Part 1 out of 2
This etext was created by Judith Boss, Omaha, Nebraska.
In an issue of the London World in April, 1890, there appeared
the following paragraph: "Two small rooms connected by a tiny
hall afford sufficient space to contain Mr. Rudyard Kipling, the
literary hero of the present hour, 'the man who came from
nowhere,' as he says himself, and who a year ago was consciously
nothing in the literary world."
Six months previous to this Mr. Kipling, then but twenty-four
years old, had arrived in England from India to find that fame
had preceded him. He had already gained fame in India, where
scores of cultured and critical people, after reading
"Departmental Ditties," "Plain Tales from the Hills," and various
other stories and verses, had stamped him for a genius.
Fortunately for everybody who reads, London interested and
stimulated Mr. Kipling, and he settled down to writing. "The
Record of Badalia Herodsfoot," and his first novel, "The Light
that Failed," appeared in 1890 and 1891; then a collection of
verse, "Life's Handicap, being stories of Mine Own People," was
published simultaneously in London and New York City; then
followed more verse, and so on through an unending series.
In 1891 Mr. Kipling met the young author Wolcott Balestier, at
that time connected with a London publishing house. A strong
attachment grew between the two, and several months after their
first meeting they came to Mr. Balestier's Vermont home, where
they collaborated on "The Naulahka: A Story of West and East,"
for which The Century paid the largest price ever given by an
American magazine for a story. The following year Mr. Kipling
married Mr. Balestier's sister in London and brought her to
The Balestiers were of an aristocratic New York family; the
grandfather of Mrs. Kipling was J. M. Balestier, a prominent
lawyer in New York City and Chicago, who died in 1888, leaving a
fortune of about a million. Her maternal grand-father was E.
Peshine Smith of Rochester, N. Y., a noted author and jurist, who
was selected in 1871 by Secretary Hamilton Fish to go to Japan as
the Mikado's adviser in international law. The ancestral home of
the Balestiers was near Brattleboro', Vt., and here Mr. Kipling
brought his bride. The young Englishman was so impressed by the
Vermont scenery that he rented for a time the cottage on the
"Bliss Farm," in which Steele Mackaye the playwright wrote the
well known drama "Hazel Kirke."
The next spring Mr. Kipling purchased from his brother-in-law,
Beatty Balestier, a tract of land about three miles north of
Brattleboro', Vt., and on this erected a house at a cost of
nearly $50,000, which he named "The Naulahka." This was his home
during his sojourn in America. Here he wrote when in the mood,
and for recreation tramped abroad over the hills. His social
duties at this period were not arduous, for to his home he
refused admittance to all but tried friends. He made a study of
the Yankee country dialect and character for "The Walking
Delegate," and while "Captains Courageous," the story of New
England fisher life, was before him he spent some time among the
Gloucester fishermen with an acquaint-ance who had access to the
household gods of these people.
He returned to England in August, 1896, and did not visit America
again till 1899, when he came with his wife and three children
for a limited time.
It is hardly fair to Mr. Kipling to call "American Notes" first
impressions, for one reading them will readily see that the
impressions are superficial, little thought being put upon the
writing. They seem super-sarcastic, and would lead one to
believe that Mr. Kipling is antagonistic to America in every
respect. This, however, is not true. These "Notes" aroused much
protest and severe criticism when they appeared in 1891, and are
considered so far beneath Mr. Kipling's real work that they have
been nearly suppressed and are rarely found in a list of his
writings. Their very caustic style is of interest to a student
and lover of Kipling, and for this reason the publishers believe
them worthy of a good binding.
G. P. T.
AT THE GOLDEN GATE
THE AMERICAN ARMY
AMERICA'S DEFENCELESS COASTS
At the Golden Gate
"Serene, indifferent to fate, Thou sittest at the Western Gate;
Thou seest the white seas fold their tents, Oh, warder of two
continents; Thou drawest all things, small and great, To thee,
beside the Western Gate."
THIS is what Bret Harte has written of the great city of San
Francisco, and for the past fortnight I have been wondering what
made him do it.
There is neither serenity nor indifference to be found in these
parts; and evil would it be for the continents whose wardship
were intrusted to so reckless a guardian.
Behold me pitched neck-and-crop from twenty days of the high seas
into the whirl of California, deprived of any guidance, and left
to draw my own conclusions. Protect me from the wrath of an
outraged community if these letters be ever read by American
eyes! San Francisco is a mad city--inhabited for the most part
by perfectly insane people, whose women are of a remarkable
When the "City of Pekin" steamed through the Golden Gate, I saw
with great joy that the block-house which guarded the mouth of
the "finest harbor in the world, sir," could be silenced by two
gunboats from Hong Kong with safety, comfort, and despatch.
Also, there was not a single American vessel of war in the
This may sound bloodthirsty; but remember, I had come with a
grievance upon me--the grievance of the pirated English books.
Then a reporter leaped aboard, and ere I could gasp held me in
his toils. He pumped me exhaustively while I was getting ashore,
demanding of all things in the world news about Indian
journalism. It is an awful thing to enter a new land with a new
lie on your lips. I spoke the truth to the evil-minded Custom
House man who turned my most sacred raiment on a floor com-posed
of stable refuse and pine splinters; but the reporter overwhelmed
me not so much by his poignant audacity as his beautiful
ignorance. I am sorry now that I did not tell him more lies as
I passed into a city of three hundred thousand white men. Think
of it! Three hundred thou-sand white men and women gathered in
one spot, walking upon real pavements in front of
plate-glass-windowed shops, and talking something that at first
hearing was not very different from English. It was only when I
had tangled myself up in a hopeless maze of small wooden houses,
dust, street refuse, and children who played with empty kerosene
tins, that I discovered the difference of speech.
"You want to go to the Palace Hotel?" said an affable youth on a
dray. "What in hell are you doing here, then? This is about the
lowest ward in the city. Go six blocks north to corner of Geary
and Markey, then walk around till you strike corner of Gutter and
Sixteenth, and that brings you there."
I do not vouch for the literal accuracy of these directions,
quoting but from a disordered memory.
"Amen," I said. "But who am I that I should strike the corners
of such as you name? Peradventure they be gentlemen of repute,
and might hit back. Bring it down to dots, my son."
I thought he would have smitten me, but he didn't. He explained
that no one ever used the word "street," and that every one was
supposed to know how the streets ran, for sometimes the names
were upon the lamps and sometimes they weren't. Fortified with
these directions, I proceeded till I found a mighty street, full
of sumptuous buildings four and five stories high, but paved with
rude cobblestones, after the fashion of the year 1.
Here a tram-car, without any visible means of support, slid
stealthily behind me and nearly struck me in the back. This was
the famous cable car of San Francisco, which runs by gripping an
endless wire rope sunk in the ground, and of which I will tell
you more anon. A hundred yards further there was a slight
commotion in the street, a gathering together of three or four,
something that glittered as it moved very swiftly. A ponderous
Irish gentleman, with priest's cords in his hat and a small
nickel-plated badge on his fat bosom, emerged from the knot
supporting a Chinaman who had been stabbed in the eye and was
bleeding like a pig. The by-standers went their ways, and the
Chinaman, assisted by the policeman, his own. Of course this was
none of my business, but I rather wanted to know what had
happened to the gentleman who had dealt the stab. It said a
great deal for the excellence of the municipal arrangement of the
town that a surging crowd did not at once block the street to see
what was going for-ward. I was the sixth man and the last who
assisted at the performance, and my curiosity was six times the
greatest. Indeed, I felt ashamed of showing it.
There were no more incidents till I reached the Palace Hotel, a
seven-storied warren of humanity with a thousand rooms in it.
All the travel books will tell you about hotel arrangements in
this country. They should be seen to be appreciated. Understand
clearly--and this letter is written after a thousand miles of
experiences--that money will not buy you service in the West.
When the hotel clerk--the man who awards your room to you and who
is supposed to give you information--when that resplendent
individual stoops to attend to your wants he does so whistling or
hum-ming or picking his teeth, or pauses to converse with some
one he knows. These performances, I gather, are to impress upon
you that he is a free man and your equal. From his general
appearance and the size of his diamonds he ought to be your
superior. There is no necessity for this swaggering
self-consciousness of freedom. Business is business, and the man
who is paid to attend to a man might reasonably devote his whole
attention to the job. Out of office hours he can take his coach
and four and pervade society if he pleases.
In a vast marble-paved hall, under the glare of an electric
light, sat forty or fifty men, and for their use and amusement
were provided spittoons of infinite capacity and generous gape.
Most of the men wore frock-coats and top-hats--the things that we
in India put on at a wedding-break-fast, if we possess them--but
they all spat. They spat on principle. The spittoons were on
the staircases, in each bedroom--yea, and in chambers even more
sacred than these. They chased one into retirement, but they
blossomed in chiefest splendor round the bar, and they were all
used, every reeking one of them.
Just before I began to feel deathly sick another reporter
grappled me. What he wanted to know was the precise area of
India in square miles. I referred him to Whittaker. He had
never heard of Whittaker. He wanted it from my own mouth, and I
would not tell him. Then he swerved off, just like the other
man, to details of journalism in our own country. I ventured to
suggest that the interior economy of a paper most concerned the
people who worked it.
"That's the very thing that interests us," he said. "Have you
got reporters anything like our reporters on Indian newspapers?"
"We have not," I said, and suppressed the "thank God" rising to
"Why haven't you?" said he.
"Because they would die," I said.
It was exactly like talking to a child--a very rude little child.
He would begin almost every sentence with, "Now tell me something
about India," and would turn aimlessly from one question to the
other without the least continuity. I was not angry, but keenly
interested. The man was a revelation to me. To his questions I
re-turned answers mendacious and evasive. After all, it really
did not matter what I said. He could not understand. I can only
hope and pray that none of the readers of the "Pioneer" will ever
see that portentous interview. The man made me out to be an
idiot several sizes more drivelling than my destiny intended, and
the rankness of his ignorance managed to distort the few poor
facts with which I supplied him into large and elaborate lies.
Then, thought I, "the matter of American journalism shall be
looked into later on. At present I will enjoy myself."
No man rose to tell me what were the lions of the place. No one
volunteered any sort of conveyance. I was absolutely alone in
this big city of white folk. By instinct I sought refreshment,
and came upon a bar-room full of bad Salon pictures in which men
with hats on the backs of their heads were wolfing food from a
counter. It was the institution of the "free lunch" I had struck.
You paid for a drink and got as much as you wanted to eat. For
something less than a rupee a day a man can feed himself
sumptuously in San Francisco, even though he be a bankrupt.
Remember this if ever you are stranded in these parts.
Later I began a vast but unsystematic exploration of the streets.
I asked for no names. It was enough that the pavements were full
of white men and women, the streets clanging with traffic, and
that the restful roar of a great city rang in my ears. The cable
cars glided to all points of the compass at once. I took them
one by one till I could go no further. San Francisco has been
pitched down on the sand bunkers of the Bikaneer desert. About
one fourth of it is ground reclaimed from the sea--any old-timers
will tell you all about that. The remainder is just ragged,
unthrifty sand hills, to-day pegged down by houses.
From an English point of view there has not been the least
attempt at grading those hills, and indeed you might as well try
to grade the hillocks of Sind. The cable cars have for all
practical purposes made San Francisco a dead level. They take no
count of rise or fall, but slide equably on their appointed
courses from one end to the other of a six-mile street. They
turn corners almost at right angles, cross other lines, and for
aught I know may run up the sides of houses. There is no visible
agency of their flight, but once in awhile you shall pass a
five-storied building humming with machinery that winds up an
everlasting wire cable, and the initiated will tell you that here
is the mechanism. I gave up asking questions. If it pleases
Providence to make a car run up and down a slit in the ground for
many miles, and if for twopence halfpenny I can ride in that car,
why shall I seek the reasons of the miracle? Rather let me look
out of the windows till the shops give place to thousands and
thousands of little houses made of wood (to imitate stone), each
house just big enough for a man and his family. Let me watch the
people in the cars and try to find out in what manner they differ
from us, their ancestors.
It grieves me now that I cursed them (in the matter of book
piracy), because I perceived that my curse is working and that
their speech is be-coming a horror already. They delude
them-selves into the belief that they talk English--the
English--and I have already been pitied for speaking with "an
English accent." The man who pitied me spoke, so far as I was
concerned, the language of thieves. And they all do. Where we
put the accent forward they throw it back, and vice versa where
we give the long "a" they use the short, and words so simple as
to be past mistaking they pronounce somewhere up in the dome of
their heads. How do these things happen?
Oliver Wendell Holmes says that the Yankee school-marm, the cider
and the salt codfish of the Eastern States, are responsible for
what he calls a nasal accent. I know better. They stole books
from across the water without paying for 'em, and the snort of
delight was fixed in their nostrils forever by a just Providence.
That is why they talk a foreign tongue to-day.
"Cats is dogs, and rabbits is dogs, and so's parrots. But this
'ere tortoise is an insect, so there ain't no charge," as the old
A Hindoo is a Hindoo and a brother to the man who knows his
vernacular. And a French-man is French because he speaks his own
language. But the American has no language. He is dialect,
slang, provincialism, accent, and so forth. Now that I have
heard their voices, all the beauty of Bret Harte is being ruined
for me, because I find myself catching through the roll of his
rhythmical prose the cadence of his peculiar fatherland. Get an
American lady to read to you "How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's
Bar," and see how much is, under her tongue, left of the beauty
of the original.
But I am sorry for Bret Harte. It happened this way. A reporter
asked me what I thought of the city, and I made answer suavely
that it was hallowed ground to me, because of Bret Harte. That
"Well," said the reporter, "Bret Harte claims California, but
California don't claim Bret Harte. He's been so long in England
that he's quite English. Have you seen our cracker factories or
the new offices of the 'Examiner'?"
He could not understand that to the outside world the city was
worth a great deal less than the man. I never intended to curse
the people with a provincialism so vast as this.
But let us return to our sheep--which means the sea-lions of the
Cliff House. They are the great show of San Francisco. You take
a train which pulls up the middle of the street (it killed two
people the day before yesterday, being un-braked and driven
absolutely regardless of consequences), and you pull up somewhere
at the back of the city on the Pacific beach. Originally the
cliffs and their approaches must have been pretty, but they have
been so carefully defiled with advertisements that they are now
one big blistered abomination. A hundred yards from the shore
stood a big rock covered with the carcasses of the sleek
sea-beasts, who roared and rolled and walloped in the spouting
surges. No bold man had painted the creatures sky-blue or
advertised news-papers on their backs, wherefore they did not
match the landscape, which was chiefly hoarding. Some day,
perhaps, whatever sort of government may obtain in this country
will make a restoration of the place and keep it clean and neat.
At present the sovereign people, of whom I have heard so much
already, are vending cherries and painting the virtues of "Little
Bile Beans" all over it.
Night fell over the Pacific, and the white sea-fog whipped
through the streets, dimming the splendors of the electric
lights. It is the use of this city, her men and women folk, to
parade between the hours of eight and ten a certain street called
Cairn Street, where the finest shops are situated. Here the
click of high heels on the pavement is loudest, here the lights
are brightest, and here the thunder of the traffic is most
overwhelming. I watched Young California, and saw that it was,
at least, expensively dressed, cheerful in manner, and
self-asserting in conversation. Also the women were very fair.
Perhaps eighteen days aboard ship had something to do with my
unreserved admiration. The maidens were of generous build,
large, well groomed, and attired in raiment that even to my
inexperienced eyes must have cost much. Cairn Street at nine
o'clock levels all distinctions of rank as impartially as the
grave. Again and again I loitered at the heels of a couple of
resplendent beings, only to overhear, when I expected the level
voice of culture, the staccato "Sez he," "Sez I" that is the mark
of the white servant-girl all the world over.
This was depressing because, in spite of all that goes to the
contrary, fine feathers ought to make fine birds. There was
wealth--unlimited wealth--in the streets, but not an accent that
would not have been dear at fifty cents. Where-fore, revolving
in my mind that these folk were barbarians, I was presently
enlightened and made aware that they also were the heirs of all
the ages, and civilized after all. There appeared before me an
affable stranger of prepossessing appearance, with a blue and an
innocent eye. Addressing me by name, he claimed to have met me
in New York, at the Windsor, and to this claim I gave a qualified
assent. I did not remember the fact, but since he was so certain
of it, why, then--I waited developments.
"And what did you think of Indiana when you came through?" was
the next question.
It revealed the mystery of previous acquaintance and one or two
other things. With reprehensible carelessness my friend of the
light-blue eye had looked up the name of his victim in the hotel
register, and read "Indiana" for India.
The provincialism with which I had cursed his people extended to
himself. He could not imagine an Englishman coming through the
States from west to east instead of by the regularly ordained
route. My fear was that in his delight in finding me so
responsive he would make remarks about New York and the Windsor
which I could not understand. And, indeed, he adventured in this
direction once or twice, asking me what I thought of such and
such streets, which from his tone I gathered to be anything but
respectable. It is trying to talk unknown New York in almost
unknown San Francisco. But my friend was merciful. He protested
that I was one after his own heart, and pressed upon me rare and
curious drinks at more than one bar. These drinks I accepted
with gratitude, as also the cigars with which his pockets were
stored. He would show me the life of the city. Having no desire
to watch a weary old play again, I evaded the offer and received
in lieu of the devil's instruction much coarse flattery.
Curiously constituted is the soul of man. Knowing how and where
this man lied, waiting idly for the finale, I was distinctly
conscious, as he bubbled compliments in my ear, of soft thrills
of gratified pride stealing from hat-rim to boot-heels. I was
wise, quoth he--anybody could see that with half an eye;
sagacious, versed in the ways of the world, an acquaintance to be
desired; one who had tasted the cup of life with discretion.
All this pleased me, and in a measure numbed the suspicion that
was thoroughly aroused. Eventually the blue-eyed one discovered,
nay, insisted, that I had a taste for cards (this was clumsily
worked in, but it was my fault, for in that I met him half-way
and allowed him no chance of good acting). Hereupon I laid my
head upon one side and simulated unholy wisdom, quoting odds and
ends of poker talk, all ludicrously misapplied. My friend kept
his countenance admirably, and well he might, for five minutes
later we arrived, always by the purest of chance, at a place
where we could play cards and also frivol with Louisiana State
Lottery tickets. Would I play?
"Nay," said I, "for to me cards have neither meaning nor
continuity; but let us assume that I am going to play. How would
you and your friends get to work? Would you play a straight
game, or make me drunk, or--well, the fact is, I'm a newspaper
man, and I'd be much obliged if you'd let me know something about
My blue-eyed friend erected himself into an obelisk of profanity.
He cursed me by his gods--the right and left bower; he even
cursed the very good cigars he had given me. But, the storm
over, he quieted down and explained. I apologized for causing
him to waste an evening, and we spent a very pleasant time
Inaccuracy, provincialism, and a too hasty rushing to
conclusions, were the rocks that he had split on, but he got his
revenge when he said:--"How would I play with you? From all the
poppy-cock Anglice bosh you talked about poker, I'd ha' played a
straight game, and skinned you. I wouldn't have taken the trouble
to make you drunk. You never knew anything of the game, but how
I was mistaken in going to work on you, makes me sick."
He glared at me as though I had done him an injury. To-day I
know how it is that year after year, week after week, the bunco
steerer, who is the confidence trick and the card-sharper man of
other climes, secures his prey. He clavers them over with
flattery as the snake clavers the rabbit. The incident depressed
me because it showed I had left the innocent East far behind and
was come to a country where a man must look out for himself. The
very hotels bristled with notices about keeping my door locked
and depositing my valuables in a safe. The white man in a lump
is bad. Weeping softly for O-Toyo (little I knew then that my
heart was to be torn afresh from my bosom) I fell asleep in the
Next morning I had entered upon the deferred inheritance. There
are no princes in America--at least with crowns on their
heads--but a generous-minded member of some royal family received
my letter of introduction. Ere the day closed I was a member of
the two clubs, and booked for many engagements to dinner and
party. Now, this prince, upon whose financial operations be
continual increase, had no reason, nor had the others, his
friends, to put himself out for the sake of one Briton more or
less, but he rested not till he had accomplished all in my behalf
that a mother could think of for her debutante daughter.
Do you know the Bohemian Club of San Francisco? They say its
fame extends over the world. It was created, somewhat on the
lines of the Savage, by men who wrote or drew things, and has
blossomed into most unrepublican luxury. The ruler of the place
is an owl--an owl standing upon a skull and cross-bones, showing
forth grimly the wisdom of the man of letters and the end of his
hopes for immortality. The owl stands on the staircase, a statue
four feet high; is carved in the wood-work, flutters on the
frescoed ceiling, is stamped on the note-paper, and hangs on the
walls. He is an ancient and honorable bird. Under his wing 'twas
my privilege to meet with white men whose lives were not chained
down to routine of toil, who wrote magazine articles instead of
reading them hurriedly in the pauses of office-work, who painted
pictures instead of contenting themselves with cheap etchings
picked up at another man's sale of effects. Mine were all the
rights of social intercourse, craft by craft, that India,
stony-hearted step-mother of collectors, has swindled us out of.
Treading soft carpets and breathing the incense of superior
cigars, I wandered from room to room studying the paintings in
which the members of the club had caricatured themselves, their
associates, and their aims. There was a slick French audacity
about the workmanship of these men of toil unbending that went
straight to the heart of the beholder. And yet it was not
altogether French. A dry grimness of treatment, almost Dutch,
marked the difference. The men painted as they spoke--with
certainty. The club indulges in revelries which it calls
"jinks"--high and low, at intervals--and each of these gatherings
is faithfully portrayed in oils by hands that know their
business. In this club were no amateurs spoiling canvas, because
they fancied they could handle oils without knowledge of shadows
or anatomy--no gentleman of leisure ruining the temper of
publishers and an already ruined market with attempts to write
"because everybody writes something these days."
My hosts were working, or had worked for their daily bread with
pen or paint, and their talk for the most part was of the
shop--shoppy--that is to say, delightful. They extended a large
hand of welcome, and were as brethren, and I did homage to the
owl and listened to their talk. An Indian club about
Christmas-time will yield, if properly worked, an abundant
harvest of queer tales; but at a gathering of Americans from the
uttermost ends of their own continent, the tales are larger,
thicker, more spinous, and even more azure than any Indian
variety. Tales of the war I heard told by an ex-officer of the
South over his evening drink to a colonel of the Northern army,
my introducer, who had served as a trooper in the Northern Horse,
throwing in emendations from time to time. "Tales of the Law,"
which in this country is an amazingly elastic affair, followed
from the lips of a judge. Forgive me for recording one tale that
struck me as new. It may interest the up-country Bar in India.
Once upon a time there was Samuelson, a young lawyer, who feared
not God, neither regarded the Bench. (Name, age, and town of the
man were given at great length.) To him no case had ever come as
a client, partly because he lived in a district where lynch law
prevailed, and partly because the most desperate prisoner shrunk
from intrusting himself to the mercies of a phenomenal stammerer.
But in time there happened an aggravated murder--so bad, indeed,
that by common consent the citizens decided, as a prelude to
lynching, to give the real law a chance. They could, in fact,
gambol round that murder. They met--the court in its
shirt-sleeves--and against the raw square of the Court House
window a temptingly suggestive branch of a tree fretted the sky.
No one appeared for the prisoner, and, partly in jest, the court
advised young Samuelson to take up the case.
"The prisoner is undefended, Sam," said the court. "The square
thing to do would be for you to take him aside and do the best
you can for him."
Court, jury, and witness then adjourned to the veranda, while
Samuelson led his client aside to the Court House cells. An hour
passed ere the lawyer returned alone. Mutely the audience
"May it p-p-please the c-court," said Samuel-son, "my client's
case is a b-b-b-bad one--a d-d-amn bad one. You told me to do
the b-b-best I c-could for him, judge, so I've jest given him
y-your b-b-bay gelding, an' told him to light out for healthier
c-climes, my p-p-professional opinion being he'd be hanged
quicker'n h-h-hades if he dallied here. B-by this time my
client's 'bout fifteen mile out yonder somewheres. That was the
b-b-best I could do for him, may it p-p-please the court."
The young man, escaping punishment in lieu of the prisoner, made
his fortune ere five years.
Other voices followed, with equally wondrous tales of
riata-throwing in Mexico and Arizona, of gambling at army posts
in Texas, of newspaper wars waged in godless Chicago (I could not
help being interested, but they were not pretty tricks), of
deaths sudden and violent in Montana and Dakota, of the loves of
half-breed maidens in the South, and fantastic huntings for gold
in mysterious Alaska. Above all, they told the story of the
building of old San Francisco, when the "finest collection of
humanity on God's earth, sir, started this town, and the water
came up to the foot of Market Street." Very terrible were some
of the tales, grimly humorous the others, and the men in
broadcloth and fine linen who told them had played their parts in
"And now and again when things got too bad they would toll the
city bell, and the Vigilance Committee turned out and hanged the
suspicious characters. A man didn't begin to be suspected in
those days till he had committed at least one unprovoked murder,"
said a calm-eyed, portly old gentleman.
I looked at the pictures around me, the noiseless, neat-uniformed
waiter behind me, the oak-ribbed ceiling above, the velvet carpet
beneath. It was hard to realize that even twenty years ago you
could see a man hanged with great pomp. Later on I found reason
to change my opinion. The tales gave me a headache and set me
thinking. How in the world was it possible to take in even one
thousandth of this huge, roaring, many-sided continent? In the
tobacco-scented silence of the sumptuous library lay Professor
Bryce's book on the American Republic.
"It is an omen," said I. "He has done all things in all
seriousness, and he may be purchased for half a guinea. Those
who desire information of the most undoubted, must refer to his
pages. For me is the daily round of vagabondage, the recording of
the incidents of the hour and inter-course with the
travelling-companion of the day. I will not 'do' this country at
And I forgot all about India for ten days while I went out to
dinners and watched the social customs of the people, which are
entirely different from our customs, and was introduced to men of
many millions. These persons are harmless in their earlier
stages--that is to say, a man worth three or four million dollars
may be a good talker, clever, amusing, and of the world; a man
with twice that amount is to be avoided, and a twenty million man
is--just twenty millions. Take an instance. I was speaking to a
newspaper man about seeing the proprietor of his journal, as in
my innocence I supposed newspaper men occasionally did. My
friend snorted indignantly:--"See him! Great Scott! No. If he
happens to appear in the office, I have to associate with him;
but, thank Heaven! outside of that I move in circles where he
And yet the first thing I have been taught to believe is that
money was everything in America!
I HAVE been watching machinery in repose after reading about
machinery in action.
An excellent gentleman, who bears a name honored in the magazine,
writes, much as Disraeli orated, of "the sublime instincts of an
ancient people," the certainty with which they can be trusted to
manage their own affairs in their own way, and the speed with
which they are making for all sorts of desirable goals. This he
called a statement or purview of American politics.
I went almost directly afterward to a saloon where gentlemen
interested in ward politics nightly congregate. They were not
pretty persons. Some of them were bloated, and they all swore
cheerfully till the heavy gold watch-chains on their fat stomachs
rose and fell again; but they talked over their liquor as men who
had power and unquestioned access to places of trust and profit.
The magazine writer discussed theories of government; these men
the practice. They had been there. They knew all about it.
They banged their fists on the table and spoke of political
"pulls," the vending of votes, and so forth. Theirs was not the
talk of village babblers reconstructing the affairs of the
nation, but of strong, coarse, lustful men fighting for spoil,
and thoroughly understanding the best methods of reaching it.
I listened long and intently to speech I could not understand--or
but in spots.
It was the speech of business, however. I had sense enough to
know that, and to do my laughing outside the door.
Then I began to understand why my pleasant and well-educated
hosts in San Francisco spoke with a bitter scorn of such duties
of citizenship as voting and taking an interest in the
distribution of offices. Scores of men have told me, without
false pride, that they would as soon concern themselves with the
public affairs of the city or state as rake muck with a
steam-shovel. It may be that their lofty disdain covers
selfishness, but I should be very sorry habitually to meet the
fat gentlemen with shiny top-hats and plump cigars in whose
society I have been spending the evening.
Read about politics as the cultured writer of the magazine
regards 'em, and then, and not till then, pay your respects to
the gentlemen who run the grimy reality.
I'm sick of interviewing night editors who lean their chair
against the wall, and, in response to my demand for the record of
a prominent citizen, answer: "Well, you see, he began by keeping
a saloon," etc. I prefer to believe that my informants are
treating me as in the old sinful days in India I was used to
treat the wandering globe-trotter. They declare that they speak
the truth, and the news of dog politics lately vouchsafed to me
in groggeries inclines me to believe, but I won't. The people
are much too nice to slangander as recklessly as I have been
Besides, I am hopelessly in love with about eight American
maidens--all perfectly delightful till the next one comes into
O-Toyo was a darling, but she lacked several things--conversation
for one. You cannot live on giggles. She shall remain unmarried
at Nagasaki, while I roast a battered heart before the shrine of
a big Kentucky blonde, who had for a nurse when she was little a
By consequence she has welded on California beauty, Paris
dresses, Eastern culture, Europe trips, and wild Western
originality, the queer, dreamy superstitions of the quarters, and
the result is soul-shattering. And she is but one of many stars.
Item, a maiden who believes in education and possesses it, with a
few hundred thousand dollars to boot and a taste for slumming.
Item, the leader of a sort of informal salon where girls
congregate, read papers, and daringly discuss metaphysical
problems and candy--a sloe-eyed, black-browed, imperious maiden
Item, a very small maiden, absolutely without reverence, who can
in one swift sentence trample upon and leave gasping half a dozen
Item, a millionairess, burdened with her money, lonely, caustic,
with a tongue keen as a sword, yearning for a sphere, but chained
up to the rock of her vast possessions.
Item, a typewriter maiden earning her own bread in this big city,
because she doesn't think a girl ought to be a burden on her
parents, who quotes Theophile Gautier and moves through the world
manfully, much respected for all her twenty inexperienced
Item, a woman from cloud-land who has no history in the past or
future, but is discreetly of the present, and strives for the
confidences of male humanity on the grounds of "sympathy"
(methinks this is not altogether a new type).
Item, a girl in a "dive," blessed with a Greek head and eyes,
that seem to speak all that is best and sweetest in the world.
But woe is me! She has no ideas in this world or the next beyond
the consumption of beer (a commission on each bottle), and
protests that she sings the songs allotted to her nightly without
more than the vaguest notion of their meaning.
Sweet and comely are the maidens of Devonshire; delicate and of
gracious seeming those who live in the pleasant places of London;
fascinating for all their demureness the damsels of France,
clinging closely to their mothers, with large eyes wondering at
the wicked world; excellent in her own place and to those who
understand her is the Anglo-Indian "spin" in her second season;
but the girls of America are above and beyond them all. They are
clever, they can talk--yea, it is said that they think.
Certainly they have an appearance of so doing which is
They are original, and regard you between the brows with
unabashed eyes as a sister might look at her brother. They are
instructed, too, in the folly and vanity of the male mind, for
they have associated with "the boys" from babyhood, and can
discerningly minister to both vices or pleasantly snub the
possessor. They possess, moreover, a life among themselves,
independent of any masculine associations. They have societies
and clubs and unlimited tea-fights where all the guests are
girls. They are self-possessed, without parting with any
tenderness that is their sex-right; they understand; they can
take care of themselves; they are superbly independent. When you
ask them what makes them so charming, they say:--"It is because
we are better educated than your girls, and--and we are more
sensible in regard to men. We have good times all round, but we
aren't taught to regard every man as a possible husband. Nor is
he expected to marry the first girl he calls on regularly."
Yes, they have good times, their freedom is large, and they do
not abuse it. They can go driving with young men and receive
visits from young men to an extent that would make an English
mother wink with horror, and neither driver nor drivee has a
thought beyond the enjoyment of a good time. As certain, also,
of their own poets have said:--
"Man is fire and woman is tow,
And the devil he comes and begins to blow."
In America the tow is soaked in a solution that makes it
fire-proof, in absolute liberty and large knowledge;
consequently, accidents do not exceed the regular percentage
arranged by the devil for each class and climate under the skies.
But the freedom of the young girl has its draw-backs. She is--I
say it with all reluctance--irreverent, from her forty-dollar
bonnet to the buckles in her eighteen-dollar shoes. She talks
flippantly to her parents and men old enough to be her
grandfather. She has a prescriptive right to the society of the
man who arrives. The parents admit it.
This is sometimes embarrassing, especially when you call on a man
and his wife for the sake of information--the one being a
merchant of varied knowledge, the other a woman of the world. In
five minutes your host has vanished. In another five his wife
has followed him, and you are left alone with a very charming
maiden, doubtless, but certainly not the person you came to see.
She chatters, and you grin, but you leave with the very strong
impression of a wasted morning. This has been my experience once
or twice. I have even said as pointedly as I dared to a man:--"I
came to see you."
"You'd better see me in my office, then. The house belongs to my
women folk--to my daughter, that is to say."
He spoke the truth. The American of wealth is owned by his
family. They exploit him for bullion. The women get the
ha'pence, the kicks are all his own. Nothing is too good for an
American's daughter (I speak here of the moneyed classes).
The girls take every gift as a matter of course, and yet they
develop greatly when a catastrophe arrives and the man of many
millions goes up or goes down, and his daughters take to
stenography or typewriting. I have heard many tales of heroism
from the lips of girls who counted the principals among their
friends. The crash came, Mamie, or Hattie, or Sadie, gave up
their maid, their carriages and candy, and with a No. 2 Remington
and a stout heart set about earning their daily bread.
"And did I drop her from the list of my friends? No, sir," said
a scarlet-lipped vision in white lace; "that might happen to us
It may be this sense of possible disaster in the air that makes
San Francisco society go with so captivating a rush and whirl.
Recklessness is in the air. I can't explain where it comes from,
but there it is. The roaring winds of the Pacific make you drunk
to begin with. The aggressive luxury on all sides helps out the
intoxication, and you spin forever "down the ringing grooves of
change" (there is no small change, by the way, west of the
Rockies) as long as money lasts. They make greatly and they spend
lavishly; not only the rich, but the artisans, who pay nearly
five pounds for a suit of clothes, and for other luxuries in
The young men rejoice in the days of their youth. They gamble,
yacht, race, enjoy prize-fights and cock-fights, the one openly,
the other in secret; they establish luxurious clubs; they break
themselves over horse-flesh and other things, and they are
instant in a quarrel. At twenty they are experienced in
business, embark in vast enterprises, take partners as
experienced as themselves, and go to pieces with as much splendor
as their neighbors. Remember that the men who stocked California
in the fifties were physically, and, as far as regards certain
tough virtues, the pick of the earth. The inept and the weakly
died en route, or went under in the days of construction. To
this nucleus were added all the races of the Continent--French,
Italian, German, and, of course, the Jew.
The result you can see in the large-boned, deep-chested,
delicate-handed women, and long, elastic, well-built boys. It
needs no little golden badge swinging from the watch-chain to
mark the native son of the golden West, the country-bred of
Him I love because he is devoid of fear, carries himself like a
man, and has a heart as big as his books. I fancy, too, he knows
how to enjoy the blessings of life that his province so
abundantly bestows upon him. At least, I heard a little rat of a
creature with hock-bottle shoulders explaining that a man from
Chicago could pull the eye-teeth of a Californian in business.
Well, if I lived in fairy-land, where cherries were as big as
plums, plums as big as apples, and strawberries of no account,
where the procession of the fruits of the seasons was like a
pageant in a Drury Lane pantomime and the dry air was wine, I
should let business slide once in a way and kick up my heels with
my fellows. The tale of the resources of California--vegetable
and mineral--is a fairy-tale. You can read it in books. You
would never believe me.
All manner of nourishing food, from sea-fish to beef, may be
bought at the lowest prices, and the people are consequently
well-developed and of a high stomach. They demand ten shillings
for tinkering a jammed lock of a trunk; they receive sixteen
shillings a day for working as carpenters; they spend many
sixpences on very bad cigars, which the poorest of them smoke,
and they go mad over a prize-fight. When they disagree they do
so fatally, with fire-arms in their hands, and on the public
streets. I was just clear of Mission Street when the trouble
began between two gentlemen, one of whom perforated the other.
When a policeman, whose name I do not recollect, "fatally shot Ed
Hearney" for attempting to escape arrest, I was in the next
street. For these things I am thankful. It is enough to travel
with a policeman in a tram-car, and, while he arranges his
coat-tails as he sits down, to catch sight of a loaded revolver.
It is enough to know that fifty per cent of the men in the public
saloons carry pistols about them.
The Chinaman waylays his adversary, and methodically chops him to
pieces with his hatchet. Then the press roars about the brutal
ferocity of the pagan.
The Italian reconstructs his friend with a long knife. The press
complains of the waywardness of the alien.
The Irishman and the native Californian in their hours of
discontent use the revolver, not once, but six times. The press
records the fact, and asks in the next column whether the world
can parallel the progress of San Francisco. The American who
loves his country will tell you that this sort of thing is
confined to the lower classes. Just at present an ex-judge who
was sent to jail by another judge (upon my word I cannot tell
whether these titles mean anything) is breathing red-hot
vengeance against his enemy. The papers have interviewed both
parties, and confidently expect a fatal issue.
Now, let me draw breath and curse the negro waiter, and through
him the negro in service generally. He has been made a citizen
with a vote, consequently both political parties play with him.
But that is neither here nor there. He will commit in one meal
every betise that a senllion fresh from the plow-tail is capable
of, and he will continue to repeat those faults. He is as
complete a heavy-footed, uncomprehending, bungle-fisted fool as
any mem-sahib in the East ever took into her establishment. But
he is according to law a free and independent
citizen--consequently above reproof or criticism. He, and he
alone, in this insane city, will wait at table (the Chinaman
He is untrained, inept, but he will fill the place and draw the
pay. Now, God and his father's fate made him intellectually
inferior to the Oriental. He insists on pretending that he serves
tables by accident--as a sort of amusement. He wishes you to
understand this little fact. You wish to eat your meals, and, if
possible, to have them properly served. He is a big, black, vain
baby and a man rolled into one.
A colored gentleman who insisted on getting me pie when I wanted
something else, demanded information about India. I gave him
some facts about wages.
"Oh, hell!" said he, cheerfully, "that wouldn't keep me in cigars
for a month."
Then he fawned on me for a ten-cent piece. Later he took it upon
himself to pity the natives of India. "Heathens," he called
them--this woolly one, whose race has been the butt of every
comedy on the native stage since the beginning. And I turned and
saw by the head upon his shoulders that he was a Yoruba man, if
there be any truth in ethnological castes. He did his thinking
in English, but he was a Yoruba negro, and the race type had
remained the same through-out his generations. And the room was
full of other races--some that looked exactly like Gallas (but
the trade was never recruited from that side of Africa), some
duplicates of Cameroon heads, and some Kroomen, if ever Kroomen
wore evening dress.
The American does not consider little matters of descent, though
by this time he ought to know all about "damnable heredity." As
a general rule he keeps himself very far from the negro, and says
things about him that are not pretty. There are six million
negroes, more or less, in the States, and they are increasing.
The American, once having made them citizens, cannot unmake them.
He says, in his newspapers, they ought to be elevated by
education. He is trying this, but it is likely to be a long job,
because black blood is much more adhesive than white, and throws
back with annoying persistence. When the negro gets religion he
returns directly as a hiving bee to the first instincts of his
people. Just now a wave of religion is sweeping over some of the
Up to the present two Messiahs and a Daniel have appeared, and
several human sacrifices have been offered up to these
incarnations. The Daniel managed to get three young men, who he
insisted were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to walk into a
blast furnace, guaranteeing non-combustion. They did not return.
I have seen nothing of this kind, but I have attended a negro
church. They pray, or are caused to pray by themselves in this
country. The congregation were moved by the spirit to groans and
tears, and one of them danced up the aisle to the mourners'
bench. The motive may have been genuine. The movements of the
shaken body were those of a Zanzibar stick dance, such as you see
at Aden on the coal-boats, and even as I watched the people, the
links that bound them to the white man snapped one by one, and I
saw before me the hubshi (woolly hair) praying to a God he did
not understand. Those neatly dressed folk on the benches, and
the gray-headed elder by the window, were savages, neither more
What will the American do with the negro? The South will not
consort with him. In some States miscegenation is a penal
offence. The North is every year less and less in need of his
And he will not disappear. He will continue as a problem. His
friends will urge that he is as good as the white man. His
enemies--well, you can guess what his enemies will do from a
little incident that followed on a recent appointment by the
President. He made a negro an assistant in a post-office
where--think of it!--he had to work at the next desk to a white
girl, the daughter of a colonel, one of the first families of
Georgia's modern chivalry, and all the weary, weary rest of it.
The Southern chivalry howled, and hanged or burned some one in
effigy. Perhaps it was the President, and perhaps it was the
negro--but the principle remains the same. They said it was an
insult. It is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and
the home of the brave.
But this is nothing to do with San Francisco and her merry
maidens, her strong, swaggering men, and her wealth of gold and
pride. They bore me to a banquet in honor of a brave
lieutenant--Carlin, of the "Vandalia"--who stuck by his ship in
the great cyclone at Apia and comported himself as an officer
should. On that occasion--'twas at the Bohemian Club--I heard
oratory with the roundest of o's, and devoured a dinner the
memory of which will descend with me into the hungry grave.
There were about forty speeches delivered, and not one of them
was average or ordinary. It was my first introduction to the
American eagle screaming for all it was worth. The lieutenant's
heroism served as a peg from which the silver-tongued ones turned
themselves loose and kicked.
They ransacked the clouds of sunset, the thunderbolts of heaven,
the deeps of hell, and the splendor of the resurrection for
tropes and metaphors, and hurled the result at the head of the
guest of the evening.
Never since the morning stars sung together for joy, I learned,
had an amazed creation witnessed such superhuman bravery as that
displayed by the American navy in the Samoa cyclone. Till earth
rotted in the phosphorescent star-and-stripe slime of a decayed
universe, that god-like gallantry would not be forgotten. I
grieve that I cannot give the exact words. My attempt at
reproducing their spirit is pale and inadequate. I sat
bewildered on a coruscating Niagara of blatherum-skite. It was
magnificent--it was stupendous--and I was conscious of a wicked
desire to hide my face in a napkin and grin. Then, according to
rule, they produced their dead, and across the snowy table-cloths
dragged the corpse of every man slain in the Civil War, and
hurled defiance at "our natural enemy" (England, so please you),
"with her chain of fortresses across the world." Thereafter they
glorified their nation afresh from the beginning, in case any
detail should have been overlooked, and that made me
uncomfortable for their sakes. How in the world can a white man,
a sahib, of our blood, stand up and plaster praise on his own
country? He can think as highly as he likes, but this
open-mouthed vehemence of adoration struck me almost as
indelicate. My hosts talked for rather more than three hours,
and at the end seemed ready for three hours more.
But when the lieutenant--such a big, brave, gentle giant--rose to
his feet, he delivered what seemed to me as the speech of the
evening. I remember nearly the whole of it, and it ran
some-thing in this way:--"Gentlemen--It's very good of you to
give me this dinner and to tell me all these prettythings, but
what I want you to understand--the fact is, what we want and what
we ought to get at once, is a navy--more ships--lots of 'em--"
Then we howled the top of the roof off, and I for one fell in
love with Carlin on the spot. Wallah! He was a man.
The prince among merchants bid me take no heed to the warlike
sentiments of some of the old generals.
"The sky-rockets are thrown in for effect," quoth he, "and
whenever we get on our hind legs we always express a desire to
chaw up England. It's a sort of family affair."
And, indeed, when you come to think of it, there is no other
country for the American public speaker to trample upon.
France has Germany; we have Russia; for Italy Austria is
provided; and the humblest Pathan possesses an ancestral enemy.
Only America stands out of the racket, and there-fore to be in
fashion makes a sand-bag of the mother country, and hangs her
when occasion requires.
"The chain of fortresses" man, a fascinating talker, explained to
me after the affair that he was compelled to blow off steam.
Everybody expected it.
When we had chanted "The Star Spangled Banner" not more than
eight times, we adjourned. America is a very great country, but
it is not yet heaven, with electric lights and plush fittings, as
the speakers professed to believe. My listening mind went back
to the politicians in the saloon, who wasted no time in talking
about freedom, but quietly made arrangements to impose their will
on the citizens.
"The judge is a great man, but give thy presents to the clerk,"
as the proverb saith.
And what more remains to tell? I cannot write connectedly,
because I am in love with all those girls aforesaid, and some
others who do not appear in the invoice. The typewriter is an
in-stitution of which the comic papers make much capital, but she
is vastly convenient. She and a companion rent a room in a
business quarter, and, aided by a typewriting machine, copy MSS.
at the rate of six annas a page. Only a woman can operate a
typewriting machine, because she has served apprenticeship to the
sewing machine. She can earn as much as one hundred dollars a
month, and professes to regard this form of bread-winning as her
natural destiny. But, oh! how she hates it in her heart of
hearts! When I had got over the surprise of doing business with
and trying to give orders to a young woman of coldly, clerkly
aspect intrenched behind gold-rimmed spectacles, I made inquiries
concerning the pleasures of this independence. They liked
it--indeed they did. 'Twas the natural fate of almost all
girls--the recognized custom in America--and I was a barbarian
not to see it in that light.
"Well, and after?" said I. "What happens?"
"We work for our bread."
"And then what do you expect?"
"Then we shall work for our bread."
"Till you die?"
"Unless what? This is your business, you know. A man works
until he dies."
"So shall we"--this without enthusiasm--"I suppose."
Said the partner in the firm, audaciously:--"Sometimes we marry
our employees--at least, that's what the newspapers say."
The hand banged on half a dozen of the keys of the machine at
once. "Yet I don't care. I hate it--I hate it--I hate it--and
you needn't look so!"
The senior partner was regarding the rebel with grave-eyed
"I thought you did," said I. "I don't suppose American girls are
much different from English ones in instinct."
"Isn't it Theophile Gautier who says that the only difference
between country and country lie in the slang and the uniform of
Now, in the name of all the gods at once, what is one to say to a
young lady (who in England would be a person) who earns her own
bread, and very naturally hates the employ, and slings
out-of-the-way quotations at your head? That one falls in love
with her goes without saying, but that is not enough.
A mission should be established.
The race is neither to the swift nor the battle to the strong;
but time and chance cometh to all.
I HAVE lived!
The American Continent may now sink under the sea, for I have
taken the best that it yields, and the best was neither dollars,
love, nor real estate.
Hear now, gentlemen of the Punjab Fishing Club, who whip the
reaches of the Tavi, and you who painfully import trout over to
Octamund, and I will tell you how old man California and I went
fishing, and you shall envy.
We returned from The Dalles to Portland by the way we had come,
the steamer stopping en route to pick up a night's catch of one
of the salmon wheels on the river, and to deliver it at a cannery
When the proprietor of the wheel announced that his take was two
thousand two hundred and thirty pounds weight of fish, "and not a
heavy catch neither," I thought he lied. But he sent the boxes
aboard, and I counted the salmon by the hundred--huge
fifty-pounders hardly dead, scores of twenty and thirty pounders,
and a host of smaller fish. They were all Chenook salmon, as
distinguished from the "steel head" and the "silver side." That
is to say, they were royal salmon, and California and I dropped a
tear over them, as monarchs who deserved a better fate; but the
lust of slaughter entered into our souls, and we talked fish and
forgot the mountain scenery that had so moved us a day before.
The steamer halted at a rude wooden warehouse built on piles in a
lonely reach of the river, and sent in the fish. I followed them
up a scale-strewn, fishy incline that led to the cannery. The
crazy building was quivering with the machinery on its floors,
and a glittering bank of tin scraps twenty feet high showed where
the waste was thrown after the cans had been punched.
Only Chinamen were employed on the work, and they looked like
blood-besmeared yellow devils as they crossed the rifts of
sunlight that lay upon the floor. When our consignment arrived,
the rough wooden boxes broke of themselves as they were dumped
down under a jet of water, and the salmon burst out in a stream
of quicksilver. A Chinaman jerked up a twenty-pounder, beheaded
and detailed it with two swift strokes of a knife, flicked out
its internal arrangements with a third, and case it into a
blood-dyed tank. The headless fish leaped from under his hands
as though they were facing a rapid. Other Chinamen pulled them
from the vat and thrust them under a thing like a chaff-cutter,
which, descending, hewed them into unseemly red gobbets fit for
More Chinamen, with yellow, crooked fingers, jammed the stuff
into the cans, which slid down some marvellous machine forthwith,
soldering their own tops as they passed. Each can was hastily
tested for flaws, and then sunk with a hundred companions into a
vat of boiling water, there to be half cooked for a few minutes.
The cans bulged slightly after the operation, and were therefore
slidden along by the trolleyful to men with needles and
soldering-irons who vented them and soldered the aperture.
Except for the label, the "Finest Columbia Salmon" was ready for
the market. I was impressed not so much with the speed of the
manufacture as the character of the factory. Inside, on a floor
ninety by forty, the most civilized and murderous of machinery.
Outside, three footsteps, the thick-growing pines and the immense
solitude of the hills. Our steamer only stayed twenty minutes at
that place, but I counted two hundred and forty finished cans
made from the catch of the previous night ere I left the
slippery, blood-stained, scale-spangled, oily floors and the
We reached Portland, California and I crying for salmon, and a
real-estate man, to whom we had been intrusted by an insurance
man, met us in the street, saying that fifteen miles away, across
country, we should come upon a place called Clackamas, where we
might per-chance find what we desired. And California, his
coat-tails flying in the wind, ran to a livery-stable and
chartered a wagon and team forthwith. I could push the wagon
about with one hand, so light was its structure. The team was
purely American--that is to say, almost human in its intelligence
and docility. Some one said that the roads were not good on the
way to Clackamas, and warned us against smashing the springs.
"Portland," who had watched the preparations, finally reckoned
"He'd come along, too;" and under heavenly skies we three
companions of a day set forth, California carefully lashing our
rods into the carriage, and the by-standers overwhelming us with
directions as to the saw-mills we were to pass, the ferries we
were to cross, and the sign-posts we were to seek signs from.
Half a mile from this city of fifty thousand souls we struck (and
this must be taken literally) a plank road that would have been a
disgrace to an Irish village.
Then six miles of macadamized road showed us that the team could
move. A railway ran between us and the banks of the Willamette,
and another above us through the mountains. All the land was
dotted with small townships, and the roads were full of farmers
in their town wagons, bunches of tow-haired, boggle-eyed urchins
sitting in the hay behind. The men generally looked like
loafers, but their women were all well dressed.
Brown braiding on a tailor-made jacket does not, however, consort
with hay-wagons. Then we struck into the woods along what
California called a camina reale--a good road--and Portland a
"fair track." It wound in and out among fire-blackened stumps
under pine-trees, along the corners of log fences, through
hollows, which must be hopeless marsh in the winter, and up
absurd gradients. But nowhere throughout its length did I see
any evidence of road-making. There was a track--you couldn't well
get off it, and it was all you could do to stay on it. The dust
lay a foot thick in the blind ruts, and under the dust we found
bits of planking and bundles of brushwood that sent the wagon
bounding into the air. The journey in itself was a delight.
Sometimes we crashed through bracken; anon, where the
blackberries grew rankest, we found a lonely little cemetery, the
wooden rails all awry and the pitiful, stumpy head-stones nodding
drunkenly at the soft green mullions. Then, with oaths and the
sound of rent underwood, a yoke of mighty bulls would swing down
a "skid" road, hauling a forty-foot log along a rudely made
A valley full of wheat and cherry-trees succeeded, and halting at
a house, we bought ten-pound weight of luscious black cherries
for something less than a rupee, and got a drink of icy-cold
water for nothing, while the untended team browsed sagaciously by
the road-side. Once we found a way-side camp of horse-dealers
lounging by a pool, ready for a sale or a swap, and once two
sun-tanned youngsters shot down a hill on Indian ponies, their
full creels banging from the high-pommelled saddle. They had
been fishing, and were our brethren, therefore. We shouted aloud
in chorus to scare a wild cat; we squabbled over the reasons that
had led a snake to cross a road; we heaved bits of bark at a
venturesome chipmunk, who was really the little gray squirrel of
India, and had come to call on me; we lost our way, and got the
wagon so beautifully fixed on a khud-bound road that we had to
tie the two hind wheels to get it down.
Above all, California told tales of Nevada and Arizona, of lonely
nights spent out prospecting, the slaughter of deer and the chase
of men, of woman--lovely woman--who is a firebrand in a Western
city and leads to the popping of pistols, and of the sudden
changes and chances of Fortune, who delights in making the miner
or the lumber-man a quadruplicate millionaire and in "busting"
the railroad king.
That was a day to be remembered, and it had only begun when we
drew rein at a tiny farm-house on the banks of the Clackamas and
sought horse feed and lodging, ere we hastened to the river that
broke over a weir not a quarter of a mile away. Imagine a stream
seventy yards broad divided by a pebbly island, running over
seductive "riffles" and swirling into deep, quiet pools, where
the good salmon goes to smoke his pipe after meals. Get such a
stream amid fields of breast-high crops surrounded by hills of
pines, throw in where you please quiet water, long-fenced
meadows, and a hundred-foot bluff just to keep the scenery from
growing too monotonous, and you will get some faint notion of the
Clackamas. The weir had been erected to pen the Chenook salmon
from going further up-stream. We could see them, twenty or thirty
pounds, by the score in the deep pools, or flying madly against
the weir and foolishly skinning their noses. They were not our
prey, for they would not rise at a fly, and we knew it. All the
same, when one made his leap against the weir, and landed on the
foot-plank with a jar that shook the board I was standing on, I
would fain have claimed him for my own capture.
Portland had no rod. He held the gaff and the whiskey.
California sniffed up-stream and down-stream, across the racing
water, chose his ground, and let the gaudy fly drop in the tail
of a riffle. I was getting my rod together, when I heard the
joyous shriek of the reel and the yells of California, and three
feet of living silver leaped into the air far across the water.
The forces were engaged.
The salmon tore up-stream, the tense line cutting the water like
a tide-rip behind him, and the light bamboo bowed to breaking.
What happened thereafter I cannot tell. California swore and
prayed, and Portland shouted advice, and I did all three for what
appeared to be half a day, but was in reality a little over a
quarter of an hour, and sullenly our fish came home with spurts
of temper, dashes head on and sarabands in the air, but home to
the bank came he, and the remorseless reel gathered up the thread
of his life inch by inch. We landed him in a little bay, and the
spring weight in his gorgeous gills checked at eleven and one
half pounds. Eleven and one half pounds of fighting salmon! We
danced a war-dance on the pebbles, and California caught me round
the waist in a hug that went near to breaking my ribs, while he
shouted:--"Partner! Partner! This is glory! Now you catch your
fish! Twenty-four years I've waited for this!"
I went into that icy-cold river and made my cast just above the
weir, and all but foul-hooked a blue-and-black water-snake with a
coral mouth who coiled herself on a stone and hissed
The next cast--ah, the pride of it, the regal splendor of it! the
thrill that ran down from finger-tip to toe! Then the water
boiled. He broke for the fly and got it. There remained enough
sense in me to give him all he wanted when he jumped not once,
but twenty times, before the up-stream flight that ran my line
out to the last half-dozen turns, and I saw the nickelled
reel-bar glitter under the thinning green coils. My thumb was
burned deep when I strove to stopper the line.
I did not feel it till later, for my soul was out in the dancing
weir, praying for him to turn ere he took my tackle away. And
the prayer was heard. As I bowed back, the butt of the rod on my
left hip-bone and the top joint dipping like unto a weeping
willow, he turned and accepted each inch of slack that I could by
any means get in as a favor from on high. There lie several
sorts of success in this world that taste well in the moment of
enjoyment, but I question whether the stealthy theft of line from
an able-bodied salmon who knows exactly what you are doing and
why you are doing it is not sweeter than any other victory within
human scope. Like California's fish, he ran at me head on, and
leaped against the line, but the Lord gave me two hundred and
fifty pairs of fingers in that hour. The banks and the
pine-trees danced dizzily round me, but I only reeled--reeled as
for life--reeled for hours, and at the end of the reeling
continued to give him the butt while he sulked in a pool.
California was further up the reach, and with the corner of my
eye I could see him casting with long casts and much skill. Then
he struck, and my fish broke for the weir in the same instant,
and down the reach we came, California and I, reel answering reel
even as the morning stars sing together.
The first wild enthusiasm of capture had died away. We were both
at work now in deadly earnest to prevent the lines fouling, to
stall off a down-stream rush for shaggy water just above the
weir, and at the same time to get the fish into the shallow bay
down-stream that gave the best practicable landing. Portland bid
us both be of good heart, and volunteered to take the rod from my
I would rather have died among the pebbles than surrender my
right to play and land a salmon, weight unknown, with an
eight-ounce rod. I heard California, at my ear, it seemed,
gasping: "He's a fighter from Fightersville, sure!" as his fish
made a fresh break across the stream. I saw Portland fall off a
log fence, break the overhanging bank, and clatter down to the
pebbles, all sand and landing-net, and I dropped on a log to rest
for a moment. As I drew breath the weary hands slackened their
hold, and I forgot to give him the butt.
A wild scutter in the water, a plunge, and a break for the
head-waters of the Clackamas was my reward, and the weary toil of
reeling in with one eye under the water and the other on the top
joint of the rod was renewed. Worst of all, I was blocking
California's path to the little landing bay aforesaid, and he had
to halt and tire his prize where he was.
"The father of all the salmon!" he shouted. "For the love of
Heaven, get your trout to bank, Johnny Bull!"
But I could do no more. Even the insult failed to move me. The
rest of the game was with the salmon. He suffered himself to be
drawn, skip-ping with pretended delight at getting to the haven
where I would fain bring him. Yet no sooner did he feel shoal
water under his ponderous belly than he backed like a
torpedo-boat, and the snarl of the reel told me that my labor was
in vain. A dozen times, at least, this happened ere the line
hinted he had given up the battle and would be towed in. He was
towed. The landing-net was useless for one of his size, and I
would not have him gaffed. I stepped into the shallows and
heaved him out with a respectful hand under the gill, for which
kindness he battered me about the legs with his tail, and I felt
the strength of him and was proud. California had taken my place
in the shallows, his fish hard held. I was up the bank lying
full length on the sweet-scented grass and gasping in company
with my first salmon caught, played and landed on an eight-ounce
rod. My hands were cut and bleeding, I was dripping with sweat,
spangled like a harlequin with scales, water from my waist down,
nose peeled by the sun, but utterly, supremely, and consummately
The beauty, the darling, the daisy, my Salmon Bahadur, weighed
twelve pounds, and I had been seven-and-thirty minutes bringing
him to bank! He had been lightly hooked on the angle of the right
jaw, and the hook had not wearied him. That hour I sat among
princes and crowned heads greater than them all. Below the bank
we heard California scuffling with his salmon and swearing
Spanish oaths. Portland and I assisted at the capture, and the
fish dragged the spring balance out by the roots. It was only
constructed to weigh up to fifteen pounds. We stretched the
three fish on the grass--the eleven and a half, the twelve and
fifteen pounder--and we gave an oath that all who came after
should merely be weighed and put back again.
How shall I tell the glories of that day so that you may be
interested? Again and again did California and I prance down
that reach to the little bay, each with a salmon in tow, and land
him in the shallows. Then Portland took my rod and caught some
ten-pounders, and my spoon was carried away by an unknown
leviathan. Each fish, for the merits of the three that had died
so gamely, was hastily hooked on the balance and flung back.
Portland recorded the weight in a pocket-book, for he was a
real-estate man. Each fish fought for all he was worth, and none
more savagely than the smallest, a game little six-pounder. At
the end of six hours we added up the list. Read it. Total:
Sixteen fish; aggregate weight, one hundred and forty pounds.
The score in detail runs something like this--it is only
interesting to those concerned: fifteen, eleven and a half,
twelve, ten, nine and three quarters, eight, and so forth; as I
have said, nothing under six pounds, and three ten-pounders.
Very solemnly and thankfully we put up our rods--it was glory
enough for all time--and returned weeping in each other's arms,
weeping tears of pure joy, to that simple, bare-legged family in
the packing-case house by the water-side.
The old farmer recollected days and nights of fierce warfare with
the Indians "way back in the fifties," when every ripple of the
Columbia River and her tributaries hid covert danger. God had
dowered him with a queer, crooked gift of expression and a fierce
anxiety for the welfare of his two little sons--tanned and
reserved children, who attended school daily and spoke good
English in a strange tongue.
His wife was an austere woman, who had once been kindly, and
Very many years of toil had taken the elasticity out of step and
voice. She looked for nothing better than everlasting work--the
chafing detail of housework--and then a grave somewhere up the
hill among the blackberries and the pines.
But in her grim way she sympathized with her eldest daughter, a
small and silent maiden of eighteen, who had thoughts very far
from the meals she tended and the pans she scoured.
We stumbled into the household at a crisis, and there was a deal
of downright humanity in that same. A bad, wicked dress-maker
had promised the maiden a dress in time for a to-morrow's
rail-way journey, and though the barefooted Georgy, who stood in
very wholesome awe of his sister, had scoured the woods on a pony
in search, that dress never arrived. So, with sorrow in her
heart and a hundred Sister-Anne glances up the road, she waited
upon the strangers and, I doubt not, cursed them for the wants
that stood between her and her need for tears. It was a genuine
little tragedy. The mother, in a heavy, passionless voice,
rebuked her impatience, yet sat up far into the night, bowed over
a heap of sewing for the daughter's benefit.
These things I beheld in the long marigold-scented twilight and
whispering night, loafing round the little house with California,
who un-folded himself like a lotus to the moon, or in the little
boarded bunk that was our bedroom, swap-ping tales with Portland
and the old man.
Most of the yarns began in this way:--"Red Larry was a
bull-puncher back of Lone County, Montana," or "There was a man
riding the trail met a jack-rabbit sitting in a cactus," or
"'Bout the time of the San Diego land boom, a woman from
You can try to piece out for yourselves what sort of stories they
ONCE upon a time there was a carter who brought his team and a
friend into the Yellowstone Park without due thought. Presently
they came upon a few of the natural beauties of the place, and
that carter turned his team into his friend's team,
howling:--"Get out o' this, Jim. All hell's alight under our
And they called the place Hell's Half-Acre to this day to witness
if the carter lied.
We, too, the old lady from Chicago, her husband, Tom, and the
good little mares, came to Hell's Half-Acre, which is about sixty
acres in extent, and when Tom said:--"Would you like to drive
We said:--"Certainly not, and if you do we shall report you to
the park authorities."
There was a plain, blistered, peeled, and abominable, and it was
given over to the sportings and spoutings of devils who threw
mud, and steam, and dirt at each other with whoops, and halloos,
and bellowing curses.
The places smelled of the refuse of the pit, and that odor mixed
with the clean, wholesome aroma of the pines in our nostrils
throughout the day.
This Yellowstone Park is laid out like Ollendorf, in exercises of
progressive difficulty. Hell's Half-Acre was a prelude to ten or
twelve miles of geyser formation.
We passed hot streams boiling in the forest; saw whiffs of steam
beyond these, and yet other whiffs breaking through the misty
green hills in the far distance; we trampled on sulphur in
crystals, and sniffed things much worse than any sulphur which is
known to the upper world; and so journeying, bewildered with the
novelty, came upon a really park-like place where Tom suggested
we should get out and play with the geysers on foot.
Imagine mighty green fields splattered with lime-beds, all the
flowers of the summer growing up to the very edge of the lime.
That was our first glimpse of the geyser basins.
The buggy had pulled up close to a rough, broken, blistered cone
of spelter stuff between ten and twenty feet high. There was
trouble in that place--moaning, splashing, gurgling, and the
clank of machinery. A spurt of boiling water jumped into the
air, and a wash of water followed.
I removed swiftly. The old lady from Chicago shrieked. "What a
wicked waste!" said her husband.
I think they call it the Riverside Geyser. Its spout was torn
and ragged like the mouth of a gun when a shell has burst there.
It grumbled madly for a moment or two, and then was still. I
crept over the steaming lime--it was the burning marl on which
Satan lay--and looked fearfully down its mouth. You should never
look a gift geyser in the mouth.
I beheld a horrible, slippery, slimy funnel with water rising and
falling ten feet at a time. Then the water rose to lip level
with a rush, and an infernal bubbling troubled this Devil's
Bethesda before the sullen heave of the crest of a wave lapped
over the edge and made me run.
Mark the nature of the human soul! I had begun with awe, not to
say terror, for this was my first experience of such things. I
stepped back from the banks of the Riverside Geyser,
saying:--"Pooh! Is that all it can do?"
Yet for aught I knew, the whole thing might have blown up at a
minute's notice, she, he, or it being an arrangement of uncertain
We drifted on, up that miraculous valley. On either side of us
were hills from a thousand or fifteen hundred feet high, wooded
from crest to heel. As far as the eye could range forward were
columns of steam in the air, misshapen lumps of lime, mist-like
preadamite monsters, still pools of turquoise-blue stretches of
blue corn-flowers, a river that coiled on itself twenty times,
pointed bowlders of strange colors, and ridges of glaring,
A moon-faced trooper of German extraction--never was park so
carefully patrolled--came up to inform us that as yet we had not
seen any of the real geysers; that they were all a mile or so up
the valley, and tastefully scattered round the hotel in which we
would rest for the night.
America is a free country, but the citizens look down on the
soldier. I had to entertain that trooper. The old lady from
Chicago would have none of him; so we loafed alone together, now
across half-rotten pine logs sunk in swampy ground, anon over the
ringing geyser formation, then pounding through river-sand or
brushing knee-deep through long grass.
"And why did you enlist?" said I.
The moon-faced one's face began to work. I thought he would have
a fit, but he told me a story instead--such a nice tale of a
naughty little girl who wrote pretty love letters to two men at
once. She was a simple village wife, but a wicked "family
novelette" countess couldn't have accomplished her ends better.
She drove one man nearly wild with the pretty little treachery,
and the other man abandoned her and came West to forget the
Moon-face was that man.
We rounded and limped over a low spur of hill, and came out upon
a field of aching, snowy lime rolled in sheets, twisted into
knots, riven with rents, and diamonds, and stars, stretching for
more than half a mile in every direction.
On this place of despair lay most of the big, bad geysers who
know when there is trouble in Krakatoa, who tell the pines when
there is a cyclone on the Atlantic seaboard, and who are
exhibited to visitors under pretty and fanciful names.
The first mound that I encountered belonged to a goblin who was
splashing in his tub.
I heard him kick, pull a shower-bath on his shoulders, gasp,
crack his joints, and rub himself down with a towel; then he let
the water out of the bath, as a thoughtful man should, and it all
sunk down out of sight till another goblin arrived.
So we looked and we wondered at the Beehive, whose mouth is built
up exactly like a hive, at the Turban (which is not in the least
like a turban), and at many, many other geysers, hot holes, and
springs. Some of them rumbled, some hissed, some went off
spasmodically, and others lay dead still in sheets of sapphire
Would you believe that even these terrible creatures have to be
guarded by the troopers to prevent the irreverent Americans from
chipping the cones to pieces, or, worse still, making the geyser
sick? If you take a small barrel full of soft-soap and drop it
down a geyser's mouth, that geyser will presently be forced to
lay all before you, and for days afterward will be of an
irritated and inconstant stomach.
When they told me the tale I was filled with sympathy. Now I
wish that I had soft-soap and tried the experiment on some lonely
little beast far away in the woods. It sounds so probable and so
Yet he would be a bold man who would administer emetics to the
Giantess. She is flat-lipped, having no mouth; she looks like a
pool, fifty feet long and thirty wide, and there is no
ornamentation about her. At irregular intervals she speaks and
sends up a volume of water over two hundred feet high to begin
with, then she is angry for a day and a half--sometimes for two
Owing to her peculiarity of going mad in the night, not many
people have seen the Giantess at her finest; but the clamor of
her unrest, men say, shakes the wooden hotel, and echoes like
thunder among the hills.
The congregation returned to the hotel to put down their
impressions in diaries and note-books, which they wrote up
ostentatiously in the verandas. It was a sweltering hot day,
albeit we stood some-what higher than the level of Simla, and I
left that raw pine creaking caravansary for the cool shade of a
clump of pines between whose trunks glimmered tents.
A batch of United States troopers came down the road and flung
themselves across the country into their rough lines. The
Melican cavalryman can ride, though he keeps his accoutrements
pig-fashion and his horse cow-fashion.
I was free of that camp in five minutes--free to play with the
heavy, lumpy carbines, have the saddles stripped, and punch the
horses knowingly in the ribs. One of the men had been in the
fight with "Wrap-up-his-Tail," and he told me how that great
chief, his horse's tail tied up in red calico, swaggered in front
of the United States cavalry, challenging all to single combat.
But he was slain, and a few of his tribe with him.
"There's no use in an Indian, anyway," concluded my friend.
A couple of cow-boys--real cow-boys--jingled through the camp
amid a shower of mild chaff. They were on their way to Cook
City, I fancy, and I know that they never washed. But they were
picturesque ruffians exceedingly, with long spurs, hooded
stirrups, slouch hats, fur weather-cloth over their knees, and
pistol-butts just easy to hand.
"The cow-boy's goin' under before long," said my friend. "Soon
as the country's settled up he'll have to go. But he's mighty
useful now. What would we do without the cow-boy?"
"As how?" said I, and the camp laughed.
"He has the money. We have the skill. He comes in winter to
play poker at the military posts. We play poker--a few. When
he's lost his money we make him drunk and let him go. Sometimes
we get the wrong man."
And he told me a tale of an innocent cow-boy who turned up,
cleaned out, at an army post, and played poker for thirty-six
hours. But it was the post that was cleaned out when that
long-haired Caucasian removed himself, heavy with everybody's pay
and declining the proffered liquor.
"Noaw," said the historian, "I don't play with no cow-boy unless
he's a little bit drunk first."
Ere I departed I gathered from more than one man the significant
fact that up to one hundred yards he felt absolutely secure
behind his revolver.
"In England, I understand," quoth the limber youth from the
South,--"in England a man isn't allowed to play with no
fire-arms. He's got to be taught all that when he enlists. I
didn't want much teaching how to shoot straight 'fore I served
Uncle Sam. And that's just where it is. But you was talking
about your Horse Guards now?"
I explained briefly some peculiarities of equipment connected
with our crackest crack cavalry. I grieve to say the camp roared.
"Take 'em over swampy ground. Let 'em run around a bit an' work
the starch out of 'em, an' then, Almighty, if we wouldn't plug
'em at ease I'd eat their horses."
There was a maiden--a very little maiden--who had just stepped
out of one of James's novels. She owned a delightful mother and
an equally delightful father--a heavy-eyed, slow-voiced man of
finance. The parents thought that their daughter wanted change.
She lived in New Hampshire. Accordingly, she had dragged them up
to Alaska and to the Yosemite Valley, and was now returning
leisurely, via the Yellowstone, just in time for the tail-end of
the summer season at Saratoga.
We had met once or twice before in the park, and I had been
amazed and amused at her critical commendation of the wonders
that she saw. From that very resolute little mouth I received a
lecture on American literature, the nature and inwardness of
Washington society, the precise value of Cable's works as
compared with Uncle Remus Harris, and a few other things that had
nothing whatever to do with geysers, but were altogether
Now, an English maiden who had stumbled on a dust-grimed,
lime-washed, sun-peeled, collarless wanderer come from and going
to goodness knows where, would, her mother inciting her and her
father brandishing an umbrella, have regarded him as a dissolute
adventurer--a person to be disregarded.
Not so those delightful people from New Hampshire. They were
good enough to treat him--it sounds almost incredible--as a human
being, possibly respectable, probably not in immediate need of
Papa talked pleasantly and to the point.
The little maiden strove valiantly with the accent of her birth
and that of her rearing, and mamma smiled benignly in the
Balance this with a story of a young English idiot I met mooning
about inside his high collar, attended by a valet. He
condescended to tell me that "you can't be too careful who you
talk to in these parts." And stalked on, fearing, I suppose,
every minute for his social chastity.
That man was a barbarian (I took occasion to tell him so), for he
comported himself after the manner of the head-hunters and hunted
of Assam who are at perpetual feud one with another.
You will understand that these foolish stories are introduced in
order to cover the fact that this pen cannot describe the glories
of the Upper Geyser Basin. The evening I spent under the lee of
the Castle Geyser, sitting on a log with some troopers and
watching a baronial keep forty feet high spouting hot water. If
the Castle went off first, they said the Giantess would be quiet,
and vice versa, and then they told tales till the moon got up and
a party of campers in the woods gave us all something to eat.
Then came soft, turfy forest that deadened the wheels, and two
troopers on detachment duty stole noiselessly behind us. One was
the Wrap-up-his-Tail man, and they talked merrily while the
half-broken horses bucked about among the trees. And so a cavalry
escort was with us for a mile, till we got to a mighty hill
strewn with moss agates, and everybody had to jump out and pant
in that thin air. But how intoxicating it was! The old lady from
Chicago ducked like an emancipated hen as she scuttled about the
road, cramming pieces of rock into her reticule. She sent me
fifty yards down to the hill-side to pick up a piece of broken
bottle which she insisted was moss agate.
"I've some o' that at home, an' they shine. Yes, you go get it,
As we climbed the long path the road grew viler and viler till it
became, without disguise, the bed of a torrent; and just when
things were at their rockiest we nearly fell into a little
sapphire lake--but never sapphire was so blue--called Mary's
Lake; and that between eight and nine thousand feet above the
Afterward, grass downs, all on a vehement slope, so that the
buggy, following the new-made road, ran on the two off-wheels
mostly till we dipped head-first into a ford, climbed up a cliff,
raced along down, dipped again, and pulled up dishevelled at
"Larry's" for lunch and an hour's rest.
Then we lay on the grass and laughed with sheer bliss of being
alive. This have I known once in Japan, once on the banks of the
Columbia, what time the salmon came in and California howled, and
once again in the Yellowstone by the light of the eyes of the
maiden from New Hampshire. Four little pools lay at my elbow,
one was of black water (tepid), one clear water (cold), one clear
water (hot), one red water (boiling). My newly washed
handkerchief covered them all, and we two marvelled as children
"This evening we shall do the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,"
said the maiden.
"Together?" said I; and she said, "Yes."
The sun was beginning to sink when we heard the roar of falling
waters and came to a broad river along whose banks we ran. And
then--I might at a pinch describe the infernal regions, but not
the other place. The Yellowstone River has occasion to run
through a gorge about eight miles long. To get to the bottom of
the gorge it makes two leaps, one of about one hundred and twenty
and the other of three hundred feet. I investigated the upper or
lesser fall, which is close to the hotel.
Up to that time nothing particular happens to the
Yellowstone--its banks being only rocky, rather steep, and
plentifully adorned with pines.
At the falls it comes round a corner, green, solid, ribbed with a
little foam, and not more than thirty yards wide. Then it goes
over, still green, and rather more solid than before. After a
minute or two, you, sitting upon a rock directly above the drop,
begin to understand that something has occurred; that the river
has jumped between solid cliff walls, and that the gentle froth
of water lapping the sides of the gorge below is really the
outcome of great waves.
And the river yells aloud; but the cliffs do not allow the yells
That inspection began with curiosity and finished in terror, for
it seemed that the whole world was sliding in chrysolite from
under my feet. I followed with the others round the corner to
arrive at the brink of the canyon. We had to climb up a nearly
perpendicular ascent to begin with, for the ground rises more
than the river drops. Stately pine woods fringe either lip of
the gorge, which is the gorge of the Yellowstone. You'll find all
about it in the guide books.
All that I can say is that without warning or preparation I
looked into a gulf seventeen hundred feet deep, with eagles and
fish-hawks circling far below. And the sides of that gulf were
one wild welter of color--crimson, emerald, cobalt, ochre, amber,
honey splashed with port wine, snow white, vermilion, lemon, and
silver gray in wide washes. The sides did not fall sheer, but
were graven by time, and water, and air into monstrous heads of
kings, dead chiefs--men and women of the old time. So far below
that no sound of its strife could reach us, the Yellowstone River
ran a finger-wide strip of jade green.
The sunlight took those wondrous walls and gave fresh hues to
those that nature had already laid there.
Evening crept through the pines that shadowed us, but the full
glory of the day flamed in that canyon as we went out very
cautiously to a jutting piece of rock--blood-red or pink it
was--that overhung the deepest deeps of all.
Now I know what it is to sit enthroned amid the clouds of sunset
as the spirits sit in Blake's pictures. Giddiness took away all
sensation of touch or form, but the sense of blinding color
When I reached the mainland again I had sworn that I had been
The maid from New Hampshire said no word for a very long time.
Then she quoted poetry, which was perhaps the best thing she
could have done.
"And to think that this show-place has been going on all these
days an' none of we ever saw it," said the old lady from Chicago,
with an acid glance at her husband.
"No, only the Injians," said he, unmoved; and the maiden and I
Inspiration is fleeting, beauty is vain, and the power of the
mind for wonder limited. Though the shining hosts themselves had
risen choiring from the bottom of the gorge, they would not have
prevented her papa and one baser than he from rolling stones down
those stupendous rainbow-washed slides. Seventeen hundred feet
of steep-est pitch and rather more than seventeen hundred colors
for log or bowlder to whirl through!
So we heaved things and saw them gather way and bound from white
rock to red or yellow, dragging behind them torrents of color,
till the noise of their descent ceased and they bounded a hundred
yards clear at the last into the Yellowstone.
"I've been down there," said Tom, that evening. "It's easy to
get down if you're careful--just sit an' slide; but getting up is
worse. An' I found down below there two stones just marked with
a picture of the canyon. I wouldn't sell these rocks not for
And papa and I crawled down to the Yellowstone--just above the
first little fall--to wet a line for good luck. The round moon
came up and turned the cliffs and pines into silver; and a
two-pound trout came up also, and we slew him among the rocks,
nearly tumbling into that wild river.
. . . . . .
Then out and away to Livingstone once more. The maiden from New
Hampshire disappeared, papa and mamma with her. Disappeared,
too, the old lady from Chicago, and the others.
"I know thy cunning and thy greed,
Thy hard high lust and wilful deed,
And all thy glory loves to tell
Of specious gifts material."
I HAVE struck a city--a real city--and they call it Chicago.
The other places do not count. San Francisco was a
pleasure-resort as well as a city, and Salt Lake was a
This place is the first American city I have encountered. It
holds rather more than a million of people with bodies, and
stands on the same sort of soil as Calcutta. Having seen it, I
urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by
savages. Its water is the water of the Hooghly, and its air is
dirt. Also it says that it is the "boss" town of America.