of Captain--. Then there will be a tale to listen to.

But the first touch of dry land makes the sea and all upon it unreal.
Five minutes after the traveller is on the C.P.R, train at Vancouver
there is no romance of blue water, but another kind--the life of the
train into which he comes to grow as into life aboard ship. A week on
wheels turns a man into a part of the machine. He knows when the train
will stop to water, wait for news of the trestle ahead, drop the
dining-car, slip into a siding to let the West-bound mail go by, or yell
through the thick night for an engine to help push up the bank. The
snort, the snap and whine of the air-brakes have a meaning for him, and
he learns to distinguish between noises--between the rattle of a
loose lamp and the ugly rattle of small stones on a scarped
embankment--between the 'Hoot! toot!' that scares wandering cows from
the line, and the dry roar of the engine at the distance-signal. In
England the railway came late into a settled country fenced round with
the terrors of the law, and it has remained ever since just a little
outside daily life--a thing to be respected. Here it strolls along, with
its hands in its pockets and a straw in its mouth, on the heels of the
rough-hewn trail or log road--a platformless, regulationless necessity;
and it is treated even by sick persons and young children with a
familiarity that sometimes affects the death-rate. There was a small
maiden aged seven, who honoured our smoking compartment with her
presence when other excitements failed, and it was she that said to the
conductor, 'When do we change crews? I want to pick water-lilies--yellow
ones.' A mere halt she knew would not suffice for her needs; but the
regular fifteen-minute stop, when the red-painted tool-chest was taken
off the rear car and a new gang came aboard. The big man bent down to
little Impudence--'Want to pick lilies, eh? What would you do if the
cars went on and took mama away, Sis?' 'Take the, next train,' she
replied, 'and tell the conductor to send me to Brooklyn. I live there.'
'But s'pose he wouldn't?' 'He'd have to,' said Young America. 'I'd be a
lost child.'

Now, from the province of Alberta to Brooklyn, U.S.A., may be three
thousand miles. A great stretch of that distance is as new as the day
before yesterday, and strewn with townships in every stage of growth
from the city of one round house, two log huts, and a Chinese camp
somewhere in the foot-hills of the Selkirks, to Winnipeg with her
league-long main street and her warring newspapers. Just at present
there is an epidemic of politics in Manitoba, and brass bands and
notices of committee meetings are splashed about the towns. By reason
of their closeness to the Stages they have caught the contagion of
foul-mouthedness, and accusations of bribery, corruption, and
evil-living are many. It is sweet to find a little baby-city, with only
three men in it who can handle type, cursing and swearing across the
illimitable levels for all the world as though it were a grown-up
Christian centre.

All the new towns have their own wants to consider, and the first of
these is a railway. If the town is on a line already, then a new line to
tap the back country; but at all costs a line. For this it will sell its
corrupted soul, and then be very indignant because the railway before
which it has grovelled rides rough-shod over the place.

Each new town believes itself to be a possible Winnipeg until the
glamour of the thing is a little worn off, and the local paper, sliding
down the pole of Pride with the hind legs of despair, says defiantly:
'At least, a veterinary surgeon and a drug store would meet with
encouragement in our midst, and it is a fact that five new buildings
have been erected in our midst since the spring.' From a distance
nothing is easier than to smile at this sort of thing, but he must have
a cool head who can keep his pulse level when just such a wildcat
town--ten houses, two churches, and a line of rails--gets 'on the boom,'
The reader at home says, 'Yes, but it's all a lie.' It may be, but--did
men lie about Denver, Leadville, Ballarat, Broken Hill, Portland, or
Winnipeg twenty years ago--or Adelaide when town lots went begging
within the memory of middle-aged men? Did they lie about Vancouver six
years since, or Creede not twenty months gone? Hardly; and it is just
this knowledge that leads the passer-by to give ear to the wildest
statements of the wildest towns. Anything is possible, especially among
the Rockies where the minerals lie over and above the mining towns, the
centres of ranching country, and the supply towns to the farming
districts. There are literally scores upon scores of lakelets in the
hills, buried in woods now, that before twenty years are run will be
crowded summer resorts. You in England have no idea of what 'summering'
means in the States, and less of the amount of money that is spent on
the yearly holiday. People have no more than just begun to discover the
place called the Banff Hot Springs, two days west of Winnipeg.[1] In a
little time they will know half-a-dozen spots not a day's ride from
Montreal, and it is along that line that money will be made. In those
days, too, wheat will be grown for the English market four hundred miles
north of the present fields on the west side; and British Columbia,
perhaps the loveliest land in the world next to New Zealand, will have
her own line of six thousand ton steamers to Australia, and the British
investor will no longer throw away his money on hellicat South American
republics, or give it as a hostage to the States. He will keep it in the
family as a wise man should. Then the towns that are to-day the only
names in the wilderness, yes, and some of those places marked on the map
as Hudson Bay Ports, will be cities, because--but it is hopeless to make
people understand that actually and indeed, we _do_ possess an Empire of
which Canada is only one portion--an Empire which is not bounded by
election-returns on the North and Eastbourne riots on the South--an
Empire that has not yet been scratched.

[Footnote 1: See pp. 187-188.]

Let us return to the new towns. Three times within one year did fortune
come knocking to the door of a man I know. Once at Seattle, when that
town was a gray blur after a fire; once at Tacoma, in the days when the
steam-tram ran off the rails twice a week; and once at Spokane Falls.
But in the roar of the land-boom he did not hear her, and she went away
leaving him only a tenderness akin to weakness for all new towns, and a
desire, mercifully limited by lack of money, to gamble in every one of
them. Of all the excitements that life offers there are few to be
compared with the whirl of a red-hot boom; also it is strictly moral,
because you _do_ fairly earn your 'unearned increment' by labour and
perspiration and sitting up far into the night--by working like a fiend,
as all pioneers must do. And consider all that is in it! The headlong
stampede to the new place; the money dashed down like counters for
merest daily bread; the arrival of the piled cars whence the raw
material of a city--men, lumber, and shingle--are shot on to the not yet
nailed platform; the slashing out and pegging down of roads across the
blank face of the wilderness; the heaving up amid shouts and yells of
the city's one electric light--a raw sizzling arc atop of an unbarked
pine pole; the sweating, jostling mob at the sale of town-lots; the roar
of 'Let the woman have it!' that stops all bidding when the one other
woman in the place puts her price on a plot; the packed real-estate
offices; the real-estate agents themselves, lost novelists of prodigious
imagination; the gorgeous pink and blue map of the town, hung up in the
bar-room, with every railroad from Portland to Portland meeting in its
heart; the misspelled curse against 'this dam hole in the ground'
scrawled on the flank of a strayed freight-car by some man who had lost
his money and gone away; the conferences at street corners of syndicates
six hours established by men not twenty-five years old; the outspoken
contempt for the next town, also 'on the boom,' and, therefore, utterly
vile; the unceasing tramp of heavy feet on the board pavement, where
stranger sometimes turns on stranger in an agony of conviction, and,
shaking him by the shoulder, shouts in his ear, 'By G--d! Isn't it
grand? Isn't it glorious? 'and last, the sleep of utterly worn-out men,
three in each room of the shanty hotel: 'All meals two dollars. All
drinks thirty-five cents. No washing done here. The manager not
responsible for anything.' Does the bald catalogue of these recitals
leave you cold? It is possible; but it is also possible after three days
in a new town to set the full half of a truck-load of archbishops
fighting for corner lots as they never fought for mitre or crozier.
There is a contagion in a boom as irresistible as that of a panic in a

After a while things settle down, and then the carpenter, who is also an

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